Results for “south africa” 241 found
2. Eli Dourado on the future course of innovation, recommended.
4. Even in hard-hit Manaus, hospitalizations are reaching a new record high. And more (speculative) worries about the South African strain.
6. A blind date.
1. Why companies are not interested in single dose trials (NB: there is a more radical approach available here).
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…
1. Computer science rejects computer science (link corrected).
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.”
The Stargate Project was a long-running program, funded under various names, by the CIA, Army, and Defense Intelligence Agency to investigate and use psychic powers to defeat enemies of the United States, foreign and domestic. The program can be dated back to the end of World War II but it picked up in the 1970s with rumors that the Russians had a lead in ESP and with the popularity of the “psychic” Uri Geller.
Geller in fact consulted for the program and his powers were investigated under a DIA grant by the Stanford Research Institute. SRI concluded that Geller had “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.” The CIA agreed concluding in 1975 that:
“A large body of reliable experimental evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that extrasensory perception does exist as a real phenomenon….the work at SRI, using gifted individuals, has achieved some convincing and striking demonstrations of the existence of paranormal perception, and has demonstrated perhaps less convincingly the possible existence of psychokinetic influences upon sophisticated physical instrumentation.
In fact, as late as 2017 the physicist running the SRI program thinks Geller was “clearly gifted when it came to doing certain psychic tasks.”
Need I tell you that Johnny Carson did a much better job than the DIA of showing Geller was a fraud or that a later investigation suggested that “Geller was allowed to peek through a hole in the laboratory wall separating him from the drawings he was being invited to reproduce.”
Nevertheless, the Stargate Project continued for decades and not just investigations. So-called “remote viewers” were recruited and paid to try to locate hostages, missiles and other locations of military and domestic intelligence secrets:
As he later told the Washington Post, McMoneagle was involved in some 450 missions between 1978 to 1984, including helping the Army locate hostages in Iran and pointing CIA agents to the shortwave radio concealed in the pocket calculator of a suspected KGB agent captured in South Africa.
Another remote viewer, Angela Dellafiora Ford, was asked in 1989 to help track down a former customs agent who had gone on the run, she recounted recently on the CBS News program 48 Hours. She was able to pinpoint the man’s location as “Lowell, Wyoming,” even as U.S. Customs was apprehending him 100 miles west of a Wyoming town called Lovell.
Publicly, the Pentagon continued to deny it was spending money on any kind of psychic research, even as reports leaked out in the 1980s of the details of the government’s experiments. Finally, in 1995, the CIA released a report conducted by the independent American Institutes for Research, which acknowledged the U.S. government’s long-rumored work with remote viewing for military and intelligence purposes.
In other words, don’t believe in star gates.
Zach is author of the recent book The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, which has been on many year-end “best of” lists. Here is the audio, transcript, and video. Here is part of the CWT summary:
Zach joined Tyler to discuss what Keynes got right — and wrong — about the Treaty of Versailles, how working in the India Office influenced his economic thinking, the seemingly strange paradox of his “liberal imperialism,” the elusive central message of The General Theory, the true extent of Keynes’ interest in eugenics, why he had a conservative streak, why Zach loves Samuel Delaney’s novel Nova, whether Bretton Woods was doomed to fail, the Enlightenment intuitions behind early defenses of the gold standard, what’s changed since Zach became a father, his next project, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: [Keynes is] sympathetic to his own ideas and wants to promote them. But to me, there’s a discord. Milton Friedman spends, what, 45 minutes talking to Pinochet, has a very long record of insisting economic and political freedom come together — maybe even too simplistically — writes against the system of apartheid in South Africa and Rhodesia, calls for free markets there. And people give Friedman hell over that.
Keynes writes the preface for the Nazis and favors eugenics his whole life, and that’s hardly ever mentioned.
