COVID19 update, June 29, 2020: March 2019 sample in Barcelona? Matt Margolis on lockdowns; Germans flock to Baltic beaches; 2nd wave in Israel

(1) Apparently, a sample of sewer water in Barcelona from March 2019 (!) tested positive for SARS-nCoV-2. Dr. John Campbell comments:

I am somewhat skeptical though.

(2) Matt Margolis blogs about lockdowns and argues they were a mistake. He also goes into the current spike, which does not seem to be accompanied by a spike in mortality (allowing for a 2-3 week lag).

Conventional wisdom suggests that a spike in cases should result in a spike in deaths, but that has not panned out. The protests and riots following George Floyd’s death have been going on for nearly a month now. Surely a spike in deaths should shave occurred by now. But so far, it hasn’t. 

Why not? 

According to Justin Hart, an information architect and data analyst from San Diego, “who” gets the virus is just as important as “how many” get the virus. “Right now the average age of infected cases has dropped nearly 20 years,” Hart told PJ Media. […]

According to the CDC’s current best estimate, the fatality rate of the coronavirus for symptomatic cases only are as follows:

0-49 years old: 0.05%
50-64 years old: 0.2%
65+ years old: 1.3%
Overall ages: .4%

As I mentioned the other day, it’s the same story in the UK, where mortality of COVID-19 hospital admittees has dropped from 6% to 1.5%.

(3) “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” — literally, in this case

In Germany, however, Die Welt worries (in German) about the epidemiological situation as tourists hit the Baltic Sea resorts 

(4) Israel has apparently a genuine 2nd wave on its hands. As in (2), it seems that cases are much younger than in the past. This infographic from the Israel COVID19 dashboard of the Ministry of Health makes this very clear. (Note that this is all documented cases — if the window were limited to those diagnosed in the past month, the distribution would be even more lopsided.)

[left=women, right=men, diffuse background=population pyramid, crisp bars=COVID19 case distribution]

Tomorrow school ends for kindergarten and elementary schools; junior high and high schools already finished. 

There were “corona cabinet” meetings yesterday and today. A second lockdown was dismissed out of hand, as were less restrictive closures, since “the economy won’t survive those blows”. For now, distance restrictions and masks remain mandatory (if seemingly honored more in the breach than the observance), and these will be enforced more vigorously. Some restrictions on attendance at public gatherings were re-introduced. 

Meanwhile, mothballed COVID-19 wards in various hospitals have been reopened. The general atmosphere in the healthcare system, as far as I can tell, is more relaxed than in March: more treatment options exist, more is knownabout how to manage moderate and severe cases, and younger patients typically mean mild cases that resolve on their own.

(5) I can’t add much to Instapundit’s response to Dr. Fauci’s complaint about the “anti-science bias in the US”.

If scientists were more pro-science, maybe the public would be. But when scientists are happy to subordinate science to politics or expediency — as the public health community has shown itself to be with masks and with its endorsement of mass protests — why should anyone trust them?

COVID19 update, May 17, 2020: Exposé on decision making timeline in Germany; YouTube censorship asininity of the day

(1) DIE WELT AM SONTAG, the Sunday supplement of the German daily, has a very long article detailing the timeline of Germany’s response to the pandemic. I will try to put up a translation somewhere, but the bottom line is: decision makers — both in the government and in the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s infectious diseases authority — were lulled into a false sense of security by the misinformation spread by the Chinese regime. The article concludes that if these precious weeks had not been lost, Germany likely would have been able to contain the epidemic without a lockdown, and at a much lower cost in lives (not to mention the ruinous economic cost).

A virologist named Alexander Kekulé [a great-grandson of the Kekulé who first discovered the ring structure of benzene] acted as a Cassandra — saying “this isn’t your garden variety flu, but SARS all over again”— but found little resonance at first. A continuous tension existed between the Minister Jens Spahn and the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (a former head of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU). Seehofer favored more restrictive measures than his colleague.

Even as the duplicity and manipulations of the Xi regime became clear, Spahn tried to defend the WHO chief, saying he was in an impossible position since he was wholly dependent on the Chinese for information.


Then a number of things happened in quick succession:

  • 100 Germans came in on an evacuation flught from Wuhan. Two tested positive.
  • Diamond Princess ship, first major spread outside China
  • Examination of the first cases in Bavaria revealed that, unlike the 2002-3 SARS, this virus did not confine itself to the lower lungs but also sat in the throat and upper respiratory system , and therefore could spread much more easily.
  • News from Italy came in about the outbreak in the North
  • Following carnival celebrations, the first major “community spread” outbreak in Germany
  • a German dealer in medical PPE (personal protective equipment) sold out of his entire stock (good for about 5 months of normal sales volume) in a single day, and realized something was up.
  • Angela Merkel, in a goodwill gesture, sent 5.5 tons of PPE to China — and in order to do so, had to dig into Germany’s own emergency stockpile, as China was stripping the world market bare
  • at an intelligence briefing, the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst or Federal Intelligence Service, Germany’s CIA) showed satellite footage of mass graves in Iran that indicated the epidemic there was much more severe than they were communicating outside

Once the powers that be finally became convinced they were dealing with a potentially cataclysmic event, Germany appears to have gotten its act together quite rapidly.

(2) A commenter alerted me that Roger Seheult MD’s youtube video about the zinc-hydroxychloroquine combination, which I linked yesterday, had been deleted by YT for “violating community standards”. To call this asinine would be an insult to donkeys. Dr. Seheult is not your garden-variety crank poster pushing quack remedies, but a pulmonologist who actually deals with COVID19 patients and lectures in medical school, and who has been running an excellent medical school tutoring channel named MedCram on YouTube for some time. Whichever self-appointed medical authority at YT decided that we must be protected from “doubleplusungoodthink” ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Let me repeat once again a quote from the French mathematician, theoretical physicist, and pioneering philosopher of science Henri Poincaré that is something of a creed for French (and Belgian) secular humanists, but is a rallying cry for anyone who takes the pursuit of science and truth seriously:

Liberty is for science what air is for an animal: when deprived of liberty, it dies of suffocation like a bird deprived of oxygen. […] Thought must never submit — neither to dogma, nor to party, nor to passion, nor to special interest, nor to preconceptions, nor to anything but the facts themselves — for when thought submits, that means it ceases to be.

