the DON JONES INDEX…

 

 

 

GAINS POSTED in GREEN

LOSSES POSTED in RED

 

 

 

  12/17/21…    14,718.25 

  12/10/21…    14,699.62 

    6/27/13…    15,000.00

 

(THE DOW JONES INDEX: 12/24/21… 35,892.64; 12/10/21… 35,754,69; 6/27/13… 15,000.00)

 

 

LESSON for December 17, 2021 – “THEY LIVE!”

 

Friday night’s outbreak of killer tornadoes across what now stands at eight states brought to mind… given the time of the year… the role that concepts like chance, destiny, sin, intelligence, good and evil play in the ongoing human comedy (or, sometime, tragedy… hopefully still ongoing).  Amidst the candles and the mistletoe, the gifts wrapped under dead trees, the feasting, football and the hymns to Baby Jesus, life renews itself according to the pagan traditions dating thousands of years earlier than BC/AD… the winter solstice and the promises of a coming spring and new life.

Again, across states like Kentucky, Arkansa and Southern Illinois… putatively redder than the rest of the nation and definitely more Christian… survivors of the (what else can one call it?) plague of lethal weather are asking themselves and their civil and religious authorities: “Why is there evil in the world?”  Death is something that one can understand… so long as it occurs as the culmination of an aging process without which space would not be made for the new life that replaces it in a cycle of life (as Mister Disney’s heirs would aver).  But the good is in the closing down of living fulfilled… job done, mission accomplished, torch passed… an ending perhaps similar to that which came to former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas (which state knows a thing or two about tornadoes) who racked up his Biblical three score ten and somewhat more, passing at 98 to the tributes of both allies and adversaries (but few, if any, enemies).   (See President Joe’s eulogy as Attachment @)

 

The snuffing out of lives on Friday… residents of a nursing home entitled to their last few days of earthly rest before the advent of that eternal sort, Amazon warehouse workers violently delivered from the often less-than-tender mercies of Commodity Czar and Space Boss Bezos, Christmas candlemakers on the night shife in Mayfield… was merely a drop in the bucket of tears cried by victims of wars in Ukraine, in Africa and the Middle East, in gulags in Russia and China and Myanmar, not to mention the over 800,000 Americans and millions more, worldwide, snatched away before their time by the plague.

And so… leaving Tornado Alley to the homilies and recovery (and, hopefully, a miracle or two), we’ll return to the premise introduced last week: given the capacities of the Coronavirus to mutate, infiltrate, penetrate and adapt to the defenses of host cells, can the plague in its now fivefold variants (and, no doubt, more to come), be considered Alive?  Intelligent?  Evil?

An admittedly cursory examination of biological and virological research papers dating well back into the last century has found titled and credentialed advocates for both the positive and negative answers to these three questions.

 

Last week, we attempted to answer such questions about Omicron as could be asked and answered… at that time… we now know a little more, but have been stymied, yet dazzled (styzzled?) by the rapidity with which the virus has established itself and (rather like ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan) undertaken a war to usurp the Delta Variant of its primacy.  Few tears, if any, will be shed for the passing of the ΔV (expected within weeks, if not days) and the relative weakness of the Big-O should be cause for relief among the experts and the laymen alike although… as more than a few researchers and administrators have warned… a weaker strain that is also more  communicable and less vulnerable to the “old” plague vaccines will, in the end, probably kill as many Americans and others as did its predecessors, and the number of its victims will fill hospitals (if perhaps not the ICUs) to overflowing once again.

Then, too, the restricting mandates of the past two years are likely to return… quarantines and lockdowns, the masks and vaxxes that so many Republican POTheads loathe, the social distancing, the remote workplaces and schools, the bleach (for cleaning or, inevitably, for ingestion), the other quack cures, the conspiracy-mongering and ruined holiday season.

And the empty places at the dinner table, not to mention the regrets percolating upwards from the sick and the dying and those left behind.

An analysis by the National Institute of Health (NIH) eighteen months ago identified the perpetrator as a transmission agent for human respiratory diseases. “While several human coronaviruses cause relatively mild respiratory infections, three coronaviruses cause severe respiratory diseases in humans: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus (MERS), and Corona Virus Infectious Disease 2019 virus (COVID-19). The presumed etiologic cause of COVID-19 disease is the SARS-CoV2 virus.”

(Professionals and wannabees may want to refer to the source article for genome sequencing, protease configurations, references and many colorful photos and diagrams.)

 

The Baylor College of Medicine has previously defined SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) as “serious infectious respiratory diseases that are caused by members of a class of viruses known as coronaviruses. The name coronavirus comes from the appearance of the virus under the microscope – it has a spiky or crown-like (corona) appearance. Both diseases can be fatal to humans.  SARS is caused by SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), while MERS is caused by Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

“SARS-CoV emerged about two decades ago in China and spread rapidly to other countries. Fortunately, it was successfully contained and no new cases have been reported since the initial outbreak. MERS-CoV emerged in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and circulated throughout the Middle East and was carried by travelers to other parts of the world including the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The rate of new infections has since dropped significantly. 

“More recently, late in 2019, a third member of the coronavirus family capable of causing severe disease arose. The new virus, emerging in Wuhan, China, is called 
SARS-CoV-2 and is responsible for the disease known as COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 spread quickly around the globe. Unlike SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 was not able to be controlled, resulting in a worldwide pandemic.

 

The consequences?  For Dr Rina D’Abramo of the MetroHealth System in Cleveland, it’s difficult when patients in the emergency room tell her they have not been vaccinated.  (Guardian UK, See Attachment One)

“You can hear it in their voice when you say, ‘Are you vaccinated?’” said D’Abramo, who works at a hospital in the Brecksville suburb. “They shrink down and are like, ‘No. Now I know why I need to be vaccinated.’ ”

While the increased number of people vaccinated against Covid has inspired hopes that Americans would be able to experience a relatively normal winter, the rise in Covid cases; holiday gatherings; and unanswered questions about the Omicron variant have sparked fresh concerns and warnings from doctors and public health officials in the US according to the Guardian U.K.  (See Attachment One)

“The yellow caution light has gone on because I think our progress in vaccination has slowed,” said William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

 

Forty percent of the US population has not been fully vaccinated, and the number of doses administered each day has decreased from about 3.3m in April to about 1.7m today, according to the New York Times.

Doctors continue to not only urge people to get vaccinated against Covid – and for those who are eligible to get a booster shot – but also to encourage people to wear N95 or KN95 masks during indoor gatherings and if possible, to gather outdoors or open doors and windows to improve filtration.

 “I think we have chosen one of the most painful paths through the pandemic in this country” because of people’s refusal to get vaccinated,” said Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University, speaking of the refuseniks.  Gounder has also suggested that people take rapid Covid tests before holiday gatherings.

“I think we have prolonged our pain unnecessarily.”

In last week’s Lesson, we reprinted Jessica Hamzelou’s decade old analysis of the then-little-known CV in Scientific American, emphasizing that while mutations often cause lethal, vax-resistant strains of similarly configured viruses, they can also be employed to create vaccines which mitigate (if not obliterate) the harmful effects of the bug.  (The word “bug” is literal – Hamzelou cited researchers who had compared the coronavirus “hive intelligence” to that of insects, leading to at least an insinuation of the most vexing topics among vaxxing researchers and academics: “Does the plague have intelligence; if so, can these smarts be termed evil (to its prey, at least); and correspondingly, if CV is intelligend and does have an Adam and Evish knowledge of good and evil, has the current plague been part of God’s design… and to what purpose?”  (Reprinted as Attachment A1 from last week’s Lesson).

Such questions are now being asked (and by some believers, both among the communities of faith and science, answered) as the Big-O marches across Britain, America and Africa with inevitable designs upon future conquests, both of human immunity and life and upon its purported enemy, the Delta.

Almost as if…

 “Viruses are very intelligent. They can think. They do things that we do not expect. They adapt to the environment. They change themselves in order to survive,” Michael Lai, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, told Eva Emerson of the U.S.C. News on October 30, 1998 (See Attachment A2).

After all his years of research, studying viruses’ shifty ways continues to leave Lai with a sense of amazement. Part of this comes from the ability of viruses to shuffle genes with as much deft as some genetic engineers.

“Viruses can pick up pieces of cellular genes or incorporate their genes into the cell’s genome. That means that evolution occurs all the time in viruses. It’s a very dynamic process – that’s why I always feel that the viruses are alive,” he said.

“Viruses are ‘smart’, so we must be smarter,” advised Colin Russell, Royal Society University Research Fellow at Cambridge University in England, in January, 2014 (reprinted as Attachment A3 from last week’s Lesson).

 

Is the contention of intelligent diseases truth or drivel?  There are arguments (and arguers) on both sides of the question.

 

Also from last week’s Lesson: the contention by Christopher Then of testbiotech.org that emergence of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 are not purely random.  “Rather, the virus has repair and adaptation mechanisms in its genome that can accelerate the occurrence of particularly dangerous mutations.   Similarly to other corona viruses, SARS-CoV-2 has ‘learnt’ during the course of evolution to adapt more efficiently to its host than if this were a purely random process,” contends Mr. Then… “overall, the virus appears to have a lower mutation rate than might be expected statistically. The reason for this are proteins which ‘proofread’ the correct composition of the genome (RNA) during replication and repair it if need be. Without these control mechanisms, too many mutations could strongly impact replication and infectiousness of the virus.”  (See Attachment A5)       

In June of 2020, a five person team of writer-researchers at sciencemag.org conducting analysis of “(H)ost-dependent RNA editing in the transcriptome of SARS-CoV-2” cited, unsympathetically, Antonio Damasio’s Feeling & Knowing (2021), which pointed to the whole body as involved in consciousness, and University of Chicago biochemist James Shapiro’s premise that concludes bacteria, based on their behavior, are cognitive, which means that they are aware in some sense, perhaps some would say, intelligent inasmuch as Damasio, at least contends that — based on the evidence — we cannot deny viruses “some fraction” of intelligence. 

Speaking for the anti-life (or perhaps quasi-life) side of the dispute, however, the Science Magazine Five expressed concerns that: “(o)ne-celled intelligence aside, it’s unclear how Antonio Damasio’s ladder of consciousness, built on self-balancing and death avoidance, gets us the human mind.”

 

Why do many scientists like Damasio and Shapiro see cells as intelligent? they ask.  Bacteria appear to show intelligent behavior but, skeptics ask, what about individual cells in our bodies?

“Moreover, to complicate the picture, Joshua Moritz… whose study of viral morality will be treated in detail next week… proffers giant viruses like Mimivirus, which can behave in some ways like the one-celled life forms to which both Shapiro and Damasio are prepared to credit some type of cognition. As Harvard neuropsychiatrist Jon Lieff put it a few years ago:

“Viruses appear to have functions, different in nature but comparable in complexity to bacteria. If bacteria have a form of sentience, then can we really say that viruses don’t?”

And intelligence?

Viruses carry a hidden competence,” allows Damasio, that manifests itself “only once they reach suitable living terrain”.

And morality?

See next week’s Lesson!

To date, the Coronavirus imperative seems to be hunger… it’s “living terrain” being Don Jones’ head, heart, kidneys, bowels… even his toes.   (See Web.MD: Attachment Five)  “This is a disease progression we have never seen for any infection that I can think of, and I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades,” says Joseph Vinetz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Medicine.

 

“(C)onsciousness exists,” Philip Goff stated in a Scientific American interview, “and it's one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. And just like dark matter and dark energy have been used to fill some otherwise gaping holes in the standard model of physics, researchers have also proposed that it's possible to consider consciousness as a new state of matter.”  (See Attachment Two@)

To be clear, this is just a hypothesis, and one to be taken with a huge grain of salt, because we're squarely in the realm of the hypothetical here, and there's plenty of room for holes to be poked.

But it's part of a quietly bubbling movement within theoretical physics and neuroscience to try and attach certain basic principles to consciousness in order to make it more observable.

The hypothesis was first put forward in 2014 by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Max Tegmark from MIT, who proposed that there's a state of matter - just like a solid, liquid, or gas - in which atoms are arranged to process information and give rise to subjectivity, and ultimately, consciousness.

The name of this proposed state of matter? Perceptronium, of course.

 

At one time, the New Scientists contend, “a science mag’s typical contributors would merely ridicule the conscious universe, convinced that science will shortly explain consciousness away anyhow.

So why the thaw toward panpsychism over the past few years? Possibly, panpsychism offers a way to be a naturalist (nature is all there is) without the absurdities of physicalism (everything in nature must be physical). The panpsychists who are gaining attention are, generally speaking, naturalists. That is, they do think that nature is all there is. But, as Philip Goff explains,

Consciousness, for the panpsychist, is the intrinsic nature of matter.

 

Indeed, Kastrup argues, consciousness cannot have evolved (in the sense that a dinosaur might evolve into a bird).

Consciousness could be more like a fact of nature of the sort that doesn’t evolve, in the sense that oxygen and photons don’t evolve.

Panpsychists need not reject evolution in principle. But Darwinism, as commonly expressed, is an outgrowth of physicalism (everything is physical). That is why Darwinian accounts of consciousness are frequently restricted to considerations of what traits helped prehuman ancestors survive.

The Darwinian reasoning seems feeble at best according to Kastrup – clearly more sympathetic to the naturalist camp.

So… there is an argument for the problem-solving systems of the virus that causes COVID being called “intelligent” even though the virus itself is not doing any thinking and there is a dispute among scientists about whether it is even alive? That points to an intelligence underlying or within nature that the viruses did not themselves create. The question should be seen in the larger context of the growing popularity of panpsychism in science — the approach that consciousness underlies and pervades the universe and that all entities share in it to some degree.

 

If virii have consciousness, then does it follow that they have intelligence? 

And, if so, can they manipulate their environment by intelligent designs.

 

A hallmark of the Covid virus is its propensity for mutations.  As noted last week, there have not been one, nor two, nor five variants, but at least ten (those between the Delta and Omicron were not able to compete and, so, faded away,

One theory as to the strength and persistence of Big-O is that the original Coronavirus genetic material (alpha, beta, gamma, delta or… something) has somehow been merged with that of the common cold… perhaps through infecting a human host who already had the pedantic respiratory infection.  Within this host, the two virii met… as if on Tinder… liked each other and one thing led to another. 

The child that they reproduced was Omicron.

Welcome to the world, kiddo!

 

Last week’s Lesson included mention of Christopher Then who postulated that: “Systems capable of solving problems with a higher rate of success than might be expected with random processes, can indeed be called ‘intelligent’, even if the virus is not actually ‘thinking’ or ‘planning’.”  

They just get together and do it… SARS, MERS, Covid variants, Hepatitis B or C, the common cold, monkeypox, bubonic plague, shingles… whatever (or whomever) rocks their world.

