UPDATE 23. March 2020: Like Freedom? Then You Won’t Like the FREEDOM Act (Orwellian New-Speak at works!]
UPDATE 18. March 2020: Coronavirus scare - the hoax of the century?
PROLOGUE: The coronavirus, which is at present creating worldwide havoc, was initially called 2019-nCoV for '2019 novel coronavirus' and is identified now as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), while the disease is called COVID-19 for 'Corona Virus Infectious Disease 2019'. Get your case number updates from HERE or HERE; and please realize that - like influenza - it already has spread circumpolar with most cases not properly tested or even recorded.
The Coronavirus Hoax
By Ron Paul - 16. March 2020
It is ironic to see the same Democrats who tried to impeach President Trump last month for abuse of power demanding that the Administration grab more power and authority in the name of fighting a virus that thus far has killed less than 100 Americans. Declaring a pandemic emergency on Friday, President Trump now claims the power to quarantine individuals suspected of being infected by the virus and, as Politico writes, “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease.” He can even call out the military to cordon off a US city or state.
State and local authoritarians love panic as well. The mayor of Champaign, Illinois, signed an executive order declaring the power to ban the sale of guns and alcohol and cut off gas, water, or electricity to any citizen. The governor of Ohio just essentially closed his entire state.
The chief fearmonger of the Trump Administration is without a doubt Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Fauci is all over the media, serving up outright falsehoods to stir up even more panic. He testified to Congress that the death rate for the coronavirus is ten times that of the seasonal flu, a claim without any scientific basis.
On Face the Nation, Fauci did his best to further damage an already tanking economy by stating, “Right now, personally, myself, I wouldn’t go to a restaurant.” He has pushed for closing the entire country down for 14 days.
Over what? A virus that has thus far killed just over 5,000 worldwide and less than 100 in the United States? By contrast, tuberculosis, an old disease not much discussed these days, killed nearly 1.6 million people in 2017. Where’s the panic over this?
If anything, what people like Fauci and the other fearmongers are demanding will likely make the disease worse. The martial law they dream about will leave people hunkered down inside their homes instead of going outdoors or to the beach where the sunshine and fresh air would help boost immunity. The panic produced by these fearmongers is likely helping spread the disease, as massive crowds rush into Walmart and Costco for that last roll of toilet paper.
The madness over the coronavirus is not limited to politicians and the medical community. The head of the neoconservative Atlantic Council wrote an editorial this week urging NATO to pass an Article 5 declaration of war against the COVID-19 virus! Are they going to send in tanks and drones to wipe out these microscopic enemies?
People should ask themselves whether this coronavirus “pandemic” could be a big hoax, with the actual danger of the disease massively exaggerated by those who seek to profit – financially or politically – from the ensuing panic.
That is not to say the disease is harmless. Without question people will die from coronavirus. Those in vulnerable categories should take precautions to limit their risk of exposure. But we have seen this movie before. Government over-hypes a threat as an excuse to grab more of our freedoms. When the “threat” is over, however, they never give us our freedoms back.
Copyright © 2020 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
Coronavirus scare - the hoax of the century?
•Mar 18, 2020
Dr Vernon Coleman explains why he thinks the current hysteria over the coronavirus has a hidden agenda. For more information visit www.vernoncoleman.com
Like Freedom? Then You Won’t Like the FREEDOM Act
By ron paul - 23 March 2020
Last Monday, a bipartisan group of Senators and a coalition including libertarian and progressive activists thwarted a scheme to ram through the Senate legislation renewing three provisions of the USA FREEDOM Act (previously known as the USA PATRIOT Act). The bill had already been rushed through the House of Representatives, and most expected it to sail through the Senate. But, instead, Senate leadership had to settle for a 77-day extension.
Senate leadership was also forced to allow consideration of several amendments at a later date. Included is Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment that would forbid the FISA court from issuing warrants targeting American citizens.
Deep state supporters claim the expiring business records provision (which authorizes the collection of our communications and was at the center of Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations), lone wolf provision (which allows government to subject an individual with no known ties to terrorists to warrantless surveillance), and roving wiretaps provision (which allows government to monitor communications on any device that may be used by a targeted individual) are necessary to keep Americans safe. But, since Congress first passed the PATRIOT Act almost 20 years ago, mass surveillance, warrantless wiretapping, and bulk data collection have not stopped a single terrorist attack.
