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Wed Oct 21, 2020 19:26

The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.

Wagging The Dog Pt 1 The Story Behind The Story Of Covid19

 

EGCG sensitizes chemotherapeutic-induced cytotoxicity  in multiple cancer cell lines

University of California at Davis, October 18, 2020

According to news reporting originating in¬†Davis, California, research stated, ‚ÄúEpigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a major polyphenol component of green tea, presents anticancer efficacy. However, its exact mechanism of action is not known.‚ÄĚ

The news reporters obtained a quote from the research from the¬†University of California Davis, ‚ÄúIn this study, we evaluated the effect of EGCG alone or in combination with current chemotherapeutics [gemcitabine, 5-flourouracil (5-FU), and doxorubicin] on pancreatic, colon, and lung cancer cell growth, as well as the mechanisms involved in the combined action. EGCG reduced pancreatic, colon, and lung cancer cell growth in a concentration and time-dependent manner. EGCG strongly induced apoptosis and blocked cell cycle progression. Moreover, EGCG enhanced the growth inhibitory effect of 5-FU and doxorubicin. Of note, EGCG enhanced 5-FU‚Äôs and doxorubicin‚Äôs effect on apoptosis, but not on cell cycle. Mechanistically, EGCG reduced ERK phosphorylation concentration-dependently, and sensitized gemcitabine, 5-FU, and doxorubicin to further suppress ERK phosphorylation in multiple cancer cell lines.‚ÄĚ

According to the news reporters, the research concluded: ‚ÄúEGCG presents a strong anticancer effect in pancreatic, colon, and lung cancer cells and is a robust combination partner for multiple chemotherapeutics as evidenced by reducing cancer cell growth, in part, by inhibiting the ERK pathway.‚ÄĚ

 

Exercise and nutrition regimen benefits physical, cognitive health

University of Illinois, October 19, 2020

Researchers studied the effects of a 12-week exercise regimen on 148 active-duty Air Force airmen, half of whom also received a twice-daily nutrient beverage that included protein; the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA; lutein; phospholipids; vitamin D; B vitamins and other micronutrients; along with a muscle-promoting compound known as HMB. Both groups improved in physical and cognitive function, with added gains among those who regularly consumed the nutritional beverage, the team reports. 

The findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

Participants were randomly assigned to the two groups. The exercise regimen combined strength training and high-intensity interval aerobic fitness challenges. One group received the nutritional beverage and the other consumed a placebo beverage that lacked the added nutrients. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew who received the nutrient-enriched beverage or placebo.

"The exercise intervention alone improved strength and endurance, mobility and stability, and participants also saw increases in several measures of cognitive function. They had better episodic memory and processed information more efficiently at the end of the 12 weeks. And they did better on tests that required them to solve problems they had never encountered before, an aptitude called fluid intelligence," said Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who led the study with postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling. 

"Those who also consumed the nutritional supplement saw all of these improvements and more. For example, they were better able to retain new information in their working memory and had quicker responses on tests of fluid intelligence than those taking the placebo," Barbey said.

Physical power increased in both groups as a result of the physical training, Zwilling said.

"Power is a measure of physical fitness that is based on several factors, such as how fast a participant can pull a heavy sled over a set distance, how far they can toss a weighted ball, and how many pushups, pullups or situps they can perform in a set time period," he said. 

The physical training reduced participants' body fat percentage and increased their oxygen-uptake efficiency, or VO2 max. The airmen also performed better than they had initially on several measures of cognitive function. The most notable of these was an increase in the accuracy of their responses to problems designed to measure fluid intelligence. 

"But we also wanted to know whether taking the supplement conferred an advantage above and beyond the effect of exercise," Zwilling said. "We saw that it did, for example in relationship to resting heart rate, which went down more in those who took the supplement than in those who didn't."

Participants who consumed the nutritional beverage also saw greater improvements in their ability to retain and process information. And their reaction time on tests of fluid intelligence improved more than their peers who took the placebo, the researchers found. 

"Our work motivates the design of novel multimodal interventions that incorporate both aerobic fitness training and nutritional supplementation, and illustrates that their benefits extend beyond improvements in physical fitness to enhance multiple measures of cognitive function," Barbey said.

The U. of I. team conducted the intervention with study co-author Adam Strang, a scientist in the Applied Neuroscience Branch of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, along with his colleagues in the Air Force Research Laboratory. The U. of I. team also worked with research fellow and study co-author Tapas Das and his colleagues at Abbott Nutrition, who led the design of the nutritional beverage, which is a mixture of nutrients targeting both muscle and brain. The specially designed beverage provided ingredients that previous studies have shown are associated with improved physical cognitive function.

 

Cannabis reduces OCD symptoms by half in the short-term

Washington State University, October 20, 2020

 

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, report that the severity of their symptoms was reduced by about half within four hours of smoking cannabis, according to a Washington State University study. 

The researchers analyzed data inputted into the Strainprint app by people who self-identified as having OCD, a condition characterized by intrusive, persistent thoughts and repetitive behaviors such as compulsively checking if a door is locked. After smoking cannabis, users with OCD reported it reduced their compulsions by 60%, intrusions, or unwanted thoughts, by 49% and anxiety by 52%.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, also found that higher doses and cannabis with higher concentrations of CBD, or cannabidiol, were associated with larger reductions in compulsions.

