When Comparing the US and European Countries, Always Consider Rate per Million

The US is much bigger than the UK, or Spain, or Italy. We are probably larger than The UK plus Spain plus Italy combined. So when you look at “total number” of anything, we likely have more. You need to consider the rate of each country. UK suffers second-highest death rate from coronavirus | Free to read. OK, so a lot of things are the rate per 100,000. You know what I mean.

Excess deaths is a number that comes from the actuaries. It doesn’t rely on testing. It looks at “What were the expected number of deaths, due to history, and how has that changed?”

Excess deaths is internationally recognised as the best way to compare countries’ performance in handling infectious diseases. Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, called excess deaths “the key metric”.

No false positives. No false negatives. No fudging numbers because there is a financial incentive to count a death as being from COVID-19. Just statistics.

So here’s the image of the day. The relevant bit is the left-most graph. To my way of thinking, anyway. As always, click the image for a larger view. Well, almost always.

The article was published on May 28th, but clearly the data is older than that. Still not too old, and the point is still valid.

Now considering the relative death rates, tell me again, how awful the US response has been, or how horrible our health care is. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Oh, and then consider that a lot of the problems we have are a direct result of some bone-headed decisions made in New York and Michigan and couple of other Blue States.

A Letter From Italy

View from the Beach shared A Letter from Italy.

To date we have exceeded 30,000 infections. The official ones. Because there are those that cannot be known. There are in fact many elderly people who die without having been diagnosed with the virus, but with symptoms. In a nursing home with about thirty people present, 11 or 12 elderly people died in three days. They have not been counted, but the rest are all positive. And other retirement homes are in the same situation.

Doctors and nurses are sick, because they don’t have personal protective gear (Masks, etc.). One nurse took her own life when she became sick. The sick die alone, because they’re in quarantine, and their families are in quarantine.

As I write this, Italy has 53,578 case of COVID-19 of which 4,825 patients have died.

The US has 26,747 cases and 340 deaths.

The most interesting data, that I have found which can provide trends, can be found at this link. New cases per day. Deaths per day. The trends are a bit disturbing. It is the data source for the image below. (Click for a larger view.)

If you want to play around with trends, a good place to start is Wolfram-Alpha. I’m not sure if it does a better job fitting an exponential function to the data than LibreOffice does or not. I did think it was better for a while, but LibreOffice lets me save the data. Easily. And export the graphs.

The Next Stage of Disease

Italy is being overwhelmed by unprepared for COVID-19. They are not prepared for dealing with corpses of people who die at home. ‘Italy has abandoned us’: People are being trapped at home with their loved ones’ bodies amid coronavirus lockdown.

A person died at home, not at a hospital. Funeral homes refused to pick up the body. For 36 hours. Until finally a plea on F*c*book generated enough negative press that a hazmat-capable funeral home came to pick up the body.

After various authorities failed to come up with an answer, Franzese said, the city of Naples finally referred him to a funeral home. But the funeral home refused, telling him it wasn’t equipped to deal with the situation.

“It was the first case in Italy in which a person with the virus dies at home, so there was some confusion on what to do,” [a local official said].

The video in question can be found at this link. The video is in Italian, but if you turn on “Auto-generate English subtitles,” you can get a feeling for what he is saying, and the emotion is clear. I suppose I should warn that he shows his sister’s body behind him.

Western Civilization was fun while it lasted.

Italian Health Care at the Breaking Point

The rest of the European Union is not far behind.

Italy is the center of the outbreak in Europe. It may be fair to say it is the center of the outbreak outside of China. Coronavirus: Italy doctors ‘forced to prioritise ICU care for patients with best chance of survival’.

Amid a surge of cases, Italy’s healthcare system is at breaking point, with medical staff describing chaotic conditions at under-resourced hospitals.

A 60-year-old doctor, Roberto Cosentini, told Italian newspaper La Republica that between 60 to 80 infected people come to his hospital daily.

“If this new wave does not subside, the health system is heading towards collapse: triggered by what we can compare to a natural catastrophe,” he said.

The patients can’t be visited by family if they are dying. They are in quarantine, after all. Doctors and nurses have been using phones to make video calls to relatives, so that people can say goodbye.

“Do you see the emergency room? COVID-19 patients enter alone, no relatives can attend and when they are about to leave they sense it. They are lucid, they do not go to narcolepsy.

“It is as if they were drowning, but with plenty of time to understand it.”

He described a patient who was a grandmother and wanted to speak to her granddaughter. The only way to speak to her was via video call.

“I pulled out the phone and called her on video. They said goodbye. Shortly after she left. By now I have a long list of video calls. I call it the farewell list. I hope they give us mini iPads, three or four would be enough, not to let them die alone.”

