COVID-19 has many faces


Study results could contribute to more effective treatment

by Dr. Marcus Neitzert

(21.01.2021) According to current studies, the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus comprises at least five different variants. These differ in how the immune system reacts to the infection. Researchers from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the University of Bonn present these findings together with other experts from Germany, Greece and the Netherlands in the scientific journal “Genome Medicine”.

An infection with SARS-CoV-2 can have different effects: Many people affected seem not to notice the virus attack at all. In other cases, the effects can range from flu-like symptoms and neurological disorders to severe and even life-threatening pneumonia. “The division of COVID-19 into mild and severe courses falls short. The disease is much more diverse and, of course, you want a therapy that is tailor-made for each person affected. What helps one may be ineffective for another, ”says Dr. Anna Aschenbrenner, scientist at the LIMES Institute of the University of Bonn, who also belongs to the DZNE’s systems medicine department.

“In this respect, it makes sense to want to understand what these differences are based on. If you can fix it to scientific criteria and assign those affected accordingly, this increases the chances of effective treatment. We therefore looked at the immune system. Because many studies meanwhile indicate that its reaction to the infection with SARS-CoV-2 plays a decisive role in the course of COVID-19 “, says Dr. Aschenbrenner, who is a member of the Excellence Cluster” ImmunoSensation “at the University of Bonn.

International cooperation

Against this background, a team led by Dr. Anna Aschenbrenner, together with colleagues from Germany and abroad, tested the blood of people with and without COVID-19. The samples came from a total of 95 people from Bonn, Athens and Nijmegen. The investigations were carried out in cooperation with the “German COVID-19 OMICS Initiative” (DeCOI) – a nationwide association of universities and research institutions. In addition to the DZNE and the University of Bonn, the University Hospital was also involved in Bonn. Foreign partners were the Attikon University Hospital, the Sotiria Hospital in Athens and the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

The so-called transcriptome of the immune cells in the blood was determined for each patient, and enormous amounts of data were evaluated using bioinformatics methods. Using the molecular fingerprint generated in this way, the researchers were able to identify which genes were switched on or off within the immune cells. Such signatures of gene activity – also called “expression patterns” – provide information about the condition of cells and thus about their properties and functions, which can change depending on the situation.

Interestingly, the blood count obtained in this way was largely determined by the “neutrophil” family: They are the most common of the so-called white blood cells and are at the forefront of the immune response chain. These cells are mobilized very early to fight off infections. They influence the production of antibodies and also other cells that contribute to immunity.

Five forms

“First of all, it must be noted that the expression patterns of immune cells in people with COVID-19 differ fundamentally from those in healthy people. The gene activity that we can read out in the blood is greatly changed. But there are also striking differences among patients. On this basis we have identified five different groups. We’re talking about molecular phenotypes, ”says Dr. Thomas Ulas, expert in bioinformatics at the DZNE. “Two of them stand for serious disease courses. The other three show more moderate symptoms. ”The classification was based solely on the transcriptome data. Only in retrospect was it checked which clinical courses the individual phenotypes corresponded to.

COVID-19 is special

The researchers used their findings to compare COVID-19 with other diseases and also with data from healthy people. For this purpose, they were able to access data from the “Rhineland Study” – a population study by the DZNE in the Bonn area – as well as scientific databases. A wide range of diseases was taken into account for the comparison: including viral infections such as influenza, infections with HIV and Zika, bacterial infections such as tuberculosis and bacterial sepsis, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. “All five COVID-19 phenotypes differ from the other diseases that we examined,” says Ulas, summing up the results. “COVID-19 apparently has a unique biology, which is reflected in the gene activity of immune cells in the blood. In this respect, expression analysis could be used to diagnose COVID-19. That would be an alternative or a supplement to current procedures. “