"The results overall indicate that cannabis may have some beneficial short-term but not really long-term effects on obsessive-compulsive disorder," said Carrie Cuttler, the study's corresponding author and WSU assistant professor of psychology. "To me, the CBD findings are really promising because it is not intoxicating. This is an area of research that would really benefit from clinical trials looking at changes in compulsions, intrusions and anxiety with pure CBD."

The WSU study drew from data of more than 1,800 cannabis sessions that 87 individuals logged into the Strainprint app over 31 months. The long time period allowed the researchers to assess whether users developed tolerance to cannabis, but those effects were mixed. As people continued to use cannabis, the associated reductions in intrusions became slightly smaller suggesting they were building tolerance, but the relationship between cannabis and reductions in compulsions and anxiety remained fairly constant.

Traditional treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder include exposure and response prevention therapy where people's irrational thoughts around their behaviors are directly challenged, and prescribing antidepressants called serotonin reuptake inhibitors to reduce symptoms. While these treatments have positive effects for many patients, they do not cure the disorder nor do they work well for every person with OCD. 

"We're trying to build knowledge about the relationship of cannabis use and OCD because it's an area that is really understudied," said Dakota Mauzay, a doctoral student in Cuttler's lab and first author on the paper.

Aside from their own research, the researchers found only one other human study on the topic: a small clinical trial with 12 participants that revealed that there were reductions in OCD symptoms after cannabis use, but these were not much larger than the reductions associated with the placebo. 

The WSU researchers noted that one of the limitations of their study was the inability to use a placebo control and an "expectancy effect" may play a role in the results, meaning when people expect to feel better from something they generally do. The data was also from a self-selected sample of cannabis users, and there was variability in the results which means that not everyone experienced the same reductions in symptoms after using cannabis.

However, Cuttler said this analysis of user-provided information via the Strainprint app was especially valuable because it provides a large data set and the participants were using market cannabis in their home environment, as opposed to federally grown cannabis in a lab which may affect their responses. Strainprint's app is intended to help users determine which types of cannabis work the best for them, but the company provided the WSU researchers free access to users' anonymized data for research purposes. 

Cuttler said this study points out that further research, particularly clinical trials on the cannabis constituent CBD, may reveal a therapeutic potential for people with OCD.

This is the fourth study Cuttler and her colleagues have conducted examining the effects of cannabis on various mental health conditions using the data provided by the app created by the Canadian company Strainprint. Others include studies on how cannabis impacts PTSD symptoms, reduces headache pain, and affects emotional well-being.

 
 

Vitamin K levels lower in stroke patients

University of Maryland, October 16 2020. 

 

A study of chronic stroke patients reported on October 6, 2020 in the journal Nutrients revealed that the majority consumed an amount of vitamin K that was below recommended intake levels.

The study included 60 men and women between the ages of 54 to 68 years who experienced more than six months of residual deficits after the onset of ischemic stroke. Dietary records were analyzed for the intake of vitamin K and other factors. The subjects were divided into groups according to whether their vitamin K consumption met or was below the recommended intake of 120 micrograms (mcg) per day for adult men and 90 mcg for adult women. 

Eighty-two percent of the study subjects reported an inadequate daily intake of vitamin K. An equal percentage of subjects did not report using a multivitamin supplement, most of whom did not meet the recommendation for vitamin K. Subjects who did not supplement their diets with vitamin D and calcium also failed to attain the recommended adequate intake levels of these nutrients. Those whose diet met the adequate intake of vitamin K were likelier to have a greater intake of vegetables, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E in comparison with those whose intake was lower. 

Authors Chad Wessinger of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and colleagues remarked that vitamin K has a role in the prevention of vascular calcification and noted that ‚ÄúThe potential relationship between vitamin K intake and cardiometabolic disease introduces vitamin K intake as a conceivable additional measure when assessing chronic stroke survivors‚Äô risk of recurrence.‚Ä̬†

‚ÄúDue to vitamin K‚Äôs potential therapeutic interactions with various diseases, controlled supplementation may be indicated for individuals struggling to consume adequate amounts,‚ÄĚ they wrote. ‚ÄúVitamin K supplementation should be considered as a potential adjuvant therapy to address atherosclerosis.‚ÄĚ

 

Regular social engagement linked to healthier brain microstructure in older adults

University of Pittsburgh, October 19, 2020

 

Older people who report greater levels of social engagement have more robust gray matter in regions of the brain relevant in dementia, according to new research led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. It is the first to use a particularly sensitive type of brain imaging to conduct such an evaluation.

The findings, reported today in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, suggest that "prescribing" socialization could benefit older adults in warding off dementia, much the way prescribing physical activity can help to prevent diabetes or heart disease. 

"Our data were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe our findings are particularly important right now, since a one-size-fits-all social isolation of all older adults may place them at risk for conditions such as dementia," said lead author Cynthia Felix, M.D., M.P.H., a geriatrician and a post-doctoral associate in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology. "Older adults should know it is important for their brain health that they still seek out social engagement in safe and balanced ways during the pandemic."

Felix and her colleagues used information about social engagement from 293 community-dwelling participants from the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study. These participants, who averaged 83 years old, also received a sensitive brain scan called Diffusion Tensor Imaging MRI that measured the cellular integrity of brain cells used for social engagement. 

