Breaking news: Vaccinated people less likely to transmit coronavirus, Israeli study suggests and Lock-downs Have Depleted Capital in All Forms by Jeffrey A. Tucker and "It's the Only Choice for Somebody Like Me," Kerry Took Private Jet for Environmental Award, and Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parshat Yitro DON'T BE SO HUMBLE
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Israel's largest COVID-19 testing lab says it has found evidence indicating that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine significantly reduces the transmissibility of the coronavirus, offering a tentative answer to one of the world's most burning questions.
A paper published online Monday claims that positive test results of patients age 60 and over had up to 60 percent smaller viral loads on the test swab than the 40-59 age group, starting in mid-January, when most of Israel's population age 60-plus had already been vaccinated with at least one dose.
The results were published by the MyHeritage lab, which handles more than 10,000 tests a day, in a study co-authored by several prominent scholars, including leading COVID-19 statistician Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
The results are only based on partial data, because MyHeritage did not know if individual samples came from patients who had been vaccinated or not. But overall, the results appear to show that once someone is vaccinated, even if they have the virus in their system, they are less likely to pass it on because they have fewer infectious SARS-CoV-2 droplets hanging around their noses and throats.
"Our result reflects great data, because it gives exactly what we want from a vaccine, namely that it reduces transmission," Prof. Yaniv Erlich, head of the MyHeritage lab, told The Times of Israel on Monday. "It shows, to some extent, that this reduces viral load in the nose and throat, which is the main channel for transmission of the virus."
While the lab found a 60% reduction in viral load for those 60 and over, Ehrlich postulated that it could drop further once more people in the cohort are vaccinated. He emphasized that his research is at an early stage, and the topic needs more investigation.
While there is strong data from Phase 3 trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and since, showing that vaccinated people are far less likely to become verified COVID-19 carriers, clinical trials didn't produce robust results on whether those who are vaccinated will still spread the virus. Such data is currently the holy grail of vaccine research.
The Israeli study is mostly relevant for Pfizer-BioNTech, which produced the vaccine nearly all Israelis have been given. Last week, the team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine released research that was seen as optimistic on transmission, based on positive rates in PCR tests. Dr. Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, was quoted saying that the study "hints" that the vaccine may be effective in stopping people from transmitting the virus, but the results were seen as far from definitive, and the level of relevance to other vaccines was unclear.
Knowing whether vaccinated people can still spread COVID-19 is seen as key to the world taking big steps toward normalcy. If the vaccinated can still catch and spread the virus, even without getting sick, then the unvaccinated, such as children, would remain at just as high risk, making a return to routine nearly impossible. The importance of transmissibility data has increased with the rise of new extra-contagious variants.
To get around the problem of not knowing whether samples were coming from vaccinated people, Erlich hypothesized that once most of the age 60-plus population had been vaccinated, he would see a drop in viral load compared to the 40-59 age group that had a smaller percentage of people vaccinated.
Before January 15, only negligible differences in viral load between the age groups were seen, but after that date it began to drop for the 60-plus group.
"We checked the early December and late December [data], but the viral load among 60-plus hadn't changed," said Erlich, a professor of computational biology at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "And we saw the same when we checked in early January. But suddenly, during the last two weeks in January, which is when many 60-plus Israelis had finished vaccination, viral loads for this age group dropped."
Ehrlich created detailed models covering all of January and February to check that he wasn't jumping to conclusions and overlooking other changes, like age of people being sampled, gender and new variants, that could be impacting viral load.
The rise of the British variant is not believed to have affected viral load, and other possible influences were ruled out. The only notable factor to account for the change is that the majority of older Israelis are vaccinated but most younger Israelis aren't.
Ehrlich said further research is needed to calculate the exact direct impact of vaccination on viral load, but his model suggests it could be reducing it to between 60% and 5% of the norm.
"The results reflect a statistically significant reduction of viral load, and we know from many studies in virology that people will be less likely to transmit if their viral load is lower," he said, "though it's hard to estimate at this point to what extent."
Perhaps the ADL believes that democracy needs to be limited. In Israel, that is. The Squad and Warnock are fine
An open letter to the Anti-Defamation League
Recently, the Anti-Defamation League came out with a strong statement in regards to the "Otzma Yehudit" political party that is participating in the upcoming elections in Israel. These are the words of their statement:
"We're disturbed by reports that efforts have been made to assist radical parties to make it into the Knesset. Helping them become part of the mainstream in Israel sets a dangerous precedent that may allow racism to become an everyday aspect of in the Knesset and Israeli society as a whole."
While I regret that they are disturbed by a political party in a sovereign state exercising their democratic rights in running for political office, I am curious to understand the logical underpinnings of their argument. Lets consider where they are coming from.