Search for active ingredients

The scientists also looked for possible drugs against COVID-19. To do this, they used the effects of around 900 approved drugs on the expression patterns of cells, which are stored in databases. “We calculated which pharmaceuticals could counteract the changed gene activity profiles of the individual COVID-19 phenotypes,” says Aschenbrenner, describing the procedure. On this basis, drug candidates for the therapy could be identified. “As early as April last year, for example, we calculated a potential effectiveness for dexamethasone and baricitinib in one of the patient groups we identified with a severe course. It must be clearly stated that these types of analyzes are not recommendations for treatment. However, they do offer starting points for therapy development, which must then be checked in appropriate studies. In the case of dexamethasone and baricitinib, our predictions turned out to be correct. This is an indication of the strength of our approach of using blood transcriptomes to better characterize and classify patients. “

(Originalpublikation: Disease severity-specific neutrophil signatures in blood transcriptomes stratify COVID-19 patients, Aschenbrenner et al., Genome Medicine (2021), DOI: 10.1186/s13073-020-00823-5;


Gray market king Malte Hartwieg arrested

Dima24 founder

Most recently, Malte Hartwieg appeared publicly as an extreme athlete. That’s over for now. The authorities arrested him on suspicion of investment fraud.

(Photo: obs – Every day counts eV – Edgar Wittig)

Berlin When a three-digit million amount disappeared and his group of companies imploded, Malte Hartwieg (48) surprised the donors with an astonishing announcement. He said he was ready to go to jail, but before that he had to be proven that he had done something bad. “I’m not aware of any guilt,” he said in 2017 in a café at Budapest Airport.

Four years later, the Munich judiciary is now preparing to clarify the question of guilt in a binding manner. According to information from the Handelsblatt, the authorities arrested Hartwieg on December 8th and issued an arrest warrant for him the next day. Until further notice he has to wait for his main hearing in a prison. It could be the end of spring at the earliest, said a court spokesman. It should be a mammoth process.

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Goldfinger tax-saving model: criminal proceedings have been discontinued

gold bar

With gold trading companies abroad, top earners could generate tax losses and ideally reduce their tax burden to zero.

(Photo: dpa)

Düsseldorf It was the first of a whole series of planned criminal trials for the controversial Goldfinger tax model, which was once popular with income millionaires. Now the proceedings against two accused lawyers before the local district court have come to an end after a year

The proverbial image of the tiger, which ended up as a bedside rug, has seldom fitted as well as the Augsburg public prosecutor’s approach in this case. Because the pilot process in one of the largest tax penal complexes in the republic ended in an embarrassment for the investigators.

The proceedings against the two Munich lawyers were discontinued. Officially “because of insignificance”. In practice, the negotiated end behind the scenes, which the public prosecutor had to agree to, means an acquittal. Even more so, because the state and thus the taxpayer will have to compensate the two defendants accused of tax evasion.

The men who were in custody for months and whose office subsequently collapsed will probably each receive a sum of a million. Because practically none of the prosecutors’ narrative about tax evasion through sham deals was true. And the investigators themselves have long been threatened with criminal trouble.

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Scandal bank Lehman wants to repay a large part of the cum-ex profits

London’s financial district

The British unit of the US bank Lehman Brothers was one of the most important players in the cum-ex deals on the short side.

(Foto: Bloomberg)

Düsseldorf German authorities are facing a great success in coming to terms with the Cum-Ex scandal: The insolvency administrator of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers, which went down in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008, has in principle agreed to repay a large part of the profits that the bank made with Cum-Ex – had achieved deals.

“We hope and expect to reach an amicable solution to these matters,” said a spokesman for the insolvency administrator of Lehman Brothers International Europe when asked. He did not mention any amount, but it was a “substantial reserve”.

According to information from the Handelsblatt from informed circles, it could be a sum of around 50 million euros. It would be one of the highest amounts any bank would ever send to the state for its involvement in cum-ex deals.

In cum-ex transactions, shares were traded in a circle around the date of the dividend distribution without any real economic sense. The sole purpose: on a given date, the tax authorities were simulated by means of short sales that there were two owners of one and the same share. One of them then paid a capital gains tax, both of which had this “refunded”. As a result of this practice, the state has lost twelve billion euros over the years.

