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Recent coverage guide
The most significant developments- Ukraine, Inflation, Omicron, Mental Health
The gradual return to normalcy with the Omicron wave of the coronavirus proving to be mild, and the change in the geopolitics of Europe with the Russian invasion of Ukraine are some of the new developments. High inflation is the biggest issue in 2022 after the Ukraine invasion has driven up prices of oil and gas, and of food. The US Fed increased interest rates to tackle inflation. Inflation was a major issue in the French elections with parliamentary elections leading to a strong vote for parties on the right and the left alliance.
In June 2022 the positives are that the populations of Asia, Latin America are achieving numbers close to Europe for vaccinations, with lower resistance to vaccinations than Europe and the US. The negatives are that the vaccination rates in Africa remain low, and the unvaccinated are high at about a fourth of the population or higher in the US and Europe, with vaccination skepticism high.
The Omicron wave in 2022 has turned out to be of shorter duration with mild symptoms. More serious was Delta variant in 2021. India was hit with a second wave which pushed cases for India's 1.2 billion population to over 300,000 daily in May 2021 which dropped to 84,000 by June 12, and 40,000 in early August. With higher cases in southern parts of India. Strong action was taken by the Indian government. The Indian government took charge of all vaccination supplies and distribution of vaccines, opening India to vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, J&J, through collaboration with Indian pharmaceutical company manufacturers facilitated by the Indian government, increasing the role of local vaccine Covaxin. A declared goal to have 1.2 billion people vaccinated by December 2021. By the beginning of July 2022 about 2 billion vaccinations were given and about 80% of the adult population fully vaccinated. Tapping 75 years of Indian pharmaceutical industry scientific and manufacturing expertise, new resources from the government, with decisive leadership.
The shift of population away from the Bay area and San Francisco with high cost of living, is now accelerated by the effects of the pandemic in changing perceptions of quality of life, purpose of living, and by technology of work. More jobs are being created in states such as Colorado, Utah, Alabama. In the jobs part of the economy in the US, 5.7 million fewer people were on payrolls in July 2021 compared to before the pandemic. A mismatch in the jobs market with job seekers staying away from income insecure jobs in hospitality, leisure and other sectors. This was followed with the Great Resignation in which workers shifted to less volatile occupations and employers increased wages to keep employees.
Most significant during the second wave of the virus is the income insecurity and anxiety generated for people. Fatigue from restrictions and the lockdown period is resulting in widespread mental health issues. Being aware of this helps overcome it. The resulting stress affects immunity and health. Here are some very useful articles on this subject that readers can go back to.
Working from home- tips from experience working at home, and importantly explore the German practice of "Feierabend" to disconnect from the workday
Immunity and health- advice from experts at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham on health and building up immunity levels for everyone over 40 years.
Origins of the Coronavirus-
Other developments have remained in the background and are persistent in shaping how most of the world looks at itself after the coronavirus and reshapes its priorities.
The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have covered the questions about the origins of coronavirus diligently, citing scientists skepticism that it happened from natural causes and not from first the lifting of the 2014 ban on gain of function research in 2018 and the lab research that followed the lifting of the ban. The lab research for manipulation of the genomic structure of virus to make it more deadly is referred to by the harmless sounding term Gain of function research when it is actually dangerous. Scientists in the Cambridge community in US adamantly opposed the lifting of the ban in the US. The lifting of the ban of funding of such research was announced by NIH Director, December 17, 2017. The Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, Director of Harvard's Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, was interviewed by Karen Feldscher in Harvard School of Public Health journal, Jan. 2018, in article "Three, Questions, Three Answers." Lipsitch says in this journal in Jan. 2018 that this kind of research might lead to human error and an accidental release of virus enhanced in the lab, leading to an accidental pandemic.
"Others, like myself, worry that human error could lead to the accidental release of a virus that has been enhanced in the lab so that it is more deadly and more contagious than it already is. There have been accidents involving pathogens. For example, in 2014, dozens of workers at a U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention lab were accidentally exposed to anthrax that was improperly handled. Another accident like that- if it involved a virus that was newly created and highly contagious- has the potential to jeopardize millions of people."
This raises questions of how the poorest countries Africa with 1.2 billion people, India with 1.2 billion people, Indonesia and Bangladesh with 440 million, Brazil and Mexico with 340 million, other parts of Asia and Latin America, a total of 4 billion people around the world are affected by decisions that are made in Washington DC and followed by effects of decisions in China. In what ways can India which has suffered from epidemics such as cholera and others for centuries ensure the safety of its people and of surrounding regions of Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia and of neighboring countries including Vietnam and Japan, a population of over 2 billion people? How can India combined with the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavian countries, Germany, who have played such a large part in tackling the epidemics in the world from cholera and other epidemics for the last 200 years, combine to ensure that decisions are made outside their countries that do not place a unfair and huge burden on their people and the poorest countries in Africa? How can India achieve the goal of clean drinking water from tap water be achieved in the next 5 years for all 1.2 billion people? How can India's advances in tackling this problem and clean sanitation systems be implemented for Africa and Latin America? These are the new priorities, along with infrastructure and improvement in the quality of living, of education and healthcare for all countries, that should replace the misallocation of capital and resources that has taken place for the last two decades- and replacing the culture behind that misallocation.