And, although a few evangelical radicals might theoretically approve, there is no such thing as abortion in Plague World, when the microbes get together and get the boots knocking.

 

There are viral jumps to create confounding new syndromes, and then there are species jumps, which pass them on from bats to humans to… as the Sierra Club implied at the beginning of 2021… minks and ferrets.

Outbreaks on European mink ranches have demonstrated that when a virus manages to establish a reservoir of disease in farmed mink or their wild cousins, it could hamper our fight against the pandemic, harm wildlife, or even threaten ecosystems.  Particularly if it mutates along the way into something deadlier, more transmissible, or harder for modern medicine to attack.

“No man is an island,” the Sierroids quoted, “and neither are diseases.”

Zoonotic outbreaks happen constantly, the Club contends, and disease reservoirs are everywhere. “In one recent week, ProMed, the bulletin of the Massachusetts-based International Society for Infectious Diseases, emailed reports of avian influenza in Chinese people and Polish poultry, influenza in an Oregon horse, anthrax in Croatian cattle, and Australian bat lyssavirus in Queensland.  Raccoons harbor rabies; rodents across the American West harbor the bacterium that causes plague. Diseases can jump the other way too. People are a reservoir of tuberculosis for cattle.

“Whenever a virus jumps to a new host species, it adapts by mutating. Some of these mutations can help the virus spread faster, worsen the severity of disease, make it harder for the body to fight, or make therapeutics or vaccines less effective. That has come to pass recently: a new, apparently super-contagious variant first discovered in Britain has since been found in dozens of countries.  

“No evidence has emerged yet that farmed mink have infected people in the US, though that investigation is still ongoing. But Denmark’s outbreaks showed the potential. Hundreds of farms were affected—Denmark, the world’s biggest mink producer, had 17 million animals.”  (See Attachment Six)  

 

Not all mutations are inherantly evil.  The Big-O is a prime example… while much more communicative and vaccine resistant (probably due to its liaison with the common cold), it is also, like the cold; weaker… less likely to cause a severe or fatal outcome.

Researchers in India also hope that mutated virii will, perchance, produce offspring that can be used as the foundation for vaccines, in the way that hybrids so weakened smallpox that its host population developed herd immunity and it vanished.  So too, Dr Subhabrata Sen, Professor, Department of Chemistry at Shiv Nadar University in Greater Noida, said (as we noted last Lesson) that they hope their therapeutic approach will unravel solutions against maladies associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome.  (See Attachment 4A)

 

Writing in the National Institutes for Health site, researchers Khushboo BafnaRobert M. Krug, and Gaetano T. Montelione resurrected another ghost of plagues past but, this time, as a source of a potential cure.

“Approved therapeutics for AIDS, some of which inhibit the activity of the HIV-1 protease, are already being explored as therapeutics for COVID-19 in several clinical trials. To compare their potential as antivirals directed at the Mpro protease of SARS-CoV2 with the HCV drugs described above, we also carried out AutoDock docking simulation calculations to predict and rank bound-state poses for nine of these AIDS drugs. These HIV-1 inhibitors were compiled from public databases. Most of these drugs are (or have been) in clinical use as therapeutics for AIDS.

 

So down the road… far, far down the road, most likely… it is hoped-for that the gene splicers and dicers will develop cures for the Big O, as well as delta and anything else that the plague might throw at us.

But mistakes have been known to happen, even in the most sanitary laboratories.

What if a Coronavirus hybrid were to appear… by accident or design (humankind having exhibited an almost childlike denial of the potential for some aggressive nation to attempt to weaponize mutant virii)… one for which there was no vaccine extant or even remotely in the pipeline.  A covid-bubonic or covid-AIDS hybrid might well be a planet-killer vastly more transmissible and more lethal than the Big O.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

DECEMBER 10 – DECEMBER 16

 

 

Friday, December 10, 2021

 

Infected: 49,833,439

Dead:  796,162

Dow:  35,970.99

 

 

CDC greenlights boosters for 16 and 17 year olds.  800% spike in sick kids as the Big-O infects 25 states.  But ΔV still dominates, and ICU beds under triage in the most vaxless states.  U.K. researchers say two Pfizer doses only 30% effective while a booster raises efficiency to 75%.  New York re-imposes mask mandates… violence likely result.

   Actor Jussie Smollett convicted of hate crime against himself.  More trials drag on… Ghislaine, Holmes, the Capitol… what, now, 900?.  “Accidental” shooting testimony continues in Kim Potter trial and Alec Baldwin investigation, Travis Scott and the Crumbley parents face negligent homicide charges.  SCOTUS, meanwhile, greenlights Tx vigilante abortion ban.

   With inflation at record 6.8%, shopping online is cheaper but regulators find Amazon ads to be deceptive.  Adele’s $85 Vegas tickets are being scalped for as much as $31,000.

 

 

 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

 

Infected:  49,884,587

Dead:  797,179

 

 

           

 

Good Morning America star Michael Strahan has a good morning riding a Blue Origin rocket into space for 11 minutes.  Alan Shepherd’s daughter Laura rides with him, as do several billionaires… newscasters refrain from declaring: “The Penis has landed!” as rocket and capsule return to Earth to be greeted by Jeff Bezos (in a baseball cap).

   Wild weather predominates as floods and volcanoes scourge Hawaii with “snakes of rain” and tornadoes hit Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky (more locations on Sunday).  Snow finally comes to Denver.

   Oil prices crest and begin dropping due to increased production, the President Joe release of Strategic Petroleum and fears of the Big-O which, BoJo proclaims over there, will supplant ΔV within weeks, if not days.

   Bad drivers blamed for Mexican bus crash killing 50 migrants towards America (the driver is still a fugitive) and yet another lazy Fed Ex courier throws more packages down an Alabama ravine before being caught and arrested.

 

 

 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

 

Infected:  49,921,405

Dead:  797,346

                 

 

 

Dawn reveals the extent of tornado disaster… eight states are socked.  Worst case is in Mayfield, KY where dozens are feared dead in collapse of a candle factory’s overnight Christmas holiday rush shift.  More twisters bowling down houses in Bowling Green, Amazon warehouse roof collapse in Edwardsville, IL and nursing home collapse in Arkansas prop up the toll of dead and injured… hospitals, already overwhelmed by the plague, cannot handle the overload.  Rescuers tell of “crawling over the dead” to save the living.

   President Joe sends FEMA to Tornado Alley and acknowledges that warmer temps mean more winter twisters.  First responders insist their priority is “rescue” and not cleanup but Gov. Beshear (D-Ky) tells of dead relatives and says any more rescues will be “a miracle”. 

   Fox News stalwart Chris Wallace jumps to CNN.  Capitol riot probers trumpet Mark Meadows’ pre-J6 emails that the National Guard would protect “pro-Trump people.”  Nobody else.  Federal, state, local and tax cops assail Djonald Undersiege – a happy prosecuter asserts: “he’ll be in litigation for the rest of his life.”

 

 

 

Monday, December 13, 2021

 

Infected:  50,119,422

Dead:  798,710

Dow:  35,650.95

 

               

 

Despite brave denials, Tornado Alley relief workers pivot from rescue to cleanup.  Many dogged victims declare they’ll build back better (although a pessimist says that “…there’s going to be nothing like Mayfield ever again,”) and the measure-men and women say the track on the ground of one twister lasted 227 miles, breaking the old record of 215.  After cleanup comes recovery… a pessimist laments: “There’s going to be nothing like Maynard (Ky) ever again,” but an optimist vows: “This town is small, but its mighty.”

   The American infection toll tops fifty million while BoJo warns that a Big-O “tidal wave” is on way as U.K. records first Omicron death.  Dr. Fauci calls its vaxxing breakthrough potential “ominous” and warns that Americans may have to “deal with more booster shots.”  Dog and cat collectors say that economic woes potentiated by the plague are causing more people to abandon their pets but, at least, “Panther” the pole perching pussy is rescued after two days aloft.

   Time names Elon Musk (not the more deserving Gen. Milley) its Man of the Year and the Canadian billionaire promptly declares that President Joe’s Infra Two is an overstuffed scam and American’s don’t need childcare, mental health or Internet access.

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

 

Infected: 50,233,338                       Dead:  800,343

Dow:  35,544.18

 

 

Congressional riot probe (yes, they are Democrats – with a few RINOs tossed in for show) indicts former Congressman and Trump lackey Mark Meadows for contempt… the first former colleague so treated.  Stupid Mark turned over all culpable documents before using Djonald’s expired “executive privilege” to clam up… Pelosi and Schumer now have the delightful task of sifting through waves of dither for occasional nuggets like Don Junior’s pleas to Daddy to call off the siege (Junior a liberal?  Who nu?), a power point plot to have National Guard protect (only) “pro-Trump people” (Pence excluded) and the Foxyverse complaining to one another that it would “hurt them!”

   Proof puddingdinged… Old Right moderator Chris Wallace quits in fear and loathing and jumps to CNN.

   Plague toll breaks through ceilings – 800K dead and 50M infected in America, alone.  The Big O has now spread to thirty states; SCOTUS, surprisingly, upholds vaxxing mandates and Pfizer claims to have developed a miracle pill that will moderate, if not eliminate, plague symptoms.

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

 

Infected: 50,374,543

Dead:  802,510

Dow:  35,927.43

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress having apparently done its job, speculation pivots to whether the DOJ will indict Mark (“Must be Democrats!) Meadows for J-6 conspiracy.  Perhaps in a one for one trade… Meadows in, O.J. out (of all parole restrictions).

   Big O finding its niche at college campuses.  900 students at Cornell get it. Gumments (and gumment-pressured industries) crack down… Kroger Foods “fines” refuseniks $50 surcharge to their healthcare payments.  Canada shuts the border, again.

   With 122 still missing after tornado, Kentucky, Illinois and other afflicted states start turning from rescue to recovery.  President Joe arrives at ground zero to offer words of comfort as the Weather Overground bumps twister up to E-4 with 190 mph winds, and then goes back to Washington and the economy… Congress reluctantly (and on party lines) votes to raise debt ceiling and Fed proposes higher interest rates.

 

 

 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

 

Infected:  50,513,424

Dead:  803,651

Dow:  35,807.64

  

 

 

Big O now in 39 states and barreling into Christmas.  New cases are up 45% - Delta still racking up the majority of deaths, but the newcomer looks to overturn him  (her?  it?).  In anticipation, more lockdowns, bars, retail and restaurant closings, school and college shutdowns, arts and sports venues go dark, workplaces return to remoteness.  Dr. Fauci alleges that the Big O has an infection doubling time of three days.

   More thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes cover the path of earlier twisters, but only two are killed this time.  Relief pouring into Kentucky, but no miracles emerge.

   President Joe throws in the towel on Build Back Better 2021 due to stubborn stance by Joe Manchin (D-WV) against excessive child tax credit.  He pivots to voting rights, but Republican filibuster-ers filibuster that so he returns to a cold, lonely week in the White House.

 

 

 

 

Back to work go more and more Joneses are clocking in, even if only for the holidays.  The last big indices of 2021 have also clocked in, with the Don gaining more on employment and (finally) trade – as Santa made a special effort to buy American this year.  The downside was inflation, and that is going to go up too unless the Big O turns out to be deadlier than expected and throws a monkeywrench into the works.  January, 2022 looks to be a time of closings and lockdowns and a rising unemployment rate again, so Americans are enjoying a last trip to the theater (to see “Spiderman”, mostly) and buy Christmas stuff.  At least they’re buying American.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DON JONES INDEX

 

CHART of CATEGORIES w/VALUE ADDED to EQUAL BASELINE of 15,000

(REFLECTING… approximately… DOW JONES INDEX of June 27, 2013)

 

See a further explanation of categories here

 

ECONOMIC INDICES (60%)

DON JONES’ PERSONAL ECONOMIC INDEX

(45% of TOTAL INDEX POINTS)

 

 

 

CATEGORY

VALUE

BASE

RESULTS

SCORE

SCORE

OUR SOURCES and COMENTS

INCOME

24%

6/17/13

LAST

CHANGE

NEXT

12/10/21

12/17/21

SOURCE 

Wages (hourly, per capita)

9%

1350 points

 10/8/21

   +0.53%

 12/24/21

1,495.31

1,503.28

https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wages  26.26 6.40

Median Income (yearly)

4%

600

 12/10/21

  +0.02%

 12/24/21

676.41

676.56

http://www.usdebtclock.org/   35,761 769

*Unempl. (BLS – in millions

4%

600

 12/10/21

   -9.52%

 12/24/21

477.95

477.95

http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS140000004.2%

*Official (DC – in millions)

2%

300

 12/10/21

  +0.18%

 12/24/21

574.79

575.81

http://www.usdebtclock.org/      7,365 6,794 782

*Unofficl. (DC – in millions)

2%

300

 12/10/21

   -0.26%

 12/24/21

491.80

493.19

http://www.usdebtclock.org/    12,250 11,782 751

Workforce Participtn.

     Number  

     Percent

2%

300

12/10/21

 

   +0.018%

  +0.0006%

 12/24/21

 

 

324.22

 

 

324.222

In 154,168 224  252 out 100,472  99,970  967 Total: 254,640 194 249

 

http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 60.67

WP %  (ycharts)*

1%

150

 10/8/21

  +0.32%

 12/24/21

152.72

152.72

https://ycharts.com/indicators/labor_force_participation_rate    

61.80

OUTGO

(15%)

Total Inflation

7%

1050

 11/12/21

+0.8%

 12/24/21

956.88

956.88

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm     +0.9 nc .8

Food

2%

300

 11/12/21

+0.7%

 12/24/21

268.22

268.22

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm     +0.9  .7

Gasoline

2%

300

 11/12/21

+6.1%

 12/24/21

224.50

224.50

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm     +6.1 nc

Medical Costs

2%

300

 11/12/21

+0.3%

 12/24/21

282.77

282.77

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm     +0.5 .3

Shelter

2%

300

 11/12/21

+0.5%

 12/24/21

284.46

284.46

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm     +0.5 nc

WEALTH

(6%)

 

Dow Jones Index

2%

300

 12/10/21

    +0.49%

 12/24/21

380.37

381.89

https://www.wsj.com/market-data/quotes/index/DJIA  35,897.64

Home (Sales) 

   (Valuation)

1%

1%

150

150

 12/10/21

   +0.79%

   +0.31%

 12/24/21

201.36

178.11

201.36

178.11

https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics

     Sales (M):  6.29 6.34 Valuations (K):  352.8 nc 353.9

Debt (Personal)

2%

300

 12/10/21

   +0.09%

 12/24/21

264.47

264.23

http://www.usdebtclock.org/    66,747

 

 

 

AMERICAN ECONOMIC INDEX (15% of TOTAL INDEX POINTS)

NATIONAL

(10%)

 

Revenue (trilns.)