The Lehman case could now have a signal effect: because the bank pays even though it did not collect any capital gains tax itself. Lehman acted as a so-called short seller in the cum-ex deals. In doing so, she sold shares that did not even belong to her. Without such a short seller, the circular deals would usually not have been possible.

Lehman earned lavish commissions from business partners for the deals. The “German Trades”, as they were called internally, were extremely lucrative.

In 2007 and 2008 in particular, the UK unit of the US investment bank was one of the key players in the cum-ex deals on the short-side. According to research by the Handelsblatt, their share of the booty from the state coffers was more than 100 million euros.

It was only shortly before the collapse that the investment bankers got scruples. “The first shortsellers are already getting nervous. In any case, Lehman is fed up, “noted a consulting lawyer from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in an email when the former NRW-Landesbank WestLB bought 14 percent of the shares in the former Daimler-Chrysler joint venture.

Criminal investigations continue

The Lehman insolvency administrator wants to close the Cum-Ex chapter at least financially. It is still unclear what the financial agreement with Lehman Brothers will mean for the criminal investigation of the case.

The Cologne public prosecutor is investigating several former employees of the bank. Upon request, a spokesman for the authorities did not want to comment on the case and the negotiations with the insolvency administrator.

For the authority, the interim success is just a piece of the mosaic in a giant puzzle. The Cologne public prosecutor’s office is investigating around 70 financial institutions and more than 900 suspects. The authorities in Frankfurt and Munich are also investigating and suing. The lists of public prosecutors include investment bankers, bank executives, tax attorneys and auditors, a total of around 1,000 suspects.

In addition to the buyers of the shares and the shortsellers, other players must fear sanctions. Investigative and financial authorities also take action against brokers such as ICAP, lenders such as Deutsche Bank or custodian banks such as Caceis. The Bavarian financial authorities, for example, are demanding more than 300 million euros from Caceis. The subsidiary of the major French bank Crédit Agricole, in turn, has sued numerous former business partners for damages.

In March 2020, a pilot trial ended with a conviction of two defendants at the Bonn Regional Court. A former high-ranking banker from MM Warburg is currently on trial in a second case.

In Bonn two criminal chambers deal with Cum-Ex cases, and more are to be set up. It should be possible to conduct up to ten proceedings there at the same time. Litigation will also start shortly at the regional courts in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt.

The task of the criminal prosecutors is so great that on the initiative of the North Rhine-Westphalia Minister of Justice Peter Biesenbach even a change in the law was recently initiated. Because proceedings for such tax offenses had to be initiated no later than ten years after the offense, numerous cum-ex cases threatened to go unpunished. This danger has been averted: the deadline will be extended to 15 years.

More: Why auditors are also criticized in the cum-ex scandal


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Alleged police violence in Essen: “Otherwise I’ll break your arm!”

A soldier is on trial for allegedly attacking officials. But he speaks of racist police violence. It wouldn’t be the first case.

In December 2019 the traffic control escalated (symbol photo) Photo: image

ESSEN taz | “In the worst case, that can mean that I lose my job,” says Mathis C. * when he stood before the Essen district court on Friday morning. He is black, a regular soldier in the German Armed Forces and has been charged with assaulting law enforcement officers. If convicted, he faces dismissal. His friend Dennis K. is charged with resisting law enforcement officers. The occasion is an incident from December 2019 in Essen. At that time, the accused and Dennis K.’s ex-girlfriend got into a traffic control as a passenger in a friend’s car.

“Where are you going, where are you from?” A police officer is said to have asked after stopping her. So there is Mathis C. on Friday in front of the district court. Because the officer had not introduced himself, had been aggressive and had not explained the reason for the measure, C. and his friends did not answer the questions. The officer then waved them to the side of the road and the driver got out at the direction of the police. C. remained seated, Dennis K. left the car with the consent of the police.