CARTER: I don’t know that the way that Keynes talks about eugenics is as salient as you suggest. The best article that I came across on Keynes and eugenics is by this guy — I think David Singerman. It’s in the Journal of British Studies. It’s a pretty in-depth look at the way Keynes came to eugenics and what he did and did not support. It’s very clear that Keynes didn’t support eugenics in the way that Americans sterilizing poor Black workers in the South were interested in eugenics.
Keynes was broadly interested in it from the perspective of birth control. This is a time when eugenics and genetics are not as clearly defined as they are today, so he’s thinking about heritability of eye colors — how he gets involved in this stuff. He never really supports anything other than birth control.
When he actually has power as a policymaker, he just doesn’t do any of this stuff. He is working on the Beveridge plan. He is working on financial stuff that is much more egalitarian than what we think of him when we think about eugenics.
COWEN: But he is chair of the British Eugenics Society for eight years late in his career.
CARTER: He doesn’t do much there. There are big debates that are happening within that society, and he’s mostly sitting them out. Singerman goes into this in much more detail. It’s been a while since I read the article, but Singerman seems to think that this is a useful way of understanding Keynes’s worldview, but not that Keynes is some guy who’s going around wanting to sterilize people and do the things that we think of with the eugenics movement in the United States.
COWEN: I don’t think he wants to sterilize people, but he has those essays on population, which are not put into the collected works. They’re not mentioned by Roy Harrod. He is greatly worried that the people from some countries — I think including India — will outbreed the people from Britain, and this will wreak havoc on prices and wages, and it’s a big crisis. He even says, “We need to worry not only about the quantity of people, but the quality of people in the world.”
A very good episode, definitely recommended. And here is Zach on Twitter.
A vaccine for COVID-19 is urgently needed. Several vaccine trial designs may significantly accelerate vaccine testing and approval, but also increase risks to human subjects. Concerns about whether the public would see such designs as ethically acceptable represent an important roadblock to their implementation, and the World Health Organization has called for consulting the public regarding them. Here we present results from a pre-registered cross-national survey (n= 5; 920) of individuals in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey asked respondents whether they would prefer scientists to conduct traditional trials or one of two accelerated designs: a challenge trial or a trial integrating a Phase II safety and immunogenicity trial into a larger Phase III efficacy trial. We find broad majorities prefer for scientists to conduct challenge trials (75%, 95% CI: 73-76%) and integrated trials (63%, 95% CI: 61-65%) over standard trials. Even as respondents acknowledged the risks, they perceived both accelerated trials as similarly ethical to standard trial designs, and large majorities characterized them as “probably” or “definitely ethical” (72%, 95% CI:70-73% for challenge trials; 77%, 95% CI 75-78% for integrated trials). This high support is consistent across every geography and demographic subgroup we examined, including people of diverging political orientations and vulnerable populations such as the elderly, essential workers, and racial and ethnic minorities. These findings bolster the case for these accelerated designs and can help assuage concerns that they would undermine public trust in vaccines.
Here is the paper by David Broockman, et.al.
Here is the abstract of a new paper by
We have studied the evolution of COVID-19 in 12 low and middle income countries in which reported cases have peaked and declined rapidly in the past 2-3 months. In most of these countries the declines happened while control measures were consistent or even relaxing, and without signs of significant increases in cases that might indicate second waves. For the 12 countries we studied, the hypothesis that these countries have reached herd immunity warrants serious consideration. The Reed-Frost model, perhaps the simplest description for the evolution of cases in an epidemic, with only a few constant parameters, fits the observed case data remarkably well, and yields parameter values that are reasonable. The best-fitting curves suggest that the effective basic reproduction number in these countries ranged between 1.5 and 2.0, indicating that the curve was flattened in some countries but not suppressed by pushing the reproduction number below 1. The results suggest that between 51 and 80% of the population in these countries have been infected, and that between 0.05% and 2.50% of cases have been detected; values which are consistent with findings from serological and T-cell immunity studies. The infection rates, combined with data and estimates for deaths from COVID-19, allow us to estimate overall infection fatality rates for three of the countries. The values are lower than expected from reported infection fatality rates by age, based on data from several high-income countries, and the country population by age. COVID-19 may have a lower mortality risk in these three countries (to differing degrees in each country) than in high-income countries, due to differences in immune response, prior exposure to coronaviruses, disease characteristics or other factors. We find that the herd immunity hypothesis would not have fit the evolution of reported cases in several European countries, even just after the initial peaks; and subsequent resurgences of cases obviously prove that those countries have infection rates well below herd immunity levels. Our hypothesis that the 12 countries we studied have reached herd immunity should now be tested further, through serological and T cell immunity studies.
