Friday, May 7, 2021

The Stringency of Governments' Response to the Pandemic and Your Freedom

With Western, English-speaking nations clamping down with ever-increasing measures during the pandemic, an analysis by researchers at Oxford University is particularly pertinent.


In the "Variation in government responses to COVID-19", a group of researchers at Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government assesses the wide range of governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker or OxCGRT.  OxCGRT provides "a systematic way to track government responses to COVID-19 across countries and sub-national jurisdictions over time.".  This data is then combined into indices that aggregate these responses and explores whether the intensity of the government responses affects the rate of infection.


As we have become aware over the past year, government measures to combat the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have included travel bans and restrictions, school closures, bans on public and private gatherings, contact tracing, mandatory masking, social distancing and self-quarantining among others.  The OxCGRT indicators include the following three types:


1.) Ordinal: These indicators measure policies on a simple scale of severity / intensity.  These indicators are reported for each day a policy is in place.  Many have a further flag to note if they are“targeted”,applying only to a sub-region of a jurisdiction, or a specific sector; or “general”, applying throughout that jurisdiction or across the economy


2.) Numeric: These indicators measure a specific number, typically the value in USD.  These indicators are only reported on the day they are announced.


3.) Text: This is a “free response” indicator that records other information of interest.


Here is a table showing all indicators used in the research:


This data is used in three ways:


1.) to describe all government responses relevant to a given jurisdiction.


2.) to describe policies put in place by a given level and lower levels of government (i.e. state, provincial and city).


3.) to compare government responses across different levels of government.


The authors used data for more than 185 nations and created with a score of between 0 and 100 as follows:


1.) overall government response index


2.) stringency index


3.) containment and health index


4.) economic support index


Each index is then rescaled to create a score of between 0 and 100 and are then averaged to get the composite stringency index for each nation.  It is important to understand that the indices do not measure the appropriateness or effectiveness of a government's response to the pandemic, rather they simply mellow for a cross-national comparison of government interventions.


Now, let's look at a map which shows the relationship between the number of COVID-19 cases and the stringency of government responses found on Oxford's COVID Tracker website for May 4, 2021:



Here are the scores for some nations in order from most stringent (highest scores) to least stringent (lowest scores):


Iran - 81.48


Cuba - 79.63


China - 78.24


France - 78.70


Canada - 75.46


Germany - 75.00


Brazil - 70.83


United Kingdom - 70.37


India - 69.91


Sweden - 65.74


United States - 56.94


Mexico - 47.22


South Africa - 47.22


Australia - 46.76


Japan - 42.59


Russia - 42.13


New Zealand - 22.22


As you can see, among OECD nations, France, Canada and Germany have stringency scores that are similar to that of China, Cuba and Iran, nations not particularly known for being free, and are far higher than that of Russia, another nation that is not considered "free" which has basically ended its lockdown and masking policies.  It is interesting to note that, unlike its high scoring so-called "free" peers, China's response to the pandemic was criticized by Human Rights Watch as shown here:



Apparently, the governments of nations that are English-speaking and part of the world's advanced economies aren't subjected to the same degree of scrutiny as China when it comes to their heavy-handed  and stringent responses to the pandemic.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Pfizer - Profiting from the Pandemic and Planning for the Future

On May 4, 2021, Pfizer held its earnings call for the fiscal period ending March 31, 2021.  With the world's leaders jumping through all kinds of hoops to get access to Pfizer's BNT162b COVID-19 vaccine, some of the details of the earnings call should be of interest to all of us given that we are participating in an unprecedented experiment for Big Pharma with a vaccine that has been incompletely tested on humans.


Let's start with this graphic from the presentation which shows Pfizer's first quarter revenue highlights:


As you can see, the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is responsible for almost as much revenue as the company's next four best-performing pharmaceuticals, hitting $3.462 billion compared to $3.879 billion for Eliquis, Ibrance, Xeljanz and Ibrance combined.


Here is a graphic showing the quarterly income statement highlights, noting that most metrics have been impacted by the BNT162b2 vaccine:


In its update on the BNT162b2 vaccine, the company expects that revenues will total roughly $26 billion in 2021 up from an earlier estimate of $15 billion, reflecting the 1.6 billion doses that will be delivered over the year under contracts signed to mid-April 2021.  The company expects to have the capacity to manufacture at least 3 billion gnoses of the vaccine in 2022 compared to 2.5 billion in 2021.  Just in case you thought that the pandemic would wind down over the next two or three months, Pfizer also claims that it is negotiating contracts with multiple governments for potential BNT162b2 vaccines for 2022 and beyond with recently signed contracts as follows:


- United Kingdom - 60 million additional doses in 2021


- Israel - unspecified millions of doses in 2022


- Canada - up to 125 million doses over the period from 2022 and 2023 and an additional option to supply up to 60 million doses in 2024.


