Truth and Lies in times of Coronavirus

I like to be the voice of reason and I feel so disappointed when I see unreasonable and unreliable information thrown around as nuggets of truth. In these times of uncertainty, people have a lot of questions and the internet is full of conspiracy theories and unvalidated information. Here is my attempt to demystify some of this information. I have consulted reliable sources but you are welcome to do your own due diligence.

Let’s focus today on the origins of Sars Cov-2 virus, shortened as Coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

Coronavirus

A picture of Coronavirus on the CDC website

Was Coronavirus synthesized in the lab in China?

No, Coronaviruses are not uncommon viruses. What is uncommon is the jumping over to humans. Scientists who have studied genome sequences of this novel Coronavirus are saying that the origins seem natural and not synthesized. Please don’t believe conspiracy theory websites that claim that China synthesized it as a Bioweapon. China has been badly affected by the virus itself.

Did Coronavirus escape a lab in Wuhan China?

Wuhan has a virology lab, which is Level-4 certified, the highest Biosafety certification where viruses like Ebola and Coronaviruses are studied for the benefit of humanity so that we can avoid such pandemics. It is possible that lax lab standards could have lead to the virus escaping the lab. However, even if that happened, it was still not synthesized in the lab.

Who should be blamed for this problem?

The lion’s share of the blame goes to China (the country, it’s Government and not the Chinese people in general, it’s very important to maintain this distinction and not move into any Xenophobic territory). If the virus jumped over from bats to Pangolin (or some other animal) and then to humans in the Wuhan wet markets, then China’s practice of wildlife farming is to be blamed. If it escaped the Wuhan lab, even then the lax policies at the lab are to be blamed. 

What are other reasons China deserves some blame?

There is absolutely no doubt about it that China was extremely slow and not fully transparent about the outbreak. It does deserve blame for not being forthright and leaving the World in the dark and unprepared.

What were the safety concerns at the Wuhan lab?

The US officials, in 2018, during Trump’s presidency,  after visiting the Wuhan lab, sent back concerns to the US that the policies at the lab were lax and there were management issues. We don’t know if the US did anything about it.

Why does President Trump keep bringing up President Obama?

This one is easy.  He is probably looking for an escape goat. These virology labs in China were set up with Western help, France and United States, since China had the history of epidemics which could lead to Pandemics and the West wanted China to study this carefully to avoid future incidents. Just because the labs had received research grant money in 2015 (during Obama’s presidency)  from the US, President Trump thought of an ingenious idea of blaming President Obama ahead of time so that if the 2018 safety reports come into the picture (as mentioned above), he could say Obama funded it instead of saying I did not pay attention to the safety concerns! I am sure President Trump is working hard on fighting this virus but it doesn’t suit a US President to deflect blame to where it doesn’t belong.

Was US the first country to ban travel to and from China?

38 countries, which includes New Zealand,  did it around the same time or before the US. For eg. Italy’s ban on travel to China was more strict than the US ban and started before the US ban.  However, among the economically powerful G-20 countries, Italy and Australia were the only ones to do it before the US (good job USA). India’s and Indonesia’s travel ban to China went into effect along with the US.

Is US the worst hit country by this virus?

No. At the time of writing this, it is NOT. I made a video (which I have not shared with the public yet) on the numbers two weeks ago which will help you appreciate the per capita numbers better. Even today, USA is behind (behind is good here) at least 12 other countries when it comes to Deaths/million.  You can watch Understanding Coronavirus numbers.  US has tested 3.9 million people (population 330 million), which is the highest in the world but since it’s population is high as well, it’s lagging behind ~40 countries on tests/million. However, it has done much better than at least 150 other countries, when it comes to testing/million. Paying attention to number of cases is not very useful because that number is just a positively correlated function of number of tests.

Does it mean that we are out of danger in the US?

No. This is because we won’t be out of danger until a vaccine is available. All these precautions were taken to slow down the spread so that the medical system is not overwhelmed. Reopening the economy slowly, with a lot of precautions, testing and contact tracing is the way to go. The idea is to constrain the speed of the spread so that from today until the vaccine is available, even if we build herd immunity naturally (at the expense of a lot of deaths which is not preferable), the number of deaths will still be much lower than the number of deaths that would have occurred had we done nothing. This is because a lot of lives are unnecessarily lost when too many people need hospitalizations, ICUs and ventilators at the same time.

I hope this information was helpful and will help guide you in forming a coherent opinion on this topic instead of believing all the conspiracy theories you hear on both mainstream media and social media.