The legislation does have “reforms” aimed at protecting civil liberties, but these new protections contain loopholes that render the protections meaningless. For example, the bill requires those targeted for surveillance to be notified that the government spied on them. However, this requirement can be waived if the government simply claims — not proves but just clams — that notifying the target would harm “national security.”
The notice provision also only applies to the target of an investigations. So, if you were caught up in a federal investigation because a coworker is being targeted and you shared an office computer, or if a store clerk reported to the government you and others bought pressure cookers, the government could collect your phone records, texts, and social media posts without giving you the chance to challenge the government’s actions.
The bill also makes some reforms to the special FISA court, which serves as a rubber stamp for the intelligence community. These reforms are mainly aimed at protecting political campaigns and candidates. They would not stop the FISA court from rubber-stamping surveillance on organizations that oppose the welfare-warfare-surveillance-fiat money status quo.
Anything limiting warrantless wiretapping and mass surveillance should be supported. However, nothing short of repeal of the USA FREEDOM Act will restore respect for our right to live our lives free of the fear that Big Brother is watching. The path to liberty, peace, and prosperity starts with eliminating all unconstitutional laws and returning to a system of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, sound money, and a foreign policy that seeks peaceful commerce and friendship with all instead of seeking new monsters to destroy.
The Trump Department of Justice has asked Congress to craft legislation allowing chief judges to indefinitely hold people without trial and suspend other constitutionally protected rights during the coronavirus and other emergencies, according to a report by Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan.
While the asks from the Department of Justice will likely not come to fruition with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, they demonstrate how much this White House has a frightening disregard for rights enumerated in the Constitution.
The DOJ has requested that Congress allow any chief judge of a district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation,” according to draft language obtained by Politico. This would be applicable to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil processes and proceedings.” They justify this by saying currently judges can pause judicial proceedings in an emergency, but that new legislation would allow them to apply it “in a consistent manner.”
But the Constitution grants citizens habeas corpus, which gives arrestees the right to appear in front of a judge and ask to be released before trial. Enacting legislation like the DOJ wants would essentially suspend habeas corpus indefinitely until the emergency ended. Further, DOJ asked Congress to suspend the statute of limitations on criminal investigations and civil proceedings during the emergency until a year after it ended.
Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told Politico the measure was “terrifying,” saying, “Not only would it be a violation of [habeas corpus], but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest.’ So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.”
“That is something that should not happen in a democracy,” he added.
DOJ also asked Congress to amend the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to have defendants appear at a hearing via videoconference instead of in person with the defendant’s consent, although in a draft obtained by Politico, the sections about requiring consent were crossed out. But it’s not just Americans’ rights the DOJ wants to violate. They also asked Congress to pass a law saying that immigrants who test positive for COVID-19 cannot qualify as asylum seekers.
As coronavirus spreads through the country, activists are calling on politicians in office to release prisoners and immigrants held in detention centers, both of which can be a hotbed of virus activity with so many people in close quarters and limited or non-existent supplies of soap, sanitizer, and protective equipment. Some states have already begun to do so. But with this, the Trump administration is taking steps to hold more people in prisons for an undetermined amount of time — showing their priority is not saving lives but giving themselves more power.
A nurse holds swabs and a test tube to test people for Covid-19 at a drive-through station set up in the parking lot of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. PAUL SANCYA/AP
The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.
At a time when everyone needs better information, from disease modelers and governments to people quarantined or just social distancing, we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.
Draconian countermeasures have been adopted in many countries. If the pandemic dissipates — either on its own or because of these measures — short-term extreme social distancing and lockdowns may be bearable. How long, though, should measures like these be continued if the pandemic churns across the globe unabated? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?
Vaccines or affordable treatments take many months (or even years) to develop and test properly. Given such timelines, the consequences of long-term lockdowns are entirely unknown.
The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population.
This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless. Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes. As most health systems have limited testing capacity, selection bias may even worsen in the near future.
The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.
Projecting the Diamond Princess mortality rate onto the age structure of the U.S. population, the death rate among people infected with Covid-19 would be 0.125%. But since this estimate is based on extremely thin data — there were just seven deaths among the 700 infected passengers and crew — the real death rate could stretch from five times lower (0.025%) to five times higher (0.625%). It is also possible that some of the passengers who were infected might die later, and that tourists may have different frequencies of chronic diseases — a risk factor for worse outcomes with SARS-CoV-2 infection — than the general population. Adding these extra sources of uncertainty, reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%.
