Saturday, March 21, 2020

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Police warn about fake ‘coronavirus inspector’ - (Maryland) Capital Gazette

“Residents should not open their homes to anyone claiming to be checking for the COVID-19 virus or offering to clean their home,” [Bowie MD Police Chief] Nesky’s department warned in a statement released on the scam.

Socially Isolated, But Ready to Roll

As if working from a cubicle in an office annex in Rosslyn VA wasn't already isolated enough, now I'm teleworking from home half the time.

On my in-office days, the benefits are clear: near-empty streets and a record short door-to-door commute, my local Starbucks bravely hanging in there with mobile orders and pick-up service (unlike Peets), and - best of all - being allowed to park in the office building garage. What a perk!!! Now I know how the One Percent live.

On my at-home days, telework connectivity-wise, GO has been just okay but Microsoft 365 has been great. My biggest problem on home-bound work days has been the temptation to do on-line shopping.

With time on my hands, I've started to do long put-off chores. For one, I finally disassembled the slide on my old Glock so as to clean the striker channel and firing pin assembly. A bit embarrassed to admit I'd never done that before. I've never had any kind of function glitch with that highly reliable pistol, but now it'll be just that much nearer to perfection. I'll never have to hear Michael Caine say "you failed to maintain your weapon, son."

As the weather turns warmer, I expect to do more outside chores that I've been putting off forever. With no time or daylight lost to commuting now, I can afford to spend a couple hours a day on my lawn. Hey, I might really grow some grass this year!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

U.S. Hospitals Pretty Well-Resourced Against COVID-19

Image from NPR

NPR had an alarming story today revolving around an interview about the current limits of intensive care resources for treating COVID-19 patients, in particular whether there will be enough ventilators for the most severely afflicted. But by far the most interesting info was buried when NPR linked to but otherwise ignored a research report by a society of intensive care professionals on just that very topic.

Why so little interest in that report, especially when it answered some of the questions raised in the main body of the story?

Here's the story: As The Pandemic Spreads, Will There Be Enough Ventilators?

First the gloomy main body:
Ventilators are generally a temporary bridge to recovery — many patients in critical care who need them do get better. These machines can be crucial to sustaining life in certain emergency situations. And if there is a surge in seriously ill patients, as COVID-19 spreads, ventilators could be in short supply, from hospital to hospital or nationally.

And if there's an increase in very sick patients on a scale like what happened in China, Dr. Eric Toner says, the U.S. is not prepared. Toner studies hospital preparedness for pandemics at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

"We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak," Toner tells NPR, "and we would see the same sort of bad outcomes that they saw in Wuhan — with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care."

Toner says all hospitals have some lifesaving ventilators, but that number is proportional to the number of hospital beds in the institution. An average-sized hospital with 150 beds, for example, might have 20 ventilators. If more were needed, hospitals that need them could rent them, he says — at least for now. But if there's a surge of need in a particular community — patients with serious pneumonia from COVID-19 or pneumonia related to flu, for example — all hospitals in the area would be competing to rent from the same place. "So that's a very finite resource" he says.

The latest study available estimates there are about 62,000 ventilators in hospitals nationwide. That figure is seven years old — so the actual number could be higher.

There are also some machines in federally stockpiled emergency supplies, though the exact number isn't public.

"There is a strategic national stockpile of ventilators, but the numbers are classified," says Toner. It's been "publicly stated," he says, that there are about 10,000 ventilators in the national stockpile. "That number might be a bit outdated, but it's probably about right," he says. Other estimates range from 4,000 to somewhat less than 10,000.

At that point NPR linked to this highly pertinent and current - it's dated yesterday - report by the Society of Critical Care Medicine, U.S. ICU Resource Availability for COVID-19, which paints a much less dark picture.

First, look at Figure 1, the comparison of U.S. critical care beds to other countries. The United States has 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 inhabitants, significantly more per capita than anywhere else except Germany, which was second with 29.2. After that, the numbers drop off sharply. If you're in the UK or China - 6.6 and 3.6 per capita respectively - just hope you won't need a critical care bed.

