United States

Forcing Russia to ‘Default’ on its Debt Will Backfire as Only Western Investors Will be Affected

The Telegraph reported today that the U.S. announced that it would push Russia into a default on its sovereign debt. The Telegraph’s reporting is a little odd. At one point the article states: “The clock is now ticking on an international default, which would be the first since the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution.”

In fact, the Russian Government famously defaulted on its debt in 1998. The situation then and now is so different, however, that it is worth some scrutiny. Consider how Rabobank describes the 1998 default:

The Russian stock, bond and currency markets collapse as a result of fears for a rouble devaluation and a default on domestic debt. These fears had arisen during the previous months due to ongoing interest rate rises, capital outflows and the corresponding erosion of investor confidence in emerging markets. Annual yields on rouble-denominated bonds rise to more than 200%. Furthermore, the stock market is closed down for 35 minutes when stock prices fall sharply. Stocks have lost more than 75% of their value since the beginning of the year.

Today, however, the rouble is stable, interest rates are under control and while the stock market is down somewhat since before the war it is still trading. In 1998, Russia was facing hyperinflationary chaos. Today on the ground in Moscow nothing is too unusual for the average Russian. The country may be facing down a recession, but then so are we.

So, what is going on? Simply put: the U.S. is trying to force a default on bond payments. Russia is perfectly willing to pay. But the U.S. Government is preventing it from doing so. Here is the Telegraph:

Did Lockdowns Cause the Biggest Drop in American Happiness Since Surveys Began?

The General Social Survey is a long-running survey of the US population that’s taken place every few years since the 1970s. It asks about respondents’ demographic characteristics, political views and social attitudes. One of the questions concerns happiness with one’s life. Specifically, respondents are asked:

Taken all together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?

The percentage of Americans saying “not too happy” has been consistently below 20% since the question was first posed in 1972. But in the latest survey, something rather concerning happened: there was a dramatic rise in the percentage saying “not too happy” – from less than 15% in 2018 to more than 22% in 2021 (see below).

Surveys Show That Democrats Can’t Let Covid Go

In the early days of the pandemic, when we didn’t have much information, partisan differences in concern about Covid were relatively small. A Gallup poll from February of 2020 found that precisely 35% of U.S. conservatives and 35% of liberals were worried about the pandemic.

Since then, a massive partisan gap has opened up, with Democrats being far more concerned than Republicans. This gap persists to the present day.

While being greatly concerned about the disease was not unreasonable in the spring of 2020, when few people had immunity and excess mortality was high, the situation we face now is dramatically different. All adults have been offered a vaccine, and a significant fraction of the population has natural immunity.

More and more people can see it’s past time we got back to normal. Even one-time ‘Zero Covid’ advocates like Devi Sridhar admit the virus has been “defanged”. But in the U.S., Democrats can’t seem to let Covid go.

Their refusal to face reality is laid bare in two recent surveys: one by Morning Consult, which is summarised in the New York Times; one a join venture of Rasmussen Reports and the Heartland Institute.

Let’s take each one in turn. Here are two headline results from the first survey. Remember, the data were collected in January of this year – mere weeks ago.

83% of Democrats are still concerned about their children getting sick from Covid at school. 83%! This is despite the fact that Covid poses almost no risk to children; indeed, those aged 5–14 are more likely to die in a car accident on their way to school.

As a result of these ungrounded fears, a shocking 65% of Democrats want to go back to remote learning – something that has demonstrably harmed kids’ education, while yielding almost no benefit in terms of reduced transmission.

Most Democrats Wrongly Believe That Vaccines Provide More Protection Than Natural Immunity

I’ve written before about people’s skewed perceptions of the risks of Covid. Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, perceptions are more skewed among Democrats than they are among Republicans.

As recently as September of this year – that is, more than a year and a half into the pandemic – 41% of Democrats said the risk of hospitalisation if you’re not vaccinated is at least 50%! (The true figure is at least ten times lower.)