To put the $26 billion in revenues from BNT162b2 into context, Pfizer expects total year 2021 revenues totalling between $44.6 billion to $46.6 billion for its product lines excluding BNT162b2.  Operational revenues grew by 42 percent including its entire product line; when BNT162b2 is excluded, operational revenue grew by only 8 percent. 

Here is a graphic from the presentation showing the near-term milestones for the COVD-19 vaccine:



This is clear proof that the vaccine is still in its experimental stage particularly given that Pfizer is applying for continued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) from the United States government  despite what our local public health officials may be telling us.  Pfizer is also touting the fact that it has requested amendments to the United States EUA of BNT162b2 which would allow it to expand its unofficial trial to adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16 years, now has in place a paediatric study involving children from six months of age and a study involving pregnant women as shown in this quote from Pfizer's Chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla:


"We expect to hear back shortly from the FDA on our application for expanded Emergency Use Authorization for our COVID-19 vaccine to include individuals 12 to 15 years of age.


The Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric study evaluating the safety and efficacy of our COVID-19 vaccine in children six months to 11 years of age is ongoing. We expect to have definite readouts and submit for an EUA for two cohorts, including children two to five years of age and five to 11 years of age in September. The readout and submission for the cohort of children six months to two years old are expected in the fourth quarter. We also expect to have Phase 2 safety data from our ongoing study in pregnant women by late July, early August."


Pfizer is also evaluating the safety and immuongenecity of a third dose of the existing formulation of the COVID-19 vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 variants as quoted here:


"We are evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of a third dose of the existing formulation of our COVID-19 vaccine to understand the effect of a booster on immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 variants in circulation. Additionally, we have started an evaluation of an updated, prototype variant version of our vaccine that encodes the spike protein of the lineage B.1.351 SARS-CoV-2 variant, which includes the mutation E484K, first identified in South Africa.


This study is designed to establish a regulatory pathway to update the current vaccine to address any future variant of potential concern in approximately 100 days, if needed. We expect to have immunogenicity data for both studies in early July."


Pfizer's experiment with unprecedented vaccines is not stopping with the BNT162b2 vaccine.  As shown on this slide, Pfizer is planning to test its mRNA vaccines for the upcoming seasonal influenza season even though the medium- and long-term impacts of injecting humans with RNA are not completely understood:


Here is a quote from Albert Bourla about the company's new product line:


"Pfizer has emerged as a leader in mRNA development, and we are exploring a wide range of opportunities for the technology. We are making rapid progress with our potential flu mRNA program, and we aim to maintain mRNA leadership with two potential game-changing mRNA approaches to a flu vaccine expected to enter the clinic in the third quarter of 2021. We will test multiple constructs in Phase 1, 2 to facilitate swift selection of an optimal tetravalent flu product dose regimen. We aim to develop initially a tetravalent flu vaccine using the modified mRNA platform.


Pending the generation of favorable immune and tolerability Phase 1, 2 data, a potential rapid progression to Phase 3 is possible given our large-scale pharmaceutical science and manufacturing capabilities. We are also exploring the potential to address other infectious diseases that we plan to discuss in the near future. In addition to prophylactic vaccines for infectious diseases, we believe mRNA has the potential to address a wide range of therapeutic areas, including cancer and genetic disease. As you have seen, today, we have increased our 2021 R&D guidance to reflect our plans to increase our mRNA capabilities, build momentum in our targeted areas of interest and deliver on mRNA's breakthrough potential for the benefit of people worldwide."


I like that, "for the benefit of people worldwide".  Just in case you were curious, Pfizer paid out $2.2 billion in cash dividends tdo shareholders during the first quarter of 2021 so at least someone other than Pfizer's corner office dwellers is getting rich from the pandemic.


Let's close with this thought - at least the COVID-19 pandemic has been of significant financial benefit to one sector of the economy even as mom and pop businesses have suffered and permanently closed under government-mandated orders.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

John Kerry and Climate Hypocrisy

With the World Economic Forum and Bill Gates attempting to push the world into a "carbon-free future" and with John Kerry being appointed by the Biden Administration as its Special Presidential Envoy for Climate under the Department of State, recent information released as part of the process of serving as a cabinet-level member of the White House staff is particularly pertinent.