That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05% is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.
Could the Covid-19 case fatality rate be that low? No, some say, pointing to the high rate in elderly people. However, even some so-called mild or common-cold-type coronaviruses that have been known for decades can have case fatality rates as high as 8% when they infect elderly people in nursing homes. In fact, such “mild” coronaviruses infect tens of millions of people every year, and account for 3% to 11%of those hospitalized in the U.S. with lower respiratory infections each winter.
These “mild” coronaviruses may be implicated in several thousands of deaths every year worldwide, though the vast majority of them are not documented with precise testing. Instead, they are lost as noise among 60 million deaths from various causes every year.
Although successful surveillance systems have long existed for influenza, the disease is confirmed by a laboratory in a tiny minority of cases. In the U.S., for example, so far this season 1,073,976 specimens have been tested and 222,552 (20.7%) have tested positive for influenza. In the same period, the estimated number of influenza-like illnesses is between 36,000,000 and 51,000,000, with an estimated 22,000 to 55,000 flu deaths.
Note the uncertainty about influenza-like illness deaths: a 2.5-fold range, corresponding to tens of thousands of deaths. Every year, some of these deaths are due to influenza and some to other viruses, like common-cold coronaviruses.
In an autopsy series that tested for respiratory viruses in specimens from 57 elderly persons who died during the 2016 to 2017 influenza season, influenza viruses were detected in 18% of the specimens, while any kind of respiratory virus was found in 47%. In some people who die from viral respiratory pathogens, more than one virus is found upon autopsy and bacteria are often superimposed. A positive test for coronavirus does not mean necessarily that this virus is always primarily responsible for a patient’s demise.
If we assume that case fatality rate among individuals infected by SARS-CoV-2 is 0.3% in the general population — a mid-range guess from my Diamond Princess analysis — and that 1% of the U.S. population gets infected (about 3.3 million people), this would translate to about 10,000 deaths. This sounds like a huge number, but it is buried within the noise of the estimate of deaths from “influenza-like illness.” If we had not known about a new virus out there, and had not checked individuals with PCR tests, the number of total deaths due to “influenza-like illness” would not seem unusual this year. At most, we might have casually noted that flu this season seems to be a bit worse than average. The media coverage would have been less than for an NBA game between the two most indifferent teams.
Some worry that the 68 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. as of March 16 will increase exponentially to 680, 6,800, 68,000, 680,000 … along with similar catastrophic patterns around the globe. Is that a realistic scenario, or bad science fiction? How can we tell at what point such a curve might stop?
The most valuable piece of information for answering those questions would be to know the current prevalence of the infection in a random sample of a population and to repeat this exercise at regular time intervals to estimate the incidence of new infections. Sadly, that’s information we don’t have.
In the absence of data, prepare-for-the-worst reasoning leads to extreme measures of social distancing and lockdowns. Unfortunately, we do not know if these measures work. School closures, for example, may reduce transmission rates. But they may also backfire if children socialize anyhow, if school closure leads children to spend more time with susceptible elderly family members, if children at home disrupt their parents ability to work, and more. School closures may also diminish the chances of developing herd immunity in an age group that is spared serious disease.
This has been the perspective behind the different stance of the United Kingdom keeping schools open, at least until as I write this. In the absence of data on the real course of the epidemic, we don’t know whether this perspective was brilliant or catastrophic.
Flattening the curve to avoid overwhelming the health system is conceptually sound — in theory. A visual that has become viral in media and social media shows how flattening the curve reduces the volume of the epidemic that is above the threshold of what the health system can handle at any moment.
Yet if the health system does become overwhelmed, the majority of the extra deaths may not be due to coronavirus but to other common diseases and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, trauma, bleeding, and the like that are not adequately treated. If the level of the epidemic does overwhelm the health system and extreme measures have only modest effectiveness, then flattening the curve may make things worse: Instead of being overwhelmed during a short, acute phase, the health system will remain overwhelmed for a more protracted period. That’s another reason we need data about the exact level of the epidemic activity.
