- We may have just found our best candidate for intelligent life on other planets…
- The company at the heart of the scandalous hydroxychloroquine study is in hot water again
- “Crypto Mom” is here to stay
Over the weekend, the media’s narrative changed. COVID-19 is back in the news, and this time the topic is about a new “surge” in hospitalizations and a “spike” in new COVID-19 cases.
There are now discussions at a state level to revert to economic lockdowns if the trend continues.
On Friday, we took a look at the dramatic rise in COVID-19 tests since March and the corresponding declining trend of daily cases of COVID-19. This trend is somewhat counterintuitive because one might expect that the more we test, the more cases of COVID-19 will be found.
The headlines over the weekend, however, got me thinking about the trends taking place in hospitalizations. Are hospitalizations for COVID-19 increasing or decreasing?
Let’s find out.
This data is a subset from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is provided by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET).
This group monitors 100 counties across the 10 Emerging Infections Program (EIP) states. This includes CA, CO, CT, GA, MD, MN, NM, NY, OR, and TN. This network covers about 10% of the population and is representative of the country. It also includes many of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S.
As we can see in the chart above, actual COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the decline since mid-April. And the steepest declines have occurred over the last two weeks. This is positive news, and I’ll be watching closely over the next two weeks to see if this trend continues.
Nothing in this data that we have reviewed would justify the threats of additional lockdowns in the U.S.
But this new bout of media-driven fear and panic appears to be having an impact on the stock market. As I write this, all the major indices are trading down. This new volatility just might give us another opportunity to make some new investments at attractive prices.
I’ll keep tabs on this story. But for now, our insights…
Evidence that there could be life on other planets…
It’s time to look to the stars.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have discovered an exoplanet that appears to be remarkably like Earth. They are calling it KOI-456.04.
Exoplanets are planets outside of our solar system. And ever since we put telescopes in space, hardly a week goes by without a new exoplanet being discovered. In fact, scientists have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets in other solar systems throughout our universe.
We might wonder, how can scientists discover planets so far away? Once we had the telescopes in place, it actually isn’t too hard.
We can look for a “wobble” in a star, which can be caused by the gravitational forces of a planet in orbit. Or we can look for changes in the light coming from the star – when a planet crosses in front of the star, the light that we can “see” dims a small amount.
What makes KOI-456.04 unique is that it orbits a yellow dwarf star that’s very similar to our Sun. Yellow dwarf stars give off visible light.
What’s more, KOI-456.04 is the same distance away from its own star as Earth is to the Sun. It’s not too different in size compared to Earth – roughly 1.9 times in size. The planet is likely rocky and has an atmosphere ideal for water, just like Earth.
That means there’s a strong possibility that life exists on KOI-456.04.
The only problem is that the planet is 3,000 light-years away. It’s going to be a long time before we have the technology capable of traveling such vast distances in space.
Until we can travel faster than the speed of light, sadly, we won’t be able to visit KOI-456.04, which means it won’t be anytime soon. But we can still look for radio wave signatures coming from the exoplanet. I’m sure we’ll be listening for any transmissions… even though they would be 3,000 years old.
The more we explore, the closer we get to the inevitable discovery of life on another planet.
The Surgisphere plot gets deeper…
Last week, we wrote about how a small company outside of Chicago called Surgisphere produced scandalous research around the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19. The research suggested that patients treated with hydroxychloroquine had a higher likelihood of death.
This was the research that caused the World Health Organization (WHO) to discontinue its studies of the drug.
But as I pointed out, when the report was first published, the research was far from conclusive. It was purely observational and should never have been used as justification for stopping trials of hydroxychloroquine.
Eventually, the scientific community saw what I saw. The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine had to retract Surgisphere’s work after glaring errors and discrepancies in the data were found.
Well, it turns out Surgisphere has been producing shoddy medical research for 15 years now. Here’s how we know…
After it refused to provide the data from its hydroxychloroquine research, researchers began to investigate Surgisphere’s history. What they found was shocking.
Surgisphere’s founder, Sapan Desai, put together a physiology research report back in 2004. Analyzing that report, investigators determined that Desai blatantly falsified data.
In fact, Desai altered the images in his study. One investigator said, “It’s like the guy went crazy with Photoshop.”
So it looks like Desai determined the results he wanted to get in advance, and then he manipulated the research to get them. There’s a clear pattern here.
And the New England Journal of Medicine had to retract a second research report from Surgisphere on COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease. It turns out the journal could not validate Surgisphere’s research in that report either.
This led the University of Utah to fire faculty member Amit Patel, who was one of the authors of both of Surgisphere’s COVID-19 research papers.
What an interesting chain of events. It’s great to see the medical community has stepped up to call out Surgisphere for this unethical conduct. And the WHO is in the process of restarting the previous trials for hydroxychloroquine now that the truth has come out.
A big win for the blockchain industry…
We haven’t talked about blockchain much this year, but the industry just got great news. Hester Peirce was just nominated for a second term at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Peirce is known as “Crypto Mom” in the blockchain community. She has been a vocal supporter of innovation in the space.
And she is the one who came out with the proposal to allow a three-year grace period for blockchain companies to work on their projects before being subjected to SEC regulations. We talked about this back in February.
One of the largest issues the blockchain industry faces right now is heavy-handed regulations by the SEC. It’s been so bad that billions of dollars have gone offshore to start companies in other countries.
This is something that those of us at the Chamber of Digital Commerce – a blockchain advocacy group I’m involved with – have been bringing to the SEC’s attention. Those billions should have stayed in the U.S. to build businesses, spark innovation, and drive economic activity.
And it all circles around the ability to raise capital.
To raise money, blockchain companies launch an initial coin offering (ICO) in which they sell tokens or digital currencies. The funds raised are used to develop the technology and ultimately launch the product. That, in turn, gives the token or digital currency value.
By cracking down on all ICOs, the SEC has smothered a brand-new asset class that unaccredited investors could find beneficial under the right circumstances.
And this is what Peirce’s proposal is designed to address.
Rather than run these blockchain companies off, let’s give them three years to raise capital, build their blockchain technology, and demonstrate that their token or digital asset has utility and value. At that point, the SEC can determine whether the token is a security that falls under SEC regulations.
This is a promising proposal that would help legitimate blockchain projects develop functional technology. And it would also help reduce fraudulent ICOs because those companies would know that the SEC will be checking in on them.
In another bold move, Peirce also suggested that the blockchain industry self-regulate. That’s impressive coming from a regulator. And it’s a great point.
If the industry can determine its own operating models around know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) laws, the SEC can be more lenient and cooperative. That’s a win for everybody.
So I’m very glad that Peirce will be around until 2025. We need this kind of logical thinking at the SEC while the blockchain industry works to develop an exciting new asset class. Applying old securities laws from the 1930s simply isn’t the best approach in the world of blockchain technology and digital assets.
I’m excited about Peirce remaining at the SEC for a second term. The industry needs more progressive thinkers like her to support blockchain innovation in the U.S. markets.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
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