2%

300

 12/10/21

 +0.01%

 12/24/21

346.54

346.57

debtclock.org/       4,052 052.6 053

Expenditures (tr.)

2%

300

 12/10/21

  -0.06%

 12/24/21

218.35

218.22

debtclock.org/       6,858 863 867

National Debt tr.)

3%

450

 12/10/21

 +0.045%

 12/24/21

316.57

316.43

http://www.usdebtclock.org/    29,003 020 033

Aggregate Debt (tr.)

3%

450

 12/10/21

 +0.035%

 12/24/21

371.31

371.18

http://www.usdebtclock.org/    85,114 153 182

GLOBAL

(5%)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Debt (tr.)

2%

300

 12/10/21

  +0.105%

 12/24/21

274.70

274.41

http://www.usdebtclock.org/   7,678 643 651

Exports (in billions)

1%

150

 10/8/21

  +7.55%

 12/24/21

198.47

198.47

https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/index.html  207.9 nc 223.6

Imports (bl.)

1%

150

 10/8/21

  +0.76%

 12/24/21

114.06

114.06

https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/index.html  288.5 290.7

Trade Deficit (bl.)

1%

150

 10/8/21

+17.06%

 12/24/21

100.04

100.04

https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/index.html    80.9 67.1

 

SOCIAL INDICES (40%) 

ACTS of MAN

(12%)

World Affairs

3%

450

12/10/21

      -0.2%

 12/24/21

377.17

376.42

President Joe warns Mad Vlad Putin of “grave” economic consequences if he invades Ukraine to confiscate their Ukraineum, but fails to mention military action, causing Russia to smile.  BoJo shuts down U.K. again after Big-O surge and first death, Canada closes border again, too.

Terrorism

2%

300

12/10/21

      -0.2%

 12/24/21

218.15

217.71

AmeriSanctions starving Afghan children as Taliban and ISIS turn away from wicked Westerners and start fighting each other for power, glory and God.  Iranian nuke talks collapse, threats escalate.

Politics

3%

450

12/10/21

     +0.4%

 12/24/21

442.55      

444.32      

Meadows is one of six more top Trump toadies summoned by Capitol probers.  More indictments to come?  Don Junior now a liberal hero for telling Daddy (unsuccessfully) to stop the riots; Daddy goes on Newsmax and declares: “Everybody loves Christmas.”  Debt ceiling meltdown averted, but President Joe’s Infra Two and voting rights bills crushed.

Economics

3%

450

12/10/21

     +0.2%

 12/24/21

405.05

405.81

Wages up 9% over two years, but inflation up 13%.  Biden national stockpile release and increased production send oil prices down (a little).  Amazon, after Time’s naming of Elon Musk its Man of the Year, tops $3T worth as Tesla can only look on, helplessly.

Crime

1%

150

12/10/21

      +0.1%

 12/24/21

236.83

237.06

Cops bust wannabe Florida school shooter, Alabama pervert for kidnap and murder of 5 year old girl. Plague and holiday scammers multiply.  Lazy Fed Ex driver arrested for dumping Xmas packages down that good ol’ Alabama ravine.  Nine cities boast (?) record homicides for 2021.  Actor Chris Noth accused of old rapes – and his character is killed off!

 

ACTS of GOD

 

(6%)

 

Environment/Weather

3%

450

 12/10/21

        -0.1%

 12/24/21

379.07

378.71

Other wild weather brings Hawaiian floods, first Denver snowfall and, probably, a warm Christmas.  Research researchers predict that a giant Antarctic ice sheet may break off within five years and menace Leonardo DiCaprio.  73 recorded December tornadoes so far, monthly average is 27.  For the whole month!

Natural/Unnatural Disaster

3%

450

 12/10/21

        -0.2%

 12/24/21

219.28

218.84

Tornadoes strike eight states.  Washington State skislope avalanche kills one, traps five.

 

LIFESTYLE/JUSTICE INDEX   (15%)

 

Science, Tech, Education

4%

600

 12/10/21

     +0.7%

 12/24/21

404.06

406.89

GMA newscaster Michael Strahan goes into space, likes it.  “Humans are dope!” remarks Astrophysicist Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi.  CBS nominates ten (9 white, one Asian) for “Educator of the Year”.   Holiday usage blows out Amazon computer shoppers.  Geminid meteor shower wows latenite astronomers.  Ice discovered in Martian canyon five times deeper than the Grand.

Equality (econ/social)

4%

600

 12/10/21

      +0.4%

 12/24/21

408.43

410.06

SCOTUS greenlights TX vigilante abortion ban, so CA retaliates with vigilante gun control.  Andrew Cuomo ordered to return book revenues after sex crime charges.  Keeshante Sewell becomes first NYPD black female chief.  Olympian Michelle Kwan named Ambassador to Belize.

Health

     

          

            Plague

4%

600

 12/10/21

     -0.2%

 

 

  

     +0.1%

 12/24/21

397.66

 

 

- 103.44

396.86

 

 

- 103.34

Johnson and Johnson’s vaxxes de-greenlighted because of occasional instances of fatal blood clots.

 

Big-O picks up steam, knocking on the door in 30, then 39 states.   ΔV persists, however.  American infections top 50 million, deaths top 800 thousand.  (See above)  The good news is that Pfizer is developing a pill that won’t cure plague, but mitigate it somewhat.

 

Freedom and Justice

3%

450

 12/10/21

     +0.3%

 12/24/21

461.80

463.19

Remaining Haitian hostages freed… no details on ransom.  The wheels of justice wobble on.  Jussie Smollett guilty of hate crime – against himself!  O.J. gets early release, tends to his millions of Twitter followers.  Nassar sex victims win 380M settlement and a truck driver gets 110 years for killing four in a Colorado crash after his brakes fail.   Still pending: Potter and Baldwin “accidental” shootings; Ghislaine, Theranos and J-6 “Three Stooges” trials; Astroworld’s Travis Scott and Crumbley parents face negligence investigations. 

 

MISCELLANEOUS and TRANSIENT INDEX           (7%) 

 

Cultural incidents

3%

450

 12/10/21

    +0.3%

 12/24/21

 536.30

 537.91

Las Vegas chosen for 2024 Superbowl.  Steph Curry breaks Ray Allen’s career 3 point shot record… it’s now 2,974 and climbing.  Unranked Rutgers buzzer-beats NCAA #1 Purdue.  New York beats Portland in Amerisoccer final.  Bryce Young of Alabama wins Heisman.  Bruce Springsteen sells his catalog to Sony for half a billion.  Chris Wallace jumps Fox for CNN.  RIP: Four time Indy winner Al Unser, NFL’s Demarius Morris, record producer Flow, Monkee Michael Nesmith, poet Bell Hooks, vampire novelist Ann Rice, Mexican actors and singers Vincente Fernandez and telenovela star Carmen Salinas, and… succumbling to a box office bug… “West Side Story” (the remake).  But Spiderman (and, next week, Matrix) remakes expect boffo B.O. from Joneses visiting their multiplexes for perhaps the last time in months.  Library of Congress honors “Star Wars 6” amid a field of 25.

Miscellaneous incidents

4%

450

 12/10/21

    nc

 12/24/21

 489.39

 489.39

Elon Musk named Time’s man of the year (Gen. Milley, who saved U.S. democracy stiffed). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Don Jones Index for the week of December 10th through December 16th, 2021 was UP 18.63 points.

 

The Don Jones Index is sponsored by the Coalition for a New Consensus: retired Congressman and Independent Presidential candidate Jack “Catfish” Parnell, Chairman; Brian Doohan, Administrator.  The CNC denies, emphatically, allegations that the organization, as well as any of its officers (including former Congressman Parnell, environmentalist/America-Firster Austin Tillerman and cosmetics CEO Rayna Finch) and references to Parnell’s works, “Entropy and Renaissance” and “The Coming Kill-Off” are fictitious or, at best, mere pawns in the web-serial “Black Helicopters” – and promise swift, effective legal action against parties promulgating this and/or other such slanders.

Comments, complaints, donations (especially SUPERPAC donations) always welcome at feedme@generisis.com or: speak@donjonesindex.com.

 

ATTACHMENT ONE – From the Guardian UK

 

US COVID CASES SURGE AS VACCINE PROGRESS SLOWS AND OMICRON VARIANT SPARKS FEARS

Ohio, as well as Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania have seen a recent increase in cases and hospitalizations

Eric Berger

Thu 9 Dec 2021 05.00 EST

·          

·          

·          

For Dr Rina D’Abramo of the MetroHealth System in Cleveland, it’s difficult when patients in the emergency room tell her they have not been vaccinated.

“You can hear it in their voice when you say, ‘Are you vaccinated?’” said D’Abramo, who works at a hospital in the Brecksville suburb. “They shrink down and are like, ‘No. Now I know why I need to be vaccinated.’ ”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people in Ohio and the rest of the US too who have not yet learned that lesson, even as infection rates nationally start to surge again amid fears of the possibly highly contagious new Omicron variant.

Ohio is one of the states that has seen the largest recent increases in hospitalizations due to Covid as the number of cases climbs across the country. There has been 19% increase in hospitalizations over the past two weeks in the United States, according to a New York Times analysis of data.

 

Ohio has a daily average of more than 4,400 people hospitalized due to Covid, which ranks fourth among states and represents a 29% increase over the past two weeks.

While the increased number of people vaccinated against Covid had inspired hopes that Americans would be able to experience a relatively normal winter, the rise in Covid cases; holiday gatherings; and unanswered questions about the Omicron variant have sparked fresh concerns and warnings from doctors and public health officials in the US.

“The yellow caution light has gone on because I think our progress in vaccination has slowed,” said William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Forty percent of the US population has not been fully vaccinated, and the number of doses administered each day has decreased from about 3.3m in April to about 1.7m today, according to the Times.

Ohio is surrounded by states that have also seen a recent surge in Covid cases and hospitalizations. Pennsylvania and Michigan each have a daily average of more than 4,500 patients hospitalized, representing a more than 20% increase over the past two weeks. Illinois and Indiana have seen a 49% increase in hospitalizations.

D’Abramo diagnoses about 10 patients daily with Covid, and about 98% of them are unvaccinated, she said.

That trend has strained the capacity of hospitals in the Cleveland area. MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals announced last week that the surge has forced them to postpone some non-urgent surgeries.

“This action frees resources for patients with immediate and life-threatening needs and manages the demands on frontline caregivers, who have served with distinction throughout the pandemic,” reads a joint announcement.

At Beaumont Health, the largest healthcare system in Michigan, the emergency room and other parts of the hospital are full, primarily with patients who are not vaccinated, said Dr Matthew Sims, a Beaumont physician and director of infectious disease research.

“With Covid patients, they have to be in rooms. You can’t go into overload conditions where you turn conferences rooms into emergency rooms or hallways into wards. You can’t do that sort of thing when it’s a contagious disease,” said Sims.

Beaumont, like other hospitals in Michigan and across the country, has also had to contend with a staffing shortage. The federal government recently agreed to send 22 healthcare providers to a Beaumont facility in Dearborn and 22 providers to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, the Detroit News reported.

In addition to the shortage, “everyone who works in healthcare is getting very tired. We have been dealing with this for two years straight, and it wears on us,” said Sims.

Doctors continue to not only urge people to get vaccinated against Covid – and for those who are eligible to get a booster shot – but also to encourage people to wear N95 or KN95 masks during indoor gatherings and if possible, to gather outdoors or open doors and windows to improve filtration, said Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University.

Gounder also suggested that people take rapid Covid tests before holiday gatherings.

“I think we have chosen one of the most painful paths through the pandemic in this country” because of people’s refusal to get vaccinated,” said Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University.

 “I think we have prolonged our pain unnecessarily.”

Gounder and others now wait for more data on the Omicron variant, which has been detected in 19 states and 50 countries, National Public Radio reported Tuesday.

Researchers in South Africa have reported that Omicron may be more infectious but less severe than other forms of the virus.

While Schaffner emphasized that we are still awaiting more information, if the variant proves more infectious and much less likely to produce hospitalization, “then Omicron might actually be a bonus because we would be vaccinating, but Omicron would also be spreading among the unvaccinated, making them mildly ill and offering them some protection.”

That “would get us closer, faster, to so-called herd immunity, which would lead us to a more endemic circumstance,” rather than a pandemic, Schaffner said.

In the meantime, D’Abramo, the Ohio emergency physician, continues to grapple with the pandemic inside and outside her hospital. Two unvaccinated friends with a 10-year-old child recently became very sick with Covid, she said.

The wife remains on an ECMO life support machine; the husband was hospitalized for two weeks and is now home.

“To me, that’s a tragedy. There is no way to say she wouldn’t have gotten sick if she was vaccinated, but most likely, she wouldn’t have,” D’Abramo said.

At the hospital, she routinely has Covid patients waiting for beds in the intensive care unit. D’Abramo must decide whether to intubate them and connect them to a ventilator.

“I don’t ever come home from a shift and be like, ‘That was a nice, normal shift.’” D’Abramo said. “It’s nonstop and it does kind of feel like you get beat down because you are getting beat down by something that I thought would maybe be over this winter.”

 

 

ATTACHMENT TWO – From Mindmatters.ai 

 

WHY IS SCIENCE GROWING COMFORTABLE WITH PANPSYCHISM (“EVERYTHING IS CONSCIOUS”)?

 

At one time, the idea that “everything is conscious” was the stuff of jokes. Not any more, it seems

 

MAY 3, 2020

 

A recent article at New Scientist treats panpsychism as a serious idea in science. That’s thanks to the growing popularity of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT):

The question of how matter gives rise to felt experience is one of the most vexing problems we know of. And sure enough, the first fleshed-out mathematical model of consciousness has generated huge debate about whether it can tell us anything sensible. But as mathematicians work to hone and extend their tools for peering deep inside ourselves, they are confronting some eye-popping conclusions.

Not least, what they are uncovering seems to suggest that if we are to achieve a precise description of consciousness, we may have to ditch our intuitions and accept that all kinds of inanimate matter could be conscious – maybe even the universe as a whole. “This could be the beginning of a scientific revolution,” says Johannes Kleiner, a mathematician at the Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy in Germany.

 

MICHAEL BROOKS, “IS THE UNIVERSE CONSCIOUS? IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL YOU DO THE MATHS” AT NEW SCIENTIST

 

Here’s the open-access paper by Kleiner and Tull.

 

But it’s not just New Scientist. In recent years, Scientific American has been sympathetic to panpsychism as well. Earlier this year, Gareth Cook interviewed panpsychist philosopher Philip Goff (right), author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, at SciAm in a respectful way, as if he really wanted to know what Goff thought and why (January 14, 2020).

