image of street in Stockholm, Sweden and pedestrians

Writer’s Lounge – Sweden’s COVID-19 Experiment Blows Up, “Treasure Island”

 

Sweden’s COVID-19 Experiment Blows Up

 

Sweden was the darling of right wing COVID-19 deniers and minimalists for the first time in modern history. Ordinarily, it is dismissed along with the rest of Scandinavia and Northern Europe, as “those socialist countries.” 

What did their government do to get them on Trumpublican friend lists? 

They were the first out of the gate to give the middle finger to the scientific communities’ social distancing and stay at home imperatives – pejoratively labeled ‘lockdown orders’

Early on, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde was quoted as saying, “no lockdown, and we rely very much on people taking responsibility themselves.” Sound a bit like that “rugged individualism” ideal so celebrated among the Tea Party element in the U.S.? 

Hans Bergstrom, writing in Project Syndicate, described the setting of this experiment:

In Stockholm, bars and restaurants are filled with people enjoying the spring sun after a long, dark winter. Schools and gyms are open. Swedish officials have offered public-health advice but have imposed few sanctions. No official guidelines recommend that people wear masks.

chart showing Sweden at Number 7 in Coronavirus deaths per million residents internationally.
From April 17th to the first week of May, the rate of deaths per million has more than doubled, from 136 to the present rate of 301.

In conservative media, Sweden’s apparent early success was hailed as a paradigm shift toward societal liberation. The Swedes were closet Libertarians that had a glorious coming out party.

Something funny happened on the way to the hairdresser and workout gym. The virus decided it was not so easily dismissed and it shrugged and said, “meh” to the herd immunity cheerleaders, rolled up its sleeves and got to work.

The experiment in Sweden, as many health experts predicted, failed and now Sweden is moving up the charts, having already blown past its neighbors in Denmark, Norway and Finland – in new cases and numbers of fatalities.

The trouble signs began in late March and gathered momentum a month ago – particularly, the last three days before the Easter vacation began.

In the period April 7-9: “10.2 people per million inhabitants died of COVID-19 each day in Sweden. In Italy, a nation harder hit per capita than anywhere else in Europe, not to mention, the world, the figure was 9.7. In Denmark it was 2.9, in Norway 2.0 and in Finland 0.9.”

University of Gothenburg Professor and doctor of respiratory medicine, Jan Lötvall , wrote in Aftonbladet, a Gothenburg daily, that, “Swedish people have received an unclear message from health officials and their elected representatives and therefore, have not understood the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation.” 

What Lötvall is referring to, is that the Swedish government, deferring to the National Institute of Public Health and its director, Anders Tegnell, pursued a very passive approach with the public. Best practices for curbing transmission of COVID-19, were conveyed as recommendations, not mandates.

In any society, given circumstances like a pandemic, some people are going to take advisories to heart and adopt them and others are going to willfully put themselves and others to risk.

California would be a good analog, with millions of residents limiting their public interactions to strictly essential activities, while thousands who possess a combination of arrogance and the sense of invulnerability, opted to crowd beaches in violation of public health orders.

Now, Tegnell is sounding a different note, telling reporters that, “We are starting to near 3,000 deceased, a horrifyingly large number.”

graph illustrating the increasing number of deaths on a daily basis in Sweden attributable to COVID-19

A significant factor in the approach taken in Sweden, was a desire of the government to avoid economic damage. From that standpoint as well, it was and is, a signal failure.  CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt reports:

Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, gave two possible scenarios for the economic outlook in 2020, which it said “depend on how long the spread of infection continues and on how long the restrictions implemented to slow it down are in place.” Both possible economic outcomes are bleak.

In the first scenario (scenario A in the chart below), gross domestic product contracts by 6.9% in 2020 before rebounding to grow 4.6% in 2021. In a more negative prediction (scenario B), GDP could contract by 9.7% and a recovery could be slower with the economy growing 1.7% in 2021. 

And this forecast has been reinforced by independent Swedish economic think tank, the National Institute for Economic Research (NIER), which said in a statement Wednesday that it believed that Sweden’s economy is set to shrink 7% this year and unemployment to rise to 10.2%.

“Developments in April indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic will hit the Swedish economy much harder than anticipated. The global economy is developing worse than expected which is hitting Swedish export companies which are also hampered by problems with international supply chains.”

Rather than see the regrettable object lesson in this, Republican governors across America, are either continuing to leave their state’s populations vulnerable to the risks or are now opening up in a business as usual manner, inviting an increasingly lethal first wave or second wave of infections and fatalities.

Whatever Trump tells them, they serve up to him and his base, like short order cooks.

by Richard Cameron

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Treasure Planet

Rated PG – adventure action and peril

Reproduction of original Disney animated film artwork for "Treasure Planet"

Available on Disney +

Disney has released their share of flops over the years, and 2002’s “Treasure Planet” was one of them. Nevertheless, the film is perhaps one of Disney Animation’s best.

Inspired by the classic Robert Lewis Stevenson adventure novel, “Treasure Planet,” and helmed by Disney legends John Musker and Ron Clements – responsible for “The Great Mouse Detective,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Mona” – the film is reminiscent of the director’s world-blending style, mixing in Stevenson’s 19th Century world with a science fiction space adventure, and sprinkling in a little steampunk for good measure.

As in the novel, the film follows the adventures of Jim Hawkins, an Innkeeper’s son who stumbles across a treasure map for “the loot of a thousand worlds.”

As with most Musker/Clements efforts, the key to the story is relationship. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shines as the conflicted, yet admirable Jim Hawkins. An early relationship is the one between Jim and his mom, Sarah (Laurie Metcalf), set up beautifully in the opening sequence.

A veteran actress, known for similar roles in the “Toy Story” franchise and “Meet the Robinsons,” Metcalf is able to portray the frazzled, yet sympathetic, caring parent who wants the best for her son. A rare showing of love and strength from a figure so often reduced to tragic, comic relief roles in pervious Disney efforts.

It’s their relationship, and Jim’s desire to connect with her again that sets up the perfect catalyst for the adventure that follows.

The film also features the talents of other well-known veterans, including Emma Thompson (in her vocal debut as Captain Amelia), Martin Short (B.E.N.), David Hyde Pierce (Doctor Doppler), and Roscoe Lee Browne (Mr. Arrow).

Musker and Clements also deepen the relationship between Jim and John Silver (Brian Murry), the cook-turned-pirate captain. While Silver remains every bit the villain he is in the Stevenson novel, he also becomes a father figure to the struggling Jim.

The montage that compares Jim’s budding relationship with Silver to his declining relationship with his father, set to the tune of Johnny Rzznik’s, “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme),” is one of the most powerful, and heart wrenching sequences in film.

And if this doesn’t get you, Silver’s words of encouragement moments before the mutiny will, “You got the makings of greatness in you, but you got to take the helm and chart your own course. Stick to it, no matter the squalls! And when the times comes you get the chance to really test to cut your sales, and show what your made of…well, I hope I’m there, catching some of the light coming off you that day.”

It adds a level of emotion with the inevitable split between Jim and Silver over Flint’s treasure that would be otherwise absent.

“Treasure Planet” is a rare gem that fires on all four cylinders; technology, music, acting and story. Although it’s too late to give the film the box office success it deserved, it’s isn’t too late to show some appreciation now.

by Tiffany Elliott


 

Now for something else that’s fun – as promised, here is the legendary musical satirist and story teller, Randy Newman of  “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” , “Short People” and “I Love LA” fame, with his just released ode to the virtues of social distancing:

 

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