Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Most Of Us Will Be Fine

The Latest On COVID-19 

Mounting evidence suggests that if you don’t smoke or aren’t 70 or older or have underlying health conditions, you’ll be fine—although you can spread it to other, more vulnerable people

Chuck DeVore
The Federalist

The latest information on Coronavirus COVID-19, also known as the Wuhan Flu, from Johns Hopkins University shows widely varying numbers of confirmed cases and apparent mortality rates by nation.

The People’s Republic of China, the virus’ epicenter, was reporting 81,058 cases as of March 17 with 3,230 deaths, with 4.0 percent of those diagnosed subsequently dying. Italy is similarly hard hit, with 31,506 cases and 2,503 deaths for a mortality rate of 7.9 percent of those diagnosed.

Yet South Korea, a nation with frequent, direct contact with people from China, is only showing 8,320 cases of COVID-19 with 81 deaths, a rate of 1.0 percent—likely not too different than can be expected every year from common influenza if one considers the many mild cases who didn’t present to medical personnel.

Different Countries, Different Results

So, why the huge differences in diagnosed cases and mortality, and what does that mean for America? Important factors to consider are government (both competence and transparency), the state of the health-care system (the number of people tested and its critical care system), and the affected population (its age and health).

A stark example of this can be seen in the two Koreas, one free and prosperous, the other enslaved and poor. South Korea’s 8,320 confirmed cases of the Wuhan Flu contrast with none in North Korea.  This is a pathogenic impossibility. The COVID-19 numbers out of North Korea are not to be believed for the same reason the survival rate for any North Korean who criticizes paramount leader Kim Jong-un approaches zero: the government controls all information on penalty of death.

Similarly, the People’s Republic of China has a casual association with the truth related to a virus that was first diagnosed in and around the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. In December, Li Wenliang, a Chinese ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, used the WeChat app to warn the medical community about what he thought was an outbreak of a SARS-like (severe acute respiratory syndrome) illness.

SARS is a coronavirus. Li was quickly contacted by police, who admonished him to “stop making false comments.” He was subsequently investigated for “spreading rumors.” Within four days he was ordered to appear at the Public Security Bureau, where he had to sign a false confession that he “severely disturbed the social order.” Local officials later apologized to Li, just before he died from the virus.

At the same time, some 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait, the freely elected Taiwanese government has reported 77 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with one death.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Panicked and Spooked: Unbelief Faces Off Against COVID 19.

A Word on Faith and Viruses

Larry Taunton

I hope this letter finds all of you well and virus-free.

I’d like to say a few words about the coronavirus:  the virus itself, the so-called “pandemic,” the panic it has caused, and our faith in Jesus Christ. I hope it will be helpful to you.

The Situation in Europe

As “Your Man in the Field,” I have been abroad for well over a month. Hence the silence these many weeks. This trip has been a long time coming, but it had to wait until I finished my manuscript for my next book (out this autumn) and had delivered it to my publisher. That accomplished, I have been in the UK, North Africa, continental Europe, North Africa again, and now Spain.

Last week, the Spanish government ordered everyone into self-quarantine. This is enforced rigorously. Police are stopping everyone who is outdoors to grill them on their reason for breaking quarantine—a visit to the grocery store, pharmacy, walking the dog, and, hilariously, buying tobacco or smoking it make the approved list. Dogs have never had it so good! People are borrowing them and even renting them just to have an excuse to get outside! The police drive through the streets using loudspeakers to warn people to stay in or face stiff fines (500 – 3,000 euros).

A few days ago, the military began moving in. The country is, for all practical purposes, under martial law. Hotels are, inexplicably, expelling all of their guests on Saturday March 21 (tomorrow). As a result, people are scrambling for a place to go. If you can’t fly home, and hotels are no longer an option, what do you do? The solutions are creative!

Frustratingly, American Airlines (AA) has canceled our flights home. This is because international travelers can only fly to one of 13 approved airports in the US for coronavirus testing, and we were scheduled to fly from Madrid to Philly, and Philly is not one of those airports. No biggie. We rerouted through Miami. But now AA is trying to charge us $12,000 for the tickets! They say we changed the route. Of course, we didn’t do any such thing. They canceled the flight and Philly is closed. So, we had to go elsewhere. We won’t book that. If need be, we will stay here. We are merely inconvenienced. We won’t starve and we won’t run out of oxygen. We trust in a sovereign God and we believe he has us where he wants us. So, we are working on getting home while simultaneously trying to find a place to stay.

The Virus

I am not, of course, a medical expert. But I can read the data, and I have been talking to medical experts who have read the data. Here is what one wrote to me:

Christian Courage Vs Vainglorious Display

Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ

Discerning the difference between courage, cowardice, and recklessness.

David French

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Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 
—Matthew 4:5-7
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
—Matthew 16:24-26
On March 7, a Christian school not far from my home held a fundraiser, an event full of faithful believers gathered for a virtuous purpose. One person in attendance had COVID-19. Now two dozen people at that event have tested positive, including a dear friend of mine. His wife is symptomatic. Several children are also symptomatic. The faith of these Christian believers was no shield against viral infection.