The developments include the U.S. frustration with China and the WHO in getting more information about the virus from Wuhan- a request was sent on January by the U.S. government for its team of experts to go to Wuhan. Normally this is quickly approved and the U.S. can learn first hand how serious it is and what it should do. The approval came after 7 weeks on February 16, 2020. Because the coronavirus is explosively contagious the 7 weeks were costly in loss of hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. See Der Spiegel.
Vaccination efforts in developing countries
Significant efforts include the effort for the Oxford vaccine research and the alliance that brings together Astra Zeneca for distribution, Serum Institute of India for manufacturing and Oxford for the research and invention of a vaccine. Other vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna vaccine, Novavax vaccine are now the first available to healthcare workers and the elderly in 2021. The 2 billion billion vaccinations given to people by July 2022 in India, at the rate of about 7-12 million vaccinations a day using locally made vaccines, is one of the great stories of our time. Providing vaccine access to the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America with US committing 500 million Pfizer doses, Britain 100 million and France 30 million is underway after leaders met for the 2021 summer G-7 meeting UK, in the seaside town of Cornwall.
The coronavirus quarantine and the first, second and successive waves of the coronavirus for China, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Italy, Spain, France, Britain, and the U.S. are covered from different angles and perspectives showing divergent responses in each country, vaccination success rates, vaccine mandates, access to vaccine supplies, partial lockdowns, and the way it has affected life in each place from schools and hospitals to everyday life in cities. It shows how people are coping, and the evolving impact on business and the economy in each place.
Upcoming developments and coverage- US and NATO, Climate Change and China
In 18 months the Biden administration inherited many of the issues that faced the Trump administration. Climate change, the relationship with China on trade, U.S. leadership role in world trade, technology, and bringing manufacturing back to the US, increasing worker incomes and cutting trillion dollars in student debt. The difference in response less in substance than in style. As amazing as it may sound a consensus exists on many of these issues. If Mr. Trump had a less confrontational style this may not sound amazing, just matter of fact; and without that confrontational personality he may not have attracted the attention he needed to challenge the status quo. On climate change the one real difference this appears to be striking, but when one considers that cost of energy when transformed by technology, the real economics of energy is the real determinant of change, the difference is not as large. Consider even coal dependent large emitters such as India are making ten fold increase in renewable solar energy with ambitious solar energy target of 450 gigawatts by 2030, because of technology rapidly making solar more cost efficient than coal, and one realizes that it is less talk and more courage to try new ideas and new technologies on a small scale that counts. The COP26 Glasgow set a new goal to "phase down" fossil fuels, and India announced five goals to be achieved to cut carbon emissions drastically by 2030. Agreements on deforestation, methane gas emissions at Glasgow were achieved, yet coal dependency in China and India is likely to continue for some time. With the Ukraine war and skyrocketing prices of fossil fuels, investments in solar and wind renewable energy are increasing rapidly in the US, EU and India. And with it serious conservation of energy for industry and homes. The European Union has mandated a 15% reduction in energy use through conservation and efficiency. President Biden's $369 billion Climate and Tax bill is an initiative that will get the US to achieving the Biden goal of making a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.
The U.S. China trade war was halted in December 2019 with a new round of tariffs on laptops and mobile phones cancelled by president Trump. Other import duties on a portion of imports from China were kept in force by president Trump as the U.S. continued to monitor the declining trade deficit with China. Mr. Biden has continued the policy on tariffs for Chinese goods in 2021 and 2022. Mr. Trump saw this as critical for U.S. jobs and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, so does Mr. Biden. Mr. Biden is vigorously pursuing a policy that puts America's competitiveness in the world in technology, science, trade and infrastructure at the top of the agenda.
China is essentially decoupling from its tight export relationship with the U.S. yet retaining its goal of technological competition and its model of state subsidized enterprises. China is also having to shift parts of its economy back to informal economy of street sellers and other vendors for cities in provinces in the interior as its manufacturing economy slows with lack of U.S. and European demand. A more serious problem is the way coronavirus has increased income insecurity in China for the bottom one third of the population of about 290 million migrant workers and tens of millions of workers in small shoe factories and other small businesses forced to layoff workers because of weakening domestic spending. The lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities in China in 2022 have further exacerbated the situation leading to growth of about 4% in the Chinese economy, as estimated by the World Bank. More recent data show slight or no growth.
The same problem is evident in Europe and the US, as coronavirus hurts workers more at the low end in sectors such as retail, food, tourism, airlines, restaurants and bars, manufacturing, and less for salaried workers such as salaried professionals in software, legal, health care, and other office workers who can work from home and have seen increases in their investments in stock markets. The result is more fracturing of an already overburdened social structure with wide gaps between haves and have-nots, between white not college educated and white college educated people across Europe, America, and similar gaps in other parts of the industrializing world, and between rural small town and urban. In fact the U.S. election is better understood and seen from this social lens with the contest going down to a few states in the midwest and the east such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. His very success made Mr. Trump redundant in terms of changing the dynamics of manufacturing relationships around the world. The quiet persistence to close these gaps, reverse the social fracturing, rebuild America with Biden Families plan $2 trillion in spending for infrastructure, education, health, and other unmet needs of the people of America, for workers, students and families, is now the task of the Biden administration.
