Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

“Be Ready to Distribute Vaccines on Nov. 1”

CDC tells states: Be ready to distribute vaccines on Nov. 1, Modern Healthcare, September 2, 2020

The federal government told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1; from which the declaration of the early timeline raised concern among public health experts about the  “October surprise” of a vaccine approval and use being driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.

The planning  documents here and here sent to governors Aug. 27 by CDC Director Robert Redfield advises states they will receive permit applications “in the near future” from the authorized distributor, McKesson Corporation, to distribute vaccines to places which include state and local health departments and hospitals. Dr Redfield wrote in an accompanying  letter,

“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020,”

There is not even a hint or a suggestion of partial Phase 3 testing being given beforehand which causes me to wonder if the extent of this is allowed under the 21st Century Cures Act passed in 2018. The act allowed for the skirting of some testing and the use actual data outside of the normal testing protocol to show a drug works? I believe the Cures Act only allowed a partial go-live on new drugs during a phrase 3. We must be following Putin lead. He gave the vaccine to his daughter. Perhaps, Trump will have Ivanka inoculated ?

Any volunteers at AB?

C.D.C. Tells States How to Prepare for Covid-19 Vaccine by Early November, New York Times, September 2, 2020

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Preserve the People’s Post Office: Let Us Do Meaningful Postal Reform

It is said the Postal Service is mired in debt, that it is unsustainable, a burden to the American people. This is the position of the current postmaster general, supported by the board of governors who hired him and by a treasury secretary who seems to be the chief architect of the current assault on a cherished national institution, goaded by a president who cares little for governing or the public welfare.

These claims are a lie, one that has been pushed repeatedly for at least fifty years by those who would steal an American asset and convert its public benefits into private profits.

If the Postal Service has large unfunded liabilities, it is as much because they have been defined as such by those who seek to look at this most American of institutions in a way that lays the most burdens upon its shoulders. The truth is that the Postal Service has incurred its liabilities in the service of a greater and necessary good. Far from being onerous and intractable, they are evidence of a skewed perspective, a perspective bent on being intentionally blind in furtherance of an ideology that denigrates and denies the validity and necessity of government.

If one begins with the premise that government is only a creator of debt, then the normative assumptions underlying the accounting systems designed to measure government will be weighted towards finding liability, not value.

The Postal Service has employed as many as 800,000 Americans gainfully in jobs that paid living wage and provided life-sustaining healthcare and secure retirements. These benefits rebound and reverberate through local economies, spreading both wealth and security. They have lifted many whose options were otherwise limited into productive middle-class lives while bringing communities together. And this has been done in the service of a noble and useful purpose, creating an essential infrastructure whose uses are limited only by a failure of imagination and political will.

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Appeals Court Rejects Flynn’s Attempt to End Trial

The crux of yesterday’s ruling by the D.C. District COA is you cannot force a US District judge to drop criminal charges before they have ruled. In an enblanc  session on Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit ruled 8-2 against Flynn’s plea to drop charges before Columbia District Judge Emmett Sullivan had ruled on the DOJ motion to dismiss Flynn’s case. District Judge Emmet Sullivan can now proceed to  examine why the Justice Department took the unprecedented step of dropping its criminal case against Flynn. This flies in the face of a three judge panel 2-1 ruling deciding Judge Emmett should drop the case.

George W. Bush appointee Karen Henderson and Trump appointee Neomi Rao, each filed a dissent claiming the case should be reassigned to another judge as Judge Emmett Sullivan has shown partiality and the COA has been inconsistent with its established practice. The COA has not ruled out another Flynn appeal at a later date after Judge Sullivan rules.

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When a post office is not a post office: USPS celebrates 130th anniversary of the Bellville GA post office by closing it

Steve Hutkins USPS celebrates 130th anniversary of the Bellville, GA Post Office by closing it

I’ll tell you all a story that I think you’ll understand
Traveling through Georgia, rambling across the land
I passed the Bellville Depot and something said to me
Stop here son, there’s something you should see.
— Tom T. Hall, “God Came Through Bellville Georgia”

Bellville is a very small town (pop. 123 in 2010), but it was once a thriving railroad community. Established in 1890, it was “named for James Bell Smith’s mother, who was Miss Fannie Bell before her marriage. The railroaders called it BELLEVILLE, supposedly named to honor the lovely ladies of the town.”