According to his own statements, K. wanted to film the event with his smartphone from a few meters away. A police officer told him that he was not allowed to do that. Then, as the ex-girlfriend and the driver say, the officer pushed him twice and finally “knocked the cell phone out of his hand”.

When the defendant picked up the cell phone, the situation escalated: the officer “grabbed my neck” and someone else brought him to the ground, K. tells in the room. The officers are said to have kicked his head several times when he tried to protect himself “without resistance”. Prosecutors allege that he slapped a blow in the direction of an officer, a “threat of violence”. He denies that.

Threat of sound recording

Mathis C. – meanwhile got out of the car – said he was gesticulating and was upset: “How often do you want to face him?” The soldier called out to the police. After an officer asked him to be quiet, he leaned against the car with his hands in his trouser pockets – until police reinforcements arrived and another police officer asked him to take his hands out of his pockets.

There is a sound recording of this situation on the driver’s cell phone. Only two seconds after the prompt, it rumbled: C. was brought to the ground. “A policeman pressed his shin in my face,” he says. The witnesses report that police officers also attacked him. On the sound recording, an officer threatened him: “Put your fucking hands on your back, otherwise I’ll break your arm, you wanker”.

The prosecutor accuses C. of swinging his arms around on the floor and hitting a police officer. “An assault on law enforcement officers […] The officer was not injured, ”said the prosecutor. Defendant C. also suffered no certified injuries. The defendant K. presented pictures with bruises and slight bleeding in court.

Defendant suspects Rassimus

Mathis C. accuses the policemen of not having treated him so brutally by chance. He told the taz: “The Essen police recently had many cases of racism and right-wing extremism. So I find it hard to believe that this is not racism. ”Racist remarks were not made during the incident. However, according to taz research, at least two of the police officers were also involved in another case of alleged racist police violence in Essen.

This case got through the media in the spring. Loveth A., a 50-year-old black woman from Mülheim, went to the Essen Mitte police station with her children in March 2020 and wanted to file a complaint because her wallet had been stolen. According to her, one of the first questions the police asked at the time was: “Have you been stolen or have you stolen?” The situation later escalated: up to 15 police officers fell on her and her children for no reason and injured them. The police themselves later confirmed a confrontation at the station, but justified it with “acts of resistance” and rejected the accusation of racism.

As in the case of Mathis C. and Dennis K., Loveth A. and one of their sons were investigated for resisting law enforcement officers. The case with the mother was discontinued. Two daughters are still being investigated for insult. Although the family themselves filed charges of assault in office, according to the family’s lawyer, there have been no recognizable efforts to investigate since March 2020.

“Openly racist tone”

In the police station in the middle, an “openly racist tone” should prevail, criticized the former Essen prosecutor Bernd Schmalhausen in September Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. In raids against black drug dealers, for example, officials would brag about “hunting” “N ****”.

The Essen police also got into conversation this year because of alleged right-wing extremist chats by their officers. 31 police officers were temporarily suspended. Some are now considered innocent. According to the authorities, however, the initial suspicion was confirmed against 15 officials. Two of the police officers who were suspended because of right-wing extremist chats are also said to have served at the Mitte police station.

Meanwhile, the police witnesses in the case of C. and K. did not appear in court on Friday. The judge couldn’t clarify why. The process is therefore to be negotiated with the officials on January 5th. Mathis C. was visibly depressed after the first day of the trial: “It’s very grueling for me,” he told taz afterwards.

* Name changed


The hunt for Hunter Biden has gone – Kommersant newspaper No. 228 (6949) of 12/11/2020

The son of de facto US President-elect Joe Biden, Hunter, is involved in a Justice Department investigation that began back in 2018. This became known the day before. Hunter Biden, in particular, is suspected of tax fraud. He himself categorically denies the charges.