Quote from: Henri Poincaré, Le libre examen en matière scientifique [free inquiry in scientific matters], lecture Nov 20, 1909, on the 75th anniversary of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-0348-8112-8_12

ADDENDUM: Mike Hansen MD on results from autopsies (the paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine being discussed is here: https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-2003 )

COVID19 update, May 10, 2020: more on COVID19 outbreaks at German meat processing plants; BND drops bombshell about China and WHO; miscellaneous updates

(1) COVID19 outbreaks at meat processing plants are not just a US phenomenon anymore. Apropos the report yesterday of large outbreaks at two such plants at opposite ends of Germany (here and here, both articles in German): it was pointed out that many at these plants are foreign workers living in very tight quarters. But in addition, a friend who is a Ph.D. biologist as well as a volunteer EMT responded: “Meat packing is one of those physical jobs (so high respiration rate) which happens in close quarters, in a cool and air[-conditioned] environment. Most other airconditioned environments are probably not so close together and/or do not involve the level of physical labor. The other possible idea is that meat surfaces and the aerosols generated cutting with band-saws might be a good place for the virus to survive and thrive.”

(2) RedState, quoting German weekly Der Spiegel, has a bombshell: The BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst or Federal Intelligence Serivce, Germany’s equivalent of the CIA — in a report that is otherwise critical of Trump— says the following (my translation from the original German):

“Nevertheless, to the BND’s knowledge, China urged the World Health Organization (WHO) at the highest level to delay a global warning after the outbreak of the virus. On 21st January China’s Head of State Xi Jinping, during a telephone conversation with WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asked the WHO to withhold information on human-to-human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning. According to the BND, China’s information policy has resulted in the loss of four to six weeks worldwide to fight the virus.” [*]

Confirmation of what was obvious to many of us.

(3) Miscellaneous updates:

{*] original wording: “Nach Erkenntnissen des BND drängte China die Weltgesundheitsorganisation WHO allerdings nach dem Ausbruch des Virus auf höchster Ebene dazu, eine weltweite Warnung zu verzögern. Am 21. Januar habe Chinas Staatschef Xi Jinping bei einem Telefonat mit WHO-Chef Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gebeten, Informationen über eine Mensch-zu-Mensch-Übertragung zurückzuhalten und eine Pandemiewarnung zu verschleppen. [new paragraph] Nach Einschätzung des BND sind durch die Informationspolitik Chinas weltweit vier bis sechs Wochen für die Bekämpfung des Virus verloren gegangen.”

UPDATE: via masgramondou, a second analysis of Neil Ferguson’s COVID19 model code that is even “better” (ahem) than the first. I’ve encountered enough modeler hubris in my day job that I believe I recognize it when I see it.

COVID19 update, April 23, 2020: community immunity testing results from Belgium; non-COVID19 hospital care; India

(1) DE STANDAARD (in Dutch) reports on a new immunity study in Belgium. Researchers from the University of Antwerp collected residual blood samples of 3,686 patients that had originally been taken for other purposes (e.g., to check for anemia) and checked those for COVID19 antibodies. The samples were collected on March 30.

The Antverpian team found that about 3% of the samples had antibodies — if their sample were truly representative, that would imply about 300,000 people had antibodies for COVID19 around March 30. 

Let’s work with this a bit, shall we? According to worldometers, on that date (March 30) Belgium had 11,899 documented cases. This implies a Dunkelziffer/“dark number” (De Standaard uses this English term) to documented cases ratio of about 25:1.

As of April 22, Belgium had 41,889 documented cases — if we (dubiously) assume that the “dark number” ratio is constant, then about 10.6% of the population may have antibodies at present. 

How much would you need for herd immunity? The herd immunity threshold %HI depends in a very simple way on the effective reproductive number R of the virus: 

%HI = 100% * (1 – 1/R)

If R≤1 then the epidemic will die out anyway and %HI is zero. For R=1.1 just 9% would already be enough, while for R0=1.5 you’d need 33%, for R=2 you’d need 50%, and for R=2.5 you’d need 60%.  (Corollary: if Belgium does have about 10-11% with antibodies, it doesn’t need to keep R below 1.0 with social distancing measures, but can let things slide a little higher. As the percentage of immune residents grows, further relaxation is possible.)

(2) At Sarah Hoyt’s blog, a guest post by “Scarlett Doc” called “Healthcare Charlie Foxtrot” about the current situation in US hospitals for non-COVID19 care. These are the fruits of rigid edicts by domineering, not-too-bright bureaucrats: entire hospitals sitting on their hands waiting for the COVID19storm to hit (which is largely confined to NYC and a few other hotspots), while myriad non-COVID19 patients go untended. There are even hospitals furloughing most of their medical staff. The article is aptly illustrated with a picture of a dumpster fire. Read and weep.

It gets bad enough even without meddlesome middlebrow bureaucrats with Messiah complexes. German hospitals by and large continued normal operations. Yet DIE WELT (in German) reports on how internal medicine wards in German hospitals see such a drop in admissions for their “big 3” emergencies (heart attacks, strokes, and appendicitis) that it is making doctors suspicious. https://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article207436223/Corona-Deutlich-weniger-Patienten-in-der-Kardiologie-Aerzte-werden-stutzig.html 

“It cannot be that we suddenly have 30% fewer strokes than usual because of corona” says one — so they suspect patients are staying away when they shouldn’t, out of fear of contracting COVID19. “In 2018 there were 210,000 heart attacks and about 300,000 strokes in Germany. That these numbers have suddenly contracted because of the Corona-epidemic, nobody in the medical community believes.”

(3) (Hat tip: Alex W.) Quartz India wonders why the remarkably low toll in India. A young population pyramid is a plus, but against that stand two minuses: multigenerational families and high incidence of chronic diseases even among fairly young people. Then again, the weather being very hot and humid (bad for the virus), universal BCG vaccination, and broad (hydroxy)chloroquine use in areas where malaria is endemic could all be factors. (Incidentally, monsoon season in India is flu season there, so we could see a surge then.)

Related, however, a recent preprint claims that the BCG differential is “an illusion created by testing”: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.18.20071142v1

(4) Finally, could the serine protease nafamostat (an anticoagulant that also has some antiviral properties) be a drug candidate for COVID19? A Japanese group shows in vitro evidence in this preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.22.054981v1

UPDATE: Matt Ridley, popular science writer and member of the House of Lords, gives a layman-friendly overview of COVID19 drug candidates in the special 10,000th issue of The Spectator.

