Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Mutated Virus

Coronavirus seems to have taken a turn for the worse, with the latest announcment creating Tier 4 as the science stresses the point of no return. It seems a bit apocalyptic! However, humans have had to face strengthening viruses before.

Take TB [tuberculosis] for example.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It mainly affects the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body, including the tummy [abdomen], glands, bones and nervous system.

Tuberculosis is spread from one person to the next through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. People with latent TB do not spread the disease. Active infection occurs more often in people with HIV/AIDS and in those who smoke. Diagnosis of active TB is based on chest X-rays, as well as microscopic examination and culture of body fluids. Diagnosis of latent TB relies on the TST [tuberculin skin test] or blood tests.

In 1869, Jean Antoine Villemin demonstrated that the disease was indeed contagious, in 1882, Robert Koch revealed the disease was caused by an infectious agent, in 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the X-ray, which allowed physicians to diagnose and track the progression of the disease, and although an effective medical treatment would not come for another fifty years, the incidence and mortality of tuberculosis began to decline.

What I am trying to point out here is that eventually coronavirus will be beaten by mankind, and the current situation does not have to look so bleak.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Tier 4

A new tier created for Christmas, well not exactly.

The following areas were moved from Tier 3 to Tier 4:

Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey [excluding Waverley], Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings;

London [all 32 boroughs and the City of London];

the East of England [Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Essex excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring].

Monday 14th the Prime Minister announced that as things were going, Christmas would not be cancelled. This appeared to be a PR statement after speculation that the 5 day break was frowned on by scientists.

Friday 19th the Prime Minister announced Tier 4 because a 'NEW' strain of coronavirus has appeared. It is stronger and faster than the original. A lot of what has been happening during November & December seems to have been media lead rather than science lead. The media love U-Turns by a government, however, a virus doesn't care what the media thinks, unfortunately people believe what they read.

The public decided that the announcement affected them personally as the panic that happened at railway stations air & sea ports of Friday 19th was nothing like we had seen before. During the day air fares rose at an exponential rate. At a later broadcast, the scientists tried telling people to unpack their bags and not to travel. It was paitently obvious that they were not listened to as the public moved like a plague.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

No Deal Brexit

With the prime minister Boris Johnson and the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, due to decide today whether to halt stalled talks and make the momentous decision to accept no deal, an outcome that would lead to tariffs and quotas on UK-EU trade and rising prices.

The use of gunboats to patrol UK fishing waters in the event of no deal was backed by Admiral Lord West, a former chief of naval staff. “It is absolutely appropriate that the Royal Navy should protect our waters if the position is we’re a sovereign state and our government has said we don’t want other nations there,”.

Greg Clark, the former business secretary and current chair of the Commons science committee, said: “It is clearly unacceptable for the UK to be expected to agree to be unilaterally punished if we declined to follow future EU policy.”

So what would change? [probably]

Prices could go up for the goods the UK buys and sells from and to the EU. That is because the UK and EU would trade on WTO [World Trade Organization] terms, the basic rules for countries without trade deals. The EU would impose taxes [known as tariffs] on goods coming from the UK. The average is about 2.8% for non-agricultural products, but 10% for cars and more than 35% for dairy products. That would put some industries under pressure.

Co-operation on security and data-sharing will become more difficult, causing problems for cross-border investigations. The UK would immediately lose access to databases of things like fingerprints, criminal records and wanted persons. There are big questions about services. The UK has been waiting for a decision about whether the EU will recognise UK rules for financial services. Without that it will be difficult for UK firms to operate in the EU. Some banks have already moved offices and staff to EU countries.

If the UK gets to the end of the year without a trade deal with the EU, that does not mean there will never be one. It has been suggested all the problems it would cause for both sides would focus minds on reaching a deal as soon as possible in the new year. But there are those on both sides who say it could be many months into 2021 before talks were to resume in this scenario.

With the 31st December 2020, deadline for a trade agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom approaching, the risk of a "no-deal Brexit" is mounting. When the U.K. initiated Brexit [its exit from the EU] on 31st January 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement provided 11 months for negotiating a new trade relationship and extended U.K. participation in the EU single market and customs union during the transition. If no deal is reached by the deadline it will trigger what is called a no-deal Brexit. In this case the U.K.-EU trade relationship will be governed, by default, by the trading rules of the World Trade Organization.

The sudden switch to WTO rules would greatly increase tariffs and other trade restrictions, raise the cost of goods, and complicate regulations, greatly increasing financial and administrative burdens for companies. A no-deal Brexit will greatly impact the U.K., causing an estimated 8.1% reduction in its GDP [gross domestic product] after 10 years.

Outstanding issues include the allocation of British North Sea fishing rights to EU countries. Although fishing is minor part of the EU economy, this issue is politically significant in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, and especially France. Also unresolved is the extent of permissible government subsidies for business for which the U.K. has sought expansive latitude. For a time the prospect of an agreement was severely threatened by the Prime Minister submitting to Parliament a proposal to disregard the Irish Protocol. The U.K. proposal would re-establish a border between the areas of Ireland. Faced with strong opposition by EU members, and especially by the United States, whose politicians threatened that violating the Irish Protocol would bar any U.S.-U.K. trade agreement, the Prime Minister announced that the U.K. would comply with the Irish Protocol.