A new survey reveals another fallacy that’s widespread among Democrats. On 15–16th December, Rasmussen Reports put the following question to a representative sample of Americans:

Which is more effective in preventing COVID-19 — natural immunity from prior infection with the virus, or getting vaccinated against the virus? Or are both natural immunity and vaccination equally effective?

The correct answer, according to the polling company, is that they’re “equally effective”. I’d beg to differ – several studies have found that natural immunity provides more protection. However, the correct answer surely isn’t “getting vaccinated”.

Among Republicans, 43% gave what I regard as the correct answer of “natural immunity”, and only 25% said “getting vaccinated”. Yet among Democrats, a sizeable majority of 61% said “getting vaccinated”, while only 17% said “natural immunity”.

There is one caveat. Some respondents may have interpreted “Which is more effective” to mean “Which is a better way of acquiring immunity to Covid”. And at least for the elderly and clinically vulnerable, the correct answer to this question may well be “getting vaccinated”.

Having said that, the most natural interpretation of “Which is more effective” is clearly the one the polling company intended, namely “Which protects better against infection”.

So, why does such a large percentage of the US population – 41% overall – wrongly believe that vaccines provide more protection than natural immunity?

Well, it’s actually not surprising when you consider how many scientists have denied or downplayed natural immunity to Covid. Recall last year’s John Snow Memorandum, which stated, “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”. (The Memorandum was co-signed by CDC director Rochelle Walensky.)

People can hardly be expected to have accurate beliefs when scientists aren’t giving them accurate information. At this point, a correction is surely in order: ‘We got it wrong: there is evidence for lasting protective immunity following natural infection’.

Case Rates Are Currently Highest in the Most Vaccinated US States

In the US, Southern states have the lowest vaccination rates, while North Eastern states have the highest vaccination rates. This pattern appears to be largely down to partisanship: Republicans are less likely to be vaccinated than Democrats.

At the end of August, when the Delta variant was dominant, case rates were highest in Southern states like Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Meanwhile, they remained low in North Eastern states like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. This is shown in the map below, which gives the official case curve for each state up to 26 December:

The much higher case rates in the South seemed to provide evidence that the vaccines stop infection (in addition to protecting against serious illness and death). Hence, it was believed, vaccine passports will help to curb transmission.

Fast forward three months, and the situation is rather different. Infections are now surging in the North East. This has led to the somewhat peculiar situation whereby case rates are highest in some of the most vaccinated states. See the chart below, based on data from the CDC:

U.S. Military Begins Discharging 30,000 Servicemen for Refusing the Jab

In August, the U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a series of vaccine mandates covering all branches of the military, with thousands of personnel now facing the sack following the expiration of numerous inoculation deadlines. In total, the U.S. military has begun discharging the 30,000 active and unvaccinated servicemen within its ranks, with the Air Force having fired 27 unjabbed pilots since Monday. The Mail has the story.

On Thursday, the Marine Corps said that 95% of its active-duty force of 182,500 Marines had received at least one Covid vaccine shot, the lowest percentage among the military services, moving up one point from 94% last month. 

It is unclear why the first 103 Marines are being discharged now, as according to the Corps numbers, there are roughly 9,000 more remaining who have not been vaccinated still holding their rank. 

However, the Marine Corps said it has approved 1,007 medical and administrative exemptions and is still processing 2,863 of the 3,144 requests made for a religious exemption as of Friday.

While the percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each service is at 95% or higher, the number of unvaccinated personnel is close to 30,000.

Navy officials have begun terminating the 5,731 active-duty sailors, or two percent of its active branch, who remain unvaccinated two weeks after the established deadline, leaders of the military branch confirmed on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, the Army announced it is prepared to axe 3,800 unvaccinated soldiers beginning in January and after the Air Force has already discharged 27 service members who refused the vaccine order. 

The Navy has the highest vaccination rate of all military branches with 336,000 sailors, or 99%, vaccinated from Covid. 

