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FTR #1124 The Magic Virus Theory: The “Whole-of-Society Response”

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FTR #1124 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.    

NB: This descrip­tion con­tains mate­r­i­al not includ­ed in the orig­i­nal broad­cast.

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram takes stock of some of the remark­able fea­tures of the Covid-19 coro­n­avirus, to be seen in the con­text of a coun­try whose political/intellectual elites have accept­ed the “Mag­ic Bul­let The­o­ry.” (This is dis­cussed in–among oth­er pro­grams–The Guns of Novem­ber, Part 2.)

It is our con­sid­ered opin­ion that the virus is part of the desta­bi­liza­tion effort against Chi­na and is found­ed upon research high­light­ed in, among oth­er pro­grams, FTR #‘s 1119 and 1120.

As high­light­ed below, all of this must be eval­u­at­ed in light of the fact that the coor­di­na­tor of the anti-Chi­na effort–former Trump cam­paign man­ag­er Steve Ban­non–is a fas­cist.

In addi­tion to review­ing how the Covid-19 virus infects human lung tis­sue and both the upper and low­er res­pi­ra­to­ry tracts, we note:

  1. The virus appears to have been a bat virus and the ran­dom muta­tions seen are unlike­ly to be nat­ur­al: ” . . . . What are the odds that a ran­dom bat virus had exact­ly the right com­bi­na­tion of traits to effec­tive­ly infect human cells from the get-go, and then jump into an unsus­pect­ing per­son? ‘Very low,’ [Kris­t­ian] Ander­sen [of the Scripps Research Trans­la­tion­al Insti­tute] says . . . . ”
  2. The abil­i­ty of this bat virus to infect ACE2 was present from day one. ” . . . . . The clos­est wild rel­a­tive of SARS-CoV­‑2 is found in bats, which sug­gests it orig­i­nat­ed in a bat, then jumped to humans either direct­ly or through anoth­er species. . . . When SARS-clas­sic first made this leap, a brief peri­od of muta­tion was nec­es­sary for it to rec­og­nize ACE2 well. But SARS-CoV­‑2 could do that from day one. ‘It had already found its best way of being a [human] virus,’ says Matthew Frie­man of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land School of Med­i­cine. . . .
  3. Indeed, why was this “sev­enth virus” the one to infect humans “. . . . This fam­i­ly, the coro­n­avirus­es, includes just six oth­er mem­bers that infect humans. . . . . Why was this sev­enth coro­n­avirus the one to go pan­dem­ic? Sud­den­ly, what we do know about coro­n­avirus­es becomes a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al con­cern. . . .”
  4. Per­haps the most notable obser­va­tion made about this virus thus far: it doesn’t appear to be mutat­ing in evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly sig­nif­i­cant ways. Of the 100-plus muta­tions observed in the virus so far, none has emerged as evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly dominant–unusual for a virus that only recent­ly jumped to humans. and has spread pro­lif­i­cal­ly. It’s as though the virus is already evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly opti­mized for spread­ing among humans and there are no ‘gain-of-func­tion’ muta­tions left for it acquire. As Lisa Gralin­s­ki, a coro­n­avirus expert at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Chapel Hill, described it, ‘The virus has been remark­ably sta­ble giv­en how much trans­mis­sion we’ve seen . . . . there’s no evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sure on the virus to trans­mit bet­ter. It’s doing a great job of spread­ing around the world right now.’ . . .”
  5. As dis­cussed in oth­er programs–including FTR #‘s 1117 and 1121, the “cytokine storms” that over­whelm the immune sys­tem of some Covid-19 vic­tims are symp­to­matic of oth­er virus­es that have under­gone either “Gain-of-Func­tion” alter­ation and/or genet­ic recov­ery and recreation–HN1 Avian Flu, SARS, and the 1918 “Span­ish Flu” virus: ” . . . . These dam­ag­ing over­re­ac­tions are called cytokine storms. They were his­tor­i­cal­ly respon­si­ble for many deaths dur­ing the 1918 flu pan­dem­ic, H5N1 bird flu out­breaks, and the 2003 SARS out­break.  . . . .”

In addi­tion, an arti­cle in Sci­ence Direct char­ac­ter­izes the advent of the furin-like cleav­age site as a “gain-of-func­tion” phe­nom­e­non. “Gain of Func­tion” is a mech­a­nism of action of an “Enhanced Poten­tial Pan­dem­ic Pathogen.” Note the use of the word “strik­ing­ly” in this oth­er­wise dry and pedan­tic aca­d­e­m­ic pre­sen­ta­tion. It is VERY sig­nif­i­cant and–we suspect–betokens aware­ness on the part of the authors that “we aren’t in Kansas, any­more, Toto!” “. . . . STRIKINGLY [caps are ours–D.E.], the 2019-nCoV S‑protein sequence con­tains 12 addi­tion­al nucleotides upstream of the sin­gle Arg↓ cleav­age site 1 (Fig. 1, Fig. 2) lead­ing to a pre­dic­tive­ly sol­vent-exposed PRRAR↓SV sequence, which cor­re­sponds to a canon­i­cal furin-like cleav­age site (Braun and Sauter, 2019; Iza­guirre, 2019; Sei­dah and Prat, 2012). This furin-like cleav­age site, is sup­posed to be cleaved dur­ing virus egress (Mille and Whit­tak­er, 2014) for S‑protein ‘prim­ing’ and may pro­vide a gain-of-func­tion to the 2019-nCoV for effi­cient spread­ing in the human pop­u­la­tion com­pared to oth­er lin­eage b beta­coro­n­avirus­es. This pos­si­bly illus­trates a con­ver­gent evo­lu­tion path­way between unre­lat­ed CoVs. Inter­est­ing­ly, if this site is not processed, the S‑protein is expect­ed to be cleaved at site 2 dur­ing virus endo­cy­to­sis, as observed for the SARS-CoV. . . .”

The arti­cle also notes that the virus dif­fers sig­nif­i­cant­ly from oth­er coro­n­avirus­es of its type. ” . . . . Based on its genome sequence, 2019-nCoV belongs to lin­eage b of Beta­coro­n­avirus (Fig. 1A), which also includes the SARS-CoV and bat CoV ZXC21, the lat­ter and CoV ZC45 being the clos­est to 2019-nCoV. . . . Since furin is high­ly expressed in lungs, an enveloped virus that infects the res­pi­ra­to­ry tract may suc­cess­ful­ly exploit this con­ver­tase to acti­vate its sur­face gly­co­pro­tein (Bassi et al., 2017Mbikay et al., 1997). Before the emer­gence of the 2019-nCoV, this impor­tant fea­ture was not observed in the lin­eage b of beta­coro­n­avirus­es. . . .”

Horse­shoe Bat

The fea­tures of the virus not­ed above must be seen in the con­text of the DARPA research into bat coro­n­avirus­es:

  1. ” . . . . the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far. . . . For instance, DARPA spent $10 mil­lion on one project in 2018 ‘to unrav­el the com­plex caus­es of bat-borne virus­es that have recent­ly made the jump to humans, caus­ing con­cern among glob­al health offi­cials.’ Anoth­er research project backed by both DARPA and NIH saw researchers at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty exam­ine the coro­n­avirus that caus­es Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) in bats and camels ‘to under­stand the role of these hosts in trans­mit­ting dis­ease to humans.’  . . . For instance, one study con­duct­ed in South­ern Chi­na in 2018 result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of 89 new ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ strains that use the same recep­tor as the coro­n­avirus known as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS). That study was joint­ly fund­ed by the Chi­nese government’s Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, USAID — an orga­ni­za­tion long alleged to be a front for U.S. intel­li­gence, and the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Health — which has col­lab­o­rat­ed with both the CIA and the Pen­ta­gonon infec­tious dis­ease and bioweapons research.. . . .”
  2. DARPA is doing this work, in part, at bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ties ring­ing both Chi­na and Rus­sia. ” . . . .  One of those stud­ies focused on ‘Bat-Borne Zoonot­ic Dis­ease Emer­gence in West­ern Asia’ and involved the Lugar Cen­ter in Geor­gia, iden­ti­fied by for­mer Geor­gian gov­ern­ment offi­cialsthe Russ­ian gov­ern­mentand inde­pen­dent, inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Dilyana Gay­tandzhie­va as a covert U.S. bioweapons lab. . . . Anoth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed study that dis­cov­ered still more new strains of ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ was pub­lished just last year. Titled ‘Dis­cov­ery and Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nov­el Bat Coro­n­avirus Lin­eages from Kaza­khstan,’ focused on ‘the bat fau­na of cen­tral Asia, which link Chi­na to east­ern Europe’ and the nov­el bat coro­n­avirus lin­eages dis­cov­ered dur­ing the study were found to be ‘close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es from Chi­na, France, Spain, and South Africa, sug­gest­ing that co-cir­cu­la­tion of coro­n­avirus­es is com­mon in mul­ti­ple bat species with over­lap­ping geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­b­u­tions.’ In oth­er words, the coro­n­avirus­es dis­cov­ered in this study were iden­ti­fied in bat pop­u­la­tions that migrate between Chi­na and Kaza­khstan, among oth­er coun­tries, and is close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na. . . .”

U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Disease–located at Ft. Det­rick and closed by the CDC for safe­ty vio­la­tions in August, 2019.

The unusu­al fea­tures of the virus must also be seen in the con­text of the Steve Ban­non-led anti-Chi­na desta­bi­liza­tion effort. It is our opin­ion that the spread­ing of the virus is intend­ed to pro­voke the “Whole-of-soci­ety” response. As dis­cussed in FTR #947, the dom­i­nant intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal influ­ence on Ban­non is the Ital­ian fas­cist Julius Evola. Orig­i­nal­ly a sup­port­er of Mus­soli­ni, he ulti­mate­ly decid­ed Mus­soli­ni was too mod­er­ate and in an ide­o­log­i­cal “Gain-of-Func­tion” muta­tion, asso­ci­at­ed him­self with the Nazi SS, who were financ­ing his work by the end of World War II. 

Ban­non’s assess­ment of U.S.-China rela­tions amounts to a dec­la­ra­tion of “Totaler Krieg–Total War.” ” . . . ‘These are two sys­tems that are incom­pat­i­ble,’ Mr. Ban­non said of the Unit­ed States and Chi­na. ‘One side is going to win, and one side is going to lose.’ . . . .”

The coro­n­avirus attack we believe was unleashed on the U.S. and the world as a whole (to alien­ate it from Chi­na) and Chi­na itself (to inflect eco­nom­ic dam­age and stir up domes­tic unrest) is the man­i­fes­ta­tion of what the head of the FBI expressed: ” . . . . ‘I think it’s going to take a whole-of-soci­ety response by us.’ . . .”

Of para­mount impor­tance is the fact that state­ments being issued to the effect that the virus was not made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry are not just irrel­e­vant, but absurd. ANY virus can be made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry, from scratch, as is being done for the SARS-CoV­‑2 (Covid-19) virus.

The bro­mides being issued–all too predictably–that the virus could not have been/wasn’t made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry are the viro­log­i­cal equiv­a­lent of the Mag­ic Bul­let The­o­ry.

We first dis­cussed “Design­er Genes” in FTR #282.

Ralph Baric–who did the gain-of-func­tion mod­i­fi­ca­tion on the Horse­shoe Bat coro­n­avirus, has been select­ed to engi­neer the Covid-19.

” . . . . The remark­able abil­i­ty to ‘boot up’  virus­es from genet­ic instruc­tions is made pos­si­ble by com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture cus­tom DNA mol­e­cules, such as Inte­grat­ed DNA Tech­nol­o­gy, Twist Bio­science, and Atum. By order­ing the right genes, which cost a few thou­sand dol­lars, and then stitch­ing them togeth­er to cre­ate a copy of the coro­n­avirus genome, it’s pos­si­ble to inject the genet­ic mate­r­i­al into cells and jump-start the virus to life. The abil­i­ty to make a lethal virus from mail-order DNA was first demon­strat­ed 20 years ago. . . .”

Note what might be termed a “viro­log­ic Juras­sic Park” man­i­fes­ta­tion: ” . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

A key fac­tor spurring our sus­pi­cion con­cern­ing genet­ic-engi­neer­ing of one or more vari­ant of the Covid-19 virus con­cerns a 2015 Gain-of-Func­tion exper­i­ment done by the above Ralph Bar­ic: “Ralph Bar­ic, an infec­tious-dis­ease researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, last week (Novem­ber 9) pub­lished a study on his team’s efforts to engi­neer a virus with the sur­face pro­tein of the SHC014 coro­n­avirus, found in horse­shoe bats in Chi­na, and the back­bone of one that caus­es human-like severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome (SARS) in mice. The hybrid virus could infect human air­way cells and caused dis­ease in mice. . . . The results demon­strate the abil­i­ty of the SHC014 sur­face pro­tein to bind and infect human cells, val­i­dat­ing con­cerns that this virus—or oth­er coro­n­avirus­es found in bat species—may be capa­ble of mak­ing the leap to peo­ple with­out first evolv­ing in an inter­me­di­ate host, Nature report­ed. They also reignite a debate about whether that infor­ma­tion jus­ti­fies the risk of such work, known as gain-of-func­tion research. ‘If the [new] virus escaped, nobody could pre­dict the tra­jec­to­ry,’ Simon Wain-Hob­son, a virol­o­gist at the Pas­teur Insti­tute in Paris, told Nature. . . .”

Exem­pli­fy­ing the “See-No-Evil, Hear-No-Evil, Speak-No-Evil” myopia of the Main­stream Media, a New York Times arti­cle blends edi­to­ri­al­iza­tion with stud­ied igno­rance: . . . . While con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries might false­ly claim the virus was con­coct­ed in a lab, the virus’s genome makes clear that it arose in bats. There are many kinds of coro­n­avirus­es, which infect both humans and ani­mals. Dr. Boni and his col­leagues found that the genome of the new virus con­tains a num­ber of muta­tions in com­mon with strains of coro­n­avirus­es that infect bats. The most close­ly relat­ed coro­n­avirus is in a Chi­nese horse­shoe bat, the researchers found. But the new virus has gained some unique muta­tions since split­ting off from that bat virus decades ago. Dr. Boni said that ances­tral virus prob­a­bly gave rise to a num­ber of strains that infect­ed horse­shoe bats, and per­haps some­times oth­er ani­mals. . . .”

With Dr. Bar­ic hav­ing genet­i­cal­ly manip­u­lat­ed a Chi­nese horse­shoe bat coro­n­avirus to infect human lung tis­sue, Carl Zimmer–the author of the Times article–cannot hon­est­ly make such a state­ment. ANY virus can be syn­the­sized FROM SCRATCH in a lab­o­ra­to­ry, as we have seen.

An arti­cle pub­lished after this pro­gram was record­ed high­lights the VERY unusu­al aspects of Covid-19. ” . . . . ‘I’ve been study­ing virus­es since 1978,’ Dr. James Hil­dreth, Mehar­ry Med­ical Col­lege CEO and an infec­tious dis­ease expert based out of Nashville, told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move this week (video above). ‘And I think it’s fair to say we’ve not encoun­tered a virus quite like this, just because of the broad range of tis­sue types in our body it infects.’ . . .”

1a. Steve Bannon–one of the lumi­nar­ies of the “Alt-Right,” and a for­mer key Trump aide is cen­tral­ly involved in the anti-Chi­na effort. 

Note Ban­non and com­pa­ny’s net­work­ing with the Falun Gong cult and “Chi­nese Mus­lim Free­dom Fighters”–read “Uighurs.’ The desta­bi­liza­tion of Chi­na is the con­text in which the Covid-19 epi­dem­ic must be eval­u­at­ed.

“A New Red Scare Is Reshap­ing Wash­ing­ton” by Ana Swan­son; The New York Times; 7/20/2019.

In a ball­room across from the Capi­tol build­ing, an unlike­ly group of mil­i­tary hawks, pop­ulist cru­saders, Chi­nese Mus­lim free­dom fight­ers [Uighurs–D.E.] and fol­low­ers of the Falun Gong has been meet­ing to warn any­one who will lis­ten that Chi­na pos­es an exis­ten­tial threat to the Unit­ed States that will not end until the Com­mu­nist Par­ty is over­thrown.

If the warn­ings sound straight out of the Cold War, they are. The Com­mit­tee on the Present Dan­ger, a long-defunct group that cam­paigned against the dan­gers of the Sovi­et Union in the 1970s and 1980s, has recent­ly been revived with the help of Stephen K. Ban­non, the president’s for­mer chief strate­gist, to warn against the dan­gers of Chi­na.

Once dis­missed as xeno­phobes and fringe ele­ments, the group’s mem­bers are find­ing their views increas­ing­ly embraced in Pres­i­dent Trump’s Wash­ing­ton, where skep­ti­cism and mis­trust of Chi­na have tak­en hold. Fear of Chi­na has spread across the gov­ern­ment, from the White House to Con­gress to fed­er­al agen­cies, where Beijing’s rise is unques­tion­ing­ly viewed as an eco­nom­ic and nation­al secu­ri­ty threat and the defin­ing chal­lenge of the 21st cen­tu­ry.

