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Daily Archives: July 31, 2022

Charts: U.S. New Home Sales and Prices Down In June

Source : ZeroHedge

Humour: News in Cartoons

The Economy Needs a Volcker Moment

Connor Mortell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Readers of the Mises Wire are most likely familiar with the Volcker moment. This was when former Fed chair Paul Volcker, in the face of steep price inflation, skyrocketed rates to nearly 20 percent. While critics of the Volcker moment complain that such a move also skyrocketed unemployment to almost 11 percent, it cannot be ignored that the price inflation was finally reined in. Not only did we see the benefit in reduced inflation, but Austrians have an answer regarding the unemployment.

Austrian business cycle theory very simply explains this. While ceteris paribus, this unemployment number looks absolutely devastating, the reality is that it was inevitable. These jobs evaporate with inflation not because there is some mathematically divine connection between inflation and unemployment, but rather because the demand for these jobs was artificially created by the inflation misleading entrepreneurs to misread price signals.

While we should still mourn for those who lose their jobs—because it is undisputedly painful—we must also recognize that to see this as a widespread economic loss is to fall into the broken window fallacy, as French economist, Frédéric Bastiat has explained, when a window is broken:

The reader must take care to remember that there are not two persons only, but three…. It is this third person who is always kept in the shade, and who, personating that which is not seen, is a necessary element of the problem. It is he who shows us how absurd it is to think we see a profit in an act of destruction. It is he who will soon teach us that it is not less absurd to see a profit in a restriction, which is, after all, nothing else than a partial destruction. Therefore if you will only go to the root of all arguments which are adduced in its favor, all you will find will be the paraphrase of this vulgar saying—what would become of the glaziers, if nobody ever broke windows.

Bastiat explained that if nobody ever broke windows, then unemployment among glaziers would skyrocket. But this is no reason to keep breaking windows, because the people paying the glaziers would have been purchasing other more valued things—in Bastiat’s example, shoes—and now these other purchases never occur and become part of what Bastiat calls the unseen.

The same is true of employment from inflation. If we were to stop inflating, then the jobs created by inflation would disappear. But this is not reason to continue inflating. We are not profiting from inflation because these jobs exist. Rather these jobs are channeling resources from more valued means that we cannot possibly see in the face of this brutal inflation.

Seeing now that Volcker did control inflation by hiking rates and that the unemployment response does not carry the weight one may expect, we now can look at the 9.1 percent Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation and understand that this is a terrifying number and that even if June’s 75 basis point rate hike is the highest we’ve seen since 1994, it is not nearly enough: it is time for a Volcker moment. ZeroHedge has previously reported that to have a Volcker moment, we would need to raise rates above the CPI rate, as Volcker in fact did.

That would mean that we need much higher increase than a measly 0.75 percent, we’d need a rate over 9.00 percent! In fact, if we were to look at the CPI as it was calculated back in Volcker’s time, we’d need a rate over 20.00 percent. This year we have seen record-breaking rate hikes compared to recent history, but they are not nearly enough.

A genuine Volcker moment would bring about serious economic hardship, which makes it hard to advocate. However, before long, the absence of such a moment will cause even more serious and much more prolonged economic hardship. It is time.


Source : Mises Institute

Getting More Exercise than Guidelines Suggest May Further Lower Death Risk

Doubling to quadrupling the minimum amount of weekly physical activity recommended for U.S. adults may substantially lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes, new research finds.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found people who followed the minimum guidelines for moderate or vigorous long-term, leisure physical activity lowered their risk of dying from any cause by as much as 21%. But adults who exercised two to four times the minimum might lower their mortality risk by as much as 31%.

“Our study provides evidence to guide individuals to choose the right amount and intensity of physical activity over their lifetime to maintain their overall health,” study author Dong Hoon Lee said in a news release. Lee is a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“Our findings support the current national physical activity guidelines and further suggest that the maximum benefits may be achieved by performing medium to high levels of either moderate or vigorous activity or a combination.”

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both. That advice is based on federal guidelines for physical activity.