“If a sailor gets their shot, we will honour that and make every effort to retain them,” Rear Admiral James Waters, the Navy’s Director of Military Personnel Plans and Policy said. 

“On the other hand, those who continue to refuse the vaccine will be required to leave the Navy.”

Navy officials had previously announced that unvaccinated officers and enlisted sailors eligible to retire or leave the service before June 1st 2022, will be allowed to do so with an honourable discharge.  

Those who an ineligible for retirement or leave by that date will still receive an honourable discharge but “will be processed for separation on the basis of misconduct for refusing the lawful order to be vaccinated,” Waters explained. 

However, those with more than six years of service “will be processed with the least favourable characterization of service, being general, under honourable conditions, barring other misconduct,” he said.  

Army officials said on Thursday that more than 3,800 soldiers, nearly 2% of the military branch’s active duty force, had flatly refused to get at least one dose of the mandatory Covid vaccine as of this week’s deadline and could be fired as early as next month. 

Worth reading in full.

Actor Steve Burton Fired From Soap for Refusing to Get Vaccinated

American actor Steve Burton has been sacked from his role in the U.S. soap General Hospital, where he has played the character Jason Morgan since 1991, because of his refusal to get vaccinated. Filming takes place at ABC studios, which requires all actors to be vaccinated, with Burton following in the footsteps of his former colleague Ingo Rademacher, who was also kicked from the show for not being vaccinated. Sky News has the story.

Burton, who has played the role of Jason Morgan in the long-running U.S. soap since 1991, confirmed the news in an Instagram video on Tuesday evening.

The show, which is made by Disney-owned ABC Studios, requires its Zone A (those actively working on set) actors and staff to be vaccinated against Covid.

He said: “Unfortunately, General Hospital has let me go because of the vaccine mandate. I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions, and both of those were denied. Which, you know, hurts.

“But this is also about personal freedom to me.”

Burton went on to say: “Maybe one day if these mandates are lifted, I can return and finish my career as Jason Morgan. That would be an honour.”

ABC has since confirmed that Burton’s departure is linked to his non-compliance with the show’s vaccine mandate.

He follows colleague Ingo Rademacher out the show’s door, who was also let go for publicly refusing to comply with the show’s vaccine mandate.

Using Instagram, Rademacher frequently rallied against vaccine mandates, telling those who had taken the jab that they were only doing for themselves.

Worth reading in full.

600 Google Employees Sign Manifesto to Overturn the Company’s Vaccine Mandate

Google, which employs approximately 150,000 people in the U.S., has mandated that all workers who interact with Government contractors be fully vaccinated, even if they work from home, with all other employees ordered to report their vaccination status. However, the new measure has encountered opposition within the company itself as roughly 600 members of staff have signed a manifesto demanding that Google “be inclusive to all Googlers” and overturn this policy, while calling on fellow employees to “oppose the mandate as a matter of principle”. MailOnline has the story.

The tech giant is requiring its more than 150,000 U.S. employees to report their vaccination statuses and all employees who work directly or indirectly with Government contracts to be vaccinated, whether they plan to work in the office or not. 

The manifesto, which has been signed by at least 600, or less than 0.5% of all Google employees, asks company executives to abandon the policy to create a mandate “inclusive of all Googlers”, CNBC first reported. 

It urges workers to “oppose the mandate as a matter of principle” and encourages them not to allow the mandate to influence their decision to be inoculated. 

Google had set a November 12th deadline for employees to request vaccine exemptions, and employees will be required to work in the office three days a week starting January 10th. 

This comes after President Joe Biden announced that all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees must require their staff to be fully vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid by January 4th, 2022.

The authors sent the open letter, with the subhead “Respect the User”, to Google’s Chief Health Officer Karen DeSalvo, the document states. 

“I believe that [CEO] Sundar’s Vaccine Mandate is deeply flawed,” the manifesto says, describing executives’ leadership as “coercive” and “the antithesis of inclusion”.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the company’s requirement for employees to be fully vaccinated to return in-person in a blog post in July. “Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai wrote at the time.

