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Today, Friday, July 24, 2020, face coverings became mandatory in shops in England.

Early in the pandemic, Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, told Prime Minister Boris Johnson that masks were not necessary for the general population and could make people more vulnerable to COVID-19, because they would be adjusting them, thereby touching their faces, potentially spreading the virus. This video first appeared in March, if I remember rightly:

On Thursday, March 12, The Independent reported on what Dr Harries told BBC News (emphases mine):

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added …

Asked about their effectiveness, Dr Harries told BBC News: “What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned.

“Or they will be out and they haven’t washed their hands, they will have a cup of coffee somewhere, they half hook it off, they wipe something over it.

“In fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.”

Asked if people are putting themselves more at risk by wearing masks, Dr Harries added: “Because of these behavioural issues, people can adversely put themselves at more risk than less.”

However, she said those who are advised to wear one by healthcare workers should follow their guidance.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of the United Kingdom, gave testimony on COVID-19 last week. When asked about the apparent change on face covering advice, he said that, early on, it made no sense for people to wear masks during lockdown because no one was on the streets. He said that the advice had never changed: masks provided some benefit. Now that lockdown has been lifting, he explained, it makes sense for people to wear them.

Of course, earlier this year, there was also a worldwide mask shortage, so it could also be that officials discouraged the general public from buying them because medical staff needed them badly.

This happened not only in England, but also in other countries.

In the United States, Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams did an about-face on masks early in April. Since then, they have been mandatory in some states:

President Trump said the advice from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was only an advisory, yet the public wondered how such a change could have come about in so little time, only a matter of weeks:

The same change in advice occurred in Germany:

Yet, at that time, Good Morning Britain‘s long-time, trusted Dr Hilary Jones stated that masks were a no-no for the public, citing the same reasons as Dr Jenny Harries did. On April 28, Metro reported:

If there is one thing Hilary has been consistent on, it is that the general public do not need to wear a mask.

He has previously explained how the particles of coronavirus are so small, they can easily pass through the fibres of a mask or scarf, making them completely useless to the average person.

‘For healthy people who are doing their essential journey who are socially distancing, the use of masks is not effective,’ he recently told Piers Morgan.

‘Most masks have gaps in them to which the virus can drive a bus through. When you are inhaling in a mask the virus can come in.’

The GP added: ‘It can do harm if you do wear a mask, you adjust it, it gets itchy and moist – which means you are putting your hand to your face more often.

‘If the mask gets moist it traps the virus.’

A week later, Guido Fawkes reported that PPE items, including masks, were plentiful in Britain and available to medical as well as care home staff:

By the end of May, Good Morning Britain‘s Piers Morgan criticised London mayor Sadiq Khan for not mandating face coverings on the capital’s public transport. The policy at the time left the option open to passengers, putting more emphasis on social distancing.

In England, masks became mandatory on all public transport on June 15.

On June 6, some in the NHS criticised Health Secretary Matt Hancock for giving them only a week to get all hospital staff to wear masks. The Daily Mail reported that NHS England had been apprised of the new rules before Hancock made a public announcement:

The Department of Health and Social Care said NHS England had known Mr Hancock was going to make the announcement, adding that hospitals still had more than a week to prepare.

On Monday, July 20, in France, masks became mandatory in all indoor spaces as well as some outdoor venues. Fines start at €135. The original date was August 1, but that was brought forward.

This is what one French shopping mall looks like since the requirement came into force:

Some people have been wearing them in the street and inside commercial premises.

This is what one observer has noted, proving what Dr Harries said earlier this year:

Dr Rashid Buttar has posted several videos to YouTube on the dangers of healthy people wearing masks. This is a short but instructive clip from one of them:

On April 7, the BMJ featured an article which said that, while masks might make members of the public more comfortable psychologically, face coverings can also help to spread the virus.

Excerpts from statistician Karla Hemmings’s ‘Covid-19: What is the evidence for cloth masks?’ follow:

… the question of whether facemasks work is a question about whether they work in the real world, worn by real people, in real situations …

There is little doubt that masks works in controlled settings – they stop particulates penetrating the air [Leung 2020]. Facemasks also seem to prevent infection spreading when worn by people who are infected [Brainard 2020]. Yet, this doesn’t tell us if they will work in the real world …

Systematic review of facemasks vs no mask [Brainard 2020]

There are three RCTs identified in this review where people wore masks to try to prevent other people becoming infected (primary prevention). The authors of the review interpret the evidence from these three RCTs as a small non-significant effect on influenza like illness. But, this is an incorrect interpretation of the result (RR=0.95, 95% CI: 0.75 to 1.19) as this result is compatible with both benefit and harm. The evidence from these three trials should therefore be interpreted as uninformative (or consistent with either benefit or harm). There are observational studies in this review, but these do not allow us to answer the question of whether the masks provide protection as they will be subject to confounding. The largest of the three RCTs was a pragmatic cluster trial in pilgrims [Alfelali 2020]. This is a well conducted pragmatic cluster randomized trial with low risk of bias, but suffered from low compliance. This found OR 1.35, 95% CI 0.88-2.07 which although non-significant, is more suggestive of harm than benefit.

Conclusion: The largest and most pragmatic trial (which informs on how facemasks will perform in the real world) assessing the benefit of facemasks vs no mask is suggestive of more harm than benefit.

Evidence from trials comparing different sorts of facemasks
(This is not based on a systematic review, so there may be other evidence that I am unaware of) …

Conclusion: The evidence from pragmatic trials (people wearing masks in everyday settings) suggests wearing of facemasks both induces risk compensation behavior and increased virus spreading from poor mask quality.

England’s new rules on face coverings do not mandate actual masks. We can wear what we want, within reason.

I still believe all the advice from March and early April stated above.

Here — and no doubt elsewhere — this has been a political decision taken to get more people shopping and putting money into the economy and businesses.

On Tuesday, July 14, Matt Hancock made a statement in Parliament about mandatory face coverings, which included the following:

Local action is one way in which we can control the spread of the virus while minimising the economic and social costs. Another is to minimise the risk as we return more to normality. In recent weeks we have reopened retail and footfall is rising. We want to give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops. Both of those can be done by the use of face coverings. Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis. The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher among men and 60% higher among women than in the general population. As we restore shopping, so we must keep our shopkeepers safe.

There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop. The British Retail Consortium has said that, together with other social distancing measures, face coverings can

“make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the High Street.”

The chair of the Federation of Small Businesses has said:

“As mandatory face coverings are introduced, small firms know that they have a part to play in the nation’s recovery both physically and financially, and I’m sure this will welcomed by them.”

We have therefore come to the decision that face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets. Last month, we made face coverings mandatory on public transport and in NHS settings, and that has been successful in giving people more confidence to go on public transport and to a hospital setting when they need to, providing people with additional protection when they are not able to keep 2 metres from others, particularly people they do not normally come into contact with. Under the new rules, people who do not wear face coverings will face a fine of up to £100 in line with the sanction on public transport and, just as with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual. Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if people refuse to comply. The police have formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine. That is in line with how shops would normally manage their customers and enforcement is, of course, a last resort. We fully expect the public to comply with these rules, as they have done throughout the pandemic.

I want to give this message to everyone who has been making vital changes to their daily lives for the greater good. Wearing a face covering does not mean that we can ignore the other measures that have been so important in slowing the spread of this virus— washing our hands and following the rules on social distancing. Just as the British people have acted so selflessly throughout this pandemic, I have no doubt they will rise to this once more. As a nation, we have made huge strides in getting this virus, which has brought grief to so many, under control. We are not out of the woods yet, so let us all do our utmost to keep this virus cornered and enjoy our summer safely. I commend this statement to the House.

I agree that we need to stimulate the economy by shopping. I disagree that face coverings are the answer.

I also wonder about shop staff dying. I see the same smiling faces week after week in my local shops. I never heard anything on the BBC News about shopkeepers dying: it was front line medical staff and bus drivers.

This is purely a political decision. Purely political.

I had looked forward to visiting a garden centre. I now think I’ll shop online for the plant pots I’d planned to buy.

We have been told that our coronavirus lockdowns will not end until a vaccine has been successfully developed.

Meanwhile, in France, Professor Didier Raoult has been successfully using chloroquine, where suitable, on his COVID-19 patients at the IHU Méditerranée Infection facility, where he is the Director.