For the new research, a team analyzed 30 years of medical records and mortality data for over 100,000 adults enrolled in two large studies: the all-female Nurses’ Health Study and all-male Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The data included self-reported measures of leisure time physical activity intensity and duration. Participants were an average 66 years old.

In the study, moderate physical activity was defined as walking, lower-intensity exercise, weightlifting and calisthenics. Vigorous activity included jogging, running, swimming, bicycling and other aerobic exercises.

Going above and beyond the recommended minimums reaped greater longevity rewards, especially for moderate physical activity. Extra moderate-intensity exercise – 300 to 600 minutes per week – was associated with a 26%-31% lower risk of death from any cause compared with almost no long-term moderate-intensity exercise. By comparison, people who hit just the minimum goals for moderate physical activity had a lower risk of 20%-21%.

For vigorous physical activity, getting 150 to 300 minutes a week was linked to a 21%-23% lower risk of death from any cause compared to getting none. That compared to a 19% lower risk for people who just met the minimum exercise target.

People who reported meeting the recommendation for moderate physical activity had a 22%-25% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, while those who exercised two to four times the recommendation had a 28%-38% lower risk, the analysis found. Those reporting the recommended amount of vigorous physical activity were 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, while those who doubled to quadrupled the recommended target had a 27%-33% lower risk.

Engaging in more than 300 weekly minutes of vigorous or 600 weekly minutes of moderate physical activity did not provide any further reduction in death risk, the study found. But it also did not harm cardiovascular health. Prior research has suggested long-term, high-intensity endurance activities – such as marathons, triathlons and long-distance bicycle races – may increase the risk for cardiovascular problems, including sudden cardiac death.

“This finding may reduce the concerns around the potential harmful effect of engaging in high levels of physical activity observed in several previous studies,” Lee said.

Donna K. Arnett, incoming executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, said in the release that the findings fit with what is already known about the heart health benefits of regular physical activity.

“We have known for a long time that moderate and intense levels of physical exercise can reduce a person’s risk of both atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and mortality,” said Arnett, who helped write guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention from the AHA and American College of Cardiology. She was not involved in the new research.

“We have also seen that getting more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical exercise each week may reduce a person’s risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease even further, so it makes sense that getting those extra minutes of exercise may also decrease mortality,” she said.


Source: American Heart Association

New SARS-CoV-2 Variant BA.2.75 Evades All Approved Monoclonal Antibody Therapies

William A. Haseltine wrote . . . . . . . . .

Viral variation has proved to be a critical weak point in our approach to medical solutions for controlling Covid-19. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve seen successive waves of reinfection by new variants of those who’ve been previously infected, those who have been vaccinated and boosted, and those who have been infected, vaccinated, and boosted as well. Behind this unfortunate dynamic is the dramatic variation in the structure of the virus exterior, specifically the Spike protein, which plays a critical role early in infection by binding to the cell surface and forcing entry.

Antibodies that recognize this structure can block infection. However, changes in the exterior structure negate antibody collections in convalescent sera and monoclonal antibodies from binding and neutralizing the virus. A recent study by Yamasoba et al. summarizes the effectiveness of existing monoclonal antibodies against a successive set of virus variants, namely the BA.2 variant, which first emerged in late 2021 and quickly spread around the world, driving the most infectious wave of the virus to date, BA 4/5, which are the predominant strains circulating at the time of writing, and BA.2.75, a new sublineage of BA.2 which is likely more infectious and immune evasive than its predecessors, suggesting it may be the predominant variant in the coming weeks and months.


FIGURE 1: Neutralization assay was performed using pseudoviruses harboring the SARS-CoV-2 Spike … [+] YAMASOBA ET AL.

The ability of the virus to evade natural immunity from the previously infected and vaccinated is also reflected in its ability to escape a host of specific monoclonal antibodies. As is clear from Figure one, the later Omicron viruses evade monoclonal antibodies much more effectively than early strains.

Immediately, we note that five antibodies: adintrevimab, bamlanivimab, casirivimab, etesevimab, and imdevimab failed to neutralize any of the three Omicron sublineages. Casirivimab and imdevimab, as well as etesevimab and bamlanivimab, are designed to be used in tandem in an antibody cocktail, yet their combination antibodies were just as ineffective. Adintrevimab is intended for individual use, meaning its neutralization potency for the strains circulating today is nonexistent. These were among the first monoclonal antibodies developed, rationalizing why they are so ineffective against recent strains.