As for the rest of the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EAA), they are not far behind. Rapid risk assessment: Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: increased transmission in the EU/EEA and the UK – sixth update

The speed with which COVID-19 can cause nationally incapacitating epidemics once transmission within the community is established, indicates that in a few weeks or even days, it is likely that similar situations to those seen in China and Italy may be seen in other EU/EEA countries or the UK.

The risk is that hospitals will be overwhelmed if/when the infection gets going in a big way.

The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EEA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high. The impact and risk assessment on health system capacity can be mediated by the application of effective infection prevention and control and surge capacity measures.

I imagine that we are few weeks behind Italy/the EU in terms of the growth you see in viral infections. My previous post on the state of Italian Health Care and COVID-19 is at this link.

COVID-19: A Problem in Italy and Elsewhere

Because they had decided it wasn’t a problem. Italy: 50% rise in coronavirus cases.

Italy’s Civil Protection Authority reported the country now has 1,694 confirmed coronavirus cases, up from 1,128 confirmed cases on Saturday. Thirty-four people have died.

In other locations…

In Paris, The Louvre remained closed Sunday, the museum said in a statement to CNN.

The Louvre said its closing wasn’t ordered by the government, which Saturday canceled all public gatherings of 5,000 people or more in confined spaces. That included the Paris Half Marathon on Sunday.

France has recorded 100 cases and two deaths.

And even farther afield. Iran’s coronavirus death toll jumps to 54, with 978 infected.

That puts the mortality rate in Iran at 5%, which is higher than the Chinese are willing to admit to.

Are you prepared to sit at home for 30 days, or more?

Everything Needs Maintenance – The Morandi Bridge Collapse

Morandi Bridge, Genoa, ItalyEverything Needs Maintenance. What caused the Genoa bridge collapse – and the end of an Italian national myth? The image is of the bridge, before the collapse. (Click the image, for a larger view, and background info. Image by Davide Papalini)

Construction was from 1963 through 1967. It collapsed on August 14th, 2018.

43 people died. 600 people were made homeless.

The day in question was a stormy, summer day.

By 11.30am, the rain was so heavy that visibility had fallen dramatically. Videos captured by security cameras show vehicles slowing down as they crossed Morandi Bridge, which grew progressively more enveloped in a grey mist.

A few minutes later, a 200-metre section of the bridge collapsed, including one of its three supporting towers.

Click the link at the top of this post for an image of the bridge after the collapse.

Reinforced concrete deck, and pre-stressed concrete wrapping the cables of what otherwise looked like a typical suspension bridge. (Think Brooklyn Bridge.) But maintenance of the bridge wasn’t a high priority thing.

A documentary found problems in the 1990s. Riccardo Morandi, the designer, created a list of things to-do to prolong the life of the bridge. Nothing was done.

Aside from the lack of maintenance, there was an increase in the load on the bridge, which is probably a message for engineers, that things should be overbuilt, because you don’t know what the future will bring.

Little, however, was done, and by 1992 the trademark concrete cables were heavily corroded. The company that managed the bridge, Autostrade per l’Italia – then owned by the state – decided to add extra new cables around the corroded ones, rather than replace them. It also neglected to retrofit the remaining two sets.

That led to the collapse on the stormy August morning.

About a year later, the remains of the bridge were demolished. See Genoa’s Morandi Bridge demolished in dramatic explosion. (Explosive demolition is always a fascinating video!)

So why did the bridge collapse?

Instead, it was probably simple neglect that felled the bridge. In April 2018, Autostrade – now a private company – finally decided there was no more time to waste, and issued a tender offer to retrofit the bridge. The repairs were supposed to start last autumn.

“They waited 25 years and then the bridge collapsed. This is how things go in Italy – you start something and you never finish it,” says Saggio.

Today, the new bridge is under construction and it is supposed to be done this year. The replacement bridge was designed by Genoa native Renzo Piano, and is a little more than half complete. Construction of Renzo Piano-designed Genoa Bridge reaches milestone. (There is a video at that link with English subtitles.) The last of the piers have been completed, and the bridge deck is about 550 meters long, just over half of its finished length of 1067 meters. You can find some info on the design at the following link. Renzo Piano unveils design for new Genoa bridge following disaster. It is supposed to be complete in late spring or summer of this year. Let’s hope this one lasts longer.

COVID-19: Things Are Not Getting Better

China’s stonewalling in the early days of the outbreak meant that tourists from China went everywhere. And they interacted with other tourists; tourists who then went home.

Italy has put several towns on lockdown over COVID-19. Italy rushes to contain Europe’s first major coronavirus outbreak.