One of the bottom lines is that we don’t know how long social distancing measures and lockdowns can be maintained without major consequences to the economy, society, and mental health. Unpredictable evolutions may ensue, including financial crisis, unrest, civil strife, war, and a meltdown of the social fabric. At a minimum, we need unbiased prevalence and incidence data for the evolving infectious load to guide decision-making.
In the most pessimistic scenario, which I do not espouse, if the new coronavirus infects 60% of the global population and 1% of the infected people die, that will translate into more than 40 million deaths globally, matching the 1918 influenza pandemic.
The vast majority of this hecatomb would be people with limited life expectancies. That’s in contrast to 1918, when many young people died.
One can only hope that, much like in 1918, life will continue. Conversely, with lockdowns of months, if not years, life largely stops, short-term and long-term consequences are entirely unknown, and billions, not just millions, of lives may be eventually at stake.
If we decide to jump off the cliff, we need some data to inform us about the rationale of such an action and the chances of landing somewhere safe.
John P.A. Ioannidis is professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University and co-director of Stanford’s Meta-Research Innovation Center.
What is currently unfolding in the U.S. is what happens when you develop a healthcare system predicated around extracting profit from sick bodies, writes Mike Pappas.
By Mike Pappas - 16. March 2020
Coronavirus has officially hit the United States. Throughout the country, there have been anywhere between 1,600 and 3,600 confirmed cases and 41 deaths. This number is likely a gross underestimate of the actual number of cases, as the U.S. has only tested a small proportion of the population. Meanwhile, top health officials in Ohio estimate 100,000 people could have potentially already been infected with the virus. Researchers at Johns Hopkins estimate there could be between 50,000 and half a million cases in the U.S. at this time, and that number only looks like it will grow. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, recently stated it’s possible millions could die in the United States. I hope that we do not see things get worse in the U.S., but based on what I personally have seen and what my colleagues report, I cannot help but believe things will get worse than they are now.
Take it from a U.S. physician working on the ground in communities hit by COVID-19: the U.S. is woefully unprepared for this pandemic. During a recent press conference, after being pressed about the limited availability of coronavirus test kits, Dr. Fauci said, “The system does not — is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failure.” The U.S. has only been able to test five individuals per million, while South Korea has tested more than 3,500 per million people. This is largely due to the fact that the U.S. declined to use WHO tests used around the rest of the world.
Testing is not the only place where the U.S. is lacking. It has been reported in multiple outlets that there are critical shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) for health providers, ventilators, and ICU beds. These shortages are especially concerning, as they risk overwhelming critical care sectors of the healthcare system. Nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers on the front lines are speaking out about what they need to provide adequate care, but the system is unable to respond. It appears these cries are falling on deaf ears. The U.S. healthcare system has always been horrid, but this pandemic is serving as a magnifying glass to expose its multiple failures.
Corona Overwhelming Other Countries
While COVID-19 has hit over 140 countries, we can see the extent to which it can overwhelm a healthcare system by looking at a country like Italy. The Italian healthcare system, which ranks second in quality in the entire world, has been completely overburdened by the virus. It was recently reported that the virus claimed 368 new deaths on Sunday, which was the largest 24 hour increase in the country to date. The country has over 21,000 cases as of today, and physicians on the ground are reporting there are simply too many patients for each of them to receive adequate care. Recently, the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) even published guidelines likening decisions physicians may face to “wartime triage” deciding who lives and who dies. Physicians in Italy are reporting that up to 80 percent of hospital beds in some provinces are occupied by coronavirus patients, and intensive care units are completely overloaded and short of supplies.
The strain the coronavirus causes on health systems also leads to increased deaths from other illnesses not related to coronavirus. There are stories around the world of patients with various illnesses such as cancer that are turned away from care. Other acute and chronic illnesses do not take a break during viral pandemics such as this. In other parts of the world such as China, the strain is not just leading to deaths of patients, but also medical workers dying from a combination of infection and fatigue.
There is potential for this same tragic dynamic to play out in the U.S., but in an even worse fashion given our disjointed profit-centered model of care. As discussed in a recent analysis published on Statnews.com, the U.S. has about 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people — with a population of around 330 million, 1 million total hospital beds. While the number of patients needing hospitalization vary in reports depending on the country, anywhere from 50 percent (Italy) to 15 percent (China) of patients required hospitalization. Based on the rates of spread in the U.S., even if 10 percent of patients required hospitalization, hospital beds would be filled by May. This is not to mention the drastic drain on supplies that such a rate of infection would put on the U.S. healthcare system.