COVID19 update, April 19, 2020: Israel reopens; NYC vs. rest of USA; quick takes

(1) Today, Israel started Phase 1 of its “back to normality” plan. There appears to have been intense tug-of-war between economic and healthcare decision makers, which resulted in some tradeoffs. Masks were made mandatory, giving in to a strong demand from the Health Ministry, but in compensation, a large number of retail stores that were only supposed to reopen in Phase 2 are doing so right now.

I treated myself to a long walk around the Tel Aviv borough where I live. About 2 in every 3 stores was open for business, and of the remainder, some were setting up for reopening.

(2) Matt Margolis enters into the differences between NYC and the rest of the USA as far as COVID19 is concerned.

The numbers are shocking. Downstate has been so heavily impacted by the coronavirus that it skews the United States when you compare us to the rest of the world.

Downstate New York technically includes New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, but I am only including Kings, Queens, New York, Suffolk, Bronx, Nassau, Westchester and Richmond Counties. These counties have a population of 12,205,796, according to World Population Review’s numbers for 2020—bigger than many countries.

It’s currently claimed that the USA “leads the world in COVID19 cases and deaths”. In fact, as Matt points out, in confirmed cases per capita, the US is only #7 worldwide (Spain is #1). Bad enough, you say? But if we treated greater NYC/”downstate New York” as a separate country, it would have #1 worldwide by a longshot — with four times the per capita incidence of Spain at #2. “USA minus NYC” would only be #14 worldwide. In per capita fatality rates, the whole USA comes at #8 [I suspect actually as #9, since Sweden appears to be omitted in that list], but NYC treated as a country would again be the #1 by far, with double the mortality of the #2 (Belgium). “USA minus NYC” drops to #11.

(3) Germany apparently is starting broader community testing for antibodies. On a related note (via Instapundit), physicians from Mass General Hospital tested 200 random people in the marketplace of Chelsea, MA, and found that 1/3 had antibodies for COVID.

(4) The Great Decoupling? Legal Insurrection reviews worldwide signs of countries “socially distancing” from the Chinese communist regime. Even Emmanuel Macron [!] now seems to get it.

(5) The German tabloid BILD reports on successful use of Remdesivir in Munich. With every new report, I’m getting more positive about that drug.

(6) Prof. Jonathan Gershoni of Tel-Aviv U. claims to be “2/3 of the way toward a vaccine”. The basic idea of most vaccine developers seems to be to target the “spikes” of the coronavirus, which are responsible for getting cells to let the virus in. If the virus were to lose those in a mutation-evolution process in an attempt to ‘get around the vaccine’, it would become a lot less dangerous anyhow.

(7) And it appears that some applied mathematicians who noticed a repeated empirical pattern in the progress of the epidemic in several countries may have rediscovered Farr’s Law.

COVID19 update, April 16, 2020: Germany’s exit roadmap; brief Belgium update; UPDATE: Switzerland’s time table

A light edition today, as I’ve returned to work post-Passover.

Germany appears to have passed the peak of the infection, and for several days running now has seen recoveries exceed new infections.


Consequently, the number of active cases is dropping:

Austria is about a week further along on this trajectory, and started reopening yesterday. Now the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced a roadmap for Germany’s return to normality yesterday, Some key points translated from the German “breaking news” report (and from the original document, see below):

  • Stores smaller than 800 m2 (about 8,800 sq.ft.) will be allowed to reopen Monday April 20, with hygiene and distancing measures. The motivation appears to have been to exclude indoor malls and stores that functionally operate as such from the initial opening permit.
  • In addition, bike stores, automobile dealerships, and bookstores can reopen on the same day regardless of floor area.
  • Also allowed to open on the same day are zoos, public parks, botanical gardens, and libraries.
  • Schools will gradually reopen May 4, beginning not with the youngest (as Israel is considering), but with classes in their final exam years, as well as the final grade of elementary school.
  • hairdressers and cosmeticists can reopen May 4 (with protection)
  • mass public events such as concerts, festivals, soccer matches, etc. will remain banned until August 31.
  • the Free State of Bavaria/Bayern will wait an additional week beyond these deadlines, as it was particularly hard-hit. In general, the Länder (lands, constituent states of the Federal Republic) will have leeway in working out details.
  • industrial activity is to carry on as normally as possible, under observance of social distancing, and telecommuting where at all feasible. In sectors where standstills have occurred due to lacking supply of components or spare parts from abroad, the government is to step in to help secure these
  • agriculture, it seems, was never restricted in any way (thank G-d)
  • masks are strongly recommended for any situation where it is impossible to keep a distance of at least 1.5m (5ft), e.g., on public transit
  • people are strongly urged to avoid all unnecessary travel within the country. Travelers abroad are still subject to a 2-week quarantine upon return, with exceptions for those transporting goods (e.g., truck drivers) and for cross-border commuters in border areas.
  • hotels and travel services can resume limited activity for necessary travel, not for leisure tourism

Note that the original report in DIE WELT was (understandably, given the “hot” breaking news character) written in great haste, and contained a capital mistake concerning religious services, implying that they would remain prohibited indefinitely. Predictably, this led to considerable commotion both in Germany and abroad.

However, here is the full document from the Bundesregierung (Federal Government), which instead says:

The Federal Chancellor and the heads of government of the Länder [i.e., the semi-autonomous “lands”/member states/top-level provinces that made up the Federal Republic] are aware that the practice of religion is a particularly valuable asset and, especially against the background of the difficulties that this epidemic and its consequences are causing for many people, living faith gives strength and confidence. However, after all we know about the role of meetings in the spread of the virus and about the risk of infection and the serious consequences for vulnerable groups [read between the lines: attendance at places of worship is heavily skewed to older people], it is still urgently necessary to limit ourselves to the transmission of religious content through the media. Meetings in churches, mosques, synagogues as well as religious ceremonies and events and the meetings of other religious communities should not take place for the time being. The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Homeland Affairs, together with representatives of the Prime Minister’s circle, will begin talks with the major religious communities this week in order to discuss a way forward that is as consensual as possible.

