I am a piece of this world, to whom goes with the creatures of the living and the dying longevity, I care not for its magnitude but for the direction of its lost purpose
— Joel Calvin Simmons
New York, March 5, 2020 | Core Community edition of Planet Waves
Dear Friend and Reader:
There were a couple of times this week when I felt the potential for the whole thing to unravel: this fragile, complicated, thundering world we have created and depend upon. I am not one of those “the shit’s gonna come down” types, so it was an unusual feeling to register.
I am also leery of issues in the “be afraid, be very afraid” genre of reporting, knowing as I do how many real dangers are not discussed. However, a few times lately I’ve had that Nine-Elevenish feeling, which I’ve also had at the start of the Gulf War in 1991, during the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents, and the night the election was stolen in November 2000.
As for our particular problem now: I’m not necessarily talking about a massive plague that wipes out a swath of the world population, maybe you, maybe me, maybe a few people we know (which is possible, and lurking in everyone’s genetic memory).
I mean the economic jolt that unravels the fragile systems holding together things like our food sources. I read an article Wednesday about how 300 million kids are out of school. By what miracle are we expecting something like that not to happen in the United States? Our usual national self-deceptive optimism? Imagining this is all just a simulation?
I got nervous this week talking to my friend Gail Murphy, who owns a business that supplies guitar manufacturers with parts. Problems in China making the material for one particular item created a hold-up of making that part, and therefore of the manufacturer building the guitars, leading to a problem with the guitar maker’s business, which then rippled out to all the dealers who carry them.
Multiply that by a few hundred thousand businesses and you can see what I’m getting at. In addition to depending on supply lines, many businesses depend on all of their people, and cannot function with numerous absences. Lots of things cannot be done by internet.
What Doesn’t Come from China?
The Wall Street Journal this week had an article about how Apple had invested all of its eggs into the basket known as China. Yes, Apple and much of the world. What exactly doesn’t come from China these days? And could we afford it if the people who make iPhones and Androids were paid more than the wage they get, about $2.50 an hour? The other part is that many of Apple’s iPhone sales come from China, and now, those are down.
The iPhone is wildly profitable, or it has been. That would not be possible without highly competent, disciplined slave labor in China, conducted in what are essentially prison camps. So they cannot exactly move the Foxconn factory to Grand Rapids or Mexico City.
For weeks before the February stock market crash, whole cities there were on lockdown, people under house arrest, food supplies thin, and the toll of the sick and the dead mounting. On the way home from Ukraine in early February, airports were full of Asian people wearing masks.
It was only during the recent Mercury retrograde that the issue took hold in the United States: cases appearing outside of China, concentrating (among other places) in Italy. Milan and many other cities are now ghost towns.
Before cases appeared in the States, stock markets were first sluggish, then tumbled as news of the virus took hold. Most of them fell by about 15% of value over the course of a few days, an astonishing loss. (As of press time Thursday, markets had lost the gains clawed back on Wednesday.)
This is made all the worse because under the current administration, and the current economic ethos, the stock market is the only index of value and prosperity, even though it does not directly affect the majority of the population. So the stock market also drives consumer confidence — for those with disposable incomes.
Whatever happens to people’s businesses or their jobs, banks still demand their mortgages, and landlords demand their rent. Much of the United States population is close to, at or below the poverty line. Many are already one paycheck away from eviction, or not eating. Are they consoled by a politician telling them how fantastic the economy is doing?
Son, I’ve Seen A Few Freaky Things in my Day
I’ve seen freaky things happen in my time on the planet, most of it witnessed through my role as a journalist. A lot of this has involved seeing how people respond to fear, and to the idea of potential danger.
My encounter with transformer explosions on a campus near where I live led to my uncovering the extent of global contamination with dioxins and PCBs. The story went from my neighborhood to Antarctica and back again. I learned something that seemed to spontaneously occur in 1991 and had its documented roots in the late 19th century.
I lived with the documentation of the problem and the cover-up for years: binders full of memos with evidence of blatant deception of and by government health officials, insurance companies, lawyers and corporate executives.
They lied and lied about what had happened, and about the potential danger, and for the most part everyone fell for it — until it was too late. They are still lying today. I’m sure with a brief phone call to the GE press relations department, they will send me their latest PDF denying the problem. I keep meaning to ask for it, so I have a copy.