Healthcare Workers Already Noticing Shortages
The Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has been extremely behind on ensuring healthcare workers have the necessary supplies to treat the large number of patients who will be coming to hospitals in the near future. For example, they only recently issued a request for contracts for 500 million face masks to help protect workers against the virus when seeing patients. The proposals for these contracts are not due back until March 18. Requests for information around available medical gowns, masks, respirators, etc. from the Domestic Strategic National Stockpile’s Office of Resource Management are not even due back until March 24. These clearly serve as delays in a time of crisis, when delays and shortages mean increased viral transmission, increased spread of illness, and increased death.
Short supplies of protective masks are hitting hospitals around the country. Staff must often obtain management approval before using N95 masks used to protect against airborne pathogens. In one New York hospital, management advised staff to “reuse” N95 masks with a distributed document saying “N95 masks will be reused by staff until they are soiled, moist, or compromised,” and to obtain a new mask an associate must “request a mask from their supervisor.” Policies such as this one pose great risk of infection for healthcare workers, who would then potentially spread the infection to patients. It doesn’t stop at the special N95 masks, nurses in Chicago are now even reporting they are even running out of regular surgical masks, which is unconscionable in a healthcare setting. I’m part of a discussion group of health care workers; a nurse in New York City recently contacted us, saying, “Ok, so now we get two masks each and that’s it!!! WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON????” That is a great question.
take over private industries that are putting profits over patient lives. In the U.S., we are seeing “requests” and “contracts” for money to be funneled into inefficient for-profit companies that cannot and will not respond fast enough, while the government leaders and media pundits continue to tout the brilliance of “public-private partnerships.”
Confusion from Management
Even the type of mask to be used for COVID-19 patients has been up for debate. Hospital administrations direct staff to use regular surgical masks, eyeshields, and PPE for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases because according to CDC guidelines, N95 masks should only be worn for “aerosol generating procedures.” This concerns many healthcare workers because at least one study in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but yet to be peer reviewed, suggests that the coronavirus can survive in the air, which would necessitate N95 masks. Healthcare workers speculate the laxity in recommendations results from hospital administrations attempting to save the already short supply of N95 masks.
These issues, along with poor lines of communication resulting from the highly bureaucratized and corporatized U.S. healthcare system, have led to confusion, delays in care, and even some healthcare workers being exposed. As one worker recently shared with me:
“I’m an RN in a MICU in New York. We currently have 3 positives on unit. There has been a lot of fear regarding lack of equipment and PPE [protective personal equipment]. Throughout our facility we have found no plans in place for this. The union has been working on demands. One of the things that has been most difficult is the discussion… is it droplet or airborne. Our institution has gone back and forth, provided misinformation about masks and appropriate PPE. Over the last week we have been told re-use masks. Last night they said the rooms no longer need airborne precaution and only droplet/contact precautions needed. Now, at 11am they have placed the rooms back on airborne.
We are worried they have exposed a lot of us. They aren’t testing a handful of people who might be positive.
Masks (droplet/surgical vs. airborne/respirator) are not the only problem. ICU beds around the country are quickly filling. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated that 80 percent of ICU beds in the state are occupied. While hospitals rightfully attempt to make more space on units, administrations have been reported converting units to handle ICU level patients without first ensuring nurses are comfortable or trained to handle the care involved with such patients. As reported, nurses throughout the country are already chronically understaffed due to capitalists continually trying to cut staff as much as possible to lower costs and increase profits.
Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Hospital administrations have repeatedly ignored nurses’ calls for safe staffing ratios, which, if instituted, would have made handling a pandemic more tolerable. Now, around the country they are scrambling, putting out calls for retired nurses to return to work to help fill staffing gaps. Capitalists’ consistent push for profits is now coming home to roost, manifesting as staff shortages during this crisis.
All Staff at Risk
And it’s not only nurses being harmed under these poor working conditions. Resident physicians, supervising/attending physicians, medical assistants, technicians, and other front line healthcare staff are also at risk. Patient care associates — these are often the individuals who take vital signs and perform other crucial services — in hospitals in New York City have noted the absence of training in protecting against the virus. One recently stated, “We haven’t gotten any training. The N95 respirators are on lockdown. They can only be used for ‘more serious cases.’”