These participants provided detailed information about their social engagement and were scored using a tool Felix developed. High scores were awarded to people who did things like play board games; go to movies; travel long distance; attend classes, lectures or adult education events; participate in church or other community activities; get together with children, friends, relatives or neighbors at least once a week; volunteer or work; be married and live with others. 

Felix and colleagues found that greater social engagement is related to better microstructural integrity of brain gray matter in these older adults. Maintaining brain health is of critical importance. Once brain cells die, dementia typically follows. 

Social engagement with at least one other relative or friend activates specific brain regions needed to recognize familiar faces and emotions, make decisions and feel rewarded. The good news is that even moderate "doses" seem to be beneficial. 

"We need to do more research on the details, but that's the beauty of this--social engagement costs hardly anything, and we do not have to worry about side-effects," Felix said. "There is no cure for dementia, which has tremendous costs in terms of treatment and caregiving. Preventing dementia, therefore, has to be the focus. It's the 'use it or lose it' philosophy when it comes to the brain."

Felix notes that cause-and-effect still need to be disentangled: Does greater social engagement keep these brain regions healthy? Or is it that having a healthy brain results in better social engagement? 

Similar to how large public health studies assess the best programs to encourage physical activity to prevent chronic disease in older people, Felix believes her team's findings, coupled with previous research, provides justification for randomized control trials to assess the impact of specific types and amounts of social activities on brain health. 

Enriched by her prior public health training at Johns Hopkins University, Felix recognizes the critical role of public health in applying this finding on a large scale. 

"It would be good if we develop programs across the U.S. through which structured social activities can be prescribed for community-dwelling older adults, aimed at reducing rates of dementia and the resulting health care costs," Felix said. "Existing platforms providing group physical activities can be a good starting point."

 

White noise as sleep aid may do more harm than good, say scientists

Review finds quality of evidence is poor and noise may lead to more disrupted sleep

University Pennsylvania School of Medicine, October 18, 2020

Whether it is nature sounds, the whine of a hairdryer or the incessant hum of a ceiling fan, white noise apps have been downloaded by millions of people around the world in the hope of getting a better night’s sleep. However, research suggests there is no good evidence that they work, and may even be making things worse.

True white noise is the hissy fizzing sound of all the frequencies that humans can hear being fired off randomly and at the same intensity. In recent years, numerous apps and devices have been developed that use it ‚Äď or other ‚Äúrelaxing‚ÄĚ sounds such as the hum of a fan or crashing waves ‚Äď to help people fall asleep.

They have been hugely successful ‚Äď the Bedtime Fan app, available on Apple devices, has had more than 3m downloads, while the Android White Noise Generator has more than 1m. One theory is that they help to¬†drown out other bothersome sounds¬†such as street noise; another is that listening to the same sound each night may trigger a kind of Pavlovian response, where people learn to associate it with falling asleep. But does it actually work?

Mathias Basner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues systematically reviewed the scientific literature and identified 38 studies that have investigated noise as a sleep aid. Although there was some evidence that continuous noise reduced the amount of time it took individuals to fall asleep, the quality of the evidence was extremely poor, and at least one study suggested the noise may lead to more disrupted sleep.

‚ÄúIf these apps or devices could only do good things, I wouldn‚Äôt really care. But because there may be negative consequences, I would just be careful,‚ÄĚ said Basner, whose research has been published in the journal¬†Sleep Medicine Reviews. ‚ÄúI wouldn‚Äôt broadly recommend them, because there is no evidence that they are actually working.‚ÄĚ

He is also concerned about the potential ill-effects of not allowing the auditory system to switch off overnight, although this also has not yet been tested. ‚ÄúWhenever we‚Äôre exposed to sounds and noise, the inner ear is translating that into nerve signals that are then interpreted by the brain,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt is an active process, which generates metabolites, some of which have been shown to be harmful to the inner ear. You probably want to have a period where the auditory system can wind down, regenerate and prepare for the next wake period.‚ÄĚ

Whether it is nature sounds, the whine of a hairdryer or the incessant hum of a ceiling fan, white noise apps have been downloaded by millions of people around the world in the hope of getting a better night’s sleep. However, research suggests there is no good evidence that they work, and may even be making things worse.

True white noise is the hissy fizzing sound of all the frequencies that humans can hear being fired off randomly and at the same intensity. In recent years, numerous apps and devices have been developed that use it ‚Äď or other ‚Äúrelaxing‚ÄĚ sounds such as the hum of a fan or crashing waves ‚Äď to help people fall asleep.

They have been hugely successful ‚Äď the Bedtime Fan app, available on Apple devices, has had more than 3m downloads, while the Android White Noise Generator has more than 1m. One theory is that they help to¬†drown out other bothersome sounds¬†such as street noise; another is that listening to the same sound each night may trigger a kind of Pavlovian response, where people learn to associate it with falling asleep. But does it actually work?