The role of technology in making coal dependence a part of our history, of making renewable wind energy, renewable solar energy the wave of the future is also one of the new developments changing the world and favored by Biden in the US, Johnson in the UK, Modi in India, Xi in China. The Ukraine war has some constructive effects with Germany and the European Union, the US, China and India experiencing a surge in more efficient use of energy for industry and homes. The heat waves and floods in 2022 have driven home the point to India, China, the US and Germany that fossil fuel use of the type seen before in industry and homes worsens climate change and impacts agriculture, food, health. And with distortions in supplies by cartels such as OPEC + that includes Russia, leads to skyrocketing prices of oil and gas worldwide, the biggest problem in 2022. Oil and gas prices have also also financed the Russian invasion, and now endangers food supplies in Africa, the Middle East (Egypt, Tunisia) and Asia (Sri Lanka, Indonesia) through blockades of Ukraine in the Black Sea port of Odessa.
Biden restructuring supply chains, food security, and investing in infrastructure
The movement for restructuring of supply chains began with the trade war with China and has accelerated with two new developments. First the failure of the early warning system with China with U.S. teams held up from January 6, 2020 request to China for a team to go to Wuhan and not approved till February 16, crucial 7 weeks in which the very contagious coronavirus spread to infect millions of people around the world. See Der Spiegel. A combination of failures at WHO and with China, leading to a U.S. ultimatum and severing all WHO ties. The U.S. and allies Britain, France, Japan, India have also sensed that the outshoring of production has failed miserably when it comes to health care supplies, pharmaceutical supplies, and keeping technological leadership with existing manufacturing and supply chain arrangements. Britain, France, Germany, Japan and India are also following the lead of the U.S. as they reposition their industry and prepare for restructuring of supply chains. The war in Ukraine has only accelerated these developments.
The U.S. response begun under Mr. Trump with a certain vehemence and continued quietly by Mr. Biden is to form a new alliance of nations in a new realignment with Australia, India, Japan, Britain, France, the European Union, Vietnam and other allies around the world to restructure supply chains. Other issues have emerged in June and July in U.S. China relations over Hong Kong, the border escalation with India, Huawei and 5G networks, worsening of China's relations with Australia, India, Britain, Japan, Taiwan, key allies of the U.S. Fundamentally the U.S. sees China very differently now, and this was evident in statements from the outgoing administration's Pompeo at State, the FBI's Wray, Navarro on trade and technology, all pushing back. Mr. Biden is following this policy quietly with less vehemence, but just as effectively. It may look different but the popular response brings in a different style that is more appropriate for the next stage, that actually complements the work in U.S. trade, technology, competitive position of the previous Trump administration. This will now shape world affairs and world economic and social structures for the next three decades. In many ways it takes us back to the period of growth and optimism during the period after World War II when the U.S., Europe began rebuilding their economies, and India and other Asian, African nations emerged from colonialism as free nations. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, China's posture towards Taiwan will only accelerate this process, as the US and Europe, Latin America and India look to a new future.
Lyrarc covered the changes in Mexico corruption, Argentina, Brazil and Chile as Latin America struggles with problems of corruption (Mexico), debt and inflation (Argentina), public spending (Brazil), and lack of public pension systems plus need for new constitution (Chile). And in Mexico renegotiation of the NAFTA with new USMCA trade treaty with America. Only to have the situation aggravated by the coronavirus epidemic. The surge in the pandemic in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico shows the weakness in Latin America. The progress under globalization shown to be hollow with exposed weakness in sanitation and health, and in basic public services, of a glaring nature in Brazil. Latin America now has over 42 million cases in the pandemic amid desperation for lack of vaccine supplies, lack of health funding and failure of consensus on vaccination with about half or 22 million cases in Brazil alone.
Lyrarc.com also gives clarity on controversial issues such as China's Belt and Road Initiative, the US response with the Partnership for Infrastructure Investment and infrastructure development in Asia, Africa, China's Huawei in new 5G tech networks, medical advances in Africa. Other interesting and useful articles on health, lifestyle, science, technology, worklife, women, and sports.
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Distortions in the investment allocations that happened during the last decade with infrastructure, public health services starved of resources, worker incomes fraught with difficulties, global supply chains neglecting the national interests of the U.S., Europe, India and other countries, waste of investments in novel ideas, are exposed during this pandemic. The result being a loss of hope for a brighter future for people in many countries. Accompanying this was the growth of China and the dilution of national pride, a decline of a sense of nationhood, of cultural literacy, in America, Britain, Europe, and Allied countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa. Walt Whitman extolling the virtues of America, Carl Sandburg extolling the virtues of the American worker and a sense of "The People, Yes" virtually disappeared, turned over to dull drab language of economists and politicians, making us derelict of responsibilities to country.
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