Professor Raoult is also a physician. A number of his fellow doctors oppose his use of an anti-malarial drug, which is cheap as chips, to treat this novel (new) coronavirus, said to have no known remedy, much less cure, at this time.

Raoult describes himself as a ‘renegade’ physician. Other doctors in France certainly agree. They doubt his claims. Now they want to suspend him from France’s national medical association, l’Ordre des Médecins (The Order of Physicians).

On Saturday, April 25, Geopolintel (French language, translated below) reported that the ANSM (French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety), INSERM (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and the biopharmaceutical drug company Gilead are out to get Raoult.

The article is an open letter to Raoult’s critics:

The Covid-19 crisis shows the destructive ideology of your policies as well as that of the health institutions of our country.

Given the sums of money involved, it takes any and all costs to transfer the professor from Marseille for the generalized vaccination agreement between Macron and Bill Gates to be realized.

Censors, you have lost public opinion and you cannot regain it by threatening Professor Raoult with suspension by the Order of Physicians.

He makes fun of your stories of cash and corruption, unlike you, he treats and does not bear responsibility for death by organized shortage.

What displeases you in him is his indifference to lobbies and sirens of glory and as a professor, researcher and doctor; he cares while you polish your the seats of your trousers on the leather armchairs of the circles of initiates who have done nothing in their lives other than lying and earning dirty money.

There have been major pharmaceutical scandals in France in recent years, yet the establishment is going after Raoult, who has provided patient relief in an inexpensive prescription anti-malarial drug available at pharmacies. The medical establishment has accused the professor of employing ‘illegal medical research protocols’:

Regarding the “illegal clinical research protocols” which are attributed to Didier Raoult, what about the scandals of the Pick (Médiator), Depakin and other drugs approved in the so-called respect for randomized trial protocols?

As for his possible suspension by the Order of Physicians:

The Council of the Order of Physicians threatens Professor Raoult with immediate suspension of activity, because his clinical trials “do not comply with official procedures”, and he risks up to a year in prison and 15,000 euros in fines.

Yet, President Macron visited Raoult in Marseille recently to find out more about the doctor’s success with his COVID-19 patients. About this, the article says:

As a reminder, Professor Raoult presented Emmanuel Macron with the results of his work on 1,061 patients.

Almost 92% of patients cured in ten days,
Nearly 5% of patients cured “late”
Less than 5% of “patients with complications”.
Or 31 patients hospitalized for more than ten days,
10 transferred to intensive care,
and 5 deaths. On 1061: do your accounts and compare to the rest of France…

The abstract and summary table of the data in our article on the treatment of 1061 patients are online!
The abstract and the summary table of our paper on the treatment of 1061 patients are online! https: //t.co/mTWj6aGpTk https: //t.co … pic.twitter.com/PLdygNolxG
– Didier Raoult (@raoult_didier) April 10, 2020

These are the full results of Raoult’s study:

The article concludes:

The first reaction of the simple man that I am, in the delusional French context that I observe from afar, is this: Raoult heals while the profession flounders. It has no response, no treatment, adding the humiliation of the mandarins to the resentment of the rascals. In short, Raoult must be suspended. It is urgent: he risks treating even more people.

Now, it must be said that chloroquine doesn’t work on everyone. Nor does a similar drug, hydroxychloroquine, often combined with azithromycin (which contains zinc), in COVID-19 treatment. The latter is the treatment that President Trump has been championing for weeks.

Both should be used with caution and under medical supervision. They can harm patients with certain types of heart ailments. Never self-medicate!

As is true in France, the American medical establishment is eager to pour cold water on Trump’s claims.

On April 16, 2020, MedRxiv published an abstract of one such study: ‘Outcomes of hydroxychloroquine usage in United States veterans hospitalized with Covid-19’, which ends as follows:

CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19. An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.

Yet, nearly half of America’s 50 states are stockpiling the drug, as Axios reported on April 25 (emphases in the original):

At least 22 states and Washington, D.C., are building up stores of the anti-malarial drug President Trump previously touted as a possible solution for the novel coronavirus, AP reports.

Why it matters: The Food and Drug Administration advised doctors Friday against prescribing hydroxychloroquine or the related drug chloroquine to coronavirus patients as it appears to be causing some serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

    • ‘The warning comes as doctors at a New York hospital published a report that heart rhythm abnormalities developed in most of 84 coronavirus patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, a combo Trump has promoted,” AP notes.

What they’re saying: “While clinical trials are ongoing to determine the safety and effectiveness of these drugs for COVID-19, there are known side effects of these medications that should be considered,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.

The state of play: Some health experts worry the public could misuse the drug if it is made more widely available.

The FDA has authorised use of hydroxychloroquine under the following conditions, summarised on page 4 of their guidelines:

The hydroxychloroquine sulfate may only be used to treat adult and adolescent patients who weigh 50 kg or more hospitalized with COVID-19 for whom a clinical trial is not available, or participation is not feasible.9

South Dakota is the first state to participate in a trial of the drug:

Kudos to their governor, Kristi Noem, who ignored calls for lockdown. South Dakotans rewarded her with a parade:

But I digress.

Health Feedback is a site that debunks current coronavirus remedies or possible cures. Another is Poynter. Both must be busy.

There has been much talk of using ventilators on ICU patients with COVID-19. However, in some cases, ventilators do not always work and, in some instances, have worsened patients’ outcomes.

On March 20, Cleveland Clinic published an explanation of the damage that COVID-19 can do to the lungs, leading to the need for intensive care and, likely, a ventilator. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

Although many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, a subset of patients develop severe respiratory illness and may need to be admitted for intensive care.

In a new video, lung pathologist Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, MD, lays out in detail how the lungs are affected in these severe cases. The 15-minute video walks through how COVID-19 causes a “dangerous and potentially fatal” condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) while providing stark images that underscore the severity of the damage that condition can cause to your lungs.

As Dr. Mukhopadhyay explains, Chinese researchers have linked COVID-19 to ARDS. Their study examined risk factors for 191 confirmed coronavirus patients who died while being treated in two hospitals in Wuhan, China.

The researchers found 50 of the 54 patients who died had developed ARDS while only nine of the 137 survivors had ARDS

If you have ARDS, you’ll have symptoms like sudden breathlessness, rapid breathing, dizziness, rapid heart rate and excessive sweating.

But the four main things doctors will look for are:

    • If you have an acute condition, symptoms that started within one week of what they call a “known clinical insult,” or new or worsening symptoms.
    • If your shortness of breath isn’t explained by heart failure or fluid overload.
    • Having low oxygen levels in your blood (severe hypoxia).
    • Both lungs appearing white and opaque (versus black) on chest X-rays (called bilateral lung opacities on chest imaging) …

There might have been other articles like this circulating recently, ones that mention hypoxia.

Hypoxia has been mentioned often in online discourse and in some online articles, such as one from April 5, posted on Medium, ‘Covid-19 had us all fooled, but now we might have finally found its secret’, written by a non-medic whose Medium account has since been deleted.

That article has appeared all over various fora over the past few weeks.

It does sound really plausible, even though Poynter and Health Feedback have both debunked it, which I’ll get to below.

Not being a medic or have anyone in the family who is, I’m just going to throw these excerpts out there.

As such, I wonder if this is accurate, i.e. something that front line physicians will mention a year from now. Anyone with a medical background reading this should feel free to leave a comment below.

The author explains why ventilators don’t always work on COVID-19 patients. This is what caught my eye:

There is no ‘pneumonia’ nor ARDS. At least not the ARDS with established treatment protocols and procedures we’re familiar with. Ventilators are not only the wrong solution, but high pressure intubation can actually wind up causing more damage than without, not to mention complications from tracheal scarring and ulcers given the duration of intubation often required… They may still have a use in the immediate future for patients too far to bring back with this newfound knowledge, but moving forward a new treatment protocol needs to be established so we stop treating patients for the wrong disease.

Then the author quotes someone in the medical profession who published a paper that seems to have gone nowhere (see below). Unfortunately, there is no reference to what or whom he quotes, which is this:

The past 48 hours or so have seen a huge revelation: COVID-19 causes prolonged and progressive hypoxia (starving your body of oxygen) by binding to the heme groups in hemoglobin in your red blood cells. People are simply desaturating (losing o2 in their blood), and that’s what eventually leads to organ failures that kill them, not any form of ARDS or pneumonia. All the damage to the lungs you see in CT scans are from the release of oxidative iron from the hemes, this overwhelms the natural defenses against pulmonary oxidative stress and causes that nice, always-bilateral ground glass opacity in the lungs. Patients returning for re-hospitalization days or weeks after recovery suffering from apparent delayed post-hypoxic leukoencephalopathy strengthen the notion COVID-19 patients are suffering from hypoxia despite no signs of respiratory ‘tire out’ or fatigue.