Similarly, in 2018, SciAm offered space to Bernardo Kastrup, Adam Crabtree, and Edward F. Kelly to argue that “the condition now known as “dissociative identity disorder” (DID) might help us understand the fundamental nature of reality. Their thesis is that the universe itself is conscious and individual consciousnesses are dissociated fragments:

We know empirically from DID that consciousness can give rise to many operationally distinct centers of concurrent experience, each with its own personality and sense of identity. Therefore, if something analogous to DID happens at a universal level, the one universal consciousness could, as a result, give rise to many alters with private inner lives like yours and ours. As such, we may all be alters—dissociated personalities—of universal consciousness.

Moreover, as we’ve seen earlier, there is something dissociative processes look like in the brain of a patient with DID. So, if some form of universal-level DID happens, the alters of universal consciousness must also have an extrinsic appearance. We posit that this appearance is life itself: metabolizing organisms are simply what universal-level dissociative processes look like.

BERNARDO KASTRUP, ADAM CRABTREE, AND EDWARD F. KELLY, “COULD MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER EXPLAIN LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING? AT SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

At one time, a science mag’s typical contributors would merely ridicule the conscious universe, convinced that science will shortly explain consciousness away anyhow.

So why the thaw toward panpsychism over the past few years? Possibly, panpsychism offers a way to be a naturalist (nature is all there is) without the absurdities of physicalism (everything in nature must be physical). The panpsychists who are gaining attention are, generally speaking, naturalists. That is, they do think that nature is all there is. But, as Philip Goff explains,

Consciousness, for the panpsychist, is the intrinsic nature of matter. There’s just matter, on this view, nothing supernatural or spiritual. But matter can be described from two perspectives. Physical science describes matter “from the outside,” in terms of its behavior. But matter “from the inside”—i.e., in terms of its intrinsic nature—is constituted of forms of consciousness.

What this offers us is a beautifully simple, elegant way of integrating consciousness into our scientific worldview, of marrying what we know about ourselves from the inside and what science tells us about matter from the outside.

GARETH COOK, “DOES CONSCIOUSNESS PERVADE THE UNIVERSE?” AT SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

But dropping physicalism likely entails some changes. Panpsychists need not be Darwinists, for example. That is, they need not account for human consciousness either as a trait that evolved to help ancestors of humans survive on the savannah or as a byproduct of such a trait. Bernardo Kastrup has argued explicitly, in response to Darwinist Jerry Coyne, that human consciousness cannot be a mere byproduct of human evolution because it cannot even be measured in traditional science terms.

 

Indeed, Kastrup argues, consciousness cannot have evolved (in the sense that a dinosaur might evolve into a bird).

Consciousness could be more like a fact of nature of the sort that doesn’t evolve, in the sense that oxygen and photons don’t evolve.

Panpsychists need not reject evolution in principle. But Darwinism, as commonly expressed, is an outgrowth of physicalism (everything is physical).

That is why Darwinian accounts of consciousness are frequently restricted to considerations of what traits helped prehuman ancestors survive.

The reasoning seems feeble at best. A life form hardly needs human consciousness to survive and the claim that human consciousness is a mere byproduct of natural selection for other purposes (cf. Coyne) is an assertion without evidence. Because the panpsychist believes that consciousness pervades nature, accounting for human consciousness presents no difficulty similar to what a Darwinist faces.

Because panpsychists and their sympathizers remain naturalists, they don’t see themselves as crossing a Rubicon when they reject physicalism. Others sense the implications for naturalism:

Many academics remain unconvinced by IIT, in part because of its complexity but mainly because of its far-reaching implications for a conscious universe.

DAN ROBITZSKI, “THESE MATHEMATICIANS THINK THE UNIVERSE MAY BE CONSCIOUS” AT FUTURISM/THE BYTE

They’ve had time to think about it. Back in 2014, a piece at LiveScience made clear the elements of panpsychism in IIT:

The basic idea is that conscious experience represents the integration of a wide variety of information, and that this experience is irreducible. This means that when you open your eyes (assuming you have normal vision), you can’t simply choose to see everything in black and white, or to see only the left side of your field of view.

Instead, your brain seamlessly weaves together a complex web of information from sensory systems and cognitive processes. Several studies have shown that you can measure the extent of integration using brain stimulation and recording techniques.

The integrated information theory assigns a numerical value, “phi,” to the degree of irreducibility. If phi is zero, the system is reducible to its individual parts, but if phi is large, the system is more than just the sum of its parts.

This system explains how consciousness can exist to varying degrees among humans and other animals. The theory incorporates some elements of panpsychism, the philosophy that the mind is not only present in humans, but in all things.

TANYA LEWIS, “SCIENTISTS CLOSING IN ON THEORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS” AT LIVESCIENCE (JULY 30, 2014)

Starting in 2004, Giulio Tononi developed IIT in response to researchers’ realization, after many years’ research, that they could not isolate a “consciousness” module in the brain or even tell if an entity—brain-damaged human, animal, or computer—is conscious. Many of the facts relating to consciousness are counterintuitive, as neuroscientist Christof Koch told Lewis. For example, the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain—thought to be associated with consciousness—has fewer neurons than the cerebellum, the back part which coordinates muscles activity. Physical models just weren’t working.

IIT is currently pitted against Global Workspace Theory (GWS), which sees consciousness as functioning more like a computer’s memory bank. In a historic contest sponsored by Templeton World Charity, one side or the other will be the winner. GWS seems to have fewer controversial implications from a physicalist perspective yet it has not emerged as a clear favorite.

One real advantage IIT offers over many proposals is the potential for mathematics to contribute to the discussion:

Using previous techniques, the time taken to measure information integration across a network increases “super exponentially” with the number of nodes you are considering – meaning that, even with the best technology, the computation could last longer than the lifespan of the universe. But Toker has recently proposed an ingenious shortcut for these calculations that may bring that down to a couple of minutes, which he has tested with measurements from a couple of macaques. This could be one first step to putting the theory on a much firmer experimental footing. “We’re really in the early stages of all this,” says Toker.

DAVID ROBSON, “ARE WE CLOSE TO SOLVING THE PUZZLE OF CONSCIOUSNESS?” AT BBC FUTURE (MARCH 26, 2019)

One attraction of panpsychism in general is that, if the conundrum of consciousness is resolved by ascribing consciousness to everything, the mystery is subsumed into the question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, originally asked by calculus pioneer Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716). If to exist is to be conscious to some degree, the two questions can’t easily be disentangled. And Leibniz’s question is treated as a valid one in science.

If IIT continues to gain a sympathetic hearing, panpsychism could become, over time, a part of normal science.


Note: Bernardo Kastrup has also published a paper on the subject.

 

Further reading on panpsychism:

 

Why some scientists believe the universe is conscious. They’re not mystics. But materialism is not giving good answers so they are looking around

No materialist theory of consciousness is plausible. All such theories either deny the very thing they are trying to explain, result in absurd scenarios, or end up requiring an immaterial intervention. (Eric Holloway)

Panpsychism: You are conscious but so is your coffee mug.  Materialists have a solution to the problem of consciousness, and it may startle you

How can consciousness be a material thing? Maybe it can’t. But materialist philosophers face starkly limited choices in how to view consciousness.

 

Also:

 

Can machines be given consciousness? A prominent researcher in consciousness studies offers reasons for doubt.

 

 

ATTACHMENT THREE – From Sciencealert.com

 

THIS PHYSICIST SAYS CONSCIOUSNESS COULD BE A NEW STATE OF MATTER 

 

BEC CREW   16 SEPTEMBER 2016

 

Consciousness isn't something scientists like to talk about much. You can't see it, you can't touch it, and despite the best efforts of certain researchersyou can't quantify it. And in science, if you can't measure something, you're going to have a tough time explaining it.

But consciousness exists, and it's one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. And just like dark matter and dark energy have been used to fill some otherwise gaping holes in the standard model of physics, researchers have also proposed that it's possible to consider consciousness as a new state of matter.

To be clear, this is just a hypothesis, and one to be taken with a huge grain of salt, because we're squarely in the realm of the hypothetical here, and there's plenty of room for holes to be poked.

But it's part of a quietly bubbling movement within theoretical physics and neuroscience to try and attach certain basic principles to consciousness in order to make it more observable.

The hypothesis was first put forward in 2014 by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Max Tegmark from MIT, who proposed that there's a state of matter - just like a solid, liquid, or gas - in which atoms are arranged to process information and give rise to subjectivity, and ultimately, consciousness.

The name of this proposed state of matter? Perceptronium, of course.

As Tegmark explains in his paper, published in the journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals:

"Generations of physicists and chemists have studied what happens when you group together vast numbers of atoms, finding that their collective behaviour depends on the pattern in which they are arranged: the key difference between a solid, a liquid, and a gas lies not in the types of atoms, but in their arrangement. 

In this paper, I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness.

However, this should not preclude us from identifying, quantifying, modelling, and ultimately understanding the characteristic properties that all liquid forms of matter (or all conscious forms of matter) share."

In other words, Tegmark isn't suggesting that there are physical clumps of perceptronium sitting somewhere in your brain and coursing through your veins to impart a sense of self-awareness. 

Rather, he proposes that consciousness can be interpreted as a mathematical pattern - the result of a particular set of mathematical conditions.

Just as there are certain conditions under which various states of matter - such as steam, water, and ice - can arise, so too can various forms of consciousness, he argues.

Figuring out what it takes to produce these various states of consciousness according to observable and measurable conditions could help us get a grip on what it actually is, and what that means for a human, a monkey, a flea, or a supercomputer.

The idea was inspired by the work of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who proposed in 2008 that if you wanted to prove that something had consciousness, you had to demonstrate two specific traits.

According to his integrated information theory (IIT), the first of these traits is that a conscious being must be capable of storing, processing, and recalling large amounts of information. 

"And second," explains Tononi’s arXiv.org blog, "this information must be integrated in a unified whole, so that it is impossible to divide into independent parts."

This means that consciousness has to be taken as a whole, and cannot be broken down into separate components. A conscious being or system has to not only be able to store and process information, but it must do so in a way that forms a complete, indivisible whole, Tononi argued.

If it occurred to you that a supercomputer could potentially have these traits, that's sort of what Tononi was getting at. 

As George Johnson writes for The New York Times, Tononi's hypothesis predicted - with a whole lot of maths - that "devices as simple as a thermostat or a photoelectric diode might have glimmers of consciousness - a subjective self".

In Tononi's calculations, those "glimmers of consciousness" do not necessarily equal a conscious system, and he even came up with a unit, called phi or Φ, which he said could be used to measure how conscious a particular entity is.

Six years later, Tegmark proposed that there are two types of matter that could be considered according to the integrated information theory.

The first is 'computronium', which meets the requirements of the first trait of being able to store, process, and recall large amounts of information. And the second is 'perceptronium', which does all of the above, but in a way that forms the indivisible whole Tononi described.

In his paper, Tegmark explores what he identifies as the five basic principles that could be used to distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems such as solids, liquids, and gases - "the information, integration, independence, dynamics, and utility principles".

He then spends 30 pages or so trying to explain how his new way of thinking about consciousness could explain the unique human perspective on the Universe.

As Tononi’s arXiv.org blog explains: "When we look at a glass of iced water, we perceive the liquid and the solid ice cubes as independent things even though they are intimately linked as part of the same system. How does this happen? Out of all possible outcomes, why do we perceive this solution?"

It's an incomplete thought, because Tegmark doesn't have a solution. And as you might have guessed, it's not something that his peers have been eager to take up and run with. But you can read his thoughts as they stand in the journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals.

That's the problem with something like consciousness - if you can't measure your attempts to measure it, how can you be sure you've measured it at all?

¯\_()_/¯

More recently, scientists have attempted to explain how human consciousness could be transferred into an artificial body - seriously, there's a start-up that wants to do this - and one group of Swiss physicists have suggested consciousness occurs in 'time slices' that are hundreds of milliseconds apart.

As Matthew Davidson, who studies the neuroscience of consciousness at Monash University in Australia, explains over at The Conversation, we still don't know much about what consciousness actually is, but it's looking more and more likely that it's something we need to consider outside the realm of humans.

"If consciousness is indeed an emergent feature of a highly integrated network, as IIT suggests, then probably all complex systems - certainly all creatures with brains - have some minimal form of consciousness," he says.

"By extension, if consciousness is defined by the amount of integrated information in a system, then we may also need to move away from any form of human exceptionalism that says consciousness is exclusive to us."

Hear Tegmark's TED talk on consciousness as a mathematical pattern:

 

 

ATTACHMENT FOURFrom Mindmatters.ai

SCIENCE IS DISCOVERING THAT MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES ARE REAL

 

When we contemplate, says neurologist Andrew Newberg, who studies such experiences, the frontal and parietal lobes of our brains quiet down

 

DECEMBER 17, 2021

 

In podcast #165 at Mind Matters News (December 16, 2021), neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continued a discussion with neurologist Andrew Newberg on what we know about spirituality and the brain.

Dr. Newberg has published a number of books on the topic, including How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God Won’t Go Away (2008). The “science is atheism!” clubhouse would not be very happy with him.

 

A partial transcript follows, with notes and links.

Michael Egnor: Do you see differences in the brains of people who are meditating in a theistic and a non-theistic way? Is there something different about belief in God that you can see in the brain?

Andrew Newberg: Well, that’s a great question. We haven’t specifically been able to make that kind of a differentiation in the sense of someone who believes in God and praying to God, versus just praying or just thinking about or just meditating. But part of the problem, I think… one of the things I get very excited about as a researcher are some of the methodological challenges of doing this kind of research. And so part of the problem is, is that if you are meditating on God, or praying to God, there’s something that you’re doing. You’re praying, you’re directing your mind towards something. Which may be very different from somebody who is directing their mind towards nothing. So one of the questions would be, well, what would be the right comparison, and how would we look at that?

There was one very interesting study that looked for example… and this may be a partial way of answering your question… that looked at people doing conversational prayer. And they found that when people were engaged in conversational prayer, talking to God, basically, that they activated a lot of the same language areas as they did having just a normal conversation with another person. And I think that there is an important point there, which is that… each of us has one brain. So as far as we know in the moment, it’s not that we have a different part of our brain that turns on or becomes active when we engage our religious and spiritual selves.

But if we pray to God, if we use our language, then our language centers of the brain will turn on. If we feel the love of God, well, our amygdala or our limbic structures will turn on. If we feel connected to God, then the areas that help us with our spatial representation of ourself help us to feel connect… that’s part of how that process goes. So in some sense, I always like to say that there isn’t one part of the brain that is your religious and spiritual part, it’s really your entire brain, because there are so many rich and complex ways in which we engage religious beliefs. And it can be cognitive, emotional, experiential, behavioral, and so forth.