Via Alan Goldhammer.
Addendum: From Catinthehat in the comments:
It’s a simple homogeneous model Ni(t+1)= Ni(t) * Ro * Si(t) / Ntot -> Infected at time t+1 = Infected at time t * Ro * the proportion ( of the population) susceptible at time t. where t is discretized.
They fit the step t to an infection duration , then they fit Ro, to reproduce the shape of the curve for each country and at each step they multiply the infected by a parameter p (the undetected case ratio) to fit to the total population. This acts as an accelerant to the epidemic . Each country has its own p.
The main issue is that you can look at any epidemic curve and fit it that way and you will rather automatically reproduce this high immunity threshold which comes from your homogenous model.
In Europe you can’t assume the undetected ratio is so high ( 1000x to 2000 x) so you must conclude social distancing stopped the epidemic, because your strategy would not fit experimental data.
In the countries fitted , the paper must conclude the epidemic raged fairly undetected, fairly quickly and infected most of the population.
1. Fredrik deBoer, The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice. A well-written, highly intelligent book, inveighing against various aspects of the current meritocracy, and how they contribute to what the author calls “social injustice.” People who do educational policy, or who think about inequality should read this book. But ultimately what is his remedy? I would sooner attack homework, credentialism, and bureaucratization than testing. And yes, IQ is overrated, but the correct alternative view emphasizes stamina and relentlessness in a manner that I don’t think will make deBoer any happier. To lower the status of smarts, in the meantime, I fear is not going to do us any good.
2. Chris Ferrie and Veronica Goodman, ABCs of Economics (Baby University). Is this for a 5 or 6 year old? It seems good to me, though perhaps the part where they teach “Nash equilibrium” is a stretch. I say calculus should be available in the fifth grade, stats in the eighth grade, so full steam ahead.
3. Christopher I. Caterine, Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide. Did you realize that most of the supposed advantages of academia, such as control over your own time, do not exist to the extent they once did? The advice in this book, such as about how to prepare your resume, seems correct to me, although that it needs to be given does not convince me of the marketability of these academics in the private sector or indeed anywhere at all.
4. Robert D. Putnam, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. A fact-rich, well-reasoned and indeed reasonable take on numerous American trends, most of them related to social solidarity. A good book, provided you are not looking too hard for what the title and subtitle would seem to promise.
5. Greg Woolf, The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History. A very useful introduction and overview to its chosen topic, a good and readable book for urbanists who are looking for general historical background.
Notable are two new books on liberalism abroad. The first is Ingemar Stahl: A Market Liberal in the Swedish Welfare State, edited by Christina and Lars Jonung, and The Hand Behind the Invisible Hand: Dogmatic and Pragmatic Views on Free Markets and the State of Economic Theory, by Karl Mittermaier, with other contributions, concerning South Africa, and free on Kindle at least for the time being.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column. The evidence in favor of at least partial herd immunity continues to pile up, but still don’t get too cheery. One worry is that herd immunity might prove only temporary:
First, many herd immunity hypotheses invoke the idea of “superspreaders” — that a relatively small number of people account for a disproportionate amount of the contagion. Perhaps it is the bartenders, church choir singers and bus drivers who spread the virus to so many others early on in the pandemic. Now that those groups have been exposed to a high degree and have acquired immunity, it might be much harder to distribute the virus.