I only found the Medium article last week, but I have many COVID-19 links bookmarked, including this one from April 10:

The article is behind a paywall, but you can read it here in its entirety. The doctors the Telegraph interviewed seem to be saying the same as the Medium author does: no ARDS, no pneumonia, therefore, no ventilator, which can do more harm than good:

British and American intensive care doctors at the front line of the coronavirus crisis are starting to question the aggressive use of ventilators for the treatment of patients.

In many cases they say the machines, which are highly invasive and require the patient to be rendered unconscious, are being used too early and may cause more harm than good. Instead they are finding that less invasive forms of oxygen treatment through face masks or nasal cannulas work better for patients, even those with very low blood oxygen readings.

Dr Ron Daniels, a consultant in critical care at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, on Thursday confirmed reports from US medics that he and other NHS doctors were revising their view of when ventilators should be used.

At the heart of the issue was the “bizarre” and “frankly baffling” phenomenon of Covid-19 patients presenting with catastrophically low blood oxygen levels but few other ill effects.

The Telegraph says that this new protocol goes against prior received wisdom on the unknown COVID-19. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been in intensive care that week, released back to a general ward on the evening of Maundy Thursday, April 9:

The initial recommendations from doctors in China and Italy were to ventilate Covid patients early and aggressively, with the so-called “PEEP” pressure on the machines turned up high so their lungs did not contract when they exhaled.

The initial message was treat as if you were treating for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with a high PEEP,” said Daniels. “But now we are becoming braver. We are tolerating much lower blood oxygen levels and using lower pressures. We are learning as we go along”.

The alternative to mechanical ventilation is oxygen treatment delivered via a mask or a nasal cannula or via a non-invasive high flow device. This is the sort of treatment the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be receiving in an intensive care unit at St Thomas’s hospital London. His blood oxygen levels are not known.

Increasingly doctors in the UK, America and Europe are using these less invasive measures and holding back on the use of mechanical ventilation for as long as possible

Doctors in Italy and Germany wrote to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine last week making a similar point. They urged other doctors to be “patient” with Covid patients, arguing for “gentle ventilation” wherever possible

It is not known why Covid-19 allows some patients to tolerate such low blood oxygen readings without air hunger or obvious confusion. One clue may be that patients are still able to exhale carbon dioxide – a toxin – through their lungs even if they are having difficulty absorbing oxygen.

“The patients in front of me are unlike any I’ve ever seen,” one American doctor working in a Brooklyn hospital told the specialist health publication STAT this week. “They looked a lot more like they had altitude sickness than pneumonia.”

Dr Daniels agreed that there were similarities with altitude sickness, itself a potentially fatal condition. “We’ve seen a lot of headache and dizziness”, he noted …

You might have heard of Drs Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, whose two-part press briefing in California was removed last week from YouTube. The two went against the received wisdom of the WHO. I watched both videos when they came out at the beginning of April. In the second video, they warned against the aggressive use of ventilators when treating COVID-19.

Therefore, the Medium article might not be either wrong or fake news with regard to ventilators.

It has an explanation of what might be happening whereby blood gets starved of oxygen through COVID-19, and it is this which has proven to be controversial with physicians:

Your red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all your organs and the rest of your body. Red blood cells can do this thanks to hemoglobin, which is a protein consisting of four “hemes”. Hemes have a special kind of iron ion, which is normally quite toxic in its free form, locked away in its center with a porphyrin acting as it’s ‘container’. In this way, the iron ion can be ‘caged’ and carried around safely by the hemoglobin, but used to bind to oxygen when it gets to your lungs.

When the red blood cell gets to the alveoli, or the little sacs in your lungs where all the gas exchange happens, that special little iron ion can flip between FE2+ and FE3+ states with electron exchange and bond to some oxygen, then it goes off on its little merry way to deliver o2 elsewhere.

Here’s where COVID-19 comes in. Its glycoproteins bond to the heme, and in doing so that special and toxic oxidative iron ion is “disassociated” (released). It’s basically let out of the cage and now freely roaming around on its own. This is bad for two reasons:

1) Without the iron ion, hemoglobin can no longer bind to oxygen. Once all the hemoglobin is impaired, the red blood cell is essentially turned into a Freightliner truck cab with no trailer and no ability to store its cargo. It is useless and just running around with COVID-19 virus attached to its porphyrin. All these useless trucks running around not delivering oxygen is what starts to lead to desaturation, or watching the patient’s spo2 levels drop. It is INCORRECT to assume traditional ARDS and in doing so, you’re treating the WRONG DISEASE. Think of it a lot like carbon monoxide poisoning, in which CO is bound to the hemoglobin, making it unable to carry oxygen. In those cases, ventilators aren’t treating the root cause; the patient’s lungs aren’t ‘tiring out’, they’re pumping just fine. The red blood cells just can’t carry o2, end of story. Only in this case, unlike CO poisoning in which eventually the CO can break off, the affected hemoglobin is permanently stripped of its ability to carry o2 because it has lost its iron ion. The body compensates for this lack of o2 carrying capacity and deliveries by having your kidneys release hormones like erythropoietin, which tell your bone marrow factories to ramp up production on new red blood cells with freshly made and fully functioning hemoglobin. This is the reason you find elevated hemoglobin and decreased blood oxygen saturation as one of the 3 primary indicators of whether the shit is about to hit the fan for a particular patient or not.

2) That little iron ion, along with millions of its friends released from other hemes, are now floating through your blood freely. As I mentioned before, this type of iron ion is highly reactive and causes oxidative damage. It turns out that this happens to a limited extent naturally in our bodies and we have cleanup & defense mechanisms to keep the balance. The lungs, in particular, have 3 primary defenses to maintain “iron homeostasis”, 2 of which are in the alveoli, those little sacs in your lungs we talked about earlier. The first of the two are little macrophages that roam around and scavenge up any free radicals like this oxidative iron. The second is a lining on the walls (called the epithelial surface) which has a thin layer of fluid packed with high levels of antioxidant molecules… things like ascorbic acid (AKA Vitamin C) among others. Well, this is usually good enough for naturally occurring rogue iron ions but with COVID-19 running rampant your body is now basically like a progressive state letting out all the prisoners out of the prisonsit’s just too much iron and it begins to overwhelm your lungs’ countermeasures, and thus begins the process of pulmonary oxidative stress. This leads to damage and inflammation, which leads to all that nasty stuff and damage you see in CT scans of COVID-19 patient lungs. Ever noticed how it’s always bilateral? (both lungs at the same time) Pneumonia rarely ever does that, but COVID-19 does… EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Poynter says this is clearly wrong:

The claim that COVID-19 causes hypoxia because the causative virus binds to hemoglobin in red blood cells is unsupported. For starters, no scientific evidence demonstrates that SARS-CoV-2 can enter red blood cells. The claim that the virus binds to hemoglobin is founded on the conclusions of a single pre-print, which solely involves computational analysis, without experimental verification or peer-review. The mechanism proposed is also inconsistent with clinical evidence from COVID-19 patients.

Health Feedback posted their refutation on Wednesday, April 15. It is lengthy and thorough. Excerpts follow:

Scientists told Health Feedback that the claim was not supported by experimental and clinical evidence. “There is no direct biological evidence that SARS-CoV-2 proteins interact with hemoglobin. The claim is based on a single study performed purely in silico without proper wet lab validation,” explained Victor Tseng, pulmonologist and assistant professor of medicine at Emory University. Eva Nozik-Grayck, clinician-scientist and critical care specialist at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, stated that “without any experimental evidence, it is dangerous and misleading to make these claims.”

David Irwin, associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, who studies hemoglobin and hypoxia, questioned the conclusions of the ChemRxiv pre-print that served as the basis for the claim. “The authors show no convincing data to suggest that the [viral] proteins of interest, such as Orf8, etc., actually bind heme other than in modeling theories. Most troubling is that there is no way that we know of to suggest that the virus accesses hemoglobin in red blood cells to attack the heme as described in the manuscript,” he said.