So in many ways, to me it makes sense that we were given a brain that allows us to be able to have all of these different kinds of experiences, and that there isn’t just this extra part of ourselves that turns on when we walk into a church, for example, and begin to pray. But that being said, it will be interesting to see future studies, to see how much we can really differentiate different kinds of practices and those that are more theistic.

And of course, it’d be really interesting also to see, is there a difference between a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian all praying to God. Are they all doing it in a similar kind of context? How much do the beliefs that go along with their tradition affect the way they think about their relationship with God? If a Muslim has the concept of surrendering to God, and a Christian may have a sense of connecting with God or being forgiven by God, then in and of itself, those could be differences. But not necessarily because of the actual perception of God, it’s just how they, themselves… the actual being of God, of course. But it’s how they’re perceiving that relationship.

So it’s a great question because it’s a very complex… we have to go through a very complex set of ways of thinking about that question and how we might best answer it. And then keep pushing our ability to keep thinking about those questions.

Michael Egnor: There’s a philosophical perspective on the mind/brain relationship that goes back into the 19th century. William James commented on it quite a bit: It’s not the case that the brain generates the mind, but rather that the brain focuses the mind. That is that the mind, as part of the soul, is a much larger thing than we ordinarily experience, and the brain is a biological organ that puts the mind to work in the natural world. But that the mind is something fundamentally different from the brain.

Note: William James (1842–1910) “was an original thinker in and between the disciplines of physiology, psychology and philosophy. His twelve-hundred page masterwork, The Principles of Psychology (1890), is a rich blend of physiology, psychology, philosophy, and personal reflection that has given us such ideas as “the stream of thought” and the baby’s impression of the world “as one great blooming, buzzing confusion” (PP 462). It contains seeds of pragmatism and phenomenology, and influenced generations of thinkers in Europe and America, including Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, and Ludwig Wittgenstein” – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Michael Egnor: And I’ve always been impressed that great mystics… in the Christian tradition speak of a dark night of the soul. The necessity to, in some sense, suppress your brain activity or suppress your ordinary mental activities to allow oneself to connect to God and to connect to transcendent things. Do you see any evidence for that in the brain imaging?

Andrew Newberg: Well, in some senses, yes. Again, we have to be careful about what we might conclude. But what has been fascinating to me is that in a number of the practices that we have studied, where people do feel as if they have released themselves or let go or surrendered to God in some way… there have been a number of our brain scan studies that have looked at this. One of the areas in our brain that actually particularly shuts down is the frontal lobe. And our frontal lobes are typically involved in helping us to do purposeful things and to… think about what we’re doing and do purposeful behaviors.

So it’s intriguing to me that this area of the brain starts to shut down when people have those very intense kinds of mystical experiences. These intense spiritual experiences where they do feel like they’re not in charge anymore. They are allowing it to happen and going along for the ride, if you will.

Michael Egnor:That’s absolutely fascinating. Because that’s exactly what the practical, everyday experience of people who do contemplation or various mystical prayer try to achieve. Is to basically shut down their own mind to connect more readily to God’s.

Andrew Newberg: Yeah, exactly. And so, yeah. I mean, there is some evidence for that. And of course, the other area of our brain which we have observed quieting down is the parietal lobe, which normally helps us to generate… take sensory information and generate our sense of self. Our spatial representation of ourself. And during these practices, that parietal lobe starts to quiet down, we think also in a similar kind of context, to blur that boundary between self and other. To kind of quiet down the ego self, if you will, in conjunction with the frontal lobe. And thereby helping to facilitate that kind of experience.

Next: Helpful (or scary) thought: Our beliefs can change our brains


Here’s an account of the earlier episode: Meet a doctor who thinks spirituality isn’t just all in your head. Can science study what you are doing when you pray? Andrew Newberg does and he says the effects are real. New neuroscience techniques can demonstrate that the effects are real, according to Andrew Newberg’s studies

 

 

ATTACHMENT FIVE – From Web MD

THE GREAT INVADER: HOW COVID ATTACKS EVERY ORGAN

 

By Neha Pathak, MD

 Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 16, 2020

 

FROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES 

This article was updated Oct. 16, 2020 with new research about COVID and how it affects the body.

April 23, 2020 -- We have underestimated and misunderstood COVID-19 since it first appeared.

And as we learn more, it’s clear that COVID-19 can be more than just a respiratory disease. It’s joined the ranks of other “great imitators” -- diseases that can look like almost any condition.

It can be a gastrointestinal disease causing only diarrhea and abdominal pain. It can cause symptoms that may be confused with a cold or the flu. It can cause pinkeye, a runny nose, loss of taste and smell, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, whole-body rashes, and areas of swelling and redness in just a few spots.

In a more severe disease, doctors have also reported people having heart rhythm problems, heart failure, kidney damage, confusion, headaches, seizures, brain inflammation, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and fainting spells, along with new sugar control problems, blood clots throughout the body, and severe immune system responses.

It’s not just a fever and coughing, leading to shortness of breath, like everyone thought at first.

Some people may have lingering effects for months afterward.

Some people can have no symptoms at all.

This makes it incredibly difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat.

“This is a disease progression we have never seen for any infection that I can think of, and I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades,” says Joseph Vinetz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Medicine.

How It Invades

When viral particles land in our eyes, nose, or mouth, “spike proteins” on the virus connect with a specific receptor, known as ACE2, on the surface of our cells, allowing entry. ACE2 receptors make a great target because they are found in organs throughout our bodies. Once the virus enters, it turns the cell into a factory, making millions and millions of copies of itself -- which can then be breathed or coughed out to infect others.

A lot of what we know about the infectious capability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,  closely parallels what we learned about the coronavirus that caused SARS. What makes COVID-19 uniquely dangerous is that unlike SARS, this virus is much more effective at binding to ACE2 receptors, both in the upper respiratory tract and lower down, in the lungs --- making it as easy to transmit as a cold and as damaging to the lungs as SARS.

We have also learned from SARS that iIn order to evade early detection, the coronavirus uses multiple tools to prevent the infected cells from calling out for help. The virus snips off distress signal proteins that cells make when they are under attack. It also destroys antiviral commands inside the infected cell. This gives the virus much more time to make copies of itself and infect surrounding areas before it is identified as an invader. This is part of the reason why the virus spreads before immune responses, like fever, begin.

Direct Attack

Many with mild or no symptoms are able to fend off the virus before it gets worse. These people may have symptoms only in the upper airway, at the site where they were first infected. But when someone’s body can’t destroy the virus at its entry point, viral particles march deeper into the body. The virus seems to take a few paths from there, either setting up camp in the lungs, fighting its way into the digestive tract, or doing some combination of both.

“There’s clearly a respiratory syndrome, and that’s why people end up in the hospital. Some people get a gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea, maybe some abdominal pain, which may or may not be associated with a respiratory illness,” says Vinetz.

Once the virus is deeply embedded in the body, it begins to cause more severe disease. This is where direct attack on other organs that have ACE2 receptors can occur, including heart muscle, kidneys, blood vessels, the liver, and potentially the central nervous system. This may be one reason for the vast array of symptoms COVID-19 can cause. It’s still not clear exactly how the virus gets around inside the body, Scientists are still trying to figure out if the virus travels to different organs through blood or through cells that line blood vessels.

“It's highly unlikely that any other organs can be affected through direct invasion without severe disease,” Vinetz adds.

The brain and nerves may also fall prey to direct attack. Kenneth Tyler, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, cautions that direct central nervous system (CNS) attack is still being worked out at this time. There are many routes a virus could take to invade the CNS. One somewhat disputed view is that the loss of smell could indicate that the nerve responsible for smell is infected and can carry the virus into the CNS, including the brain. “This can be shown to occur in experimental models with non-human coronaviruses and is a potential route of invasion for some other viruses. However, there is no evidence to date establishing that this actually occurs with SARS-CoV-2."

Early findings, including those from autopsy and biopsy reports, show that viral particles can be found not only in the nasal passages and throat, but also in tears, stool, semen, the kidneys, liver, pancreas, GI tract, and heart. One case report found evidence of viral particles in the fluid around the brain in a patient with meningitis.

Collateral Damage That Kills

Severe damage to the lungs can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) may be one trigger that activates and overstimulates the immune system through a barrage of signaling chemicals, including those known as cytokines.

The flood of these chemicals can set off what is referred to as a “cytokine storm.” This is a complex interplay of chemicals that can cause blood pressure to drop, attract more killer immune and inflammatory cells, and lead to even more injury within the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. Some researchers say cytokine storms may be the cause of sudden decompensation, leading to critical illness in COVID-19 patients.

There may be another deadly culprit. Many doctors have discovered that abnormal clotting, known as thrombosis, may also play a major role in lethal COVID-19. Doctors are seeing clots everywhere: large-vessel clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs and pulmonary emboli (PE) in the lungs; clots in arteries, causing strokes; and small clots in tiny blood vessels in organs throughout the body. Early autopsy results are also showing widely scattered clots in multiple organs.

Adam Cuker, MD, a hematologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in clotting disorders, says these clots are happening at high rates even when patients are on blood thinners for clot prevention. In one study from the Netherlands, 31% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 got clots while on blood thinners.

Cuker says that “new studies validate what we have all been seeing with our eyes, which is that ‘boy, it seems that these patients are clotting a lot.’ … And it could be that the rate of thrombotic events are even higher than we truly recognize.” Though the reason for the clotting is still not clear, it seems to be playing a much larger role in death than previously understood.

Beyond the collateral damage from cytokine storms and clotting, other things like loss of ACE2 receptors from direct viral attack, low blood pressure that comes from a severe illness, low oxygen levels, ventilator use, and drug treatments themselves can all harm organs throughout the body, including the heart, kidneys, liver, brain, nerves and other organs.

There have also been serious complications in a small number of previously healthy children who have experienced severe shock, similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic-shock syndrome. This syndrome, now called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), involves fevers and damage to multiple organs. Researchers are still trying to understand the exact cause, but they’ve found that children with MIS-C are negative for the virus but positive for antibodies. For these children the trigger may be some sort of immune response after the infection has been cleared.

Double-Edged Sword

Even though researchers are learning more each day about the virus and how and where it attacks the body, treatment geared toward these targets also pose significant problems. Many drugscome with a risk of destroying the delicate balance that allows the body to help fight the disease or to manage inflammation.

The ACE2 receptor that the virus uses to enter cells is a key player in lowering inflammation and reducing blood pressure. Targeting or blocking this receptor as a treatment strategy to prevent viral entry into cells may actually worsen blood pressure, increase the risk of heart failure and kidney injury, and increase inflammation that may worsen lung injury.

Drugs that target the immune response to lower the risk of a cytokine storm may also tamp down the immune response, making it hard to kill off the virus over the long run.

Using medicines to prevent clotting may end up causing severe bleeding. Cuker points out that “we don’t have a good read on bleeding … we have limited evidence about the clotting risk … we have zero evidence on bleeding risk in these patients, and it’s a real priority to understand this risk, especially because one of our strategies to treat the clotting is stepping up intensity the of anti-coagulation.”

Timing is likely to be key in treatment strategies. For example, patients may need a drug to boost the immune system early on in the disease, and then one to tamp it down if the disease progresses and cytokine markers begin to rise.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Cuker says that  what we know about clotting and almost everything else when it comes to COVID-19 “is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Sanober Amin, MD, PhD, a dermatologist in Texas, agrees. 

She posted images on social media that show the wide variety of skin findings she has been seeing and hearing about. Her post received a massive response. Amin says that “dermatologists from around the world, from Turkey to France to Canada to the U.S., are sharing information about rashes that they’ve observed in people with COVID-19.”

 Some rashes seem to be consistent with what’s called a viral exanthema, which is a term for a general rash that can happen with almost any virus. But, Amin says, “some skin findings are more consistent with superficial clotting in blood vessels close to the skin.”

This is what some have called “COVID toes,” similar to pernio. Dermatologists are seeing more cases of these small clots in toes and fingers, especially in children. 

Researchers will still need to work out which symptoms may be caused by the virus and which may just be unrelated early findings.

The Long Haulers

One open question is what the long-term effects may be for survivors. What does life look like after being on a ventilator or suddenly needing dialysis? Will we see decreases in heart, lung, and kidney function that are  long-lasting and permanent, or will patients eventually recover?  We are learning that for some people who fight past their initial bout with COVID-19, months later, life is still not the same. They have survived the infection, but have not fully recovered. These people are being called “long-haulers.” From minor complaints to severe functional decline, long-haulers are experiencing a vast array of after effects.

Given the wide range of damage caused by COVID-19 and long hospitalizations for many who recover, it’s not surprising that regaining function can take time. Those with severe disease may have experienced lung damage, heart attacks, arrhythmias, strokes, and blood clots. Others may have had inflammation of the brain, confusion, delirium, and new onset diabetes or sugar control problems.

Doctors are studying survivors to learn more about the long-term effects of COVID-19. Early findings show lung scarring on scans even three months after infection. Based on studies of SARS survivors, some never fully recovered lung function more than 15 years after infection. Many other organs that take a hit, are also slow to recover, including the heart, kidneys

Some people whose condition was not serious enough to require hospitalization are also describing persistent symptoms of chest discomfort, shortness of breath, “brain fog,” headaches, severe exhaustion and fatigue.  Similar to the aftermath of SARS, some people are experiencing a condition very similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, a condition involving severe fatigue after activity that doesn’t improve with rest..

Heart and lung damage has been found on tests even in people who never experienced any COVID symptoms at all. Concerns about heart damage, including inflammation of the heart muscle, are so serious that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youth athletes who suffered from multiple days of fevers and concerning symptoms like shortness of breath should not return to playing sports until they are fully evaluated by their doctor, even after symptoms have gone away.

A recent study found that “long COVID” may actually be up to four different syndromes, depending on the patient.

In order to prepare for other potential long-term effects, scientists are looking at patients that recovered from SARS. Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the persistent conditions that people have experienced after recovery. These have been identified in many after COVID-19 as well.

It will take time to tease apart what long-term effects are due to organ damage from direct attack by the virus, the overactive immune response and widespread blood clotting, or side effects from treatment and prolonged hospitalization. Recently, long-term nerve damage has been identified as a possibly permanent side-effect, likely from treatment with prone positioning while on a ventilator.  

One concerning finding is that while many of those who die from COVID-19 are older with other medical conditions, one survey of long-haulers in New York City found that the most were women, with an average age of 44 who were generally healthy before their bout with COVID-19.  How long various effects will last, who is most at risk and whether or not full recovery is possible remains to be seen.