On Thursday 23 June the referendum took place and the talks have so far lasted four years.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

False Negatives

This week has made "false negatives" trend.

A negative test, whether or not a person has symptoms, does not guarantee that they are not infected by the virus. How we respond to, and interpret, a negative test is very important because we place others at risk when we assume the test is perfect. However, those infected with the virus are still able to potentially spread the virus.

Using RT-PCR [reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction] test results, along with reported time of exposure to the virus or time of onset of measurable symptoms such as fever, cough and breathing problems, researchers have calculated the probability that someone infected with SARS-CoV-2 would have a negative test result when they had the virus infection.

Scientists have warned the government’s multi-million-pound plan to mass test everyone in Liverpool for Covid-19 in a bid to bring the virus under control may be fundamentally flawed, because the tests may not actually be accurate enough. The rapid lateral flow tests set to be used in the scheme are so unproven they come with a manufacturer’s warning: “Negative results do not rule out infection”. The lateral flow tests are just one of three kinds of tests being used in the pilot but, because they have the quickest turn-around time and are especially easy to use, it is thought they will make up the largest majority of those carried out.

Diagnostic tests [typically involving a nasopharyngeal swab] can be inaccurate in two ways. A false positive result erroneously labels a person infected, with consequences including unnecessary quarantine and contact tracing. False negative results are more consequential, because infected persons [who might be asymptomatic] may not be isolated and can infect others.

Interpretation of a test result depends not only on the characteristics of the test itself but also on the pre-test probability of disease. Clinicians use a heuristic [a learned mental short cut] called anchoring and adjusting to settle on a pre-test probability [called the anchor].

They then adjust this probability based on additional information. This heuristic is a useful short cut but comes with the potential for bias. When people fail to estimate the pre-test probability and only respond to a piece of new information, they commit a fallacy called base-rate neglect.

Another fallacy called anchoring is failing adequately to adjust one’s probability estimate, given the strength of new information. Likelihood ratios can give a clinician an idea of how much to adjust their probability estimates. Clinicians intuitively use anchoring and adjusting thoughtfully to estimate pre- and post-test probabilities unconsciously in everyday clinical practice. However, faced with a new and unfamiliar disease such as covid-19, mental short cuts can be uncertain and unreliable and public narrative about the definitive nature of testing can skew perceptions.

We draw several conclusions. First, diagnostic testing will help in safely opening the country, but only if the tests are highly sensitive and validated under realistic conditions against a clinically meaningful reference standard. Second, the FDA should ensure that manufacturers provide details of tests’ clinical sensitivity and specificity at the time of market authorization, tests without such information will have less relevance to patient care.

Monday, 30 November 2020


Next year unemployment is predicted to be massive because of lockdown this year. The original period was covered in part by help from the treasury and with extensive alterations even in the smallest of businesses like hair dressers, it was possible to be legal and serve loyal customers. However, the second lockdown has wiped out much of that good grace and it now seems possible that the after effect next year will be huge.

While many parts of the country went into lockdown to combat the spread of the virus, unemployment numbers have been rising sharply. How high could the unemployment rate go?

Unemployment was less than a million only 12 months ago, it is now likely to reach two & half million by the summer of 2021. This is echoed by the Bank of England, which forecasts that unemployment will most likely peak at about 7.7% in April to June of next year.

The government has been trying to protect jobs through a number of measures. The largest is the furlough scheme, where it pays most of the wages for workers when their employers cannot. That has prevented many of those people becoming unemployed. However, the furlough scheme was being wound down in September and October, ahead of its planned closure on 31 October. Many companies cut jobs in preparation for the end of the scheme, and July to September saw a record rise in the number of redundancies.

The Tier System that will be introduced on Wednesday 2nd December could be more devastating to unemployment than has been predicted because of the uncertainty of which tier each business is in. With a general lockdown, everyone knows the score.

Another problem will be the offical Christmas break of five days, if it is to be compared to the American Thanksgiving break, we can see a huge rise in cases because of the contact people have made over the period. Therefore it follows that the early part of January 2021 will be heavy with cases & deaths, possibly causing more restrictions and increased issues for businesses.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Black Friday

This year, with COVID-19 and social distancing efforts lending a wild boost to an already flourishing online shopping arena, Black Friday will be less about crowded store aisles and more of a steroid-pumped version of Cyber Monday. The upcoming American thanksgiving holiday is regarded as one of the most important retail and spending seasons of the year on both sides of the Atlantic, and Black Friday sales constitute a significant part of annual sales for many retailers.

The high street was dying a slow death even before COVID-19, and shopping centres have been relative ghost towns. That is usually remedied at least on Black Friday, but this year things might be different.

Last year, a few months ahead of the pandemic, Black Friday broke every record for online shopping, beating out high street efforts hands down. Online Black Friday shopping hit a record of £7.4 billion, based on data from Adobe Analytics, compared to £1.2 billion in online sales for Black Friday in 2018. Cyber Monday hit £9.4 billion in sales, an 18.9% increase over the prior year. As retailers encourage customers to shift to online shopping in order to avoid crowds during the pandemic, online sales are set to break another record this holiday shopping season.

