Monday, March 30, 2020

This Is A Warning!

While many people in the US and Canada still think that the corona virus is just another flu or a "hoax", the news from ITALY tells us the gruesome reality.  I just received an email from a friend reporting that 800 people have died in Bergamo, northern Italy IN ONE DAY! 

Let that sink in for a moment. 

Italy’s coronavirus death toll inches towards 10,000. Many are asking why the fatality rate is so high

With 86,498 confirmed cases, Italy appears to have the highest death rate on the planet.

Coffins arriving from the Bergamo area, where the coronavirus infections caused many victims, are being unloaded from a military truck that transported them in the cemetery of Cinisello Balsamo, near Milan in Northern Italy, Friday, March 27, 2020.  The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.  (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)Coffins arriving from the Bergamo area, where the coronavirus infections caused many victims, are being unloaded from a military truck that transported them in the cemetery of Cinisello Balsamo, near Milan in Northern Italy, Friday, March 27, 2020. 
ITALY – (CNN) -- When Milan resident Antonia Mortensen was pulled over by police while driving recently, it wasn't for a traffic offense. It was to instruct her fellow passenger to sit in the back of the car and to check that both were wearing face masks.

"We were told we cannot both sit in the front," said the CNN journalist, who was on her way to hospital with her husband to visit a sick relative.

“We have a special certificate giving us permission to go to the hospital,” she said, adding that the relative does not have coronavirus.

Such are the tight restrictions on Italians now living in the deadliest hotspot of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Italy's death toll is now the highest in the world at 9,134. Fatalities continue to inch towards the grim milestone of 10,000, with the country recording more than 900 deaths on Friday alone -- the biggest daily jump since the crisis began, according to Italy's Civil Protection Agency.

With 86,498 confirmed cases, Italy appears to have the highest death rate on the planet. Compare it to China, the epicenter of the pandemic, which has a similar number of confirmed cases at 81,997, but fewer than half the deaths at 3,299, according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.

Indeed Italy now has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States, which stands at 105,470. But the US has a fraction of the deaths, at just over 1,700.

As Italy enters its sixth week of restrictions, many are asking: why does its death rate seem so much higher than other countries?

Experts say it's down to a combination of factors, like the country's large elderly population which is more susceptible to the virus, and the method of testing that's not giving the full picture about infections.

Italy's number of confirmed cases is "not representative of the entire infected population," said Dr. Massimo Galli, head of the infectious disease unit at Sacco Hospital in Milan. The real figure was "much much more."

Only the most severe cases are being tested, added Galli, and not the entire population -- which in turn, skews the death rate.

In the northern Lombardy region, which has the majority of cases, about 5,000 swabs are being carried out daily, said Galli. He added this was "much lower than needed, with "thousands of people waiting for diagnosis at their home."

A major obstacle for health workers carrying out tests, was limited protective gear available, he said.

In a stark warning to other countries, Galli said: "We have a national healthcare system that works very well, especially in Lombardy -- but even our system has been hit by this.

"Miracles have been done in multiplying the numbers of beds in hospitals," said the health expert. But medicine "has been lacking -- and this is a big problem that will be felt by other countries."

Another factor in the seemingly high death rate is Italy's elderly population, which is the largest in the world behind Japan.

The average age of Italian patients who have died after testing positive for the virus was 78, the country's Health Institute said Friday.

Galli said that until now, Italy's public healthcare system was able to keep a lot of elderly people with pre-existing medical conditions alive.

But these patients were in "a really fragile situation that can be broken by a virus like coronavirus," he added.

Still, there have been some stories of hope. Like 102-year-old woman Italica Grondona, who recovered from coronavirus in the northern city of Genoa after spending more than 20 days in hospital, doctors who treated the woman and her nephew told CNN.

'We nicknamed her Highlander -- the immortal," said doctor Vera Sicbaldi. "Italica represents a hope for all the elderly facing this pandemic."

Meanwhile, some experts have questioned whether Italy's restrictions have gone far enough in halting the virus spread.

China's Wuhan city was the first to impose a sweeping lockdown on its 11 million citizens back in January, with all flights, trains and buses canceled and highway entrances blocked.

Now, more than two months later, officials in the pandemic epicenter are looking to ease those restrictions as new cases dry up. Italy meanwhile, is steadily ramping things up.

Italians now face steep fines of up to 3,000 euros ($3,350) for defying government orders of only going outside for essential items like food, Reuters reported.

But Dr. Giorgio Palu, former president of the European and Italian Society for Virology and a professor of virology and microbiology of the University of Padova, told CNN that the Italian measures are "not so forceful or strict like the Chinese ones."

"But this is the best you can do in a democracy," he added, pointing to the draconian restrictions implemented by China's communist state.

That said, "some constitutional rights are taken from us," Palu said of Italians' freedom. "We can't have public gatherings now."