On another level, I lived with the problem itself. My neighborhood was contaminated; contamination was potentially tracked into my home, affecting people and my two cats. I threw away a pair of nice leather boots because I had walked in them through a contaminated area.
For a long time, mostly in the 1990s and even to some extent today, I could not put a piece of food in my mouth without considering its potential content of dioxins and PCBs. (Eggs have very little; the worst is organic farmed salmon, according to Dr. David Carpenter at SUNY Albany, the world’s PCBs-in-salmon mavin.)
Then there was another dimension, the social aspect, where I was witness to people aggressively denying the problem, year after year, over and over again. I watched as parents put their children in danger, allowing them to live in dioxin-contaminated buildings based on the belief that they must be safe because state officials — long ago exposed as deceptive and incompetent — said so.
I learned a lot about the phenomenon of believing what one wants to be true. I became a student of cognitive dissonance. Along the course of that story, I was arrested (the case was dismissed); I was ordered off of the toxic campus (as an alleged public nuisance; thanks to a federal judge, that was reversed). The chancellor of the State University of New York system told a newspaper’s editorial board that I was a liar. I claimed that as a badge of honor.
So in writing and reporting this story, I saw the way that society treats people who expose and tell people about even obvious problems. I got a sense of the public’s interest in truth, and I watched these issues bounce around the media. I noticed how easy it is to distract reporters from the story, and to feed them bullshit that most of them pass along to the public.
And then I noticed the way the dioxin problem, and people’s response to it, replicated itself over and over: that it was a feature of our world.
Responses to Potential Danger
People have a wide diversity of responses to danger. A guy who lives in my building said he wanted to get coronavirus, to build up his immune system. He’s a nice guy but a little macho. I explained that reinfection is possible, and that can be worse than the primary infection. I did not mention that it may impact male fertility.
One very rare response to a health emergency is wanting to know more about the problem. Mostly these issues are dealt with either by denial, or by putting one’s faith in government officials, whom on other days one might consider to be incompetent, lying shit-bags.
The United States government, under the “leadership” of a reality TV host, has screwed this situation up over and over again: starting with not accepting test kits from the World Health Organization. Then according to a whistleblower complaint, U.S. government officials were allowed to intermingle with Americans returning from China without proper protection equipment. This was an unnecessary exposure, and some of the officials flew on a commercial flight. Trump then fired the whistleblower.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is theoretically in charge of the war on coronavirus, may have been exposed during a function in the Tampa area. He now has exposure to the top level of the Executive Branch, including the president.
So you would think that they’re acting like this is no big deal. Then, we hear about audio and video being prohibited at a government briefing (that happened Tuesday), and government scientists being gagged (i.e., needing Pence to approve every thing they say). That says they think it’s a big deal.
As for individuals: there is a huge dioxin problem, and nearly half the population gets cancer. Nobody seems concerned about this.
Seven cases in Los Angeles is an “emergency,” while 59,000 homeless in LA County is not even declared a crisis. Now the whole state of California has declared an emergency.
Lack of Scientific Information
Without making any assessment of the problem, I want to point out some of the missing facts. Here is my one-sentence investigative reporting course: when a scientist, corporate stooge or government official claims something, ask them, “Where’s your data?”
Make yourself a press card, you’re ready to go.
I’m raising my hand: How many known infections are there? By that I mean positive tests of those who know they had an exposure. That is not forthcoming. How is it possible that as of Thursday, March 5, New York City had tested just 33 people?
Lois Gibbs once explained the basic approach to testing for toxins (when I was 18, writing about Love Canal as a student reporter, on my first environmental investigation): “Here’s how they do it: don’t look, don’t find, not there.”
We are told that the virus persists for a week (according to some sources, up to nine days) on a dry surface, exposed to oxygen. That’s a long time. Does every hotel room in the world now need to be sanitized between uses?
We are also told that hand “sanitizer” kills it. Is this supported by any data? Has someone done the coronavirus + Purell experiment, to find out if the stuff is really effective, on this pathogen? [See related story below.]