I thought of this event as I continue to see a division within America’s religious community. Thousands of churches are shutting down, and pastors are struggling to find ways to minister to communities that are increasingly living behind closed doors. But there is resistance. Writing in the American Conservative, Rod Dreher highlighted this story of Baton Rouge pastor Tony Spell openly defying Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people at a time:

“It’s not a concern,” Spell said of the virus. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore says those violating the governor’s proclamation could face prosecution as a last resort. Reverend Spell is not concerned with that and boasted he had an even larger crowd this past weekend, days after the governor’s proclamation was issued.  “I had 1,170 in attendance Sunday,” Spell said. “We have 27 buses on Sundays picking up people in a five-parish area."

The story noted that a different Baton Rouge church was also defying the governor’s order. At still another church, a pastor encouraged people to greet each other and said that his Bible school was open because they’re “raising up revivalists, not pansies.”
Right-wing pastor Rodney Howard-Browne is not about to cancel church or prevent congregants from shaking hands because they are not a bunch of "pansies."  In a more sophisticated (and cautious) context, First Things editor Rusty Reno critiqued Catholic dioceses for suspending public Masses and wrote that America should “keep the churches open”:

In truth, I am demoralized by the Catholic Church’s response to what Ephraim Radner calls “the Time of the Virus.” Those of us who live in densely populated areas are aware of the intense anxiety and fear that has become pervasive. The massive shutdown of just about everything reflects the spirit of our age, which regards the prospect of death as the supreme evil to be avoided at all costs. St. Paul observed that Christ came to free us from our bondage to sin and death. This does not mean we will not sin or die. It means that we need not live in fear.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Chloroquine To Be Approved for Compassionate Use

FDA Urged to Approve Chloroquine to Treat COVID-19

Dr. Susan Berry

President Donald Trump said Thursday his administration will make the malaria drug chloroquine available “almost immediately” to treat the COVID-19 infection, but it will only be available under the “compassionate use” program until the drug undergoes a clinical trial under the FDA’s directive.

Studies are showing chloroquine can both “prevent and treat coronavirus” in the cells of primates, but it is not FDA-approved for COVID-19. 

“Some doctors report very encouraging results quickly in very sick people,” Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, told Breitbart News about research into chloroquine to treat the COVID-19 – also known as SARS-CoV-2 – respiratory illness.

“Independent doctors may prescribe it off-label, but employed physicians might not be allowed to, by corporate administrators, because it is not FDA-approved for this indication,” she added. “No preventive or therapeutic meds are specifically approved for this.”

As Breitbart News’s James Delingpole observed, a study document prepared by Dr. James Todaro and Attorney Gregory Rigano, in association with Stanford University School of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences Researchers, concluded:

Chloroquine can both prevent and treat malaria. Chloroquine can both prevent and treat coronavirus in primate cells (Figure 1 and Figure 2). According to South Korean and China human treatment guidelines, chloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19. Given chloroquine’s human safety profile and existence, it can be implemented today in the U.S., Europe and the rest of the world. Medical doctors may be reluctant to prescribe chloroquine to treat COVID-19 since it is not FDA approved for this use. The United States of America and other countries should immediately authorize and indemnify medical doctors for prescribing chloroquine to treat COVID-19. We must explore whether chloroquine can safely serve as a preventative measure prior to infection of COVID-19 to stop further spread of this highly contagious virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: 
Chloroquine … is an antimalarial medicine… available in the United States by prescription only… Chloroquine can be prescribed for either prevention or treatment of malaria. Chloroquine can be prescribed to adults and children of all ages. It can also be safely taken by pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Dr. Martin J. Vincent, et al, also wrote in 2005 in a study published at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) when severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was found to have been caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV:

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV). No effective prophylactic or post-exposure therapy is currently available.

We report, however, that chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-CoV infection of primate cells. These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage. In addition to the well-known functions of chloroquine such as elevations of endosomal pH, the drug appears to interfere with terminal glycosylation of the cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. This may negatively influence the virus-receptor binding and abrogate the infection, with further ramifications by the elevation of vesicular pH, resulting in the inhibition of infection and spread of SARS CoV at clinically admissible concentrations.
The researchers concluded that “chloroquine is effective in preventing the spread of SARS CoV in cell culture.”

“Favorable inhibition of virus spread was observed when the cells were either treated with chloroquine prior to or after SARS CoV infection,” they added.

“The nice part is it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump said at a press briefing.

