Tag: medical

What a Surprise

Countries that May Manufacture or Buy Sputnik V

In a world* where Covid-19 ravages the world, and no one can see a way out beyond giving taxpayer funded research to rent-seeking pharmaceutical companies, one nuclear armed nation’s vaccing manages to turn in good numbers without looting by private actors.

By, “One nuclear armed nation,” I do not mean the United States.  The idea of creation and distribution of medications without government subsidies is completely beyond the pale in this country.

I am referring to Russia, where the Sputnik vaccine is not showing effectiveness in excess of 90%, at a lower cost and without the handling issues of the mRNA vaccines being rolled out in the United States.

There is a precedent, the widespread popularity of the AK-47, which occurred because anyone could make it without IP concerns:

President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use before it even completed safety trials sparked skepticism worldwide. Now he may reap diplomatic dividends as Russia basks in arguably its biggest scientific breakthrough since the Soviet era.

Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as U.S. and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.

At least 20 countries have approved the inoculation for use, including European Union member-state Hungary, while key markets such as Brazil and India are close to authorizing it. Now Russia is setting its sights on the prized EU market as the bloc struggles with its vaccination program amid supply shortages.


Its decision to name Sputnik V after the world’s first satellite whose 1957 launch gave the Soviet Union a stunning triumph against the U.S. to start the space race only underlined the scale of the significance Moscow attached to the achievement. Results from the late-stage trials of 20,000 participants reviewed in The Lancet showed that the vaccine has a 91.6% success rate.


Sputnik V uses a platform based on the adenovirus, which causes the common cold, and has been studied in vaccine development for decades, though its effectiveness is yet to be proven. AstroZeneca’s is similar, while drugs developed by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech rely on a new technology, which uses genetic instructions in a nucleic acid molecule called mRNA to program a person’s cells to make the viral protein itself, triggering an immune response.

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Sputnik V can be stored in a fridge rather than a freezer, making it easier to transport and distribute in poorer and hotter countries. At around $20 for a two-shot vaccination, it’s also cheaper than most Western alternatives. While more expensive than AstraZeneca, the Russian inoculation has shown higher efficacy than the U.K. vaccine.

The take-away here is not that Russia is some sort of biotech super-power, it clearly is not.

The take-away here is, or at least should be, that the US model, taxpayer financed research leading to private profits through additional government subsidies (patents) is not necessarily the best model to develop medical treatments.

*To quote Don LaFontaine.

Not a Good Look

It turns out that Theranos has systematically destroyed incriminating evidence.

This appears to be deliberate obstruction of the investigation:

Failed blood-testing unicorn Theranos trashed vital incriminating evidence of its fraud, prosecutors said on Monday.

The imploded startup’s extensive testing data over three years, including its accuracy and failure rate, was “stored on a specially-developed SQL database called the Laboratory Information System (LIS),” according to a filing [PDF] in the fraud case against Theranos’s one-time CEO Elizabeth Holmes and COO Sunny Balwani.


The reality, however, was that for one set of tests, the failure rate was 51.3 per cent. What does that mean? Prosecutors explain: “In other words, Theranos’s TT3 blood test results were so inaccurate, it was essentially a coin toss whether the patient was getting the right result. The data was devastating.”


From the filing: “On or about August 31, 2018 – three months after a federal grand jury issued a subpoena requesting a working copy of this database – the LIS was destroyed. The government has never been provided with the complete records contained in the LIS, nor been given the tools, which were available within the database, to search for such critical evidence as all Theranos blood tests with validation errors. The data disappeared.”


When a grand jury issued a subpoena for the database, Theranos’s lawyer came up with a strategy to supply the info without exposing the company’s appalling test results: hand over a backup of the database to the government and fail to provide the necessary materials to reconstruct it.

How do we know this? Because prosecutors said they have the internal emails showing staff discussing exactly that: how the backup wouldn’t come with the “layers of applications and data.” Its VP of Operations emailed an internal lawyer: “If we are just handing over a database, I’m not sure it will meet the needs.”

If that wasn’t enough, all three versions of the backup provided to the US government came with a password that was necessary to open it up. And no one was able to remember it, at least according to the various internal emails flying around. After some discussion, it was agreed that Theranos’s former head of IT, Antti Korhonen, was the only one with the password. But then Korhonen wasn’t able to find it either.

Unable to get at the database, Uncle Sam put an expert on the case: “The government retained a computer forensic expert to assist in retrieving this data, who found that the ‘key’ file on the hard drive, required to reconfigure the SQL database, is itself encrypted by a distinct password (not the one provided with the transmittal letter to open the hard drive), and cannot be opened.”

