Monday, August 3, 2020

Coronavirus Treatment

                                                
Back in March on the advice of my science advisor, I put up a post on coronavirus antidotes that included a reference to doctors that had been using a combination of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the Z-pac to successfully treat patients with severe symptoms of coronavirus infection.
At the time the treatment, despite its success, was controversial. Although hydroxychloroquine had been used successfully for many years in treating malaria and lupus, it had not been tested for coronavirus. The now famous Dr. Fauci explained that the CDC could not support the use of the drug until it had been fully tested. Moreover, the drug could have serious side effects for those with heart and other conditions.
The drug became even more controversial when President Trump at a press conference alluded to the success that doctors in the field were having with the hydroxychloroquine treatment. Commentators were up in arms. The President’s support meant that the drug entered the political arena.
However, a study has just been published by the respected Henry Ford Health center in Detroit that shows the effectiveness of low-cost hydroxychloroquine in saving lives. It should convince Dr. Fauci although it will not persuade those who cannot believe that President Trump can be right about anything. ** 
Here is the headline from the July 2 press release of the study, “a large-scale retrospective analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized between March 10 and May 2, 2020 across the system’s six hospitals”: *

DETROIT--Treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19--and without heart-related side-effects, according to a new study published by the Henry Ford Health System.

The following quotes from the press release illustrate the study’s methodology and conclusions. (quotes in italics).

The study found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died compared to 26.4% not treated with hydroxychloroquine. None of the patients had documented serious heart abnormalities; however, patients were monitored for a heart condition routinely pointed to as a reason to avoid the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine at Henry Ford met specific protocol criteria as outlined by the hospital system’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The vast majority received the drug soon after admission; 82% within 24 hours and 91% within 48 hours of admission. All patients in the study were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years; 51% were men and 56% African American.

"The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System... “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”

Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped save lives,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”

Speaking of saving lives, last week a group of doctors held a press conference at the Nation’s Capital to describe how they had used the hydroxychloroquine treatment to save lives in the hospitals in which they worked. One was impassioned in claiming that no one has to die from the coronavirus. She claimed that she had treated 350 patients with severe symptoms and none of them had died. Her remarks went viral with over 17 million hits but were taken down by media outlets like You Tube which claimed that the brief video did not meet its community standards. 


The Henry Ford Health Center study has received little attention in the media. Everyone wanted a study back at the outset of the pandemic but when one appears that contains good news, it is ignored. It would appear that there are many people who not only can’t believe a study that shows good results but who actually do not want to believe it no matter what its scientific bonafides.

It is too bad that doctors actually saving lives are censored. I have heard that doctors in hospitals take hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic but keep it secret for fear of ostracism. The other day I heard a TV commentator refer to health officials who recommended the drug as "killers."

The doctors’ strategy could actually help schools to reopen in the Fall. I don’t mean that children should take hydroxychloroquine. Their immune systems handle the virus easily and they are at virtually no risk of being infected. But their teachers, especially the older ones, could routinely take the inexpensive medication as a precaution.  

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*The study was published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the peer-reviewed, open-access online publication of the International Society of Infectious Diseases (ISID.org).

** If you click on the link to the Henry Ford Health center study, you will find that it comes with a warning label as if it is dangerous to read.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Film Noir Favorites, Summer 2020

Ava Gardner in The Killers
Dark themes, stark camera angles, and high contrast lighting are the characteristics of films of the 40s and 50s that were later called called "film noir" by French film critics who fell in love with them after WWII. These films tell realistic stories about crime, mystery, femme fatales, and moral conflict. Most were originally conceived as low budget “B” movies but many are now regarded as ground-breaking suspense classics with great acting, writing and directing.                                             


The Maltese Falcon. Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor star in this 1941 film that some consider the best detective drama ever, as well as the first true film noir. Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre are the criminals who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a priceless, jewel encrusted statuette. John Huston directed and wrote the screenplay based on the Dashiell Hammett story. 

Mystery Street.  Ricardo Montalban stars in this 1950 crime drama as a Cape Cod police officer who turns to a Harvard forensic expert to identify and track down the murderer of a skeleton washed up on a dune. Elsa Lancaster, Jan Sterling, and Sally Forrest are featured in one of the first films to employ forensics. Directed by John Sturges with famed cinematographer, John Alton. 
Sorry, Wrong Number. Barbara Stanwyck stars as a wealthy, bedridden woman who dials a telephone number one night only to overhear two men plotting to murder an unidentified woman. This 1948 film is a classic example of suspense and terror. Stanwyck received an Oscar nomination for her performance. Burt Lancaster co-starred. 
Touchez Pas au Grisbi. After WWII, French filmmakers discovered American films that they labelled "film-noir." They appreciated and admired these dark films and began to produce their own. In this 1954 film Jean Gabin stars as an aging gangster who comes out of retirement when his best friend is kidnapped for ransom. 