A Medium article authored by Matthew Amdahl, a clinician-scientist and hemoglobin researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, details the numerous problems with [Medium author] Gaiziunas’ hypothesis. Notably, he pointed out that SARS-CoV-2 is larger than the entire hemoglobin protein, but according to Gaiziunas’ hypothesis, would somehow manage to fit into “a space barely large enough for two-atom molecules like oxygen (O2)” in order to eject iron from hemoglobin and bind to porphyrin:

To put it charitably, this would be an entirely novel and seemingly impossible sort of chemistry, and there is absolutely no scientific evidence that supports such a possibility. It’s this seemingly impossible interaction that forms the foundation of the blog post’s entire argument, and so the remainder of the conclusions drawn by the blogger simply don’t carry any weight.

Furthermore, clinical evidence from COVID-19 patients contradict Gaiziunas’ hypothesis. Firstly, supposing that the virus did bind to hemoglobin and ejected iron from red blood cells, this would have produced a modified form of hemoglobin that has an altered ability to bind to oxygen, which can be detected by measuring the oxyhemoglobin dissociation constant

In summary, while scientists have not ruled out a potential link between changes in red blood cell physiology and hypoxia observed in COVID-19 patients, the mechanisms proposed by Gaiziunas are founded on little to no scientific evidence, are highly implausible given what we already know of hemoglobin and the virus, and are contradicted by clinical evidence in COVID-19 patients.

We might find out more about hypoxia in COVID-19 patients in a year’s time.

For now, I can’t help but wonder if this type of hypoxia explains why hospitals have been refusing more ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

In the meantime, returning to Prof Didier Raoult, it seems that renegades are never in vogue with the establishment.

More power to him for successfully trialling on his coronavirus patients an inexpensive, prescription anti-malarial that has been on the market for decades. Well done. Millions of us support him in his work.

Yesterday’s post was about the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a historic and happy occasion, to put it mildly.

However, while reunification has not been easy, the relationship between the western and eastern regions of Germany has been a historically uneasy one in some ways.

James Hawes, the author of The Shortest History of Germany, on sale in 20 different countries, wrote a short but information-packed article for UnHerd: ‘It wasn’t the Berlin Wall that divided Germany’. It is well worth reading. Even though I took World History in school, there is much here about Germany that I did not know.

A summary with excerpts follows. Emphases mine.

In the Middle Ages, as the Church was gaining adherents in the western half of what we know as Germany, the eastern half was comprised of pagan tribes. The river Elbe was the demarcation line between these two groups of people:

While early medieval western Europe was developing its unique signature, the power-sharing of international Church and national-state, the lands beyond the river Elbe were still populated by pagan, illiterate tribes. No real attempt was made to exert German control and settlement beyond that point until 1147; Cologne had already been a flourishing western European city for 1,200 years when the first German conqueror-farmers reached Berlin.

… East of the Elbe, the Germans never entirely supplanted the Slavs (some, the Sorbs, remain even in the truncated eastern Germany of today, just north of Dresden).

Hence the importance of subsequent Prussian rule and influence over the East:

The Germans of the east came to accept rule by a caste of warlords — the famous Prussian Junkers — and, later, the new Lutheran paradigm of a state which controlled its very own Church and against which there was hence no appeal.

Not for nothing did Friedrich Hayek see Prussia as the template for all modern totalitarian states, whether of the Left or of the Right. Max Weber constantly referred to a place he called Ostelbien, East Elbia, palpably different, for all its local variation, to ciselbian, western Germany.

Once suffrage was granted, voting patterns were very different between these two regions:

Of course, psychologists, philosophers and sociologists can all be wrong and often are. Electoral maps, however, do not lie. They show that ever since Germans have had votes, eastern Germans have voted very differently from western Germans.

Under the German Empire (1871-1918), the Prussian Conservatives — conservative in this context meaning supporters of royal and militarist rule under an agrarian Junker elite — depended almost completely on votes from the East, having scarcely any traction at all in the West.

The First World War changed nothing. In the first normal elections of the Weimar Republic, the extreme Prussian conservatives of the DNVP (officially anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, violently antidemocratic, their members implicated in several high-profile political murders) were the second largest party nationally but — exactly as with the AfD today — that position was entirely dependent on votes from the East.

And when the deluge finally came in 1933 it was, again, only thanks to heavy votes in the East that Hitler got 43.9% nationally, enabling him (with support from the rump DNVP) to seize power by semi-constitutional means. If the whole country had voted like the Rhineland or Munich, he could only have attempted an armed coup, which the Army would have crushed.

Such patterns have continued to the present day, with nationalist and populist parties more popular in the east than the west.

Further disparity has resulted economically, from the western regions propping those up on the east:

well over €2 trillion has been pumped from Western taxpayers to the East. The so-called Reunification has dragged West Germany back into the role which Bismarck assigned it: to subsidise the economically moribund East because it is their patriotic duty.

Western German voters, rather sick of this, are more and more wary of keeping up this settlement, on top of their traditional role as paymasters of the stable Europe from which German industry benefits so greatly. Yet the Prussian myth of “reunification” has trumped economic reality, which goes to show something we in Britain should know all too well: that there is nothing worse for a country than to misunderstand its own history …

The founder of West Germany, Conrad Adenauer, knew his history. After the First World War he begged the French and British to help him split Prussia off from Germany. When he had to visit Berlin, he would always draw the curtains of his train compartment as he crossed the fatal River Elbe, muttering “Here we go, Asia again!” (“Schon wieder Asien!”) After the second war, though obliged in public to support re-unification, he told the British most secretly that he was determined it should never happen.

To top it all off, both sides of Germany also have a different opinion on the EU, a further source of friction, according to German journalist Sabine Beppler-Spahl in ‘After the Berlin Wall: whither democracy’:

Sabine Beppler-Spahl explains that the calls for reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall were as surprising as the fall of the Wall itself in 1989. The GDR was the German Democratic Republic — East Germany:

It is true that the first banners demanding reunification only appeared after the wall fell, and the GDR had all but collapsed. But that was because of the great dangers involved in demanding reunification in the GDR while it still existed. Hence the original protest slogan was ‘Wir sind das Volk’ (‘We are the people), which was directed at the GDR’s Stalinist government. But from mid-November onwards, it changed to ‘Wir sind ein Volk’ (‘We are one people’), which was directed at the establishment in the West. Soon calls for reunification became so powerful that they could no longer be ignored.

In calling for reunification, people were demanding rights that had been withheld for decades. These included an end to the command economy, with all its hardships, and above all, democracy. When the first free elections were held in March 1990, an impressive 93.4 per cent of the population in the old East took part – which remains the highest ever turnout in any free election in Germany. East Germans didn’t need to be convinced of the virtues of civil liberty and democracy. That’s because, as political scientist Robert Rohrschneider put it in 1999, they knew what it meant to live in an authoritarian system (1).

One of the most amazing aspects of 1989 was that, across Europe, few in power expected it. ‘Of course we said that we believed in reunification, because we knew that it would never happen’, said former UK prime minister Edward Heath in 1989. When reunification did appear on the popular agenda, it became apparent how large and diverse the opposition to it was. It included the most unlikely of allies, from prominent former East German civil-rights activists (2) and the West German SPD and Green Party, to many Western European heads of state.

The Greens were against reunification and wanted reform of the GDR instead:

Several former East German dissidents, like Bärbel Bohley, campaigned for reform of the GDR system. She and others identified with the environmentalist and anti-consumerist rhetoric of the West German Green Party, which was very successful during the 1980s. The Greens, like large sections of the West German Social Democrats and others, identified with Stalinism more than they liked to admit. They were turned off by the sight of so many people demanding democracy and an end to the command economy. So they became supporters of the status quo. ‘We were anti-nationalists’, explained former Green Party leader Ralf Fücks in 2015.

That should tell you something about why opponents to the Greens call them the ‘watermelon party’ — green on the outside, red on the inside.

That said, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time, also opposed reunification. So did France’s Socialist president, François Mitterand:

Outside of Germany, the speed and turn of events also prompted apprehension. On 28 November, [Chancellor Helmut] Kohl presented his ’10-point programme for the formation of a contractual community’ (effectively, a plan for German reunification). The then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who had made no secret of her hostility to reunification, quickly demanded that any talk of a united Germany should be postponed for at least five to 10 years (3). French president François Mitterrand informed a group of journalists that he considered German reunification a ‘legal and political impossibility’. A reunited Germany ‘as an independent, uncontrolled power was unbearable for Europe’, he concluded.