The report gives comprehensive numbers for ventilators on hand and details of all aspects of employing them during an emergency, including the limits on our ability to absorb surge supplies due to the need for spare parts, disruptions in international supply lines, and the need for trained personnel to safely use ventilators.
Supply of mechanical ventilators in U.S. acute care hospitals: Based on a 2009 survey of AHA hospitals, U.S. acute care hospitals are estimated to own approximately 62,000 full-featured mechanical ventilators. Approximately 46% of these can be used to ventilate pediatric and neonatal patients. Additionally, some hospitals keep older models for emergency purposes. Older models, which are not full featured but may provide basic functions, add an additional 98,738 ventilators to the U.S. supply. The older devices include 22,976 noninvasive ventilators, 32,668 automatic resuscitators, and 8,567 continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) units.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and other ventilator sources: The SNS has an estimated 8,900 ventilators for emergency deployment. These devices are not full featured but offer basic ventilatory modes. Accessing the SNS requires hospital administrators to request that state health officials ask for access to this equipment. SNS can deliver ventilators within 24-36 hours of the federal decision to deploy them. States may have their own ventilator stockpiles as well. Respiratory therapy departments also rent ventilators from local companies, further expanding the supply. Additionally, many modern anesthesia machines are capable of ventilating patients and can be used to increase hospitals’ surge capacity.

The addition of older hospital ventilators, SNS ventilators, and anesthesia machines increases the absolute number of ventilators to possibly above 200,000 units.

I'll note that the absolute number of ventilators does not include U.S. military resources which may also be available, and which probably exceed the medical capabilities of most countries.

All in all, I was quite reassured to read that linked report.

As of today, the U.S. has had only 1,629 COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths (about half of which occurred at the same Kirkland, Washington, nursing home). That's only 5 cases per million of population. There were a little over 100,000 cases worldwide, most of them in only five countries, when WHO declared it a pandemic.

Of course, we and the rest of the world will have many more cases before the pandemic subsides. But let's not ignore the realities that the U.S. has had remarkably few cases in comparison to nearly every other country, that we are far better resourced than others to handle the most severely afflicted patients, and that our population is spread out over a large landmass that will make it feasible to surge more resources to the locations in greatest need as events dictate.

So get a grip. Stay away from large crowds, wash your hands often, and let's all hope that Tom Hanks recovers quickly.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Most Headshakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Warning: If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated with the Corona Virus." - Merrill, Wisconsin, Police Department

"Please take it to the Merrill Police Department and we will test it for free. If you're not comfortable going into an office setting, please request any officer and they'll test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word! We are here for you!”

Help Hillary Name Her Podcast

Yes, she's doing it, starting a podcast. Here's the news from Politico yesterday:
The yet-to-be-titled show will be co-produced by audio giant iHeartMedia, which produces original content such as Will Ferrell’s “The Ron Burgundy Podcast,” and, through iHeartRadio, is also a major distributor for the biggest names in conservative talk radio. They include a who’s who of right-wing commentators who have pilloried Clinton and her family over the years: Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Ben Shapiro, and Sean Hannity. The Joe Rogan Experience, whose host recently endorsed Bernie Sanders, is one of iHeartRadio’s most popular shows.

I'll be the first to subscribe to that. But, yet to be titled? We cannot allow that to stand. I don't know if Hillary is open to suggestions from the public, but these are mine.
  • The Mellifluous Voice of Hillary Diane Rodham (and Sometimes) Clinton
  • I Have No Recollection, but I Do Have This Podcast
  • How Come No One Names Their Kid “Hillary“ Anymore?
  • Bitter BlackBerries
  • HRC Interviews Some of the People Who Should Answer For What They Did to Me
  • HRC / DC
  • Hillary Unchained (Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose)
  • Uncorked, Self-Medicated, and Ready To Talk and Talk and Talk
  • Straight Outta' Chappaqua
  • I Coulda’ Been a Contender
  • I Coulda' Been Somebody
  • Instead of a Bum, Which is What I Am

A podcast like that is exactly what we need in these trying times. Nothing but great info and entertainment can possibly come out of this new HRC initiative.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Stripper who broke jaw in fall from pole may never twerk again - New York Post

"The Dallas stripper who broke her jaw in a 15-foot drop from a pole will likely never grace the stage again, sources close to her told TMZ ... Genea Sky’s fall from the pole at XTC Caberet Dallas on Monday has left her “scared to death” and contemplating leaving the industry, the sources told the gossip site."

