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Monday, July 06, 2020 - 21:53 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Politics & Fixes

Before delving into the local general elections, a brief round-up of purported advances in coronavirus treatment from these past couple of weeks: the pendulum appears to have swung all the way in the direction of some nose/mouth coverage - even if homebrewed - amongst public health authorities, because policies based on common sense and basic math apparently have to wait for large-scale retrospective observations nowadays (but for completeness, here's a contrary argument that I think not very valid). American states appear to be slowly coming around on mask politicization (more on this in a future post), for which the CDC is unfortunately (but probably correctly) coming under heavy criticism. On the bright side, a few hundred scientists have taken it upon themselves to keep hammering the WHO on aerosol transmission risks, and what with the WHO only now admitting that China had never reported the coronavirus outbreak on their own initiative, it's a relief that Europe appears to have fallen in with GEOTUS TRUMP's extremely firm call to restructure the agency, not a moment too soon.

There's no lack of anticipated revelations, by the way, with Gilead's pricing for Remdesivir now revealed. Recall when we were reporting a US$1,000++ cost? Well, a five-day course has been priced at about US$2,300, which comes out to over US$3,000 with insurance, for saving a day or two in the ICU. Anyway, this has instantly gotten Gilead US$1.2 billion for half a million courses, which appears to be the entire global stock for the next few months at least; about this, an immediate doubt might be why the American decision-makers didn't turn to the comparatively nearly-free Dexamethasone instead, given that it's been certified to perform comparably in much the same role on severely-ill patients, from the RECOVERY trial (which has been weathering quite the storm on Twitter)

That's also the next few months' rent, thankyew!
(Source: europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com)

As it is, the Dexamethasone alternative has already been credited with nearly halving Remdesivir's asking price [!], though portions of the public are quite understandably outraged at what looks like extortion by another name, especially given that it doesn't even work all that well. Additionally, The BMJ has now seen fit to release an editorial addressing the not-very-strong Remdesivir studies and clear commercial conflicts of interest involving the drug, in contrast with HCQ - so constantly maligned in the FAKE NEWS - aided by straight-up fraud and botched late-stage experiments.

Coincidentally as the money's in the bank, a flurry of studies suggesting benefits from early application of HCQ with conventional dosing (e.g. the U.K. COPCOV) has managed to see the light of day, and even if one discounts those from known supporters Raoult and Zelenko, you've got evidence from Michigan's Henry Ford Health System published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, NYC's Mount Sinai Health System acknowledging a similar ~50% decreased mortality in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and a Lancet subjournal now admitting that rheumatic patients on long-term HCQ treatment appear to have around 90% reduced odds of coronavirus infection - and this is without mentioning the many other papers supporting HCQ, that have gotten next to no attention in the corrupt mainstream media.

Well, the tide seems strong enough that even CNN had to cover it - though near midnight, and later further modifying the headline to plant doubt; which might be fair enough, if they had applied the same standards to establishment-approved drugs (i.e. why was "'These improvements are not dramatic' and 'not a game changer'" a buried CNN subheader for "More evidence remdesivir helps some coronavirus patients", for example?). However, as analyzed early last month - what do you think will be the response, if it is established that HCQ actually can halve infection rates? Would the lying FAKE NEWS willingly admit that, whoops, we were mistaken, science now says that TRUMP had superior instincts on effective HCQ treatment, compared to the collective judgment of our medical elites?

No, as the old joke goes, I suspect that a lot of people who might otherwise have lived, would simply die from calculated inaction, and that the very science-worshipping parties now playing hardball on blanket face mask enforcement would turn out to be exceedingly reluctant to go on HCQ prophylaxis (bleach ahahahaha), given how the well has been poisoned (but a rushed vaccine, that's okay, of course!); I just hope to live long enough to read the post-mortem novel on this sorry affair.

Charting Singapore's Future

The pandemic has unavoidably entered our political sphere as well, with the co-chair of our official taskforce Pogba-ing SDP leader Paul Tambyah's critique that they had not followed scientific best practice, in discouraging prompt testing of foreign workers (it might be noted that Dr. Tambyah is president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases). Now, I don't even think the taskforce has done that badly, and am quite ok with the government taichi-ing part of the blame to the WHO; however, it might be recognized given all the gleeful dumping on others' (i.e. mostly the U.S.) handling of the coronavirus in our controlled press, that our situation is hardly all that exemplary (now top ten in cases per capita). By the way, for all the chortling about the U.S. not being on Europe's safe travel list, Singapore's not on it either, to give some perspective.

Personally, I don't see much if any change to the status quo (see nice write-up about the goals for each party), all considered, with the biggest surprise being DPM Heng's assignment to East Coast GRC (indeed, he seemed as unprepared as anyone else); despite the overall calibre of opposition candidates (see summary) slowly improving (e.g. Andrew Yang expy "no blank cheque" Jamus Lim, who still got his credentials slammed by a salty Calvin Cheng), true external uncertainty does tend to favour the incumbents. I do understand the argument for a strong mandate in these times, especially for a small state - but again, I'd be a lot more sympathetic without all that gerrymandering nonsense with GRCs, and the complete fiasco of the Selected Presidency.