The manifesto insists that the policy “publicly and possibly embarrassingly exposes” employees’ private choices. 

Worth reading in full.

Why Boris Has Gone Gaga For ‘Build Back Better’

borisbuildbackbetter.jpg

We’re publishing a guest post by an academic economist about why Boris, who used to be a borderline climate change sceptic, has passionately embraced a ‘Net Zero’ agenda. Could it be because he wants to curry favour with Joe Biden?

Many of his supporters are dismayed that Boris Johnson seems to be buying in so deeply to the hardcore green agenda. This is doubly so when we consider how this agenda might overlap with the powers the Government has accrued over the course of repeated lockdowns. You need not be a full-throated believer in the coming Great Reset to see that green activists are angling to leverage these new powers to impose their radical program on the population.

Those that are dismayed by this latest evolution of Johnson’s politics have been scrambling for an answer. Johnson does not personally seem like an enthusiast for hard green policies. Yes, he used to bike around London as mayor – but this hardly indicated that he was interested in the more totalitarian aspects of the green agenda.

Some have turned to the influence of Johnson’s latest wife: Carrie Symonds. The profile fits. Symonds seems like a squishy ‘right-thinking’ London liberal with an instinct finely-tuned to get as close to power as possible. Sorry Boris, but she probably did not marry you for your looks or your dependability.

In what follows I am not dismissing this personal dimension but think that it needs to be viewed in a broader context. Johnson may bend to Carrie’s will behind closed doors, but this cannot explain why the whole Tory Party has painted itself green.

Biden Vaccine Mandate Will Fine Businesses $14,000 for Each Unvaccinated Employee

From January 4th, U.S. businesses which hire more than 100 employees will have to ensure that their workforce is fully jabbed (any which remain unvaccinated will have to do weekly Covid tests), or face close to $14,000 in fines. The mandate will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) through usual workplace inspections, with repeat offenders at risk of being punished by a staggering $136,532 fine. The Mail has more.

Workers who fall under Biden’s order will need to receive their final dose – or only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – by January 4th of the new year, the official said. After that date, employers will need to implement at least weekly Covid testing for those who aren’t fully vaccinated.

Enforcement of the rule, an official said on a background call Wednesday evening, will be just as that of any other rule, which includes inspections to check for compliance. 

Red states are likely to rebuke the new rule, and it is currently unclear how the Federal Government will grapple with that if they try not to comply.

A fact sheet of the new rule from the White House Thursday morning states OSHA is “making clear that their new rules pre-empt any inconsistent state or local laws, including laws that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, masks, or testing”.

Republicans are furious over the new rule. 

“Our economy is crumbling, and President Biden is doing everything in his power to make it worse”, Senator Marsha Blackburn said in a statement. “While businesses scramble to fill the 10.4 million open jobs in our country, Biden’s vaccine mandate will push even more Americans out of the workforce”.

She also tweeted Thursday morning: “Joe Biden is firing essential workers.”

Republican Representative Jody Hice of Georgia insisted to the Mail: “No American should be forced to choose between putting food on their tables or receiving a vaccine.”

GOP Representative Byron Donalds of Florida told the Mail: “Despite the Democrats’ shellacking this week, the Biden administration is pressing on with their unconstitutional mandate requiring private businesses to mandate vaccination to avoid fines up to $1 million”

“Americans from southwest Florida and all across the nation will have to choose between food on the table or taking a shot they feel they do not need”, he lamented. “This tyrannical mandate is a gross infringement of medical privacy and the individual rights of every American and won’t hold water in the judicial system”.

The stringent new guidelines have been put in place amid widespread backlash to mandates, including bids from Republicans to overturn it to keep people in their jobs, fears of staff shortages and first responders in major cities being turned away from work. 

Vaccine mandates have already been put in place in many cities across the country.

Worth reading in full.