26 March 2022

American black population more vulnerable to the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2

The spread of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has turned the number of COVID-19 cases up again. In Finland, the number of daily deaths have during the last weeks been the highest during the epidemic that started more than two years ago. Globally, however, the number of deaths were higher in January and May 2021. 

Omicron variant is known to cause less serious symptoms compared to previous variants of concern, and thus the death rate per the number of infections is lower. Therefore it was highly interesting to read from the Science magazine about research conducted in the USA on COVID-19 related differences between ethnic groups. 

The leading American science-journal reported that black adults were hospitalized for this disease at four times higher rate compared to white adults. The difference between the two groups was 40% versus 47% after two vaccinations and 44% versus 55% if they were given a booster. However, in both groups the hospital stays for Omicron were shorter compared to those caused by the previously common Delta variant, namely 5 days versus 4 days, and intensive care was not needed that often. 

The question that came to my mind was, whether this racial difference has something to do with the genes from archaic humans, Neanderthals, which do not occur in African groups of people. That was because it was previously noted that in the UK people with South Asian roots died for corona considerably more often that those associated with other ethnic groups - and the explanation was the genetic inheritance from the Neanderthals, which made them more susceptible for the virus. 

It was, however, also noticed that the same genes were rare among people of the easternmost Asia, possibly due to prehistoric selection caused by ancient viruses related to SARS-CoV-2. So, could it be possible, that most people with roots outside Africa, have some - yet unknown - genes associated with a higher tolerance to the Omicron virus? 

24 March 2022

Political rats and useful idiots

The leading Finnish newspaper - Helsingin Sanomat - wrote in its editorial about members of right-wing popular parties in Europe by calling them "rats" escaping from their close relationship with president Vladimir Putin. That was noted by Jussi Halla-aho, the former chair of the True Finns, which is considered as the right-wing populist party of Finland, but which has never followed the Russian leaders. 

Halla-aho was wondering in his Twitter message chain, whether the newspaper - known as politically slightly liberal left - would also call many former leading politicians in Finland as "rats" due to their extreme closeness with Russians. He mentioned among others the former President Tarja Halonen and former Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen as well as the former Speaker of the Parliament of Finland and current Member of the Europarliament Eero Heinäluoma. 

Tarja Halonen has for decades had close and warm relationships with Vladimir Putin, and she insisted Finland to sign the Ottawa treaty, which eliminated anti-personnel landmines from the defense forces of Finland despite the ca. 1300 km common border with Russia. She also worked actively in 1990´s to leave Finland out of NATO when the Baltic countries joined it, and considered for very long that Russia would be on its way to a decent democracy.  

Paavo Lipponen has - since his retirement - made a lot of money as a consultant for a company that builds up the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Central Europe. Eero Heinäluoma - still in February 10th this year - acted as an advocate of Putin by explaining that deployment of defensive weapons in Russia's neighboring countries is a threat to Russia, and therefore western attitudes are a solid justification for its aggressive behavior against Ukraine. 

Halla-aho also noted that he or his party has no problem in calling European right-wing politicians (with close relationships to Putins administration) as "useful idots". He asked - obviously rhetorically - whether also the social democratic Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, would call Gerhard Schröder, Tarja Halonen, Paavo Lipponen or  Eero Heinäluoma - all social democrats - as "useful idiots".

Overall, Halla-aho pointed out that the difference between right-wing populists and social democrats is in their effect on European policy. The populists are in political marginal with no influence on the European decisions whereas social democrats are in the center of decision making - and therefore much more able to promote Russian interests in EU. Therefore their relationships, instead of powerless populists, to Russian administration should be in the focus of the press.

I think Halla-aho has a clear point here. 

Previous thoughts on the same topic:
Finland and NATO - problems to be solved
An ignorant mediahouse failed again in historical facts

20 March 2022

Finland and NATO - problems to be solved

Right now the most important news from Finland is the future of our security policy. Should we join the NATO or remain a kind of a neutral country we have been since the second world war - also before the WWII? 

The change in the attitudes of our citizens has been quick. Before the Russian attack to Ukraine a vast majority of Finns supported neutrality, but now more than 60 percent of us support allying with the Western defense system.

The most important issue to us will be the delay between the submission of the application and the decision by NATO. During that time Russians will most probably use all possible hybrid means to press Finnish politicians. And actually, that has already started, as the embassy of Russia asked Russian speaking people in Finland to inform them about their possible experiences of discrimination in our country. 

Russia also mentioned that Ukraine could be a similar neutral country as Austria or Sweden but remained quiet about Finland. So, that raised a question we Finns have been thinking thereafter. That is, what does that mean? 

More specifically, does Mr. Putin have other thoughts on us - perhaps something similar Mr. Stalin had in 1939, when he - with the support of German Nazi-leader Adolf Hitler - tried to occupy us in a winter war, where at least 200 000 soviet soldiers were killed and even more injured. Many of them Ukrainians.

* * * 

This note is a landmark of the Thoughts of the Professor blog. I have previously published translations of my Finnish blog here, but it turned out that my motivation quickly decreased to zero. Therefore I decided to give up with translations, and write also in this blog unique texts, that are independent of my national blog. I hope you will find this interesting. 

Previous thoughts on the same topic:
It takes heroes to avoid genocide