Let's start with this.  This is what the New York Times had to say about Kerry's appointment:



Now, let's look at Kerry's financial disclosure.  Here are the pages that include oil and natural gas production companies:


As well, Kerry holds shares in energy distribution companies including Edison International, Entergy Corp, Exelon, Eversource Energy, NRG Energy, WEC Energy Group, XCEL Energy  all of which either distribute natural gas to their customers or use hydrocarbons to produce the energy that they sell to their customers.


According to his Public Financial Disclosure report which lists his stock sales dated electronically on April 11, 2021, Kerry did sell at least some of his holdings in hydrocarbon-based companies, however, that is a moot point since no one will know whether her would have continued to hold these shares had he not been appointed as Biden's climate czar.


We also have to keep in mind that John Kerry uses a private jet, a Gulfstream Aerospace G-IV twin-jet Serial Number 1261 as shown on this FAA Registry for Tail Number N57HJ:


The jet is owned by Flying Squirrel LLC, Teresa Heinz-Kerry's company.  The address for Flying Squirrel also matches that of the Heinz Family Foundation, located at 625 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as shown here:


According to the Daily Mail, this is what Kerry had to say about his use of a private jet when asked about using it to fly to Iceland in 2019 to accept the Arctic Circle Prize as shown here:


'If you offset your carbon - it's the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle.  What I'm doing, almost full time, is working to win the battle on climate change, and in the end, if I offset and contribute my life to do this, I'm not going to be put on the defensive."


Poor fellow indeed.  Forced to fly in a private jet for our own good.  How sad for him.


If there's one thing that we have all learned over the past year it's that the world's plutocracy functions in a "do as I say, not as I do" reality.  Apparentlydespite his position as Joe Biden's climate czar, John Kerry is no exception to the rule and is an ardent practicer of climate hypocrisy like his fellow climate hypocrite, Bill Gates.

Monday, May 3, 2021

How Your Online Presence Could Impact Your Ability to Borrow

A recent article on the International Monetary Fund blog written by Arnoud Boot, Peter Hoffman, Luc Laeven and Lev Ratnovski  provides us with another piece of the puzzle when it comes to the imposition of a social credit score as part of the new post-pandemic dystopia.  


Here is a screen capture of the article in question:



The article opens by noting that, thanks to recent IMF and ECB (European Central Bank) research, there are two areas of financial innovation that are of importance to the banking sector as follows:  


1.) new tools to collect and analyze data on customers, for example for determining creditworthiness.


2.) new approaches to customer relationships and the distribution of financial products.


For the purposes of this posting, I am going to focus on the first new area of innovation which sounds rather innocuous on the surface.


The authors continue with this (my bold):


"The most transformative information innovation is the increase in use of new types of data coming from the digital footprint of customers’ various online activities—mainly for credit-worthiness analysis.


Credit scoring using so-called hard information (income, employment time, assets and debts) is nothing new. Typically, the more data is available, the more accurate is the assessment. But this method has two problems. First, hard information tends to be “procyclical”: it boosts credit expansion in good times but exacerbates contraction during downturns.


The second and most complex problem is that certain kinds of people, like new entrepreneurs, innovators and many informal workers might not have enough hard data available. Even a well-paid expatriate moving to the United States can be caught in the conundrum of not getting a credit card for lack of credit record, and not having a credit record for lack of credit cards."


So, what new information does the financial sector need to make informed lending decisions?  According to the authors, financial technology or fintech can be used to assist in decision-making when it comes to consumer borrowing as follows:


"Fintech resolves the dilemma by tapping various nonfinancial data: the type of browser and hardware used to access the internet, the history of online searches and purchases. Recent research documents that, once powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, these alternative data sources are often superior than traditional credit assessment methods, and can advance financial inclusion, by, for example, enabling more credit to informal workers and households and firms in rural areas."


The authors note that, thanks to social media mobile communications and online shopping being part of consumers' everyday lives, there is a great deal more data available for the financial sector to harvest.  When combined with artificial intelligence, financial institutions have a very powerful tool for granting and refusing credit to its customer base.


Here is a further quote from their full paper (my bolds):


"The use of non-financial data will have large effects on the provision of financial services. Traditionally, banks rely on the analysis of customer financial information from payment flows and accounting records. The rise of the internet permits the use of new types of non- financial customer data, such as browsing histories and online shopping behavior of individuals, or customer ratings for online vendors.