Colin Espie, a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford, agrees the research quality of studies on continuous noise and sleep is poor. ‚ÄúEven the idea is a very limited one conceptually,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe main concern to overcome in poor sleep is the busy or racing mind. People can‚Äôt switch off mentally. White noise is just like any other monotonous stimulation, which has been tried many times in many ways over decades, and the evidence [for it working] is poor.‚ÄĚ

Prof Christian Cajochen, who heads the Centre for Chronobiology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, said: ‚ÄúI think the better [forms of] continuous white noise mask highly intermittent background noise, which is why it is recommended for nightshift workers who often need to sleep during the day in a ‚Äėnoisy‚Äô environment. There I can see a benefit, but not when sleeping in a relatively quiet environment. Any acoustic stimulus being continuous or not has the potential to interrupt the sleep process.‚ÄĚ

He added: ‚ÄúI would rather recommend mindfulness apps like Sleepio, since they are based on good evidence coming from research in sleep medicine, particularly¬†cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia.‚ÄĚ

 

The association between dietary amino acid intake and cognitive decline 8 years later in Japanese older adults

National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (Japan), October 18, 2020

According to news reporting out of Aichi,¬†Japan, research stated, ‚ÄúPrevious studies have reported a relationship between low protein intake and cognitive decline and have suggested that this association may be related to specific amino acid intake. However, the effects of amino acid intake on the maintenance of cognitive function have yet to be clarified.‚ÄĚ

Our news journalists obtained a quote from the research from National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, “We examined the longitudinal association between dietary amino acid intake (lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, and alanine) and cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults. Longitudinal epidemiological study. Community-based setting. This study comprised 427 study participants aged 60-82 years with no cognitive decline, defined as a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score of >27 at baseline, who also participated in a follow-up. The average and standard deviation of the follow-up period was 8.2 +/- 0.3 years. Dietary intake was assessed using three-day dietary records at baseline. Participants were classified into quartiles (Q1-Q4) based on the intake of 19 amino acids for males and females. Next, we classified participants into Q1 and Q2-Q4 groups. Cognitive function was assessed using the MMSE both at baseline and at follow-up. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the associations between the Q1 group and cognitive decline (MMSE

Tue Oct 20, 2020 19:10

The Barbarians at the Pandemic’s Gates

Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

Progressive Radio Network, October 20, 2020

 

As we approach the the end of 2020, it is apropos to stop, turn around and carefully and objectively examine how we got fixed into this destructive quagmire of Covid-19 half truths, full lies and manufactured medical science. Historically we are a nation that more often than not has sided with the judgments of our public health officials. We have imbued them with a reverence bordering on sanctimonious adulation. The average person has a difficult time challenging the authorities that run our medical system. Consequently we assume they are more correct than wrong. 

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and our response has been transformed into a great betrayal. The large majority of the US population has had their lives adversely affected, some to the point of chronic despair leading to suicide. Trump‚Äôs ‚Äúgreatest economy ever‚ÄĚ is in fact a wasteland of over 122 million Americans closing in on poverty and tens of millions of Americans facing abject poverty. Sixty-six million are food insecure, meaning that they go to bed hungry and are therefore suffering from malnutrition. How much of this economic catastrophe is contributing to the virus‚Äô spread and actual deaths? Stimulus packages are only temporary band aids on what has now become a massive gouging laceration.¬†

If anyone believes that the US is economically stable and competent enough to tackle these problems without a catastrophic blowback, they are delusional. Fiscal conservatives are angered that the US National Debt has reached $24.5 trillion while at the same time adamantly ignoring that the US Total Debt hovers above $82 trillion, $9 trillion more from a year ago under Trump’s administration. Unfunded government liabilities are at an astronomical $155 trillion.  Neither party shows concern about Americans' increasing personal debt (Mortgage debt: $15.8 trillion; Student loan debt: $1.7 trillion; Credit card debt: $994 billion), nor the rise in corporate debt ($9.9 trillion), state debt ($1.2 trillion) and local debt ($2.1 trillion). When we take into consideration $144.6 trillion in US Unfunded Liabilities, $20.4 trillion in Social Security Liability, and $31.6 trillion in Medicare liability, the nation lingers on the precipice of a total collapse. This is a financial tsunami that can only be curbed by keeping the dollar’s printing machines rolling 24-7 until doomsday. 

But not everyone is suffering equally, especially the nation‚Äôs 700 billionaires who average 65 years in age. To the contrary, some are profiting happily during the pandemic. It is in their best economic interests to assure that corporate lobbyists and captive legislators at the federal and state levels act on their behalf. Quite simply, with billions and potentially trillions of dollars being spent on the development and later distribution of drugs and vaccines in the corona war, it would be foolish and na√Įve to except a higher moral principle to motivate our ship captains‚Äô judgments. Hence, our suffering is their profit.¬†

To gain a greater appreciation of the dire scenario that we all face, we must pull back and open a curtain to expose something rarely if ever discussed. This is the Pandora box of debt that has become so vast that it will never be repaid.  We have been spending money at the federal, state, local, corporate and personal levels at an astronomical rate while intentionally ignoring to realize we are in no position to repay it. 

For all of the uncertainties the pandemic poses to the world, especially in the US, one thing should now be evident.  Our neoliberal capitalist civilization has proven itself to be unprepared for unexpected crises and catastrophes. For decades, the US has been falling behind other developed nations in healthcare, quality of life, life expectancy, wages, class equality, etc. Not only has the American medical system and our federal health agencies been exposed to be naked, we are also discovering we cannot rely on their epistemological statistics, mathematical computer modeling, the FDA’s latest approved drug and vaccine, and surely not our decrepit healthcare system to account for our flawed health policies. 