In other words: I expect places of worship to reopen, with distancing restrictions (in practice: a cap on attendance), sometime in May unless an agreement can be reached very quickly. Lest anybody doubt the role of religious ceremonies in spreading an infection like this: Israel had major “super-spreading” events during Purim celebrations and closed down all communal houses of prayer (synagogues included) for the duration. What’s more: two ultra-Orthodox communities where rabbis at first continued to operate synagogues and yeshivot (communal religious academies) in defiance of the order now account for about 40% of all COVID19 cases in Israel. The virus doesn’t care whether you’ve come to pray, to watch a soccer match, or to hear Dream Theater play their new album — from its perspective, they are all large crowds of people packed together.

The same full document also stresses what I call TTT (test, track, trace) as a cornerstone of the strategy. Present testing capacity is stated as 350,000 a week. (Germany avoided the mistake of the CDC and decentralized testing from the start, with individual Länder harnessing the private sector.)

Meanwhile in next-door Belgium, a similar “roadmap” is being worked on but has yet been published. Instead, existing restrictions are being trimmed ad hoc at the margins. For example, about a week ago cell phone and telecommunications stores were added to the “permitted essential businesses” list, and both garden supplies stores and DIY stores are now allowed to reopen.

UPDATE: Switzerland is reopening April 27 (except for Ticino/Tessin canton bordering on Italy, which got it bad and will follow later). The Neue Züricher Zeitung has details (in German): https://www.nzz.ch/…/corona-ausstiegsstrategie-der…

Briefly:
27 April: Garden centers, flower shops, DIY shops, etc…. also with hygienic measures: hairdressers, massage, beauty salons.
11 May: remaining stores
8 June: middle schools, vocational schools, high schools, zoos, museums.
TBD: restaurants (Swiss don’t eat out as much as Americans in urban areas tend to do, BTW), touristic infrastructure, recreational facilities like swimming pools.

COVID19 update, April 9, 2020: Passover quick takes

Happy Passover to my Jewish readers! Some quick takes on the holiday:

(1) Germany’s Minister of Health Jens Spahn is looking at reopening the country, reports DIE WELT (in German). He sees two main preconditions: (a) numbers keep evolving in the right direction; (b) businesses will be compliant with hygiene and distance requirements 

Spahn on video: “The Easter Weekend will be a fork in the road.” Paraphrasing: If we remain compliant, we may soon be on the road to renormalization. If we become lax and complacent, we may be stuck with this for a long time.

DIE WELT also reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is reluctant to open early, as she is afraid that a flare-up following a hasty reopening will instead lead to a much longer shutdown

(2) A European Union think tank is drafting a “European roadmap for an exit from the COVID-19 epidemic” , and Die Welt obtained a copy. Their recommendations echo some of what the German decision makers are mulling, but urge a coordinated response of all European countries. At the same time, they recommend that specific lockdown relaxation decisions be taken at a local (district or province, not national) level — such that if a flare-up does occur, the affected district can be separately placed in renewed lockdown, rather than the entire country.

Also, enough time should be left between relaxation steps to assess their impact. 

Fundamentally, blanket “one size fits all” measures should give way to targeted measures

(3) De Standaard (in Dutch) reports hopeful signs from Belgium where total COVID19 hospitalization keeps dropping. 

(4) Via Instapundit, a peculiar result from a French cancer research team, where of a group of 2,500 high-risk cancer patients that were administered the antioxidant methylene blue as part of their therapy (for reasons unrelated to COVID19), allegedly not a single patient got infected by COVID19. The researchers hypothesize that the changes in cellular pH induced by methylene blue impede the replication of the virus, in the same manner as they hypothesize (hydroxy)chloroquine work

This particular institute seems to be exploring the controversial theory of Otto Warburg (Nobel Prize in Medicine 1931 for “discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme”)  that cancer is primarily a metabolic disease. (Mainstream oncology considers the metabolic peculiarities of cancer cells an effect, rather than a cause.)

(5) Some New York physicians, who look at the terrifying death rate among adults placed on “ventilators” (read: lung intubation), now favor keeping patients off invasive respiration as long as possible, as they suspect that long-term intubation is itself a stressor.

(6) CDC director Robert Redfield says actual mortality will be much lower than models predicted.

(7) As Zoom has become so popular during this epidemic, and contains a number of cyber vulnerabilities, here are some cyber security recommendations from CheckPoint Software 

(8) Roger Seheult MD, host of the YouTube channel MedCram, has an update on ivermectin and COVID-19 that makes its possible mechanism quite clear to people other than molecular biologists.

COVID19 update in brief, April 2, 2020: (1) Belgium followup; (2) German RKI recommends masks for everyone, Israel mandates them in public

A very busy day at the (remote) day job, so just a brief update:
(1) Following up on the earlier report from De Standaard (in Dutch) reports a grim peak of 183 dead in a single day, for a total of  1,011 in a country with 11 million people.

However, and this is the good news, hospital admissions have held steady between 450 and 650 for the past week. The last day, 584 new admissions were offset by 363 discharges. Out of 5,376 hospital patients with COVID19, 1,114 are in ICU, an increase by 56 (the smallest since March 23). 906 of those need ventilation, an increase by 72.

teven Van Gucht, head of the National Corona Committee, is quoted as saying, ‘The nummer of new admissions fluctuates already for days in the same range, which indicates we’ve reached a plateau. This is surely due to the [social distancing] measures.”

A friend sent me this graph. Note that both the graphs for Belgium and for Israel show a noticeable “inflection point” around 14 days beyond the introduction of social distancing measures.

(2) While Belgium is still reluctant to mandate masks for everyone, Germany’s authority for infectious diseases, the Robert Koch Institute (named after the discoverer of, among others, the tuberculosis bacillus) now recommends masks for everyone. Their prime benefit is said to be stopping asymptomatic infection carriers from spreading the disease.
For the same reasons, Israel’s ministry of health today mandated the wearing of masks in public areas.

COVID19 update March 24, 2020: (1) anosmia as an early warning sign? (2) Italy vs. Germany redux.