But with the death toll continuing to rise, Italy's restrictions don't look like easing up any time soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How It Is Done In Taiwan

University Researcher Mat Carney says "life is pretty much the same as it was" before the COVID-19 outbreak three months ago. "The markets are busy, the shopping malls are busy, people are out and about. The only difference really is everywhere you go... your temperature is taken and people squirt hand sanitiser into your hand," Mr Carney said. Sky News host Andrew Bolt highlighted the effective management of COVID-19 Taiwan has undertaken without the need to close businesses or impose strict social rules. "Taiwan is a country with about our population. It is more vulnerable and has had more people travel to and from China," Mr Bolt said. "But in Taiwan, fewer than 260 people have been infected and just two have died." Taiwan's current strategy involves imposing isolation measures on sick, elderly or potentially infectious individuals rather than the broader population. However, it ensures temperature checkers are used in all public places and hand sanitiser is distributed widely, banning anyone with high temperatures or who refuse to sanitise.

If you want to see the full video click on the above link.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Trump doesn’t really want to restart the economy — he’s preparing the ground to blame Democrats and the media for the coming recession

on March 24, 2020
By Joshua Holland

Under pressure from business leaders and conservative pundits, Donald Trump is reportedly considering asking those who are at elevated risk of death from COVID-19 to isolate themselves and “opening” the economy back up for everyone else. But that’s not an option. Trump doesn’t have the power to flip the switch on the economy in the midst of a pandemic.

And on some level, he knows it. Trump doesn’t really want cases of COVID-19 to spike after schools and businesses re-open prematurely. Rather, this is transparent strategy to shift responsibility for the inevitable consequences of his miserable response to this crisis onto his political opponents.

But before we get into that, restarting the economy isn’t an option for Trump for a couple of reasons. First, the US, China and Iran are now the only countries that have severe outbreaks but haven’t yet issued a nationwide order banning group activities and shutting down schools, restaurants, bars, gyms and other public spaces (but note that China did lock down an entire province with 60 million people). As of yesterday afternoon, eight states (and a number of localities) had taken such steps but while other central governments can ease their countries’ restrictions, there is no federal lockdown for Trump to lift.

Second, if we were to ease the social distancing before “flattening the infection curve,” cases would continue to increase exponentially, our healthcare system would quickly be overwhelmed (it’s likely to be clobbered either way) and the mortality rate would spike. People would stay home out of self-preservation as the bodies stacked up regardless of what he says. (By a 60-40 margin, Americans don’t trust what Trump says about the pandemic generally.)

This is also a worldwide economic crash that was precipitated not only by a drop in consumer demand but also by massive supply-chain disruptions in our highly globalized economy. There is nothing Trump can say or do to make those problems go away.

Conservatives have convinced themselves that we face a choice between mitigating the severity of the outbreak and tanking the economy. The stark reality is that it isn’t the media or Democrats who are pounding the markets, it’s COVID-19. We can either support the economy while mitigating the impact of the outbreak or we can let it spiral out of control and face a much more severe economic crash as a consequence.

If given the choice between dying and plunging the country I love into a Great Depression, I’d happily die.

While it’s true that Trump puts more faith in the bobbleheads on Fox and Friends than in the public health experts who brief him, he must understand this to a degree. He knows that forecasters predict a drop in America’s gross domestic product of between 8-15 percent in the second quarter of this year. And he knows that governors, whose own political fortunes are going to be determined by how they manage this disaster, are not going to heed his call to re-open businesses.

Trump’s strategy here is clear. He’s incapable of even considering any political approach other than firing up his base, and he hopes to deepen the existing partisan divide on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then blame the media and Democratic governors for the economic tsunami that’s about to break over our shores. (It’s a safe bet that the Republican governors who have acted aggressively to contain the pandemic–notably Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Ohio’s Mike DeWine and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan–will also ignore conservative demands to re-open schools and businesses, but that reality won’t impact the rhetoric coming from the White House briefing room or from the idiots on Fox News.) This is all about laying the groundwork to claim that he desperately tried to keep the economy humming but was thwarted by others.

Trump is blaming Governor Cuomo for his own failures while Fox News anchors make jokes about social distancing.

This is a nightmare. For the country to die like this is a literal nightmare.

But this strategy poses a serious problem for Trump because he can’t bullshit his way out of this crisis. We’re having this conversation as the US has suffered around 600 deaths from the pandemic (602 as of this writing), but that number is doubling every three days. If current trends persist, we’ll be looking at 2,400 deaths within a week, and 10,000 a week after that. Trump is the president*, and while he would like the media to stop talking about his bumbling mismanagement, especially during the crucially important early weeks of the outbreak, that is not going to happen.

It also poses a serious problem for the people of the United States. Trump can’t turn the economy back on, but he can convince enough of his base that they don’t need to take voluntary measures to contain the chain of transmission or that they should ignore orders to stay home to make the outbreak much worse than it would otherwise be.

This doesn’t appear to be a concern for Trump and his apologists, but make no mistake: People will die unnecessarily as a result of one man’s desperate re-election strategy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Getting The Time To Pass

Time is at a stand-still. We have paused. Iam waking up in the morning and I hope that this turns out to be a bad dream only, a nightmare that has not come to pass.

But when the mind clears I realize it's still there. It's 7am and I have to get up. Well no, I don't HAVE to get up. I can rest another hour or two or three. It wouldn't matter, except that Dixie would have to get outside.

With an empty feeling I get down the stairs. On the way to the living room I start the coffee. Dixie is still on her bed, fast asleep as it seems. But I see one eye looking up at me.
With the fire burning, I get back into the kitchen, let Dixie get outside. 
The hot coffee wakes me up completely. It's always the same - every morning.