Aside from the pandemic's toll on people's lives, there is also its impact upon the national and global economies at large that is rarely discussed. Rather, hopes and wishes are directed towards life returning to past normalcy.  We are expected to believe that our addiction to unconscionable consumerism will be restored, that employment will rise and the American dream can again be mentally photo-shopped into the national psyche. In short, we are persuaded that the comfort of our illusions and the denial of harsh realities will return. These hopes are highly unlikely if not impossible. At the height of the pandemic last spring, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen warned that the 30% GDP decline is leading us towards Depression. McKinsey predicted 40% of GDP would be necessary to tackle the economic loss. 

In desperation the federal government has already spent $6.5 trillion dollars to frantically keep the economy afloat as a depression far worse than 1932 looms overhead. Some economists believe that this massive bailout is insufficient and upwards to $10-15 trillion may be necessary.  In 2008, with one broad stroke the Obama administration rescued Wall Street. What was believed to be just the TARP bailout of $700 billion was in fact over $4 trillion worth of outlays, including other FED and Treasury expenditures.  The Levy Institute at Bard College calculated the outlays may have been as high as $29 trillion, a number the Sanders' campaign had quoted. 

Before the pandemic, Trump boasted an unemployment level as low as 3.6 percent. But in the US, there are different ways to calculate unemployment. There is the official figure (U-3) that Wall Street and presidential administrations rely upon and then a more realistic statistic or U-6 that includes those underemployed and those only marginally attached to the work force or not at all.  Before the pandemic the "real" or U-6 employment was 8 percent.  Now, unemployment is skyrocketing.  The shadow statistic includes the millions of Americans who have dropped out of the work force because their benefits ceased or because they are homeless or unaccounted for by the Labor Bureau.  When those adjustments are made, the actual unemployment is likely around 27 percent. According to the Commonwealth Fund about 7.7 million works with Employer Sponsored Insurance have lost jobs during the crisis, which totals 14.6 million after including their health insurance to cover dependents. Many of these job losses are permanent. 

The dark side of American employment has been decades of outrageous layoffs, workers being replaced by automation, downsizing, corporate consolidation due to equity partnerships, mergers and off shoring of manufacturing. In addition, tens of thousands of foreign professionals have received work visas and are eager to take the place of middle seniority positions in firms for lower salaries and without full benefits.  The system is so corrupt that the millions of people who work full time for less than a living wage are completely ignored. Hence most Americans are deep in debt and frequently live paycheck to paycheck. The fact of the matter is that there is no security whatsoever for millions of people who may not find work for a very long time if at all.

Even if the lockdown were to end tomorrow, the lights would not immediately switch back on. Throughout the financial news, we are reading headlines of companies eyeing bankruptcy as credit ratings are being rapidly downgraded.  Retail stores are being especially hit badly.According to Global Data Retail, over 190,000 retail stores have closed, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the nation's retail square footage. Forbes has listed Dillards, JC Penny, Kohl's, Levi Strauss, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Signet to likely go under.  Others include Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, J Crew that is loaded up with private equity debt, Fairway supermarkets, and niche organic grocer Lucky's. Macy's capital alone dropped from $6 billion to $1.5 billion since February. This trend had already been rising since Trump came to office with large chain companies increasingly closing outlets including Walgreens, Gap, GNC, H&M and Victoria's Secret. For sure, when and if the pandemic ends, there will be far less retail stores. The New York Times predicts very few are likely to survive. And we are not even looking at the hundreds of their vendors that are also being affected.

With 60 percent of Americans eating regularly outside the home, the restaurant industry has also been hit fiercely. Restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry -- approximately 60% -- and employs almost 16 million people. Between 2010 and 2018, it represented the largest number of low middle class jobs ($45,000 to $75,000), 300 percent more than the overall economy. Now a restaurant apocalypse is underway, with an estimated 20 percent of restaurant operations going under. Larger chains are far better equipped. They are simply closing down dining room facilities and only offering carryout, pickup, delivery or drive-thru. Smaller independent restaurants are at the greatest risk.

Then there are the farms, the concentrated agriculture feeding organizations (CAFOs) and food chain suppliers. In the past it was very rare to enter a large grocery store and find empty shelves. Now it is a common sight because the food supply chain has been upended. Pork and other meat suppliers such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson and Cargill have been forced to close plants. Due to Trump's draconian position on immigration of foreign workers, farm produce will not be harvested. Niv Ellis at The Hill reports that "some $5 billion of fresh fruit and vegetables have already gone to waste."  The pandemic, therefore, is contributing to rising food insecurity throughout the nation. Before the pandemic, Ellis notes, 37 million Americans were already food insecure. Finally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization expects that the frantic efforts underway by countries to import basic staple foods may launch global food inflation.

Also we might consider the future of 15 million Americans who work in the tourism industry, including hotels, entertainment, parks, museums, etc. It is estimated that 96 percent of global tourism has vanished in the blink of an eye. 

State and local city governments are "staring at budget shortfalls that will substantially exceed what they faced during the great recession." States are reporting significant gaps in their capacity to remain fiscally afloat and are now staring into a deep abyss.

Americans who will either return to a job or seek work when the pandemic slows will be further imprisoned by an economy buried in greater debt.