Perhaps the ADL believes that democracy needs to be limited. If a country is a pure democracy, any individual or party, regardless of their political views should be allowed to run for office. In a pure democracy, majority rules regardless of how cruel, primitive, racist or anti-democratic that majority is. A democratic system has allowed for both a Hitler and Hamas to come to power. Given that is the case, its doubtful that the ADL would support a pure democracy. My guess is that they are in favor of a limited form of democracy.
Perhaps they believe that in an ideal form of limited democracy, any citizen or group can run for public office, but only on the condition that this group or individual does not embrace hateful or threatening views. If that is the case, would the ADL encourage disqualifying members of "The Squad" from running for public office because of their widely known racist, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views?
I have not heard any calls from the ADL to disqualify members of "the squad" from Congress or preventing them from running. While the ADL can be commended for calling out squad member Ilhan Omar as anti-Semitic in the past, there was never any discussion of barring her or any of her squad members from Congress- in contrast to their recent statement against Otzma Yehudit.
Furthermore, only a few weeks ago an openly anti-Semitic Pastor from Georgia was elected to the Senate. Given the ADL's strong stance against racist politicians and political parties, I was curious to see how the ADL responded to Raphael Warnocks campaign for Senate. I assumed that they would condemn or at least bring to light some of the horrific anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tropes that this Senator had made as recently as last year (in which he compared Israel to Nazi's and accused the Jewish state of apartheid.)
When I googled the ADL and Raphael Warnock, the only public statement I found from the ADL in regards to this anti-Semite was actually a letter of apology from the ADL to the pastor in 2015 for an incident in which confederate flags were placed in front of his church. No condemnation of the Pastor's anti-Semitic statements- only an apology to the anti-Semite for the hurtful actions taken by anonymous vandals against him.
If the ADL's choice of interfering in politics is purely reserved for the extreme cases in which a candidate or party is known for racist views, they do not seem to be upholding their policy consistently and across political party lines. It sounds like the ADL believes that in a proper limited democracy, any citizen has the right to run for public office- with one caveat- that their political views align with those of the Anti-Defamation League.
As a non profit organization, the ADL should stick to the spirit of the law and refrain from participating in politics through opposition to individual politicians and political parties, at least until they can formulate a way to do so in a way that demonstrates that their condemnation of racism is unequivocal and not tainted by political ideology.
Avraham Shusteris is an accountant in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He made aliyah from Monsey with his family in 2018.
Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parshat Yitro
DON'T BE SO HUMBLE
We are told that when the L-rd desired to give the Torah to the Jewish people, instead of choosing a lofty and majestic mountain, He selected Sinai, a small, humble little mount barely more than a hill. His purpose in this symbolic act was to teach us that man must turn his back on overbearing pride and reject a false ego.
The Gerer Rebbe asked: If G-d intended to teach us that man must turn down false pride, why was the Torah not given in a valley?
The Rebbe answered: It is not enough, he said, to reject overbearing pride. Too much humility is also wrong. Man should- man must- possess some pride in his being; otherwise he is not a man.
I never cease to be amazed that we continue to be valleys. I never cease wondering at our choosing the way of the meek. One would imagine that after all the "help" we have failed to receive, we would remember the lesson of the mountain.
The fact is that we are living in sad times when we must- just for the moment- still the voice of Jacob and, for the sake of Jewish honor, of Jewish protection, don the hand of Esav.
Vandals attack a yeshiva- let that yeshiva attack the vandals. Should a gang bloody a Jew, let a Jewish group go looking for the gang. This is the way of pride- not evil pride, but the pride of nation, of kinship- the pride of the mountain.
There are those who will protest: This is not the Jewish way. And yet, since when has it been a mitzvah to be punished and beaten? Since when is it a Kiddush Hashem to be spat upon? It is not a Kiddush Hashem, it is quite THE OPPOSITE. It is a disgrace to the pride of our people, our G-d. More important, there is a rule in the hoodlum jungle: The more the victim backs away, the more the hoodlum moves forward.
So up from the valley and up to the Mount. Jewish rights are not cheap and Jewish defense is not wrong. This is the lesson of the Mount
The Jewish Press, 1968
Editor's note: Rabbi Meir Kahane wrote this dvar Torah shortly after forming the Jewish Defense League, which at first devoted itself to protecting vulnerable Jews in New York City, which was experiencing an upswing in crime in the 1960's. He later often repeated this dvar Torah
"It's the Only Choice for Somebody Like Me," Kerry Took Private Jet for Environmental Award
When you have a fortune, on account of your marriages, not to mention your time in government, you can't fly coach. And John Kerry has an important mission. A mission to spread awareness of the myth that the weather is changing catastrophically because too many people drive cars and fly jet planes.