Turning on the WIFI I start looking up the news.
Another outrageous number of corona-dead people in Italy. Warnings that it will be even worse in the US.

Is this going to be how we gonna live? My province has declared a State of Emergency. Borders are closed everywhere. But I know the people of this island can still get across for "essential" travel. It is essential to get gas and groceries or if you work on the other side.

After our wonderful doggy walk along the sunny beach I go over to my neighbours. They are in a 14-day self-isolation as they just returned from Florida. They need a few groceries.
I find the list and the money in an outside hidden place and make my way across the border. 
I have no problems getting through customs. The people here know what's going on.
A friend from Germany has sent me a couple videos on Whatsapp. Artists are getting really creative, writing songs for the coronavirus. Hallelujah...they sing to the tune of Leonard Cohen. We have to make this common effort to fight the disease. Stay at home, don't mingle. Once it is all over it'll be alright again. Protect eachother by staying in your house.

I know there are still people who think that all this is overblown and out of proportions. I wonder what they would think, if their loved ones would die and be transported away on an army truck, the body just wrapped in a linen, cause coffins are sold out, the bodies being cremated or buried in a distant place, with no ceremony, no flowers, no grave speeches, no human decency. What would they say then?
This all happens in Italy every day. Soon it could happen in the US, in Canada or anywhere. 
Image result for army trucks dead bodies Italy
Army trucks full of corona dead bodies
Image result for army trucks dead bodies Italy
The thought makes me shudder. I have to go out, do something, anything. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Failures of Government and Health Authorities

Can’t Get Tested? Maybe You’re in the Wrong Country

Decisions and blunders made months ago have caused testing disparities worldwide. The science, it turns out, was the easy part.

The Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. People returning from Iran had come in hopes of testing, but most were sent home and advised to self-isolate.Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

By Matt Apuzzo anSelam Gebrekidan

Scientists around the world were waiting at their computers in early January when China released the coronavirus genetic code, the blueprint for creating tests and vaccines. Within days, labs from Hong Kong to Berlin had designed tests and shared their research with others.

Within about two weeks, Australia had its own tests, and even citizens in the most far-flung regions of the country could be tested. Laboratories in Singapore and South Korea ramped up test kit production and ordered extra supplies. That quick work allowed them to test hundreds of thousands of people, isolate the sick and — so far, at least — contain the spread of the disease.
By contrast, anxious citizens in the United States and many parts of Western Europe have endured byzantine delays, or have been denied testing altogether. As the coronavirus pandemic shuts down world capitals and paralyzes entire economies, political leaders are rushing to make testing more widely available.

But experts say that the decisive moment, when aggressive testing might have allowed officials to stay ahead of the disease, passed more than a month ago. It was not a question of science. Researchers say a viral test is relatively easy to develop. Rather, scientists say, the chasm between the testing haves and have-nots reflects politics, public health strategies and, in some cases, blunders.

The world may be paying for those missteps right now. Testing is central to the effort to fight the spread of the virus. Countries that test widely can isolate infected people and prevent or slow new infections. Without early and widespread testing, health officials and policymakers will be flying blind, epidemiologists say.

Waiting for a coronavirus test at a temporary facility in Seoul, South Korea, last week.Credit...Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Y​ou cannot fight a fire blindfolded,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, W.H.O.’s director general. “And we cannot stop this pandemic​ i​f we don’t know who is infected.”

But testing has been inconsistent in what has been a patchwork response to the epidemic worldwide.

Some countries, like France, did not have a strategy that centered on testing to map the advance of the virus. Testing in Italy has been plagued by political squabbles. The United Kingdom developed tests but decided not to use them widely, as Singapore and South Korea had done. Other countries were caught off guard by shortages of testing chemicals.

As the virus reached into the United States in late January, President Trump and his administration spent weeks downplaying the potential for an outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control opted to develop its own test rather than rely on private laboratories or the World Health Organization.

The outbreak quickly outpaced Mr. Trump’s predictions, and the C.D.C.’s test kits turned out to be flawed, leaving the United States far behind other parts of the world — both technically and politically.

In that same period, Singapore was setting up health screenings at airports, issuing work-from-home guidelines and releasing plans to monitor travelers returning from abroad. Independent labs in Korea were rushing their tests out the door.

“They were ready, and they just churned out the kits,” said Dr. Jerome Kim, of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul.

Today, the epicenter of the outbreak is Europe and experts say the wave is only starting to hit the United States. Faced with a growing number of cases and limited test kits, many countries have tightened restrictions on who gets tested. In Germany, where the first approved test was developed, only doctors can prescribe one. In France and Belgium, only severely sick patients get tested.

The Piazza Duomo square in Milan was nearly empty on Thursday. More coronavirus deaths have now been reported in Italy than anywhere else. Credit...Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times
In Britain, as in many other countries, the virus is circulating so quickly that it is no longer possible to test people and investigate whom they may have infected, said David McCoy, a public health professor at Queen Mary University in London. Nearly 100 people have died from the virus there. Testing is still valuable in helping scientists understand the epidemiology of the disease, he said.

“The window of opportunity to contain the epidemic has now shut,” Mr. McCoy said.
‘This Could Be a Problem’

From the beginning, some countries showed greater urgency than others and were more nimble in their response.