  • Downsizing will accelerate along with borrowed money to continue operations while the White House refuses to pass a rent holiday, forgive student loans and other debts, cease payday loans, reduce interest rates on credit nor provide free healthcare for those infected with COVID-19;
  • The average person without a steady paycheck is living off savings and credit cards. Therefore, when the economy reopens, large numbers of people will be unable to return to the marketplace to circulate dollars;
  • As corporate debt mounts, the most insidious truth is that the vultures of capitalism are ready profit. These are the great white sharks in the finance industry that smell blood. For the trillions of dollars Trump is dishing out to the 1 percent, these are the first to get the lion's share of the quarry.¬†

Nobody in the mainstream media has properly criticized the huge monetary allocations being made for the pandemic. The FED is buying corporate debt in order for companies to off load their mistakes and receive fresh, new money. But the average small business receives the left over pennies.  The virus is teaching us the harsh reality about Washington’s pervasive culture of corruption. Neither party has any empathic regard for average citizens and small business owners.  Even the money from Trump's and Mnuchin's stimulus package given to citizens can be confiscated by debt collectors. 

Imagine if you are an average citizen, not an insider, at the conference table with executives from Facebook, Google, the major banks and mega-corporate industries. You have no income or savings and no health insurance. If you are hungry, where do you get money for food? Where do you get money if you are sick or gas for your car?  The unintended consequences of Trump's and the Congress' irresponsible and inhumane policies are literally bankrupting the nation. 

By extension the millennial and iGen generations are the victimized recipients of this debt bequeathed to them by older generations. They are further compromised with the inability to secure jobs equal to their educational level nor secure a satisfying living wage. They are burdened with high interest student loans. They also are far more aware of the impact climate change will have on their futures. Therefore, millions of young adults are rapidly losing faith in America's neoliberal capitalist system and our self-centered culture of predation. 

Similar to waking up the day following September 11, 2001, we are emerging into a new world. The pandemic is not solely a health crisis; it is also an existential crisis, an impasse in the global civilization that is forcing us to realize that our over dependence and perverse reliance upon natural resources, such as fuel, energy, food and corrupt banking and healthcare services, is fragile. We are learning that at every level there are numerous cracks in our structures of governance and our economic and social bases.  Yet the virus did not break the nation; it has been broken for a long time. Only now more people are waking up from their sleep. Furthermore, few people, including the mainstream media, now believe there will ever be a return to the normalcy of life that ended after Wuhan had its first patient infected with the virus. It is time for every individual to reassess her or his priorities. A life full of well-being is more possible today if we realize the virus has also been our teacher. But it is living a life that is founded upon simplicity, insight and wisdom, and community rather than consumption and competitive power. 

Now over 40,000 international medical professionals and almost half a million citizens have signed the Great Barrington Declaration to demand the reopening of national economies and to bring lockdowns to an end. Rather than trying to protect society, first we must break down the restrictions and burdens to free movement. This is part of a larger movement to demand that honest science, objective media coverage and collective compassion can begin to rebuild broken lives and forgive debt. The elite and their political ideologues claim it cannot be done. To the contrary Bush and Obama found it within their means to bail out corporate America, and Trump later followed suit. The scandal that should outrage every citizen is that these are the same privileged elite, their mega-firms and banking institutions who brought the Recession upon us by their own irresponsible debt and foolish decisions; ergo, the Federal Reserve and your tax dollars made them whole again. But sadly no small or personal business benefited from the bailout‚Äôs payback bribes.¬†¬†History is about to repeat itself. It is time we declare we have had enough of our kakistocracy ‚Äď a government run by the worst, least qualified and most incompetent citizens of the nation ‚Äď and to sincerely mean it.¬†

 

The Barbarians at the Pandemic’s Gates

Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

Progressive Radio Network, October 20, 2020

 

As we approach the the end of 2020, it is apropos to stop, turn around and carefully and objectively examine how we got fixed into this destructive quagmire of Covid-19 half truths, full lies and manufactured medical science. Historically we are a nation that more often than not has sided with the judgments of our public health officials. We have imbued them with a reverence bordering on sanctimonious adulation. The average person has a difficult time challenging the authorities that run our medical system. Consequently we assume they are more correct than wrong. 

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and our response has been transformed into a great betrayal. The large majority of the US population has had their lives adversely affected, some to the point of chronic despair leading to suicide. Trump‚Äôs ‚Äúgreatest economy ever‚ÄĚ is in fact a wasteland of over 122 million Americans closing in on poverty and tens of millions of Americans facing abject poverty. Sixty-six million are food insecure, meaning that they go to bed hungry and are therefore suffering from malnutrition. How much of this economic catastrophe is contributing to the virus‚Äô spread and actual deaths? Stimulus packages are only temporary band aids on what has now become a massive gouging laceration.¬†

If anyone believes that the US is economically stable and competent enough to tackle these problems without a catastrophic blowback, they are delusional. Fiscal conservatives are angered that the US National Debt has reached $24.5 trillion while at the same time adamantly ignoring that the US Total Debt hovers above $82 trillion, $9 trillion more from a year ago under Trump’s administration. Unfunded government liabilities are at an astronomical $155 trillion.  Neither party shows concern about Americans' increasing personal debt (Mortgage debt: $15.8 trillion; Student loan debt: $1.7 trillion; Credit card debt: $994 billion), nor the rise in corporate debt ($9.9 trillion), state debt ($1.2 trillion) and local debt ($2.1 trillion). When we take into consideration $144.6 trillion in US Unfunded Liabilities, $20.4 trillion in Social Security Liability, and $31.6 trillion in Medicare liability, the nation lingers on the precipice of a total collapse. This is a financial tsunami that can only be curbed by keeping the dollar’s printing machines rolling 24-7 until doomsday. 