That logic makes some sense except for one issue: namely, that the identities of potential superspreaders can change over time. For instance, perhaps choir singers were superspreaders earlier in the winter, but with most choral singing shut down, maybe TSA security guards are the new superspreaders. After all, air travel has been rising steadily. Or the onset of winter and colder weather might make waiters a new set of superspreaders, as more people dine inside.
In other words, herd immunity might be a temporary state of affairs. The very economic and social changes brought by the virus may induce a rotation of potential superspreaders, thereby undoing some of the acquired protection.
In other words, the fight never quite ends. Here is another and possibly larger worry:
Another problem is global in nature and could prove very severe indeed. One possible motivation for the herd immunity hypothesis is that a significant chunk of the population already had been exposed to related coronaviruses, thereby giving it partial immunity to Covid-19. In essence, that “reservoir” of protected individuals has helped to slow or stop the spread of the virus sooner than might have been expected.
There is a catch, however. If true, that hypothesis means that the virus spreads all the more rapidly among groups with little or no protection. (Technically, if R = 2.5, but say 50% of the core population has protection, there is an R of something like 5 for the unprotected population, to get the aggregate R to 2.5.) So if some parts of the world enjoy less protection from cross-immunities, Covid-19 is likely to ravage them all the more — and very rapidly at that.
Again, this is all in the realm of the hypothetical. But that scenario might help explain the severe Covid-19 toll in much of Latin America, and possibly in India and South Africa. Herd immunity, as a general concept, could mean a more dangerous virus for some areas and population subgroups.
There are further arguments at the link.
Here is the transcript, audio, and video. Here is part of the summary:
Nathan joined Tyler for a conversation about which African countries a theory of persistence would lead him to bet on, why so many Africans live in harder to settle areas, his predictions for the effects of Chinese development on East Africa, why genetic distance is a strong predictor of bilateral income differences and trade, the pleasant surprises of visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, the role of the Catholic Church in the development of the West, why Canadian football is underrated, the unique commutes of Ottawans, the lack of Canadian brands, what’s missing from most economic graduate programs, the benefits of studying economics outside of the United States, how the plow shaped gender roles in the societies that used it, the cultural values behind South Korea’s success, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: If you try to think, say, within Africa, what would be some places that you would be modestly more optimistic about than, say, a hedge fund manager who didn’t understand persistence? What would a few of those countries be? Again, recognizing enormous noise, variance, and so on, as with smoking and lung cancer.
NUNN: If I’m true to exactly what I was just saying, then southern Africa or places where you have a larger population of societies that historically were more developed. South Africa, you have the Afrikaans, and they have a different descent than others. That’s if I’m true to what I was saying. But that’s ignoring that, also within Africa, you had a very large number of successful, well-developed states, and that was prior to European colonialism and the slave trade. So one could look at those cases.
One area that I worked at, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where you had the great Congo Kingdom, the Kuba Kingdom, a large number of other kingdoms, the Luba for example — that would probably be one country. That country today is pretty much as low as — in terms of per capita income — as you can be, right at subsistence. But if we’re predicting just based purely on persistence and historical state formation, that would be one to pick.
COWEN: What do you find to be the most convincing account of Botswana’s relative economic success?
NUNN: A few things. One is, Botswana is pretty small in terms of population. Anytime you have smaller countries, you can have more extreme outcomes. That’s one, that it’s small. But then related to that, it’s, in general, ethnically homogenous, particularly compared to other countries within Africa. The Tswana are the predominant ethnicity. They also have a historical social structure, and I think that was pretty well maintained and left intact. That’s a big part of the explanation.
COWEN: Is it fun to visit Democratic Republic of Congo?
NUNN: Yeah, it’s great. Yeah.
COWEN: Tell us what’s fun. I need to go once I can.