Nevertheless, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, commissioner of food and drugs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), wrote at USA Today Tuesday
While the Food and Drug Administration is working full speed, in collaboration with public and private sector partners, to help diagnose, treat and prevent this disease, presently there are no FDA-approved products to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.
Orient said: 
We need to get the FDA out of the practice of medicine. Also, it can shut down U.S. production lines for exceeding production quotas or a minor paperwork violation, but has no meaningful inspection of plants in China, on which we are dependent for 90% of our drug supply, including antibiotics and other things needed to care for critically ill patients.
“Hopefully the Trump administration is working on bringing essential manufacturing home,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, Orient recommends that those with a fever only treat it after consultation with a doctor:
Fever is not a disease. It is an important defense mechanism. Very high fevers (say 105 degrees) can cause brain damage, and children can have seizures. But don’t pop Tylenol or ibuprofen at the first sign of fever. Many of the casualties in the 1918 pandemic might have been caused by heavy use of aspirin. Like aspirin, popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, also have detrimental effects on blood clotting. Try lukewarm sponge baths for comfort.
Orient recommends that Americans only go to an emergency room or urgent care facility if they are “severely ill.” She explained: 
There will be sick people there, and you might catch something. You also might end up with a big bill, say for a CT scan you didn’t really need. And if you have the flu or a cold or COVID-19, and don’t need IV fluids or oxygen, they can’t do anything for you.
At home, Orient advises families to “clean and disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, telephones, computer keyboards, toilets, and countertops often.”

“Virus can persist there for days,” she says.  She also urges Americans to ensure they are getting the vitamins they need. 
“Most people may be vitamin D deficient,” she explains. “Your need for vitamin C escalates with infection. Some 50 tons of vitamin C was shipped to Wuhan, and studies of effectiveness are underway.”

Medical Hatred

How My Pregnancy Exposed The Silent Genocide Of Babies With Down Syndrome

It has never been a better time to be a person with Down syndrome, unless he is still in the womb.

Anna Bohach
The Federalist

When I was in my late 30s, I became pregnant with my youngest son. My family and I were overcome with joy and excitement at the promise of a new baby. My oldest son, having two younger sisters, had prayed every night for two and a half years for a baby brother named Charlie. God always listens to the prayers of children.

My excitement was short-lived and replaced with fear and uncertainty after a series of appointments wherein doctors told me I was of advanced maternal age and should consider genetic testing to be sure I wasn’t pregnant with a “defective” baby. I declined all genetic testing, much to my doctor’s dismay.

At 20 weeks, I had my first ultrasound and anatomy scan of my baby. My husband and I were very happy as we found out we were indeed having a boy. We came home that day and gave our children a box filled with blue balloons to reveal our baby’s sex.

The next day, I woke up on cloud nine, feeling healthy, happy, and joyful — until I got a call from my doctor informing me they had discovered an abnormality. She told me my baby had a mass on his neck that alarmed her, and she wanted to transfer me to a specialist in maternal fetal medicine. I asked what the mass might be, but she declined to tell me, saying she didn’t want to “freak me out.” Too late.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

When the Dust Settles

China Boomeranging

Its bad behavior in the wake of COVID-19 will leave it in its weakest global position in memory. And the U.S. will emerge stronger.

Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

Sometime in late November the Chinese Communist Party apparat was aware that the ingredients of some sort of an epidemic were brewing in Wuhan. Soon after, it was also clear to them that a new type of coronavirus was on the loose, a threat they might have taken more seriously given the similar Chinese origins of the prior toxic SARS coronavirus and the resources of a Level 4 virology lab nearby.

Yet the government initially hid all that knowledge from its own people in particular and in general from the world at large. Translated into American terms, that disingenuousness ensured that over 10,000 Chinese nationals and foreigners living in China flew every day on direct flights into the United States (Washington and California especially) from late November to the beginning of February, until the Trump travel ban of January 31.

All this laxity was also known to the Communist apparat in Beijing, which must have been amused when Trump was roundly damned by his liberal critics as a xenophobe and racist for finally daring to stop the influx on January 31 — the first major leader to enact such a total ban.

Yet, no thanks to the Chinese, America, so far, has been comparatively lucky — despite the grave risks of damaging a multi-trillion-dollar economy with the strictest quarantining, isolation policies, and social distancing in its history. Half the country lives in the interior away from ports of entry on the coasts. Medical care, sanitation, hygiene, and meat markets operate on different premises than in China, the supposed fated global hegemon. Transparency in a consensual society together with a free-market economy is encouraging tens of millions of citizens to work in tandem and independently to figure out creative ways to ameliorate the epidemic, politically, medically, socially, and economically. The result is that as of mid-March, the U.S., the world’s foremost immigration destination and among the most visited of nations, had suffered fewer virus fatalities than some European countries a fifth or sixth of its population size.

No doubt when mass testing begins, the figures of known cases will soar, and fatalities will rise. Yet while we know pretty well the number of Americans who have died from the virus, we have in truth little idea of how many now carry it or how many have recovered from it, without knowing what sickened them or even whether they were ostensibly sick at all. In other words, the rate of new cases identified by testing may exceed the rate of new deaths, apprising us of a more precise — and perhaps lower — degree of viral toxicity.