This year is unlike any in the past, and for the first time we are no longer referring to peak holiday sales as Cyber Week, it is now Cyber Month.

The ‘indirect’ savior of the high street stores might be pharmaceuticals like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The companies said earlier this week that their vaccines was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those in the trial without evidence of prior infection. With a vaccine on the way, shoppers might get more relaxed with in-person shopping and upcoming holiday celebrations. But with online Christmas shopping already getting a headstart, a vaccine is not likely to make its way to the masses in time for a full return to in-person retail.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Acute Loneliness

Lockdown2 although probably shorter that the original Lockdown which started on the 23rd March 2020, could cause more mental than physical problems for the future.

Loneliness occurs when feelings of loneliness and uncomfortable social isolation go on for a long period of time. It is characterised by constant and unrelenting feelings of being alone, separated or divided from others, and an inability to connect on a deeper level. It can also be accompanied by deeply rooted feelings of inadequacy, poor self-esteem, and self-loathing.

The inability to connect with others on a deeper, more intimate level. Maybe you have friends and family in your life, but engagement with them is at a very surface level. Your interaction doesn’t feel connected in a way that is fulfilling and this disconnection seems never ending.

Overwhelming feeling of isolation regardless of where you are and who is around. You can be at a party surrounded by dozens of people and, yet, you feel isolated, separate, and disengaged. At work, you may feel alienated and alone. Same on a bus, train, or walking down a busy street. It is as if you are in your own unbreakable bubble.

Loneliness can afflict all types of people. It is easy to assume that someone who is naturally shy and introverted might be most at risk, but outgoing personalities can also suffer from chronic loneliness, even though they may appear to be the life of the party. This type of loneliness is not exclusive to any one personality type.

People started writing about loneliness and mental health issues during and after the original Lockdown and I read about it hoping that the government would have a solution for others as it had not really affected me. That has now changed with Lockdown2. I am feeling quite alone.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Autumn Fades

Staring out of the morning room window, I see autumn coming to an end and I begin to think of all the things I have missed.

Flocks of starlings swooping down over the lawn and moving from one end to the other feeding, while at the same time irrigating the lawn better than I ever could. Sparrows, Tits, Finches flitting from one side to the other between the shrubs clearing out the small flies.

All the leaves have nearly fallen now, carpeting the garden with more colours than you can imagine, the lawn has stopped growing, the sun when it is out moves across less and less each day and now that darkness is descending before 5.00 pm it feels dismal.

There used to be hedgehogs, squirrels, cats that used to roam the garden but are rarely seen nowadays. A Jay has just arrived and deposited an acorn in the border, that makes a pleasant change.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind do not matter and those who matter do not mind.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

US Elections

A result has finally been released, Joe Biden is President.

About four days ago, we in the UK had already worked out that would be the result, but for some reason the US could not realise it.

The election was officially last Tuesday and in the UK we usually get a result on Wednesday morning when we get up over breakfast, it is a tradition. We have counters that work through the night.

The US election has a popular vote [the number of people who make their mark] and electorial seats [a specified quantity per state]. The magic figure is 270 to get into the whitehouse and on Wednesday morning it was 220 for Biden and 213 for Trump. By the end of the day it was 253 - 214. It then remained like that until late on Saturday.

The states that were still counting had hundreds of thousands of votes, but some of them were only counting 10,000 a day! Unbelievable!

I would suggest that one reform could be, postal ballots are acknowledged and filed the day they arrive, so that Americans can have the result over their breakfast on a Wednesday morning.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Coronavirus versus Influenza

According to ONS [Office of National Statistics] which everyone and his mother are quoting at the moment, 45,000 Britons died during the 2014/2015 winter season from viruses, 59,000 during the 2017/2018 winter season. I do not remember a huge amount of media fenzy at those times.

Influenza [the flu] and COVID, the illness caused by the pandemic coronavirus, are both contagious respiratory illnesses, meaning they affect your lungs and breathing, and can be spread to others. Although the symptoms of COVID and the flu can look similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses.


Both illnesses can cause fever, cough, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea [especially in children].

Both can result in pneumonia.

Both flu and COVID can be mild or severe, or even fatal in rare cases.


How It Spreads

Both the flu and COVID spread in similar ways. Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby. The smallest particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.

People can touch a surface with viruses on it, and then transfer the germs to themselves by touching their face.

People infected with the coronavirus or the flu may not realize they are sick for several days, and during that time can unknowingly spread the disease to others before they even feel sick.

Seasonal flu, which causes outbreaks every year, should not be confused with pandemic flu, or a global outbreak of a new flu virus that is very different from the strains that typically circulate. This happened in 2009 with the swine flu pandemic, which is estimated to have infected up to 1.4 billion people and killed between 151,000 and 575,000 people worldwide, according to the CDC. There is no flu pandemic happening currently.

In the winter of 2017/2018, there were 50,100 flu deaths. No one locked down the country.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Negative Interest Rates

As if savings were not in a bad enough place today, it appears that the Bank of England are going to introduce negative interest rates.