Dr. John Campbell, a British retired nursing school instructor, has been posting daily COVID19 blogs on YouTube. This is his latest installment:



He draws attention to a paper by the Ear, Nose and Throat [Specialists Association] of the UK,
https://www.entuk.org/sites/default/files/files/Loss%20of%20sense%20of%20smell%20as%20marker%20of%20COVID.pdf
Loss of sense of smell (and taste) is an early symptom of a number of respiratory diseases, and appears to be an early warning sign for COVID19. (Actually, my daughter mentioned this the other day as popping up in a number of first-person stories by people who’d survived COVID19.)

The remainder of his daily update is here:



In an op-ed in the JPost, an investor and chairman of the board of a medical devices company claims he recognizes a “bell-curve” pattern of about 8 weeks in infection statistics of countries.

The extreme difference between CFRs (case fatality rates) in Italy and in Germany (as low as 0.3%) continues to attract attention. This article in Towards Data Science appears to be the original of the article I saw elsewhere. Much of the story is in these two graphs. While the age distribution of the population is actually fairly similar:

The age distribution of patients is actually radically different: predominantly elder people in Italy, predominantly young and middle-age adults in Germany. As I already mentioned in past installments, intergenerational living arrangements are quite common in Italy, comparatively rare in Germany. Homes for the elderly in Germany appear to have gone on lockdown comparatively early.

Also, Germany has been testing more thoroughly than Italy: on average, 3.9 people were tested in Italy per positive result, compared to 13.1 in Germany. A more thorough testing regime likely will pick up more mild cases that in Italy might simply not even appear on the radar.

UPDATE: via Roger Seheult, MD’s video series (COVID19 update 43) on his medicine tutoring channel, I found out about indications (link to SCIENCE) that the obsolete, century-old BCG (bacille Calmette-Guérin) tuberculosis vaccine might impart full or partial immunity against a number of other diseases — including COVID19?

And one Italian village eradicated the infection completely through a program of aggressive testing,

UPDATE 2: (H/t: Jim B.) This could be huge if true: A study by epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta at Oxford (highlighted in the Financial Times) claims that, based on a new epidemiological model, as much as half of the UK population may already be carrying SARS-nCoV-2, with the vast majority of cases asymptomatic or masquerading as mild colds, and that the IFR (infection fatality) would be in the 0.1% range. This would also imply that the UK population would be approaching “herd immunity”, and that hence new case counts should start dropping soon. Time will tell…

How did modern Germany come about? A very short history of German unification under Bismarck

Many people don’t realize that modern Germany, as a political entity, is a comparatively recent creation (1871). So where did it come from, and how did we get there?

How far back in the mists of dawn shall I go? All the way to Charlemagne (Karl der Große), arguably the first Holy Roman Emperor? Yes, the “First Reich” was the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) — “not holy, not Roman, and not an empire” as Voltaire famously quipped. 

The 300+ German principalities of the Holy Roman Empire

Let us fast-forward to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ended the overlapping European Wars of Religion, chief among them the particularly bloody and traumatic Thirty-Years War.  Many political scientists use the term “Westphalian sovereignty” for the modern conception of state sovereignty.

At that point, the Holy Roman Empire was a patchwork of some 300 principalities, all tributaries to the Holy Roman Emperor (a title held from 1438 until 1806 by the head of the House of Habsburg, and by its Austrian branch since the 1556 abdication of Charles V). It looked something like this:

The Holy Roman Empire in 1648

The principalities varied widely in size, from the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Archduchy of Austria all the way down to several “Free Cities” like Hamburg, Bremen, and Frankfurt. 

One provision of the treaty (which actually reaffirmed a provision of the 1555 Augsburg Peace) was cuius regio, eius religio, i.e., that each principality would acquire the religion of its ruler, be it Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist. Indeed, the Catholic principalities included several not-so-small Prince-Bishoprics, where the Bishop or Archbishop was both spiritual and temporal ruler: e.g.,  the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, the Prince-Bishopric of Liège/Luik/Lüttich in present-day Belgium, and the like.  

This system persisted, with various internal rearrangements, through the French Revolution, until Napoleon I became its final undoing. This had been the map on the eve of the 1789 French Revolution.

Holy Roman Empire (1789)

Following Napoleon’s victory over the Austrians at Austerlitz in 1805, the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II (subsequently Francis II of Austria) dissolved the HRE by decree on August 6, 1806.  Concomitantly, twin processes of “mediatization” and “secularization” took place. The confusing term “mediatization” in context means that smaller principalities lost their privilege of “immediacy” (answering directly to the Holy Roman Emperor without intermediaries) but were made subject to one of the larger principalities. “Secularization” in context means that Prince-(Arch)Bishops were stripped of their temporal authority, and  that their former dominions  were either converted into secular principalities or attached to an existing larger principality. 

From 1806 until 1813, many of the newer states were part of a French client-state union called Rheinbund/Confederation of the Rhine.

From 300+ down to 39: the German Confederation (1815)

Following the final defeat of Napoleon I at Waterloo outside Brussels, the European power brokers met at the 1815 Congress of Vienna, where they laid down a blueprint for the postwar order. (Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich was the “midwife” of this congress, if you like.)

For the German-speaking realm, its major consequence was the restructuring of the Rheinbund, Prussia, Austria,… into a loose German Confederation with “only” 39 member states. Four of these were actually ruled by foreign monarchs in personal union: the Duchy of Holstein (by Denmark), the Archduchy of Luxemburg (by Holland), the Duchy of Limburg (also Holland), and the Kingdom of Hanover (by England). Four others were the Free Cities of Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck, and Frankfurt. By far the most powerful members were Catholic Austria and Lutheran Prussia.

German Confederation

The failed 1848 revolution and the rise of Otto von Bismarck

1848 was a year Europe was shaken by revolutions, including  the  German confederation. (This is also when the great immigration wave from the German Confederation to the USA took place.) Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV was able to hold on to his throne, but saw himself forced to introduce some democratic reforms, including the creation of a Landtag (parliament).

One of the loudest anti-revolutionary voices in the Landtag was a former civil servant named Otto von Bismarck, born from a Junker [=squire, the lowest rank of nobility] family. He caught the eye of Friedrich Wilhelm IV and in 1851 became his envoy to the Diet of the German Confederation at Frankfurt. There, the future “Iron Chancellor” proved his mettle as a crafty diplomat and negotiator, with the Austrian envoy as his primary foil. 

Otto von Bismarck (1873)

In 1857 Friedrich Wilhelm IV was permanently put out of commission by a stroke. Until his death in 1861, his older brother Wilhelm acted as regent, then he ascended to the throne himself as Wilhelm I. (His queen was Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter.)