Italy scrambled Sunday to check the spread of Europe’s first major outbreak of the new viral disease amid rapidly rising numbers of infections and a third death, calling off the popular Venice Carnival, scrapping major league soccer matches in the stricken area and shuttering theaters, including Milan’s legendary La Scala.

Austria was concerned enough to stop all rail traffic with Italy.

In a case where tourists went home… Second Israeli Has Coronavirus After Returning from Cruise Ship in Japan

A second Israeli from among the group of 11 who returned home Friday from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has become ill with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Iran is having its own problems, and its neighbors are closing borders. Iran’s neighbours impose travel bans as coronavirus toll rises.

Iran on Sunday reported three more novel coronavirus deaths among 15 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total number of fatalities to eight and infections to 43.

Four new COVID-19 cases surfaced in Tehran, seven in the holy city of Qom, two in Gilan and one each in Markazi and Tonekabon, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.

Authorities have ordered the closure of schools, universities and other educational centres in 14 provinces across the country from Sunday as a “preventive measure”.

And the statistics are different.

But official figures indicate the death rate is proportionately much higher in Iran than China, standing at nearly one in five of the confirmed infections.

So is that a reflection of Iranian health care, an indication that the Chinese still are not being forthright over the nature of the disease, or something else? A 20% mortality rate would be extremely bad.

And the number of cases in South Korea is expanding very quickly. Coronavirus live updates: South Korea on high alert after total cases top 600.

South Korea’s government raised the COVID-19 alert to its highest level after a recent implosion of confirmed infection cases, which took the country’s tally from 31 as of Feb. 18 to 602 on Sunday.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”

“Unexpected?” Volcano on small Italian island of Stromboli unexpectedly erupts, killing one.

Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and has been erupting almost continuously since 1932.

Granted, this eruption was more powerful than most, but “unexpected?” People go to Stromboli to see the volcano erupt.

This reminds me of when Kilauea, was in the news. It too was “unexpected” even though Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983. The words “Continuously” and “Unexpected” don’t go together, unless you’re a journalism major.

I Missed This Story About a Terrorist in Italy

I don’t suppose it got a lot of coverage by the media. Italy: Bus driver takes 51 kids hostage, sets vehicle on fire.

A school bus driver on Wednesday allegedly held 51 children and their chaperones hostage on a bus in the northern Italian city San Donato Milanese before setting it on fire.

All of the children were rescued when the bus crashed following a police chase, allowing officers to force open the back door and help students off the bus, as the driver threatened suicide.

A story from today he says “It’s all the white people’s fault.”

Headlines From Europe

I read the European press, because they have better coverage of what’s going on in America – some of it anyway – than 90% of the US press. (I guess they can be a BIT more objective, though they are still mostly a bunch of Leftist shills.) Though the 1st story is from the Washington Post…

The Left’s talking points around Germany have been – for 2 years now – that they are placed to become the “new world power.” Since all the “right-thinking” folks in the media hate America. (No, not just Trump, America.) Merkel missing the first day of G-20 is a metaphor for why you shouldn’t believe all the myths about Germany. But when you lose the WaPo…

The Bundeswehr itself isn’t in great shape, either. To the amusement of the world, Germany’s military made headlines a few years ago for replacing machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise because of a lack of equipment. The headlines weren’t exaggerated. Earlier this year, an internal watchdog described the German military as virtually “not deployable for collective defense.” Only a few of the country’s tanks, helicopters and planes are combat-ready, and pilots have at times had to resort to private automobile clubs’ choppers to practice. Germany approved a boosted defense budget this year, but any trend reversal will take a lot longer.

No mention of Trump and his call for Europe to do a better job with their defense.

Italy stops a terrorist. (Granted this is 2 days old, so maybe you heard about it…) Italian police arrest Lebanese man suspected of planning poison attack.

“He was planning an attack with ricin and anthrax,” chief anti-terrorism prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho told reporters, naming the man as Alhaj Ahmad Amin.

Amin, 38, who is a legal immigrant and married with three children, was arrested in Macomer earlier in the day by hooded police who forced him from his car as he left home.

The French are STILL unhappy about paying more for fuel. And now so are folks in Belgium. Brussels protesters attack PM’s office as Paris braces for more ‘yellow vest’ unrest.

Over in Paris, builders were busy boarding up flagship banks and stores along the Champs-Elysées as “the world’s most beautiful avenue” braced for its third straight Saturday of violence.

In what President Emmanuel Macron called “war scenes”, a peaceful protest descended into riots and tear gas, leaving many of the avenue’s windows smashed by cobblestones and other objects.