The then-US president George HW Bush — Bush I — was Chancellor Kohl’s greatest ally:

With Western Europe’s most powerful states opposed to reunification, Kohl’s most reliable ally became US president George HW Bush. As journalist Elizabeth Pond wrote, the US played a decisive role in reversing the resistance of the British and French. There was, however, one condition placed on German reunification – it was to take place within the European Community.

Although reunification took place on October 3, 1990, it did not happen overnight. The terms of the controversial Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992, were the only way France would agree to a formally reunified Germany:

The most far-reaching part of Maastricht – and the most contested within Germany itself – was the decision to create a monetary union, with a common currency, namely, the Euro. According to historians Andreas Rödder and Heinrich August Winkler, Kohl accepted that a reunified Germany would have to enter a monetary union in order to win support for reunification from France. It was a concession that came at a price for the French, too. It meant the French state was also to be bound to the fiscal rules and regulations of the EU. As French political scientist Anne-Marie Le Goannec explains in L’Allemagne Après la Guerre Froide, it was France’s admiration for the ‘German Model’ that helped Kohl push through the fiscal rules of the EU. Maastricht, however, was unpopular from the start. And in a referendum held in France in September 1992, only 50.8 per cent voted in favour of it.

Whereas the French public were consulted over Maastricht, the Germans had no say:

Maastricht was also unpopular in Germany. Unlike the French electorate, however, the German electorate was never consulted. The absence of any public vote was compounded by the weakness of the opposition SPD, which had never recovered from its position on reunification. It meant that Kohl’s government was given a free hand to reunify Germany as a part of the European Union.

Although most Germans approved of Maastricht when Kohl’s government ratified it, by the mid-1990s, sentiment had changed dramatically:

Admittedly, support for a united Europe had been high in the early 1990s, especially in the former GDR, where over 85 per cent were in favour, compared with 70 per cent in the former West. By 1996, however, support had dropped to 35 per cent in the east and 40 per cent in the west (4). Christopher J Andersen, a professor of political science at New York State University, attributes the sharp drop-off in enthusiasm for the EU to the job losses and economic problems that plagued the former East German economy (5).

In brief, reunification under EU rules brought about years of change that no one had expected:

It wasn’t just the abolition of the well-loved Deutsche Mark, pushed through by Kohl, which annoyed so many Germans. Other deeply unpopular policy measures, which would probably have been rejected by the electorate, if they’d ever been asked, included: the expansion of the EU; the free movement of cheap labour from impoverished eastern Europe (leading to wage depression); the German military intervention in the Yugoslav war; the handling of the Greek debt crisis; and the temporary loss of control over borders. Again and again the structures of the EU have allowed different German governments to ignore the opinions of the electorate and pursue unpopular policies.

This year, the East has shown that it sees reunification differently to the West and is reacting against the EU:

The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party has led three successful election campaigns in the former East German states of Brandenburg and Saxony (in September 2019) and Thuringia (October 2019), using the slogan, ‘Vollende die Wende’ (‘complete reunification’). The slogan was widely criticised in the media. ‘People are told to go back on to the streets, like they did in 1989, and bring the system down’, said one journalist on a programme entitled How the AfD has appropriated reunification. Elsewhere, an open letter, written by a group of former GDR civil-rights activists, accused the AfD of ‘historical lies’. But the AfD can also point to several former dissidents who sympathise with it. And so the battle over the meaning of 1989, which is simultaneously about today’s politics, is set to continue.

No doubt some Germans living in the East would agree with another article from UnHerd, ’10 things I hate about Germany’, which discusses various economic and political policies from Angela Merkel. EU-loving Britons point to Germany as the be-all and end-all, the role model to which we must look up. Ultimately:

the Germans may be no worse than we are, but they’re certainly no better.

I could not agree more.

Germany is a great place to visit. The German people I’ve met have been courteous and friendly. The architecture is fabulous. Shopping is excellent.

However, no EU nation is a be-all and end-all — not under Brussels and the Maastricht system.

Were you around when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989?

I remember it. What an exciting time it was, too, even for those of us watching events unfold on television news.

This short video from Germany’s Federal Foreign Office explains its history from 1961 to 1989:

Professional photographer Tom Stoddart was fortunate to track down a brother and sister whose photo he took on November 9, 1989. Amazing:

Here is another Tom Stoddart image of the fall of the Wall:

The following video from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office features two British diplomats serving in Berlin at the time. One explains that they had diplomatic passports to allow them into the East, but, even then, the Stasi had their eyes on them the entire time. Families could not travel together from West Berlin to see other family members in East Berlin. Only one family member could go from West to East for visits. Of course, there was no traffic by East Berliners to the West, which explains the mix of anger and joy that people from East Berlin felt once the barrier came down:

I was unaware that people dug tunnels under the Wall in order to escape from East to West:

East-West passport control was risky, especially for those who had escaped:

This is an excellent ‘before and after’ photo, followed by one of Checkpoint Charlie:

Here is a photo of one of the many men who chipped away at the Wall:

Once it came down, yes, we thought the hankering for left-wing politics would end. Unfortunately, we were wrong:

This has implications for the UK’s upcoming general election on December 12:

And, if we look at Venezuela, Marxist politicians and their rich friends are thriving when everyone else is attempting to survive:

But I digress.

Now to conclude on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, which took place on October 3, 1990. It hasn’t been easy for either side to reunite economically. What was East Germany still suffers as the western half continues to attract new business investment. This brief report from a German business channel with English subtitles explains the situation:

However, at least personal freedom continues to flourish in a reunited Germany.

To mark that freedom, one upon which President Ronald Reagan insisted at the time, the American Embassy in Germany unveiled a statue in his honour last week. It is sad that people in Berlin did not want it accessible to the general public. Reagan was a huge influence in the fall of the Wall:

On a seasonal note, Germany’s Christmas markets are open, including those in Leipzig and Dresden, once again flourishing cities after decades of communist rule:

We should be grateful for the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago.

May such a division and an oppressive political regime never be repeated. Pray that North Korea will be reunified with its southern neighbour.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be visiting our European neighbours this week before the G7 conference in Biarritz:

Reuters reports (emphases mine):

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Westminster parliament cannot stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one.

In his first trip abroad as leader, Johnson is due to meet his European counterparts ahead of a G7 summit on Aug. 24-26 in Biarritz, France.

He will say that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, and that the British parliament cannot block that, according to a Downing Street source.

Despite Parliament’s summer recess, Remain MPs have been in various discussions as to how to stop our leaving, deal or no deal, on October 31:

It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the British parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 – likely to be the United Kingdom’s most significant move since World War Two.

Sky News reports that No. 10 says Brexit will be but a small part of Boris’s discussions with France and Germany:

… Number 10 said it expects there to be “very little discussion” of Brexit during the visit to Berlin on Wednesday and Paris on Thursday, with other topics to be the focus.

Discussions are expected to centre around the next G7 summit in Biarritz, France, next weekend, with trade, foreign policy, security and the environment set to be on the table.

Number 10 said Mr Johnson would discuss issues such as climate change with his fellow leaders, adding: “The EU are our closest neighbours and whatever happens we want a strong relationship after we leave.”

Thanks to Boris’s leadership thus far, the Conservative Party once again leads in the polls:

British voters believe that Boris would make the best PM:

Nevertheless, Labour MPs think they can overturn triggering of Article 50. Whether this can be done is of some debate:

The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, is supposed to be impartial, yet, he, too, is said to be plotting against No Deal:

Boris’s government tied up one loose end at the weekend:

This was something Theresa May was supposed to instruct Stephen Barclay (pictured) to do — but didn’t:

There were two significant leaks in the past few days.

One was Boris’s Brexit ‘script’, left behind in a London pub, allegedly by a civil servant. Tell me this was not deliberate:

The other was a copy of Operation Yellowhammer, which contains all the worst case scenarios in case of No Deal:

The Sunday Times made this look like news, but Yellowhammer first surfaced on Wednesday, March 20 in preparation for our original March 29 exit date.

That day, the Express reported:

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Cabinet ministers in a letter the plan will be implemented on March 25 unless a new exit date is agreed. Operation Yellowhammer is the UK Treasury’s contingency plan for no deal exit from the bloc. The plan drafts what would happen for factors such as money, citizens, trade and customs.