“These are two sys­tems that are incom­pat­i­ble,” Mr. Ban­non said of the Unit­ed States and Chi­na. “One side is going to win, and one side is going to lose.” . . . .

. . . . Anti-Chi­na sen­ti­ment has spread quick­ly, with Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats, labor union lead­ers, Fox News hosts and oth­ers warn­ing that China’s efforts to build up its mil­i­tary and advanced indus­tries threat­en America’s glob­al lead­er­ship, and that the Unit­ed States should respond aggres­sive­ly. Skep­ti­cism has seeped into near­ly every aspect of China’s inter­ac­tion with the Unit­ed States, with offi­cials ques­tion­ing China’s pres­ence on Amer­i­can stock mar­kets, its con­struc­tion of Amer­i­can sub­way cars and its pur­chase of social media net­works. . . .

. . . . At a Sen­ate hear­ing last year, Christo­pher A. Wray, the F.B.I. direc­tor, said the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was try­ing to “view the Chi­na threat as not just a whole-of-gov­ern­ment threat, but a whole-of-soci­ety threat,” adding, “I think it’s going to take a whole-of-soci­ety response by us.” . . . .

1b. An inter­est­ing piece in “The Atlantic” describes how the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus that caus­es COVID-19 dif­fers from oth­er coro­n­avirus­es known to infect humans. We present this as sup­ple­men­tal to dis­cus­sion of DARPA research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es.

  • The virus appears to have been a bat virus and the ran­dom muta­tions seen are unlike­ly to be nat­ur­al: ” . . . . What are the odds that a ran­dom bat virus had exact­ly the right com­bi­na­tion of traits to effec­tive­ly infect human cells from the get-go, and then jump into an unsus­pect­ing per­son? ‘Very low,’ [Kris­t­ian] Ander­sen [of the says . . . . ”
  • The abil­i­ty of this bat virus to infect ACE2 was present from day one. ” . . . . . The clos­est wild rel­a­tive of SARS-CoV­‑2 is found in bats, which sug­gests it orig­i­nat­ed in a bat, then jumped to humans either direct­ly or through anoth­er species. (Anoth­er coro­n­avirus found in wild pan­golins also resem­bles SARS-CoV­‑2, but only in the small part of the spike that rec­og­nizes ACE2; the two virus­es are oth­er­wise dis­sim­i­lar, and pan­golins are unlike­ly to be the orig­i­nal reser­voir of the new virus.) When SARS-clas­sic first made this leap, a brief peri­od of muta­tion was nec­es­sary for it to rec­og­nize ACE2 well. But SARS-CoV­‑2 could do that from day one. ‘It had already found its best way of being a [human] virus,’ says Matthew Frie­man of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land School of Med­i­cine. . . .
  • Indeed, why was this “sev­enth virus” the one to infect humans “. . . . This fam­i­ly, the coro­n­avirus­es, includes just six oth­er mem­bers that infect humans. . . . . Why was this sev­enth coro­n­avirus the one to go pan­dem­ic? Sud­den­ly, what we do know about coro­n­avirus­es becomes a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al con­cern. . . .”
  • The SARS-CoV­‑2 (Covid-19) virus is unusu­al in that it infects The ‘spike’ part of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus is unusu­al­ly good at latch­ing into a pro­tein called ACE2 which is found on the exte­ri­or of the cells in human air­ways. This abil­i­ty appears to be fun­da­men­tal to the virus’s abil­i­ty to infect the upper res­pi­ra­to­ry tract. The virus appears to infect the upper air­ways first and then, as cells in them die and are sloughed off, it makes its way down to the low­er res­pi­ra­to­ry tract and lungs where the dead­ly infec­tions occur. This sequen­tial pat­tern of infect­ing the upper res­pi­ra­to­ry tract pri­or to mak­ing its way down to the lungs enables it to silent­ly spread asymp­to­mati­cal­ly before turn­ing more lethal in the low­er res­pi­ra­to­ry tract.
  • We note that the ACE2 pro­tein appears to man­i­fest more heav­i­ly in the lung tis­sue of  East-Asians. As indi­cat­ed in the Whit­ney Webb arti­cle, genet­ic mod­i­fi­ca­tion has been envi­sioned as applic­a­ble to bio­log­i­cal war­fare to cre­ate “eth­no-spe­cif­ic” bio­log­i­cal weapons.
  • Anoth­er key fea­ture of the virus’s abil­i­ty to infect humans con­cerns a pro­tein bridge con­nect­ing two halves of the virus’s spike. Acti­va­tion of this spike caus­es the virus injects its nucle­ic acid into the cell. Acti­vat­ing the spike requires the cleav­age of a pro­tein bridge con­nect­ing the two halves of the spike. That cleav­age is pre­cip­i­tat­ed by the enzyme furin which is ubiq­ui­tous in human cells. In con­trast, the coro­n­avirus which caused SARS had a pro­tein bridge that was less like­ly to be cleaved. SARS-CoV­‑2 first latch­es onto to human upper air­way cells and, once there, has the pro­tein bridge link­ing the halves of the spike sev­ered by the furin enzyme.
  • Per­haps the most notable obser­va­tion made about this virus thus far: it doesn’t appear to be mutat­ing in evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly sig­nif­i­cant ways. Of the 100-plus muta­tions observed in the virus so far, none has emerged as evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly dominant–unusual for a virus that only recent­ly jumped to humans. and has spread pro­lif­i­cal­ly. It’s as though the virus is already evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly opti­mized for spread­ing among humans and there are no ‘gain-of-func­tion’ muta­tions left for it acquire. As Lisa Gralin­s­ki, a coro­n­avirus expert at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Chapel Hill, described it, “The virus has been remark­ably sta­ble giv­en how much trans­mis­sion we’ve seen . . . . there’s no evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sure on the virus to trans­mit bet­ter. It’s doing a great job of spread­ing around the world right now.”
  • Gralin­sky works close­ly with Ralph Baric’s lab. Recall that Bar­ic is the researcher who con­struct­ed a chimeric virus out of a SARS virus and horse­shoe bat coro­n­avirus in 2015. When Gralin­s­ki observes that the virus wouldn’t feel any evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sure to spread because it’s already doing such a good job that is VERY sig­nif­i­cant. Evo­lu­tion doesn’t stop just because the sta­tus quo of an organ­ism is already effec­tive. A muta­tion allow­ing the virus to spread even more read­i­ly would be expect­ed. And nor­mal­ly such an event does hap­pen. But it hasn’t hap­pened so for SARS-CoV­‑2 because it is already at some­thing of a “coro­n­avirus evo­lu­tion­ary peak”.
  • Note that dis­eases that are symp­to­mati­cal­ly similar–the H5N1 avian flu, the 1918 influen­za virus and the orig­i­nal SARS virus were all the focal points of genet­ic manipulation–gain-of-function exper­i­ments and/or recov­ery and recre­ation maneu­vers:” . . . . in extreme cas­es, the immune sys­tem goes berserk, caus­ing more dam­age than the actu­al virus. For exam­ple, blood ves­sels might open up to allow defen­sive cells to reach the site of an infec­tion; that’s great, but if the ves­sels become tooleaky, the lungs fill even more with flu­id. These dam­ag­ing over­re­ac­tions are called cytokine storms. They were his­tor­i­cal­ly respon­si­ble for many deaths dur­ing the 1918 flu pan­dem­ic, H5N1 bird flu out­breaks, and the 2003 SARS out­break.  . . . .”

 “Why the Coro­n­avirus Has Been So Suc­cess­ful” Ed Yong; The Atlantic; 03/20/2020

One of the few mer­cies dur­ing this cri­sis is that, by their nature, indi­vid­ual coro­n­avirus­es are eas­i­ly destroyed. Each virus par­ti­cle con­sists of a small set of genes, enclosed by a sphere of fat­ty lipid mol­e­cules, and because lipid shells are eas­i­ly torn apart by soap, 20 sec­onds of thor­ough hand-wash­ing can take one down. Lipid shells are also vul­ner­a­ble to the ele­ments; a recent study shows that the new coro­n­avirus, SARS-CoV­‑2, sur­vives for no more than a day on card­board, and about two to three days on steel and plas­tic. These virus­es don’t endure in the world. They need bod­ies.

But much about coro­n­avirus­es is still unclear. Susan Weiss, of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, has been study­ing them for about 40 years. She says that in the ear­ly days, only a few dozen sci­en­tists shared her interest—and those num­bers swelled only slight­ly after the SARS epi­dem­ic of 2002. “Until then peo­ple looked at us as a back­ward field with not a lot of impor­tance to human health,” she says. But with the emer­gence of SARS-CoV‑2—the cause of the COVID-19 disease—no one is like­ly to repeat that mis­take again.

To be clear, SARS-CoV­‑2 is not the flu. It caus­es a dis­ease with dif­fer­ent symp­tomsspreads and kills more read­i­ly, and belongs to a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly of virus­es. This fam­i­ly, the coro­n­avirus­es, includes just six oth­er mem­bers that infect humans. Four of them—OC43, HKU1, NL63, and 229E—have been gen­tly annoy­ing humans for more than a cen­tu­ry, caus­ing a third of com­mon colds. The oth­er two—MERS and SARS (or “SARS-clas­sic,” as some virol­o­gists have start­ed call­ing it)—both cause far more severe dis­ease. Why was this sev­enth coro­n­avirus the one to go pan­dem­ic? Sud­den­ly, what we do know about coro­n­avirus­es becomes a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al con­cern.

The struc­ture of the virus pro­vides some clues about its suc­cess. In shape, it’s essen­tial­ly a spiky ball. Those spikes rec­og­nize and stick to a pro­tein called ACE2, which is found on the sur­face of our cells: This is the first step to an infec­tion. The exact con­tours of SARS-CoV‑2’s spikes allow it to stick far more strong­ly to ACE2 than SARS-clas­sic did, and “it’s like­ly that this is real­ly cru­cial for per­son-to-per­son trans­mis­sion,” says Angela Ras­mussen of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. In gen­er­al terms, the tighter the bond, the less virus required to start an infec­tion.

There’s anoth­er impor­tant fea­ture. Coro­n­avirus spikes con­sist of two con­nect­ed halves, and the spike acti­vates when those halves are sep­a­rat­ed; only then can the virus enter a host cell. In SARS-clas­sic, this sep­a­ra­tion hap­pens with some dif­fi­cul­ty. But in SARS-CoV­‑2, the bridge that con­nects the two halves can be eas­i­ly cut by an enzyme called furin, which is made by human cells and—crucially—is found across many tis­sues. “This is prob­a­bly impor­tant for some of the real­ly unusu­al things we see in this virus,” says Kris­t­ian Ander­sen of Scripps Research Trans­la­tion­al Insti­tute.

For exam­ple, most res­pi­ra­to­ry virus­es tend to infect either the upper or low­er air­ways. In gen­er­al, an upper-res­pi­ra­to­ry infec­tion spreads more eas­i­ly, but tends to be milder, while a low­er-res­pi­ra­to­ry infec­tion is hard­er to trans­mit, but is more severe. SARS-CoV­‑2 seems to infect both upper and low­er air­ways, per­haps because it can exploit the ubiq­ui­tous furin. This dou­ble wham­my could also con­ceiv­ably explain why the virus can spread between peo­ple before symp­toms show up—a trait that has made it so dif­fi­cult to con­trol. Per­haps it trans­mits while still con­fined to the upper air­ways, before mak­ing its way deep­er and caus­ing severe symp­toms. All of this is plau­si­ble but total­ly hypo­thet­i­cal; the virus was only dis­cov­ered in Jan­u­ary, and most of its biol­o­gy is still a mys­tery.

The new virus cer­tain­ly seems to be effec­tive at infect­ing humans, despite its ani­mal ori­gins. The clos­est wild rel­a­tive of SARS-CoV­‑2 is found in bats, which sug­gests it orig­i­nat­ed in a bat, then jumped to humans either direct­ly or through anoth­er species. (Anoth­er coro­n­avirus found in wild pan­golins also resem­bles SARS-CoV­‑2, but only in the small part of the spike that rec­og­nizes ACE2; the two virus­es are oth­er­wise dis­sim­i­lar, and pan­golins are unlike­ly to be the orig­i­nal reser­voir of the new virus.) When SARS-clas­sic first made this leap, a brief peri­od of muta­tion was nec­es­sary for it to rec­og­nize ACE2 well. But SARS-CoV­‑2 could do that from day one. “It had already found its best way of being a [human] virus,” says Matthew Frie­man of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land School of Med­i­cine.

This uncan­ny fit will doubtless­ly encour­age con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists: What are the odds that a ran­dom bat virus had exact­ly the right com­bi­na­tion of traits to effec­tive­ly infect human cells from the get-go, and then jump into an unsus­pect­ing per­son? “Very low,” Ander­sen says, “but there are mil­lions or bil­lions of these virus­es out there. These virus­es are so preva­lent that things that are real­ly unlike­ly to hap­pen some­times do.”

Since the start of the pan­dem­ic, the virus hasn’t changed in any obvi­ous­ly impor­tant ways. It’s mutat­ing in the way that all virus­es do. But of the 100-plus muta­tions that have been doc­u­ment­ed, none has risen to dom­i­nance, which sug­gests that none is espe­cial­ly impor­tant. “The virus has been remark­ably sta­ble giv­en how much trans­mis­sion we’ve seen,” says Lisa Gralin­s­ki of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na. “That makes sense, because there’s no evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sure on the virus to trans­mit bet­ter. It’s doing a great job of spread­ing around the world right now.”

There’s one pos­si­ble excep­tion. A few SARS-CoV­‑2 virus­es that were iso­lat­ed from Sin­ga­pore­an COVID-19 patients are miss­ing a stretch of genes that also dis­ap­peared from SARS-clas­sic dur­ing the late stages of its epi­dem­ic. This change was thought to make the orig­i­nal virus less vir­u­lent, but it’s far too ear­ly to know whether the same applies to the new one. Indeed, why some coro­n­avirus­es are dead­ly and some are not is unclear. “There’s real­ly no under­stand­ing at all of why SARS or SARS-CoV­‑2 are so bad but OC43 just gives you a run­ny nose,” Frie­man says.

Researchers can, how­ev­er, offer a pre­lim­i­nary account of what the new coro­n­avirus does to the peo­ple it infects. Once in the body, it like­ly attacks the ACE2-bear­ing cells that line our air­ways. Dying cells slough away, fill­ing the air­ways with junk and car­ry­ing the virus deep­er into the body, down toward the lungs. As the infec­tion pro­gress­es, the lungs clog with dead cells and flu­id, mak­ing breath­ing more dif­fi­cult. (The virus might also be able to infect ACE2-bear­ing cells in oth­er organs, includ­ing the gut and blood ves­sels.)

The immune sys­tem fights back and attacks the virus; this is what caus­es inflam­ma­tion and fever. But in extreme cas­es, the immune sys­tem goes berserk, caus­ing more dam­age than the actu­al virus. For exam­ple, blood ves­sels might open up to allow defen­sive cells to reach the site of an infec­tion; that’s great, but if the ves­sels become too leaky, the lungs fill even more with flu­id. These dam­ag­ing over­re­ac­tions are called cytokine storms. They were his­tor­i­cal­ly respon­si­ble for many deaths dur­ing the 1918 flu pan­dem­ic, H5N1 bird flu out­breaks, and the 2003 SARS out­break. And they’re prob­a­bly behind the most severe cas­es of COVID-19. “These virus­es need time to adapt to a human host,” says Akiko Iwasa­ki of the Yale School of Med­i­cine. “When they’re first try­ing us out, they don’t know what they’re doing, and they tend to elic­it these respons­es.”

Dur­ing a cytokine storm, the immune sys­tem isn’t just going berserk but is also gen­er­al­ly off its game, attack­ing at will with­out hit­ting the right tar­gets. When this hap­pens, peo­ple become more sus­cep­ti­ble to infec­tious bac­te­ria. The storms can also affect oth­er organs besides the lungs, espe­cial­ly if peo­ple already have chron­ic dis­eases. This might explain why some COVID-19 patients end up with com­pli­ca­tions such as heart prob­lems and sec­ondary infec­tions.

But why do some peo­ple with COVID-19 get incred­i­bly sick, while oth­ers escape with mild or nonex­is­tent symp­toms? Age is a fac­tor. Elder­ly peo­ple are at risk of more severe infec­tions pos­si­bly because their immune sys­tem can’t mount an effec­tive ini­tial defense, while chil­dren are less affect­ed because their immune sys­tem is less like­ly to progress to a cytokine storm. But oth­er factors—a person’s genes, the vagaries of their immune sys­tem, the amount of virus they’re exposed to, the oth­er microbes in their bodies—might play a role too. In gen­er­al, “it’s a mys­tery why some peo­ple have mild dis­ease, even with­in the same age group,” Iwasa­ki says.