Kerry received the award, which took the form of an iceberg sculpture, for being "a consistent voice pressuring the American authorities to commit to tackle environmental matters," the outlet noted.
Icelandic reporter Jóhann Bjarni Kolbeinsson confronted Kerry at the event over his choice of transportation, asking: "I understand that you came here with a private jet. Is that an environmental way to travel?"
Kerry responded by claiming that it was the only way. "If you offset your carbon -- it's the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle," Kerry said.
"I negotiated the Paris Accords for the United States," he added, referring to the multilateral climate agreement signed while he was secretary of state under President Obama.
"But, what I'm doing, almost full time," he continued, "is working to win the battle on climate change, and in the end, if I offset and contribute my life to do this, I'm not going to be put on the defensive."
And sometimes you have to destroy the environment to save the environment.
Was flying to Iceland to accept an environmental award really winning the war on anything, or was it stroking Kerry's ego? Could Kerry have managed to take a First Class seat on a flight to Iceland?
Probably. But when you've got a private jet, why not use it?
The high point of the award may have been Kerry's declaration of a world war against political opponents.
He revealed that he has brought together Arnold Schwarzenegger and a series of other politicians to declare "World War Zero" against climate deniers.
"We have to fight back, just like we did during WW2."
Considering which side the Schwartzenegger family was on during WW2, that might not have been the best metaphor. Or was it?
But Kerry did accidentally say one true thing.
"If we want to know where the problem is, we have to look in the mirror."
Kerry spends a lot of time looking in the mirror, but can't see the problem.
When lockdowns first happened, my initial thought was geeky, and only later did I begin to realize the implications for human rights and liberties.
My thought was: this is going to be devastating for future capital investment. The basis of my fear was the knowledge that in almost all poor countries, property rights are insecure, particularly for capital goods. These are goods that are produced to make other goods (the "produced means of production," in the classic formulation by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk). Their existence and protection is a key to prosperity. They enable more complex economic structures – the extended order, in F.A. Hayek's phrase. It's the basis of hiring and investment, and the foundation of wealth production.
In the normal course of economic life, capital structures are constantly adapting to changed conditions. Changes in available technology, consumer demand, labor pools, and other conditions require entrepreneurs to stay constantly on the move. They need the freedom to act based on the expectation that their decisions matter within a market framework in which there is a test for success or failure. Without this ability, writes Ludwig Lachmann, "a civilized economy could not survive at all."
When governments attack capital by making it less secure, denying its own volition over how it is deployed, or it comes to be depleted through some other shock like a natural disaster, capital cannot do the work of creating wealth. This is a major reason for poverty. Start a business, make some money, employ some people, and a powerful person or agency comes along and steals it all. People get demoralized and give up. Society can't progress under such conditions. Take it far enough and people end up living hand to mouth.
Lockdowns seem focused on expenditures and consumption but fundamentally they attack capital. The restaurant, the theater, the stadium, the school, the means of transport, all are forced into idleness. They cannot return a profit to the owners. It's a form of theft. All that you have done to save and work and invest is voided.
That investors and entrepreneurs would lose faith in the rule of law – and thereby the security of their rights – was my main worry about lockdowns. Before lockdowns, life was functioning normally for so very long, decades and decades. Restaurants and hotels stayed up, operating according to their owners' wishes. People could make plans and invest across state and national boundaries, never thinking that they could be prevented from traveling. A new theater could open and rent out space for concerts or other performances. A band could form and travel here and there and arrange bookings. Large conferences could be put on in cities all over the country, and there was nary a thought of the possibility that some politician would just decide to shut it down.
Starting March 8, 2020, all that changed. The mayor of Austin, Texas, shut down South by Southwest, forcibly cancelling 100,000 contracts for flights, hotels, and conference participation. It seemed unbelievable to me at the time. Surely there would be a flurry of lawsuits and the courts would intervene to call the mayor's actions despotic. The lesson would be learned and such a thing would not happen again in America for a very long time, if ever. We do have a Fifth Amendment that rules out such "takings" without due process, and as a general principle we believe in the right to run enterprises.
To my shock, this was just the beginning. Travel ceased. Schools shut down. Businesses were forcibly closed and events we had taken for granted just weeks before were deemed illegal. The churches were padlocked. Courts closed. You know the rest. By March 16, the buzzing, happy, progressing world of enterprise and creativity was shut down by governments. The politicians locked us down. People were panicked too but once rationality struggled to make a return, the law stood in the way of normalcy.
