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Old 2020-02-29, 22:35   #78
ewmayer
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More on the WHO's conflicts of interest:

Why did Australia’s government declare #coronavirus a pandemic? It doesn’t trust the WHO. “The information from multiple international sources is that the WHO is under intense pressure from the Chinese government, and succumbing to it.” @V2019N https://t.co/lHHy1VVChx

— James Massola (@jamesmassola) February 29, 2020

Another possible reason the WHO has so diligently avoided the dreaded P-word relates to financial interests -- apparently the triggering criterion for payouts of this special class of bonds started in 2017 is that the WHO pronounce it a pandemic:

World Bank launches 'pandemic bond' to tackle major outbreaks | Reuters
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Old 2020-03-01, 00:54   #79
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Following news reports on COVID-19, I notice that the apparent fatality rate seems higher than the 2.5% or so it seemed to be previously.

This is especially noticeable with

Iran: 593 reported cases, 43 deaths (7.2%)

and

China: 79,251 reported cases, 2,835 deaths (3.57%)

The obvious explanation being put forth is that there are a lot of undetected cases.

It is certainly possible that there are a lot of asymptomatic cases. It is also AFAIK possible that some people whose deaths have been laid to coronavirus had another significant contributing factor, or even died of something else. It is also possible that the virus has mutated to make it more virulent, or AFAIK so that it is less virulent for a significant fraction of the population, making them asymptomatic, and their cases harder to detect.
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Old 2020-03-02, 00:19   #80
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Article in the NYT just now re viral persistence in “recovered” individuals

And in associated "never let a crisis go to waste" news:

Coronavirus Spending Bill Could Be Used to Cement Spying Powers, Surveillance Critics in Congress Warned | The Intercept
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Old 2020-03-02, 02:30   #81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Another possible reason the WHO has so diligently avoided the dreaded P-word relates to financial interests -- apparently the triggering criterion for payouts of this special class of bonds started in 2017 is that the WHO pronounce it a pandemic:

World Bank launches 'pandemic bond' to tackle major outbreaks | Reuters
What are you suggesting, exactly? That a coalition of PEF bondholders are holding WHO hostage? That WHO has secretly purchased its own bonds so it could rake in German and Japanese money by failing to call pandemics? (As opposed to calling everything a pandemic and stealing bondholder money for use in nominally pandemic-stricken countries.)
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Old 2020-03-02, 02:32   #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Sardonicus View Post
Following news reports on COVID-19, I notice that the apparent fatality rate seems higher than the 2.5% or so it seemed to be previously.

This is especially noticeable with

Iran: 593 reported cases, 43 deaths (7.2%)

and

China: 79,251 reported cases, 2,835 deaths (3.57%)

The obvious explanation being put forth is that there are a lot of undetected cases.

It is certainly possible that there are a lot of asymptomatic cases. It is also AFAIK possible that some people whose deaths have been laid to coronavirus had another significant contributing factor, or even died of something else. It is also possible that the virus has mutated to make it more virulent, or AFAIK so that it is less virulent for a significant fraction of the population, making them asymptomatic, and their cases harder to detect.
Yes, all of this. (But also note that stressed medical systems have higher death rates and can't be extrapolated easily.)
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Old 2020-03-02, 15:24   #83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRGreathouse View Post
What are you suggesting, exactly? That a coalition of PEF bondholders are holding WHO hostage? That WHO has secretly purchased its own bonds so it could rake in German and Japanese money by failing to call pandemics? (As opposed to calling everything a pandemic and stealing bondholder money for use in nominally pandemic-stricken countries.)
Are there any rules governing conflicts of interest regarding WHO employees? If so, who enforces those rules? I seem to recall a few cases in world history where people were shocked, shocked, to learn that the COI rules were weak, not enforced and/or abused.
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Old 2020-03-02, 20:22   #84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRGreathouse View Post
What are you suggesting, exactly? That a coalition of PEF bondholders are holding WHO hostage? That WHO has secretly purchased its own bonds so it could rake in German and Japanese money by failing to call pandemics? (As opposed to calling everything a pandemic and stealing bondholder money for use in nominally pandemic-stricken countries.)
I simply noticed the curious recent deletion of the word "pandemic" from WHO's official lexicon, and the reports that China is pressuring the agency in matters regarding the coronavirus pa-, um, "really really widespread and growing bit of nastiness". When there' big money at stake, it's certainly far from unprecedented for influential wealthy people wth money on the line to exert pressure, often by way of politicians they have bought (or perhaps better, rented).