"She’s also hoping to use her viral fame to improve the lives of other exotic dancers, but she’s not sure how best to go about it, according to the report."

Harry Dunn Case Attracts New Supporters, But No New Action

(Above, opposition leader Corbyn asks Prime Minister Johnson questions about the Harry Dunn case.)

Last Sunday the British press, claiming anonymous "multiple sources in both Washington and London" dropped the surprising - or maybe not - revelation that the American driver in the case was at one time employed by a three-letter agency of the USG. Surprisingly little media buzz followed.

I will note that claiming to have a source "in Washington" implies the source was a knowledgeable American official, while in fact it could have been a British official, or a journalist, or anyone, even a drunk in a bar, who was merely located in Washington. Anonymous sources support about one half of the local economy of Washington. If you pay any attention at all to the news media you may have a jaundiced view of how reliable such sources are.

That revelation about the American driver, whether it's true or false or something in the middle, makes no difference at all to the key fact of the case. As the UK Foreign Secretary had already explained to the House of Commons, and as he explained again this week in an email to the Dunn family, the driver was notified to the UK as the family member of an employee of the Administrative and Technical Staff of the U.S. Mission, and therefore she had diplomatic immunity to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK at the time of the fatal accident. What job she may have held in the past or present has no bearing on that.

Anonymous and unreliable sources nothwithstanding, the news of last Sunday brought the Dunn family two new allies on the political left: George Galloway, who in 2003 was expelled from the Labour Party for calling on Arabs to fight British troops, not to mention the diversion of six-figure money from the humanitarian Iraqi oil for food program to his wife and to his own private charity at a time when Galloway was campaigning to end UN sanctions on Iraq, and Jeremy Corbyn, the current Labour leader, who in the 2019 general election led Labour to a net loss of 60 seats, leaving it weaker than it has been since 1935.

Maybe it's just me, but those two don't sound like they have a lot of influence on either the Boris Johnson or Donald Trump administrations.

Although, there is one lovely bit of British wackiness about Corbyn that warms even my flinty heart. He is a "gridder," that is, he admirers drains and manhole covers, which evidently is a real thing in Britain.
For years, the nation’s devoted admirers of drains and manhole covers lacked a really high-profile representative. Not any more: Jeremy Corbyn’s bold admission that he likes to photograph drain covers, despite the fact that “people think it’s little odd”, has put drains and the people who love them in the spotlight.

We need a new word to describe that kind of thing, one that means 'something that sounds exactly like the premise of an old Monty Python skit but which is, however improbable, real.' How about Ministry-of-Silly-Walks-ian? [See this]

So, you may wonder, how did the Dunn family spokesman / ringmaster respond to Sunday's anonymous and unreliable revelation of a three-letter agency connection to the case? Well, he telephoned an anonymous "senior diplomat" in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and then wrote a press release about their frank exchange of views.

From the sound of it, the conversation did not go well from the spokesman's point of view.
"You stand with the US Govt in insisting that she had diplomatic immunity and thus have no issue with her freedom to leave the country, as she chose to do. The parents to this day do not understand how their own government, meant to be representing them in this matter, are taking the position that they are.

-- Snip --

You were not able to move matters on at all from your email. You said that you are unable to comment on anyone’s status as a spy or otherwise due to protocol. I made the point that it would have been better for the parents to have found out from the Foreign Secretary rather than a Sunday newspaper. His credibility as you know in the parents’ eyes was questionable and he failed in his duty of candour to them.

You reiterated that everything that can be done is being done to ensure we get Justice 4 Harry. These words are empty and are falling on deaf ears. The time for talk is over. We need to see what is being done.