While all this was going on, Theranos decided to shut down the facility that housed the database in Newark, New Jersey. Execs were warned that if the hardware and servers were taken apart “it would be almost impossible to recreate the database” by Theranos IT contractor Michael Chung. But they shut it down anyway, and any access to the database from that point was lost – both for Theranos and government investigators.

Uncle Sam’s legal eagles are not convinced this was an innocent mistake. Referring to the IncRev’s CEO, they note: “Even though Chandrasekaran knew the LIS hardware would be coming apart on Friday, August 31, 2018, and even though he was on an email chain in which the ‘all clear’ was given to take apart the hardware, he waited until two days later, September 2, 2018, to email a senior Theranos official with a list of items he would need from the database in order to reconstruct the LIS.


Its conclusion? “It does not appear from the timing of Chandrasekaran’s requests that he, in fact, intended to successfully copy the database before it shutdown.”

There is plenty of other evidence that, despite Theranos’s repeat claims, its machines were so inaccurate that they were fundamentally worthless. But the database would have provided clear proof that the company had to be aware that its entire testing system was fundamentally flawed, which itself supports the argument that the startup knowingly misled investors. While lying in press releases and interviews is reprehensible, it’s not necessarily a crime. However, lying in presentations to people in order to pull in investment is.

The failure to retain a working copy of a database that the company had paid millions to build and maintain, and which contained critically important information for the functioning of the business, is, let’s say, suspicious. Sufficiently suspicious that prosecutors wrote an entire filing about it.


Other filings reveal that Holmes would often personally handle complaints about how inaccurate its tests appeared to be, something that prosecutors says is evidence that the CEO knew that its testing machines didn’t work while at the same time continuing to claim the opposite in public. Holmes and Balwani face a dozen criminal wire fraud charges apiece, and up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Throw the book at them.

There are way too many unicorns out there who are little more than fraud, and we need to start throwing their founders in jail.

Yeah, This Does Not Fill Me with Confidence

It turns out that the CEO of Pfizer timed the announcement of their Covid vaccine to correspond whith a pre-scheduled order to sell most of his stock in the company.

This is not the action taken by someone who has faith in the long term prospects of this product.

Given that the product needs to be shipped at -70°C (-94°F), and this technique has ever used in humans before, I would not go long on Pfizer either:

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sold 62% of his stock on the same day the company announced its experimental COVID-19 vaccine succeeded in clinical trials.

The vaccine announcement sent Pfizer’s shares soaring almost 15% on the day.

Bourla sold 132,508 shares in the company at an average price of $41.94 a share, or $5.6 million total, according to filings registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 52-week high for Pfizer’s stock is $41.99, meaning Bourla sold his stock at almost its highest value in the past year. His stock sale was carried out through a routine Rule 10b5-1, a predetermined trading plan that allows company staff members to sell their stock in line with insider-trading laws. Bourla’s sale was part of a plan adopted August 19, the filing showed. He continues to own 81,812 Pfizer shares.

Am I being too paranoid in thinking that the promise of this vaccine is yet another over-hyped Covid treatment being hyped for the personal benefit of senior management?

Busy Night.

A protrait of the cat as a young kitty

Destructo, our 7 year old long hair cat shut down yesterday.

He was just lying around.

He did not nip at us when he rubbed his stomach.

He did not react at all to catnip, when normally he’s a drug fiend.

Finally, in the evening, we took him to the veterinarian.

It turns out that he had a urinary tract blockage, not uncommon in male cats of a certain age, he is technically middle-aged now.

His blood work was good, and there is no sign of kidney damage, so it looks like we caught it early.

He has been catheterized.

We are probably going to have to change his diet, something lower in magnesium, I think, but I’m an engineer, not a veterinarian, dammit!*

The prognosis is pretty good.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

Oh, Snap

It what is marvelous piece of irony, it tourns out that Donald Trump’s Covid-19 treatment was derived from fetal cells from an abortion:

This week, President Donald Trump extolled the cutting-edge coronavirus treatments he received as “miracles coming down from God.” If that’s true, then God employs cell lines derived from human fetal tissue.

The emergency antibody that Trump received last week was developed with the use of a cell line originally derived from abortion tissue, according to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed the experimental drug.

The Trump administration has taken an increasingly firm line against medical research using fetal tissue from abortions. For example, when it moved in 2019 to curtail the ability of the National Institutes of Health to fund such research, supporters hailed a “major pro-life victory” and thanked Trump personally for taking decisive action against what they called the “outrageous and disgusting” practice of “experimentation using baby body parts.”