The literature suggests that such non-financial data are valuable for financial decision making. Berg et al. (2019) show that easy-to-collect information such as the so-called “digital footprint” (email provider, mobile carrier, operating system, etc.) performs as well as traditional credit scores in assessing borrower risk. Moreover, there are complementarities between financial and non-financial data: combining credit scores and digital footprint further improves loan default predictions. Accordingly, the incorporation of non-financial data can lead to significant efficiency gains in financial intermediation.


Large technology firms collect vast amounts of non-financial data through their consumer- acing platforms in the areas of e-commerce, social networking, and online search. The sheer amount of data enables the use of “big data” analysis tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. The literature confirms their usefulness in finance."


If you wish to read more on this subject, here is a link to the original IMF Working Paper.


Let's close with this information to help us put this posting into perspective.  Two of the authors of the paper have links to the World Economic Forum, architect of the Global Reset as shown here:


...and here:


As well, the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva has strongly backed the WEF's dystopic post-pandemic world vision as quoted in this speech which was given to the World Economic Forum in June 2020 (with the Prince of Wales in attendance):

"So, what would it take for historians to look back at this crisis as the moment of a Great Reset?


From the perspective of the IMF, we have seen a massive injection of fiscal stimulus to help countries deal with this crisis, and to shift gears for growth to return. It is of paramount importance that this growth should lead to a greener, smarter, fairer world in the future. 


It is possible to do this. Provided that we concentrate on the key elements of a recovery—and act now. We don’t need to wait.


At the IMF, we see some tremendous opportunities."


Given the role that social media platforms and online consumerism is playing in the culture of the advanced economies of the world and the growing likelihood that all humans will be forced to accept a form of digital identity that is linked to health and potentially to social behaviours, this paper on the website of one of the world's leading non-governmental/non-elected financial bodies should be of great concern to all current and future debt holders.  If the use of your online behaviour is used to determine your borrowing ability as part of a social credit score, then we can pretty much assure ourselves that any semblance of privacy is officially over and that any misbehaviours (in the eyes of our "lord class") will be punished where it really hurts; our finances.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Bill Gates and His Carbon Footprint

With Bill Gates seeming to be everywhere and an expert in everything over the past year and with the recent release of his 2021 book on avoiding a climate disaster, a look back at research from October 2019 gives us a real sense of his actual, "boots on the ground" commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases.


First, let's look at one of Bill Gate's preferred modes of travel:

Why on earth would you want to sully yourself by sharing a flying aluminum tube with the sweaty masses when you can board your very own private jet?

The Bombardier BD-700 is owned through Challenger Administration LLC and has hourly fuel costs of this:



Somewhat hypocritically, Gates flew in his private jet to the 2015 Paris Climate Summit:


Gates, the world's foremost untrained climatologist (along with his expertise in vaccines, viruses and everything but software that actually works) lives in this 66,000 square foot home:


Now that we have a very basic understanding of Bill Gates' personal tastes, let's look at the 2019 study by Stefan Gossling entitled "Celebrities, air travel and social norms".  The author opens by noting that frequent air travel is linked to a disproportionately large carbon footprint and plays a key role in carbon inequality, a concept which describes the massive differences in individuals' contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.  Flying is considered to be a very energy intensive means of transportation with frequent fliers contributing a significantly higher portion of total greenhouse gas emissions.  For example, Gossling's 2009 study found that 5 percent of France's total population was responsible for 50 percent of total emissions from transportation and a 2010 study by Brand and Prison found that 20 percent of the most frequent travellers contributed 60 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.  There is also a link between income and transportation emissions; the highest income groups in the United Kingdom produced emissions that were 3.5 times higher than the lowest income groups, mainly as a restful of increased mobility.


The authors goes on to note that the world's most affluent people have significantly different travel patterns than the rest of humanity; they tend to move more frequently, have access to private transportation and have multiple real estate holdings.  This is particularly the case for celebrities and, given the fact that they need to keep their "brand" in the spotlight, means that they tend to travel more frequently than the sweaty masses.


Celebrities often adopt a "climate friendly" persona as a means of appealing to their followers, however, there are a wide range of celebrity climate types as shown on this table:

Since celebrities often use social media sites to engage with their fan base, the information provided can be used to track and study the movements of these individuals.  The author used the combined Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of ten celebrities with the individuals being chosen to represent various celebrity types including business leaders, models, designers, singers, actors, athletes etcetera.  The celebrities were also ranked according to the completeness of their travel data with some posting on their social media accounts very frequently and others posting intermittently with large gaps in time.  