What recommendations are being made to food service establishments? People already have a tendency to come to work sick. Presumably this virus can be conveyed through food, if it can be conveyed by getting some of it on your fingers from a doorknob. This is starting to sound a little like 20th century paranoia about what was then called venereal disease.
How is the sexual transmission issue being handled? Sex is not sanitary. Some people do it. Who shall tell us? I nominate Mike Pence. One effect of the situation as it stands today is creating reluctance for people to touch one another, further alienating us into the world of robots and virtual reality.
While medical science does not have a cure, they have unraveled the genome of this virus, and can track transmission, virulence, and many other factors. We need to be keeping track of all of this information, even if it’s too much.
One last — what were the other factors that led to so many cases and deaths in China? Did this involve anything else? Was there some immune compromise going on, perhaps the result of excessive pollution or a contamination problem?
And if it was not, I will ask again: by what miracle are we expecting this not to happen in the United States? Our good karma?
I keep reading (but cannot check personally) that Wuhan was a test city for the 5G “millimeter wave” technology rollout. Is this compromising immune systems there? Do you think it’s possible? Or is that paranoid conspiracy theory territory? We have to know more about this.
(Radiation and electromagnetism influence many systems of the body; the planet’s whole ecosystem is held in place by the magnetosphere, that is, the electromagnet that is the Earth itself, thanks to which you are reading these words. Without the Earth’s magnetic charge, we’re all toast.)
My Best Guess About the Coronavirus Era
So, is this the moment when everything changes? The before and after moment? My best guess is that this will take a little while, and then it will blow over, and seep into the collective unconscious. Or, the story will be suppressed. While California declared an official emergency on Tuesday, I don’t foresee lockdowns in the United States. That would be admitting the problem. The surest sign that the “dorms are safe” is the state lets the kids back in. That proves it!
I may be wrong, but if I am, then we’re talking something really ugly, by U.S. standards, on the level of martial law. It is generally easier and cheaper to govern with a mix of denial and panic. However, if a lot of people get sick, we will have a shortage of hospital beds, and it will disrupt our already stressed-out healthcare system.
The government will continue buying stocks to keep the market from falling further, using the Plunge Protection Team, officially known as the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets. Is this a good idea, or is it just a setup for future problems? Anyway, this has been going on aggressively since the new president took office three years ago. Note that the stock market’s “success” is the president’s greatest achievement.
Trump was on Hannity Wednesday night, telling people that the official mortality rate is a “false number” and advising people to go to work even if they are sick. He said that he had a “hunch” it was below 1% mortality, contrary to all the known statistcs. He offered no substantiation or data. That is why the first question is always, “Where’s your data?” Or I guess in this case, “Tell me a little about that hunch.”
Americans are easy to convince that everything is fine. They are also easy to convince they need to Be Very Afraid. In the end, it’s the same thing.
As time progresses, more events like this will happen, on different scales — more jolts, small to medium, each of which, like a minor earthquake, pushes the question of and concerns about the Big One.
Bear in mind, however, that 780 million people are still under travel restrictions (mostly in China), tens of millions are on lockdown (mostly in China), and 300 million kids cannot go to school (mostly in Asia). And in local news, I learned directly from someone that a student on Vashon Island in Washington (once home to Planet Waves) has a confirmed case of the virus. The school is denying it because the information came from the parents and not from the Department of Health. The death rate among confirmed Washington State cases is around 30%, because they have not done enough testing.
Get used to this kind of game. Learn how to take care of yourself. Those who do will be a lot better off. The United States is not prepared for a problem like this, especially as they have been “de-preparing” for years.
Please read my rant about the authoritarian medical model from Monday’s edition.
Note as well, we are tracking the latest news through the day, every day. I’m posting mainly items related to public health, holistic health and politics.
PS — I will be back with a new horoscope in the Monday Morning edition, to be posted to our subscribers Sunday night. We’ve left the March monthly horoscope in tonight’s edition.