Coro­n­avirus­es, much like influen­za, tend to be win­ter virus­es. In cold and dry air, the thin lay­ers of liq­uid that coat our lungs and air­ways become even thin­ner, and the beat­ing hairs that rest in those lay­ers strug­gle to evict virus­es and oth­er for­eign par­ti­cles. Dry air also seems to damp­en some aspects of the immune response to those trapped virus­es. In the heat and humid­i­ty of sum­mer, both trends reverse, and res­pi­ra­to­ry virus­es strug­gle to get a foothold.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that might not mat­ter for the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. At the moment, the virus is tear­ing through a world of immuno­log­i­cal­ly naive peo­ple, and that vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is like­ly to swamp any sea­son­al vari­a­tions. After all, the new virus is trans­mit­ting read­i­ly in coun­tries like Sin­ga­pore (which is in the trop­ics) and Aus­tralia (which is still in sum­mer). And one recent mod­el­ing study con­clud­ed that “SARS-CoV­‑2 can pro­lif­er­ate at any time of year.” “I don’t have an immense amount of con­fi­dence that the weath­er is going to have the effect that peo­ple hope it will,” Gralin­s­ki says. “It may knock things down a lit­tle, but there’s so much per­son-to-per­son trans­mis­sion going on that it may take more than that.” Unless peo­ple can slow the spread of the virus by stick­ing to phys­i­cal-dis­tanc­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, the sum­mer alone won’t save us.

2a. In addi­tion, an arti­cle in Sci­ence Direct char­ac­ter­izes the advent of the furin-like cleav­age site as a “gain-of-func­tion” phe­nom­e­non. “Gain of Func­tion” is a mech­a­nism of action of an “Enhanced Poten­tial Pan­dem­ic Pathogen.” “. . . . Strik­ing­ly, the 2019-nCoV S‑protein sequence con­tains 12 addi­tion­al nucleotides upstream of the sin­gle Arg↓ cleav­age site 1 (Fig. 1, Fig. 2) lead­ing to a pre­dic­tive­ly sol­vent-exposed PRRAR↓SV sequence, which cor­re­sponds to a canon­i­cal furin-like cleav­age site (Braun and Sauter, 2019; Iza­guirre, 2019; Sei­dah and Prat, 2012). This furin-like cleav­age site, is sup­posed to be cleaved dur­ing virus egress (Mille and Whit­tak­er, 2014) for S‑protein “prim­ing” and may pro­vide a gain-of-func­tion to the 2019-nCoV for effi­cient spread­ing in the human pop­u­la­tion com­pared to oth­er lin­eage b beta­coro­n­avirus­es. This pos­si­bly illus­trates a con­ver­gent evo­lu­tion path­way between unre­lat­ed CoVs. Inter­est­ing­ly, if this site is not processed, the S‑protein is expect­ed to be cleaved at site 2 dur­ing virus endo­cy­to­sis, as observed for the SARS-CoV. . . .”

“The Spike Gly­co­pro­tein of the New Coro­n­avirus 2019-nCov Con­tains a Furin-Like Cleav­age Site Absent in CoV of the Same Clade” by B. Coutard, C. Valle, B. Canard, N.G. Sei­dah, E. Decroly et al.; Sci­ence Direct; Vol. 176: April 2020.

. . . . Based on its genome sequence, 2019-nCoV belongs to lin­eage b of Beta­coro­n­avirus (Fig. 1A), which also includes the SARS-CoV and bat CoV ZXC21, the lat­ter and CoV ZC45 being the clos­est to 2019-nCoV.  . . .

. . . . Since furin is high­ly expressed in lungs, an enveloped virus that infects the res­pi­ra­to­ry tract may suc­cess­ful­ly exploit this con­ver­tase to acti­vate its sur­face gly­co­pro­tein (Bassi et al., 2017Mbikay et al., 1997). Before the emer­gence of the 2019-nCoV, this impor­tant fea­ture was not observed in the lin­eage b of beta­coro­n­avirus­es. How­ev­er, it is shared by oth­er CoV (HCoV-OC43, MERS-CoV, MHV-A59) har­bour­ing furin-like cleav­age sites in their S‑protein (Fig. 2Table 1), which were shown to be processed by furin exper­i­men­tal­ly (Le Coupanec et al., 2015Mille and Whit­tak­er, 2014.

Strik­ing­ly, the 2019-nCoV S‑protein sequence con­tains 12 addi­tion­al nucleotides upstream of the sin­gle Arg↓ cleav­age site 1 (Fig. 1, Fig. 2) lead­ing to a pre­dic­tive­ly sol­vent-exposed PRRAR↓SV sequence, which cor­re­sponds to a canon­i­cal furin-like cleav­age site (Braun and Sauter, 2019; Iza­guirre, 2019; Sei­dah and Prat, 2012). This furin-like cleav­age site, is sup­posed to be cleaved dur­ing virus egress (Mille and Whit­tak­er, 2014) for S‑protein “prim­ing” and may pro­vide a gain-of-func­tion to the 2019-nCoV for effi­cient spread­ing in the human pop­u­la­tion com­pared to oth­er lin­eage b beta­coro­n­avirus­es. This pos­si­bly illus­trates a con­ver­gent evo­lu­tion path­way between unre­lat­ed CoVs. Inter­est­ing­ly, if this site is not processed, the S‑protein is expect­ed to be cleaved at site 2 dur­ing virus endo­cy­to­sis, as observed for the SARS-CoV. . . .

2b. Of para­mount impor­tance is the fact that the state­ments being issued that the virus was not made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry is not just irrel­e­vant, but absurd. ANY virus can be made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry, from scratch as is being done for the SARS-CoV­‑2 (Covid-19) virus.

The bro­mides being issued–all too predictably–that the virus could not have been/wasn’t made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry are the viro­log­i­cal equiv­a­lent of the Mag­ic Bul­let The­o­ry.

Ralph Baric–who did the gain-of-func­tion mod­i­fi­ca­tion on the Horse­shoe Bat coro­n­avirus, has been select­ed to engi­neer the Covid-19.

Note what might be termed a “viro­log­ic Juras­sic Park” man­i­fes­ta­tion: ” . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

“Biol­o­gists rush to re-cre­ate the Chi­na coro­n­avirus from its DNA code” by Anto­nio Regal­a­do; MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review; 02/15/2020

The world is watch­ing with alarm as Chi­na strug­gles to con­tain a dan­ger­ous new virus, now being called SARS-CoV­‑2. It has quar­an­tined entire cities, and the US has put a blan­ket ban on trav­ellers who’ve been there. Health offi­cials are scram­bling to under­stand how the virus is trans­mit­ted and how to treat patients.

But in one Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na lab, there’s a dif­fer­ent race. Researchers are try­ing to cre­ate a copy of the virus. From scratch.

Led by Ralph Bar­ic, an expert in coronaviruses—which get their name from the crown-shaped spike they use to enter human cells—the North Car­oli­na team expects to recre­ate the virus start­ing only from com­put­er read­outs of its genet­ic sequence post­ed online by Chi­nese labs last month.

The remark­able abil­i­ty to “boot up” virus­es from genet­ic instruc­tions is made pos­si­ble by com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture cus­tom DNA mol­e­cules, such as Inte­grat­ed DNA Tech­nol­o­gy, Twist Bio­science, and Atum. By order­ing the right genes, which cost a few thou­sand dol­lars, and then stitch­ing them togeth­er to cre­ate a copy of the coro­n­avirus genome, it’s pos­si­ble to inject the genet­ic mate­r­i­al into cells and jump-start the virus to life.

The abil­i­ty to make a lethal virus from mail-order DNA was first demon­strat­ed 20 years ago. It’s enough of a bioter­ror­ism con­cern that com­pa­nies care­ful­ly mon­i­tor who is order­ing which genes. . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

2c. A key fac­tor spurring our sus­pi­cion con­cern­ing genet­ic-engi­neer­ing of one or more vari­ant of the Covid-19 virus con­cerns a 2015 Gain-of-Func­tion exper­i­ment: “Ralph Bar­ic, an infec­tious-dis­ease researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, last week (Novem­ber 9) pub­lished a study on his team’s efforts to engi­neer a virus with the sur­face pro­tein of the SHC014 coro­n­avirus, found in horse­shoe bats in Chi­na, and the back­bone of one that caus­es human-like severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome (SARS) in mice. The hybrid virus could infect human air­way cells and caused dis­ease in mice. . . . The results demon­strate the abil­i­ty of the SHC014 sur­face pro­tein to bind and infect human cells, val­i­dat­ing con­cerns that this virus—or oth­er coro­n­avirus­es found in bat species—may be capa­ble of mak­ing the leap to peo­ple with­out first evolv­ing in an inter­me­di­ate host, Nature report­ed. They also reignite a debate about whether that infor­ma­tion jus­ti­fies the risk of such work, known as gain-of-func­tion research. ‘If the [new] virus escaped, nobody could pre­dict the tra­jec­to­ry,’ Simon Wain-Hob­son, a virol­o­gist at the Pas­teur Insti­tute in Paris, told Nature. . . .”

“Lab-Made Coro­n­avirus Trig­gers Debate” by Jef Akst; The Sci­en­tist; 11/16/2015

Ralph Bar­ic, an infec­tious-dis­ease researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, last week (Novem­ber 9) pub­lished a study on his team’s efforts to engi­neer a virus with the sur­face pro­tein of the SHC014 coro­n­avirus, found in horse­shoe bats in Chi­na, and the back­bone of one that caus­es human-like severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome (SARS) in mice. The hybrid virus could infect human air­way cells and caused dis­ease in mice, accord­ing to the team’s results, which were pub­lished in Nature Med­i­cine.

The results demon­strate the abil­i­ty of the SHC014 sur­face pro­tein to bind and infect human cells, val­i­dat­ing con­cerns that this virus—or oth­er coro­n­avirus­es found in bat species—may be capa­ble of mak­ing the leap to peo­ple with­out first evolv­ing in an inter­me­di­ate host, Nature report­ed. They also reignite a debate about whether that infor­ma­tion jus­ti­fies the risk of such work, known as gain-of-func­tion research. “If the [new] virus escaped, nobody could pre­dict the tra­jec­to­ry,” Simon Wain-Hob­son, a virol­o­gist at the Pas­teur Insti­tute in Paris, told Nature. . . .

3. Whit­ney Webb has pro­vid­ed us with trou­bling insight into Pen­ta­gon research–some of which remains clas­si­fied:

“Bats, Gene Edit­ing and Bioweapons: Rec­cent DARPA Exper­i­ments Raise Con­cerns Amid Coro­n­avirus Out­break” by Whit­ney Webb; The Last Amer­i­can Vagabond; 1/30/2020.

  • DARPA is fund­ing research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es. ” . . . . the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far. . . . For instance, DARPA spent $10 mil­lion on one project in 2018 ‘to unrav­el the com­plex caus­es of bat-borne virus­es that have recent­ly made the jump to humans, caus­ing con­cern among glob­al health offi­cials.’ Anoth­er research project backed by both DARPA and NIH saw researchers at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty exam­ine the coro­n­avirus that caus­es Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) in bats and camels ‘to under­stand the role of these hosts in trans­mit­ting dis­ease to humans.’  . . . For instance, one study con­duct­ed in South­ern Chi­na in 2018 result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of 89 new ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ strains that use the same recep­tor as the coro­n­avirus known as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS). That study was joint­ly fund­ed by the Chi­nese government’s Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, USAID — an orga­ni­za­tion long alleged to be a front for U.S. intel­li­gence, and the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Health — which has col­lab­o­rat­ed with both the CIA and the Pen­ta­gonon infec­tious dis­ease and bioweapons research.. . . .”
  • It is doing so at bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ties ring­ing both Chi­na and Rus­sia. ” . . . .  One of those stud­ies focused on ‘Bat-Borne Zoonot­ic Dis­ease Emer­gence in West­ern Asia’ and involved the Lugar Cen­ter in Geor­gia, iden­ti­fied by for­mer Geor­gian gov­ern­ment offi­cialsthe Russ­ian gov­ern­mentand inde­pen­dent, inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Dilyana Gay­tandzhie­va as a covert U.S. bioweapons lab. . . . Anoth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed study that dis­cov­ered still more new strains of ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ was pub­lished just last year. Titled ‘Dis­cov­ery and Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nov­el Bat Coro­n­avirus Lin­eages from Kaza­khstan,’ focused on ‘the bat fau­na of cen­tral Asia, which link Chi­na to east­ern Europe’ and the nov­el bat coro­n­avirus lin­eages dis­cov­ered dur­ing the study were found to be ‘close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es from Chi­na, France, Spain, and South Africa, sug­gest­ing that co-cir­cu­la­tion of coro­n­avirus­es is com­mon in mul­ti­ple bat species with over­lap­ping geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­b­u­tions.’ In oth­er words, the coro­n­avirus­es dis­cov­ered in this study were iden­ti­fied in bat pop­u­la­tions that migrate between Chi­na and Kaza­khstan, among oth­er coun­tries, and is close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na. . . .”

4. An arti­cle pub­lished after this pro­gram was record­ed high­lights the VERY unusu­al aspects of Covid-19. ” . . . . ‘I’ve been study­ing virus­es since 1978,’ Dr. James Hil­dreth, Mehar­ry Med­ical Col­lege CEO and an infec­tious dis­ease expert based out of Nashville, told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move this week (video above). ‘And I think it’s fair to say we’ve not encoun­tered a virus quite like this, just because of the broad range of tis­sue types in our body it infects.’ . . .”

“Coro­na Virus Expert: ‘We’ve Not Encoun­tered a Virus Quite Like This’” by Adri­ana Bel­monte [Yahoo Finance]; Yahoo News; 4/30/2020.

The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic has upend­ed nor­mal life across the world. 

There are over 1 mil­lion cas­es of COVID-19 in the U.S., which is the glob­al leader in case count. World­wide, there are over 3 mil­lion cas­es. And for many doc­tors, the coro­n­avirus and its impacts are like noth­ing they’ve ever seen before.

“I’ve been study­ing virus­es since 1978,” Dr. James Hil­dreth, Mehar­ry Med­ical Col­lege CEO and an infec­tious dis­ease expert based out of Nashville, told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move this week (video above). “And I think it’s fair to say we’ve not encoun­tered a virus quite like this, just because of the broad range of tis­sue types in our body it infects.”

The coro­n­avirus cre­ates the infec­tion known as COVID-19. The virus spreads through viral droplets from a cough or sneeze, which can trav­el into some­one else’s mouth, nose, or eyes. From there, accord­ing to Web­MD, it trav­els through the nasal pas­sage to the mucous mem­branes in your throat and latch­es on. 

With­in two to 14 days, a per­son can start show­ing symp­toms, which include fever, cough, chills, fatigue, and short­ness of breath. As the virus moves through the res­pi­ra­to­ry tract, it can inflame the lungs, caus­ing breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and lead­ing to pneu­mo­nia. 

“So any­one who has a com­pro­mised immune sys­tem, or their lungs are com­pro­mised in any way, they’re going to have real­ly poor out­comes,” Hil­dreth explained. 

The CDC has stat­ed that those over the age of 65 and those with under­ly­ing health con­di­tions are most at risk for severe ill­ness from COVID-19. 

The peo­ple with under­ly­ing health con­di­tions at risk can be of any age. Those with asth­ma, chron­ic lung dis­ease, heart con­di­tions, obe­si­ty, dia­betes, liv­er dis­ease, kid­ney dis­ease, and those who are oth­er­wise immuno­com­pro­mised are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble. 

“It shuts down kid­neys,” Hil­dreth said. “As you’ve heard, it’s start­ing to cause blood clots in young peo­ple in their 30s and 40s who are dying of strokes. It caus­es real­ly severe lung dis­ease. And it also trig­gers some­thing called a cytokine storm, in which the immune sys­tem gets over exu­ber­ant and begins to destroy not just the virus, but the tis­sues around the virus.” 

Blood clot­ting is a new­er com­pli­ca­tion that doc­tors have noticed in COVID-19 patients. A 41-year-old Broad­way actor named Nick Cordero, who has been in a med­ical­ly-induced coma for over a month because of the virus, had his leg ampu­tat­ed after devel­op­ing a clot. 

“We do need to find some­thing that can slow the virus down until we have a vac­cine,” Hil­dreth said. “But it’s fair to say that of all the virus­es that I’m aware that I’ve stud­ied or been involved with, this one is very dif­fer­ent, just in terms of the huge range of things that it does to the body.”

“It real­ly is an extra­or­di­nary chal­lenge, and like none we’ve seen before,” he added. “But I’m real­ly heart­ened by the fact that sci­en­tists all over the world have focused their atten­tion on it. And so, I’m con­fi­dent that we’re going to find some solu­tions in the com­ing months.”

 

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR #1124 The Magic Virus Theory: The “Whole-of-Society Response””

  1. This next arti­cle is con­cern­ing. In a time of cri­sis all Amer­i­cans should coura­geous­ly unite to over­come the chal­lenge. The arti­cle dis­cuss­es how Rhode Island Gov­er­nor Gina Rai­mon­do plans to send the Nation­al Guard will be deployed to knock door-to-door look­ing for any­one who has evac­u­at­ed the coro­n­avirus-strick­en state and arrived in Rhode Island. Any New York­ers found will be ordered into a 14-day quar­an­tine and could face fines or jail time if they do not com­ply. He stat­ed ‘Right now we have a pin­point­ed risk,’ she said. ‘That risk is called New York City.’