The Killers. Two hit men gun down a gas station attendant for no apparent reason. An insurance investigator tries to get to the bottom of the story with tragic results. Robert Siodmark directed this 1946 classic based on a story by Ernest Hemingway. Burt Lancaster stars in his film debut along with Ava Gardner and Edmund O’Brien. 
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Barbara Stanwyck stars as the wealthiest and most powerful woman in a Midwestern factory town. However, she shares a dark secret with her unhappy, alcoholic husband played by Kirk Douglas in his film debut. When an old acquaintance comes to town, things fall apart. Directed by Lewis Milestone, this 1945 film also features Van Heflin and Lizabeth Scott. 
Force of Evil. John Garfield stars as an unscrupulous lawyer who helps a syndicate take over the numbers racket in New York City. Abraham Polonsky directed this 1948 film that was filmed on location. Thomas Gomez plays his brother who falls victim to the syndicate. Marie Windsor plays a sultry temptress.
Classe Tous Risque. After hiding out in Milan for over a decade, a fugitive gangster chief, played by Lino Ventura, returns to Paris even though a death sentence hangs over his head. He is accompanied by a young Jean-Paul Belmondo in a role that makes us see why he became such an international star. Claude Sautet directed this 1960 French noir classic. Click on this link for trailer or see the video clip below. 




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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Democratic Party Racist Heritage



FDR Statue
I do not believe that "systemic racism" exists in the United States today but no one can doubt that racism has existed in the past. The following guest post by Rudy Costello, a friend and long time student of American history, demonstrates that it has long been associated with the Democratic party.

***

Democratic Party Racist Heritage
by Rudy Costello

In the hysteria of defacing and tearing town historic monuments, name changes, charges of systemic racism; and the mob violence associated with the movement, certain historical facts are conveniently obscured. Trying to revise and rewrite history by going back centuries to Columbus, or to the arrival of the first slave ships to colonial America; then to the rise of the slavocracy and the Confederacy does not relate the whole story.

A tragic Civil War and 600,000 lost lives later, the scourge of slavery and those who perpetuated it were defeated. What ensued during the years afterward became the real causes of racism and its lingering effects which can still raise its ugly head. As the reconstructed former Confederate states were brought back into the Union and as their leaders gradually returned to political power, the freed former slaves found themselves at the mercy of their former masters. Thus would begin the history of the type of racism which can still be felt in our society.

Despite winning civil and political rights through the passage of the 13th,14th and15th amendments to the Constitution, African-Americans in the South soon found themselves in a new form of bondage. Now under the rule of the Southern wing of the Democratic party, these state governments chipped away at the newly won constitutional rights of the former slaves and their descendants. The infamous "black codes" and Jim Crow laws, which included restricting the right to vote, created stereotypes of blacks and established an institutionalized racism. The Democratic Party, devastated by the Civil War, needed to regain power which was threatened by "Black Republicans". Much of the hope the freedmen had was taken away from them. Segregation, discrimination, intimidation, and violence became the norm for African-Americans.

The most notorious example of the treatment of blacks in the South was the practice of lynching. According to the Tuskegee Institute there were 4,700 lynchings between 1882-1951, two-thirds of which were black victims. This became the favorite tool of the KKK. Numerous anti-lynching bills during this same period were introduced in Congress only to be defeated by the filibusters of Southern Democratic senators. In 1920 the Republican Party platform called for anti-lynching legislation. President Harding supported a bill which passed the House in 1922 but was blocked again by Southern Democrats in the Senate. Even as late as 1934 the liberal icon, FDR, refused to push for such a bill for fear of losing the crucial support of Southern Democrats for his New Deal legislation. No civil rights legislation came out of the New Deal.

Finally, in 1957 President Eisenhower worked with both parties to get a civil rights act passed, the first in over eighty years. Though it did not go far enough, it laid the foundation for the more comprehensive Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Eisenhower also defied the Democratic governor in Arkansas and sent in federal troops to enforce school integration mandated by the Supreme Court.

So the history of the two political parties on race has been distorted. The history of the Democratic party shows a de facto racism by its southern base and a political compliance by the national party. While the political landscape has changed, the present Democrats can't deny that they are heirs to this once racist party. They can't deny that their success throughout most of the twentieth century depended upon a strategy that prolonged de jure racism in our country. Kamela Harris even hinted at this in a challenge to Joe Biden during one of the debates this year.

In addition, over the same period of time, the Democratic Party has controlled the governments of our largest cities where a de facto racism has long existed. Irresponsible fiscal, economic and social policies have resulted in high rates of crime, violence, broken communities and poor schools. These situations have weighed heavily on African-American communities.

Removing or tearing down statues of defeated Confederate soldiers, or an explorer who happened to come upon the shores of the New World, or of Presidents Washington and Theodore Roosevelt can be disingenuous at the least and quite hypocritical at the worst. A Senate office building is named after Richard Russell, one of the most racist members ever to serve in that body, and his statue graces the entrance. Are there any plans for its removal and a name change?

Witnessing our present civil disorder and the politicians caving into it for political advantage, I am reminded of a quote from JFK's inaugural that may be quite appropriate : " ... those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Coronavirus News: July 2020



Dr. Marcus Zervos
The impact of the coronavirus has been dramatically different in the four most populous states in the USA. Here are figures as of July 12 showing the number of reported cases and deaths, as well as the percentage of deaths to reported cases. I also include the number of deaths per Million in each state. 