According to the Daily Telegraph, if no date is set by Monday Operation Yellowhammer will be implemented.

In a letter to Cabinet ministers, Mr Barclay wrote: “Operation Yellowhammer command and control structures will be enacted fully on 25 March unless a new exit date has been agreed between the UK and the EU.”

The Guardian‘s story, also published that day, had more information:

With the country placed on a knife-edge by Theresa May’s latest Brexit crisis, the government is preparing for “any outcome” with a decision on Monday on whether to roll out the national Operation Yellowhammer contingencies for food, medicine and banking.

Some measures have already swung into place, including Operation Fennel’s traffic management in Kent.

The Europe minister, Alan Duncan, has also said the Foreign Office staff deployed to its Brexit “nerve centre” are working to help UK citizens in the EU in the event they get caught up in a Brexit mess.

The Department of Health was due to activate emergency supply chain operations, with instructions to medicines suppliers to book space on ferries to ensure they are not caught up in queues from next weekend in the event of no-deal.

They are just two of the 12 Operation Yellowhammer areas of risk the government has planned for in the event of a crash-out, according to a National Audit Office report [pdf]. It will decide next Monday if they should all become operational, enacting no-deal plans in 30 central government departments and 42 local councils, two devolved governments and in Northern Ireland.

Yellowhammer also had measures in place for Gibraltar. Fortunately, the government there was quick to point out that Yellowhammer as published is now out of date:

Interestingly, the week before, the island’s government reminded residents to prepare for a No Deal Brexit:

But I digress.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, tweeted:

Sky News had more about Gove’s explanation:

Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times tweeted:

Boris is also displeased with Theresa May’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has been predicting all manner of Project Fear disasters if No Deal comes about on October 31:

However, Germany had an important leak of its own at the same time as Yellowhammer resurfaced in the UK:

Good. I was also heartened to see the view of Boris from Berlin:

Absolutely correct.

I wish Boris Johnson all the best in his meetings this week with our European partners.

Of course, the EU will do everything possible to keep the UK’s money coming in. It looks as if this will be until the end of the year.

As I write in the middle of the afternoon, this is the current status of Brexit with regard to an EU extension.

On Monday night, Yvette Cooper’s Bill No. 5 passed the House, preventing No Deal from the British side. PM Theresa May must now seek a further extension date with the EU to at least June 30, but probably longer:

Today’s parliamentary debates involved discussing an extension until June 30, possibly longer. Talks also continued between Conservatives and Labour to arrive at a way forward for Brexit conditions.

EU leaders meet on Wednesday, April 10, to discuss whether to grant the UK another Article 50 extension. Currently, the deadline is Friday, April 12, however, this is likely to be extended.

Meanwhile, MPs advocating a No Deal on Friday are being realistic. Germany already has proposals for No Deal deals with Britain in that event:

In any event, PM May went to Berlin and Paris to propose a new extension date with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, respectively.

This morning, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire did not think that there was any rationale for a further extension without solid justification. The Guardian reported that he said:

There is need for clarity on why the delay and how it will in the end facilitate an agreement.

I prefer an agreement. But Theresa May should give us the reasons why she wants the delay and these reasons must be credible.

EU ministers were meeting in Luxembourg today, where Brexit was on the agenda ahead of tomorrow’s summit. Germany’s Michael Roth, France’s Amelie de Montchalin and Ireland’s Simon Coveney all expressed their frustration and hoped that May had a decent justification for a further extension.

After the EU ministers met, they held a press conference. George Ciamba, the Romanian foreign affairs minister, said that No Deal was still a possibility. He said that May’s plan — the Withdrawal Agreement (a treaty) — was the only way forward in terms of exiting the EU. Michel Barnier, the UK’s chief negotiator from the EU, said that a long extension — e.g. until the end of the year — might be reliant on the addition of customs union membership to the Political Declaration accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement. UGH! He affirmed that the EU does not want No Deal.

He also said that the current Withdrawal Agreement was final — no further negotiations on the Irish border:

Just before lunchtime, PM May arrived in Berlin to meet with Chancellor Merkel.

While they greeted each other and posed for a photo op, Conservative MP Liam Fox, Britain’s international trade secretary issued a letter firmly stating his opposition to a customs union. He is entirely correct:

It is thought that French president Emmanuel Macron could say on Wednesday that the UK will not be granted an extension beyond December 31 and that three-monthly compliance checks on Britain’s progress might be obligatory.

More to follow tomorrow.

On Friday, March 29, 2019, Britain is — or was — supposed to leave the European Union.

That date has now been extended to April 12 and possibly further, should Parliament agree to participate in EU elections this summer.

It was not supposed to end like this. Brexit was supposed to happen by March 29, as Prime Minister Theresa May had pledged it would.

My personal suspicion is that Remainer MPs have been running down the clock for months so that the PM would be forced to go to Brussels to get an extension from the EU.

This week, anything could happen. It is doubtful a third vote on the PM’s deal — a softer Brexit — will pass. It is also unknown whether we will see a no deal exit, even though I’d be quite happy with that:

This week, we will see all sorts of Remainer MP amendments which Remainer Speaker of the House John Bercow will table for a vote.

It should be noted that the Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, was in Brussels on Thursday, April 22, at the same time as Theresa May. Hmm. What will he be announcing this week?

What follows are possible routes Brexit negotiations could take.

Incidentally, I wrote this on Friday, March 22, based on available information at the time.

The reason for a possible Brexit delay

As you read the rest of this post, it is important to keep in mind the figures on this graphic from Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset and member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG). The important item is the last one, visible only if you click on the image:

From that last item, you can see that the overwhelming majority of MPs are Remainers.

Extension dates

As it stands, the PM walked away from her discussion in Brussels with an immediate extension to Friday, April 12:

However, if she gets momentum with Parliament on a way forward, that could be extended to May 22:

This is a good summary:

There is also the possibility that, if Parliament decided to go down a route whereby the UK could get an even longer extension, then we would take part in EU elections. Personally, I hope this does not happen.

The following comments from a thread at PoliticalBetting.com explain more. MV3 — Meaningful Vote 3 — is the third vote MPs will have on Theresa May’s exit plan on Tuesday, March 26. HOC is House of Commons:

F: … the need for an enabling bill for the Euro elections is why the date is April 12th. It is a prerequesite for a longer extension. If MV3 fails then voting against a Euro elections bill means voting for No Deal.

B: I am so pleased we are on the same page Foxy

It has been a battle over the last few days and this morning especially, to explain the 12th April was selected by the EU as it is the last date before the campaign for the EU elections and we have to take part if we want an extension of any kind

It is up to the HOC, but I am truly dismayed at how journalists, media and politicians are not explaining this in detail, as it was one of the most important issues coming from the EU

Also:

P: But according to Wiki at least the repeal of the European Elections Act hasn’t been enacted yet. Therefore if we wish to hold elections we can presumably do so under the old act that is still legally current legislation. We just need to commit to do so as the law is still on the books. 

Political parties are preparing to take part in EU elections, as is top Leave campaigner, Nigel Farage, MEP and former UKIP leader:

Possible MV3 result

In order for MV3 to take place, PM May must amend her deal.

As she has not succeeded in getting her deal passed in the previous two Meaningful Votes, it is uncertain whether Tuesday’s vote, even with changes, will be any different — especially if MPs can vote freely and not follow a party line. That could spell bad news for Leavers:

Also:

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn spent time in Brussels with Martin Selmayr, the Secretary-General of the EU commission. The Labour plan appears to entail joining a UK-EU customs union that would exclude other countries. Yet, Selmayr celebrated the European Economic Area Agreement (EEAA), which would also oblige the UK to follow EU rules, even if we were no longer formally in the EU. Selmayr conveniently leaves that out of his tweet:

A hiccup could result in one less vote for the PM’s deal because of the following:

In principle, should MV3 fail, May would go for a no deal exit on March 29:

However, the EU extension and further negotiations between the PM and Parliament could change that:

Confusion reigns

One thing of which we can be certain: May’s trip to Brussels has delayed Brexit.

The EU extension to Brexit was subject to unanimous approval of the 27 member nations. Given Matteo Salvini’s criticism of the EU, it seemed that Italy would vote against. Ditto Poland. But no:

The only real public comments came from France’s president, Emmanuel Macron:

At the end of last week, even May’s own cabinet members were in a state of confusion, although to be fair, they have been known for leaking:

May seems to be more conciliatory since her announcement on Wednesday night at No. 10, wherein she was critical of MPs for not moving Brexit along. On Thursday, after her day in Brussels:

All possibilities on the table

The chart below shows all the complex possibilities surrounding Brexit at the moment.