The Foreign Secretary wishes to meet with the parents again. They will happily do so when you have given disclosure of all the documentation sought through the Judicial Review and the FOIA requests. No disrespect is intended and he will understand how the parents feel. We will hopefully hear from you positively in this respect. We will happily inspect those documents in a secure setting and undertake to keep them confidential, if that will help and then meet with him afterwards.

The parents are far from satisfied with the communication from Government to them and have no visibility as to what is being done. It has been several weeks now since the extradition request was rejected. We were told that all options were being reviewed. Where are we please?

The parents now require that meeting with the Prime Minister which he has so far managed to evade. Even Donald Trump saw these parents. It is a national embarrassment that Mr Johnson does not appear to wish to do so. Would you please reiterate that request. If he will not do so, will no10 please do us the courtesy of saying why instead of just ignoring the request. The parents are entitled to hear from the leader what he intends to do to bring Anne Sacoolas back and to keep the citizens safe from harm.

We request please a timetabled action plan to secure Anne Sacoolas’s return. The parents are completely in the dark and yet again the authorities are completely in breach of the victims code. They are not being supported and are not being kept informed. That is unforgivable and must be rectified without any further delay. I have copied in Janine Smith at the CPS in csse she is able to or wishes to rectify matters at her end.

If the Government are unable to secure her return, then they need to say so. Harry’s friends as you know will not accept being sitting ducks any longer. This government appears either unable or unwilling to protect them. They will therefore have to take matters into their own hands and the bases will have to close. They have demonstrated their ability to blockade those bases and those will only increase in frequency and intensity. Biker Groups are also planning on riding to the US embassy. It is remarkable that they are having to go to these lengths while the Government stands idly by.

-- Snip --

We request that one single cabinet member now be appointed as our main point of contact, Andrea Leadsom having been dumped from the cabinet without a replacement point of contact for us being appointed. Geoffrey Cox, who we were told was looking at the trial in absentia and Interpol Red Notice, is also gone. Does anyone intend to update us as to what is going on?

The family spokesman is a blowhard, but he has a certain legitimate complaint. The UK government seems to have gone into duck and cover mode lately and is avoiding making statements of hard truth, with the exception of their insistence on the American driver's protected diplomatic status. On that, at least, they have all along been willing to incur the family's tabloid-enabled wrath.

But when does this dance end? The family's demands are escalating and taking on an imperious tone. They demand meetings with the Prime Minister; they demand review of official documents as a precondition for meeting with the one cabinet Minister who is wiling to meet with them; they insist on a fictitious right by private citizens to change UK official understanding of international law and practice regarding diplomatic immunity; they insist on meetings with the USAF Commander at RAF Croughton and on being present when she meets with the Chief of Northants Police. They demand more and more. I wonder if President Trump didn't create a monster when he met the family in the Oval Office.

When does the UK government bite the bullet and tell the family the real bottom line? They can provide driver education for those American scofflaws at RAF Croughton and require local driver licencing. They can limit or end any existing arrangements on diplomatic immunity that apply to USG personnel at RAF Croughton or elsewhere. They can even try the American driver in absentia, providing a judge will play along by disregarding her diplomatic immunity.

But what they cannot do is force the driver to return to the UK. Neither can they change international law on diplomatic immunity, not unless they care to withdraw from the Vienna Convention and accept the consequent loss of immunity for UK diplomats abroad.

Six months on from the fatal accident, the UK government is apparently still waiting for the time to be ripe to tell the family those hard truths, but the Dunn family still isn't willing to hear them.

Unless the UK leadership plans to surrender to the family’s demands, at some point someone in authority will have to say directly to them “I’m sorry for your loss. The government has done all it can to bring the driver to trial in the UK, but international law makes her immune to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK unless her immunity is waived by the USG. And, as you know, the USG adamantly refuses to waive her immunity or agree to her extradition. We have thus exhausted all our options for a criminal trial. As a public matter, this is now at an end. I hope you will seek help in dealing with your personal grief, and I offer you any grief counseling assistance the government can provide.”