Whereas annual flu toxicity is adjudicated by modeling case numbers, and by sophisticated and learned guesses at the number of likely infections, so far the death rate of the coronavirus is calibrated a bit differently — apparently predicated both on known deaths and known cases. When we make facile comparisons between the flu and coronaviruses, they may prove valid, but for now it’s still wise to remember that annual flu cases could be fewer than what is guessed at through modeling each year, and corona infections may be higher than the current known numbers of confirmed positives. The former reality might mean that the flu is at times a little more lethal than we think and the corona virus a little less deadly. That is not to suggest that most strains of flu are as lethal as the coronavirus, only that for the vast majority of Americans the current U.S. COVID-19 case-to-fatality ratio of 2 percent may eventually prove less, and influenza’s commonly cited 0.01 lethality rate may prove higher. In any case, 98–99 percent of Americans may well recover from the coronavirus — a rate that is not typical of most of history’s plagues.

Neither Brash Nor Foolhardy

Martin Luther and the Black Plague

This is what Martin Luther wrote to his fellow Christians as they navigated a local bubonic plague:
“You ought to think this way: ‘I shall ask God mercifully to protect us.  Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. 
If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely.’ See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

COVID19 The Christian Response

Should Christians Be Anxious About the Coronavirus?

Todd Wagner©
Gospel Coalition

[Author’s note: Since this article was originally published, authorities have increased their concern and the author agrees that our vigilance in preventing the spread of COVID-19 should appropriately increase as well. The heightened concern, however, only makes the truths below more important. Respect for others who are more susceptible to illness (including the elderly and immune-deficient) should cause us to operate with prudence and compassionate care, all the while modeling the strength and hope characteristic of those who know Christ (Prov. 24:10). Christ followers should also model compassion for those who choose to respond differently or react more strongly to circumstances and events (Prov. 18:2). Be gracious toward others. Continue to lead and minister in ways that express your God-given gifts. Recognize there is some subjectivity in responding to this crisis, even among those listening to and seeking God’s wisdom. Because Christians are citizens of heaven, filled with the strength and peace of Christ, we should be the best citizens on earth. I pray the principles below will help you do that.]

With the increasing coronavirus cases outside of China, many believers across the United States wonder how to respond to the increasing alarm. What would God have us do in the face of a growing international health crisis? Should our churches close their doors for fear of spreading illness? Should I take my kids out of school? Cancel travel plans?

How should we help a panicked world?

Let’s Be Honest.

Impeachment Hurt Trump’s Response to Coronavirus.

Henry Olsen
Washington Post

President Trump has been roundly criticized for allegedly failing to prepare for the coronavirus crisis before it arrived in the United States. Those critics conveniently overlook something else that could have been distracting the president’s attention during that crucial period: impeachment.

It seems forever ago, but Trump’s impeachment was the major story in January and early February — the same time that disease was forcing China to lock down cities. Despite the near certainty that Republicans would not vote to convict the president, Democrats and most of the major media were almost entirely focused on impeachment. As a result, the White House was focused on addressing this threat to its survival, not on preparing for a threat from China that might never even materialize.

Trump’s efforts to prepare the nation for this pandemic has been far from perfect, but the one thing the president did do to stop the virus’s spread to the United States during that period — stopping air travel from China — was heavily criticized.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Walking in His Steps

Should Christians Be Anxious About the Coronavirus?

Todd Wagner
The Gospel Coalition

Author’s note: Since this article was originally published, authorities have increased their concern and the author agrees that our vigilance in preventing the spread of COVID-19 should appropriately increase as well. The heightened concern, however, only makes the truths below more important. Respect for others who are more susceptible to illness (including the elderly and immune-deficient) should cause us to operate with prudence and compassionate care, all the while modeling the strength and hope characteristic of those who know Christ (Prov. 24:10). Christ followers should also model compassion for those who choose to respond differently or react more strongly to circumstances and events (Prov. 18:2). Be gracious toward others. Continue to lead and minister in ways that express your God-given gifts. Recognize there is some subjectivity in responding to this crisis, even among those listening to and seeking God’s wisdom. Because Christians are citizens of heaven, filled with the strength and peace of Christ, we should be the best citizens on earth. I pray the principles below will help you do that.

With the increasing coronavirus cases outside of China, many believers across the United States wonder how to respond to the increasing alarm. What would God have us do in the face of a growing international health crisis? Should our churches close their doors for fear of spreading illness? Should I take my kids out of school? Cancel travel plans?

How should we help a panicked world?

Remember What We Know

First, it’s important to be reminded about what we already know.

Iran's Troubles Deepen

Another Iran Lawmaker Dies

Coronavirus Death Toll Soars

Simon Kent
Breitbart News

Iran warned Monday the coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm local health facilities as the death toll topped 700 and another senior lawmaker died from the disease.

Ayatollah Bathaee, representative of Tehran in the Assembly of Experts, died age 78 on Monday morning, according to the semi-official Tasnim newsagency.  The cleric, who had been infected with coronavirus died at a hospital in Qom, the city where the first cases of coronavirus in Iran were detected.