But not everyone is suffering equally, especially the nation‚Äôs 700 billionaires who average 65 years in age. To the contrary, some are profiting happily during the pandemic. It is in their best economic interests to assure that corporate lobbyists and captive legislators at the federal and state levels act on their behalf. Quite simply, with billions and potentially trillions of dollars being spent on the development and later distribution of drugs and vaccines in the corona war, it would be foolish and na√Įve to except a higher moral principle to motivate our ship captains‚Äô judgments. Hence, our suffering is their profit.¬†

To gain a greater appreciation of the dire scenario that we all face, we must pull back and open a curtain to expose something rarely if ever discussed. This is the Pandora box of debt that has become so vast that it will never be repaid.  We have been spending money at the federal, state, local, corporate and personal levels at an astronomical rate while intentionally ignoring to realize we are in no position to repay it. 

For all of the uncertainties the pandemic poses to the world, especially in the US, one thing should now be evident.  Our neoliberal capitalist civilization has proven itself to be unprepared for unexpected crises and catastrophes. For decades, the US has been falling behind other developed nations in healthcare, quality of life, life expectancy, wages, class equality, etc. Not only has the American medical system and our federal health agencies been exposed to be naked, we are also discovering we cannot rely on their epistemological statistics, mathematical computer modeling, the FDA’s latest approved drug and vaccine, and surely not our decrepit healthcare system to account for our flawed health policies. 

Aside from the pandemic's toll on people's lives, there is also its impact upon the national and global economies at large that is rarely discussed. Rather, hopes and wishes are directed towards life returning to past normalcy.  We are expected to believe that our addiction to unconscionable consumerism will be restored, that employment will rise and the American dream can again be mentally photo-shopped into the national psyche. In short, we are persuaded that the comfort of our illusions and the denial of harsh realities will return. These hopes are highly unlikely if not impossible. At the height of the pandemic last spring, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen warned that the 30% GDP decline is leading us towards Depression. McKinsey predicted 40% of GDP would be necessary to tackle the economic loss. 

In desperation the federal government has already spent $6.5 trillion dollars to frantically keep the economy afloat as a depression far worse than 1932 looms overhead. Some economists believe that this massive bailout is insufficient and upwards to $10-15 trillion may be necessary.  In 2008, with one broad stroke the Obama administration rescued Wall Street. What was believed to be just the TARP bailout of $700 billion was in fact over $4 trillion worth of outlays, including other FED and Treasury expenditures.  The Levy Institute at Bard College calculated the outlays may have been as high as $29 trillion, a number the Sanders' campaign had quoted. 

Before the pandemic, Trump boasted an unemployment level as low as 3.6 percent. But in the US, there are different ways to calculate unemployment. There is the official figure (U-3) that Wall Street and presidential administrations rely upon and then a more realistic statistic or U-6 that includes those underemployed and those only marginally attached to the work force or not at all.  Before the pandemic the "real" or U-6 employment was 8 percent.  Now, unemployment is skyrocketing.  The shadow statistic includes the millions of Americans who have dropped out of the work force because their benefits ceased or because they are homeless or unaccounted for by the Labor Bureau.  When those adjustments are made, the actual unemployment is likely around 27 percent. According to the Commonwealth Fund about 7.7 million works with Employer Sponsored Insurance have lost jobs during the crisis, which totals 14.6 million after including their health insurance to cover dependents. Many of these job losses are permanent. 

The dark side of American employment has been decades of outrageous layoffs, workers being replaced by automation, downsizing, corporate consolidation due to equity partnerships, mergers and off shoring of manufacturing. In addition, tens of thousands of foreign professionals have received work visas and are eager to take the place of middle seniority positions in firms for lower salaries and without full benefits.  The system is so corrupt that the millions of people who work full time for less than a living wage are completely ignored. Hence most Americans are deep in debt and frequently live paycheck to paycheck. The fact of the matter is that there is no security whatsoever for millions of people who may not find work for a very long time if at all.

Even if the lockdown were to end tomorrow, the lights would not immediately switch back on. Throughout the financial news, we are reading headlines of companies eyeing bankruptcy as credit ratings are being rapidly downgraded.  Retail stores are being especially hit badly.According to Global Data Retail, over 190,000 retail stores have closed, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the nation's retail square footage. Forbes has listed Dillards, JC Penny, Kohl's, Levi Strauss, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Signet to likely go under.  Others include Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, J Crew that is loaded up with private equity debt, Fairway supermarkets, and niche organic grocer Lucky's. Macy's capital alone dropped from $6 billion to $1.5 billion since February. This trend had already been rising since Trump came to office with large chain companies increasingly closing outlets including Walgreens, Gap, GNC, H&M and Victoria's Secret. For sure, when and if the pandemic ends, there will be far less retail stores. The New York Times predicts very few are likely to survive. And we are not even looking at the hundreds of their vendors that are also being affected.