But when the president faced a deadly encounter with covid-19, his administration raised no objections over the fact that the new drugs also relied on fetal cells, and anti-abortion campaigners were silent too. Most likely, their hypocrisy was unwitting. Many types of medical and vaccine research employ supplies of cells originally acquired from abortion tissue. It would have taken an expert to realize that was the case with Trump’s treatment.


The Trump administration has sought to block or curtail research that requires tissue from recently performed abortions. In August, for example, a new board created by the Department of Health and Human Services, and stacked with figures opposed to abortion, voted to withhold funding from 13 of 14 proposals.

Conservative values don’t actually apply when it’s THEIR ox is gored.

I Will Not Be Following Trump’s Medical Progress With Bated Breath

SNL Mocked This 45 Years Ago

I just don’t think that I can add anything to the discussion.

That being said, it does make sense to follow-up on the rapidly spreading infection cluster.

So far, in addition to Donald Trump and Melania Trump, we have confirmed cases for:

  • White House aide Hope Hicks
  • RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel
  • Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  • Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Former Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway
  • Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien
  • Former NJ Governor Chris Christie

It should be noted that Tillis is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was at a committee hearing, and generally NOT wearing a mask, shortly before he tested positive.

This is going to get interesting, particularly given the accelerated schedule for confirming Judge Bennett.

Looks like I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit Sniffing Glue

President* Trump has been helicoptered to Walter Reed after testing positive for the Corona virus.

They are claiming that it’s moderate symptoms, but it’s only been about 24 hours since he started to showing signs of the infection, so it’s likely to get worse.

What’s more, it appears that there was a super-spreading event at the roll-out of his Supreme Court nominee Amy Barrett, with numerous reporters, staffers, and a few Senators testing positive.

There seems to be a plethora of folks who are offering insincere. “Thoughts and prayers,” for Trump.

I will not be one of them.

Godwin My Ass. This is Nazi Sh%$

My guess is that this is a combination of greed and bigotry. The doctor and his accomplice want to sterilize brown women, and that they are getting over-reimbursed for what can be a routing procedure, there have been news reports of for-profit hysterectomy mills since at least the 1970s.

Still, it looks like we have a bunch of Josef Mengele wannabees here.

This is beyond horrifying:

Several legal advocacy groups on Monday filed a whistleblower complaint on behalf of a nurse at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center documenting “jarring medical neglect” within the facility, including a refusal to test detainees for the novel coronavirus and an exorbitant rate of hysterectomies being performed on immigrant women.

The nurse, Dawn Wooten, was employed at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, which is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company. The complaint was filed with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by advocacy groups Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network.

Multiple women came forward to tell Project South about what they perceived to be the inordinate rate at which women in ICDC were subjected to hysterectomies – a surgical operation in which all or part of the uterus is removed. Additionally, many of the immigrant women who underwent the procedure were reportedly “confused” when asked to explain why they had the surgery, with one detainee likening their treatment to prisoners in concentration camps.

Yes, this sounds a lot like Nazi eugenics programs.

“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” the detainee said.

According to Wooten, ICDC consistently used a particular gynecologist – outside the facility – who almost always opted to remove all or part of the uterus of his female detainee patients.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy—just about everybody,” Wooten said, adding that, “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”

“We’ve questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I know that’s ugly…is he collecting these things or something…Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world.”

(emphasis mine)

It’s clear that someone wanted to sterilize people because of the color of their skin.

The term for this is, “Good German”

Wooten – who is being represented in the matter by the Government Accountability Project – also confirmed that many of the detained women told her that they didn’t understand why they were being forced to have the procedure. She explained that some of the nurses who didn’t speak Spanish obtained consent from detainees “by simply googling Spanish.”

The complaint details several accounts from detainees, including one woman who was not properly anesthetized during the procedure and heard the aforementioned doctor tell the nurse he had mistakenly removed the wrong ovary, resulting in her losing all reproductive ability. Another said she was scheduled for the procedure but when she questioned why it was necessary, she was given at least three completely different answers.

The private prison company has denied any wrongdoing.

Mandy Rice-Davies applies.*

*Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?  Seriously, know your history.

The Affluenza Defense

In the latest twist in the fraud case against disgraced former head of Theranos Elizabeth Holmes, it appears that she is bringing in a high priced psychologist in an attempt to get out from under the charges against her.

This is pretty clearly an Affluenza defense, “I’m to young, too pretty, and too white to go to jail.”