“Yesterday I first learned that the US Attorney’s Office in Delaware had informed my legal advisers about an investigation into my tax cases,” Hunter Biden wrote in an open statement. He noted that he is serious about the issue and is confident that a professional and impartial investigation will show that he “conducted business lawfully and in accordance with the established procedure in cooperation with professional tax consultants”. It is significant that Hunter Biden’s statement was posted on the website of the Biden-Harris transitional administration.

By the way, there is also a separate proposal authored by the transitional administration itself:

«President-elect Biden is very proud of his son, who overcame difficult trials, including personal attacks, in recent months and has only grown stronger. “

As reported by The New York Times, the case was opened in late 2018 and initially included suspicions not only of tax evasion, but also of money laundering. However, the second suspicion was dropped because the FBI agents were unable to find enough evidence that could be presented in court.

Sources of CNN, in turn, noted that investigators are focusing on Hunter Biden’s Chinese contacts. In 2017, after Joe Biden was no longer vice president, his son helped CEFC China Energy close a deal to invest in US energy projects. A valuable gift attracted the attention of lawyers: after one of the business meetings in 2017, the founder and former chairman of CEFC China Energy, Ye Jianming, presented Hunter Biden with a 2.8 carat diamond. Two years later, in an interview with The New Yorker, Mr. Biden admitted that he was unpleasant to receive this gift, he gave the diamond to his colleagues and does not know what they did with it. “I understood that it was not very good to receive him. I felt pretty embarrassed, “Biden Jr. said then. It is not known whether he reported the receipt of this diamond in his tax return. The deal, according to Hunter Biden, did not take place, but it is known that the CEFC subsidiary China Energy in August 2017 transferred $ 100 thousand to the accounts of Hunter Biden’s law firm. Mr. E was subsequently arrested in China on corruption charges.

In addition, in the future, Hunter Biden worked as a lawyer for businessman Patrick Ho. He ran an organization close to CEFC China Energy, and in 2018 was sentenced to three years for giving millions in bribes: the businessman paid officials in Chad and Uganda to be loyal to CEFC China Energy’s energy projects in their countries.

There is another episode of Hunter Biden’s “Chinese epic” dating back to 2013, when Joe Biden was still the vice president of the United States. Back then, Biden Jr. worked closely with American and Chinese businessmen who set up the BHR Partners investment fund to enable them to invest in projects outside of China. The main shareholder of BHR Partners was Bank of China controlled by the PRC authorities. Hunter Biden was on the board of directors, but did not officially receive money for this work. When Joe Biden left office, Biden Jr. left BHR Partners, taking his share in the authorized capital.

There are other dubious episodes in the biography of Hunter Biden: in particular, he received about $ 50 thousand a month, as a member of the board of directors of the Ukrainian company Burisma, and also worked as an adviser to the Romanian businessman Gabriel Popovicu (later convicted of corruption).

Sarah Chase, author of State Thieves: How Corruption Harms Global Security, told NPR radio station, foreign companies often try to influence American politicians by giving business preferences to their relatives. “Regardless of the important person I start researching, I stumble upon this practice. This is very common. How did we manage to convince ourselves that this is not corruption? ” Asked Mrs. Chase.

As the New York Times notes, now that the investigation is reliably known, and Donald Trump’s appointees remain in power in the United States, the Justice Department controlled by his appointee may make one of its last actions the institution of a case against Hunter Biden, whom the current owner of the White House has repeatedly criticized during the election campaign. In any case, the first months of the work of US President Joe Biden will surely be darkened, and for this he can thank his son.

Moreover, the situation, it seems, may not be limited to one federal case: as it became known to the Politico publication, the authorities of the state of New York also became interested in Hunter Biden in the framework of cases of money laundering and foreign relations.

Alexey Naumov


Police scandal in Weimar: Public prosecutor determined

The taz research on grievances in the Weimar police have consequences. The public prosecutor’s office is now responsible for investigating the police.

Suspicion of bodily harm and theft of narcotics: Now the public prosecutor is investigating Photo: Karina Hessland / image

After a non-public meeting of the Thuringian Interior Committee on Thursday, it became known that the public prosecutor’s office had taken over the investigation against Thuringian police officers. Specifically, it concerns the allegations around the office in Weimar.