All of this amounts to an attack on economic networks and capital infrastructure. Investment plunged during the great suppression. These days, private investment in the United States is back to 2018 levels but I wonder about the long-term economic effects. Do we expect "snap lockdowns" in the future such as that experienced by Perth, Australia, last week? A writer for the Washington Postthinks they are just fantastic:
It may seem strange to act so aggressively for a single case, but we Australians complied. There were no complaints of infringing on freedoms. No marches against masks. My city of Perth came to a standstill. The roads were quiet, and our beaches were deserted. A trip to the supermarket for essential groceries saw everyone wearing a mask — for the first time. Other states restricted travel of West Australians, desperate to keep the virus out.
The subsequent two days didn't bring a rush of cases that we feared; instead, for the first two days of lockdown, no new cases of covid-19 were detected. Residents of other countries might think this was overkill; in truth, that's how a proper pandemic response should look.
Under the conditions, how is planning possible? You have dinner reservations, a party planned, a wedding with contracts, a business meeting, a concert, a delivery scheduled, or anything at all, and everything can be closed for an indefinite period of time. This could happen any time day or night, all on the authority of government officials and all because of a positive PCR test. Australia is widely celebrated as a success but is it success when any state within Australia can fall to totalitarian control at the drop of a hat, in a country that has locked its citizens within its borders and locked visitors out, thus smashing the whole of the tourist industry?
Do we really want to live in this world? And also a relevant question: what does this do to the ability to plan and invest in the future? There is the thing called "time preference" which refers to the willingness of individuals to put off current consumption for the future. A low time preference is essential for building a progressing economy and social order and it is contingent on a stable and predictable regime that doesn't randomly invade people's rights. When arbitrary power comes along to pillage people's property, inhibit their freedom of movement, and restrict their associations, the effect is to make planning for the future less possible and hence disincentivize it. In effect, you encourage people to live for the moment rather than planning for the future. Hope is replaced by nihilism.
Lockdowns also attacked other forms of capital: professional, educational, and social. About one third of workers in America started working from home. For many, the word working should be in quotes. Life changed dramatically. Forget the commutes, the traffic, the office environment, the waits for the elevator, the lunch hour, the after-hours cocktails with friends. Instead work became about laptops, houseshoes, all-day snacks, afternoon drinking, and binging Netflix in the background. Laziness became too easy.
Maybe this was viable for a few weeks. But after several months, it became obvious that people's personal capital was under attack. Some people could continue to receive a paycheck while staring at a screen while others have to hustle, go to work, cut the meat and stock the shelves, check out the customers, slog around the hospital, paint the houses and do the yardwork, serve people where dining was allowed, and so on. Still others were forcibly put out of work (movie theaters, the arts, conference venues, and so on). Whether you could deploy your labors to your benefit depended entirely on the exigencies of the planning elites.
All this terrible disruption has shattered people's confidence in the system and rattled people's sense of their own value. Lockdowns have taken their toll on our confidence in the law and our optimism that we live in a world in which our persons and property are safe from invasion by political elites.
A very practical example of a form of investment concerns the decision to have children. Kids have been locked out of their schools for a year, depleting educational capital. One million mothers have left the workforce to care for kids, depleting professional capital. Three quarters of families have said they feel intense stress. Early on after the lockdowns began, people were predicting a new baby boom.
Not so much anymore. Now there is growing wonder whether people will decide not to have children because of the burden, the lack of educational security, the possibility that this whole nightmare could happen again and leave parents with impossible circumstances yet again. Then there is the deeper question of whether we really want to bring children into a world in which they could be so brutalized as they were in 2020. Perhaps this accounts for why births in Italy alone plunged 22% since lockdowns.
The same fear is expressed by many capitalists. Why open a restaurant if it can be shut down? Why build a hotel if travel restrictions can leave it empty for months and even years? If you don't have confidence in a stable legal regime for the future, what can one say about whether investing in anything physical or that depends on customers coming and going is really a good idea? Do we really want to open a factory that can be closed any time by decree?
Outside of a major war, it is hard to recall a time when government policies have so seriously roiled business practices, economic structures, and personal lives as much as lockdowns have, not only in the US but all over the world. The consequences will be felt for many years in the future.
What we need today more than anything is a guarantee, an ironclad guarantee from our leaders that nothing like this can ever happen again. To make that promise credible we also need a flurry of frank admissions that they made terrible mistakes this time, detailing what they were, and give us proof that there are legal means to stop the next guy in that office from locking people down yet again. We need the rule of law to once again protect essential rights. If we do not get that, we will continue to see people lose hope and confidence in the future, and that could have a devastating long-term effect on prosperity and social peace.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research.
He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and nine books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.