The central bank could take rates into negative territory as early as next month in a bid to prop up the economy as it reels from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bank has already cut rates to an all-time low of 0.1 per cent, hammering savers but making mortgages and other loans cheaper.

Evidence to the Bank of England shows that companies have chosen to increase investment rather than have their cash on deposit decline in value. However, UK banks have argued that IT systems are not ready to process negative rate deposits and loans. There are also concerns that if negative rates apply to personal deposits, customers will withdraw funds and keep them outside the banking system.

While real interest rates can be effectively negative if inflation exceeds the nominal interest rate, the nominal interest rate is, theoretically, bounded by zero. Negative interest rates are often the result of a desperate and critical effort to boost economic growth through financial means.

Negative interest rates may occur during deflationary periods. During these times, people and businesses hold too much money [instead of spending money]. This can result in a sharp decline in demand, and send prices even lower. Often, a loose monetary policy is used to deal with this type of situation. However, when there are strong signs of deflation factoring into the equation, simply cutting the central bank's interest rate to zero may not be sufficient enough to stimulate growth in both credit and lending.

Savers would appear to have three options: 1. save less and spend more 2. save more to compensate for lower returns 3. put their cash into riskier investments.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Internet Applications

Why is it that the OS [operating system] automatically assumes upon integrating IE [Internet Explorer] into a Microsoft Windows 10 unit that the use of Microsoft Edge as a better source is necessary?

I started working on computers in 1984 and they became part of my leisure time as a gaming platform as well as the mainstay at work. This is a my rant on the new Microsoft Edge browser.

Edge is necessary as Microsoft 'does not' like to allow access to some of its site content using other browsers. Yes, it blocks content from IE whether the user wants to use it or not, dictatorship.

It strikes me as strange that they would develop a browser that depends solely on Windows Defender to protect it. Though defender is better than it used to be, it still ranks below the best of anti-virus suites in popularity, ability, performance, and accuracy.

First, killing Internet Explorer was a big mistake. It has been around for 20 years [1995] so it is familiar to everyone. Second, half of the world uses IE so we are all going to soon be unprotected when Microsoft decides to end support for IE [and they will as they end support for everything]. So all of the IE users will be left unprotected or have to move to a non Microsoft browser [since Edge is only compatible with Windows 10 obviously]. Another brilliant move Microsoft.

If they wanted to fully replace IE with Edge they should have made it compatible with all platforms, not just 10.

Another trifling problem is Favourites, they used to be accessible like any other file / directory but not in Edge. Microsoft has decided to hide them in a database, which the public do not have access to. Bill Gates and his team once more put the padlocks in place as they do not trust the user to have any sense for the wokings of a computer - LOL

Edge's UI [user interaface] is horrid, and by horrid I mean bland, ugly and confusing. In IE we had three simple controls. A house icon [Home] a star [Favorites] and a gear [Settings]. Edge's controls are dots, stacks, lines and other 'crap items' you have to decode them before you start using it. It is all thrown together with a boring grey and white color scheme.

I understand not everyone is going to agree with me, but we all have our own opinions. So there is my rant, I'm not using Edge and I know a lot of other people will probably follow suit.

Oh and remember my gripe about favourites, well if you want to manage favourites now in Microsoft Edge all you have to do is "BUY" a third party app called "Manage Edge Favorites". Do not forget, money is important to the industry.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Vice President Debate

The vice-presidential debate last Wednesday [7-Oct-2020] was less openly hostile than the Donald Trump-Joe Biden debacle last week, but provided a further insight into the state of both campaigns ahead of November 2020.

As expected, the first question was about coronavirus in a debate dominated by the pandemic. Pence’s staff had insisted the vice-president has tested negative for Covid-19, but the two Plexiglass barriers placed between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence served as a constant reminder of the crisis. Harris kept her point simple. She focused on the numbers dead, and the millions of people affected.

On substance, authenticity, and actually answering the moderator’s question, Kamala Harris clearly won the debate. She even managed to defend her own record against Mike Pence’s lies while explaining Joe Biden’s plans.

One of the most memorable moments of the night was on healthcare, when Harris issued a stark warning about the Trump administration’s intentions. Trump is seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, which prevents health companies turning away patients with pre-existing conditions, and Harris made sure viewers knew it. “If you have a pre-existing condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they are coming for you. If you love someone who has a pre-existing condition, they are coming for you.”

On the most important issue of the covid pandemic and the election [health care] Kamala Harris prosecuted her case. Her powerful warning “they’re coming for you” to people with pre-existing medical conditions was the moment when #KamalaWonTheDebate.

Pence responded by claiming the Trump administration has a plan to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Trump has spent years claiming he will release a comprehensive healthcare plan. We are yet to see it.

About halfway through Wednesday’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence, a seasoned and sly veteran of high-stakes political theater, was asked whether President Trump had a plan to protect patients with pre-existing conditions if he succeeded in killing the Affordable Care Act. His response was a master class in evasive rhetorical jujitsu. First, the vice president ignored the question [the White House has not, in fact, come up with a plan], then launched into a long defense of his anti-abortion views and, for his dismount, demanded that Senator Kamala Harris say if she supported a plan to 'pack' the Supreme Court.