    The moves come after White House coro­n­avirus response team doc­tor Deb­o­rah Birx warned that New York­ers leav­ing the state could be respon­si­ble for the virus spread­ing to new areas.

    The ACLU stat­ed that ‘Under the Fourth Amend­ment, hav­ing a New York state license plate sim­ply does not, and can­not, con­sti­tute ‘prob­a­ble cause’ to allow police to stop a car and inter­ro­gate the dri­ver, no mat­ter how laud­able the goal of the stop may be,’ Brown added. 

    Gov­er­nors in Flori­da, Mary­land, Texas and South Car­oli­na have also issued orders that New York­ers must stay out of their states or go into a 14-day quar­an­tine, as the rest of the US looks on in hor­ror at the mount­ing cri­sis in New York state.

    The impli­ca­tion for the “Unit­ed States” of Amer­i­ca are dis­con­cert­ing.

    https://mol.im/a/8162899

    The hunt for flee­ing New York­ers: The Hamp­tons wants to ban coro­n­avirus refugees from the Big Apple and Rhode Island is send­ing the Nation­al Guard to find them as wealthy res­i­dents and celebs escape virus epi­cen­ter

    ¥ Local lead­ers in The Hamp­tons are call­ing on New York Gov­er­nor Andrew Cuo­mo to issue a trav­el ban from the city, to stop New York­ers invad­ing their towns
    ¥ Res­i­dents are also call­ing for any­one who has recent­ly arrived from the city to quar­an­tine for 14 days 
    ¥ Rhode Island is plan­ning to send the Nation­al Guard to hunt down any New York­ers who have fled to the state, said Gov­er­nor Gina Rai­mon­do 
    ¥ Police have also start­ed pulling over cars with New York state plates look­ing for any escapees 
    ¥ Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, of the White House coro­n­avirus response team, warned Tues­day that New York­ers could spread the virus to oth­er areas  
    ¥ An influx of New York­ers and celebri­ties have been hol­ing up in the Hamp­tons and Rhode Island as the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic con­tin­ues to spread in NYC 
    ¥ Alec Bald­win and his wife Hilar­ia have post­ed Insta­gram mes­sages from their Hamp­tons retreat
    ¥ New York state’s coro­n­avirus death toll reached 603 Fri­day, an increase of 134 in just one day, as it con­tin­ues to be the US epi­cen­ter for the cri­sis 
    ¥ Coro­n­avirus symp­toms: what are they and should you see a doc­tor?

    By RACHEL SHARP FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
    PUBLISHED: 10:06 EDT, 28 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:16 EDT, 28 March 2020

    Coro­n­avirus refugees who are flee­ing New York City face a grow­ing crack­down from oth­er states who are using police and the nation­al guard to force them into quar­an­tine.

    Locals in the Hamp­tons want to ban coro­n­avirus refugees com­ing from the Big Apple and force those that are there to quar­an­tine inside for 14 days.

    Rhode Island is send­ing out the Nation­al Guard to hunt down escap­ing New York­ers who have fled to its towns, after wealthy res­i­dents and celebri­ties have tak­en over the areas as they escape the virus epi­cen­ter.

    Flori­da, Texas, South Car­oli­na and Mary­land also require a manda­to­ry 14-day quar­an­tine for new arrivals from New York. 

    ‘There’s an influx of peo­ple we’ve nev­er seen before. This is putting unnec­es­sary stress on local resources and poten­tial­ly on hos­pi­tals out East, which are very well man­aged, but have a lim­it­ed sup­ply of equip­ment,’ he told Page Six.

    Peo­ple with sum­mer homes are still wel­come, but peo­ple with no con­nec­tion to the area should stay away, he added: ‘We are not try­ing to tell those who have sum­mer homes to stay away, this is about the peo­ple who real­ly have no attach­ment to the com­mu­ni­ty.’

    Southamp­ton Town super­vi­sor Jay Schnei­der­man said that local res­i­dents are wor­ried there will be an out­break due to the influx of peo­ple and that the area’s three hos­pi­tals won’t be able to cope.  

    The influx has also dou­bled the pop­u­la­tion, leav­ing restau­rants and super­mar­kets buck­ling under the strain of its new guests, he told the Post.

    ‘Peo­ple out here are con­cerned that our hos­pi­tals and super­mar­kets will not be able to meet the need­ed demand if our pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to surge. We are all doing every­thing we can to reduce new cas­es of Covid-19, but that is very chal­leng­ing when new peo­ple are con­stant­ly enter­ing the com­mu­ni­ty from the NY Met­ro­pol­i­tan area, an epi­cen­ter for the coro­n­avirus,’ he said.  

    Celebri­ties includ­ing Alec Bald­win have been hol­ing up in the beach­side towns, which become pop­u­lar havens from the rat race of the city over the sum­mer.

    Bald­win and his wife Hilar­ia Bald­win have both post­ed Insta­gram videos from The Hamp­tons in the last week.

    In one heart­felt video from their farm­house in East Hamp­ton Bald­win encour­ages his fol­low­ers to ‘all do the pre­scribed things for the

    next two months’ to help slow the spread of the dead­ly virus.

    He also made light of the fact that he ‘could­n’t get his hair cut any­where’. 

    In anoth­er snap, the actor seems to be enjoy­ing time out­doors, as he is seen get­ting friend­ly with a horse.

    Hilar­ia cap­tioned the post ‘Impor­tant meet­ings’. 

    The cou­ple have been there for sev­er­al weeks.  

    It is not clear if they orig­i­nal­ly fled there because of the pan­dem­ic or were already resid­ing there. 

    Julie Mack­lowe has also been tak­ing to social media to doc­u­ment her Hamp­tons hide­away from the pan­dem­ic.

    The beau­ty entre­pre­neur and socialite post­ed snaps of her pack­ing up box­es includ­ing whiskey to take to her retreat.

    One snap showed Ama­zon box­es and a plas­tic box filled with med­i­cines and health reme­dies.

    The Hamp­tons isn’t the only area where res­i­dents want to see the back of New York­ers dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. 

    Rhode Island is plan­ning to send the Nation­al Guard to hunt down any New York­ers who have fled to the state.

    Gov­er­nor Gina Rai­mon­do said the Nation­al Guard will be deployed to knock door-to-door look­ing for any­one who has evac­u­at­ed the coro­n­avirus-strick­en state and arrived in Rhode Island. 

    Police have also start­ed pulling over cars with New York state plates look­ing for any escapees.

    Rai­mon­do said at a press con­fer­ence Fri­day that any New York­ers found will be ordered into a 14-day quar­an­tine and could face fines or jail time if do not com­ply.

    ‘Right now we have a pin­point­ed risk,’ she said. ‘That risk is called New York City.’

    Rai­mon­do said the extreme steps are legal­ly per­mit­ted under the state’s emer­gency pow­ers and that they are nec­es­sary to pro­tect local res­i­dents. 

    ‘I know it’s unusu­al. I know it’s extreme and I know some peo­ple dis­agree with it,’ she said.

    ‘If you want to seek refuge in Rhode Island, you must be quar­an­tined.’

    The moves come after White House coro­n­avirus response team doc­tor Deb­o­rah Birx warned that New York­ers leav­ing the state could be respon­si­ble for the virus spread­ing to new areas.

    In a White House press con­fer­ence Tues­day, Birx said any New York­ers who have left the city should quar­an­tine for 14 days.

    ‘Every­body who was in New York [City] should be self-quar­an­ti­ning for the next 14 days to ensure the virus does­n’t spread to oth­ers, no mat­ter where they have gone, whether it’s Flori­da, North Car­oli­na, or out to the far reach­es of Long Island. 

    ‘We’re start­ing to see new cas­es across Long Island that sug­gest peo­ple have left the city. This will be very crit­i­cal,’ she said. 

    But New York Gov Cuo­mo has blast­ed the mea­sures some states and areas are tak­ing to keep out the coro­n­avirus refugees, say­ing he does­n’t like it ‘social­ly or cutu­ral­ly’.

    ‘I don’t like it social­ly or cul­tur­al­ly,’ he said Fri­day on WAMC.

    ‘I don’t like what it says about us as one state, one fam­i­ly. Also, I don’t believe it’s med­ical­ly jus­ti­fied.’

    The Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union has also described the move to stop New York dri­vers by Rhode Island as ‘ill-advised and uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.’

    ‘While the Gov­er­nor may have the pow­er to sus­pend some state laws and reg­u­la­tions to address this med­ical emer­gency, she can­not sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion,’ said Steven Brown, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the ACLU of Rhode Island, in a state­ment.

    ‘Under the Fourth Amend­ment, hav­ing a New York state license plate sim­ply does not, and can­not, con­sti­tute ‘prob­a­ble cause’ to allow police to stop a car and inter­ro­gate the dri­ver, no mat­ter how laud­able the goal of the stop may be,’ Brown added. 

    Gov­er­nors in Flori­da, Mary­land, Texas and South Car­oli­na have also issued orders that New York­ers must stay out of their states or go into a 14-day quar­an­tine, as the rest of the US looks on in hor­ror at the mount­ing cri­sis in New York state.

    New York state’s coro­n­avirus death toll reached 603 Fri­day, an increase of 134 in just one day.
    There are now more than 44,000 cas­es of infec­tion in the state of New York. Cur­rent­ly, 6,481 peo­ple are hos­pi­tal­ized and 1,583 peo­ple are in ICU beds.

    In New York City, 365 peo­ple had died from the virus by Thurs­day after­noon — an increase of 177 peo­ple in a day.

    As of Fri­day after­noon, there were 25,573 cas­es of it in the city — 4000 more cas­es than the pre­vi­ous day.

    One addi­tion­al death was report­ed in New York City on Fri­day, bring­ing the total to 366.

    By con­trast, Rhode Island had 162 con­firmed cas­es on Fri­day. 

    The beach­side com­mu­ni­ties in Long Island have seen a surge in pop­u­la­tion ever since Cuo­mo issued a stay-at-home order to help stop the spread of the virus.

    Sev­er­al celebri­ties have escaped to their retreats there or rent­ed homes as the US strug­gles to bring the virus under con­trol.
    Sex and the City star Sarah Jes­si­ca Park­er was pic­tured Sat­ur­day stock­ing up on gro­ceries in the Hamp­tons, after she and her hus­band Matthew Brod­er­ick and three chil­dren have hid­ing out there since Cuo­mo’s New York shut­down.

    After going into the store, the actress was spot­ted load­ing a num­ber of gro­cery bags into her trunk with a pair of black gloves, as a pre­cau­tion against the dis­ease.  

    Ear­li­er this month, Brod­er­ick­’s sis­ter, Rev. Janet Brod­er­ick, test­ed pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus.

    Last week, Anna Win­tour shared a snap­shot of her­self work­ing from her Hamp­tons home. 
    The 70-year-old Vogue edi­tor-in-chief shared a pho­to from the offi­cial Vogue Insta­gram account, show­ing her­self loung­ing in a chair inside her home. 

     ‘Like so many of you, I have been adjust­ing to real­i­ty dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Above all else, I have been doing one sim­ple thing, and I urge every­one to do the same: I have been stay­ing at home,’ she wrote.

    This came just days after she announced that this year’s Met Gala is can­celled due to the pan­dem­ic.

    Actress Scar­lett Johans­son, 35, and her fiance Col­in Jost, 37, were pic­tured in the area last week, pick­ing up some take­out.
    Scar­lett and Col­in have been in The Hamp­tons since March 16, after the out­break has forced his show, SNL, to be put on hia­tus. 
    Hol­ly­wood actor Hugh Jack­man was also snapped last week after he relo­cat­ed to his fam­i­ly’s East Hamp­tons hol­i­day house. 

    The Wolver­ine star was seen prac­tic­ing good social-dis­tanc­ing prac­tices as he got some fresh air in a seclud­ed area around his lav­ish hide­away, dur­ing a dog walk along the beach. 

    Real estate agents have also seen a rise in demand for rentals that aren’t nor­mal­ly sought after until clos­er to sum­mer.
    Nest Seek­ers Inter­na­tion­al’s Dylan Eckardt told the Wall Street Jour­nal that one wealthy New York­er called him on his way out of the city to say he had a blank check and to find him a prop­er­ty to ride out the pan­dem­ic.

    ‘I got this call: ‘I’m on my way, dri­ving out from the city. You’ve got to find me a house south of the high­way with nine bed­rooms, I want no one around me. I want a pool, a ten­nis court. I’ve got a blank check. Make it hap­pen’,’ he said.

    ‘We’re rent­ing stuff that nev­er rents in March. There’s not even a price for it, because it does­n’t hap­pen.’

    Super­mar­ket shelves are being cleared by the wealthy vis­i­tors, as the pan­ic-buy­ing fren­zy extends to the sub­urbs.

    Stock­pil­ing has been tak­ing place all across the US as con­cerns over quar­an­tines and lock­downs lead peo­ple to buy up essen­tial sup­plies.

    How­ev­er, the new inhab­i­tants of Long and Rhode Island also have the addi­tion of nev­erend­ing bank bal­ances, mean­ing the trend has gone to fur­ther extremes in these areas.

    Joe Gur­rera, founder of upscale super­mar­ket chain Citarel­la, said some shop­pers are spend­ing thou­sands in one go at his Hamp­tons stores.

    ‘I had one cus­tomer spend $8,000. You know when you see some­one with a full shop­ping cart? Now they have five,’ he told the Post.
    ‘Instead of ask­ing for one or two steaks on a tray, a cus­tomer will buy the whole tray. Then they’ll move on to shrimp, and buy all the shrimp, and then they’ll buy all the salmon steaks.’  

    Posted by Mary Benton | April 12, 2020, 10:19 am
  2. How US media dish out their own pro­pa­gan­da on Chi­na and Covid-19

    Their stereo­typ­i­cal fram­ing of China’s actions against the pan­dem­ic verges on par­o­dy and car­i­ca­ture, por­tray­ing even inno­cent and uncon­tro­ver­sial mea­sures in the most insid­i­ous light pos­si­ble

    Alex Lo
    Pub­lished: 9:00pm, 12 Apr, 2020

    Chi­na can do noth­ing right. It’s either incom­pe­tent or evil. As observed by Pas­sage, a Cana­di­an online pub­li­ca­tion, this is how main­stream Amer­i­can news media have gen­er­al­ly been report­ing on the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and Chi­na.

    When the death tolls and cas­es were ris­ing, Bei­jing was accused of doing noth­ing and let­ting peo­ple die. When they start­ed to decline, it was lying. Before Wuhan was put under an unprece­dent­ed lock­down, Chi­na was try­ing to “save face” by down­play­ing the health cri­sis. When the lock­down was imposed, it was a mas­sive vio­la­tion of human rights and a pow­er grab.

    When Chi­nese cit­i­zens and over­seas Chi­nese crit­i­cised Bei­jing, it was proof the cen­tral gov­ern­ment had lost all legit­i­ma­cy and trust. But when they cel­e­brat­ed the epi­dem­ic being put under con­trol, they were stage actors or brain­washed.

    Last week, the White House and Repub­li­can politi­cians round­ed on US gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Voice of Amer­i­ca for spread­ing “Beijing’s pro­pa­gan­da” by quot­ing offi­cial Chi­nese coro­n­avirus fig­ures and show­ing footage of peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing the end of Wuhan’s lock­down.

    White House accus­es US broad­cast­er of pro­mot­ing ‘Beijing’s pro­pa­gan­da’
    12 Apr 2020

    In a study by the non-prof­it FAIR (Fair­ness & Accu­ra­cy in Report­ing), when ordi­nary Chi­nese vol­un­teered to help in the fight against the dis­ease, they were described as “neigh­bour­hood busy­bod­ies” in “Mao-style mass cru­sades” (The New York Times, Feb­ru­ary 15). When Hubei gov­ern­ment offi­cials were sacked for with­hold­ing infor­ma­tion about the coro­n­avirus, CNN (Feb­ru­ary 13) and Busi­ness Insid­er (Feb­ru­ary 11) report­ed they were “purged”.

    When for­eign gov­ern­ments and glob­al organ­i­sa­tions were crit­i­cal of Beijing’s anti-pan­dem­ic efforts, it was proof of Chi­nese incom­pe­tence or malef­i­cence. But when they offered praise, they were either bought off or secret­ly “com­mu­nist” sym­pa­this­ers.

    While fight­ing the epi­dem­ic, Bei­jing was accused of hoard­ing med­ical gear. When it offered med­ical aid to oth­er coun­tries, it was pro­pa­gan­da.

    Out­side Chi­na, few peo­ple have heard of Dr Zhang Jix­i­an, who treat­ed sev­er­al patients with sim­i­lar symp­toms in ear­ly Decem­ber at a Hubei provin­cial hos­pi­tal and cor­rect­ly deduced it was a nov­el coro­n­avirus. She was offi­cial­ly recog­nised as the first to alert the author­i­ties, there­by trig­ger­ing the nation­wide epi­dem­ic sur­veil­lance and sav­ing count­less lives.