In November, the Interior Committee discussed the allegations for the first time on the initiative of the left-wing faction’s domestic policy spokesman, Steffen Dittes. The internal investigations department of the state police department had previously examined the allegations, and now it has passed the investigation over to the public prosecutor’s office. This gives no information due to ongoing investigations.

taz research revealed new abuses in the police station in October. An officer is said to have been guilty of assault on several occasions in the service, was in possession of incorrectly registered weapons and stalked his ex-wife. Another officer is also said to be responsible for the disappearance of narcotics.

The head of the department, René Treunert, is said to have known about the events, but not conducted any internal investigations. He is accused of having exerted “massive pressure” so that the matter was not investigated, as stated in a letter from police officers to the taz. Treunert denied any allegations. He had an employee interview to clarify. Left-wing politician Dittes said at the time that the allegation of bodily harm cannot be resolved with a conversation, but with an investigation.

On Thursday, Dittes told the taz that he expected “investigative findings to be brought as soon as possible”. He referred to the delay in the investigation into the case of a police officer from Weimar who, in exchange for information on the drug environment, had passed on internal police data and sent Dickpics, i.e. photos of his genitals, to a young girl. The taz published a research on this in May.


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the 2nd phase of the “Minore” project is underway

LECCE – Despite and beyond the health emergency from Covid-19, the activities of the project continue “Minor“Of the ASL of Lecce. The project is aimed at monitoring the health of the water table, the soil and the food matrix, with particular attention to potentially dangerous places, such as landfills.

The Director of the Prevention Department, Giovanni De Filippis, presented, via videoconference, the start of phase 2 which provides for an increase in environmental controls.

The results of the 1st phase, we remind you, were encouraging: it emerged, in fact, that groundwater is of good quality and can also be used in agricultural activities.

During the meeting Professor Antonella De Donno, together with his pupil Francesca Serio, illustrated the link between a fearful disease, the Seu o hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and contamination of food or irrigation water by Escherichia coli.

Unfortunately, the disease mainly affects children, recalled the regional manager of the diagnostic-therapeutic network of the Seu, Mario Giordano.

In 2020, he added, there were 38 reported cases of hemorrhagic enteritis of which 6 cases of real Seu which, in some situations, such as in the case of the Salento girl, unfortunately ended with the loss of the little patient.

The director of pediatric nephrology at the hospital John 23 of Bari therefore reiterated the need to monitor and inform citizens so that bleeding diarrhea in children are never underestimated.

The monitoring activity on food was detailed by the veterinary services managers of the Lecce Asl together with Dr. Antonio Parisi of the Zooprophylactic Institute of Puglia and Basilicata and with doctors Sergio De Pascali and Daniele Tondo, who also highlighted the correspondence between the use of antibiotics in animals and the potential passage in humans through derivative products, and the contribution of doctor Roberto Licci del Sian.

Arpa Puglia then confirmed the safety of the wastewater leaving the purifiers, also certifying the absence of contamination by the Sars-Cov2 coronavirus.

Pierpaolo Abis, head of the analysis department of Acquedotto Pugliese, added that “thanks to the collaboration with the ASL it is possible to guarantee the Apulians a product of quality and free from epidemiological risks. Environmental contamination is crucial for prevention related to the risks deriving from the improper disposal of wastewater released incorrectly into the environment “.

Abis therefore invited all citizens reached by the service to connect to the Aqp sewer system and not to use water improperly, through wells not authorized for human use.

Finally, the director De Filippis presented the permanent working group within the ASL, set up at the Prevention department and called “Observatory health and environment of the Lecce ASL “whose contact person is doctor Prisco Piscitelli, creating multi-institutional synergies to guarantee Lea on the environmental determinants of health in Salento.

The meeting was attended by the regional councilors Loredana Capone and Mario Pendinelli who highlighted the need to continue with this in-depth work for preventive purposes.