Unanswered Questions

For now, much of the information we have about the symptoms of COVID-19 come from hospitalized patients who are very sick by the time they seek care.

We still don't know the full extent of what mild and moderate versions of the disease look like and what exactly the disease does to people who have symptoms but aren’t quite sick enough to be hospitalized, or those who have no symptoms at all.

We also don’t know how people will clear infections. If the new coronavirus ends up being an acute infection, like other coronaviruses, most recovered people should develop at least a short-term immunity. It’s also possible that the virus may persist as a latent infection, like chickenpox, lying dormant in the body, only to re-emerge periodically as shingles does, or become a chronic infection, like hepatitis B, living within the body for a sustained period of time, causing long-term damage.

 “It's definitely going to be an acute infection ... there’s no way it’s going to be latent or chronic, no way ... I think so … we’ll see,” Vinetz says.

 

 

ATTACHMENT SIX – From sierraclub.org (THE MAGAZINE OF THE SIERRA CLUB)

Jump to navigation

THE WILD WORLD OF MINK AND CORONAVIRUS

 

Mink on the lam and corona’s reverse spillover

 

By Kate Golden | Jan 7 2021

 

The first sign of trouble was that the mink stopped eating, said Hugh Hildebrandt, one of two main mink vets in Wisconsin. Next came coughing and sneezing, lethargy and labored breathing. Hildebrandt had worked with mink for 30 years. He wrote the Merck Veterinary Manual section on mink. But he had never seen anything like this. 

Captive mink have a flu season in the fall, just like people—they get it from us, in fact. But what appeared in the two mink farms in Taylor, Wisconsin, that saw outbreaks in October was not flu, which tends to sicken the weakest animals. This took out the strongest mink, the mature adult females. Over a few days, it killed hundreds per day and about 5,500 total on the two ranches. It whipped through by coat color, light to dark: The lighter-coat mink, ranch-bred to bring out recessive genes, have long been more delicate. 

Five to seven days into the outbreak, the ranchers thought that most of the mink were going to die, said Hildebrandt. “And they wake up the next morning, and it's just stopped. They all start eating. They eat more than they ever did before.”

The mink detectives

It wasn’t hard to guess the cause. Wisconsin was a hotspot of the pandemic from late summer on, and workers at mink ranches had already tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. But the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison confirmed the suspicion within days. The mink almost certainly got it from farmworkers, a jump called “reverse zoonosis.” 

The first infections of US farmed mink,  in Utah in August, had triggered a national investigation involving wildlife and human health experts across local, state, and federal agencies. Their questions: How did the virus get there, where would it go next, and what could it do? In Europe, the virus had spread from farm to farm, and also jumped back to humans. 

Then, in mid-December, a wild mink trapped near a Utah mink farm was confirmed to have the virus. 

“To our knowledge, this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” Thomas DeLiberto and Susan Shriner, of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service, said. Soon after that, a second mink—an Oregon farm escapee—tested positive too.

Global industry meets global pandemic

Of all the animals that have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (mostly dogs and cats, plus a few other mammals), the only species to have suffered large-scale casualties so far is the American mink, Neovison vison, living on mink ranches around the world. Since the first mink got sick on a Dutch mink ranch in April, millions of the animals have died or been preemptively culled on nearly 400 ranches across Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, and Canada. The US has seen 16 ranch outbreaks since August: 12 in Utah, two in Wisconsin, one each in Oregon and Michigan.

“It’s a top priority in human and veterinary diagnostic labs,” Keith Poulsen, director of the Wisconsin veterinary lab, said. One of about a dozen such labs nationwide, the WVDL has been running COVID tests on farmed mink and people, in addition to its usual tests on cows, chickens, and other animals, and is now operating from 5 A.M. to 2 A.M. Epidemiologists use the term “One Health” to describe why investigating zoonotic disease outbreaks is critical to the health of people, livestock, wildlife, and the environment. Outbreaks on European mink ranches demonstrated the risks. If the virus managed to establish a reservoir of disease in farmed mink or their wild cousins, it could hamper our fight against the pandemic, harm wildlife, or even threaten ecosystems. Particularly if it mutated along the way into something deadlier, more transmissible, or harder for modern medicine to attack.

No man is an island, and neither are diseases

Zoonotic outbreaks happen constantly, and disease reservoirs are everywhere. In one recent week, ProMed, the bulletin of the Massachusetts-based International Society for Infectious Diseases, emailed reports of avian influenza in Chinese people and Polish poultry, influenza in an Oregon horse, anthrax in Croatian cattle, and Australian bat lyssavirus in Queensland. Raccoons harbor rabies; rodents across the American West harbor the bacterium that causes plague. Diseases can jump the other way too. People are a reservoir of tuberculosis for cattle.

Whenever a virus jumps to a new host species, it adapts by mutating. Some of these mutations can help the virus spread faster, worsen the severity of disease, make it harder for the body to fight, or make therapeutics or vaccines less effective. That has come to pass recently: a new, apparently super-contagious variant first discovered in Britain has since been found in dozens of countries.  No evidence has emerged yet that farmed mink have infected people in the US, though that investigation is still ongoing. But Denmark’s outbreaks showed the potential. Hundreds of farms were affected—Denmark, the world’s biggest mink producer, had 17 million animals.  

Researchers found the virus passed from people to mink and back again, mutating as it went. A genetic variant dubbed Cluster-5 looked extra nasty, because the virus’s spike proteins had changed in a way that made it more difficult for the monoclonal antibodies used to treat some COVID patients (President Donald Trump was given monoclonal antibodies when he got sick) to recognize the virus, at least in the lab. At least 367 people got infected with mink variants, and 12 of those people had Cluster-5. 

But it wasn’t those few human cases that prompted the Danish and Dutch governments to order culls of their mink. Instead, as Danish virologist Marion Koopmans wrote in a November letter to The Lancet, it was the risk of establishing a new reservoir for the disease, she wrote, and the unknown consequences. 

By mid-November, a lucky break emerged from the Danes’ surveillance: Cluster-5 sequences had stopped turning up in human cases and had, they guessed, dead-ended. It was noteworthy enough that Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), weighed in. It didn’t look like Cluster-5 had spread far enough to reduce vaccine efficacy, he said, though it was important to keep an eye on it.

Cluster-5 turned out not as bad a variant as feared, but the next one could be worse.

The mysteries of mutation

When it comes to deciding how much to freak out about a zoonotic virus, the details—like what hosts they prefer, how long they stick around, or how fast they can mutate—make all the difference. 

“Some viruses hardly ever change, but a host can remain infected for decades. Others mutate at a furious rate and change to outpace our immune response,” wrote Hon Ip, a virologist at the National Wildlife Health Center, a lab that has been testing wild animals trapped near mink farms. 

Speed is essential for any zoonotic disease response. In the spring of 2020, scientists at both the National Wildlife Health Center and the veterinary lab hurried to create validated genetic tests for SARS-CoV-2. They knew mink might be susceptible, because they share some immune response similarities and a key lung receptor with people. Ferrets, which are closely related to mink, are used as animal models in human respiratory health studies.

“We have a pretty extensive infrastructure to be able to do this very, very quickly,”  said Keith Poulsen, director of the Wisconsin veterinary lab. “We’d been at this super-high alert level. And they (mink farmers) were seeing thousands die per day.”

They knew, too, that Wisconsin had a heck of a lot of mink. Last year its farmers produced a million pelts, one-third of the US total and the most of any state. In the past few years, Taylor County, Wisconsin, produced the most mink pelts in North America, according to Hildebrandt.

CDC teams began collecting samples from the people and the mink on affected farms, while US Wildlife Services live-trapped wild animals nearby. Farms that went under quarantine would not be released until all their tests were negative, “and we’re sure we’re not making a wildlife reservoir,” Poulsen said. 

Tracking who gave what to whom will take some time. (That effort is being led by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.) Comparing genomic sequences is a tricky chicken-and-egg problem, but some initial results have emerged.

“Some of them are very, very clear,” Poulsen said. “People became sick from community-acquired infection, and they gave it to the mink. But that’s not all the cases.”

The Mink Princesses are no more, but the farms remain

A billboard once stood in the middle of town that proclaimed Medford, Wisconsin, as the Mink Capital of the World. That crossroads is now the home of the Taylor County Museum, where by coincidence, Mary Schultz of the Taylor County Historical Society, a longtime area resident, just finished curating an exhibit about the annual Medford Mink Festival once held there.

Schultz described the exhibit: a small space, full of mink-covered things. “It was a big thing back in the day,” she said. The weeklong festival, first held in 1964, included a pageant to choose a Miss Medford Mink Princess from among the local high-schoolers. (The exhibit includes scrapbooks of all the princesses.) The pageant included a swimsuit competition, though, thankfully, no mink bikinis. Many items that would not spring to mind as wanting a bit of fur were made of or topped with a bit of fur, including toothpicks, a toothbrush, a men’s tie and a bowtie, cufflink mice, and a wallet. “I don’t know who in the world would wear that tie,” Schultz said, amused.

The mink billboard came down, Schultz said, around when the mink festivals stopped—the last Mink Princess picture is from 1979. Today, even in Medford, mink ranches operate discreetly, as they have done ever since the anti-fur campaigns of the 1980s.

“There’s a great big mink ranch up on a highway northeast of us,” Schultz said. “There’s no sign out there that says what this is, and I don’t even know who owns it.”

An invisible industry

In her Lancet letter, Danish virologist Koopmans wrote that the outbreaks in her country should be a lesson for the fur sector worldwide. “(T)here is currently no global overview of the location of such farms, and no mandatory surveillance programme. In view of our observations, that is urgently needed.” 

That will be no easy task. In Wisconsin, the mink industry was so under the radar that the Wisconsin state veterinarian, Darlene Konkle, had to ask the Fur Commission USA how to reach the farmers and how many there were.

“Ordinarily, with mink farms, we don’t have a lot of contact with them,” said Konkle, who works at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Just 19 of the state’s nearly 65,000 farms are mink farms.

Mink farmers today typically have thousands of animals—hundreds of thousands, even. But mink are not considered livestock by Wisconsin law. Mink farms do not need a license to operate. DATCP does not inspect mink farms, register them, or survey them. 

A similar situation pertains in Utah, where Utah state veterinarian David Taylor said in a December One Health conference call that investigators weren’t welcome at the start.

“This industry is one that has innately a little bit of mistrust, because of the fact that they have been targets, oftentimes,” Taylor said. “So they are very, very closed to having any outside people come onto their farms and see their operations.” 

Nor were they keen on sacrificing more animals to assist the scientists with their mortality studies of the virus, just after they had lost so much, said Taylor. “So we had to find some compensation for mortality studies before we could even begin. And then they were also holding out for compensation for their losses.” With some “creative financing” by the Utah state legislature of CARES Act money, and diplomacy on the part of the government officials, Taylor said, the ranch gates began to open.

“When they’re losing that volume of their business in just literally one week’s time, and they’ve lost 50 percent of their breeders and several thousand mink, having someone come in and just understand that that’s life-shattering for them—that was what opened up the door for communication.”

The culling controversy

Animal health authorities in the US could order mink culls, like those in Europe. Wisconsin authorities have ordered culls in the past for other outbreaks, like on individual deer farms stricken with chronic wasting disease, but never for a whole industry. But ordering a cull would require a complex legal process, and a mass quarantine of all farms.

Suzanne Gibbons-Burgener, a public health veterinarian and infectious diseases epidemiologist at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, wrote, “The decision to depopulate a group of animals is rarely the first response in a disease event and would typically only be necessary if the risk to human or animal health is significant, and other mitigation steps are insufficient to substantially reduce the risk.”

Animal rights groups see the mink outbreaks as another reason to ban the industry. The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, in a statement, called farmed mink a “significant public health threat.”

Those in the mink industry called the European cull and calls for bans an overreaction. But they also said the European situation differed in important ways. Denmark had way more mink, more farms—north of a thousand—in an area “a third the size of Wisconsin,” Hildebrandt said, with a lot more people around. Wisconsin’s few farms are mostly in sparsely populated rural areas. European farms are also managed more cooperatively, which may have offered more opportunities for the farm-to-farm spread that was documented there. Such spread has not been documented in America.

The Danish cull faced immediate backlash, prompted the resignation of the minister who ordered it, and was halted partway through. But on December 21, Denmark’s parliament banned mink farming until 2022 and retroactively provided a legal basis for the cull, underscoring the seriousness of the risks. Across Europe, millions of mink have died or been killed, the Dutch hastened a previously planned ban on fur farming, and France announced it would close its last four farms. In contrast, China, also the biggest market for mink fur, has seen the European culls as a market opportunity and stepped up breeding.

The ballad of the wandering mink

How fluid are the boundaries between mink farms and the wild? Pre-pandemic, American mink that escaped or were intentionally released from European farms were considered some of the worst invaders on the continent. They established themselves quite handily, out-competed the native European mink, and caused all sorts of ecological damage. But in North America, there’s not much accounting of how often farmed mink escape or what they have done with themselves. This is partly because American mink already live in the wild, partly because mink farms are very discreet and not closely regulated, and most of all because very few people have looked.

The few include wildlife disease biologist Jeff Bowman and his colleagues at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, who have long been researching the spread and impact of ranch escapees in their province.

It is usually obvious, Bowman said, which mink are wild and which are ranch-born, even in the trap. Your wild mink is small, chocolate-brown, and bitey. It does not come in sapphire, blue iris, white, palomino, or any other color that brings to mind a celebrity baby name, as your farmed mink does (these colors, incidentally, span white, gray, brown, and black). A farmed mink has been raised on a twice-daily splat of high-quality agricultural leftovers, such as cheese, eggs, and sausage trimmings, is at least twice the size of a wild mink, and is more docile. (In one YouTube video at a minkery, a white mink the size of a large housecat, in the arms of its handler, gently waves its paws and squints at the light.)

Near Ontario mink ranches, 64 percent of the mink trapped were either escapees or captive-wild hybrids. When it comes to the coronavirus, Bowman said, these studies may be instructive. “Our studies showed that there are potential pathways for spread from farms to other wildlife,” he said. Some of the wild mink that Bowman tested were positive for Aleutian mink disease, which is a known problem on local mink farms, where it can cause reproductive failures and death. The wild mink had their own strains of the Aleutian virus too—it could potentially go back and forth, Bowman said.

Bowman found that mink clearly escaped from certain problem farms much more than others. When the researchers trapped farther afield, they found far fewer ranch-bred and hybrid mink, just 18 percent of the total. It seemed the Ontario mink farm escapees hadn’t managed the sort of widespread invasion that was most worrisome. 