The debate topics were not released ahead of Wednesday night, but neither candidate was caught out. Both Kamala Harris and Mike Pence were guilty of refusing to answer some of Susan Page’s questions, in some cases barely acknowledging questions before launching into prepared answers.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Trump v Biden

What did we take away from the first debate?


The exchanges were notable for the amount of interruptions, mainly from Donald Trump. At one point the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, seemed to have had enough, telling the president that his campaign team had agreed to the rule that both candidates should have two minutes uninterrupted during each section, and urging him to abide by it. By the end of the first of six sections, Joe Biden was looking weary. "Why don't you shut up, man?" he moaned.

The November result:-

It has been alledged that the election will not be known the next day as it is here, but could take weeks to resolve. Donald Trump said: "I hope it's going to be a fair election. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated I cannot go along with that. It means you have a fraudulent election." The president also said he would be prepared to go to the Supreme Court, which could lean heavily to the right if his pick Amy Coney Barrett is approved by the Senate. Joe Biden was more measured: "No one has established at all that there is fraud related to mail-in ballots. He has no idea what he's talking about."

White Supremacist:-

Donald Trump was asked to condemn white supremacist groups. "He doesn't want to calm things down," Joe Biden said, adding that the president wanted to "pour gasoline on the fire". Asked to condemn white supremacist and militia groups, Donald Trump said: "Sure I'm willing to do that, but almost everything I see is from the left-wing. "I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace." Finally, he said: "Proud Boys - Stand back, stand by, but I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not right-wing problem... This is a left wing problem."


Asked if it was true that he paid just $750 in income tax in 2016, as reported by The New York Times, Donald Trump said: "I paid millions of dollars in taxes, of income tax." "Show us your tax returns," Joe Biden interjected. "Trump's answer on his tax returns is exactly the same as it was four years ago during the debate with Hillary Clinton," she wrote. "Then: 'As soon as the audit's finished, it will be released.' "Tonight: 'You'll see it as soon as it's finished.'"

The insults flew thick and fast, but surely even they must realise that the people want a debate, and that is usually held between people talking to each other rather than talking over each other.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Country Finances

How does a country borrow money?

Yesterday [Thursday 24-Sep-2020] the chancellor unveiled a raft of new measures the Government hopes will protect jobs as the UK continues its "fragile" economic recovery. The furlough scheme has cost almost £40bn since its launch in March. However, the cost was higher because it paid 80% of wages up to £2,500, while up to 8.9 million people were furloughed at its peak in May.

For every hour not worked, the employer and the government will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay. The government’s contribution will be capped at £697.92 a month, much lower than the cap on the original furlough scheme of £2,500.

Because of the requirement to work at least a third of usual hours, the scheme will cover the wages for a maximum of 66.6% of hours not worked. This means that the government contribution is worth 22% of full pay. As a result taking together pay for full hours worked, and state and company subsidised wages for down time, employees using the scheme will receive at least 77% of their usual pay [unless it is cut down by the government cap of £697.92].

First, we need to understand what is the national debt.

There are three sources of income, Taxes & fees, Borrowing and 'creation of money'. Rather than borrowing from banks, the government typically borrows from the ‘market’ primarily pension funds and insurance companies. These companies lend money to the government by buying the bonds that the government issues for this purpose. Many companies favour investing money in government bonds due to the lack of risk involved.

The debt is currently higher [in nominal terms] than it’s ever been before. While the government talks about reducing the deficit, the reality is that the total national debt will keep growing. Even if it stops the debt growing, taxpayers will continue paying around £120 million a day in interest on the national debt.

The next question is, how long before the creation of money is the only option left?

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Rigged Meter Rates

For the last twelve months I have been living in a house with prepaid meters for gas & electricity, and as I have to keep an eye on them so that they do not run out, I have been checking their figures.

At first it was weekly, but a couple of times it got to close so I started checking daily, then I found something odd. The figures had a pattern. Over the period of a week, there were only three values available, 82p, £1.01 & £1.20. It took me a while to see the pattern and after thinking about it, I realised that it was unlikly that I would use the same electricity exactly over a 24 hour period.

I started making sure that I checked the meters at the same time every day. Then I started varying the usage as much as possible, for instance one day I left all the lights on for a 24 hour period, another day I switched everything off after emptying the fridge and all clocks. Nothing made a difference. Each day one of the three known figures would appear.

It is perfectly obvious that these meters are rigged and are not a true reflection of energy used. I spoke to the energy company but they were not interested. I spoke to Ofgem and got a similar response.

Many people are struggling with rip-off bills. Many people are getting ill because of cold homes and thousands every year are dying. Yet the energy companies continue to rake in huge profits.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Trade Talks

The week started off with a leader from the Financial Times that said "UK plan to undermine withdrawal treaty puts Brexit talks at risk". This report in the Financial Times said that ministers were plotting to in effect rewrite parts of the hard-won protocol provoked a quick and pretty outraged response from many quarters.

The talks this week have been between Lord Frost for the UK and Mr Barnier for the EU.

The trade talks have been rumbling on, not that successfully and a few hundred pages signed and sealed last year. If the EU is going to do a decent trade deal with the UK, they want to know their companies would not have a hard time competing with British businesses who were being propped up with huge chunks of public cash. So there are still tensions over the future trade deal which will in theory replace the UK's membership of the single market and the customs union, which have continued in practice during the 11-month transition period which runs out at the end of this year.