"We could have written the same manifesto"
"Ho seh, PAP admit WP same standard, can compete on price liao"

(Source: asiaone.com)

The gradual levelling of the playing field in terms of candidate qualifications was perhaps best exemplified by another Lim - the PAP's Jurong GRC candidate, Ivan. To be frank, this posting was as good as a free ride into Parliament, and it would have taken some extraordinary circumstances to muck it up. That was exactly what happened, with his polytechnic classmates, army subordinates and shipyard employees emerging to whack him jialat jialat. Now, I understand that getting things done oft involves treading on toes, and we've probably all done stuff that we're not entirely proud of, but this solidarity from all periods of Ivan's life coming to rag on him together is something else.

Now, given that this fine chap was one of the PAP's rare humble-background-made-good stories, the party's who's who would initially come out in his defence, before eventually urging him to clarify matters as calls for his removal grew. This would come in the form of a terse press statement that didn't address the allegations fully, and moreover stated that he could not have been involved in an alleged bribery case in Brazil, because he was not involved in any Brazilian projects. To this, local netizens would duly dig up a Keppel newsletter interview purporting his management of at least one, and while this might be a case of unfortunate phrasing, it was evidently finally too much for the higher-ups, as he withdrew his candidacy.

The PM would put on a brave face at this, decrying the possibly-baseless allegations being unfair, to disbelief from certain quarters about which how the incumbents had treated - and are still treating - opposition party members such as Dr. Tambyah, compared to ownself check ownself. Well, at least one Regimental Sergeant Major has bravely put himself forward to the DPM, which appears to have gotten him threatened by a former colonel, surely a bad look. This was apparently followed by an attack on a WP candidate for racism, again directly as retaliation on the Ivan saga, which appears to have backfired as she put out a rather more convincing apology (it likely didn't hurt that she's a minority too); it then cumulated in the DPM having a police report filed against him for his recent assertion that "older Singaporeans are not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister", which I guess might be construed as indeed a teeny bit racist (and aren't minority elders, Singaporeans too)?

Poster design award for promoting active aging goes to the SDA
(Source: coconuts.co)

Anyhow, our rising star foreign affairs minister was pretty busy, as he went from implying that the WP was the PAP's equal on live TV, to whacking traditional scapegoat CSJ about plans for a 10M population, which would be followed by an official party statement likening CSJ's extraction of a denial to wife-beating. That brought a rebuke from AWARE, which had Redditors scratching their head as to whether the party's PR guy failed to get it renewed. Still on the 10M issue, our popular CS prof has again chipped in with a reasonable take, to which one unconvinced commentator responded that the S$100 billion earmarked for infrastructure planning must surely mean something in terms of intended population growth (interestingly, on his proposed AI bot to auto-generate a manifesto from kopitiam grievances, it's sort of been done for PAP messaging)

That said, I certainly don't envy Dr. Balakrishnan the job, nicely-crafted speeches and possibly much relationship-hustling aside; you thought poor Rear-Admiral Lui had it tough, when he got sunk by the transport portfolio earlier this decade (eventually tanked through by veteran fixer Khaw Boon Wan, who ultimately also buey tahan and retired)? I tell you, treacherous as Transport may be, I foresee it being child's play compared to what foreign affairs is going to become. I'll have to defer the full geopolitical analysis again, but let's just say that the State's Times cribbing entirely biased articles directly from the failing NYT aside, it'll almost certainly be a whole new ball game whoever triumphs in America, as explained last December.

On this front, Singapore seems to have fallen in with the U.S./U.K. alliance on shutting Huawei out of 5G (which might explain to some extent all those existing masts that got burned down), which has also seen India banning TikTok/WeChat, and Taiwan/America seeking to strangle their access to semiconductors in tandem. Local telcos have officially picked Nokia & Ericsson over the CCP subsidiary, which got Reddit buzzing for a bit, and apparently surprised some locals - but frankly, as expounded upon last October, "the sad and brutal truth is that there was ultimately no decision to be made". Do you think that the U.S. Department of Justice eyeing our money-laundering hub was simply a coincidence?!

Truly, modern Singapore has existed in an era where all the big powers that mattered could afford to play nice - America was more or less basking in the adulation of being undisputed King of the West World since the 1960s at least, and mainland China was busy going from just being happy not to starve, to having some more-equal comrades getting pretty rich in the meantime. Seriously, neither have gotten actually nasty in these parts yet - no, piddly stuff like not appointing a full ambassador or hacking the PM's health records don't count - and some of our wiser diplomats should be getting a familiar shiver up their spine when describing Hong Kong as "a pawn" in Cold War II...

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