The Assembly of Experts is a high-ranking body that elects and oversees the activities of the leader of the Islamic Revolution. Members of the assembly are directly elected to office for an eight-year term and work alongside cabinet members who have also been testing positive for the disease.

Coronavirus has laid waste to the upper levels of Iran’s ruling theocracy, already killing newly elected MP Fatemeh Rahbar, ex-ambassador to Syria Hossein Sheikholeslam, newly elected lawmaker Mohammad Ali Ramezani, former lawmaker Mohammad Reza Rahchamani, former ambassador to Vatican City Seyed Hadi Khosroshahi, adviser to the Judiciary chief Ahmad Tuiserkani, and Mojtaba Fazeli, the chief of staff of top cleric Ayatollah Shobeiri Zanjani.

Iran has closed schools and universities, suspended major cultural and sporting events and reduced working hours across the country to slow the contagion, which has spread to all of its 31 provinces.

Such has been the devastation caused in Iran, local authorities are digging burial trenches so large they can be seen from space, as Breitbart News reported.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Before The Face of God in Troubled Times

C. S. Lewis on the Coronavirus

Matt Smethurst
The Gospel Coalition

It’s now clear that COVID-19 is a deadly serious global pandemic, and all necessary precautions should be taken. Still, C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago—ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

At Last--An Honest Man Speaking Truth To The Wilfully Self-Deceived

Māori Victims of Crime

He Whakaaro
Nā Ward Kamo

Te Karaka

I grew up in a household full of crime. My siblings and I were constantly in and out of prison. I rubbed shoulders with murderers, drug dealers, rapists and child molesters. Our house was visited by gang members and other criminal “lowlifes”.

You see Mum and Dad were both prison chaplains. Crime was never far from the surface as they and other members of the prison reform movement met to talk rehabilitation. And we would be at a church service in the prisons at least once a month if not more often.

I saw men and women at the lowest point of their lives. I saw first-hand the scarring on their bodies and the bandages around their wrists as they’d yet again tried to kill themselves. And I heard stories of horror about those prisoners’ childhoods that even Stephen King would struggle to write.

One that still chills me to this day is too graphic to describe in any detail. Suffice to say this Māori woman had, at the age of 7 with her five-year-old brother, watched their father murder their mother in the most brutal way imaginable. She told with chilling calm how she had directed her little brother to “put Mum’s blood into a bucket so when the ambulance comes they can pour it into her and make her better again”. This girl went on to kill herself alone in her prison cell.

Saturday, 21 March 2020


A Solution Has Been There All The Time

Studies Claim Malaria Drug Chloroquine Effective Against Coronavirus

James Delingpole
Breitbart London

Sure this Coronavirus pandemic is a misery but I’m much more optimistic than most at the moment. Here’s one of the reasons: there’s an effective treatment already and it’s available and cheap, according to studies.

Chloroquine phosphate, an old-fashioned anti-malarial drug, has shown strong results against COVID-19 infections in South Korea and China.  As Anthony Watts notes here there have been at least three studies demonstrating its efficacy against the Coronavirus.

Here is one, by James M Todaro and Gregory J Rigano, in association with Stanford University School of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences Researchers.

According to the summary: 
Recent guidelines from South Korea and China report that chloroquine is an effective antiviral therapeutic treatment against Coronavirus Disease 2019.  Use of chloroquine (tablets) is showing favorable outcomes in humans infected with Coronavirus including faster time to recovery and shorter hospital stay.  US CDC research shows that chloroquine also has strong potential as a prophylactic (preventative) measure against coronavirus in the lab, while we wait for a vaccine to be developed.  Chloroquine is an inexpensive, globally available drug that has been in widespread human use since 1945 against malaria, autoimmune and various other conditions.
It concludes: 
Chloroquine can both prevent and treat malaria.

The Sick Man of Western Europe

Trump Was Right to Shut the Gates on Europe

James Delingpole
Breitbart London

President Trump has suspended all travel from mainland Europe. If this sounds excessive you clearly haven’t been paying attention to just how bad things have got with the coronavirus in parts of the continent.  Northern Italy, especially, is experiencing horrors more redolent of a Medieval plague than of an advanced economy in the 21st century.

This thread, reportedly from a doctor working in an Accident and Emergency department in a Northern Italian hospital, gives a grim taste:
The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity.

We’ve stopped all routine, all ORs have been converted to ITUs and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes. There are hundreds of pts with severe resp failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.

Patients above 65 or younger with comorbidities are not even assessed by ITU, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed and no ITU staff attends when they arrest. Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.
In other words, many of Italy’s hospitals are overwhelmed. Every day they are having to make terrible Sophie’s Choice style decisions about which patients to save and which ones should be condemned to death — because they simply don’t have enough staff or equipment to keep them all alive.