This leaves five individual monoclonal antibodies. Regdanvimab, sotrovimab, and tixagevimab did not neutralize the previously circulating BA.2 and the currently circulating BA.4/5. However, the three effectively neutralized the BA.2.75 pseudovirus. This suggests that if BA.2.75 became the dominant strain in the coming weeks and months, these three monoclonal antibodies could be effective treatments for those suffering from Covid due to this strain.

Of the two remaining antibodies, cilgavimab poorly neutralized BA.2 and BA.4/5 but was 24.4-fold worse against BA.2.75. Although bebtelovimab effectively neutralized BA.2 and BA.4/5, it again was much worse against BA.2.75, this time 21.2 to 25.6-fold. Despite poorly neutralizing BA.2.75 compared to BA.4/5, bebtelovimab still neutralized the strain better than any other antibody.

Even newer generations of viruses recently detected in South Africa with more extensively mutated Spike proteins, against which bebtelovimab and others may perform even more poorly.

New variants evading monoclonal antibodies should come as no surprise. After infection, the convalescent sera of a recovered patient contains many antibodies designed to inhibit the virus the host just overcame. For the virus to reinfect, it must mutate considerably to evade the convalescent antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are effectively the same as convalescent antibodies on an individual scale. They are designed to overcome a virus by binding to specific amino acids on the Spike. If the virus mutates enough, the monoclonal antibody can no longer bind. This is how the cat and mouse game of developing antibodies and the virus mutating has continued for two and a half years.

What then can be done? The search is on for monoclonal antibodies that recognize regions of the virus that are critical to the virus lifecycle and therefore are resistant to most mutations. In other words, scientists worldwide are rushing to identify and develop antibodies with broadly neutralizing capabilities, i.e., antibodies that recognize highly conserved sequences of the Spike protein that may overcome all viral variants.

The good news is that many such antibodies have already been identified. We recently described the Cv2.1169 antibody discovered by scientists at the Pasteur Institute and will continue to detail others as data is released. Whether these antibodies recognize and neutralize the latest variants such as BA.2.75 remains an open question.

A second potential solution is to use extensive combinations of functional monoclonal antibodies. While many fail to neutralize, some retain neutralizing capability against the latest variants, and new monoclonal antibodies are constantly advancing. Combining two, three, or four antibodies into a single treatment may suppress infection. Our hope remains high for monoclonal antibodies as a short-term relief for those infected and, in the long run, as a prophylactic against infection in the first place.


Source : Forbes

China Vows Privacy, Information Protection in Using Digital Yuan

China will fully respect privacy and protect personal information in using the digital yuan, state media quoted a senior central bank official as saying on Sunday, as Beijing encourages greater adoption of e-CNY.

Limited anonymity is a key feature of the digital yuan, Mu Changchun, director-general of the central bank’s Digital Currency Research Institute said, noting it ensures reasonable anonymous transactions.

“On the other hand, it also prevents and combats illegal activities including money laundering, terrorist financing and tax evasion, maintaining the need for financial security,” the Securities Times quoted Mu as saying at a forum.

The People’s Bank of China is a front-runner in developing and issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC), which in the case of the e-CNY will be a traceable replacement for notes and coins.

Other central banks are looking at developing CBDCs to modernize their financial systems, ward off competition from cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and speed up domestic and international payments.

China’s efforts are among the most advanced globally, and the country has been running various trials and pilot schemes of different payment scenarios in recent years.

Mu also said the e-CNY, which is the digital version of fiat currency issued by the PBOC, can be used to purchase anything that can be bought with banknotes and coins.

“Banknotes and coins can buy gold and convert foreign currency, so does the e-CNY,” he said.

In May, some cities distributed free digital cash to revive consumption and help businesses hit by pandemic curbs, with more e-CNY applications expected in future to boost transparency and effectiveness of government policies.


Source : Financial Post