Resident physicians, who often work 80+ hours per week in the hospitals, are at particular risk. While many residency training programs across the country are now appropriately pulling residents off of “nonessential rotations,” so they can be prepared to respond to the crisis, many working on the front lines are put at risk. As per a resident who recently contacted me:
“We have a patient that is being admitted for pneumonia but her story sounds really good for COVID-19. I called the infection control line and they were like “This line is only for attendings only. Call your attending if you want to challenge it.” They’re not doing shit to protect us if I can’t say “I think a patient should be reconsidered for a COVID rule out” and have them seriously discuss it as one.”
Decisions such as these put staff on the front lines at risk of contracting and subsequently spreading COVID-19 to other patients and staff.
Capitalism’s Rot in Healthcare System
What is currently unfolding in the U.S. is what happens when you develop a healthcare system predicated around extracting profit from sick bodies — one that continually attempts to drive down costs whenever possible. A system that only reacts to disease instead of preventing disease. Dr. Fauci stated that our “system is not built for this,” but healthcare workers dedicated to treating patients have been condemning this system for years. Our healthcare system has always been a complete disaster, but a pandemic like this just magnifies that fact. We not only need a new healthcare system, but a new economic system that values life over profit. Capitalism will never give us what we need. Hopefully, this wake-up call does not cost too many innocent lives.
Another Kind of Outbreak: COVID-19 as Financial Crime Threat
18. March 2020
When the World Health Organization (WHO) designated COVID-19 a ‘pandemic’ earlier this month, it understandably left out another concern linked to the outbreak: how financial crooks might exploit it. Whether it is this virus or another in the future, the significant attention and panic that comes with such outbreaks can provide unscrupulous individuals with a new means to exploit others.
By definition, “panic” is “a sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought and action,” and this is exactly what can aide criminals—a lack of reasonable thought or action from their victim.
Media reports show all manner of unreasonable action and advice, from panic-buying of toilet rolls to false information being spread that cocaine can cure the virus. Equally bizarre have been reports of inaccurate rumors spread on social media that ‘constant’ sexual intercourse could kill the Coronavirus. With global attention on the outbreak itself, criminals need only be successful with a fraction of their potential victims to take advantage of the unfortunate situation that has unfolded.
Financial Crime Threats
Currently, statistics on criminality related to the outbreak are limited. Aside from criticising the UK’s response to the viral outbreak, Action Fraud disclosed that it had received 21 reports of fraud linked to the virus last month, with victims’ losses totalling over £800,000. Ten of the reports involved the purchase of face masks from fraudulent sellers. One victim paid £15,000 for the (obviously non-existent) face masks, which never arrived.
The Action Fraud information also highlighted a common scheme that involved fraudsters emailing potential victims and pretending to be from organisations working with the WHO and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The fraudsters claimed to be able to provide a list of infected people in the victim’s area. The victims were then asked to click on links to malicious websites in order to obtain the lists and were at times asked to make payments in Bitcoin.
Recorded Future, the cybersecurity and threat intelligence company, released a report that found cybercriminals had been using phishing and malware to target victims in Italy, the United States, Ukraine and particularly Iran. among other nations. The company also noted that “at least three cases where reference to COVID-19 has been leveraged by possible nation-state actors”.
The report concluded that cybercriminals were using branding from known organisations, such as WHO and CDC, in order to convince victims to click on links or open attachments, much as Action Fraud separately described. The findings by Recorded Future also detail that, in line with the increase in the spread of the virus, there was an increase in newly registered domain names related to the Coronavirus as cybercriminals potentially realised the use of the “COVID-19 as a cyberattack vector”.
As the situation evolves, it is likely that criminals will also adapt their methods of targeting COVID-19’s victims. Whilst there is currently no cure for COVID-19 and many unfortunate souls have lost their lives, the simple action of thinking before acting could help fight another kind of outbreak that, while arguably less important though certainly damaging, can impact lives for years to come.
Dev Odedra is an independent anti-money laundering and financial crime expert. He has over a decade of experience in managing financial crime risk in the retail, corporate and investment banking sectors. His expertise covers investigations, advisory and controls implementation and improvement.