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials haven’t studied the issue of mink farm escapees like Canadian researchers have (though they are now considering more surveillance as part of the One Health investigation). But Arnold Groehler, president of the Wisconsin Trappers Association, said he has been catching the odd mink-ranch escapee for many years. In the 1970s, he said, “it was not uncommon to catch mink that had every phase of color there was. Jet black, pure white, some that looked like dairy cows.” 

Hugh Hildebrandt, the Wisconsin mink vet, said the harsh economics of fur farming mostly solved the escape issues of yore. The price of a pelt, which always fluctuated with high fashion’s whims, has for the past few years not even covered the roughly $35 cost of raising the animal. The industry in Wisconsin began with small family farms over a century ago, and those remaining are still all family farms, even if some are now owned by large foreign companies. But they are mostly large, with very secure fences. The fences exist to keep wildlife like raccoons, skunks, and wild mink from helping themselves to the food supply or passing diseases to the captive mink. Whenever Hildebrandt makes his rounds to a ranch, he checks the guard fence.

Because mink live in such tight quarters and are so vulnerable to disease, ranchers were careful about germs long before COVID struck, Hildebrandt said. Some already required workers to shower before and after shifts. It is also common to leave ranch clothes on the ranch, because mink are smelly.

Hildebrandt said mink operations are now limiting, as much as possible, how much they move or handle the animals. Pelting, or mink harvesting, could not be put off, because it must be done as soon as the mink fur out each fall. But most of that is done now. At some ranches everyone arriving is photographed, to assist with contact tracing. Workers and visitors are distanced and masked up, if not wearing the paper suits that health care workers don. “They wouldn’t last long with mink,” Hildebrandt said. 

The CDC sent a field team to Wisconsin that ran through safety procedures for workers and ran a national webinar for mink ranchers. Government guidelines are all voluntary, except at the affected farms, which were quarantined.

At quarantined farms, anything coming in or out is controlled, including dead mink. Scientists are still assessing how much risk the bodies pose, said Utah state veterinarian David Taylor, at the CDC’s December webinar on zoonotic disease updates. Hot composting can kill pathogens, but it has to be done right.

“After we went onto these farms and saw what they considered to be composting, which really were just piled-up mink, we made the decision here in Utah to just have these buried at landfills,” he said. To limit risk of the virus spreading further, the bodies must be buried immediately, predators and scavengers kept away, the lined trucks disinfected. “We just felt like right now that was the quickest, easiest way to dispose of these animals and the most safe.”

Currently, mink farmers are hanging onto this year’s pelts while scientists work out whether fur can spread the virus and if so how to decontaminate it. (Pelts currently on the market are all pre-pandemic, from last year’s mink.) So far the swabs haven’t turned up any virus, said Caitlin Cossaboom, a CDC veterinarian, in a December web presentation.

The question remains of how many farmed mink are out there, on the lam. Even in recent years, trapper Groehler has found a few mink with obvious “heavy ranch genetics,” which he suspects came from a few old-school ranches left in the area—the sort that might be hand-feeding mink in small sheds. Some escapees, he said, had become the bane of a trout hatchery near a small-scale mink ranch. 

“A lot of people have a mindset that if the ranch mink would escape, it wouldn’t survive in the wild—they’re used to getting their food twice a day; they wouldn’t know how to hunt,” he said. “But it’s interesting how things survive. They adapt. If you are hungry, you eat anything smaller than you. And when they find a wonderful food source like a fish hatchery, that’s like heaven on earth for them, and they’re staying put.”

Maybe mink are better at pandemics than we are?

Groehler worries about what SARS-CoV-2 might do among thousands of captive mink. “It can mutate from the mink, and what will it turn into next? What other animal species will it affect next? I don’t think anybody knows yet.”

The animals most at risk right now are the mink on farms—and perhaps their fellow captive mustelids, the endangered black-footed ferret. 

These ferrets, once spread across much of the American West, have been reintroduced from near-extinction over the past 40 years through a painstaking captive breeding program, which includes artificial insemination and even training the kits how to hunt.

In northern Colorado, the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center, which houses about 170 adult ferrets, or two-thirds of the captive breeding population, has locked down like a mink farm—no nonessential visitors allowed; handwashing, PPE, temperature checks, disinfection of cages. The population of ferrets has been split into pods, much like American schoolchildren. 

Before SARS-CoV-2, the ferrets’ biggest threat was another zoonotic disease: sylvatic plague, from the same bacterium that causes bubonic plague. It was also introduced by people, via ships. 

For mink or ferrets, people are the disease reservoir. Though perhaps there is relief in sight. Three companies are presently working on mink vaccines that may be ready by the spring, Hildebrandt said. Some mink will be vaccinated before many of us are. About 120 black-footed ferrets at the Colorado captive center have already been inoculated with an experimental vaccine created at the National Wildlife Health Center. 

There are also some reasons for hope in the nature of the virus and the mink. As infectious as it is, SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t seem to stick around long outside its hosts—unlike Aleutian mink disease virus, which lasts for months, or the chronic wasting disease-causing prions that can persist in soil for years.

The wild American mink, too, naturally follows CDC guidelines better than many of us have, preferring solitude to the company of its conspecifics.

As Groehler, the trapper, put it: “Wild mink socially distance very well.”

 

ATTACHMENTS to LESSON of 12/11: on INTELLIGENCE

 

 

ATTACHMENT A1   From Life

 

VIRUSES USE 'HIVE INTELLIGENCE' TO FOCUS THEIR ATTACK 

By Jessica Hamzelou   21 January 2010

 

A tactic familiar from insect behaviour seems to give viruses the edge in the eternal battle between them and their host – and the remarkable proof can be seen in a video.

The video catches viruses only a few hundred nanometres in size in the act of hopping over cells that are already infected. This allows them to concentrate their energies on previously uninfected cells, accelerating the spread of infection fivefold.

Geoffrey Smith and his team of virologists at Imperial College London were curious about the vaccinia virus, and set up a video microscope to watch how the virus spreads through cells.

Vaccinia was used in the vaccine that rid the world of smallpox some 35 years ago. It doesn’t cause disease in humans or any other animal, and its origin is unknown.

The traditional idea of how viruses spread goes like this. A virus first enters a cell and hijacks its machinery to make its own viral proteins and replicate. Thousands of replicated viruses then spread to neighbouring cells to wreak havoc.

When Smith watched the vaccinia virus infecting monkey liver cells, he thought that it was spreading far too quickly. “It takes 5 to 6 hours for the virus to replicate, but it was spreading from cell to cell within 1 or 2 hours,” he says.

Vaccinia is known to spread from cell to cell in a characteristic way. After attaching to the cell membrane of its target, it releases a protein that enters the cell, where it communicates with actin – a protein that helps maintain the cell’s structure. The actin responds by growing longer, and then attaches itself to the virus, still sitting on the surface of the cell, as a so-called “actin tail”. This tail helps the virus take off from the cell and find the next victim.

Smith’s team labelled the virus with green fluorescent protein, and labelled some – but not all – cells with a red marker that tagged the actin. They found, to their amazement, that a virus leaving a cell would travel to another cell and merely bounce off it if it already contained the virus.

The researchers could tell that a single virus had travelled over more than one cell because some viruses which left a cell with an uncoloured actin tail picked up a red actin tail from another cell. “This means that the viruses can change their actin tails as they bounce along the surfaces of cells,” says Smith. “This allows the virus to reach distant cells really quickly.”

Dr. Smith reckons that two viral proteins which are presented on the surface of the infected cell effectively tell the virus not to bother reinfecting that cell. When he looked at virus strains lacking each of these proteins, the virus spread at the slower rate that would expected without the “bouncing infection” mechanism. “It’s as if the proteins are telling the virus: ‘Hey guys, there’s no point in coming in here’,” says Smith. “If you think about it, it makes sense – it’s very Darwinian.”

This finding is “pretty cool”, says Erik Barton, a virologist at Purdue University, Indiana. “What I find most fascinating is that it suggests that viruses can function with a sort of primitive ‘hive mentality’ to ensure efficient use of host cell resources, akin to the way worker bees tell others where to locate the best food sources.”

Finding ways to block the cell surface proteins might provide new antiviral drugs, Barton adds.

Tim Harrison, a molecular virologist at University College London, agrees that the idea is an interesting one, but he points out that the theory might not apply to all viruses. “I’m not sure how important this will turn out to be. It depends on how widespread the phenomenon is among viruses and whether it hold true in the body as it does in cell culture.”

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1183173

Read more: 
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18423-viruses-use-hive-intelligence-to-focus-their-attack/#ixzz7EV5Shz2x

 

ATTACHMENT A2 – From usc news (1998)

 

RESEARCHER TEASES OUT SECRETS FROM SURPRISINGLY ‘INTELLIGENT’ VIRUSES

PRINT

BY Eva Emerson   OCTOBER 30, 1998

 

Are viruses alive? After more than 25 years of studying the tiny disease-carrying microbes, Michael Lai thinks so.

“Viruses are very intelligent. They can think. They do things that we do not expect. They adapt to the environment. They change themselves in order to survive,” said Lai, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

The reason why some high school biology teachers might argue with his stance, Lai notes, is that a virus can be crystallized similar to nonliving matter. Plus, viruses depend on other living things to reproduce.

Viruses have ways to enter the human body (through the nasal passages, mouth, skin or via injection). Many have evolved defenses to help them evade the immune system. Viruses that cause infection in humans hold a “key” that allows them to unlock normal molecules (called viral receptors) on a human cell surface and slip inside.

Once in, viruses commandeer the cell’s nucleic acid and protein-making machinery, so that more copies of the virus can be made.

Lai has long probed how these tricky parasites work. He has been especially interested in RNA viruses, which carry their genetic blueprints in what scientists have long considered a relatively flimsy apparatus. Because of the way RNA is copied, it is more prone to mistakes in the genetic code and, unlike DNA, the new copy of RNA is never proofread and corrected.

That’s part of what got Lai interested in studying the coronavirus, which is made up of 31,000 nucleotides and has the longest known viral RNA genome. “Conventional wisdom would say that having such a large RNA genome wouldn’t work, that the virus would become defective. But coronavirus seems to have broken all the rules,” he said.

Lai’s studies of coronavirus have revealed the details of how the virus enters target cells and how it turns on RNA synthesis in the host cell. Coronaviruses cause respiratory illnesses in humans and animals and may cause neurological symptoms similar to those of multiple sclerosis.

Lai is also an expert on the hepatitis D virus, a satellite of hepatitis B virus that can worsen hepatitis infection. In the past few years, hepatitis D infection rates in the U.S. have fallen inexplicably.

Recently, Lai has shifted much of his research efforts to the hepatitis C virus. He counts hepatitis C among the most dangerous infectious diseases in the United States right now. Hepatitis C, an RNA virus that attacks liver cells, spreads from person-to-person mainly through blood products and intimate sexual contact.

Already, four million Americans are believed to be chronic carriers of the virus. About 20 percent of the chronic carriers of the virus will go on to develop more serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and cancer.

The virus was only identified in 1989, and there’s still much that scientists don’t know about it. “Receptors are an important part of the story of how viruses cause infection. But we don’t know what receptor hepatitis C uses to get into the cell,” Lai said.

What’s more, no one knows how to grow hepatitis C in the lab. That means that any research on how the virus replicates in cells is incredibly difficult. But Lai and his research group have managed to study the function of some of the viral genes.

They have discovered that one of the hepatitis C viral proteins binds to a few key players in the human immune system, members of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor family.

Lai suspects that this may help explain how the virus is able to escape the immune system’s attack and so can develop into a chronic infection in many patients. It may also explain how the virus damages the liver and causes hepatitis.

“This protein is now a potential target for new anti-viral agents,” Lai said.

He hopes his research will lead to new ways to treat people already infected with hepatitis C, so that doctors can stop the virus before it causes serious liver disease.

After all these years, studying viruses’ shifty ways continues to leave Lai with a sense of amazement. Part of this comes from the ability of viruses to shuffle genes with as much deft as some genetic engineers.

“Viruses can pick up pieces of cellular genes or incorporate their genes into the cell’s genome. That means that evolution occurs all the time in viruses. It’s a very dynamic process – that’s why I always feel that the viruses are alive,” he said.

 

 

ATTACHMENT A3 – From vaccinestoday.eu

 

VIRUSES ARE ‘SMART’, SO WE MUST BE SMARTER

 

 ‘Viruses cause many of the most dangerous infectious diseases and have evolved some ingenious strategies for spreading through communities.’

Colin Russell, Royal Society University Research Fellow at Cambridge University in England, studies how viruses develop and spread, in the hope of finding new ways to prevent disease.

In this lecture entitled ‘Viruses travel tricky routes’, recorded as part of the Science-Inspired Tales series, Dr Russell says understanding how “clever” viruses are can help us to outsmart them. Each virus has its own unique ways of spreading to new victims, he says.

“For example, rabies makes animals paranoid and thus more likely to bite other animals and spread the disease to new hosts,” says Dr Russell, adding that rabies-infected animals also avoid water which increases the concentration of viruses in their saliva.

Influenza has a different strategy, according to the renowned Cambridge scientist. He explains how seasonal influenza viruses survive and change, and why it is necessary to have a new flu vaccine every year.

“Unlike many other viruses to which we develop immunity after infection, influenza has the capability to infect us many times in our lives. After a year or a few years our bodies won’t recognise the virus as something we’ve been infected against before. That’s why we have to be vaccinated every year to keep pace with the virus.”

 

ATTACHMENT A4 – From the Times of India

 

'COVID-19 VIRUS HAS INTELLIGENCE MUCH STRONGER THAN OTHER VIRUSES'

IANS / Apr 30, 2020, 20:31 IST

 

 

NEW DELHI: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is behaving weirdly and it appears that it has an intelligence much stronger than other related viruses, according to an Indian researcher who recently created a molecule that has the potential to be developed into a drug that can cure Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19 patients.
Speaking to the subcontinent’s medical panel IANS, Dr Subhabrata Sen, Professor, Department of Chemistry at 
Shiv Nadar University in Greater Noida, said that they hope their therapeutic approach will unravel solutions against maladies associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome.


His team found a set of New Chemical Entities (NCEs) with the ability to cure Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) or Acute Lung Injury (ALI) induced by COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) or other 
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which are also caused by coronaviruses.

The two-fold strategy devised by the research team involved the application of the New Chemical Entitles (NCEs) to inhibit attachment, entry and infection of the new SARS-CoV-2 through a known target on the virus and co-administration of a known drug (that modulates a set of hormonal receptors in human) and these NCEs to attenuate Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) caused by a novel coronavirus.
"The new molecule that we have discovered is based on an indigenous ligand in the human body. In general, one of the disadvantages of small molecule therapeutics is that human body considers them as xenobiotic. Once they are administered in the system, the body tries to eliminate them quickly, through enzymatic reactions primarily in the liver," Dr Sen explained.