    How­ev­er, every­one knows about Dr Li Wen­liang, who was rep­ri­mand­ed by pub­lic secu­ri­ty, but was nev­er arrest­ed (as claimed by USA Today, The Wall Street Jour­nal and Los Ange­les Times) or oth­er­wise pun­ished, for inad­ver­tent­ly leak­ing infor­ma­tion based on Dr Zhang’s find­ings online. He trag­i­cal­ly died from the dis­ease at a young age. The “whis­tle-blow­er” became a mar­tyr; he was nei­ther.

    “Fair and bal­anced” report­ing? Fox News’ style, per­haps.

    Source URL: https://scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3079555/how-us-media-dish-out-their-own-propaganda-china-and-covid-19

    Links
    [1] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3079468/white-house-accuses-us-broadcaster-voice-america-promoting-beijings

    This arti­cle appeared in the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post print edi­tion as: How US media dish out their pro­pa­gan­da

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

    APRIL 9, 2020

    US ‘Dis­in­for­ma­tion’ Claims Do Exact­ly What Ene­mies Are Accused of: Dis­tract From Covid-19 Fail­ures

    JULIANNE TVETEN

    The offi­cial Covid-19 death toll in the Unit­ed States con­tin­ues to climb, now exceed­ing 14,000, with at least hun­dreds of thou­sands more infect­ed. Under these cir­cum­stances, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has found it oppor­tune to reignite the “Fake News” scare, cen­sur­ing two famil­iar foes: Rus­sia and Chi­na.

    Before most in the West began wor­ry­ing about the coro­n­avirus, Agence France-Presse (2/23/20) assert­ed, with the US State Depart­ment as its sole source, that the Krem­lin had been dis­sem­i­nat­ing “anti-West­ern” infor­ma­tion about the pathogen on social media in order to sub­vert Wash­ing­ton. Short­ly after, the Wash­ing­ton Post (3/5/20) declared that “swarms of online, false per­sonas” from Rus­sia ped­dled “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” about Covid-19 in the US, again cit­ing the State Depart­ment. The New York Times (3/28/20) fol­lowed with an osten­si­ble bomb­shell report that Rus­sia and Chi­na sought to “sow doubts about the Unit­ed States’ han­dling of the cri­sis and deflect atten­tion from their own strug­gles with the pan­dem­ic.”

    Curi­ous­ly, none of these arti­cles pre­sent­ed proof of such nefar­i­ous online activ­i­ty, instead rely­ing chiefly on com­men­tary and “unre­leased reports” from US intel­li­gence offi­cials and neo­con­ser­v­a­tive projects like the Alliance for Secur­ing Democ­ra­cy. An addi­tion­al Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry (2/29/20) report­ed that the State Depart­ment had dis­cov­ered mil­lions of sus­pi­cious tweets,

    rais­ing the specter that for­eign gov­ern­ments or oth­er mali­cious actors may have delib­er­ate­ly tried to sow fear and dis­cord about the inter­na­tion­al health emergency—much as Russ­ian agents had done dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the Unit­ed States.

    Yet the Post by its own account found nei­ther evi­dence nor so much as a men­tion of Rus­sia in the State Depart­ment doc­u­ments it reviewed—a lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion that, in the­o­ry, should have pre­clud­ed the article’s pub­li­ca­tion.

    While the for­eign mis­in­for­ma­tion in ques­tion isn’t clear, the pur­pose of the domes­tic nar­ra­tives sur­round­ing said mis­in­for­ma­tion is. If these reports are to be believed, the US is an inno­cent vic­tim of smears by over­seas actors who thwart its attempts at benef­i­cence.

    February’s Agence France-Presse arti­cle, for exam­ple, blamed the “dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign” for instill­ing sus­pi­cion of the West in peo­ple in Africa and Asia, thus hin­der­ing the US’s abil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly respond to Covid-19 out­breaks. The real­i­ty, of course, is that the US isn’t exact­ly known for its his­to­ry of altru­ism toward Africa and Asia, and any dis­trust of the West on those con­ti­nents exist­ed long before the pandemic’s onset. That, how­ev­er, hasn’t deterred the State Depart­ment, or its media stenog­ra­phers, in their quest for an easy scape­goat.

    Relat­ed­ly, the New York Times (3/28/20) con­tend­ed that Chi­na has ampli­fied mul­ti­ple anti-US con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries in Africa and the West, and now threat­ens to betray its poten­tial Covid-relat­ed détente with the peace-seek­ing Unit­ed States. Yet Chi­na hasn’t indi­cat­ed that it wouldn’t coop­er­ate with the US on Covid-19 con­tain­ment efforts. Quite the con­trary: Chi­na has pro­vid­ed New York, New Jer­sey, Con­necti­cut and oth­er US states with gloves, N95 masks, gowns and oth­er med­ical sup­plies, con­tin­u­ing to man­u­fac­ture health­care equip­ment as it recov­ers from the epi­dem­ic (New York Times, 3/29/20).

    Rus­sia, too, recent­ly sent ven­ti­la­tors, per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment and oth­er des­per­ate­ly need­ed sup­plies to the US, despite the sanc­tions imposed on it by the US. Unwill­ing to accept this as any­thing oth­er than an oppor­tunis­tic ploy, CNN (4/2/20) described the deliv­ery as a “pro­pa­gan­da win for the Krem­lin” that left the story’s sole sources — for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials and US think-tank top brass—“mystified” and “bemused.”

    There’s a patent irony here: The State Depart­ment is impugn­ing ene­mies in order to dis­tract from its own pol­i­cy failures—exactly what it’s accus­ing those ene­mies of.

    The US has known of the threat of the virus since at least late Decem­ber 2019, when the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion was first informed of a “pneu­mo­nia of unknown cause” in Chi­na. Soon after, lead­ing West­ern media report­ed that a “pneu­mo­nia-like” ill­ness had infect­ed res­i­dents of the Chi­nese province of Hubei (Bloomberg, 1/4/20; New York Times, 1/6/20; Wash­ing­ton Post, 1/7/20; NBC News, 1/9/20). In Jan­u­ary, Chi­na swift­ly mar­shaled gov­ern­ment resources to con­struct ded­i­cat­ed hos­pi­tals with iso­la­tion units (CGTN, 1/24/20; New York Times, 3/19/20) and devel­oped a reg­i­men of quar­an­tines, trav­el restric­tions and com­pre­hen­sive test­ing. As of mid-March, new cas­es had slowed dra­mat­i­cal­ly, with esti­mates that its meth­ods pre­vent­ed cas­es from increas­ing by 67-fold (Nature, 3/17/20). On April 7, Chi­na report­ed no new deaths from Covid-19 (BBC, 4/7/20).

    Despite the many lessons the US could have learned from Chi­na, the US has floun­dered in its response. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has effec­tive­ly refused to imple­ment Covid-relat­ed pub­lic-health poli­cies on the fed­er­al lev­el, defer­ring to the slug­gish, frag­ment­ed and incon­sis­tent man­dates of state and munic­i­pal gov­ern­ments. Mean­while, deaths, new cas­es and unem­ploy­ment con­tin­ue to surge; test­ing is woe­ful­ly lim­it­ed; and hos­pi­tals are stran­gu­lat­ed. Point­ing the prover­bial fin­ger at Offi­cial State Enemies—particularly Chi­na, whose approach has gar­nered acclaim from the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion, and which is poised to emerge from this cri­sis eco­nom­i­cal­ly far stronger than the US—thus serves as a high­ly nec­es­sary dis­trac­tion.

    Giv­en the media’s tenor regard­ing China’s vic­to­ries, this might not come as a sur­prise. With some excep­tions (New York Times, 3/4/20, 3/13/20; Bloomberg, 3/11/20), West­ern media are still large­ly loath to acknowl­edge the suc­cess of China’s approach, con­tin­u­ing to insist that the coun­try is min­i­miz­ing its death counts based on “secret” US intel­li­gence reports (Bloomberg, 4/1/20; For­eign Pol­i­cy, 4/1/20; New York, 4/1/20; see FAIR.org, 4/2/20). Inter­est­ing­ly, none of these arti­cles men­tioned that the US’s afore­men­tioned test­ing defi­cien­cies are most like­ly ren­der­ing a mas­sive under­count of Covid-19 cas­es and deaths.

    Bloomberg and New York, how­ev­er, made sure to attribute the US’s lack of pre­pared­ness in part to China’s alleged undercounts—citing Deb­o­rah Birx, an immu­nol­o­gist employed by none oth­er than the US State Depart­ment.

    Source: https://fair.org/home/us-disinformation-claims-do-exactly-what-enemies-are-accused-of-distract-from-covid-19-failures/

    Posted by Ovid 19 | April 12, 2020, 8:51 pm
  3. The far right “10th Amend­ment” move­ment sort of end­ed up in the news this week as a con­se­quence of Trump’s lat­est exec­u­tive pow­er grab. First, recall how groups like the lib­er­tar­i­an Tenth Amend­ment Cen­ter have long pressed to weak­en fed­er­al law by mak­ing a strict inter­pre­ta­tion of the 10th Amend­ment that vir­tu­al­ly the only pow­ers the US fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has are those pow­ers strict­ly spelled out in the Con­sti­tu­tion and all oth­er pow­ers are del­e­gat­ed to the states. Fol­low­ing the “Ten­ther” log­ic, states are allowed to “nul­li­fy” fed­er­al laws if the laws are deemed to be a vio­la­tion of the 10th Amend­ment.

    The move­ment has long been used as means of under­min­ing fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions. But this week, the issue of the 10th Amend­ment and the restric­tions it places on fed­er­al pow­er was back in the news. Not to attack left-wing fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions. Instead, we saw a broad bipar­ti­san out­cry after Pres­i­dent Trump declared that he has the absolute author­i­ty as pres­i­dent to order states to shut down or open up their economies in response to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic stat­ing that, “When somebody’s pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, the author­i­ty is total.” And much of that broad bipar­ti­san out­cry focused on the 10th Amend­ment:

    USA TODAY

    Here’s what the Con­sti­tu­tion’s 10th Amend­ment says about Trump’s claim to have total author­i­ty over states

    William Cum­mings
    Pub­lished 12:19 p.m. ET Apr. 14. 2020
    Update 4:22 p.m. ET Apr. 14, 2020

    While dis­cussing whether he or the nation’s gov­er­nors have the pow­er to lift restric­tions states put in place to fight the spread of the coro­n­avirus, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump declared at a news brief­ing Mon­day, “When somebody’s pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, the author­i­ty is total.”

    The pres­i­den­t’s unprece­dent­ed claim of total pow­er met with imme­di­ate push­back from Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans, many of them argu­ing the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion explic­it­ly refutes his claim to absolute author­i­ty.

    “The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment does not have absolute pow­er,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R‑Wyo., who went on to quote the text of the 10th Amend­ment in a tweet that went viral.

    Sen. Mar­co Rubio, R‑Fla., said changes to the social-dis­tanc­ing orders should be made by the gov­er­nors. Fed­er­al guide­lines “will be very influ­en­tial. But the Con­sti­tu­tion & com­mon sense dic­tates these deci­sions be made at the state lev­el,” he tweet­ed.

    Jonathan Tur­ley – a law pro­fes­sor at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty who argued against Trump’s impeach­ment before the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee and a USA TODAY con­trib­u­tor – said the framers wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion pre­cise­ly to bar pres­i­dents from claim­ing the type of author­i­ty assert­ed by Trump.

    “Our con­sti­tu­tion­al sys­tem was forged dur­ing a peri­od of grave unease over exec­u­tive author­i­ty. After all, the nation had just bro­ken away from the con­trol of a tyrant,” Tur­ley said. And if there is “one over­rid­ing prin­ci­ple” in the Con­sti­tu­tion, it is to avoid the con­cen­tra­tion of pow­er, and it does so “in myr­i­ad ways,” he said.

    The 10th Amend­ment was one instru­ment writ­ten to help ensure that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would not be able to impose the kind of absolute author­i­ty the framers feared.

    Pres Trump stat­ed that “When some­body is Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, his author­i­ty is total.” The Con­sti­tu­tion was writ­ten pre­cise­ly the deny that par­tic­u­lar claim. It also reserved to the states (& indi­vid­u­als) rights not express­ly giv­en to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.— Jonathan Tur­ley (@JonathanTurley) April 13, 2020

    What the 10th Amend­ment says

    “The pow­ers not del­e­gat­ed to the Unit­ed States by the Con­sti­tu­tion, nor pro­hib­it­ed by it to the States, are reserved to the States respec­tive­ly, or to the peo­ple.”

    What it means

    Tur­ley said fed­er­al­ism, in which states are grant­ed a large degree of auton­o­my, was one of the ways the framers sought to avoid author­i­tar­i­an­ism. The oth­er was to lim­it the pos­si­bil­i­ty of “con­sti­tu­tion­al drift” – in which indi­vid­ual offi­cials or branch­es of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment slow­ly expand their author­i­ty – by cre­at­ing “clear struc­tur­al lim­i­ta­tions” on the pow­ers of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

    He described the 10th Amend­ment as an “insur­ance pol­i­cy” against such con­sti­tu­tion­al “mis­sion creep.”

    “It basi­cal­ly man­dates that the default posi­tion” in con­flicts between the states and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment “rests with the states,” he said, “So, when fed­er­al push comes to states’ shove, the states are sup­posed to pre­vail.”

    “There is noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly ambigu­ous about that.”

    Kath­leen Bergin, a law pro­fes­sor at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, agreed.

    “It’s so plain and obvi­ous it’s not even debat­able,” Begin said. “Trump has no author­i­ty to ease social dis­tanc­ing, or to open schools or pri­vate busi­ness­es. These are mat­ters for states to decide under their pow­er to pro­mote pub­lic health and wel­fare, a pow­er guar­an­teed by the 10th Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

    How it applies to the coro­n­avirus out­break

    “Fed­er­al­ism was not designed to com­bat a con­ta­gion, it was designed to com­bat tyran­ny,” Tur­ley said. But accord­ing to the prin­ci­ples of fed­er­al­ism, it is the “pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ty of the states to pre­pare for and to deal with pan­demics” such as this, he added.

    Pre­vi­ous­ly, Trump denied it was his respon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­ply the states with the med­i­cine and equip­ment need­ed to con­tain and treat the virus when asked about gov­er­nors’ com­plaints that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment was not doing enough to help them. And when pres­sured to issue a nation­wide stay-at-home order, Trump said he pre­ferred to leave it up to each gov­er­nor to impose such restric­tions.

    “What the pres­i­dent said direct­ly con­tra­dicts his posi­tion of the last three weeks,” said Tur­ley, who has writ­ten columns sup­port­ing Trump’s pre­vi­ous approach.

    “One of his most unnerv­ing state­ments was that gov­er­nors imposed these orders sim­ply because he let them do it and that he could have declared a nation­al quar­an­tine ear­li­er,” Tur­ley said. “That’s a direct con­tra­dic­tion of what he has pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed, but, more impor­tant­ly, what the Con­sti­tu­tion states.”

    Bergin said Trump was not “pow­er­less,” how­ev­er.

    “He could lift inter­na­tion­al trav­el restric­tions and issue direc­tives to the mil­i­tary or fed­er­al agen­cies,” she said. “But he does­n’t get con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty sim­ply by claim­ing it. What he tries to do and what he’s autho­rized by the Con­sti­tu­tion to do are two dif­fer­ent things.”

    No statu­to­ry pow­er when it comes to social dis­tanc­ing

    Charles Fried, who has taught at Har­vard Law School since 1961, strong­ly dis­put­ed the idea that the 10th Amend­ment was rel­e­vant to Trump’s claim of total author­i­ty and said the real issue was that Con­gress had not passed any law grant­i­ng Trump author­i­ty to order a nation­al quar­an­tine or stay-at-home direc­tive.

    Fried said the 10th Amend­ment was a “bogus con­cern” in this instance and any­one mak­ing that argu­ment is “bark­ing up the wrong tree” or is a “10th Amend­ment nut.”

    “Peo­ple like Cheney just want to bring fed­er­al­ism into every­thing, but it’s not a fed­er­al­ism prob­lem,” Fried told USA TODAY.

    Fried said the prob­lem was real­ly in the fact that Con­gress had­n’t giv­en Trump the pow­er that he claimed. But he said it the­o­ret­i­cal­ly could under its author­i­ty to reg­u­late busi­ness as out­lined in Arti­cle 1, Sec­tion 8 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

    “And that’s why I don’t like refer­ring to the 10th Amend­ment. It’s not real­ly a 10th Amend­ment issue. It’s a rule of law issue,” Fried said. “The pres­i­dent can’t just say, ‘I am the boss.’ ”

    Fried point­ed to the 1952 Supreme Court case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer in which the court ruled Pres­i­dent Har­ry Tru­man did not have the pow­er to take con­trol of the nation’s steel mills despite a labor strike that threat­ened pro­duc­tion dur­ing the Kore­an War.

    “The Pres­i­den­t’s pow­er, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Con­gress or from the Con­sti­tu­tion itself,” wrote Jus­tice Hugo Black.

    How would Trump enforce it?