Bellville is the hometown of writer/director James Kicklighter, and it’s the home of Pinewood Christian Academy, a school with alumni like ET’s Brooke Anderson (@BrookeAnderson), actor Michael Moncrief, Comedy Central’s Drew Tarver (@drewtarver), Drew’s sister, singer Katelyn Tarver (@katelyntarver), and tennis pro Al Parker. They probably all had occasion to visit the post office as students.

There’s a great song named after Bellville by Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall entitled “God Came Through Bellville Georgia” (on Youtube). It’s also performed by bluegrass star J.D. Crowe and the New South band (on Pandora or Amazon).

A few weeks ago, the Postal Service informed residents of Bellville that their post office would be closing on August 31. Services, including PO boxes, will be relocated to another facility a couple of miles away.

Bellville has appealed the decision to close its post office to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Service wants the appeal dismissed on the grounds that the post office is not a post office. I’m not joking. Here’s the story.

On July 24, Bellville’s City Attorney Dylan Mulligan filed an appeal with the PRC based on the claim that the Postal Service “has failed to adhere to the applicable laws and regulations governing the discontinuance of post offices, in particular the requirements of 39 U.S.C. § 404(d) and 39 C.F.R. § 241.3.”

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Watchdog asks postal regulator to seek USPS data on mail delays

Steve Hutkins on Mail Delays. At the end of this post, Steve issues a call to action. Perhaps, You may be able to help?

Today I (Steve) filed a motion with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) asking it to ask the Postal Service to provide on-time delivery reports for the past several weeks. These reports would offer more transparency into postal operations and show just how much the mail has been slowing down since the Postmaster General implemented his transformation initiative.

The service performance reports show the percentage of the mail that met the Postal Service’s service standards, i.e., the expectations for how long it will take for each type of mail to be delivered. For First Class mail, the standard is 2 to 5 days; for third-class mail (Marketing Mail), the standard is 3 to 10 days. Generally speaking, about 85 to 95 percent of the mail meets these standards. The mail that fails to meet the standards is, by definition, delayed mail.

Due to changes at the Postal Service earlier this summer, on-time scores have declined significantly, as illustrated in this graph included in a USPS presentation to representatives of the mailing industry in August. On average, starting in July, on-time performance on First Class mail, for which the target is 96 percent, fell to about 79 recent. In some districts, scores fell to around 70 percent. (You can find more of these charts here and here. And a couple of days after this post was first published, even more charts were released; the official version on the House Oversight Committee’s website omits the Priority chart, perhaps because it’s considered more confidential.)

The service performance reports on which this chart is based contain scores for all the USPS districts in the country, so it’s possible to see where the most widespread delays are occurring. They also break down First Class mail into 2-day mail (local) and 3-5 day mail (regional and national). The reports also indicate how much mail was one day late, two days late, etc. In other words, they provide a fairly complete picture of mail delays.

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Former Deputy PMG Ron Stroman discusses mail delays and threats to the election

H/T: When I woke up.. blog. Everything you don’t know that you don’t know..

Former Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman was on MSNBC with Nicolle Wallace. His take on the Senate hearing yesterday, the delays going on at the Postal Service, and the risks for voting by mail is fantastic. Stroman believes that there is a ‘significant question’ whether delays in mail are intentional, and he expresses concerns over the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters in light of significant delays in mail delivery.

I had more to this and somehow deleted it. So, I am starting over with “why” I think we need to heed former Deputy Post Master General’s concerns.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) asked PMG Louis DeJoy, “Will you be bringing back any mail sorting machines that have been removed?” To which PMG Louis DeJoy answered, “There is no intention to do that, they are not needed.” This occurred during a Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee. I am not sure if Senator Peters pursued this further; but, I believe this needs a “Why” question and maybe 4 more until he has satisfied he has an answer to a potential problem such as a lack of capacity. PMG Louis DeJoy does not look like the type who would wander around a Postal Sorting facility such as located in Pontiac, Michigan from which 12 of these machines were removed. Pontiac, MI is a major sorting facility which might cause issues with ballots being delivered timely. There is more to DeJoy’s answer than we do not need them anymore.

And the old machines, what happened to them?

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Need proof changes at the USPS are slowing down the mail?

Here you go!

Save the Post Office is edited and administered by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University. Prof. Hutkins (Steve) is the author of this commentary. (Angry Bear Blog has had a long relationship with both authors Steve Hutkins and Mark Jamison both of whom author the “Save The Post Office Blog.”)