"The advantage of developing small molecules based on indigenous ligands is that the body accepts it more thinking as its own. Consequently, the molecule has lesser chances of getting excreted thereby gets more time to achieve its therapeutic purpose," he told IANS.
The research team has filed a provisional patent in India to protect the new chemical entities.
They believe their therapy would not only prevent COVID-19 from affecting a person's lungs but will also address lung injuries already inflicted by the virus, in cases the ventilators are not bringing much relief to COVID-19 patients suffering from ARDS.
Responding to the question on a human clinical trial, he said: "Our aim to start the animal trial by next month and then have the compounds ready for the human trial by the end of this year."  2020 – what happened?
Speaking on the COVID-19 vaccine, Sen said that it is very difficult to say anything at this point of time.
"
One of the ways to discover a vaccine involves administering a small fragment of the virus or a viral protein inside the human body to stimulate an immunological response. The trial by Professor 
Sara Gilbert's team in Oxford University started a week ago, so until a month goes by, nothing can be said with certainty," he informed.
According to Sen, the lockdown has helped India to curb the spread of COVID 19.
"Lockdown is a strategy to slow down the pandemic so that the government gets enough time to prepare for the worst-case scenario, which is yet to come," the professor added.

 

 

ATTACHMENT A5– From  test.biotech.org

 

CORONAVIRUS: “INTELLIGENT” MUTANTS 

Adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 virus to the immune system not purely random

 

25 February 2021

 

Research shows that the emergence of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 are not purely random. Rather, the virus has repair and adaptation mechanisms in its genome that can accelerate the occurrence of particularly dangerous mutations. In the light of these findings, it appears that the most effective strategies to combat the pandemic are those that aim to achieve the lowest possible incidence rates.

Similarly to other corona viruses, SARS-CoV-2 has ‘learnt’ during the course of evolution to adapt more efficiently to its host than if this were a purely random process: overall, the virus appears to have a lower mutation rate than might be expected statistically. The reason for this are proteins which ‘proofread’ the correct composition of the genome (RNA) during replication and repair it if need be. Without these control mechanisms, too many mutations could strongly impact replication and infectiousness of the virus.

On the other hand, the mutation rate at specific sites on the virus RNA can be much higher. These regions are mostly relevant for the human immune response. When the virus interacts with the immune system it appears to ‘learn’ how to evade it. There are specific patterns of gene deletions in the Sars-CoV-2 genome which enable it to rapidly acquire genetic and antigenic novelty.

Systems capable of solving problems with a higher rate of success than might be expected with random processes, can indeed be called ‘intelligent’, even if the virus is not actually ‘thinking’ or ‘planning’.

Against this backdrop, strategies based on the maximum possible reduction of the virus incidence rate and the establishment of ‘green’ virus-free zones appear to be the best way forward. Such strategies can also be supported by vaccines. However, to solely rely on the ongoing development and improvement of vaccines could mean continuing to underestimate the true potential of SARS-CoV-2.

Contact:
Christoph Then, 
info@testbiotech.org, Tel + 49 (0) 151 54638040

 

 

 

JOE BIDEN’S EULOGY for BOB DOLE

From Rev Transcripts

Joe Biden: (00:32)
Reverend clergy, distinguished guests. Among the many memories from 50 years of friendship, there is one that especially captures what Bob Dole was as a man and, in my view, as a patriot.

Joe Biden: (00:53)
We were on our way to the 50th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, but we started in Italy, in Anzio. Much has been written about his time in Anzio, but to be there with him felt significantly different. He was on a mission in the mountains. Nazi gunfire and mortar fire was thick. A man was dying, men were dying. Facing a hail of bullets, Second Lieutenant Robert Joseph Dole hurled a grenade into an empty gun nest. He was trying to help a fallen comrade, his platoon radioman, when everything changed. And I mean, everything changed.

Joe Biden: (01:53)
His spine was damaged because fire tore across the hills, shattering his body. Grievously wounded. He was paralyzed. Dragged behind a wall, Bob would pass in and out of consciousness, dreaming of home as he lay bleeding in the foxhole for nearly nine hours. He was 21 years old.

Joe Biden: (02:23)
Nearly eight decades on, we gather here in a world far different from the mountainous battlefield in 1945. But there’s something that connects that past and present, wartime and peace, then and now: the courage, the grit, the goodness, and the grace of a Second Lieutenant named Bob Dole, who became Congressman Dole, Senator Dole; a statesman, husband, father, friend, colleague, and a word that’s often overused, but not here, a genuine hero; Bob Dole.

Joe Biden: (03:14)
Dean and the clergy officiating today’s service, President Clinton, Vice President Harris, Vice President Pence, and Cheney, and Quayle, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, members of Congress of both parties, past and present, members of the Cabinet, General Milley and leaders of our military, distinguished guests, and most of all, the Dole family. Elizabeth, it’s been said that, “Memory is the power to gather roses in winter.” Bob left you with 45 years’ worth of roses, of a life built and a love shared that’s going to guide you through the difficult days ahead.

Joe Biden: (04:08)
Jill and I will always be here for you, as many others in this church will be, as you and Bob were always there for us in ways nobody knows. And Robin, you carry your father’s pride, grace, and character. He’s always going to be with you, because as the old saying goes, we Irish say, “You are your father’s daughter.” You are your father’s daughter.

Joe Biden: (04:39)
Bob Dole’s story is a very American one. Born and raised in a three-room house through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Shipped out as a young man to World War Two. Wounded in battle on the same weekend that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was being mourned by millions. Bob came home, rebuilt his life, painful hour by painful day by painful week by painful month by painful year. Hearing he and Danny Inouye, who was wounded on a mountain not far from where he was, talk about the recovery they spent together for all those, literally, several years, it was astounding.

Joe Biden: (05:37)
God, what courage Bob Dole had. He then went to school on the G.I. Bill, came to Washington with the New Frontier, bravely voted for civil rights and voting rights in the years of the Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson, and Martin Luther King Jr. Ran for President on the ticket with Gerald Ford. And through the ages of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush the elder, and Clinton, Bob was literally the master of the senate.

Joe Biden: (06:17)
We served together for 25 years. We disagreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another, not one time that I can think of. I found Bob to be a man of principle, pragmatism, and enormous integrity. He came into the arena with certain guiding principles that began with devotion to country, to fair play, to decency, to dignity, to honor, to literally attempting to find the common good. That’s how he worked with George McGovern to fight hunger in America, particularly as it affected children, and around the world.

Joe Biden: (07:08)
He worked with Teddy Kennedy and Tom Harkin to bring down the barriers of Americans living with disabilities; a profound change and profound act of grace. He worked with Daniel Patrick Moynihan to literally save Social Security because Bob believed every American deserved to grow old with their basic dignity intact. And over the opposition of many in his own party, and some in mine, he managed the bill that created the federal holiday in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. Bob Dole did that.

Joe Biden: (08:03)
He never forgot where he came from, and I never forgot what he said to our colleagues about the effort for the King holiday. And I’ll quote, he said, “No first-class democracy can treat people like second-class citizens. No first-class democracy can treat people like second-class citizens.” Bob didn’t hate the government. He knew the people who needed him most are the people most in need. He wanted government to work, to work for folks like him who came up the hard way. “Just give everybody a chance, Joe. Just a chance.”

Joe Biden: (08:55)
During the Depression, Bob’s parents moved into the basement of their three-room, not three-bedroom, their three-room home in Russell, Kansas, so they could rent out, “the upstairs.” Bob understood hardship. He had known hardship, and he never forgot it. He never forgot the people as well who sent him to Washington, people from Russell and from Kansas.

Joe Biden: (09:26)
Bob was a man who always did his duty, who lived by a code of honor. Almost seems strange to say that today, but he lived by a code of honor, and he meant it. Just as his colleagues, Republican and Democrat, looked at him, I think they saw him the same way I did. Just ask any who served with him at the time. Bob Dole fit my dad’s description. He said, “You must be a man of your word. Without your word, you’re not a man.” And Bob Dole was a man of his word.

Joe Biden: (10:09)
He loved his country, which he served his whole life. The Bible tells us, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And Bob Dole, for all his hardship, believed he’d been given the greatest gift of all. He was an American. He was an American, and he felt it.

Joe Biden: (10:40)
Let’s be honest. Bob Dole was always honest, sometimes to a fault. He once endured the wrath of his fellow Republicans when there was a legitimate fight going on to defund Amtrak. Now, I’ve traveled over 1,200,000 miles on Amtrak because I commuted every single day. It came time for, literally, the deciding vote on whether we were going to defund Amtrak. And he cast the vote against his party, deciding to keep funding Amtrak. And obviously, you might guess, he was asked why, “Why would you do that?” He said, “It’s the best way to get Joe Biden the hell out of here at night so he’s not here in the morning.” Excuse my language. True story. Absolutely true story. God, I loved the guy.

Joe Biden: (11:47)
As I said, he was always honest. But Bob relished a good political fight, as much as anybody I’ve ever served with in the 36 years I was in the Senate. And Bob gave as good or better than he got. He was a proud Republican. He chaired his party. He led its caucus in the United States Senate, and he bore the banner as its nominee for Vice President and President of the United States.

Joe Biden: (12:19)
He could be partisan, and that was fine. Americans have been partisan since Jefferson and Hamilton squared off in George Washington’s cabinet. But like them, Bob Dole was a patriot. He was a patriot. And here’s what his patriotism teaches us, in my view, as Bob Dole himself wrote at the end of his life, and I quote him, “I cannot pretend that I’ve not been a loyal champion of my party, but I always served my country best when I did so first and foremost as an American.” End of quote. “First and foremost as an American.” That was Bob Dole. Liddy, that was your husband, that was your dad. Always as an American.

Joe Biden: (13:23)
He understood that we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves. And he really did, I felt. He really understood it, and that compromise isn’t a dirty word, it’s the cornerstone of our democracy. Consensus is required in a democracy to get anything done. That’s how you get things done. Again, listen to Bob Dole’s words, not mine. I’m quoting him again, “I learned that it is difficult to get anything done unless you can compromise. Not your principles, but your willingness to see the other side. Those who suggest that compromise is a sign of weakness, misunderstand the fundamental strength of democracy.” End of quote.

Joe Biden: (14:23)
In his final days, Bob made it clear that he was deeply concerned about the threat to American democracy, not from foreign nations, but from the division tearing us apart from within. And this soldier reminded us, and I quote, “Too many of us have sacrificed too much in defending that freedom from foreign adversaries to allow our democracy to crumble under a state of infighting that grows more unacceptable day by day.” Grows more unacceptable day by day. He wrote this when he knew his days were numbered, in small numbers.

Joe Biden: (15:19)
My fellow Americans, taps is now sounding for this soldier of America. Forged in war, tested by adversity. Taps is now sounding for this patriot, driven by a sense of mission to give back to the land that gave him everything to him for which he nearly gave his all. Taps is now sounding for this giant of our time and of all time. We’re bidding this great American farewell. But we know as long as we keep his spirit alive, as long as we see each other not as enemies, but as neighbors and colleagues, as long as we remember that we’re here not to tear down, but to build up, as long as we remember that, then taps will never sound for Bob Dole.

Joe Biden: (16:29)
For Bob will be with us always, cracking a joke, moving a bill, finding common ground. In his final message to the nation, Bob said that whenever he started a new journey, whenever he started a new journey, the first thing he would do, and I quote, “is sit back and watch for a few days, then start standing up for what he thought was right.” End of quote. Bob has taken his final journey. He’s sitting back now, watching us. Now, it’s our job to start standing up for what’s right for America.

Joe Biden: (17:25)
I salute you, my friend. Your nation salutes you. And I believe the words of the poet R.G. Ingersoll, when he described heroism, better fit you than anyone I know. And Ingersoll wrote the following, “When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death, that is heroism.” May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Bob. God bless Bob Dole. God bless America. And may God protect our troops.

In that vein—and in the spirit of showing The D.C. Brief’s verdicts can similarly evolve—it’s time to do what for the last six years had seemed unimaginable: note a truly appropriate statement from former President Donald Trump to mark yesterday’s passing of Bob Dole, a World War II veteran, former Senate Leader and three-time presidential hopeful.

It was just three sentences, but brevity worked in Trump’s favor:

 “Bob Dole was an American war hero and true patriot for our Nation. He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service. Our Nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family.”

Such grace is not particularly difficult for most politicians who make a living on appearing empathetic. But that compassion cuts hard against Trump’s brand. After all, the title of one New York Times best-seller about the Trump era is aptly titled The Cruelty is the Point.

To say Trump has been bad in dealing with deaths would be a massive under-statement. Whereas Joe Biden has rightly been called America’s Grief Counselor for his ability to help a nation navigate loss, having endured so much of himself, Trump might as well be known as America’s Funeral Skunk.

When Sen. John McCain died in 2018, Trump released a statement offering no condolences to the family, but rather detailed all of the work he had done to handle the logistics of the death of a figure who stood against so much of what Trump was attempting to accomplish with his harsh understanding of politics. Trump, who was not invited to the funeral, even restored the flag over the White House to flying at full height until aides convinced him it was a bad look not to again lower the flag to half-staff. He was furious that government buildings had lowered their flags, too, and sought a directive putting them at full-staff. And, even a year later, Trump complained that he never got a proper thank you from the McCains.

Or consider the passing of liberal icon Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020. The late Justice asked her granddaughter to release a posthumous statement, saying she would prefer that her successor be named when “a new President is installed.” Trump’s reaction? He suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer or Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff had written it themselves to play politics and embarrass Trump, who seldom needed help accomplishing that.

Or Rep. John Lewis, the Conscience of Congress and a civil rights hero-turned-lawmaker. Trump managed only to tweet a terse statement last year when he succumbed to cancer, refused to attend any of his memorials and, in an interview, said he didn’t know Lewis but criticized him for skipping Trump’s inauguration.

Most recently, Trump managed to insult the memory of Colin Powell, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. Trump’s words in October inspired a level of incredulity that most of Washington thought had been exhausted to this point. “Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media,” Trump said. “Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!”

Trump’s critics both inside and outside rightly note that Trump’s statement regarding Dole is actually in keeping his persona: everything to him is transactional. For years, Dole was one of the few Republican party elders to give his blessing to Trump, which is why Trump was willing to return the favor in death.

I remember walking the floor of the Republican convention in Cleveland back in 2016 and looking over to see Dole sitting in the VIP box, rather isolated but still there. He was the only living Republican nominee to show up for the convention that would produce Trump as the nominee, and although the party he once led was in the process of once again shifting its identity, Dole wanted to be present at its creation. Dole declared himself a “Trumper” and watched it with curiosity, but by this summer he conceded to USA Today’s Susan Page: “I’m sort of Trumped out.”