Unless Trump takes drastic action — presuming it isn’t already too late — then this is the fate that awaits America too.  That’s why he was absolutely right to act in this dramatic way and for at least two good reasons.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Why Iran Has Been Hit So Hard

Will Iran’s Regime Survive Coronavirus?

By Ilan Berman
National Review Online

Soaring inflation. Deepening domestic discontent. An expanding environmental crisis. Even before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in recent weeks, the Iranian regime was struggling under the weight of domestic problems that increasingly threatened to undermine the integrity of the Islamic Republic. With the advent of COVID-19, however, matters have become much, much worse for the Iranian regime — so much so that it isn’t unreasonable to think that the Iranian regime could buckle under the weight of its own internal contradictions. That’s because, for Iran’s ayatollahs, coronavirus represents a true “black swan” event.

The term, popularized by the scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2008 book of the same name, refers to an improbable occurrence that cannot be reasonably predicted, but which has profound — and potentially catastrophic — consequences. This is what COVID-19 is for Iran.

The problems start with the failing health of Iran’s ruling class.

The Enlightenment Has Left Us Empty

"Men Have Forgotten God"

In 1983 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.  In receiving the prize, he spoke of the breakdown or eclipse of the Christian faith throughout the world.  The complete speech, entitled "Men Have Forgotten God"  can be read here.

The excerpt below is the conclusion of  Solzhenitsyn's speech.

. . . . With such global events looming over us like mountains, nay, like entire mountain ranges, it may seem incongruous and inappropriate to recall that the primary key to our being or non-being resides in each individual human heart, in the heart’s preference for specific good or evil. Yet this remains true even today, and it is, in fact, the most reliable key we have. The social theories that promised so much have demonstrated their bankruptcy, leaving us at a dead end. The free people of the West could reasonably have been expected to realize that they are beset by numerous freely nurtured falsehoods, and not to allow lies to be foisted upon them so easily. All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain. The resources we have set aside for ourselves are too impoverished for the task. We must first recognize the horror perpetrated not by some outside force, not by class or national enemies, but within each of us individually, and within every society. This is especially true of a free and highly developed society, for here in particular we have surely brought everything upon ourselves, of our own free will. We ourselves, in our daily unthinking selfishness, are pulling tight that noose.

Let us ask ourselves: Are not the ideals of our century false? And is not our glib and fashionable terminology just as unsound, a terminology that offers superficial remedies for every difficulty? Each of them, in whatever sphere, must be subjected to a clear-eyed scrutiny while there is still time. The solution to the crisis will not be found along the well-trodden paths of conventional thinking.

Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest for worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder. Material laws alone do not explain our life or give it direction. The laws of physics and physiology will never reveal the indisputable manner in which the Creator constantly, day in and day out, participates in the life of each of us, unfailingly granting us the energy of existence; when this assistance leaves us, we die. And in the life of our entire planet, the Divine Spirit surely moves with no less force: this we must grasp in our dark and terrible hour.

To the ill-considered hopes of the last two centuries, which have reduced us to insignificance and brought us to the brink of nuclear and non-nuclear death, we can propose only a determined quest for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently spurned. Only in this way can our eyes be opened to the errors of this unfortunate 20th century and our bands be directed to setting them right. There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide: the combined vision of all the thinkers of the Enlightenment amounts to nothing.

Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during trials such as these that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone.
Mr. Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Fading Country

Russia: A Bleak Perspective

. . . Putin's Russia is not the Soviet Union.  The Cold War really is over.  We are not in a bipolar global order, rivalled by a tyrannical Soviet empire.  Modern Russia is a fading country.  Its first-rate weaponry, armed forces, and intelligence agencies scarcely obscure its third-rate economy, declining population, pervasive societal dysfunction (high levels of drunkenness, disease, and unemployment), and lowering life expectancy.

Behind the facade of democratic elections and constitutional restraints, Russia has less a principled system of government than a marriage or rulers, oligarchs, and organized crime.  To endure, Vladimir Putin's regime must terrorize the Russian people.  [Andrew C. McCarthy, Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency, (New York: Encounter Books, 2019), p.2.]

Marching To the Beat of a Very Different Drummer

The  Christian's Response To Wuhan Coronavirus

Leaving the medical advice to the professionals, I can still offer one piece of guidance for Christians: Rest in the care of your Creator.

Daniel Torkelson
The Federalist

Watching the nation as it struggles to understand any pandemic has always given me pause to consider whether Christians really know how to think like Christians in a matter such as this. We, as God’s people, seem all too easily carried up in the same speculative panic that rules the minds of many when a crisis such as the Wuhan coronavirus manifests itself.

In the Bible’s book of Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

This seems to indicate Christ does not want us to panic. We have opportunities during this time to model the Christian difference and to demonstrate how this gospel of ours is a better message than any other.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Lessons for NZ; WHO Credibility in Tatters

Learning From Taiwan’s Success Containing Coronavirus

At this critical period when the publicly feared coronavirus is amplifying in numbers worldwide, it’s clear the Taiwanese government has done something right in its containment measures.