Wilhelm at first distrusted Bismarck and looked down upon him as a “Landwehrleutnant” (Home Guard lieutenant), but had continued to rely on him for key ambassadorial positions, first to St. Petersburg (1859) then to Paris (1862). A domestic political crisis broke out over the budget (which included major rearmament spending): Wilhelm threatened abdication in favor of his son Crown-Prince Friedrich, but the latter did not want the job and instead cajoled his father into appointing Bismarck as Chancellor. Bismarck’s two most important allies in Berlin were Minister of War Albrecht von Roon and the Chief of Staff,  Field Marshal Helmut Graf von Moltke [the Elder].

Bismarck had been a late convert to the cause of German unification, but on 30 Sept. 1862 he gave the “Blood And Iron Speech”, which ended on the following peroration:

“Prussia must concentrate its strength and hold it for the favorable moment, which has already come and gone several times. Since the treaties of Vienna, our frontiers have been ill-designed for a healthy body politic. Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided—that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by iron and blood (Eisen und Blut).”

By “Iron” he did not just mean “arms”, by the way, but industrialization more generally. 

The Second Schleswig War

In 1863, King Frederick VII of Denmark died heirless, creating a succession dispute between rival branches. Christian IX was crowned king and the new constitution asserted Danish authority over the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, but pro-German Duke Frederick VIII was supported by German-speaking separatists in said duchies.

Bismarck saw the “favorable moment” he had been hoping for, and convinced Austria to wage war against Denmark on the side of Prussia. The Danish army was no match for especially the Prussians; in the 1864 Treaty of Vienna, Danmark saw itself forced to cede all of Holstein and much of Schleswig to joint Austro-Prussian sovereignty.

The 1866 Unification War: And Then There Were Five

A dispute with Austria over the administration of the new provinces was seized upon by Bismarck as a casus belli for a war with Austria. Prussia make a military alliance with Italy, then invaded Holstein. The dispute was brought before the German Diet, which declared mobilization against Prussia. In response, Prussia declared the Diet “finished” and invaded Hanover, Saxony, and Hesse on June 15. Italy then attacked Austria on June 20.

Roon and Moltke had turned the already formidable Prussian army into an even more powerful fighting machine, and after a crushing victory at Königgratz, the Austrians called it quits — especially once it became clear that Bismarck had zero interest in any Austrian territory. (Reportedly, when Wilhelm I insisted the Prussians march on Vienna, Bismarck threatened to instead jump from a 4th-floor window, at which point Wilhelm backed down.)

At the August 23, 1886 peace of Prague, the German Confederation was dissolved. The former Habsburg province of Veneto (i.e., Venice and the surrounding mainland) was ceded to the French, who promptly passed it to Italy. 

Five days earlier, Bismarck had created the North-German Confederation in the map below. The many small states inside were now wholly dominated by Prussia (in blue). In fact, Schleswig-Holstein, the Electorate of Hesse, Nassau, the Free City of Frankfurt, and the Kingdom of Hanover were annexed outright to Prussia itself.

North German Confederation (1866)

Bismarck set about creating a federal parliament (the Reichstag), with representatives elected based on local laws. It sat as a constituent assembly at first, discussing and amending a draft federal constitution. Then federal elections took place and the new constitution went in force.

Left outside the North-German Confederation were Austria’s Southern German allies: the kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg, and the Archduchy of Baden. (The small Principality of Hohenzollern, an enclave inside Württemberg, was the origin of Prussia’s reigning Hohenzollern Dynasty and remained a Prussian exclave.)

So we are now down from 300+ German polities via 39 to just five.

The 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the birth of the Second Reich

The abdication of Queen Isabella II of Spain had created a succession crisis there.

After a while, a German prince from the house of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen emerged as a possible successor. Napoleon III of France now feared his “Second Empire”  would be the meat in a German sandwich. He demanded that this German candidacy be withdrawn and sent the French ambassador to Prussia to present this demand to Wilhelm I, who was vacationing at Bad Ems. Wilhelm was polite but noncommittal; Wilhelm’s secretary Abeken sent a telegram summarizing the meeting to Bismarck. The latter promptly set about “embellishing” this Ems Dispatch before releasing it to the press, in ways that were calculated to goad Napoleon III.

The latter took the bait and the French declared war on Germany, thus giving Bismarck the excuse he craved. Within six months, the French army suffered a series of humiliating defeats culminating in the siege of Paris (which saw Parisians reduced to eating their pets and their zoo animals). The Second Empire collapsed, Napoleon III was supplanted by the French Third Republic, France was forced to to pay a huge indemnity and to cede Alsace and Lorraine to Germany.

More germane to our subject, the war proved enough for the Southern German holdouts to throw in their lot with Wilhelm, thus completing German unification.

On January 1, 1871, the combined four polities became the [Second] German Reich, with King Wilhelm I of Prussia being upgraded to Kaiser/Emperor Wilhelm I. Bismarck stayed in office as Reichskanzler until after the Kaiser’s death in 1888 and the 99-day reign of his already moribund son Frederick III, until finally dismissed by Wilhelm I’s ambitious grandson Wilhelm II in 1890. 

As a footnote, the Spanish ultimately crowned the 2nd son of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy as King Amadeo I. He abdicated a year and a half later,  then was replaced by Alfonso XII, the eldest son of the exiled Queen.

From expansion to consolidation

Significantly, the last nineteen years of Bismarck’s tenure were a time, not of military adventures, but of consolidation and nation-building. 

Unlike the future Wilhelm II, or the genocidal madman at the head of the still-later Third Reich, Bismarck was above all a consummate realist. In the already then existing dispute in the German nationalist movement between Greater Germany and Lesser Germany factions, he emphatically sided with the latter, as he feared the acquisition of Austria or of Austrian-held Polish territory (both with mostly Catholic populations) would dilute the Protestant Prussian complexion of the state beyond repair. 

Instead, he set about carrying out a series of modernizing reforms. His political vision can be described as a paternalistic Obrigkeitsstaat [authority state]: be a faithful servant of the state, and the state will look after you. The Health Insurance Bill of 1883 (which formalized the system of Krankenkasse or “sick funds”), Accident Insurance Bill of 1884, and Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill of 1889 laid the foundations for what is arguably the oldest welfare state in the Western world (for better or worse).