So how would a country like China "pressure" the WHO? Money is one obvious tack - the US has a long history of withholding (or threatening to) funding for the WHO's parent agency, the UN - surely they are not unique in that regard, they are simply the biggest $ contributor, giving them the most leverage. Wikipedia on WHO funding:
Quote:
The WHO is financed by contributions from member states and outside donors. As of 2012, the largest annual assessed contributions from member states came from the United States ($110 million), Japan ($58 million), Germany ($37 million), United Kingdom ($31 million) and France ($31 million).[116] The combined 2012–2013 budget has proposed a total expenditure of $3,959 million, of which $944 million (24%) will come from assessed contributions.
Note the mere 24% of funding that comes from "assessed contributions", i.e. assessed to member states. Thus, the "and outside donors" bit looms large. And by way of an example of the WHO bowing to pressure from a major member state, we again have China, which in the past has exerted its influence with regard to Taiwan's membership - same Wikipedia article:
Quote:
Between 2009 and 2016 Taiwan was allowed to attend WHO meetings and events as an observer but was forced to stop due to renewed pressure from China.[150]

Political pressure from China has led to Taiwan being barred from membership of the WHO and other UN-affiliated organizations, and in 2017 to 2020 the WHO refused to allow Taiwanese delegates to attend the WHO annual assembly.[151] On multiple occasions Taiwanese journalists have been denied access to report on the assembly.[152]

In May 2018, the WHO denied access to its annual assembly by Taiwanese media reportedly due to demands from China.[153] Later in May 172 members of the United States House of Representatives wrote to the Director General of the World Health Organization to argue for Taiwan's inclusion as an observer at the WHA.[154] The United States, Japan, Germany, and Australia all support Taiwan's inclusion in WHO.[155]
More on the $ issue - I was unable to find anything on funding at the WHO homepage - perhaps it's there, but certainly not in any obvious spot or sidebar. But did find some more detail here:
Quote:
WHO is financed by contributions from member states and from donors. In recent years, WHO's work has involved more collaboration, currently around 80 such partnerships, with NGOs and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as with foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Voluntary contributions to the WHO from national and local governments, foundations and NGOs, other UN organizations, and the private sector (including pharmaceutical companies), now exceed that of assessed contributions (dues) from its 193 member nations.

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2020-03-02 at 20:29
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Old 2020-03-03, 02:40   #85
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
So how would a country like China "pressure" the WHO?
You're answering the part that needs no answer. It's easy to exert pressure, I assume that the agency and its members can trivially be pressured. But who would pressure, and to what end? You've been too vague and it makes it hard to guess what you're pointing at.
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Old 2020-03-03, 03:04   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRGreathouse View Post
You're answering the part that needs no answer. It's easy to exert pressure, I assume that the agency and its members can trivially be pressured. But who would pressure, and to what end? You've been too vague and it makes it hard to guess what you're pointing at.
I thought that was obvious - major holders of such pandemic-insurance bonds who are suffering business/investmen losses as a result of the, um, don't-call-it-a-pandemic.

More broadly, there is a very real and growing risk of a huge global economic disruption at least as bad as the 2008-9 global financial crisis, possibly approaching that of the 1930s Great Depression. The reason is globalization, which has both effectively guaranteed that [a] the virus will sweep the globe - the rapid rise in local case clusters in multiple countries including the US, which just began wider-scale testing, i.e. likely has hundreds of as-yet-undiagnosed cases, bears this out - and [b] that economic impacts will be amplified by the resulting huge reliance on global supply chains, in weakest-link fashion. The resulting utter loss of national-economic self-reliance ('autarky' is the fancy word the economists use for it, often in pejorative, isolationist-connoting fashion) by most of the 'developed' world is a recipe for catastrophe. NC post on this today:

Coronavirus: Bracing for the Economic Shockwave | naked capitalism
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Old 2020-03-03, 05:05   #87
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
I thought that was obvious - major holders of such pandemic-insurance bonds who are suffering business/investmen losses as a result of the, um, don't-call-it-a-pandemic.
So the premise is that there's a conspiracy of major bondholders to pressure the WHO and/or its members to avoid labeling this outbreak a pandemic. Evidence for this might include kompromat used on WHO members or evidence of bondholders conspiring. Evidence suggesting against this hypothesis might include the WHO labeling the outbreak a pandemic (not impossible under the scenario of course, but presumably less likely).
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Old 2020-03-03, 12:58   #88
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I'd never heard of "pandemic bonds," so I looked them up. It only took a few minutes to find that, surprise surprise, the contracts under which these things are issued are designed to minimize the chances of having to pay out. Anyone who's filed an insurance claim is likely familiar with the concept.

Specifically, the "parametric triggers" for a payout for these "pandemic bonds" are, by design, extremely difficult to trip. They basically only kick in after an epidemic is already out of control, or well on the way. This has come up before, WRT the major Ebola outbreak a few years ago.

Generally speaking, these things have been criticized as having been designed so only the investors can win. They receive a high rate of return because the investment is supposedly risky. OTOH the terms of payout are written so as to make the bonds practically useless for what they were supposedly designed to do, which is to allow capital to move quickly to assist poor countries deal with a pandemic.

So there's no need to invoke a "conspiracy of bondholders." It's all in the fine print.
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