    David Cole, the nation­al legal direc­tor for the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, told USA TODAY that even if Con­gress passed a law grant­i­ng the pres­i­dent the author­i­ty to imple­ment a nation­al cur­few, quar­an­tine or stay-at-home order, and it sur­vived con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenges, Trump would not be able to com­pel the states to enforce it.

    Under what is known at the “anti-com­man­deer­ing prin­ci­ple” the courts have ruled that states don’t have to use their resources or law enforce­ment offi­cials to enact fed­er­al pro­grams.

    For exam­ple, in the 1997 case Printz v. Unit­ed States, the Supreme Court ruled a pro­vi­sion of the Brady Hand­gun Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Act, which required back­ground checks for hand­gun sales, was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al under the 10th Amend­ment because it required local law enforce­ment offi­cers to car­ry out the back­ground checks.

    “He could not direct the may­or of New York, or the gov­er­nor of New York to car­ry out that pro­gram,” Cole said. Trump could ask the Nation­al Guard to car­ry it out, or the FBI, but not state or local offi­cials, Cole said.

    ...

    ————-

    “Here’s what the Con­sti­tu­tion’s 10th Amend­ment says about Trump’s claim to have total author­i­ty over states” by William Cum­mings; USA TODAY; 04/14/2020

    “The pres­i­den­t’s unprece­dent­ed claim of total pow­er met with imme­di­ate push­back from Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans, many of them argu­ing the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion explic­it­ly refutes his claim to absolute author­i­ty.”

    Yep, Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans imme­di­ate­ly pushed back against Trump’s asser­tion of “total author­i­ty” and did so large­ly using con­sti­tu­tion­al argu­ments, espe­cial­ly with ref­er­ences to the 10th Amend­ment:

    ...
    What the 10th Amend­ment says

    “The pow­ers not del­e­gat­ed to the Unit­ed States by the Con­sti­tu­tion, nor pro­hib­it­ed by it to the States, are reserved to the States respec­tive­ly, or to the peo­ple.”

    What it means

    Tur­ley said fed­er­al­ism, in which states are grant­ed a large degree of auton­o­my, was one of the ways the framers sought to avoid author­i­tar­i­an­ism. The oth­er was to lim­it the pos­si­bil­i­ty of “con­sti­tu­tion­al drift” – in which indi­vid­ual offi­cials or branch­es of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment slow­ly expand their author­i­ty – by cre­at­ing “clear struc­tur­al lim­i­ta­tions” on the pow­ers of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

    He described the 10th Amend­ment as an “insur­ance pol­i­cy” against such con­sti­tu­tion­al “mis­sion creep.”

    “It basi­cal­ly man­dates that the default posi­tion” in con­flicts between the states and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment “rests with the states,” he said, “So, when fed­er­al push comes to states’ shove, the states are sup­posed to pre­vail.”

    “There is noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly ambigu­ous about that.”

    Kath­leen Bergin, a law pro­fes­sor at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, agreed.

    “It’s so plain and obvi­ous it’s not even debat­able,” Begin said. “Trump has no author­i­ty to ease social dis­tanc­ing, or to open schools or pri­vate busi­ness­es. These are mat­ters for states to decide under their pow­er to pro­mote pub­lic health and wel­fare, a pow­er guar­an­teed by the 10th Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

    ...

    But as Charles Fried — a con­ser­v­a­tive ‘Nev­er Trumper’ law pro­fes­sor at Har­vard — points out, Trump’s pow­er grab isn’t real­ly a 10th Amend­ment issue. The prob­lem is that Con­gress has­n’t grant­ed Trump the author­i­ty he’s claim­ing. If Con­gress want­ed to it could grant Trump the author­i­ty to wield the pow­ers he claims he already has. As Fried put it, it’s not a 10th Amend­ment issue. It’s a rule of law issue:

    ...
    No statu­to­ry pow­er when it comes to social dis­tanc­ing

    Charles Fried, who has taught at Har­vard Law School since 1961, strong­ly dis­put­ed the idea that the 10th Amend­ment was rel­e­vant to Trump’s claim of total author­i­ty and said the real issue was that Con­gress had not passed any law grant­i­ng Trump author­i­ty to order a nation­al quar­an­tine or stay-at-home direc­tive.

    Fried said the 10th Amend­ment was a “bogus con­cern” in this instance and any­one mak­ing that argu­ment is “bark­ing up the wrong tree” or is a “10th Amend­ment nut.”

    “Peo­ple like Cheney just want to bring fed­er­al­ism into every­thing, but it’s not a fed­er­al­ism prob­lem,” Fried told USA TODAY.

    Fried said the prob­lem was real­ly in the fact that Con­gress had­n’t giv­en Trump the pow­er that he claimed. But he said it the­o­ret­i­cal­ly could under its author­i­ty to reg­u­late busi­ness as out­lined in Arti­cle 1, Sec­tion 8 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

    “And that’s why I don’t like refer­ring to the 10th Amend­ment. It’s not real­ly a 10th Amend­ment issue. It’s a rule of law issue,” Fried said. “The pres­i­dent can’t just say, ‘I am the boss.’ ”

    Fried point­ed to the 1952 Supreme Court case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer in which the court ruled Pres­i­dent Har­ry Tru­man did not have the pow­er to take con­trol of the nation’s steel mills despite a labor strike that threat­ened pro­duc­tion dur­ing the Kore­an War.

    “The Pres­i­den­t’s pow­er, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Con­gress or from the Con­sti­tu­tion itself,” wrote Jus­tice Hugo Black.
    ...

    And that’s some­thing that’s going to be cru­cial to keep in mind if Trump keeps assert­ing he has these pow­ers and this becomes an ongo­ing legal debate. You don’t want to acci­den­tal­ly end up pro­mot­ing a “Ten­ther” inter­pre­ta­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion just because Trump is engag­ing in a pow­er grab. After all, the Ten­ther Move­ment is, itself, essen­tial­ly an indi­rect pow­er grab by pow­er­ful forces like the Kochs who are cor­rect­ly deter­mined that its eas­i­er to bul­ly states on reg­u­la­tions than the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

    It’s also worth not­ing that Trump’s asser­tion of total author­i­ty over the states is hap­pen­ing at the same time Trump has been try­ing to deflect as much blame for the slow coro­n­avirus response onto the states as pos­si­ble. So he wants the pow­er, just not the respon­si­bil­i­ty:

    ...
    Pre­vi­ous­ly, Trump denied it was his respon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­ply the states with the med­i­cine and equip­ment need­ed to con­tain and treat the virus when asked about gov­er­nors’ com­plaints that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment was not doing enough to help them. And when pres­sured to issue a nation­wide stay-at-home order, Trump said he pre­ferred to leave it up to each gov­er­nor to impose such restric­tions.

    “What the pres­i­dent said direct­ly con­tra­dicts his posi­tion of the last three weeks,” said Tur­ley, who has writ­ten columns sup­port­ing Trump’s pre­vi­ous approach.

    “One of his most unnerv­ing state­ments was that gov­er­nors imposed these orders sim­ply because he let them do it and that he could have declared a nation­al quar­an­tine ear­li­er,” Tur­ley said. “That’s a direct con­tra­dic­tion of what he has pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed, but, more impor­tant­ly, what the Con­sti­tu­tion states.”
    ...

    So with all that in mind, here’s the lat­est arti­cle filled with com­ments from anony­mous White House offi­cials warn­ing that Trump real­ly is very intent on begin­ning the reopen­ing of the US econ­o­my some time in ear­ly May. Not the entire coun­try at a time. Maybe on a state-by-state basis or more gran­u­lar coun­ty-by-coun­ty basis. Accord­ing to these anony­mous aides, it’s a fore­gone con­clu­sion that Trump is going to try to reopen­ing parts of the US start­ing in May. And as a con­se­quence, these aides are rac­ing to find ways of redi­rect­ing the blame away from Trump if reopened areas end up exac­er­bat­ing the pan­dem­ic. The ideas they’ve come up with appear to revolve around cre­at­ing a vast call for reopen­ing the econ­o­my from a num­ber of lead­ers in the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. And Koch-backed groups appear to already be on board with the idea. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce is already putting togeth­er a “Imple­ment­ing a Nation­al Return to Work Plan” that the White House is report­ed­ly warm­ing up to. And Free­dom­Works and the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil are already push­ing the idea of have gov­ern­ment relax pub­lic health restric­tions and give busi­ness­es lia­bil­i­ty shields if their employ­ees catch the virus while at work. So the biggest busi­ness inter­ests where deep influ­ence over the White House are already behind the plan to reopen the econ­o­my and soon. What’s the plan if that turns out to be too soon and a pub­lic health blun­der? To have so many peo­ple behind the plan that if it blows up into a pub­lic health cat­a­stro­phe there will be so many peo­ple to blame that no one is to blame. Espe­cial­ly the pres­i­dent with total author­i­ty. Def­i­nite­ly don’t blame him:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump wants to declare coun­try open by May 1 — but the real­i­ty will be much slow­er

    By Philip Ruck­er, Robert Cos­ta and Ash­ley Park­er
    April 14, 2020 at 7:17 p.m. CDT

    Pres­i­dent Trump has all but decid­ed to begin declar­ing the coun­try ready to get back to busi­ness on May 1, two cur­rent and two for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said, but a scram­ble is under­way inside the White House to deter­mine how to stag­ger a reopen­ing of the econ­o­my amid the nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic while also pro­tect­ing Trump from any polit­i­cal fall­out.

    Impa­tient with the eco­nom­ic dev­as­ta­tion wrought by social dis­tanc­ing and oth­er mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures — and fear­ful of the poten­tial dam­age to his reelec­tion chances — Trump has been adamant in pri­vate dis­cus­sions with advis­ers about reopen­ing the coun­try next month.

    Yet with­in Trump’s cir­cle, offi­cials say, there is acknowl­edg­ment that it will not be pos­si­ble for the pres­i­dent to sim­ply flip a switch. A return to nor­mal like­ly would take many months, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said, and should be orches­trat­ed method­i­cal­ly and guid­ed by med­ical data. For instance, offi­cials are con­sid­er­ing begin­ning with areas deemed to have the low­est risk of a major out­break.

    Trump said Tues­day night that he plans to ask the gov­er­nors of all 50 states lat­er this week to imple­ment “a very pow­er­ful reopen­ing plan” in their states at what­ev­er time they deem appro­pri­ate. He said more than 20 states are in “extreme­ly good shape” and are poised to reopen their economies very soon, “maybe even before the date of May 1.”

    “Our coun­try has to get open, and it will get open, and it’ll get open safe­ly and hope­ful­ly quick­ly — some areas quick­er than oth­er areas,” Trump said at a Rose Gar­den news con­fer­ence.

    The White House is in the process of mod­el­ing test­ing results, death rates and oth­er data to help guide a deci­sion. Aides stressed that, despite the president’s fix­a­tion on May 1 as a reopen­ing date, the tim­ing remains flu­id and no final deci­sion has been made.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, a team of gov­ern­ment offi­cials led by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion has cre­at­ed a pub­lic health strat­e­gy to com­bat the coro­n­avirus and reopen parts of the coun­try, accord­ing to a draft memo obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post. The strat­e­gy con­tains detailed instruc­tions for a phased reopen­ing of insti­tu­tions such as schools, child-care facil­i­ties, sum­mer camps, parks, faith-based orga­ni­za­tions and restau­rants.

    Although gov­er­nors and may­ors have the author­i­ty to impose or lift stay-at-home orders and to per­mit busi­ness­es and schools in their local­i­ties to reopen, rec­om­men­da­tions or guid­ance from the pres­i­dent or fed­er­al agen­cies could be influ­en­tial — one of the rea­sons Trump has called his impend­ing deci­sion the most impor­tant of his pres­i­den­cy.

    In late March, Trump was per­suad­ed by the two physi­cians on his coro­n­avirus task force, Antho­ny S. Fau­ci and Deb­o­rah Birx, as well as oth­er advis­ers to extend the fed­er­al social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines for an addi­tion­al 30 days, through the end of April.

    ...

    Inside the White House, it has been clear to offi­cials since last week that there is no longer much of a debate — at least with the pres­i­dent — about start­ing the reopen­ing process May 1, said numer­ous cur­rent and for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, most of whom spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to can­did­ly dis­cuss the state of play.

    “He des­per­ate­ly wants to reopen as much as pos­si­ble on May 1,” said one for­mer offi­cial briefed on inter­nal dis­cus­sions. “He’s been that way from the begin­ning, and he has not wavered. He seems deter­mined to do it. But there’s a grow­ing real­iza­tion that you won’t be able to open every­thing up by May 1. Even he real­izes that’s a bad idea.”

    Rather, the debate this week has been over how to imple­ment the return, what data could be used to jus­ti­fy the deci­sion, and how to build pub­lic sup­port for it to pro­vide the pres­i­dent max­i­mum polit­i­cal cov­er, accord­ing to one senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial involved in the dis­cus­sions and a sec­ond per­son who has been briefed on them.

    Trump’s advis­ers are try­ing to shield the pres­i­dent from polit­i­cal account­abil­i­ty should his move to reopen the econ­o­my prove pre­ma­ture and result in lost lives, and so they are try­ing to mobi­lize busi­ness exec­u­tives, econ­o­mists and oth­er promi­nent fig­ures to buy into the even­tu­al White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broad­ly, accord­ing to two for­mer admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials famil­iar with the efforts.

    The sprawl­ing cir­cle of those advis­ing Trump includes for­mer trea­sury sec­re­tary Hen­ry M. Paul­son Jr., who has been in reg­u­lar con­tact with Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, a friend from their days work­ing togeth­er at Gold­man Sachs.

    Paul­son, who helped shape the fed­er­al response to the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, has been help­ing Mnuchin map out pos­si­ble chal­lenges and solu­tions on the eco­nom­ic front, accord­ing to two senior Repub­li­cans famil­iar with their dis­cus­sions.

    One plan gain­ing trac­tion inside the West Wing this week is the U.S. Cham­ber of Commerce’s Imple­ment­ing a Nation­al Return to Work Plan. One White House offi­cial said it “pro­vides a check­list or to-do list that is basi­cal­ly approved by the spokesman for Amer­i­can busi­ness, which is what this White House is look­ing for.”

    The White House is assem­bling an eco­nom­ic task force with a num­ber of work­ing groups, bro­ken up by sec­tors such as finan­cial ser­vices; ener­gy; trans­porta­tion; retail; and real estate. Dur­ing Tuesday’s media brief­ing, Trump read aloud the names of scores of busi­ness lead­ers, as well as labor, reli­gious and thought lead­ers, who will be con­sult­ed in com­ing days by the admin­is­tra­tion.

    Some exec­u­tives are wary the White House plan could back­fire if it proves pre­ma­ture and leads to a pub­lic health cat­a­stro­phe, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the effort. Some also are con­cerned that under fed­er­al law, the con­tents of the meet­ings would have to become pub­lic, should the body meet a cer­tain num­ber of times.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive advo­ca­cy groups such as Free­dom­Works and the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil are also mobi­liz­ing to help push the White House and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers to relax pub­lic health restric­tions. Infor­mal­ly, they have start­ed call­ing their group “Save Our Coun­try,” although the project has no offi­cial name. The Her­itage Foun­da­tion is launch­ing a par­al­lel set of work­ing groups that is expect­ed to deliv­er its rec­om­men­da­tions on reopen­ing the econ­o­my to Vice Pres­i­dent Pence.

    One idea that has emerged among these con­ser­v­a­tive groups is to push a lia­bil­i­ty shield for busi­ness­es that would insu­late them from law­suits if their employ­ees get the coro­n­avirus while at work, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with inter­nal dis­cus­sions.

    White House offi­cials are devel­op­ing guid­ance for busi­ness­es on how to safe­ly reopen and are focus­ing on how to ensure safe­ty in what they term “super-spread areas” — office break rooms, bars and oth­er such gath­er­ing places where the risk of spread­ing the virus is great­est.

    Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials point­ed to Texas as a poten­tial pace­set­ter. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ® has qui­et­ly been talk­ing with the White House about his own pre­lim­i­nary plans to reopen parts of the econ­o­my in his state, the nation’s sec­ond largest.

    “We can and we must do this,” Abbott said last week, say­ing he would soon be out­lin­ing how busi­ness­es can reopen in Texas in a way that is safe for the pub­lic.

    Stephen Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive econ­o­mist who infor­mal­ly advis­es the White House, said geog­ra­phy could fac­tor heav­i­ly into fed­er­al rec­om­men­da­tions for reopen­ing.

    “There are about 10 met­ro­pol­i­tan-area cities, and like 90 per­cent of cas­es are in 10 met­ro­pol­i­tan areas, so you treat those met­ro­pol­i­tan areas dif­fer­ent­ly than the rest of the coun­try,” Moore said, adding that he has dis­cussed this “Zip code idea” with the admin­is­tra­tion.

    “You find the coun­ties and Zip codes that don’t have the dis­ease, and you get those things opened up,” Moore said. “They should prob­a­bly have nev­er been shut down — that’s my opin­ion, by the way; I’m not speak­ing on behalf of the White House there. But they are look­ing at that approach to fig­ur­ing out where the econ­o­my can open up first. This isn’t rock­et sci­ence.”