Then we had an explosive statement from Brandon Lewis that "Government legislation on customs rules for Northern Ireland do break international law in a very specific and limited way"! Immediately following this statement, the permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, has announced he is resigning from government in light of the bill, making him the sixth senior civil servant to leave Whitehall this year [2020].

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned the bill and accused No 10 of "reopening old arguments that had been settled", saying the "focus should be on getting a [trade] deal done" with the EU.

Then later on in the week, the EU threatned legal action.

The EU gave Boris Johnson a 20-day deadline to ditch plans to tear up elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement or face the collapse of trade talks and possible legal action. The European Commission said Brussels will “not be shy” in bringing court proceedings against the UK if the PM presses ahead with proposals which it believes violate the Brexit withdrawal deal and endanger the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, and it warned that persisting with the measures would put at risk a UK/EU free trade agreement, just as discussions reach a crunch point with negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier meeting in London.

The Internal Market Bill, which will be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time next Monday [14-September-2020], addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.

We end the week with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson accusing the EU of threatening to blockade Northern Island from food deliveries. It would appear that we need more than trade talks to settle this issue.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Zero Interest Rates

Firstly, what is a zero rate?

Zero Rates, Forward Rates, and Zero-Coupon Yield Curves. The n-year zero-coupon interest rate is the rate of interest earned on an investment that starts today and lasts for 'n' years. All the interest and principal is realized at the end of 'n' years.

Despite low returns, near-zero interest rates lower the cost of borrowing, which can help spur spending on business capital, investments and household expenditures. Businesses' increased capital spending can then create jobs and consumption opportunities. However, the markets are having a really tough time with this state and it should not contiue.

If the main players [Bank of England, Federal Reserve, World Bank] nudge rates to zero, they have few options left. The goal of below-zero rates would be to spur other banks to lend more, jolting a sluggish economy, and encourage consumers and businesses to spend rather than save their money. Interest rates are established by central banks and flow down to commercial banks and other financial institutions. With negative interest rates, account holders get charged a nominal rate instead, so they lose money by keeping it in the bank.

There is the possibility that free banking will end for the consumer and we will see a return to current accounts that have fees or charges attached to them.

Prime money-market funds, a long-time favorite for anyone seeking a cash-like investment with a little extra yield, are facing an existential challenge, just four years after a regulatory overhaul to restore confidence in the wake of the global financial crisis. Assets in these vehicles dropped 20% in just six weeks earlier this year, spurring talk of new reforms. But some of the industry’s leaders are opting for another solution: Shutting them down.

As the pandemic crushed economic activity and wracked global markets in March, prime fund investors moved money as fast as they could into government money-market funds, considered the safest of havens because they are limited to short-term government securities and related secured lending markets. Prime funds lost more than $150 billion of assets to withdrawals between late February and early April; as a cash-like product with credit exposure, these funds are uniquely vulnerable to runs in a crisis.

Zero rates should not be a goal and interest rates should start to rise again before an even bigger problem is caused.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Virus Intelligence

Can a virus have intelligence?

The new Coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Viruses have ways to enter the human body [through the nasal passages, mouth, skin or via injection]. Many have evolved defenses to help them evade the immune system. Viruses that cause infection in humans hold a 'key' that allows them to unlock normal molecules [called viral receptors] on a human cell surface and slip inside. Once in, viruses commandeer the cell’s nucleic acid and protein-making machinery, so that more copies of the virus can be made.

For about 100 years, the scientific community has repeatedly changed its collective mind over what viruses are. First seen as poisons, then as life-forms, then biological chemicals, viruses today are thought of as being in a gray area between living and nonliving: they cannot replicate on their own but can do so in truly living cells and can also affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly. The categorization of viruses as nonliving during much of the modern era of biological science has had an unintended consequence. it has led most researchers to ignore viruses in the study of evolution. However, scientists are beginning to appreciate viruses as fundamental players in the history of life.

But viruses directly exchange genetic information with living organisms, that is, within the web of life itself. A possible surprise to most physicians, and perhaps to most evolutionary biologists as well, is that most known viruses are persistent and innocuous, not pathogenic. They take up residence in cells, where they may remain dormant for long periods or take advantage of the cells’ replication apparatus to reproduce at a slow and steady rate. These viruses have developed many clever ways to avoid detection by the host immune system, essentially every step in the immune process can be altered or controlled by various genes found in one virus or another.

Part of this comes from the ability of viruses to shuffle genes with as much deft as some genetic engineers. Viruses can pick up pieces of cellular genes or incorporate their genes into the cell’s genome. That means that evolution occurs all the time in viruses. It is a very dynamic process.

Are viruses alive? This is actually a really hard question to answer. Viruses are much simpler than other organisms that we definitely consider alive. Viruses must also use a host cell [and all its complex machinery] in order to replicate. This means that a virus cannot replicate without a host. Viruses are the ultimate freeloaders, they sneak into our cells, eat our food and rely on our homeostasis [their favourite temperature just happens to be body temperature!]