Australia, Korea and Singapore turned to networks of public and private laboratories to develop tests. On Feb. 4, the South Korean government granted fast-track approval for a company’s coronavirus test and began shipping kits. A second company was approved a week later. Two more soon followed.

Australian labs designed a generic test in early January, then refined it after receiving the genome. “We were anticipating early on that we could see cases, that this could be a problem,” said Dr. Jen Kok, a government virologist in New South Wales, Australia, a region where more than 33,000 people have been tested so far.

The United States and Britain favored a centralized approach. Britain initially assigned a single lab in north London to perform the tests but, a month later, began allowing other labs to do the same.

The C.D.C. had to reverse course, too. After its homegrown test proved faulty, it cost the country valuable time. The Trump administration then had to change tactics, urging outside labs and manufacturers to help make a million tests available.

Drive-through testing was conducted at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Labs that moved quickly had an advantage. They purchased extra testing products, known as reagents, that extract viral RNA from nose or throat swab samples. Those reagents are now in short supply.

“It’s the way we do things here,” said Dr. David Speers, the top microbiologist at PathWest Laboratory Medicine, the government laboratory in Western Australia. “We always try to plan ahead.”

Technical speed and laboratory organization, though, do not explain everything. The availability of testing — at least in some countries — also reflects policy.

When Australia identified its first coronavirus patient in late January, political leaders made clear that testing would be widespread. “We’re testing people,” Dr. Kerry Chant, the top public health official in New South Wales, said on Jan. 30. “We’re asking people to come forward, and I want to acknowledge the fact that we have had so many people come forward for testing.”

Even before the virus began spreading in Singapore, the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong reminded the public about the 2003 SARS outbreak and said he planned to overreact to the coronavirus. “We have built up our institutions, our plans, our facilities, our stockpiles, our people, our training,” he said on Jan. 31. “Because we knew that one day something like that would happen again.”

South Korea opened nearly 600 testing clinics, including dozens of drive-through stations. More than 250,000 people have been tested — far more than any other country that has released data.

The country has largely contained its outbreak to the southeast city of Daegu. Most cases are linked to a cluster around the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

“Korea’s approach was: Test everybody,” Dr. Kim said. “Anybody who needs a test should get tested.”

The United States, along with countries in Western Europe, chose a different strategy and tone. While Singapore warned that infections were certain to increase, Mr. Trump predicted it would disappear within weeks.

In late January, French officials were hesitant to activate emergency protocols because they did not believe that the epidemic was as serious as the 2009 H1N1 outbreak.

“We have three cases in France and they are not that severe,” Dr. Patrick Pelloux, of the country’s emergency medical services, said Jan. 25. “It’s an epidemic that is under control.”

Singapore has been able to contain the virus, in part by conducting screenings at the airport. Credit...Adam Dean for The New York Times

France says that it is able to test 2,500 cases daily, and health officials said earlier this week that more than 40,000 people had been tested. The United States has run about 25,000 tests. Neither country has contained the virus or tested aggressively for it. Korea and Singapore have so far been able to do both.

“We were not just looking at having a very good diagnostics test. That’s kind of a given. You can’t do anything without that,” said Dr. Sidney Yee, the chief executive of Singapore’s Diagnostics Development Hub. “We were also looking at getting people prepared and getting accurate messages out.”

Nicolas Locker, a professor of virology at the University of Surrey in Britain, said national leaders set the tone. “What you’re seeing today is the impact of those earlier comments, and that earlier attitude,” Dr. Locker said.

Incorrect Assumptions
Testing can be as much a political issue as a scientific one.

Italy, the site of the biggest outbreak outside China, is a prime example. At first, regional authorities in the north tested widely and tried to trace contacts with sick people. But the national government in Rome objected, saying there was no need to test people who did not exhibit symptoms.

“Someone said we’re testing too many people and this is why we have such a huge number. That is not true,” Giovanni Rezza, director of the department of infectious diseases at the Italian National Institute of Health.

Under pressure, the regional governments began testing only patients who exhibited symptoms. Politicians and scientists continue to debate those protocols, Dr. Rezza said. Still, the country has managed to test more than 182,000 people.

Britain was one of the first to develop coronavirus diagnostic kits but made a decision not to test widely. The government’s strategy initially focused on slowing the contagion rather than stopping it. The government, though, severely underestimated the potential scope of the epidemic, according to a study published on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain at the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford technology Park in Bedford, England, this month. Mr. Johnson’s government recently reversed its strategy and adopted a more aggressive approach to containing the virus.Credit...Pool photo by Jack Hill

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government recently reversed its strategy and decided to widen testing. Mr. Johnson told Parliament on Wednesday that his government will have the ability to conduct 25,000 tests a day.

But raw numbers ignore the effect of timing. South Korea deployed its tests early and alongside other approaches, including some that European populations might resist. A government app monitored people to ensure they remained quarantined. Police officers used surveillance camera footage, phone data and credit card records to recreate the movements of new patients and identify potential contacts.

Kim Gang-lip, a South Korean vice health minister, said the contagiousness of the disease and its rapid spread demanded a new approach. “Such characteristics of the virus render the traditional response, which emphasizes lockdown and isolation, ineffective,” he said.