Two stories from Britain. The first, how NHS (THE Sacred Cow of UK politics) is failing the elderly. Pensioners left in pain amid NHS cuts to hip and knee operations.

The Royal College of Surgeons said patients were being unfairly denied operations by arbitrary policies, including those which restrict them to those in most pain.

And in the 2nd story, folks in the UK still have bad teeth. Soaring numbers of children forced to have teeth taken out in hospital.

The number of children having teeth removed in hospital has risen almost a fifth in six years, new figures show.

Dentists said it was a “scandal” that so many teeth were being left to rot, amid a diet of too much sugar and too little toothbrushing.

Can we blame this on the NHS? No, it isn’t the .gov who is responsible for making sure kids brush their teeth.

EU to Italy: … or else!

After the handsprings the EU did to keep Greece in the fold, do you really think anything will come of this? Salvini defiant over budget despite EU giving Italy three weeks to come up with new plan. And you thought American politics were screwed up.

The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, reviews the budgets of the 19 eurozone economies to check for compliance with its deficit and other standards.

European Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici will ask Italy’s populist government on Tuesday to “revise its budget,” which exceeds EU limits, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In theory they could kick Italy out of the club, I think. In reality, they won’t do much that the bond markets aren’t already doing.

This is in addition to Poland (apparently) ignoring an order from the European Court to reinstate some judges or face fines.

This kind of thing always brings up this scene form The Demolition Man.

The Italians are Cheesed Off

Which is to say that they are not happy with the UN. Over cheese and ham. Agriculture minister says Italian ham and Parmesan ‘under attack’ from UN plan to reduce salt intake.

Because the Useless Nitwits at the UN apparently have ended hunger, and war, and famine (at least if you don’t look to closely at the People’s Republic of Venezuela), and so they are going on to telling you what you should eat. And the Italians aren’t too happy about it.

Proposals related to warning labels on unhealthy food mooted in a recent WHO report are set to be discussed at a meeting in New York in September.

The report did not mention any specific food products by name but the respected Italian business newspaper Sole 24 Ore set off a furore by reporting that the UN agency could target Parmesan cheese and ham from Parma as well as pizza, wine and even extra-virgin olive oil.

The UN was chartered to ensure that genocide was never perpetrated again, and yet despite failing miserably at that mandate they are now going to control your diet. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the raft of sex-scandals wherever peacekeepers show up, and occasionally where other staff and NGOs show up. To “do good.” Only they victimize already victimized people.

Italians Want Less Gun Control

Where would we be without surveys? Sharp rise in Italians in favour of loosening gun control.

The proportion of Italians who favour relaxing laws on gun ownership has jumped from around a quarter to more than a third, according to a new survey.

Also the number of Italians who own guns, is rising.

You have to admire the uniform nature of spin on Italian politics.

The hard-right League party has long advocated for changes in the law to protect people using weapons, including firearms, in the name of self-defence. Now the junior partner in Italy’s governing coalition, the party has proposed that individuals should be allowed to shoot anyone who enters their home, even in the absence of a clear physical threat.

While the league is opposed to the Euro (Italy had problems, but they didn’t get the press that was lavished on Greece), but I’m not sure the press – in any country or any language – is able to do anything except denigrate any group that doesn’t think more government is better. Then again, I’m that up on Italian politics.

But advocating armed self-defense? In Europe? Where do they think the live, Texas? (Actually they live in the Real World™ where bad things can and too often do happen.

And You Thought Government in the USA Was Screwed Up

The News from Europe reinforces the idea that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

First up, Greece. It hasn’t been on my radar for a while. Greek lawmakers to vote on no-confidence motion in govt. (For those of you not up on Parliamentary governments, a No-confidence vote would trigger new elections.)

This is over an insane issue.

Greek lawmakers are debating for the final day a no-confidence motion against the government over a deal to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Macedonia over the latter’s name.

Greece wants to claim the name “Macedonia” because of Alexander the Great – also known as Alexander of Macedonia. (And his hometown IS in northern Greece.) But Macedonia has been Macedonia since WWII, though lately it is The Former Yugoslavian Province Known as Macedonia. Or some such nonsense. (That is actually how it appears on official NATO and EU maps, though it is usually abbreviated as just a list of first letters.)

Most of the EU is making faces at Italy because their new .gov has decided the whole unfettered immigration thing has gone far enough. Italy’s populist government won’t permit boats carrying migrants to dock, despite EU pressure

Even the Pope has weighed in on that one.

Last but not least, we have Germany. Merkel stands firm against Bavarian demands to close borders

Among Merkel’s sharpest critics is Bavarian governor Markus Soeder, whose Christian Social Union is taking an increasingly hard line ahead of a state election this fall, even though it forms part of the national governing coalition.