Was he a Prussian socialist? The idea would have been anathema to him. Instead, he saw the rising support for the emerging SPD (Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands) and attempted to “take the wind out of its sails” with such social provisions. Indeed, in doing so he leaned on what previously had been his opponents in the Kulturkampf: political Catholicism.

The term Kulturkampf (“culture struggle”) was the term first coined in Germany (by Bismarck’s ally in this matter, Rudolf Virchow [*]) for a struggle of wills between the secular state and religious forces (in this case the Catholic Church). Specifically Bismarck’s insistence on secularizing or supplanting religious schools brought him on a collision course with the Vatican. He broke off diplomatic relations with the Holy See over its rejection of an ambassador (himself a Catholic prelate who had questioned the Infallibility Dogma), banned the Jesuits and several other religious orders, and introduced a Standesamt (civil registry) on the French model, enabling civil marriage and divorce. Basically, Bismarck strove to restrict the influence of the Catholic Church to the personal spiritual domain, while Pius IX and his partisans fought to preserve as much of the status quo as they could.[**]

Ironically, Bismarck created the very thing he least wanted: in reaction, the Zentrumpartei or [Catholic] Center Party emerged and became a political force to be reckoned with, until the Third Reich. [The postwar CDU, Christian-Democratic Union, is the joint successor party to the Center Party and its Lutheran counterpart.) 

The Kulturkampf petered out through a confluence of three factors: the demise of Pius IX and his succession by the more conciliatory Leo XIII; a military alliance with the Catholic Habsburg Empire; and the need for parliamentary support for Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Laws and a series of protective tariffs. Bismarck, always a Realpolitiker, ended up gradually walking back some of his Kulturkampf policies in a series of what he termed Mitigation Laws, and Leo XIII returned the sentiment. Eventually, Bismarck became the only non-Catholic ever to receive the Vatican’s highest decoration, the Supreme Order of Christ.

Bismarck’s End and Legacy

1888 entered German history as the Year of the Three Emperors. Wilhelm I passed away just short of his 91st birthday. His heir Friedrich III was already moribund from throat cancer and reigned for a mere 99 days: upon his death, his eldest son Wilhelm II became the last Kaiser  for the next 30 years.

Wilhelm I had been content to let Bismarck rule on his behalf, but Wilhelm II was not content with a quasi-constitutional monarch role and asserted his authority over Bismarck. When the latter proved inflexible, he was told via an emissary to come bring his resignation letter. Characteristically, Bismarck sent it by messenger instead.

(Punch cartoon by Sir John Tenniel, 1890)

Bismarck lived on for another eight years at Friedrichsruh near Hamburg. In his dotage, he wrote his memoirs and published newspaper articles criticizing his successor.

 I should write another essay on Wilhelm II and the origins of the First World War. Would it have broken out if a man like Bismarck had been Chancellor? Suffice to say for now that Wilhelm’s militarist expansionism was a dramatic departure from Bismarck’s realism and “Little Germany” nationalism, and Bismarck criticized this relentlessly to deaf Imperial ears.

One year before his death, Bismarck uttered the prophetic words:

“One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”

Footnotes:
[*] Dr. Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) was a public health pioneer and prolific medical researcher generally regarded as the father of modern [medical] pathology. He was also the co-founder of the German Progress Party and one of its Reichstag delegates. Bitterly opposed to some of Bismarck’s policies, he supported him in the Kulturkampf. He was also one of the first vocal opponents of pseudo-“scientific” racism.

[**] Bismarck’s Germany was not the only country to engage in a form of Kulturkampf in the latter part of the 19th century. France’s Third Republic did so, as did the Belgian government of Frère-Orban. And of course some of the founding fathers of the Italian Risorgimento were so fiercely anticlerical that they made Bismarck look like a Jesuit in comparison.

Bavarian Landtag (state parliament) elections 2018: “Wir haben es kaum geschafft” (we barely made it)

Last Sunday, Bavarians went to the polls for their regional/state parliament (the Landtag). These elections were seen by some as a referendum on federal chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy. The CSU (=Christian-social union), the sister party to the national CDU (=Christian-democratic union) felt the stridently anti-immigration AfD breathing down its neck and distanced itself from her. Did this tactic work?

Summarizing reporting at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Die Welt, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel online, and the national newscast “Tagesschau”, here are the results:

CSU: 37.2% (down 10.5) [christian social democrats]
SPD: 9.7% (down 10.9) [social democrats, center-left]
FDP: 5.1 (up 1.8%) [classical liberals, pro-market & business]
Greens: 17.5% (up 8.9%)
Freie Wähler: 11.6% (up 2.6%) “Free Voters”, centrist, non-aligned
AfD: 10.2% (from nowhere) right-wing, stridently anti-immigration

The “former” communists of Die Linke (3.2%, up 1.1%, hard left), and further small parties totaling 5.4%, did not clear the 5% electoral threshold, unlike the FDP which returns to parliament after falling short of the threshold last time around.

Landtag seats (out of 205, 103 needed for a majority):
CSU 85, Greens 38, Free Voters 27, AfD 22, SPD 22, FDP 11

Coalition negotiations have already started with the Free Voters, which would create a somewhat comfortable majority of 112. The FDP announced it will remain in the opposition: the Greens are in Germany traditionally split between a pragmatic “Realo” and hardcore “Fundi” wing, while the AfD, especially in Bavaria, is split between a national-liberal wing akin to Belgium’s N-VA, and a far-rightist faction with some unsavory elements.

The Biggest Losers

The CSU actually put in its worst performance in 60 years. Some (e.g. veteran psephologist Heinrich Oberreuter, himself a CSU member, quoted here) claim that this means the strategy of trying to position itself as AfD-lite on immigration backfired, while others claim it prevented an even bigger drubbing. The actual numbers (screenshots from the Tagesschau) seem to tell a mixed tale:

CSU voter movement

So the party actually drew 270,000 voters who did not vote in the previous election (voter participation, at 72.5%, was nearly 9% higher than in 2013), plus 100,000 SPD voters, while losing almost half a million voters split roughly equally between Greens, Free Voters, and AfD. One common complaint (70%) of those who changed their vote was that the CSU overstressed immigration to the exclusion of all other subjects.