Slavery of the 21st Century and its Education

This is one of the most important posts I have ever written in my life and it means a lot to me. This is about the slavery of the 21st century. It’s the most overlooked problem on this planet because no one wants to be associated with it. I am talking about human trafficking, especially of children. (Please join me spreading awareness about this topic so that our children are safe)

We live in a modern world where seemingly women have equal rights with men. But what does history tell and what do the economically poor neighborhoods tell us?  Women and children are at a lot of risk. Yes, the conditions are far better than the sex slavery of the past but it is far from ideal. And this is not only a problem of the “third world” countries. It’s a problem here in the United States. 300,000 girls of average age 12-13 are at a risk of trafficking every year in the United States. What could be the reason? The biggest ones are- poverty, lack of parental education about this topic and obviously lack of awareness among teachers, children and society in general. The chart below shows how lack of education and trafficking are positively correlated.

Ec3371chart

Before I proceed, I want to instill a sense of gratitude in all the people who have complains about the petty problems they face in everyday life. Your problems are nowhere close to the problems of an enslaved child. Historically, years before regulations for women equality had come in, the situation was  abhorrent. From Ottoman Empire to any other empire, men conquered lands; killed other men, raped their women and enslaved them. Women had no sense of equality. Yes, there was always a queen for a king; along with the harem the king possessed, but one woman commanding most of the resources is hardly an example of any sort of equality, let aside women equality. Then things changed over time. Democracy took over monarchy in most countries. Government made regulations to protect women and children. This was most spectacularly done in Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Women claimed independence and joined the workforce. Women can now breath freedom, chase their dreams and not be subservient to men. How true is it? This only holds true where economies and democracies function appropriately. Places where this is not the norm, women and children fall back to their backward status. So, if you are a woman  or a child or a parent or a husband, and if you or your loved ones did not have to go through the horrors of human slavery and subservient treatment, have an immense sense of gratitude for what you have- a life of freedom.  I am the first one to be grateful.

Examples of such slavery can been everywhere in the world, from the Soviet countries to India to the United States. There are three main ways this happens and I want to educate all parents about it with examples.

  • The Lover/Pimp method: This is more common in western countries but not uncommon in the East. Groomers (lovers/pimps) target either girls of very conservative families (like Sikh girls in London) or girls with neglecting parents (usually poor but sometimes rich). They shower them with gifts, much needed attention (works beautifully with children from broken/neglected backgrounds and runaway children/orphans previously abused) and promises of future together. Then, once the girl is in the trap; based on the girl’s background; they either  blackmail her with her inappropriate pictures or directly coerce her into prostitution. You won’t believe that sometimes this happens even when the child is still living with her parents . This problem can be solved by educating the parents and children about this phenomena. Children should be taught to never engage in doing anything which they find inappropriate and uncomfortable. Parents should watch out for any signs of distress in their children and should emotionally engage with them in meaningful dialogue. Conservative families should not focus on honor and shame during such times and not hide such issues from law enforcement. Doing this only encourages these goons to continue their detestable trade.8575772227_487a5c52f8_o
  • The financial prosperity method: This is the most common in all neighborhoods of poverty and especially poor countries in general. Girls are given promises of a good future, with decent paying jobs, if they are ready to travel to other cities or even countries. These girls, with little hopes of any kind of dignified life in their poor neighborhoods; take the leap of faith to try out for a more prosperous future. Once they travel to a different place; either their passports are seized or they are truly captivated and coerced into prostitution.  Thailand and Ukraine are one of the biggest destinations for such crimes. The only way this problem can be solved is by educating all these women and children about the truth of this scam. 8597306878_9bffce8509_o
  • The plain old kidnapping: In United States, there is something called “Amber Alert”. Amber Alert is a system where everyone receives an alert on their cellphones when there is information about an ongoing kidnapping, with details like the suspect’s vehicle’s number plates and his/her description. It is named after a 9 year girl Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996. The case was never fully solved but it created more awareness about kidnapping problems. Safety of children is of utmost importance to us parents and we should do everything in our capacity to ensure it. Don’t send your teenage children to parties where they just know one or two people or such. Always have an adult supervise them if there is a strong need to go to a party at night. Teach them to avoid any kinds of drinks at a party where they are not supervised by an extremely trusted adult. Give them a tracker device so that their locations can be tracked.  Call this number (in United States) if trafficking is suspected 1 (888) 373-7888.8577206423_906002d50f_o

I request all the readers to stand up and fight against this epidemic. This is one problem where social media can be highly useful because this is a problem of lack of awareness. Let’s all stand up for human dignity and safety of our children. We will NOT tolerate slavery in the 21st century.