NUNN: Yeah, it’s really, really great. The first time we went as a team — this is James Robinson, Sara Lowes, Jonathan Weigel in 2013 — we were pretty apprehensive. You hear a lot of stories about the DRC. It sounds like a very unsafe place, et cetera. But one thing we didn’t realize or weren’t expecting was just how lovely and wonderful the people are.
And it turns out it’s not unsafe in general. It depends on different locations. In the east, definitely near Goma, it’s obviously much, much less safe. But I think what, for me, is wonderful is the sense of community. Because the places we go are places that haven’t been touched, to a large extent, by foreign aid or NGOs or tourism, I think we are treated just like any other individual within the community.
COWEN: What’s your favorite movie and why?
NUNN: Oh, favorite movie. [laughs] That’s a good question. Favorite movie — in the past it was Dazed and Confused. I must have watched that in university about a hundred times.
COWEN: A wonderful film.
Recommended, interesting throughout.
1. An unusual and indeed very positive book review, of a book about China.
3. Smart piece on why cancel culture is not so bad today, the reader who sent it in insisted that I not mention/thank him by name.
2. An extensive and pretty devastating article on the testing fail of the CDC. Again, our regulatory state has been failing us. And coverage from the NYT.
3. At the margin: “Results show that informants were given approximately 70 East German marks worth of rewards more per year in the areas that had access to WGTV, as compared with areas with no reception—ironically an amount roughly equivalent to the cost of an annual East German TV subscription.”
5. Scott Sumner watch the islands. This piece seems to imply that in-migration is a major source of heterogeneity. I’ve also been receiving some emails from Xavier suggested tourist inflow is a major cause of heterogeneity, due to an ever fresh supply of hard to trace cases. No rigorous test yet of that one, but it is certainly in the running as a hypothesis. And if true, it suggests many parts of Africa may not be hit that hard.
10. Beloit University moves to more flexible two-course module system. For now at least.
In the bad old days, health care in poor countries was just terrible. It wasn’t only the poverty, lack of hospitals and pharmaceuticals, and unsanitary conditions. In addition, doctors gave very bad advice and they also didn’t work very hard, as outlined in this paper. Citizens suffered accordingly.
Those conditions have improved somewhat, but actual health outcomes have improved a lot. You still can’t trust the local medical advice in Tanzania, but guess what? You have much better vaccines, greater access to antibiotics, more NGOs running health clinics, and better health care information, sometimes through the internet. If your kid has diarrhea, let the kid drink water, even unclean water! As for antibiotics (NYT):
Two doses a year of an antibiotic can sharply cut death rates among infants in poor countries, perhaps by as much as 25 percent among the very young, researchers reported on Wednesday.
In other words, the quality of the most important part of health care treatments bypassed the rest of the problems in poor economies and grew rapidly, even in countries with only so-so economic growth. The rate of reduction in child mortality has tripled in many countries since the 1990s, and by no means are those locales major economic winners as say Singapore and South Korea were.
Therein lies one of the most important (and under-reported) global changes in the last twenty years. It is now possible to have a decent public health system in a country with poor or mediocre political and economic institutions.
In other words, public health is no longer such an O-Ring service, an O-Ring service being one where everything has to go right for the service to be of decent quality. And advances are much, much easier when the O-Ring structure no longer rules.
The O-Ring citation is to a famous Michael Kremer paper — a trip to the moon is definitely an O-Ring process, because if one step is off the whole mission probably is a failure. But tasty fish curry is not — you can get a splendid version in some pretty dumpy countries, maybe even a better version in poorer places.
Electricity, however, it seems is still an O-Ring service, as evidenced by the recent power blackouts in South Africa.
What else is likely to become less of an O-Ring good or service in the next few decades to come? And what can we do to hasten such progress? Is there any chance of quality software production making that same kind of transition? Or might some goods and services return to a greater connection with the O-Ring model?
For this post I am very much indebted to a conversation with Garett Jones.