A New Testing Reality

Lockdown and isolation are a reality today for tens of millions of people.

Italy is at a standstill. Europe has all but shut its borders. President Emmanuel Macron of France told people to stay at home for 15 days and ordered the army to transport the sick to hospitals. Mr. Trump recommended against all but the smallest gatherings.

With no treatment for the disease, many countries are telling sick people to stay home unless they become seriously ill. Hospitals cannot afford to be overwhelmed by nervous people asking for tests.

The banks of the Seine in Paris were deserted on Wednesday as the French president told people to stay at home for 15 days.Credit...Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

But patients who self-quarantine likely won’t ever be tested, making it difficult to know the true scope of the disease. And as the disease spreads, the practicality of testing declines, as does its value.

“Testing of contacts, I believe, will be totally out of control very soon,” said Manfred Green, an epidemiologist with the University of Haifa in Israel.

Australian officials say they, too, worry about wasting tests on the merely worried. They recently adjusted testing protocols, but remain aggressive. Anyone who has recently been out of the country and so much as spikes a fever will likely be tested. “We are still in the containment phase,” said Dr. Kok. “We’re testing rea
lly widely.”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Toilet Paper Madness

When governments announce a state of emergency it can be expected that many people are getting anxious for the near future and start hoarding food and supply items. With the corona virus arriving, there was public advice to have a 2-weeks supply of basic items in the house.

What could not be expected is the world-wide stockpiling of huge packages of toiletpaper. Yes, it is a world-wide phenomenon. Whether in Germany, the US, Canada, Norway, Hong Kong or any other country in the world: The toilet paper shelves were emptied at a record-breaking speed. And some places it led to the most grotesque acts. In Vancouver a guy pulled a gun out to get his supply, in Australia a woman threatened another customer with a knife and in the US a young fellow was stabbed in the back and robbed for his toilet paper. In Germany there was a fist fight developing at the till when two customers got into a toilet paper argument.

What the h...has this world come to?

On the funny side people have been eager to create toilet paper memes, many of which appear on Facebook.
Police warning: Don't leave valuable objects visible in your vehicle
So toilet paper became a precious commodity and was (and still is) flying off the shelves faster than some stores could re-stock and had to finally limit purchases to one or 2 packages pr. customer. 

What puzzles ME is why are people sooo crazy about having stockpiles of toilet paper when absolutely nobody had told them that supplies would be running out due to corona virus. 
In case of looming shortages, I would have rather put my priorities on food items. Toilet paper is not a good substitute for meat and vegetables on the dinner table.
But here is another meme I found and I think it's a cute one: 

And I heard that dogs are rejoicing as their owners now stay home while cats contemplate suicide!

Stay healthy and 6ft away from your friends and family members. And don't cough onto the Sunday cake!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Corona Prelude

As the Corona virus has taken over the headlines, life has turned out to be quite bizarre. After our usual doggy walk I was heading out across the border to Calais to rent a floor sander to finish our guest bedroom. Unfortunately, the rental company refused to rent it "across the border". I had rented such a machine several times from another company which now had given up their rental business. So what to do? I called 2 companies on the Canadian side but they had no rental equipment at all. So I ended up bying just sanding paper. I figured I would have to use my own little machine and taking small pieces of the floor at a time. 

On the way to Calais I had noticed the lack of traffic. The town center itself seemed to be quite lifeless. At 10 EDT there had been an official announcement by our prime minister that Canada had now closed the country's border to the U.S. Everyone which had non-essential travel reasons would be refused entry. A mutual rule would apply for entry into the U.S. Trade and workers would be exempt from the new rule. So was also the population of Campobello Island, as the island lacks a lot of basic services and as such is depended on U.S. entry. Along with that came an order for closing of restaurants and bars.

I already saw a Tim Hortons - locked up and businesses in the process of closing. It was weird to say the least.

Coming back to Campobello a couple hours later, I asked the border officer about whether our numerous summer residents would be allowed onto the island. I was told that even if people owned vacation homes on the island it would not be deemed "essential travel" and they would not be permitted to go through to the island. Campobello probably has about a 100 summer homes. They would now stand empty for the time being. People who have their work with preparing those homes for their owners would go without work. Restaurants would stay closed and servers without work. Our provincial campground would stay closed and the Roosevelt Park would be with no visitors at all, meaning park personal would go unemployed over the summer. The very popular local whale watch tours would not be starting and our beautiful lighthouse would remain closed. Passengers from 5 scheduled cruise ships would not be allowed to step ashore either.

Even the fishermen are gonna suffer as their lobster catches won't find many buyers.
The future has never looked that bleak. Even after 9-11 there were some tourists coming.
Clearly, this is the prelude to a corona summer. As the current state is just the beginning of the pandemic here in Canada (New Brunswick has now 11 cases) the real run-up will follow within the next 2 months. That is the time for most people making plans and do their bookings. Even if rules should change in June it would be too late to save the season.

Without bookings I will concentrate on fixing up things around the house, making more firewood and sitting on the porch watching the sun go down.

It'll be corona summer for us.  Image result for Corona Beer

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Good Of Socialism

" We have the best health care system in the world".

That was what the President said recently. 