    The admin­is­tra­tion has float­ed the idea of divid­ing the coun­try geo­graph­i­cal­ly as a way to slow­ly reopen the econ­o­my. Trump penned a let­ter to the nation’s gov­er­nors in late March stat­ing that as the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment expand­ed its test­ing and sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ties, it planned to cat­e­go­rize coun­ties as “high-risk, medi­um-risk, or low-risk.”

    At the White House news con­fer­ence that day, Trump stressed the need for Amer­i­cans to get “back to work,” say­ing he could envi­sion a reopen­ing sce­nario based on geog­ra­phy.

    “We may take sec­tions of our coun­try,” Trump said at the time. “We may take large sec­tions of our coun­try that aren’t so seri­ous­ly affect­ed, and we may do it that way. But we’ve got to start the process pret­ty soon.”

    Birx, the White House coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor, was asked how such coun­ty clas­si­fi­ca­tions would work, since no domes­tic trav­el restric­tions exist to pre­vent peo­ple from mov­ing between, say, a low-risk and high-risk juris­dic­tion. Birx said a stag­gered reopen­ing plan would hinge on “high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior between coun­ties.”

    White House offi­cials have stressed that any such plan would be coor­di­nat­ed with state and local author­i­ties. Regard­less of what Trump opts to announce, it will fall to gov­er­nors and may­ors to decide whether to reopen busi­ness­es and begin return­ing to nor­mal in their own juris­dic­tions. And many gov­er­nors are tread­ing more cau­tious­ly than the pres­i­dent.

    “His­tor­i­cal­ly, peo­ple have looked to the states and they’ve looked to the gov­er­nors to be the ones who make deci­sions in regard to health issues,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ® said in an inter­view.

    Arthur Laf­fer, a con­ser­v­a­tive econ­o­mist who is close to the White House, said Trump and his advis­ers are look­ing at “a whole panoply of issues,” includ­ing stag­ger­ing the reopen­ing by sec­tors.

    “Every­one wants to get the econ­o­my back and going again,” Laf­fer said. “Aren’t you a lit­tle stir-crazy?”

    ———–

    “Trump wants to declare coun­try open by May 1 — but the real­i­ty will be much slow­er” by Philip Ruck­er, Robert Cos­ta and Ash­ley Park­er; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/14/2020

    “Trump said Tues­day night that he plans to ask the gov­er­nors of all 50 states lat­er this week to imple­ment “a very pow­er­ful reopen­ing plan” in their states at what­ev­er time they deem appro­pri­ate. He said more than 20 states are in “extreme­ly good shape” and are poised to reopen their economies very soon, “maybe even before the date of May 1.”

    So accord­ing to Trump, there’s more than 20 states that could effec­tive­ly reopen their economies with­in a cou­ple of weeks. That’s pret­ty aspi­ra­tional. And while we are told that this May 1st dead­line is very flu­id, we’re also being told that there’s no longer much of debate with Trump. He wants to reopen at least part of the coun­try by May 1st:

    ...
    The White House is in the process of mod­el­ing test­ing results, death rates and oth­er data to help guide a deci­sion. Aides stressed that, despite the president’s fix­a­tion on May 1 as a reopen­ing date, the tim­ing remains flu­id and no final deci­sion has been made.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, a team of gov­ern­ment offi­cials led by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion has cre­at­ed a pub­lic health strat­e­gy to com­bat the coro­n­avirus and reopen parts of the coun­try, accord­ing to a draft memo obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post. The strat­e­gy con­tains detailed instruc­tions for a phased reopen­ing of insti­tu­tions such as schools, child-care facil­i­ties, sum­mer camps, parks, faith-based orga­ni­za­tions and restau­rants.

    ...

    Inside the White House, it has been clear to offi­cials since last week that there is no longer much of a debate — at least with the pres­i­dent — about start­ing the reopen­ing process May 1, said numer­ous cur­rent and for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, most of whom spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to can­did­ly dis­cuss the state of play.

    “He des­per­ate­ly wants to reopen as much as pos­si­ble on May 1,” said one for­mer offi­cial briefed on inter­nal dis­cus­sions. “He’s been that way from the begin­ning, and he has not wavered. He seems deter­mined to do it. But there’s a grow­ing real­iza­tion that you won’t be able to open every­thing up by May 1. Even he real­izes that’s a bad idea.”
    ...

    And that means max­i­mum polit­i­cal cov­er is going to be required. This is a giant pub­lic health gam­ble he’s tak­ing, after all. If that gam­ble does­n’t pan out he’s going to have to blame some­one. And it sounds like the plan is to use busi­ness lead­ers and promi­nent econ­o­mists as his polit­i­cal shield. Get so many peo­ple call­ing for this that no one can be blamed. Well, ok, a pres­i­dent with total author­i­ty to call for this reopen­ing would be the obvi­ous per­son to be blamed, espe­cial­ly since he’s the dri­ving force behind this push. But from a polit­i­cal the­atrics stand­point the plan is to have as many peo­ple to blame as pos­si­ble. Blame vol­un­teers are need­ed:

    ...
    Rather, the debate this week has been over how to imple­ment the return, what data could be used to jus­ti­fy the deci­sion, and how to build pub­lic sup­port for it to pro­vide the pres­i­dent max­i­mum polit­i­cal cov­er, accord­ing to one senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial involved in the dis­cus­sions and a sec­ond per­son who has been briefed on them.

    Trump’s advis­ers are try­ing to shield the pres­i­dent from polit­i­cal account­abil­i­ty should his move to reopen the econ­o­my prove pre­ma­ture and result in lost lives, and so they are try­ing to mobi­lize busi­ness exec­u­tives, econ­o­mists and oth­er promi­nent fig­ures to buy into the even­tu­al White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broad­ly, accord­ing to two for­mer admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials famil­iar with the efforts.
    ...

    And at least the right-wing think tanks appear to be hap­py to share in that blame if there’s a renewed pub­lic health cri­sis from pre­ma­ture­ly reopen­ing. The US Cham­ber of Com­merce, Free­dom­Works, and ALEC are already on board and that means there’s going to be A LOT of right-wing cranks and shills at think-tanks who will be will­ing to share the blame and fall of their swords if this turns out to be dis­as­ter. Giv­ing polit­i­cal cov­er for bad ideas is their job:

    ...
    One plan gain­ing trac­tion inside the West Wing this week is the U.S. Cham­ber of Commerce’s Imple­ment­ing a Nation­al Return to Work Plan. One White House offi­cial said it “pro­vides a check­list or to-do list that is basi­cal­ly approved by the spokesman for Amer­i­can busi­ness, which is what this White House is look­ing for.”

    ...

    Some exec­u­tives are wary the White House plan could back­fire if it proves pre­ma­ture and leads to a pub­lic health cat­a­stro­phe, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the effort. Some also are con­cerned that under fed­er­al law, the con­tents of the meet­ings would have to become pub­lic, should the body meet a cer­tain num­ber of times.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive advo­ca­cy groups such as Free­dom­Works and the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil are also mobi­liz­ing to help push the White House and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers to relax pub­lic health restric­tions. Infor­mal­ly, they have start­ed call­ing their group “Save Our Coun­try,” although the project has no offi­cial name. The Her­itage Foun­da­tion is launch­ing a par­al­lel set of work­ing groups that is expect­ed to deliv­er its rec­om­men­da­tions on reopen­ing the econ­o­my to Vice Pres­i­dent Pence.

    One idea that has emerged among these con­ser­v­a­tive groups is to push a lia­bil­i­ty shield for busi­ness­es that would insu­late them from law­suits if their employ­ees get the coro­n­avirus while at work, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with inter­nal dis­cus­sions.
    ...

    The par­tic­u­lar plan the White House appears to be arriv­ing at is some­thing we’ve heard about before: the state or coun­ty-lev­el reopen­ing. A plan that basi­cal­ly requires every­one in the coun­try coop­er­ate so no one from the “high” risk areas goes and infects the “low” risk areas after the “low” risk areas are giv­en the green light to reopen:

    ...
    Stephen Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive econ­o­mist who infor­mal­ly advis­es the White House, said geog­ra­phy could fac­tor heav­i­ly into fed­er­al rec­om­men­da­tions for reopen­ing.

    “There are about 10 met­ro­pol­i­tan-area cities, and like 90 per­cent of cas­es are in 10 met­ro­pol­i­tan areas, so you treat those met­ro­pol­i­tan areas dif­fer­ent­ly than the rest of the coun­try,” Moore said, adding that he has dis­cussed this “Zip code idea” with the admin­is­tra­tion.

    “You find the coun­ties and Zip codes that don’t have the dis­ease, and you get those things opened up,” Moore said. “They should prob­a­bly have nev­er been shut down — that’s my opin­ion, by the way; I’m not speak­ing on behalf of the White House there. But they are look­ing at that approach to fig­ur­ing out where the econ­o­my can open up first. This isn’t rock­et sci­ence.”

    The admin­is­tra­tion has float­ed the idea of divid­ing the coun­try geo­graph­i­cal­ly as a way to slow­ly reopen the econ­o­my. Trump penned a let­ter to the nation’s gov­er­nors in late March stat­ing that as the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment expand­ed its test­ing and sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ties, it planned to cat­e­go­rize coun­ties as “high-risk, medi­um-risk, or low-risk.”

    At the White House news con­fer­ence that day, Trump stressed the need for Amer­i­cans to get “back to work,” say­ing he could envi­sion a reopen­ing sce­nario based on geog­ra­phy.

    “We may take sec­tions of our coun­try,” Trump said at the time. “We may take large sec­tions of our coun­try that aren’t so seri­ous­ly affect­ed, and we may do it that way. But we’ve got to start the process pret­ty soon.”

    Birx, the White House coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor, was asked how such coun­ty clas­si­fi­ca­tions would work, since no domes­tic trav­el restric­tions exist to pre­vent peo­ple from mov­ing between, say, a low-risk and high-risk juris­dic­tion. Birx said a stag­gered reopen­ing plan would hinge on “high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior between coun­ties.”

    White House offi­cials have stressed that any such plan would be coor­di­nat­ed with state and local author­i­ties. Regard­less of what Trump opts to announce, it will fall to gov­er­nors and may­ors to decide whether to reopen busi­ness­es and begin return­ing to nor­mal in their own juris­dic­tions. And many gov­er­nors are tread­ing more cau­tious­ly than the pres­i­dent.
    ...

    A plan that hinges on “high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior between coun­ties.” That appears to be the par­tial reopen­ing plan the Trump White House has arrived at. A plan that relies not just on high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior between coun­ties but high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior of all the peo­ple liv­ing in those coun­ties. Espe­cial­ly from the most irre­spon­si­ble peo­ple most like­ly to run around spread­ing the virus. They bet­ter be extra respon­si­ble. That’s the plan that Trump appears to be intent on imple­ment­ing no mat­ter what his aides tell him, hence the need for a back­up plan for deflect­ing the blame after this plan blows up into a new viral out­break.

    But also keep in mind that this plan for par­tial­ly reopen­ing the coun­try is exact­ly the kind of sit­u­a­tion that could tempt Trump into anoth­er pow­er grab. A pow­er grab he’s already hint­ed at: Trump’s threat to enforce a fed­er­al quar­an­tine on New York City at the request of Flori­da. Call­ing in the mil­i­tary for fed­er­al quar­an­tines. It’s clear­ly on his mind. And if this par­tial reopen­ing plan is going to hap­pen, the calls for fed­er­al­ly enforced quar­an­tines are only going to grow. Will the upcom­ing par­tial reopen­ing involve fed­er­al­ly enforced quar­an­tines? We’ll see, but all of the pieces are in place for that to hap­pen, in par­tic­u­lar the cru­cial piece of hav­ing a pres­i­dent who thinks he has total author­i­ty.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 15, 2020, 4:33 pm
  4. Here’s a pair of arti­cles that relate to grow­ing influ­ence of Sil­i­con Val­ley Big Data giants as a result of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. They also indi­rect­ly relate to the sto­ries of mas­sive for­tunes that have been made from the extreme finan­cial mar­ket volatil­i­ty from the glob­al eco­nom­ic shut­down:

    It’s no sur­prise that the Sil­i­con Val­ley Big Data giants are going to be big win­ners in terms of get­ting the gov­ern­ment con­tracts for work­ing out Big Data solu­tions to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. But here’s an arti­cle that’s even less sur­pris­ing: It turns out Palan­tir is the firm that’s get­ting most of the COVID-relat­ed con­tracts from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment so far, hav­ing received con­tracts already from mul­ti­ple US fed­er­al agen­cies and oth­er gov­ern­ments. Sur­prise!:

    Forbes

    Palan­tir, The Peter Thiel-Backed $20 Bil­lion Big Data Crunch­er, Scores $17 Mil­lion Coro­n­avirus Emer­gency Relief Deal

    Thomas Brew­ster Forbes Staff
    Apr 11, 2020,07:32am EDT

    Palan­tir, the $20 bil­lion-val­ued Palo Alto tech com­pa­ny backed by Face­book-fun­der Peter Thiel, has been hand­ed a $17.3 mil­lion con­tract with one of the lead­ing health bod­ies lead­ing the charge against COVID-19.

    It’s the biggest con­tract hand­ed to a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny to assist America’s COVID-19 response, accord­ing to Forbes’ review of pub­lic con­tracts, and comes as oth­er Cal­i­forn­ian giants like Apple and Google try to fig­ure out how best to help gov­ern­ments fight the dead­ly virus.

    The deal was signed on April 10 with a Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) sub­sidiary agency, the Pro­gram Sup­port Cen­ter (PSC), which pro­vides “shared ser­vices across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.”

    The mon­ey, from the fed­er­al government’s COVID-19 relief fund, is for Palan­tir Gotham licens­es, accord­ing to a con­tract record reviewed by Forbes. That tech­nol­o­gy is designed to draw in data from myr­i­ad sources and, regard­less of what form or size, turn the infor­ma­tion into a coher­ent whole. The “plat­form” is cus­tomized for each client, so it meets with their mis­sion needs, accord­ing to Palan­tir.

    ...

    Palan­tir Gotham is slight­ly dif­fer­ent to Foundry, a new­er prod­uct that’s aimed more at gen­er­al users rather than data sci­ence whizzes, with more automa­tion than Gotham. As Forbes pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Foundry is being used by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) to ingest infor­ma­tion from all man­ner of hos­pi­tals across Amer­i­ca to see where best to pro­vide more or less resource. That includes sup­plies of COVID-19 per­son­al pro­tec­tion equip­ment like masks and res­pi­ra­tors.

    Forbes also revealed ear­li­er this week that the U.S. Coast Guard, a depart­ment with­in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS), had con­tract­ed Palan­tir for $8 mil­lion for its own COVID-19 response efforts. The tech com­pa­ny declined to talk about the nature of the work, whilst the Coast Guard hadn’t com­ment­ed at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

    Palan­tir is now work­ing with at least 12 gov­ern­ments on their respons­es to coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of its COVID-19 work. That includes the U.K.’s Nation­al Health Ser­vice, which is using Foundry for sim­i­lar pur­pos­es as the CDC.

    Despite the osten­si­bly con­tro­ver­sy-free deal with the British health body, the recep­tion was some­what frosty. That was, in part, because of Palantir’s links to the U.S. mil­i­tary intel­li­gence com­plex; it was fund­ed by the CIA’s ven­ture cap­i­tal fund, In-Q-Tel, and was said to have helped find Osama bin Laden. The uneasi­ness from pri­va­cy bod­ies was also relat­ed to Palantir’s work with Immi­gra­tion Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE), which has drawn some crit­i­cism from human rights groups.

    Call­ing Cal­i­for­nia For Coro­n­avirus Con­tracts

    Out­side of Cal­i­for­nia, a hand­ful of tech com­pa­nies are sign­ing off COVID-19 relief con­tracts. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment sales arm of Dell, the Tex­an hard­ware and soft­ware busi­ness, signed off on a $35 mil­lion deal to pro­vide Vet­er­ans Affairs with Microsoft secu­ri­ty tech­nol­o­gy and ser­vices.

    Oth­er Sil­i­con Val­ley giants like Apple, Google and Ora­cle have been offer­ing solu­tions to help ease the cri­sis. Ora­cle, as Forbes exclu­sive­ly report­ed, is work­ing on a giant data­base to track the impact of COVID-19 treat­ments on patients. On Fri­day, Apple and Google announced they were col­lab­o­rat­ing on a project for a pro-pri­va­cy con­tact trac­ing app to help peo­ple know if they’ve been in the same area as some­one who’d con­tract­ed the virus.

    But in terms of Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies, whom many were hop­ing would rapid­ly devel­op coro­n­avirus-fight­ing tech, it’s Palan­tir that’s lead­ing, in mon­ey terms at least.

    ———-

    “Palan­tir, The Peter Thiel-Backed $20 Bil­lion Big Data Crunch­er, Scores $17 Mil­lion Coro­n­avirus Emer­gency Relief Deal” by Thomas Brew­ster; Forbes; 04/11/2020

    “But in terms of Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies, whom many were hop­ing would rapid­ly devel­op coro­n­avirus-fight­ing tech, it’s Palan­tir that’s lead­ing, in mon­ey terms at least.”