Click on the graphic and it will automatically open in a new tab. Then click on the image to enlarge the text:

Deal or no deal?

The border situation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is a primary sticking point in Brexit negotiations and parliamentary voting.

Currently, the border is open. With no deal, Remainers say it would be closed.

However, that might not be the case — even as far as the EU is concerned.

While former Conservative MP Michael Portillo threw cold water on no deal on Thursday:

On Friday, good news emerged from no less than Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel:

Leave supporters can but hope that Mrs May is able to get the UK out of the EU by April 12.

More to follow when significant developments occur.

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

Pointman’s is a great site for socio-political commentary not only on the present but also the past.

On January 5, 2018, Pointman wrote about phony political parties, jaundiced voters and declining governments. Please take the time to read ‘The Misrepresentation of the People Act’ in full.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Political party set-ups are essentially the same wherever one lives:

The actual names vary from country to country; Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Labour, Liberal or Labor. There are always a few tiddler or schism parties wandering aimlessly around the political edges going nowhere accompanied by nothing other than their own strident outrage at something or another, but the essential shape is two big mainline parties, or in some cases as in Germany, comfortable coalitions of such long-standing that they might as well be one party anyway.

As we know, one party is in power for a time, then the opposition party takes hold of the reins, then the cycle repeats. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t:

When it works as it should, it’s a pragmatic recognition of the debilitating aspects of the same party being in power for too long, and also acts as a natural emetic to get rid of them. That hackneyed old saying about the corrupting effect of power is very true …

Where this paradigm breaks down is when the leaders of both the parties begin to treat the whole election process as a turn and turn about thing; okay, you’ve won power for a couple of administrations and then it’ll be our turn. We won’t rock the boat too hard for you other than giving you a jolly strict telling off when you make a public cockup of something. The unspoken but understood caveat on being an effectively quiescent opposition party is that the big players in it still get a decent share of the power and money floating around that’s commensurate with such tacit co-operation.

When the system doesn’t work, it is because both parties have too many commonly-shared interests:

The people running these parties, and being run themselves by big money interests in various shapes and forms, tend to share the same education, privileged background and über political world views of what used to be termed internationalism but has now mutated into a bastardised consensus of smug political globalisation, because that’s what’s really good for their super rich patrons.

For the low-information person, including a voter, a change of government looks stable and normal. However, that is not necessarily the case:

it’s inherently unstable since it lacks any feedback to correct the corruption such power in perpetuity will inevitably engender. It pushes the day of reckoning further ahead, but that day will arrive in the end.

As always, the basic cause allowing this situation to develop is electorates disinterested in politics who sleepwalk into this mess. For too many years they’ve listened to the vague promises of jam tomorrow from political con men whose only talent is stringing the mark along.

That has troubled me, personally, especially when I speak with Americans who invariably elect the same people for years and years on end. These are congress-critters and senators who are useless in serving their constituents, yet Americans keep re-electing them. It really bugs me a lot.

Now and then, someone new and fresh emerges on the scene who is elected, but they seldom seem to be around very long. But, no one cares, and the cycle of electing self-serving politicians continues:

There is a propriety Antipodean shortcut into this situation which involves electing a reasonably sane leader who’s very quickly stabbed in the back by one of his underlings who turns out to be incompetent but has the saving grace of being eminently corrupt. Anyway, this combination of lazy electorates and seemingly Alzheimer stricken populations who can’t quite connect promises made and promises not fulfilled, will eventually break down.

This definitely happened in the United States, and one man is doing his very best to rectify the situation. That said, there is still a lot of rot in both the Democrat (un-‘Democratic’) and Republican parties, to the extent that politically-aware voters have dubbed both the Uniparty. And, what follows is a highly accurate description of the end result that the Uniparty and, in other countries, long-term coalitions bring about:

It’s all about them, not you. The vested interests prosper at the expense of impoverishing the ordinary person, irrespective of their race, colour, creed or politics …

By this late stage, the bulk of electorates are totally jaundiced about any involvement in the political process and those actively engaged in it as foot soldiers are starting to suspect they’re not even a minor player in the game, but the football. They’re regarded by their betters as highly motivated, but easily manipulated drones busy at work producing honey for their masters.

By this time we’re heading into stage 4 cancer in the body politic, but the status quo of those deeply entrenched in power will start to defend itself by any and all means available, whether legal or not. Imagine getting the snouts of a hungry herd of swine out of a steaming swill-filled trough, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the immensity of the task.

The next stage is to create a new — phony — third political party that sweeps into power:

As the new broom of the faux opposition party being elected isn’t working any more, it’s possible to invent a third party that’s making all the right reformist noises but is still a cat’s-paw of the current background interests.

Much of the time, these parties are unsuccessful.

Pointman says this happened in Greece …

It was a freshly minted party by the power mongers which just continued on in the same old way, but was quickly found out.

… and in France, with Emmanuel Macron in 2017:

with a hitherto unknown leader Fifi Macron mincing around in front of it and making all the right noises. A few months in, he promptly junked the modest tax reforms of the previous nominally left-wing administration which were a tad too expensive on his extremely rich backers who’d put him into power to do just that. At the same time, he started lumping more and more taxes on blue and white-collar workers.

Today, Emmanuel Macron is facing the prospect of a ninth weekend of demonstrations by overly taxed, low income French men and women: the yellow vest movement — les gilets jaunes:

Despite disparaging reports you might have heard about them, they’re painfully ordinary people struggling to survive in Macron’s France. There’s a lot of them and they’re composed of that most dangerous segment of any electorate, those pushed into a corner with no way out and not much to lose.

As I listen to French talk radio (RMC) every weekday, I have been following this movement with interest — and the way in which Les Grandes Gueules are covering them. For the first few weeks, the hosts and panellists were empathetic. Before Christmas, their opinions became more critical, which made for interesting discussions as some panellists are still on the side of les gilets jaunes. Fair enough, shops and restaurants lost a lot of trade in cities at the heart of the protests, but the media seemed to focus on the violence rather than the vast majority of peaceful protesters. This year, the media, including the two Grandes Gueules presenters, are shifting the narrative a bit towards the ‘we’ve all had enough of les gilets jaunes‘.

One thing that did not help the yellow jackets’ cause was the vehicular break-in at one of the French ministries last weekend. The other was a boxer who started punching policemen, also last weekend. He had no criminal record prior to that.

Once the weekend demonstrations became a regular fixture — about a month in — violent rabble-rousers started infiltrating the movement, which has attracted a few extremists from both the Left and the Right.

This ongoing violence gave the media carte blanche to negatively cover the movement as a whole. Lately, there has been less coverage of the ordinary gilet jaunes who gather to protest because they cannot make ends meet.

The media were rightly, in my opinion, taken to task for it today. Here is Michel Onfray, a philosopher, who tells them the media have been labelling les gilets jaunes racist, sexist, homophobic and everything else pejorative under the sun. And he accuses the two Grandes Gueules hosts of similar negative coverage — equally ‘staggering’ (sidérant). They did not like that at all:

This weekend, it will be interesting to see if the government — via the police — allows any protests to go ahead.

Pointman already sussed that on January 5, and referred to preventive arrests made near the end of 2018:

Riot cops or paramilitary thugs are deployed to brutally suppress public demonstrations against an administration that’s becoming a dictatorship in all but name. Not only are public demonstrations being physically attacked, but wholesale arrests and incarcerations start to become the norm. Behind the scenes, preventive arrests start to be made. With regard to the weekend after weekend protests in France, numbers like 1400 arrests made are bandied about by the Quisling media, but what’s not being disclosed is 1000 of these were preventive arrests. Arrest and imprisonment of people before any protest has even been made. When that begins, we’re on the slippery slope with occasional stops for doing things like arresting schoolchildren and treating them like POWs.

He reminds us of the situation in Venezuela:

If the government manages to put down what is in effect a rebellion, you end up with a dictatorship with a nice name like the Democratic People’s Republic of Whatever, as happened in Venezuela and with the usual dire results for the inhabitants.

The alternative is something akin to America’s Revolutionary War, which had a good outcome.