Helen Raleigh
The Federalist

By any measure, Taiwan should have been the second-hardest-hit area of the coronavirus outbreak outside mainland China. Taiwan is less than 100 miles away from mainland China and receives an estimated 3 million mainland tourists annually. Furthermore, more than 1 million Taiwanese travel to mainland China each year.

The expansive travel volume across the Taiwan strait reached its peak during the recent lunar New Year celebration in January, as it always has. Yet this densely populated island of 23 million people has only 44 confirmed cases of the virus to date, and just one death so far. [Emphasis, ours.]

Taiwan hasn’t experienced the need to cancel schools nor lock down major cities. At this critical period when the publicly feared coronavirus is amplifying in numbers worldwide, it’s clear the Taiwanese government has done something right in its containment measures.

How did Taiwan do it?

UK Elites Compromised on Cannabis

Legalise Cannabis? 

Let's Ask the Five Victims of a Crazed London Knifeman First

Peter Hitchens
The Mail on Sunday

If Jason Kakaire had screamed ‘Allahu akbar!’ as he went about his bloody work, you would have heard of him, and he would have been debated in the House of Commons.  But because Kakaire’s five cruel and devastating knife attacks in London could not possibly be given any political or religious motive, there is barely a ripple of interest in his case. This is a mistake.

There are two reasons for the error. The first is that our bloated but unsuccessful ‘security’ apparatus, assisted by posing politicians, likes to use supposed terrorism to boost its power and budgets.

Kakaire is of course a long-term user of marijuana. He should not have been. If the police enforced the law of the land, as happens in Japan in South Korea, he would not have been. But they do not. So he is

It hopes nobody will notice that in fact it is almost entirely useless at preventing such attacks.  Why?

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

More on Biden's Second Childhood

Brit Hume: No Doubt Joe Biden ‘Losing His Memory… Getting Senile’

Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, network senior political analyst Brit Hume said there is no doubt that former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democrat frontrunner, is “losing his memory and is getting senile.”

A partial transcript is as follows:

TUCKER CARLSON: I don’t want to be unfair to Biden, sincerely, I don’t want to pull one clip out of context. But, there have been a number of them recently, where the former vice president explodes in aggression. It’s noticeable. I don’t remember him doing that in years past. What do you think this is?

BRIT HUME: I’ve known him a long time. He can sometimes work himself up into a passion in speeches and so on when he’s arguing about issues in a debate. I don’t remember him exploding at voters, like he did [in Michigan] today and hurling profanity like he did, telling the guy he’s full of spit, expect he didn’t say spit…

I always liked him on a personal basis, very much. More recently, however, he’s begun to forget things. He didn’t know what state he is in. He couldn’t remember exactly where he was when he met with the Parkland students, when he said it was in the White House and it was long after he had been out of the White House. That sort of thing. Suggesting that he, like so many people his age, is losing his memory and is getting senile. I don’t think there is any doubt about it.

I have traces of this myself. I know what it feels like. Sometimes you get confused and sometimes you can’t remember what you’re supposed to do the next morning. I’m not running for president, and it’s probably a good thing I’m not. And I think that over time, the danger for him and for his party is that he may say something that is so outlandish and so suggestive, that his cognitive faculties have failed him, that the Democratic voters will say, “Oh, my lord, what do we got here?”

At the moment, they are so eager to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination and to press forward with someone more familiar that I think this step is lost on Democratic voters. But over time, under the pressures of a campaign, who knows what will happen.

Biden: Second Childhood Well Advanced

Joe Biden Displays a Panoply of Pre-Teen Immaturities

Joe Biden Should Probably Stop Threatening Voters

Mollie Hemingway
The Federalist

Former Vice President Joe Biden has long fantasized about beating up Donald Trump, but during the 2020 Democratic primary, he began challenging voters who challenged him. He called an Iowa farmer a “damn liar,” for example, then challenged him to an IQ test and a push-up contest.

At a campaign event at a factory in Michigan on Tuesday, a voter asked Biden a tough but fair question about how he hoped to get the votes of gun enthusiasts who are union members. What followed must be seen to be believed.

Embedded video

Biden tells the voter he’s full of “sh-t,” wags his finger in his face, and when the voter complains, he suggests that they go outside.

Many people have focused on the erroneous comments Biden frequently makes about guns. He falsely claims he has no desire to limit AR-15s (which he calls AR-14s) but he previously told Anderson Cooper he did.

‘To gun owners out there who say, well, a Biden Administration means they’re going to come for my guns,’ Cooper asks.  ‘Bingo, you’re right if you have an ‘assault weapon,” which is his term for AR-15s. . . .

I’m not opposed to more physical fighting in politics, although I wish it were the bad politicians getting roughed up more than the voters. But I can’t get past the issue that Biden keeps picking on people who would most definitely destroy him in an actual fight.

Monday, 16 March 2020

A "Lying, Dog-Faced Pony Soldier"

The Portentous Biden Blow-up

Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

Joe Biden lost it again on the campaign trail at an auto plant being built in Detroit, and in a now familiar script.