But if the CSU saw a historical nadir, the SPD — the other major national party besides the CDU, and the country’s largest under Willi Brandt and Gerhard Schröder — is even deeper in the doldrums, having fallen to single digits! Where did they lose votes to?

SPD voter migration

Aside from the 100,000 who switched to the CDU, they lost big time to the Greens (200,000) and appreciably to the Free Voters (70,000) — but 30,000 even flipped to AfD!

When defectors were queried about their motives, three answers were gotten most frequently:

• 86%: time to “take the opposition cure”, as the priceless Dutch expression goes

• 85%: party lacks a central theme that can get people fired up

• 67%: nobody knows what the party really stands for

The latter is, of course, the most damning indictment of all.

In two weeks, there is another Landtag election coming up in the state of Hessen (the most important city of which is Frankfurt, though Wiesbaden is the state capital).

Angela Merkel’s words, “Wir schaffen das” (we can do this), have come to haunt her. Here in Bavaria, where the CSU went out of its way to show it wasn’t in Merkel’s pocket, the result was “sie haben es kaum geschafft” (they barely made it).

German Elections II: Up is down, down is up

Browsing through German election updates in Die Welt over lunch, I got a feeling it isn’t just the US that has entered Robert Heinlein’s “Crazy Years”. (see my previous post)

  • Various virtue-signalers are of course hand-wringing about the “extreme right” AfD. The actual NS-nostalgists of the NPD, however, polled less than 0.5%, worse than the satirical Die Partei. (As explained by the article in Die Welt: under German law,  a party must poll at least 0.5% nationally to be eligible for certain subsidies.)
  • It is, however, clearly true that the AfD is riven by a power struggle between two camps: a “right-liberal” one around Frauke Petry that is pro-free-market, Euroskeptic, and populist, and a “national-conservative” camp currently led by former CDU politician Alexander Gauland. The latter camp appears to include some truly unsavory elements, presumably “entryists” from the extreme right.
  • Now Frauke Petry and her husband Marcus Pretzell [sic] are leaving AfD, citing its “radicalization”, and just bought a new internet domain Die Blauen (the blue ones – in Europe blue has traditionally been the color of classical liberalism). She herself was elected to the Bundestag directly (about half the seats are constituency seats) so she doesn’t have to vacate her seat.
  • This leaves Alice Weidel as the co-chair representing the party’s “right-liberal” wing.  Weidel, a Ph.D. economist who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, works as a management consultant to startup companies and… is an overt lesbian who lives in a domestic partnership with a Swiss filmmaker of Sri Lankan origins. The couple have a second residence in Biel, Switzerland and raise her partner’s two biological children together. [How many leftie heads have exploded yet?] Weidel is opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption, as well as what she calls “pushing gender idiocy on prepubescent children”, but says she “supports lifestyles other than the traditional family” as well as, naturally, domestic partnerships.
  • Lest you think that the AfD (which may well implode) is the only party riven by internal contradictions: the Greens have pretty much for all their existence been divided between a “Fundi” (fundamentalist Green) extremist wing and a pragmatic “Realo” wing. Coalition negotiators for the Greens are having to placate both camps.
  • And as if this weren’t enough headaches for Merkel (at this point I feel almost sorry for her): her Bavarian sister party the CSU is now signaling that their presence in her coalition is not to be taken for granted. They are quite nervous about regional elections next year, and are in particular demanding an upper limit on refugee admissions. The Greens, for their part, have indicated that this is a nonstarter for them.

As the SPD had earlier announced it was taking the opposition cure following its historical nadir this election, Merkel’s options are basically reduced to a “Jamaica Coalition” of CDU/CSU (black), FDP (yellow), and Greens. But the latter is increasingly looking like an exercise in squaring the circle.

And I would not rule out an internal coup against Merkel by the right wing of the CDU.

 

German elections: One more such “victory” and Merkel is undone

The national elections in Germany took place. As expected, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are still the largest party and she is looking at a fourth term in office. However, as King Pyrrhus is supposed to have said, “one more such victory and I am undone”.

 

german elections 2017
[Screencap from the Frankfurter Allgemeine website. Black=Christian Democrats; Red=Social Democrats; Blue=Alternative for Germany (populist right); Yellow=Free Democrats (classical liberals); Purple=The Left (former East German communists); Green=The Greens; Sonstiges=remaining/others.]
 

Both the major parties, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, are at their nadir since WW II. The third largest party is now the populist right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-establishment Alternative for Germany, which in the former East Germany placed second [h/t: masgramondou] and in the state of Sachsen (Saxony) actually became the #1 party! The other major winner are the classical liberal Free Democrats — the junior partners in many postwar federal governments — who have made a great comeback since the last election when they did not make the 5% electoral threshold. Barney the purple communist dinosaur and its green belly both maintained their strength.

 

Bundestag 2017
Preliminary seat distribution in the Bundestag (709 total seats). Voter turnout: 76.1%

 

The logical coalition partner for Merkel might seem the SPD (continuing the present coalition), perhaps with support from the FPD in a “national flag coalition” (black-yellow-red). However, the SPD decided to go lick its wounds and take the opposition cure. This leaves the so-called “Jamaica coalition” (after the colors of the Jamaican flag) of CDU, FDP, and Greens. “Two years at most for Jamaica,” says a headline at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, as such a government is prey to many obvious internal contradictions.

The AfD itself seems to be riven by an internal power struggle between populist-right and far-right wings. Party leader Frauke Petry has even announced she does not wish to be part of the AfD faction in parliament, leading to calls for her to step aside.

[At this latter link is also an interesting interactive graph showing voter flow between 213 and 2017 elections. For instance, about one-third of all FDP voters this time are defectors from the CDU/CSU, while one-quarter of all AfD voters did not vote in the previous election.]

“Interesting times,” in the ancient Chinese sense of the word…

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

UPDATE 2: AfD-chairwoman Frauke Petry and her husband Marcus Pretzell, regional AfD chair in North Rhine-Westphalia, intend to quit the party.

And Horst Seehofer, chairman of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party CSU (Christian Social Union), is calling on Angela Merkel to “draw personal consequences” from the historically poor showing of the CDU and step aside. National Review speaks of “Merkel’s Nightmare Victory” [h/t: Jason B.]

UPDATE 3: see my next update here