She has a right to this defense, but the judge has made what is a routine ruling, that the prosecution has the right to conduct a psychological examination as well, and that they can tape her sessions, and if the prosecution is not playing to lose, a big if will a well connected white defendant, then they should be able blow this defense out of the water.

Holmes spending at least 5 years, and better yet a decade, behind bars is the singles best thing that should ever do for society:  Be an abject lesson to others who would rely on privilege to defraud people:

Elizabeth Holmes—the disgraced founder and ex-CEO of the now-defunct blood-testing startup, Theranos—may use a mental condition as a defense against a slew of federal fraud charges, according to a court document filed this week. Holmes and Theranos’ former president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were charged in June 2018 with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Federal prosecutors allege the pair—who were romantically involved during the alleged crimes—engaged in conspiracy to defraud Theranos investors out of more than $100 million and defraud doctors and patients into falsely believing the company’s faulty blood-testing technology could reliably perform accurate health tests with just drops of blood from a finger-prick.

According to the court document filed this week, Holmes—who is now being tried separately from Balwani—notified the court last December that she plans to submit “expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition” that has bearing on the issue of guilt. The expert providing such evidence was named in the document as psychologist Mindy Mechanic, of California State University, Fullerton.

According to Mechanic’s faculty website, she focuses on “psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma, and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence.” The site also notes that Mechanic “frequently provides expert testimony in complex legal cases involving interpersonal violence.”

The strategy here is clear, her legal team will assert that her former business partner, and former personal partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is a darkly complected man of South Asian extraction, who worked some sort of “Voodoo” over an innocent white girl, and made her defraud stupid rich folks.


In response to Holmes’ plans to provide mental health evidence, federal prosecutors requested that they should also be able to examine Holmes’ mental state and provide their own psychiatric evidence in court as a fair rebuttal.

The judge in the case, US District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California, agreed with the prosecutors. As such, he ordered Holmes to undergo up to 14 hours of psychological testing and psychiatric evaluation by two government-appointed doctors over the course of two consecutive days. Davila also ordered that the government’s evaluation of Holmes be recorded on video—over Holmes’ objections. 

It’s nice that the judge made this ruling, and I really hope that the prosecution is serious about calling bullsh%$ on this strategy.

Dodged a Bullet

Last Thursday, a family friend, my kids’ old baby sitter, was not feeling, so my wife and kids did some grocery shopping for her, and delivered her groceries.

At the time, they thought that it was Strep, but it wasn’t.

She got a Covid-19 test, and it came back negative this Thursday.

Charlie, who delivered the groceries appropriately masked, was completely losing his sh%$ this week.

Speaking of Vaccine Efficacy………

5 sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt who tested positive for Covid-19, were quarantined, recovered, and returned to service, have tested positive for Covid-19:

Five sailors who returned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Myers Vasquez.

The sailors had previously tested positive for the disease but they had spent more than two weeks in isolation, showed no symptoms for at least three days, and they all tested negative for the disease twice before being allowed back on the aircraft carrier, Vasquez said on Thursday.

“The five sailors developed influenza-like illness symptoms and executed their personal responsibility by reporting to medical for evaluation,” Vasquez said in a statement. “The sailors were immediately removed from the ship and placed back in isolation, their close contacts were mapped, and they are receiving the required medical care.”

Increasingly, there is evidence that, at best, any Covid-19 vaccine would be of VERY limited effectiveness, perhaps granting immunity for only a few weeks or a few months.

This is not good.

Silent Hypoxia

It turns out that a lot of people who have Covid-19 are suffering from what is called Silent (or Happy) Hypoxia, there they have dangerously low blood oxygen levels but are showing no symptoms.

You can get a finger-tip blood oxygen and heart rate indicator for about a sawbuck online, and I would recommend that you do so:

It is a mystery that has left doctors questioning the basic tenets of biology: Covid-19 patients who are talking and apparently not in distress, but who have oxygen levels low enough to typically cause unconsciousness or even death.

The phenomenon, known by some as “happy hypoxia” (some prefer the term “silent”) is raising questions about exactly how the virus attacks the lungs and whether there could be more effective ways of treating such patients.

A healthy person would be expected to have an oxygen saturation of at least 95%. But doctors are reporting patients attending A&E with oxygen percentage levels in the 80s or 70s, with some drastic cases below 50%.

Using the fingertip sensor takes less than a minute, and it is non-invasive and not painful, so checking yourself occasionally is a good thing.

Republicans Loot, Because Republicans Loot

Remember that Republican political operative who terminated his fund raising business to start selling overpriced Covid-19 supplies, likely trading on his political connections, has now had his contract with Maryland terminated, and there has been a criminal referral to the state Attorney General.