                      Cases           Deaths        Death%        Death/1M  
                        
 California:  320000         7030            2.20%                       178
 Texas:          259000         3228            1.25%                       111
 Florida:        255000        4197            1.65%                       195
 New York:   427000        32393           7.59%                       1665
It is obvious that New York, the fourth most populous state, has been hit the hardest so far. Deaths exceed the combined total of the three largest states. The death rate per million is about 10X that of the other three states. Only neighboring New Jersey exceeds New York with a death rate of 1757 per million. Even tiny Connecticut, the other state in the tristate area, had the third highest death rate in the country at 1220 per million.  
Recently, however, the trend seems to have reversed. The coronavirus has practically disappeared in the tristate area while headlines indicate record numbers of new cases in the sunshine states.  Before trying to explain the spike in numbers in the sunshine states, we should try to understand what happened in New York and its neighbors.
From the first onslaught of the coronavirus medical researchers have warned that there were many more people infected than reported. I have seen estimates (guesses?) that we should multiply the number of reported cases by anywhere from 3 to 100 to get the actual number. As the virus spread over the past few months, the latest estimates are anywhere from 22 to 28. 
In the United States so far there have been 3.248 Million reported cases. If we multiply that figure by 25 we can estimate that over 80,000,000 Americans have been infected. Since there have been 137,429 deaths so far, we can say that 99.9% of those infected have survived. 
My scientific advisor suggests that by now New York and it neighbors have achieved a kind of herd immunity due to the severity of the early onslaught. Even protestors and looters running amok and un-masked in the streets of New York City have not led to a spike in coronavirus cases. I have been tracking the coronavirus in Great Britain and Italy since March because the virus hit them before us, and hit them harder. Recent reports indicate that the virus has for all events and purposes disappeared in those two countries.
I recall that when I visited California in February the virus had just begun there but as can be seen from the figures it did not take hold there. My scientific advisor believes that sunshine producing Vitamin D was more important than lockdowns in high sunshine states in flattening the curve. Millions of people in California, Florida, and Texas were infected but their immune systems, fortified by Vitamin D, fought it off so that most did not even get tested for the virus.
Speaking of testing, in the beginning tests were only administered to people with symptoms like coughing, fever, and fatigue. Back in March and April only 15 % of those tested had the coronavirus. The other 85% had something else. Now tests are being conducted on anyone so that while the number of those testing positive has grown, only 6% of those tested in June have been positive. 
The number of tests in the USA is approaching 40 Million. California with so few reported cases now leads the nation with over 5 Million tests. Obviously, most of these people who are now testing positive had the virus and have gotten over it. Moreover, they are now probably immune.   
In an op-ed entitled “The Coronavirus Credibility Gap” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on July 2, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, an Associate Professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, discussed immunity.
And while there is more to learn about immunity, there has not been a single confirmed case of reinfection among the 10 million cases of Covid-19 world-wide, according to a May report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Until the data say otherwise, people who have recovered from Covid-19 should be exempt from restrictions.
In its last weekly report my home town of Fairfield, CT reported that only two cases of coronavirus have been reported in the past week, and that there has been only one coronavirus related death in the past month. Moreover, the state of Connecticut “currently has very low numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, as well as the lowest transmission rate in the country.” 

In more good news a July 2 report from the Henry Ford Health System indicates that a new study shows the effectiveness of low-cost hydroxychloroquine in saving lives. Here is the headline:

DETROIT--Treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19--and without heart-related side-effects, according to a new study published by the Henry Ford Health System.

I reproduce the news release below and you can judge for yourselves. Of course, those who opposed the treatment because of its endorsement by President Trump have already tried to poke holes in the study.
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In a large-scale retrospective analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized between March 10 and May 2, 2020 across the system’s six hospitals, the study found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died compared to 26.4% not treated with hydroxychloroquine. None of the patients had documented serious heart abnormalities; however, patients were monitored for a heart condition routinely pointed to as a reason to avoid the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

The study was published today in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the peer-reviewed, open-access online publication of the International Society of Infectious Diseases (ISID.org).

Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine at Henry Ford met specific protocol criteria as outlined by the hospital system’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The vast majority received the drug soon after admission; 82% within 24 hours and 91% within 48 hours of admission. All patients in the study were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years; 51% were men and 56% African American.

“The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with Henry Ford epidemiologist Dr. Samia Arshad. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”

Zervos said the potential for a surge in the fall or sooner, and infections continuing worldwide, show an urgency to identifying inexpensive and effective therapies and preventions.

“We’re glad to add to the scientific knowledge base on the role and how best to use therapies as we work around the world to provide insight,” he said. “Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that the drug may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality.”

The study also found those treated with azithromycin alone or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin also fared slightly better than those not treated with the drugs, according to the Henry Ford data. The analysis found 22.4% of those treated only with azithromycin died, and 20.1% treated with a combination of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 26.4% of patients dying who were not treated with either medication.

“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”