But is that the truth or was it just another lie?
If the health care of a country is the best in the world it should be prepared to handle a pandemic like we are witnessing it in these days. 
But what happens in the U.S. is a far cry from perfect. It isn't even satisfactory nor is it anywhere close to appropriate.
People cannot be tested for Covid-19 because the health care providers have no testing sets. And those who were lucky enough to being tested got a bill of over $3000 to pay. Thousands of cruise passengers were recently leaving a cruise ship in Miami without beeing screened. And thousands of hospital beds are missing to care for those who will be  infected over the next 2 weeks. Health authorities have been gagged about telling the truth, because Mr. President fears for his popularity and his re-election.

Besides of incurring huge hospital bills, people are afraid of having to stay away from their jobs for 2 weeks or more. Until recently, there was no paid sick leave and it stands to see whether the new regulation will kick in and will be followed by employers. What is remarkable is that paid sick leave has always been viewed as "socialism" if not "communism" in America. Now, all-of-a-sudden this is what they want and need.

Does this mark a turn to join the civilized world? For the sake of so many disenfranchised Americans one can only hope.

Does it take a pandemic to embrace democratic socialism?

It's certainly gonna be a wake-up call for many. 
The most stubborn may want to hang on to the private insurance company mafia, and are willingly  forking over 1500 Bucks a month and still being left with deductables. While that remains their choice, the rest of the country might as well vote the right man in come November and enjoy being part of the majority of civilized countries in the world.

Norwegian university urges students to return home from the U.S., cites ‘poorly developed health services

Norwegian University of Science and Technology


The U.S. health-care system? The Norwegian University of Science and Technology clearly isn’t impressed, so it’s urging students studying there to come home immediately.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Is The World Upside Down?

There are probably many of you today that have asked the same question. Looking at the surface it sure looks like we are upside down. Most significant are the spreading restrictions of people's free movement.

The Corona Virus scares us all, but our politicians are the ones who have to make decisions. These decisions are not popular. But we have to do something to prevent the virus from spreading. One of the problems countries are facing is disorganisation and lack of experience and preparatory measures. In the case of the US it doesn't make it any better when Trump talks this today and that tomorrow. One day there is nothing to fear and next day he decides a travel ban for Europeans to the US is the best to meet the situation.

Most airliners are staying on the ground and that has led to reduced pollution, but how long can this status be maintained?

Norway has basically shut down the whole country after they got 600 infection cases in a population of only 5Mill. I know winter-weary Norwegians LOVE to travel south this time of the year. Many came back with Corona virus in their luggage.

A school class from Sussex, New Brunswick, went on a school trip to....ITALY!! Now they can't even move around freely in Italy any more. When (If) they come back, they gonna miss school for 14 days of home quarantine. Parents of students in other grades are quite rightly angry about the situation the school has to face now.

Our world comes apart also due to senseless decisions being made.

Campobello Island does not have any corona cases, yet the nursing home is closed to visitors. But staff have school kids at home. What if....?

Amidst all this chaos, I decided to haul our new travel trailer through customs. It had been parked for 3 weeks on the American side, waiting for our driveway to be free of ice.  Well, the ice was finally gone and first order was to go get the propane cylinders filled up. 50pounds of propane went into it for about 40 Bucks.
Then it was back to the trailer, putting the cylinders back in and re-install the charged-up battery. Then I hooked up and off I went heading for the border station. Had my title and the bill of sale at the ready. Now, our officers are not in the daily routine of dealing with vehicle imports, so the whole procedure took some time. Then finally I was done and went home. Backed it up our driveway and it did some ruts in the thawing ground. I leveled it off, ran the jacks out and moved the slides out.

Looking at it, the question arrived whether we will be allowed to travel south come November. It all depends of the situation of the virus spread.

We are also anxious about what will happen with tourism on the island. Will people still travel or will it all come to a stand-still? We don't know.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

It's "Meme Day".

I found this one on Facebook today, along with another one saying "It's Meme Day". Reason I copied it and put it into this posting is simple. 
The other day I was doing one of my morning doggy-walks when I almost stumbled over a tree root sticking up from the rather uneven trail. 

Just a week ago I was traversing our local golf course. Dixie was in the lead, when I got a phone message. Looking at the damn thing I walked on, which of course, I shouldn't have done, as I came to step on an icy patch and flopped straight down. I landed on my left side, phone in hand. During the seconds down I looked for Dixie. She was a 100ft ahead, had stopped and turned to look at what Dad was doing there on the ground. 
That's when my thinking kicked in. I came to reflect over that a simple root stumble and me stepping on an icy patch wasn't anything that used to happen in my younger days. And by that I mean that my general feel of maintaining balance and watching out for hinders on my way was a tad more pronounced.

At soon to be 68 I come to the realisation that I am getting more and more aware of my progressing age. Did I ever think about the years racing by when I was 25 or 35? I didn't even think about it when 45yrs. old. The question here is whether the growing years can lead to wisdom or whether it is just the beginning of the end without any further reflections.

What ever it might be - we grow old too soon and getting wise too late.