Here is a table showing the celebrities and the completeness of their social media posting data:


To calculate the distances flown, great circle distances were calculated for each trip reported by each of the celebrities noting that not all trips were identified and that stop-overs may not have been communicated to the public.  For scheduled air travel it was assumed that the celebrities will fly in business or first class.  Fuel use per hour was calculated for celebrities who used private aircraft multiplied by the humber of hours of flight time (excluding taxying time, waiting times and maintenance) and return or outbound trips that were "empty" (the celebrity was being picked up or dropped off) were not included.


Here is a list of celebrity use of aircraft and per hour fuel consumption:


Andre Schurrle - scheduled air travel - 67.8 kg


Bill Gates - Bombardier BD-700 - 1453 kg


Emma Watson - scheduled air travel - 67.5 kg


Felix von der Laden - scheduled air travel - 67.5 kg


Karl Lagerfeld - various private jets - 1400 kg


Mark Zuckerberg - company private jet - 1400 kg


Meg Whitman - company private jet - 1400 kg


Oprah Winfrey - Gulfstream G650 - 1406 kig


Paris Hilton - various private jets - 1400 kg


Here is a table showing flight activity in 2017 for the ten celebrities:

As you can see, Bill Gates had the longest total flying distance and the most total flight time in hours for 2017.  This is what his flight patterns looked like:

Finally, here is a table showing the total fuel consumption and tonnes of CO2 emissions for each celebrity:


According to Gossling's calculations, by a wide margin, Bill Gates has the largest carbon footprint related to air travel.  It would be interesting to know how one of the world's leading untrained climatologist can justify his very significant personal contributions to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Let's close with this conclusion from the author:


"Worldwide, climate policies have focused on the decarbonization of production. This ignores highly skewed contributions to emissions between individuals within countries, and the very significant contributions to global emissions made by celebrities and other cultural, economic, and political elites. As there is a growing class of affluent people, as well as populations aspiring to energy-intense lifestyles, celebrities question progress on mitigation while also shaping moral and social norms that oppose far-reaching climate policies.


In this context it is important to bear in mind that aspirational lifestyles exist on very different scales. Politicians set social norms for voters; business leaders for employees; professors for students. Where these norms involve mobility, they will often be misaligned with societal goals for mitigation. It will be of interest to study these developments in greater detail, as they underlie society’s ability to decarbonize economies, both through political means and behavioral change."

It has become increasingly apparent that the new global reality is comprised of "rules for thee but not for me" when it comes to the global ruling class.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

India, COVID and Mainstream Media Truthiness

While India is garnering the mainstream media's ceaseless attention to all things COVID, there are a couple of things that we need to consider.


First, here is a graph from Our World In Data showing the number of cumulative COVID-19-related deaths per million people for the United States, the United Kingdom and India:


As you can see, India totally missed the first and second waves of COVID-19-related deaths which peaked at 0.18 percent in the United Kingdom in January 2021, 0.104 percent in the United States also in January 2021.  Currently, India's COVID-19 death rate is 0.018 percent, roughly one-tenth of the peak death rate of the United Kingdom.  Certainly, the death rate in India will increase as time passes but, as you can see, currently it is well below the rates experienced in two of the world's most affected nations and, as shown here, has relatively little to do with where the advanced economies of the world are headed.  Interestingly, we'll never see this reported in the mainstream media.


As well, thanks to the internet archive, here is a screen capture taken from a sad and rather alarming story that appeared in the New York Post on April 26, 2021:

Here is a closeup of the photo which appeared in the article purporting to show an Indian woman "dying" in the street of COVID-19:


Oddly enough, you can see the same woman wearing purple clothing lying on the sidewalk while the young woman in the multi-coloured top and white pants with a dark stripe in this photo:


The only problem is that this photo was found in a news story on Sky News dated May 7, 2020 reporting on a gas leak at an LG Polymers plant located in Andhra Pradesh:



So, either the same ill woman in India was lying on the sidewalk wearing the same clothing and being attended to by the same young woman nearly 12 months ago as a result of a gas leak and was ill yet again in late April 2021 due to COVID-19 or the mainstream media is lying to us or just doing sloppy reporting.


Fortunately for us all, the New York Post posted this small retraction at the bottom of the edited story, blaming Reuters for their misstep/sloppiness:


This begs the question; how often has this happened in the past year when it comes to reportage on the pandemic?

If there is one thing that the world has taught us in the past year it's that we are living in a post-truth era where the mainstream media has become a big part of propagating a false, government-created narrative that is being used to stoke fear and keep us all in line.