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Republican Convention

Four years ago in his convention acceptance speech, Donald Trump promised that "the crime and violence that afflicts our nation will soon come to an end". In his inaugural address, he said that "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now". Three and a half years later, however, violent crime in the US is picking up in some cities and protests over police brutality have at times turned ugly. Hence, the president's argument has become that it's the fault of state and local Democrats - and voters can send them a message through Trump's re-election. Note Donald Trump is very good at blaming someone else.

The Republican Party has spent the past four days constructing a psychological bubble around the president, a more comforting reality sheltered from the tumult of the past six months.

The Republicans focused on the steps the president did take, such as banning some travel to the US from China [although commercial flights had already been stopped], streamlining and co-ordinating research into therapeutics, the just-announced $750m on new rapid-result coronavirus tests and talk of a coming miracle of American ingenuity [a vaccine] before the end of the year.

The main focus of the Republican convention, however, seemed to be to remind Americans of the economic accomplishments that took place before the pandemic - the 2017 tax cut law, renegotiated trade deals with Canada, Mexico and South Korea, and what was once record-low unemployment. There have been nearly six million cases of Covid-19 in the US, and more than 180,000 deaths. That is a cold, hard fact that Donald Trump and the Republicans spent the week trying to talk around.

During a speech read from a teleprompter, with little of the free-wheeling, stream of consciousness style typically associated with Donald Trump’s public remarks, he made little mention of the distress that has swept the country in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the more recent shooting of Jacob Blake, focusing instead on what he called the “anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag-burners.” Joe Biden was mentioned 41 times in the speech, whereas Donald Trump was not mentioned once in last weeks Democratic Convention.

At the end Donald Trump looked worn out, not a good sign for the beginning of a campaign.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Democratic Convention

At 78, Joe Biden would be the oldest person ever elected to a first term as president.

While the start of the speech was somewhat rocky, Joe Biden not only settled into the speech but did something I did not think he could do: He was charismatic, forceful, emotional and powerful. Anyone who watched that speech would have no doubt as to whether Biden is ready, willing and able to do the job for which he is running.

However, Joe Biden did more than clear the competence hurdle. He delivered a speech aimed directly at the middle of the country, ideologically speaking. "This is not a partisan moment," Joe Biden said in the early moments of the speech. "This is an American moment." He repeatedly appealed to the common decency, humanity and compassion of all Americans.

He reminded people that we can and should be better than what divides us, that America could do anything it set its mind to. I will admit I did not think Joe Biden had it in him to deliver a speech that good. To be fair it was a little light on policies but it was full of a positive attitude that could move people forward. There was empathy for the public after he spoke of his loss of his first wife and son.

Choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate could be the most positive step forward. The former California attorney general has been urging police reform amid nationwide anti-racism protests. She repeatedly clashed with Mr Biden during the primary election debates, most notably criticising his praise for the "civil" working relationship he had with former senators who favoured racial segregation.

Kamala Harris was the front-runner to be Joe Biden's running mate pretty much since the moment the presumptive Democratic nominee announced in March that he would pick a woman to be on his ticket. She was a safe pick and a practical one. She is also now in the position to be the heir apparent for the Democratic Party - whether it is in four years because Biden loses in November or does not run for re-election or eight years if Biden serves two full terms.

Biden’s speech on Thursday [20-August-2020] capped off the Democratic national convention and was largely optimistic, laying out his vision for tackling several crises facing the country.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Exam Fiasco

Exams for students were cancelled earlier this year due to closure of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, with ministers promising a fair system to assign grades to pupils who would have taken A-level and GCSE exams.

The government announced that Ofqual [the exam regulator] and exam boards would work with teachers to provide grades for students who were no longer taking exams this summer. The Department for Education said it would work towards ensuring students are given grades which “fairly reflect the work that they have put in”.

Official figures showed nearly 40 per cent of teacher-assessed grades in England had been downgraded by Ofqual’s moderation algorithm, sparking anger among schools and students. Gavin Williamson faced backlash over data which showed private schools had increased the proportion of students being awarded top grades by more than double that of state schools. Boris Johnson insisted the system had produced a “robust set of grades” and said students who were unhappy with their results could appeal or take a resit exam this autumn. 'Robust' being the new black.

That was last week, today [Monday 17-Aug-2020] the UK government has not only done a u-turn on A-Levels but also GCSE's which are not released until Thursday.

In what appreas to have been the most effective student protest ever, Gavin Williamson and Ofqual have apologised to students and their parents, as they announced that all A-level and GCSE results in England will be based on teacher-assessed grades.

Sunday, 16 August 2020


What does it do? When did it start? What is it expected to achieve?

It restricts people's movement. Businesses were closed, transport was taking over by the government due to the expected lack of use by the public. Large outdoor meetings were prohibited, all indoor meetings were discouraged and it was recommened that everyone stays in their own immediate bubble. Online shopping and deliveries took off.

On 23-March-2020 the Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a press broadcast and announced the start of lockdown. "China's first confirmed Covid-19 case traced back to November 17". The first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were on January 29, when two Chinese nationals fell ill at the Staycity Aparthotel in York. All through February the government kept issuing messages about hand washing, staying indoors, only essential travel was allowed, for example emergency service staff.