The CSU has been in partnership with the CDU (Merkel’s Party) pretty much since reunification. But that cozy deal seems to be falling apart – ahead of elections that the CSU might be worried about losing.

And on the subject of Germany, Austria is PISSED that the Germans were spying on them. Austria angry at Germany over ‘enormous’ spy effort

Top Austrian officials called on Germany to clarify reports that its BND spy agency had snooped on high-profile targets including embassies, international organizations, Austrian ministers and banks based in the Austrian capital.

Make Italy Great Again? Probably Not

But some of the naysayers are crying in their beer Chianti. Italy edging towards Eurosceptic, populist government after two months of paralysis

Berlusconi has agreed to bow out, so that the Five Star Movement and the League can form a government. (He had to be gone for the League to agree.)

The League wants to ditch the euro as Italy’s currency and both parties have blamed Brussels for economic pain caused by austerity policies and for not doing enough to help with the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Pulling out of the Euro can only be done by pulling out of the EU generally, and the bureaucrats (Mandarins?) in Brussels will fight that with everything they have.

And you though American politics were interesting…

I Blame Global Warming

Snow is not unheard of at this time of year in Norway, but the amount of snow is record-setting. Norwegians take skis out of storage after freak snowfall – The Local

Norway is currently under an amount of snow extremely rare for late spring, with up to half a metre of snow falling in areas outside of Oslo.

Ski resorts are opening. Police are telling people who have taken the snow-tires off their cars to stay home.

This comes on the heels of a late freeze in various wine-growing portions of Europe. April frost threatens vineyards in parts of Europe – StarTribune.com

Worst disaster in 25 years threatens valuable crops.

Italian Unemployment Rate Falls to 11.5%

Greece isn’t the only problem child of the EU and the eurozone. Italy has some fairly tough economic times on its hands. Italy’s unemployment rate falls to 11.5 percent in May

Not only is the overall unemployment rate 11.5 percent, but the youth rate is astronomical.

Youth unemployment, meanwhile, is steady at 36.9 percent.

US youth unemployment rate, by way of comparison, was 10.4% in May, and its all-time record-high was 19.5% in April of 2010.

The overall UK unemployment rate (Feb-Apr of 2016) was 5%. Tell me again how the UK is doomed if/when they leave the European Union.

Italy May Be the Next EU Domino to Fall

Maybe, maybe not. Italy’s Referendum | EU | Brexit

They article isn’t that long, and it is worth your time to view the YouTube video of UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage giving the EU parliment the what-for. (The video – which is toward the bottom of the page at the link above – is about 7 minutes long.)

Italy, like Greece, is struggling under the terms imposed by Brussels. It has a banking sector in some trouble, and there are opposition parties calling for a Brexit-like referendum. Mostly to dump the Euro, but you can’t dump the euro and stay in the EU. Not if you play by the rules.

And You Thought it Was Bad in the US. Try Europe

Euro symbolAs screwed up as the US government is, the collective governments of Europe manage to be even more screwed up. With a few exceptions. Eurozone Recovery Grinds to Halt Amid Ukraine Fear – ABC News.

If you want an object lesson in how to have a good economy – look to Europe. Some people do it one way, and some the other. The winners and losers sort themselves out in the marketplace.

Europe’s biggest economy [Germany] remains the continent’s standout performer. It has low unemployment and took steps to cut business taxes and costs years ago.

Years ago, during the boom times of the late 90s, the Chancellor of Germany – Gerhard Schröder – took drastic steps. He cut unemployment benefits, (the social security state in general, really) and changed rules on employment. (Hiring and firing.) Agenda 2010 (as the policy was known) resulted in some disruption, but the results are staggering, when you compare to the states that did nothing.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Stagnating France and Italy are balking at politically tough reforms that would lower costs for businesses. France’s economy was flat in the second quarter. Italy’s shrank 0.2 percent, for the 11th drop in the past 12 quarters. So-called structural reforms include easing rigid rules on hiring and firing, and especially in Italy’s case, reducing choking bureaucracy and corruption.

Greece’s economy has at least stopped shrinking. Well, almost – it shrunk 0.2 percent in the past year. But the economy of Greece is 25 percent smaller than it was a few years ago.

This isn’t rocket science. You make things good for business, and you get business activity. Jobs. Taxes. Growth and opportunity. Make things tough on business with high taxes, corruption (another tax usually), etc. and you get less business activity. Fewer jobs. Lower tax revenues. (Which side of this equation do you think Greece was on, before it imploded?) This lesson is lost on so many.