Planet Waves (ISSN 1933-9135) is published each Sunday and Thursday evening in Kingston, New York, Planet Waves, Inc. Core Community membership: $197/year. Editor & Publisher: Eric F. Coppolino. Web Developer: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Associate Editor: Amy Elliott. Assistant Editor: Joshua Halinen. Client Services: Victoria Emory. Illustrator: Lanvi Nguyen. Finance: Andrew Slater. Archivist: Morgan Francis. Technical Assistants: Emily Thing, Cate Ryzhenko. Proofreading: Jessica Keet. Media Consultant: Andrew McLuhan. Music Director: Daniel Sternstein. Bass and Drums: Daniel Grimsland. Additional Music: Zeljko. Additional Research, Writing and Opinions: Samuel Dean, Yuko Katori, Amanda Painter, Cindy Tice Ragusa and Carol van Strum.
Dear Friend and Reader:
We have begun a special news feed for information about the coronavirus situation. Our contacts and network of newswatchers around the world have been sending us so much information, we have created a forum to share it.
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Here is the news feed on the new website. If you think this service is helpful, please link to it, pass it forward and post to social media. Thank you!
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On the Topic of Hand Sanitizer
My friend Beth when in nursing school took microbio lab with a professor named Dawn Holsapple. Every semester they did the same experiment — test the efficacy of household disinfectant and cleaning products, one of which was Purell.
Every time they got the same result — Purell made matters worse. Remember that this is what nurses are told will sanitize their hands as they go from bed to bed. Handwashing is an issue in nursing; a retired nurse recently told me that through her career, she washed her hands into being 10 years older than she is.
Anyway, here is the upshot of the experiment’s results, which Beth said were repeated every semester:
1. Using sanitizer means not washing.
2. Using sanitizer means not mechanically removing anything, as with soap and water. Rather, all the original material stays in place and is merely smeared around a little.
3. Purell contains polysaccharides to thicken it. This is an adhesive and it also feeds microbes. So the original microbes remain; they are fed additionally by body heat and perspiration; and the adhesive attaches new microbes as you contact other surfaces. These are fed by the product. Then those microbes are spread from contact to contact, i.e., from bed to bed.
4. Contact with alcohol kills some microbes, but it must be sustained contact with greater than 70% alcohol. Purell is not sustained contact, it is momentary contact. Sustained, depending on the pathogen, might mean 15 minutes. Or five minutes. Purell is neither.
5. BONUS: Beth Bagner read this article and adds, “Also kills healthy bacteria (probiotic) that protects your skin.” It’s the perfect product!
Side note, Purell tried to sell surgeons on its product, in lieu of the five-minute scrub. They said no way.
Now, if you think, how could the chemical manufacturer claim it works, well, PCB transformers were required by insurance companies as safety equipment well into the 1970s when it was well known (within the electrical industry) that they would not only not prevent fires, but explode.
But still, the marketing department could say, “They’re so safe the insurance company requires them,” which was the product of another dirty deal.
And on a Historical Note: Lysol was Contaminated with Dioxin
Also in disinfectant news: for many years, Lysol was contaminated with dioxin, out of the factory. The active ingredient was Santophen made by Monsanto. This is your morality tale if you don’t think that a wholesome-seeming product touted as perfectly safe just might have a problem…Lysol had a big problem, and it was advertised as safe for dogs and kids, and your kitchen and your sink…and it was spreading the Vietnam War-era toxin dioxin.
This quotation is from the appellate brief in the case Kemner v. Monsanto circa 1989. The term “2,3,7,8” is a technical nickname for dioxin, referring to the positions of the chlorine molecules in the most toxic form of the substance (a chlorine byproduct), formally called 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-para-dioxin. It is considered the most toxic chemical known to science. Lysol was laced with 2,3,7,8 for years, possibly decades.
“Monsanto’s Santophen is the active ingredient in Lysol disinfectant and cleaning products. Monsanto’s analytical chemist, Fred Hileman, testified that Monsanto knew that Lysol is recommended for cleaning babies’ toys and for various other cleaning activities involving direct contact with the human body. Yet, there is no dioxin warning on the Lysol package. Hileman testified that he knew people who used Lysol were contacting three parts per billion of 2,3,7,8 and that 2,3,7,8 is extremely toxic. Hileman testified that he knew people were spraying their lawns with products containing Monsanto’s 2,3,7,8 and that these people didn’t even know it because they had not been told the products contained dioxin, let alone 2,3,7,8.”
Planet Waves TV is Back!
With so much happening, I’m having fun doing short editions of Planet Waves TV. There are several new ones – including one on Mercury retrograde.
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