The government started to produce messages, at first it was "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives" this changed to "Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives". It seemed as though the first message at the beginning made sense and people understood, it was black & white, but then it became more grey and misunderstood.

Then the government created a 'Test & Trace app' so that when people went indoors they recorded their details and if coronavirus was detected during that period they would be contacted and told to go into self isolation. This has been a bit 'hit & miss' with less public participation than the original 'stay indoors' message. Officialy the line was "The service will allow us to trace the spread of the virus and isolate new infections and play a vital role in giving us early warning if the virus is increasing again, locally or nationally."

Lockdown was enabled to stop [or slow down] the spread of the virus, and it is possible that it has, but we have no results from a non-lockdown situation to compare it to, so there are two sides to the equation and it seems to be a personal choice which one you choose.

Presumably there will be a time when the government will announce "COVID is Over", everything will re-open, everyone will return to work, but how can that happen. No government has ever said "Colds no Longer Exist" or "Flu is Finished", so how can there ever be a time when this current crisis is over?

Sunday, 9 August 2020


Earlier this year my mother died.

I registered the death with the registra, where I recevied a stack of information of what to do next. One of the items she mentioned was "Tell Us Once". This is an excellent idea and it worked well. Then it went downhill.

I started to fill out a PA1P because I remember the last will Mother wrote named me and her younger brother as executors. Sadly the uncle died eleven years ago. I searched the house and spoke to the family solicitors, showing them a document which proved they had a copy of the will, however, they were unable to find it! I was unable to find a copy of the will in the house either. I spoke to my solicitor and she recommended filling out a PA1A.

Even though I know a will exists, I have to fill out official legal forms as though it does not exist!

As I continue with this form I realise I shall have to fill out an IHT400 [inheritance tax account] even though it is clear that breaching the tax threashold will be unlikely. I found out that I could send off a PA13 to have the will searched for, unfortunately, two months later and no response from HMCTS. Apparently coronavirus allows them to work at a slower pace.

The IHT400 isn't that simple, as I progress though the pages I find I need an IHT405 [Houses, land, buildings and interests in land], an IHT406 [Bank and building society accounts], an IHT407 [Household and personal goods], an IHT411 [Listed stocks and shares] and an IHT421 [Probate summary] 59 pages, that is £5.90 to print out at the local library, which has been closed since March.

As I fill out these forms I am acutely aware of giving false information and being accused of fraud because of all the discloures on the last page, however, when I approach financial institutions like banks and ask for balances at the date of death, I am met with "do you have grant of probate or a letter of administration?", erm no, that is what I am applying for!

Tuesday, 4 August 2020


I goto bed at midnight
and lie awake til one
at 8 a.m. I have to rise
sometimes before the sun!
I wish that I could understand
this stoopid sleeping plan
why goto bed when I'm not tired
and get up when I am?

Sunday, 2 August 2020


TikTok the Chinese owned app that may be spying on us, is apparently supplying our children with mindless videos of celebrities & people doing pranks.
After looking at this app for only five minutes, it was clear that this product has been solely created as a sales & marketing tool which provides relentless selling to viewers. To think that the average age of a viewer is a child, takes my breath away. I thought we had controls for this sort of thing!
The lifestyles portrayed on social media may look beautiful, but there is an ugly slant to TikTok and it is also more noticable today on Instagram. This relentless pursuit of influencers to get us to buy stuff we do not need is appalling.
The problem is shopping opportunities and how TikTok bombard young people with these sales in a way no consumer has experienced before. It is more voracious, more disguised and more targeted at the vulnerable. Of course what makes it worse, is that the money spendt is not immediate, it is all buy now, pay later, which is just a trap.
Rampant consumerism has never been a good thing and coming out of a pandemic we might all be involved.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Harry & Meghan

A new book "Finding Freedom" by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand will be published on 11-August-2020 and currently being serialised by The Times is causing a stir.
When the rift was first announced in January I thought it would be much more complex than just walking away. It now appears, if the book's facts are correct, that the couple were niave to believe they could do just that. The couple's ambitions were going to be hard to reconcile with the responsibilities of the monarchy and the lines drawn between the interests of the couple and the royal family. A straight split would have been ideal, however, a partial split would have difficulties.
Money comes from the public purse and is paid for duties concerned with activities taken on behalf of the royal domain, removing this cushion but keeping the HRH connection for the purpose of producing an income, should never have been considered. The book makes it appear that the couple tried to force the issue by the announcements made by Harry in Jauary, which caught everyone off guard, however, it now appears that some behind the scenes work had already been done with the Queen in agreement.
It is interesting to note that at this time, polls in social media showed a marked poularity difference between the Cambridges and Sussexes with Harry & Meghan running at 83% higher in world interest. Was this down to them being new on the scene with a new baby Archie, or a reflection of what had happened the previous month where the media seem to be grappling with an idea that the two couples were drifting apart?
Harry & Meghan had not anticipated any of the complexities that arose from their demand to be allowed to earn private money while remaining royals. The result has been a much deeper split that they had originaly contemplated.
p.s. You would think that a #Lockdown would have given me more freedom to write, however, it appears to have had a reverse effect.