Pointman then discussed President Trump and the constant opposition he is facing:

A third and extremely rare outcome is a natural leader primarily in touch with the people rising to power. Even more rarely, if not uniquely, that person comes from the super-rich classes, who’re usually the power brokers and puppet masters behind the various thrones, and refuses to accommodate them. They will bring to bear every power at their command to destroy him, because he’s betrayed what should be his natural class, is re-energising swathes of the electorate to re-engage with politics and they’re rallying to the colours of someone who’s actually doing things for them.

That is exactly why Trump haters should rethink their position. President Trump has done and will do more to help America and her people than any president in living memory.

As far as Europe is concerned, Macron won’t last beyond one term (if that) and Merkel has seen the writing on the wall for her chancellorship:

The heart of power within the EU was Germany with France as the supporting act, but Fifi is finished and Merkel has become an electoral liability even for her own party. Like the stricken battleship Bismarck, she’s alone and steaming around in circles with no flotilla rushing to her aid. A few more torpedoes and she, like the EU, will be out of the game.

Eastern Europe, he says, is breaking away from Western Europe’s outlook on the world, recognising the sovereignty of the nation state rather than globalism.

Ultimately, voters everywhere in the West need to wake up, smell the coffee and become more engaged with what is going on. Are we being represented or, as Pointman posits, misrepresented? I think we know the answer.

President Donald J Trump and First Lady Melania Trump gave a Christmas message on December 25, taking turns in relating the Nativity story and how this season brings out the best in the American spirit of giving to and caring for others. They also remembered those who serve in the military.

This is a very Christian message. I applaud them for it:

President Trump also participated in his customary Christmas conference call with selected military bases:

On Christmas night, America’s first couple travelled to Iraq to meet and greet US troops serving there. Contrary to what Big — Fake — Media say, this trip would have been planned weeks, if not months, in advance.

This is a superb video of their entrance:

This is my favourite photo:

Mrs Trump is the first wife of a US president to visit Iraq since 2003, at which time Laura Bush went:

Trump gave a short speech to the troops, discussing his foreign policy decisions in the Middle East:

He also said:

In a private meeting with military officers, Trump made this revelation about the trip there:

After the Trumps left Iraq, they flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany:

Cameras were out in force:

Neo-con national security adviser John Bolton also made the trip:

However, it does not look as if Bolton was in this particular meeting aboard Air Force One:

Then it was time to return home:

Mrs Trump is wearing leather trousers, by the way — not a miniskirt.

In closing, everyone involved put together a painstakingly involved, whistle-stop overseas tour that, thankfully, went beautifully and brought all concerned home safe and sound. For that, we can thank divine providence.

Before we get too far into Advent and Sunday School comes to a close until the New Year, I would like to point out that candy canes can be a useful teaching tool in telling the Nativity story.

The secular assault on Christmas might have lessened somewhat since President Trump was elected to office, however, there are probably a number of state schools in the US that forbid anything that even hints at the religious, e.g. candy canes and Christmas bell sugar cookies. A 2009 article from American Thinker, ‘Criminalizing Christmas Cookies, Candy Canes and Crèches’, has probably aged well. Please do read it.

So, it would seem that some children are left with learning about the Nativity story at home or in Sunday School. Enter the candy cane. Enterprising mothers and Sunday School teachers might like to make a meringue version for children.

One of my readers writes from the perspective of her golden retriever, Brodie. In 2016, she posted on the ever-popular candy cane:

and by the way here’s the history of the beloved ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook…so the back story of the candy cane is spiritual and came in celebration of the nativity.

The link, on WhyChristmas?, explores the legend, history and symbolism behind this sweet December treat. There’s a lovely bit in the third paragraph for Sunday School teachers and Christian parents (emphases mine below):

A story says that a choirmaster, in 1670, was worried about the children sitting quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service. So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet! As he wanted to remind them of Christmas, he made them into a ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook, to remind them of the shepherds that visited the baby Jesus at the first Christmas. However, the earliest records of ‘candy canes’ comes from over 200 years later, so the story, although rather nice, probably isn’t true!

Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen.

Sometimes other Christian meanings are giving to the parts of the canes. The ‘J’ can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane can represent the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor can represent the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible.

So, although this symbolism is not a fact about the candy cane, it can be used to tell a child about the Nativity.

NoelNoelNoel elaborates on the religious symbolism sometimes associated with the candy cane:

Many people have given religious meaning to the shape and form of the candy cane. It is said that its shape is like the letter “J” in Jesus’ name. It is also in the shape of the shepherds’ crook, symbolic of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd” watches over his children like little lambs. It is a hard candy, solid like a “rock”, the foundation of the Church. The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice, and this is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice he made.

Some say the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth. The bold red stripe represents God’s love. The three fine stripes are said by some to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Others say they represent the blood spilled at the beating Jesus received at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

Angie from Chocolate Candy Mall posted a story about the candy cane legend of the choirmaster and included a religious poem, perfect for children:

Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who’s sinless and pure!
“J” is for Jesus,
My Lord, that’s for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

Angie says:

In spite of the fact that the legend is more like folklore, the candy cane can be used in a beautiful way to represent the love and sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Short and sweet, isn’t it? Okay, back to the Legend of the Candy Cane story – Whether or not this tale is the true candy cane meaning, it presents us as believers with a simple opportunity to share a little bit of the Gospel story with those we meet during the Christmas season.

May the Lord bless you as you share your faith in Christ with others!

Let us now look at how the candy cane probably developed throughout history. They were likely to have been white sugary sticks in the 1800s, as NoelNoelNoel explains:

The use of candy canes on Christmas trees made its way to America by the 1800’s, however during this time they were still pure white.

In the United States during that time, Today I Found Out tells us that candy canes were part of Christmas tree decorations:

the first known candy cane that popped up in America was also supposedly thanks to a German immigrant, August Imgard, who used the candy cane for this purpose- decorating a Christmas tree in his home in Wooster, Ohio.

If he made crooks, he would have had to be very careful. Crooks became widespread only in the 20th century, for reasons stated below.

Therefore, I will work on the assumption that most of what appeared in this era were straight, white, sticks — possibly, although not always, flavoured with peppermint or wintergreen.

Old Christmas cards provide evidence of what shape and colour the peppermint sticks were. The familiar stripes did not appear until the 20th century:

Evidence, such as Christmas cards from the late 19th century, seems to indicate people were still going with the all-white candy cane at this point. Then in the early 20th century there started to be many instances of candy canes showing up on Christmas cards with red stripes.

Given candy canes were used as much for decoration as eating at this time, it’s not surprising that somebody got the bright idea to put a colorful stripe on them. It should also be noted that a little over a half century or so before stripes were known to be added to candy canes, there is a reference of white peppermint candy sticks with colored stripes added.

WhyChristmas? says that the candy cane we know today came about around 1920 when:

Bob McCormack, from Georgia, USA, started making canes for his friends and family. They became more and more popular and he started his own business called Bob’s Candies.

Today I Found Out has more about the stripes:

who first got that idea to make striped candy canes is still a mystery. Some say it was candy maker Bob McCormack in the 1920s. McCormick’s company by the late 1950s would become one of the world’s largest peppermint candy cane producers, selling about a half a million candy canes per day at their peak. But it may well be that McCormick simply popularized the striping practice, rather than invented it. One thing is for sure, this idea spread like a wildfire and soon a red stripe on a candy cane was near universal, as was peppermint flavoring …

As for the crook:

the cane had to be manually bent when it was still warm/soft coming off the assembly line, usually using a wooden mold or the like.

This proved to be problematic for Bob McCormack on the production line:

McCormack was having trouble at the time because about 22% of the candy canes produced by Bob and his crew were ending up in the trash as they broke during the bending process.

Fortunately, the good Lord blessed McCormack with a splendid brother-in-law. Not only was he a Catholic priest, he was also an inventor. WhyChristmas? says:

Bob McCormack’s brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, who was a Catholic priest, invented the ‘Keller Machine’ that made turning straight candy sticks into curved candy canes automatically!

Today I Found Out adds:

Keller’s machine automated this process and shortly thereafter was perfected by Dick Driskell and Jimmy Spratling, both of which worked for Bob McCormack. This made it so the candy canes came out perfect nearly every time.

WhyChristmas? says:

In 2005, Bob’s Candies was bought by Farley and Sathers but they still make candy canes!

So, there you have the story behind candy canes, with a Christian twist.

If anyone has used the candy cane in a Sunday School lesson, please feel free to share your experience below!

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