Everyone knows the mail has been slowing down. News reports are filled with stories from postal workers and customers about delays. E-bay sellers are complaining about shipping problems with the USPS, and many say they have been switching over to private carriers. Talking Points Memo has an ongoing column based on reports from the field.  Ask anyone, and they can tell you about problems they’ve had getting a package or an important letter.

For a while, it seemed that the pandemic was causing these problems, and there’s no question that the surge in packages was a challenge for the Postal Service to keep up with.

But then came Mr. DeJoy, the new Postmaster General.

Within weeks of his taking office in mid-June, changes were being made at processing plants and post offices that appeared to be causing delays not just in parcel delivery but for letters and flats as well. In a memo to postal employees, DeJoy admitted it: “Unfortunately, this transformative initiative has had unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels.”

These “service levels,” aka “service performance,” refer to the percentage of the mail that is delivered on time, i.e., within the “service standard” for each type of mail. For First Class mail, the standard is 2 days for local mail and 3 to 5 days for regional & national mail. Marketing Mail has a service standard of 3 to 10 days. Typically, about 85 to 95 percent of the mail is on time, although in some cases the performance scores can be lower and the delays can go on for several days.

The Postal Service shares quarterly service performance reports on its website and with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which posts them here. The most recent reports cover the third quarter, April 1 – June 30. This table based on those reports compares the third quarter performance for single-piece First Class mail in 2019 and 2020. It shows declines in near every district. In some, the drop was striking. Nationally, performance on 2-day mail dropped from 93.9 percent to 92.4; for 3-5 day mail, from 86.5 to 81.4 percent. Presumably, these declines were due to the pandemic.

As for what happened after June 30, the Postal Service hasn’t provided any details about the delays. It knows, of course, exactly how bad the delays are and where they are occurring, as reported internally in weekly performance reports similar to the quarterly reports. But these weekly reports are not shared with the PRC or the public.

One can, however, get a good sense of what’s in those weekly reports by looking at some charts that appear in two USPS presentations given earlier this month that were published on PostalPro, a website where the USPS shares information with its business customers.

As seen in the following charts show the on-time performance for the Pacific and Eastern Areas on a weekly basis for the past few months.  The charts prove that it’s not your imagination. The mail has clearly been slowing down since the beginning of July — dramatically.

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Some of the Gilead Remdesivir Results from Recent Studies

Effect of Remdesivir vs Standard Care on Clinical Status at 11 Days in Patients With Moderate COVID-19A Randomized Clinical Trial, JAMA, Christoph D. Spinner, MDRobert L. Gottlieb, MD, PhDGerard J. Criner, MD, August 21, 2020

This is a freebie so you should be able to get into this article and pickup on additional detail. Those who were treated early on had a better result from remdesivir than those who were treated later after contracting Covid. This was already know,.

Results:  Among 596 patients who were randomized, 584 began the study and received remdesivir or continued standard care (median age, 57 [interquartile range, 46-66] years; 227 [39%] women; 56% had cardiovascular disease, 42% hypertension, and 40% diabetes), and 533 (91%) completed the trial. Median length of treatment was 5 days for patients in the 5-day remdesivir group and 6 days for patients in the 10-day remdesivir group.

On day 11, patients in the 5-day remdesivir group had statistically significantly higher odds of a better clinical status distribution than those receiving standard care (odds ratio, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.09-2.48; P = .02).

The clinical status distribution on day 11 between the 10-day remdesivir and standard care groups was not significantly different (P = .18 by Wilcoxon rank sum test). By day 28, 9 patients had died: 2 (1%) in the 5-day remdesivir group, 3 (2%) in the 10-day remdesivir group, and 4 (2%) in the standard care group. Nausea (10% vs 3%), hypokalemia (6% vs 2%), and headache (5% vs 3%) were more frequent among remdesivir-treated patients compared with standard care.

Some Limitations: This study has several limitations. First, the original protocol was written when COVID-19 cases were largely confined to Asia and the clinical understanding of disease was limited to case series. This led to a change in the primary end point on the first day of study enrollment as it became clear that hospital discharge rates varied greatly across regions and the ordinal scale had become standard for interventional COVID-19 studies. Second, the study used an open-label design, which potentially led to biases in patient care and reporting of data. Third, because of the urgent circumstances in which the study was conducted, virologic outcomes such as effect of remdesivir on SARS-CoV-2 viral load were not assessed. Fourth, other laboratory parameters that may have aided in identifying additional predictors of outcomes were not routinely collected. Fifth, the ordinal scale used to evaluate outcomes was not ideal for detecting differences in patients with moderate COVID-19, especially for a clinical situation in which discharge decisions may be driven by factors other than clinical improvement.