His blow-up had all his characteristic theatrics of prior such encounters. There were the shouting at blue-collar workers, the he-man, corn-pop-like braggadocio, the ad hominem expletives (“you’re full of s***!), the invasion of one personal space with his habitual wagging finger, the personal invective (“horse’s a**”), and, of course, being wrong on the issues and accusations.

It certainly is reasonable to assume that, given Biden’s promise to put Beto O’Rourke (“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15”) in charge of a President Biden’s Second Amendment policies, a normal voter rightly could fear that Biden either wants, or would allow, bans on certain type of guns.

This latest incident joins lots of others, such as the Iowa one-on-one with an apparently portly male questioner: “You’re a damn liar, and that’s not true . . . I’m not sedentary. You want to check my shape on, let’s do push-ups together, let’s run, let’s do whatever you want to do, let’s take an IQ test . . . Look, fat,”.

Or the brush-up with the young woman in New Hampshire, “You ever been to a caucus? No, you haven’t. You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”

We are told all this is baked into the Good Ol’ Joe from Scranton persona, and his supporters no more care than are MAGA audiences offended by Trump’s tweets and disparaging epithets.

Perhaps. But Biden is being sold as the alternative to Bernie’s assumed Armageddon of the down-ticket Democratic Party on two counts: one, he is a nice guy unlike the supposedly scowling Bernie or the crude Trump, and being 77 this year is no big deal given Bernie’s 78, Bloomberg’s 78, and Trump’s 73.

These incidents —and there will be lots more of them in the next eight months — after a while erode both those arguments.

Joe is not just folksy affable Joe, but rather than a thin-skinned bully, as we know from his lies about the tragic circumstances of his first wife’s death, as well as the idea that his 77 is any way analogous to other septuagenarians in the race.

A Lawless Voice

Black Pastors Group Calls for Censure of Chuck Schumer

Dr Susan Berry
Breitbart News

The president and founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) has launched a petition calling on the Senate to censure Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for his threatening remarks against two Supreme Court justices.

Rev. William Owens said in a statement that Schumer’s remarks against Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh promote “violence and hate”:

This is the kind of language that promotes violence and hate. We’ve had enough of politicians who bemoan partisanship on the campaign trail while still catering to the most extremist elements of the hard Left. To make an open threat against two sitting judges – in an attempt to influence a case currently before the Court – goes far beyond acceptable behavior for a U.S. Senator.
Last week, during a rally near the Supreme Court where oral arguments were heard regarding a Louisiana abortion safety law, Schumer stated that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will “pay the price” if they vote against pro-choice advocates in the case.

Schumer said:
Over the last three years, women’s reproductive rights have come under attack in a way we haven’t seen in modern history. From Louisiana, to Missouri, to Texas, Republican legislatures are waging a war on women, all women, and they’re taking away fundamental rights.

I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you, if you go forward with these awful decisions.
Schumer’s comments drew a rare rebuke from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and, on Thursday, a Senate floor speech by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in which he referred to Schumer’s remarks as “unhinged” and “shameful.”

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Trump Hit the Mark

Oval Office Address Was What The Country Needed

Calm, cool, collected, yet urgent, Trump's Oval Office remarks were an illustration in the kind of leadership Americans crave in moments of crisis.

Tristan Justice
The Federalist

President Donald Trump struck a different tone in his prime time address to the nation Wednesday night announcing new measures to combat the Wuhan virus pandemic, and urging Americans to heed the advice of public health officials to halt the spread. Calm, cool, collected, yet urgent, Trump’s Oval Office remarks were an illustration in the kind of presidential leadership Americans crave in moments of crisis.

Rather than downplaying the threat that the Wuhan virus presents, the president confronted the scale of the pandemic and acknowledged the challenges ahead while reassuring the American people that the nation would emerge with minimal harm despite a sinking stock market.

“We are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people,” Trump said. “This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome as a nation and as a world.”

Americans look to the nation’s presidents in times of disaster and crises to provide comfort and leadership.

It's Going To Get Embarrassing

Confused Biden says "We cannot win this re-election ... we can only re-elect Donald Trump," refers to himself as "Obiden Bama Democrat"

 by Adam Ford · Mar 8th, 2020 12:30 pm 


Last Updated Mar 8th, 2020 at 12:50 pm
2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden delivered more egregious gaffes Saturday, calling himself an "Obiden Bama Democrat" and stumbling numerous times, unable to find words for what he was trying to say regarding the re-election of Donald Trump.  
The former vice president appeared confused and frustrated over his inability to get the right words out.
"...because we cannot get re-elect — we cannot win this re-election — excuse me — we can only re-elect Donald Trump."
Biden also stumbled on his own name, referring to himself as an "Obiden Bama Democrat" while trying to say an "Obama Biden Democrat."
"...nominate a Democrat, a life-long Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obiden Bama Democrat."