It’s pretty clear that this guy was profiteering off of his political connections, but his connections were not sufficient to acquire N-95 masks and ventilators, so now it is revealed that he sold stuff he did not have, and that, my friend, is fraud:

Maryland’s governor is asking the attorney general to investigate a politically connected company that contracted to provide the state with millions of dollars’ worth of medical equipment that never arrived.

The state signed a $12.5 million deal April 1 with Blue Flame Medical LLC for 1.5 million N95 masks and 110 ventilators. The masks and ventilators were supposed to ship April 14, according to documents provided by the state.

The state paid half of the money up front, according to the documents.

The goods never arrived, and Maryland canceled the contract Friday.

“Unfortunately, despite numerous requests for information and order status, Blue Flame Medical has yet to deliver any items under this order, or provide any pertinent data as to a pending shipment,” wrote Danny Mays, the state’s director of procurement, in a letter sent to Blue Flame on Thursday.

Blue Flame Medical was founded just weeks ago by Mike Gula, a former Republican Party fundraiser and consultant whose resume shows no experience in the medical field.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh confirmed receiving a referral about the contract. The office has a policy not to comment on pending or potential investigations.


Gula started Blue Flame in late March with John Thomas, also a Republican consultant and former candidate, according to multiple news reports.

When asked how political consultants could successfully switch to selling healthcare supplies in the midst of a global pandemic, Thomas told Politico in March: “It’s just relationship-based. I can’t say anything else.”

There really is no situation so dire that some Republican won’t look at finding a way to loot it.

Our society being what it is though, this guy will probably never see the inside of a jail cell.

Should He Die, He Will Be Replaced by Something Even More Bizarrely Inexplicble

It appears that his condition has worsened since announcing his testing positive 10 days ago:

Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital due to coronavirus after suffering 10 days of symptoms including a high fever, bringing doubts about his capability to lead the response to the pandemic despite No 10 insisting it was purely precautionary.

Johnson was taken to an unnamed London hospital on Sunday after days of persistent symptoms, during which time he has been self-isolating. Last week No 10 had denied the prime minister was more seriously ill than claimed.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “On the advice of his doctor, the prime minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests. This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for the virus.” The spokesperson said Johnson would stay in hospital “as long as needed”.

I do not know much about British politics, but what I DO know leads me to conclude that whoever might replace him would be even more of a sh%$ show than he is.

OK, HIM I want Dead

I am not referring to Donald Trump, nor am I referring to any other American political figure.

Rather I am referring to the man who wants to pave over the Amazon basin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is the subject of conflicting reports as to whether he contracted the coronavirus.

This man is determined to plow under the whole of the Amazon, and the consequences of this would make the Black Death look like a tea party.

Well, This Has Gone from Concerning to Bat-Sh%$ Insane Quickly

I am talking, of course, about Coronavirus.

In the past 24 hours, after Donald Trump gave the least reassuring political speech since Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer’s resignation speech 1n 1987,* things have gone to hell in a hand-basket.

The NCAA has canceled the collegiate basketball championships, AKA March Madness, because of COVID-19 19 concerns.

This is the most ppopular sporting event in the United States, normally pulling in about 50% more in ad revenue, and even more in eyeballs, than the Superbowl, and it’s canceled.

In addition, the Baseball Spring training has been suspended, the NBS has suspended its season,

Heard on every trading desk for last 10yrs: “Fck Dodd-Frank.”

Heard on every trading desk for the last 10d: “Thank fck for Dodd-Frank”

— Joseph S. Mauro (@jsmauro13) March 10, 2020

And then, for the second time this week, but only the third time in more than 20 years, circuit breakers temporarily halted stock trading after the S&P 500 entered free fall.

I am certain right now that there are a lot of brokers who are VERY happy that Dodd-Frank strengthened these market protections.

Finally, in Maryland, all public schools will be closed for 2 weeks, Catholic Schools in Baltimore are shutting down, Episcopal Churches are suspending services, and both state and federal courts are suspending cases, with most public entertainment events cancelled as well.

This all went pear shaped rather quickly.

* Following his conviction on bribery charges, he blew his brains out at a press converence.

It’s Official

The World Health Organization has officially declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic:

The spread of the coronavirus is now a pandemic, officials at the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

“We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general.


There are only about 1,100 confirmed cases in the United States, but experts fear that is only a fraction of the real prevalence, because testing for the coronavirus has been unavailable or haphazard in the United States.

The number of cases in the world doubles every six days, epidemiologists have estimated.

And the US response will be handled by people who want to down the government in a bathtub.