Conclusions: Among patients with moderate COVID-19, those randomized to a 10-day course of remdesivir did not have a statistically significant difference in clinical status compared with standard care at 11 days after initiation of treatment. Patients randomized to a 5-day course of remdesivir had a statistically significant difference in clinical status compared with standard care, but the difference was of uncertain clinical importance.

This is BS.

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Birthday Party & Quest for WiFi led to the Wakashio grounding off of Mauritius

“The 58-year-old captain of the ill-fated Newcastlemax-type bulk carrier WAKASHIO could face negligence charges” after it was discovered the crew was celebrating a crewmember’s birthday  as the ship edged closer to the Mauritius coastline seeking wifi signals just prior to the bulk carrier’s grounding on a reef off the island’s south coast. It appears seeking close proximity to the populated shore is a common practice for ships out to sea weeks at a time. It is done so crews can pick up TV signals, internet, and cell phone access. Crews can call home or catch up on the news.

First reported by local newspaper “L’Express,” these bombshell revelations come from investigators interviewing the crew of the Japanese-owned WAKASHIO a Panamanian-flagged ship.

The WAKASHIO grounded on a reef near UNESCO protected sites on the evening of July 25. Before the catastrophe, local authorities noticed the close proximity of the WAKASHIO to the Mauritius coastline and had been trying to contact the ship before the accident to warn it off from its flawed course. A later story after talking to the crew revealed the crew was celebrating a birthday and had missed the initial and urgent calls. The wrecked ship is now on the verge of breaking up (and has done so), has spilled around 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel into the pristine Mauritian waters, and has created the republic’s greatest ecological disaster.

The “Newcastlemax” designation refers to ship size; Maximum beam 50 meters with a maximum overall length of 300 meter. It is the largest vessel to be able to enter the port of Newcastle, Australia at about 185,000 DWT.

Some of the comments (unnamed) are interesting and speak of the issues with the manning of the huge cargo ships over long periods of time at sea.

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Questions for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Save the Post Office is edited and administered by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University. Prof. Hutkins (Steve) is the author of this commentary.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been on the job just two months, but he can already boast of many accomplishments, including these:

  • He has become the subject of a review by the USPS Office of Inspector General concerning allegations of a conflict of interest over his investments and his controversial policy changes; the review may lead to an investigation.
  • He has provoked calls for his immediate resignation from Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin and Representatives Gerry ConnollyPeter DeFazio and Alma Adams, as well as 700,000 people on a MoveOn petition.
  • He has implemented changes to postal operations that are delaying the mail and heightening fears about the Postal Service’s ability to deliver election mail on time.
  • He has inspired 175 members of Congress to write a letter calling on him to reverse his overhaul of the Postal Service, citing the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming elections.
  • He has also inspired four House Republicans — Reps. Peter King, David McKinley, Brian Fitzpatrick and Daniel Webster — to join 80 House Democrats in signing a letter expressing “deep concerns” about DeJoy’s changes and calling for them to be reversed, and Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte have separately sent their own letters criticizing the mail delays.
  • He has caused U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. to call on the New Jersey Attorney General to convene a grand jury to investigate him for election subversion, and Arizona Secretary of State to ask the Election Integrity Unit of the Attorney General’s office to investigate him for deliberate delay of ballots.
  • He has spurred protestors to take to the street in front his house rallying against his complicity in Trump’s effort to suppress voting by mail.
  • He has demoralized thousands of postal workers by implementing changes they view as undermining the mission of the post office.
  • He has helped to undermine “the most trusted brand in the nation” and “America’s favorite federal agency.”

The Postmaster General needs to appear before Congress immediately, not a month from now, as currently scheduled, and he needs to speak to the American people in a press conference.  Here are some of the questions he should be asked.

Conversations with the president; When the president was asked about your cutbacks on August 9th, he said he hadn’t spoken with you, but news report later said you had met with him a few days previously, on August 3. How many times have you met with the President or spoken with him over the phone? Have you discussed mail voting in conversations with the president or with other members of the White House or Cabinet, including Secretary Mnuchin?

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