With 60 percent of Americans eating regularly outside the home, the restaurant industry has also been hit fiercely. Restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry -- approximately 60% -- and employs almost 16 million people. Between 2010 and 2018, it represented the largest number of low middle class jobs ($45,000 to $75,000), 300 percent more than the overall economy. Now a restaurant apocalypse is underway, with an estimated 20 percent of restaurant operations going under. Larger chains are far better equipped. They are simply closing down dining room facilities and only offering carryout, pickup, delivery or drive-thru. Smaller independent restaurants are at the greatest risk.

Then there are the farms, the concentrated agriculture feeding organizations (CAFOs) and food chain suppliers. In the past it was very rare to enter a large grocery store and find empty shelves. Now it is a common sight because the food supply chain has been upended. Pork and other meat suppliers such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson and Cargill have been forced to close plants. Due to Trump's draconian position on immigration of foreign workers, farm produce will not be harvested. Niv Ellis at The Hill reports that "some $5 billion of fresh fruit and vegetables have already gone to waste."  The pandemic, therefore, is contributing to rising food insecurity throughout the nation. Before the pandemic, Ellis notes, 37 million Americans were already food insecure. Finally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization expects that the frantic efforts underway by countries to import basic staple foods may launch global food inflation.

Also we might consider the future of 15 million Americans who work in the tourism industry, including hotels, entertainment, parks, museums, etc. It is estimated that 96 percent of global tourism has vanished in the blink of an eye. 

State and local city governments are "staring at budget shortfalls that will substantially exceed what they faced during the great recession." States are reporting significant gaps in their capacity to remain fiscally afloat and are now staring into a deep abyss.

Americans who will either return to a job or seek work when the pandemic slows will be further imprisoned by an economy buried in greater debt.

  • Downsizing will accelerate along with borrowed money to continue operations while the White House refuses to pass a rent holiday, forgive student loans and other debts, cease payday loans, reduce interest rates on credit nor provide free healthcare for those infected with COVID-19;
  • The average person without a steady paycheck is living off savings and credit cards. Therefore, when the economy reopens, large numbers of people will be unable to return to the marketplace to circulate dollars;
  • As corporate debt mounts, the most insidious truth is that the vultures of capitalism are ready profit. These are the great white sharks in the finance industry that smell blood. For the trillions of dollars Trump is dishing out to the 1 percent, these are the first to get the lion's share of the quarry.¬†

Nobody in the mainstream media has properly criticized the huge monetary allocations being made for the pandemic. The FED is buying corporate debt in order for companies to off load their mistakes and receive fresh, new money. But the average small business receives the left over pennies.  The virus is teaching us the harsh reality about Washington’s pervasive culture of corruption. Neither party has any empathic regard for average citizens and small business owners.  Even the money from Trump's and Mnuchin's stimulus package given to citizens can be confiscated by debt collectors. 

Imagine if you are an average citizen, not an insider, at the conference table with executives from Facebook, Google, the major banks and mega-corporate industries. You have no income or savings and no health insurance. If you are hungry, where do you get money for food? Where do you get money if you are sick or gas for your car?  The unintended consequences of Trump's and the Congress' irresponsible and inhumane policies are literally bankrupting the nation. 

By extension the millennial and iGen generations are the victimized recipients of this debt bequeathed to them by older generations. They are further compromised with the inability to secure jobs equal to their educational level nor secure a satisfying living wage. They are burdened with high interest student loans. They also are far more aware of the impact climate change will have on their futures. Therefore, millions of young adults are rapidly losing faith in America's neoliberal capitalist system and our self-centered culture of predation. 

Similar to waking up the day following September 11, 2001, we are emerging into a new world. The pandemic is not solely a health crisis; it is also an existential crisis, an impasse in the global civilization that is forcing us to realize that our over dependence and perverse reliance upon natural resources, such as fuel, energy, food and corrupt banking and healthcare services, is fragile. We are learning that at every level there are numerous cracks in our structures of governance and our economic and social bases.  Yet the virus did not break the nation; it has been broken for a long time. Only now more people are waking up from their sleep. Furthermore, few people, including the mainstream media, now believe there will ever be a return to the normalcy of life that ended after Wuhan had its first patient infected with the virus. It is time for every individual to reassess her or his priorities. A life full of well-being is more possible today if we realize the virus has also been our teacher. But it is living a life that is founded upon simplicity, insight and wisdom, and community rather than consumption and competitive power. 

Now over 40,000 international medical professionals and almost half a million citizens have signed the Great Barrington Declaration to demand the reopening of national economies and to bring lockdowns to an end. Rather than trying to protect society, first we must break down the restrictions and burdens to free movement. This is part of a larger movement to demand that honest science, objective media coverage and collective compassion can begin to rebuild broken lives and forgive debt. The elite and their political ideologues claim it cannot be done. To the contrary Bush and Obama found it within their means to bail out corporate America, and Trump later followed suit. The scandal that should outrage every citizen is that these are the same privileged elite, their mega-firms and banking institutions who brought the Recession upon us by their own irresponsible debt and foolish decisions; ergo, the Federal Reserve and your tax dollars made them whole again. But sadly no small or personal business benefited from the bailout‚Äôs payback bribes.¬†¬†History is about to repeat itself. It is time we declare we have had enough of our kakistocracy ‚Äď a government run by the worst, least qualified and most incompetent citizens of the nation ‚Äď and to sincerely mean it.¬†

 

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