Friday, March 6, 2020

An Icon Of A Vehicle

How the Volkswagen Bus Became a Symbol of Counterculture
Seventy years ago, the German car manufacturer started producing the Microbus—the first van and a striking vehicle for protest

The Microbus revolutionized the automobile industry just as America's social revolution was beginning. (National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
By David Kindy
MARCH 6, 2020 12:53PM

When Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995, Volkswagen remembered the Grateful Dead frontman by running an ad featuring a VW Microbus with a tear streaming from one headlight. It was an epochal moment when two counterculture symbols came together in tender recognition of their influence on mainstream society.

In the 1960s, both Garcia and the Microbus came to represent a growing angst in America about the country’s role as a nuclear superpower and its reliance on commercialism to feed a voracious appetite for more, more, more. A certain segment of society decided to “turn on, tune in and drop out,” as Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary put it, by focusing on the psychedelic rock music performed by bands like the Grateful Dead and traveling around in Microbuses covered with depictions of peace signs and flowers.

“For many people, the VW Microbus became the symbol of protest with Detroit’s overpowered cars and society in general,” says Roger White, curator of road transportation history with the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. “It was a way of thumbing their noses at the establishment.”

Concert-goers sit on the roof of a Volkswagen bus at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair at Bethel, N.Y., in mid-August 1969. (AP)

That’s quite a transition for the vehicle, considering its roots. Known as Type 2, the Microbus was an offshoot of the VW Beetle, called Type 1, which dates to 1933 when Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, proposed a “people’s car”—or Volkswagen—for the masses. Postwar, the company was looking to expand its product line by offering a vehicle that would shake up the automotive industry.

“This was the first van,” White says. “Before this, people used large cars, trucks and buses to haul people and cargo around.”

Regardless of its origins, the VW Microbus marks its 70th anniversary as both an icon and mode of transportation. The first vehicle went into production March 8, 1950, at a Volkswagen plant in West Germany, and changed the way the world looked at cars.

The Microbus design was created by Ben Pon, a Dutch importer of VW Beetles. He was inspired to sketch the first van in 1947 after seeing a flatbed parts-hauler made from a Type I chassis while visiting the Volkswagen plant. The German car manufacturer began tinkering with the idea and finally went into production in 1950. Two versions were initially offered: the Kombi, with side windows and removable middle and rear seats, and the Commercial, essentially the first panel van.

Volkswagen’s marketing approach for the new product line was an extension of its advertising for the Beetle: promote its simple styling and usefulness as a vehicle for home, work and play. People loved the fact that the VW Microbus could transport goods of all kinds—human and otherwise. With a roomy interior, rear-wheel drive and air-cooled engine, it was easy to operate and maintain. In the United States, it was seen as a cost-effective alternative to the family station wagon.The first VW Westfalia campers were exported to the United States in 1956. (dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images)
And it was fun to customize. Almost as soon as it rolled off the assembly line, owners began adapting the Microbus to their own needs. Soon, it was being used as a camper by outdoor enthusiasts who outfitted it with beds, sinks and more. Volkswagen took note of this trend and contracted with Westfalia, a German company known for building carts and wagons, to begin making camper conversion kits. The first VW Westfalia campers were exported to the United States in 1956.

As the Microbus became more accepted in America, it began to take on a cult status with fringe groups. Its boxy appearance—so unlike anything the major auto manufacturers in Detroit were producing—became a symbol for counterculture types, who wanted to stand out from the rest of crowd. Some owners painted peace signs on the Microbus, earning it the nickname “hippie bus.”

“It became popular with people who were rejecting mainstream American culture,” White says. “It was their way of saying, ‘We don’t need your big V8 cars.’”

The VW Microbus was also a favorite of marginalized members of society, who could use the versatile vehicle to transport people to rallies, polling stations, protests and more during the political and cultural upheaval that laced the 1960s."Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive" was the motto that Esau Jenkins painted on his VW bus. The rear hatch is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (William Pretzer)

One Microbus in particular stands out today as an emblem of the racial strife that plagued much of America during the decade. It was driven around the Sea Islands near Charleston, South Carolina, by Esau and Janie Jenkins, civil rights activists who wanted to make a difference in their community. They used this 1966 VW Transporter to take African-American children to school and adults to work in the segregated South.

“Esau would drive the Microbus while Janie would teach passengers about the South Carolina constitution,” says William Pretzer, senior curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “They wanted people to know their rights so they could stand up for themselves. They did this for years.”

Two pieces of that now rusted and faded green Microbus are on display at the museum, which opened in 2016 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.: a side panel and rear hatch. Still visible on the latter are the words painted by the Jenkins, “LOVE IS PROGRESS. HATE IS EXPENSIVE.”

“These pieces enlarge the narrative of what was happening at that time,” Pretzer says. “They help us all to understand the rejection of rights and citizenship that existed then. It’s not black history; it’s American history.”The I.D. Buzz, the newest version of the Microbus, will deliver 369 horsepower from electric motors on each axle. (Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The VW Microbus persevered through a tumultuous time in America. Millions were made, but eventually the social revolution subsided and so did interest in the vehicle. Production ceased in 2014. However, all is not lost! This counterculture symbol is about to make a comeback in 2022—as an electric vehicle.

Currently known as the I.D. Buzz, the newest version of the Microbus will deliver 369 horsepower from electric motors on each axle. The original Type 2 sold in the United States in 1950 had all of 30 horsepower.

Still, it’s a far cry from those disorderly days as a hippie van hauling long-haired young people to rock concerts. Just ask William Pretzer. He recalls such a scenario from 1971, when he and his friends tried to make it to Oakland Coliseum to see the Rolling Stones play.

“The fan belt broke and the van filled with smoke,” he recalls. “That air-cooled engine was fried.”

Maybe an electric Microbus isn’t a bad idea after all.
Comment: I had a VW-Bus from 1976 -1978 and converted it to a simple camper by installing an L-shaped bench, a camp stove, a table (which could be made into a bed and a storage area in the rear above the motor. I absolutely loved the bus but sold it in 1978. I still consider that sale as a major mistake in my life.
It is noteworthy that still many of the original buses exist. As a cult object they sell at almost astronomical prices. It is not uncommon that a well-kept bus from the mid-sixties sells for more than $60K. Westfalia campers from the 70s sell for 20-30K if they are in good shape. Also if you look to South America there are still thousands of buses around there. At one time the VW Do Brazil replaced the air-cooled motor with a water-cooled engine derived from the VW Golf, which resulted in a different look of the bus. They also used the windows and bumpers from the 60s on some vehicles produced in the 70s, 80, and 90s. While European production of the bus ceased in 1979, it was still made in Mexico until 1994 and in Brazil until Dec. 2013.

From 1980 - 1986 it was also assembled in Argentina. And Australia had an assembly plant in Melbourne.

More detailed infos can be found here:

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The End

He descended from an escalator breathing like Darth Vader boarding the rebel ship in the first scene of Star Wars. We’ve been aghast ever since. But we can see the end of this Evil Empire now. It’s only months away. But how exactly does this menacing villain meet his demise? Predicting the final episode doesn’t require George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, or any mental acuity–not even a Magic 8-Ball. We know Donald Trump better than we know ourselves.

When this debacle ends, and we cancel this carnival barker’s show, he’ll pound his fists on the ground and howl in the night. He’ll crawl back to the safety of his opulent resort with his toadies in tow, gnaw on his QVC steaks, pop in on Mar-a-Lago weddings for adulation, cheat at golf, cheat on his taxes, cheat on his wife, and cheat employees. He’ll break more laws, become even more petty and cruel, and continue his role as America’s most pathetic victim.

Trump and his sycophants will keep peddling insane conspiracy theories while leaving unprecedented corruption in their wake. He’ll tweet from his throne in sniffling fits of rage, telling us that he did everything better than anyone who has ever lived as he searches for the next Central Park Five. He’ll scream out the windows of his penthouse suite that the new president is the worst in history, stare at commissioned paintings of himself, and warn us of make-believe caravans walking a thousand miles with their children to rape and murder us. And he’ll ensure his presidential library has the most square feet of any before him.

But we won’t have to listen to his xenophobia, misogyny, gaslighting, or tantrums anymore because he’ll be irrelevant. His power will be stripped except among bots, Russian hacks, racist superfans, and low-information voters who formed his base and debased society. He’ll continue to spew venom and flood the airwaves with toxic garbage, but now that he fixed everyone’s toilets, we’ll be able to flush away his pathological lies.

He’ll blame the FBI and CIA, Democrats and Republicans, the DNC, RNC, and MSNBC, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, Mueller, Romney, Greta, Obama, the media, the whistleblower, kneeling football players, Obama, windmills, SNL, Puerto Rico, and Parasite. He’ll blame Pence, his staff, and everyone else from his inner circle except Stephen Miller, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Lewandowski. He’ll show no humility, express no regret, and never apologize.

We’ll shake our heads in disbelief that such a terrible person ever occupied the Oval Office. History books will note that he was everything our Founders feared–a King George of the 21st century absent the education and etiquette. Patriots would have tarred and feathered him and dragged him through the streets for his greed, vanity, and lawlessness.

The sun will rise on this country again. Our allies and foes will respect us. Sensible regulations that protect animals, people, and the planet will be reinstated and strengthened. The new president will focus on helping those most in need. Ruth Bader Ginsberg will peacefully retire. Law and order, although flawed, will be restored. Judges will no longer be attacked, and prosecutors will be allowed to do their jobs. The media will ask questions without having their reputations smeared. Qualified professionals will hold cabinet positions.

The new president will be civil, humble, and honest, respect women, immigrants, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, and will not conflate white supremacists and the people protesting them. We’ll take steps to protect our elections, and our diplomats will be appreciated. Climate change will receive the attention it deserves, and responsible policies will seek to address it. Science will matter again. Facts will matter. The new administration will follow laws and the U.S. Constitution.

The scars will be deep from this presidency, and the damage long-lasting. People’s lives and careers have been inexcusably ruined. Countless animals have been killed. The planet’s health has been degraded. Decency has been ravaged. The nation’s reputation has been shattered. We will look back upon this era in shock that it happened, but grateful that we rallied to stop it before it irreparably eroded our democracy.

It’s time for Lord Trump to go back up the escalator from whence he came and return to his hotel room with his stormtroopers. Perhaps J.J. Abrams will invite Trump to play himself in Star Wars X: The Last Sociopath. Or maybe a more fitting part would be in Home Alone VI. His cabinet could play the burglars.