    The US gov­ern­men­t’s favorite Big Data con­trac­tor just got anoth­er coro­na-relat­ed Big Data con­tract. It’s only a $17.3 mil­lions with HHS but it’s not the only coro­na-relat­ed US fed­er­al con­tract. The CDC also already signed a con­tract with Palan­tir. And then there are the 12 oth­er gov­ern­ments that are already work­ing with Palan­tir on the coro­na response:

    ...
    Palan­tir, the $20 bil­lion-val­ued Palo Alto tech com­pa­ny backed by Face­book-fun­der Peter Thiel, has been hand­ed a $17.3 mil­lion con­tract with one of the lead­ing health bod­ies lead­ing the charge against COVID-19.

    It’s the biggest con­tract hand­ed to a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny to assist America’s COVID-19 response, accord­ing to Forbes’ review of pub­lic con­tracts, and comes as oth­er Cal­i­forn­ian giants like Apple and Google try to fig­ure out how best to help gov­ern­ments fight the dead­ly virus.

    ...

    The mon­ey, from the fed­er­al government’s COVID-19 relief fund, is for Palan­tir Gotham licens­es, accord­ing to a con­tract record reviewed by Forbes. That tech­nol­o­gy is designed to draw in data from myr­i­ad sources and, regard­less of what form or size, turn the infor­ma­tion into a coher­ent whole. The “plat­form” is cus­tomized for each client, so it meets with their mis­sion needs, accord­ing to Palan­tir.

    ...

    Palan­tir Gotham is slight­ly dif­fer­ent to Foundry, a new­er prod­uct that’s aimed more at gen­er­al users rather than data sci­ence whizzes, with more automa­tion than Gotham. As Forbes pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Foundry is being used by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) to ingest infor­ma­tion from all man­ner of hos­pi­tals across Amer­i­ca to see where best to pro­vide more or less resource. That includes sup­plies of COVID-19 per­son­al pro­tec­tion equip­ment like masks and res­pi­ra­tors.

    ...

    Palan­tir is now work­ing with at least 12 gov­ern­ments on their respons­es to coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of its COVID-19 work. That includes the U.K.’s Nation­al Health Ser­vice, which is using Foundry for sim­i­lar pur­pos­es as the CDC.
    ...

    And it’s that CDC con­tract that brings us to the part of this sto­ry that might end up inter­sect­ing with the sto­ry of the mas­sive for­tunes made from the extreme mar­ket volatil­i­ty caused by the coro­n­avirus: Palan­tir’s CDC con­tract is basi­cal­ly a con­tract to take in anonymized data from hos­pi­tals relat­ed to the num­ber of patients they have, ven­ti­la­tors avail­able, etc, and made assess­ments on where resources should be allo­cat­ed. It’s the kind of use of Big Data that in the­o­ry should be very use­ful in a sit­u­a­tion like this where lim­it­ed resources need to be real­lo­cat­ed in the mid­dle of a dynam­ic pan­dem­ic. And when soci­ety starts reopen­ing it’s going to be vital to get ear­ly indi­ca­tors of renewed out­breaks.

    Palan­tir’s CDC con­tract also includes devel­op­ing mod­els of the viral out­break to help the CDD pre­dict how the pan­dem­ic will evolve. So pre­dict­ing new out­breaks is a core part of this con­tract. And, again, if done by an eth­i­cal com­pa­ny or gov­ern­ment agency this would be extreme­ly use­ful for the reopen­ing of soci­ety.

    But the del­i­cate reopen­ing of soci­ety, and pos­si­ble reclos­ing of soci­ety in response to new out­breaks, is exact­ly the kind of sit­u­a­tion that could result in the kind of extreme mar­ket volatil­i­ty we saw in March that end­ed up yield­ing incred­i­ble returns for the investors who were bet­ting on a dooms­day event. So Palan­tir is basi­cal­ly being con­tract­ed to make take in this mas­sive amount of hos­pi­tal data and make pre­dic­tions of when and where the virus is spread­ing or not spread­ing. That kind of knowl­edge is per­fect for mak­ing edu­cat­ed bets about renewed extreme mar­ket volatil­i­ty. And Palan­tir, the com­pa­ny run by the fas­cist Peter Thiel, is going to be the com­pa­ny tasked with mak­ing those pre­dic­tions about renewed viral out­breaks. Might some of those insights about emerg­ing viral out­breaks get used for finan­cial spec­u­la­tion? Palan­tir employ­ees and own­ers are pre­sum­ably barred from using its infor­ma­tion for invest­ment deci­sions but so what? It’s run by a fas­cist who will do as much as he can get away with.

    It’s also worth keep­ing in mind that if Palan­tir’s mod­els are used to pre­dict emerg­ing viral out­breaks, that means Palan­tir could end up large­ly deter­min­ing which parts of the US (or oth­er coun­tries) get reopened or reclosed. Palan­tir won’t just be pre­dict­ing the emerg­ing viral out­breaks. It will implic­it­ly be deter­min­ing which areas get are reopened or closed and when that hap­pens.

    So we’ll see if any Palan­tir employ­ees or own­ers end up mirac­u­lous­ly mak­ing for­tunes on extreme­ly oppor­tune finan­cial bets. Either way, that sce­nario isn’t lim­it­ed to Palan­tir. Any per­son or enti­ty that gains insights into whether or not there’s going to be renewed viral out­breaks that could re-shut­down the econ­o­my will have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a mas­sive for­tune as this pan­dem­ic plays out. Although Palan­tir, being run by a fas­cist, is obvi­ous­ly more a risk for abus­ing that kind of insid­er knowl­edge:

    Forbes

    Palan­tir, The $20 Bil­lion, Peter Thiel-Backed Big Data Giant, Is Pro­vid­ing Coro­n­avirus Mon­i­tor­ing To The CDC

    Thomas Brew­ster Forbes Staff
    Mar 31, 2020,05:47pm EDT

    In the last week, staff at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) start­ed log­ging into a new web app. It promis­es to help them watch where COVID-19 is spread­ing and checks how well equipped hos­pi­tals are to deal with the spike in cas­es of the fatal virus, accord­ing to two sources famil­iar with the work. Accord­ing to those sources, it was built by Palan­tir, a $20 bil­lion-val­ued big data com­pa­ny whose data har­vest­ing work for the U.S. Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment agency has pro­voked crit­i­cism from human rights groups.

    With the CDC project, it’s avoid­ing any such con­tro­ver­sy, part­ly because it isn’t ingest­ing per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion, said the sources, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the gov­ern­ment con­tract. Instead, the sources said the tech, based on its big data gath­er­ing and analy­sis tech­nol­o­gy called Palan­tir Foundry, takes in a range of anonymized data from U.S. hos­pi­tals and health­care agen­cies, includ­ing lab test results, emer­gency depart­ment sta­tus­es, bed capac­i­ty and ven­ti­la­tor sup­ply. Palan­tir is also devel­op­ing mod­els for the out­break of the virus to help CDC pre­dict where resources are required, they added.

    “In the U.S. we are con­tin­u­ing to work close­ly with our part­ners at HHS, includ­ing CDC, and across the gov­ern­ment agen­cies to ensure they have the most com­pre­hen­sive, accu­rate and time­ly view of infor­ma­tion as the COVID-19 response effort evolves,” a Palan­tir spokesper­son said.

    The CDC hadn’t respond­ed to a request for com­ment at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

    Such tech would give the CDC a clear under­stand­ing of what’s hap­pen­ing in any giv­en U.S. geog­ra­phy, whether at state, coun­ty or city lev­el, at a sin­gle moment in time. The infor­ma­tion would help the CDC decide where to allo­cate resources, such as masks and ven­ti­la­tors, one source said. That could prove vital giv­en the rush to meet a per­va­sive and urgent need for ven­ti­la­tors, in par­tic­u­lar.

    Palan­tir is one of sev­er­al tech com­pa­nies, includ­ing Google and Ora­cle, flex­ing their prowess in data gath­er­ing and analy­sis in efforts to stem the coro­n­avirus. Some ideas, such as using loca­tions from mobile phones to track move­ments of peo­ple, have prompt­ed con­cerns that once the cri­sis ebbs, increased sur­veil­lance will be hard to unwind. Palantir’s tool does not use any per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able data at this point, but could do in the future, said one of the sources.

    Sim­i­lar to Palantir’s U.K. work

    The app, which CDC staff start­ed to use in the last few days, is host­ed by Ama­zon Web Ser­vices as part of a part­ner­ship for the CDC project, one of the sources said. Palan­tir has long used the cloud giant for back-end infra­struc­ture.

    The U.S. data gath­er­ing app looks a lot like a project revealed in the U.K. last week, where reports indi­cat­ed Palan­tir was also pro­vid­ing its Foundry plat­form, along­side Ama­zon Web Ser­vices and Microsoft, to assist the Nation­al Health Ser­vice (NHS) in the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

    Palantir’s Foundry will help the NHS deter­mine cur­rent occu­pan­cy lev­els at hos­pi­tals, down to the num­ber and type of beds, as well as the capac­i­ty of acci­dent and emer­gency, depart­ments and wait­ing times, wrote the U.K. gov­ern­ment late last week. The tool is also gath­er­ing details of the lengths of stay for coro­n­avirus patients, the U.K. project coor­di­na­tors said.

    “Palan­tir is a data proces­sor, not a data con­troller, and can­not pass on or use the data for any wider pur­pose with­out the per­mis­sion of NHS Eng­land,” it added.

    The response to Palantir’s involve­ment in the U.K. has been cau­tious in light of its pre­vi­ous sur­veil­lance work, notably its pro­duc­tion of tools that helped ICE tar­get undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants in Amer­i­ca. It has close ties to U.S. intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment agen­cies, includ­ing the CIA, an investor via the agency’s In-Q-Tel ven­ture fund, and was cred­it­ed with help­ing find Osama Bin Laden before his killing. The com­pa­ny was found­ed by a social the­o­ry Ph.D. Alex Karp, a long-time asso­ciate of Palan­tir investor Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who was also an ear­ly backer of Face­book.

    It’s unclear just how much Palan­tir will make from the work. Accord­ing to pub­lic records, the most recent con­tract signed by Palan­tir with the CDC was in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary for $675,000 for unspec­i­fied hard­ware and soft­ware license renewals. Palan­tir also signed a con­tract for just $28,000 with the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion late last month for use of the Palan­tir Gotham tool, which is typ­i­cal­ly used to help gov­ern­ment agen­cies find crim­i­nals or crim­i­nal groups with­in mass­es of data.

    ...

    ———–

    “Palan­tir, The $20 Bil­lion, Peter Thiel-Backed Big Data Giant, Is Pro­vid­ing Coro­n­avirus Mon­i­tor­ing To The CDC” by Thomas Brew­ster; Forbes; 03/31/2020

    “With the CDC project, it’s avoid­ing any such con­tro­ver­sy, part­ly because it isn’t ingest­ing per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion, said the sources, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the gov­ern­ment con­tract. Instead, the sources said the tech, based on its big data gath­er­ing and analy­sis tech­nol­o­gy called Palan­tir Foundry, takes in a range of anonymized data from U.S. hos­pi­tals and health­care agen­cies, includ­ing lab test results, emer­gency depart­ment sta­tus­es, bed capac­i­ty and ven­ti­la­tor sup­ply. Palan­tir is also devel­op­ing mod­els for the out­break of the virus to help CDC pre­dict where resources are required, they added.”

    As we can see, Palan­tir is poised to have the biggest Big Data sand­box of infor­ma­tion of prob­a­bly any enti­ty in the US. Hos­pi­tal data, health agency data, lab test results, emer­gency sta­tus­es, bed capac­i­ty and ven­ti­la­tor sup­ply. That’s a lot of data. Now, tech­ni­cal­ly, Palan­tir is doing this as a ser­vice for the CDC, but Palan­tir employ­ees are going to have access to this data too. Espe­cial­ly the ones build­ing mod­els for the CDC:

    ...
    Such tech would give the CDC a clear under­stand­ing of what’s hap­pen­ing in any giv­en U.S. geog­ra­phy, whether at state, coun­ty or city lev­el, at a sin­gle moment in time. The infor­ma­tion would help the CDC decide where to allo­cate resources, such as masks and ven­ti­la­tors, one source said. That could prove vital giv­en the rush to meet a per­va­sive and urgent need for ven­ti­la­tors, in par­tic­u­lar.
    ...

    And the CDC isn’t the only gov­ern­ment agency Palan­tir is doing this kind of analy­sis for. The UK’s NHS also con­tract­ed Palan­tir to take a Big Data approach to hos­pi­tal infor­ma­tion to track coro­n­avirus patients. So Palan­tir will have an ear­ly insight into whether or not the UK will be fac­ing renewed shut­downs too:

    ...
    Sim­i­lar to Palantir’s U.K. work

    The app, which CDC staff start­ed to use in the last few days, is host­ed by Ama­zon Web Ser­vices as part of a part­ner­ship for the CDC project, one of the sources said. Palan­tir has long used the cloud giant for back-end infra­struc­ture.

    The U.S. data gath­er­ing app looks a lot like a project revealed in the U.K. last week, where reports indi­cat­ed Palan­tir was also pro­vid­ing its Foundry plat­form, along­side Ama­zon Web Ser­vices and Microsoft, to assist the Nation­al Health Ser­vice (NHS) in the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

    Palantir’s Foundry will help the NHS deter­mine cur­rent occu­pan­cy lev­els at hos­pi­tals, down to the num­ber and type of beds, as well as the capac­i­ty of acci­dent and emer­gency, depart­ments and wait­ing times, wrote the U.K. gov­ern­ment late last week. The tool is also gath­er­ing details of the lengths of stay for coro­n­avirus patients, the U.K. project coor­di­na­tors said.

    “Palan­tir is a data proces­sor, not a data con­troller, and can­not pass on or use the data for any wider pur­pose with­out the per­mis­sion of NHS Eng­land,” it added.
    ...

    And note the hint that Palan­tir’s Big Data analy­sis just might end up involv­ing per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able data on coro­n­avirus projects at some point in the future. So if the US ends up set­ting up some sort of sur­veil­lance regime where the coro­n­avirus sta­tus of indi­vid­u­als is tracked for the pur­pose of con­tact trac­ing, it’s going to be Palan­tir that will prob­a­bly get that con­tract:

    ...
    Palan­tir is one of sev­er­al tech com­pa­nies, includ­ing Google and Ora­cle, flex­ing their prowess in data gath­er­ing and analy­sis in efforts to stem the coro­n­avirus. Some ideas, such as using loca­tions from mobile phones to track move­ments of peo­ple, have prompt­ed con­cerns that once the cri­sis ebbs, increased sur­veil­lance will be hard to unwind. Palantir’s tool does not use any per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able data at this point, but could do in the future, said one of the sources.
    ...

    Now, in fair­ness, we should acknowl­edge that the CDC employ­ees work­ing with Palan­tir on this Big Data infor­ma­tion would also obvi­ous­ly be poten­tial risks for using that insid­er infor­ma­tion about renewed pan­demics for mak­ing edu­cat­ed finan­cial bets on extreme mar­ket volatil­i­ty. Any­one who has access to this aggre­gat­ed data and analy­sis could poten­tial­ly use it to make a for­tune. But that’s pre­cise­ly why Palan­tir is such a bad com­pa­ny to use for so many of these kinds of ser­vices. Because it’s always the case that you have to trust some peo­ple with sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion. That’s unavoid­able. What is high­ly avoid­able is trust­ing peo­ple you have rea­son to believe are untrust­wor­thy self-deal­ers who are open fas­cists who have spent a life­time advo­cat­ing for a phi­los­o­phy where every­one is exclu­sive­ly out for them­selves. In oth­er words, while it’s not out­ra­geous that some­one got a con­tract with the CDC to do this kind of coro­n­avirus work, it’s pret­ty out­ra­geous that Palan­tir got the con­tract but only about as out­ra­geous as all the oth­er gov­ern­ment con­tracts Palan­tir should­n’t have received and got any­way.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 17, 2020, 2:28 pm
  5. With mul­ti­ple state gov­er­nors now hav­ing announce coro­n­avirus reopen­ing plans, includ­ing a reopen­ing for Geor­gia begin­ning as soon as Fri­day, the issue of track­ing new cas­es and under­stand­ing the dynam­ics of the pan­dem­ic in real-time is sud­den­ly a top pri­or­i­ty in order to min­i­mize the risk of rein­flam­ing the pan­dem­ic in the US. Trust­wor­thy data and analy­sis is that won’t be sub­ject­ed to polit­i­cal whims is an absolute require­ment. So with that vital need in mind, here’s a Dai­ly Beast sto­ry about how Palan­tir is being placed at the cen­ter of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ments coro­n­avirus case tracking/predicting response efforts.

    Recall how we’ve already seen how Palan­tir recent­ly received a $17 mil­lion con­tract with Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) to help process infor­ma­tion asso­ci­at­ed with the coro­n­avirus response as well as a con­tract with the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) that involves tak­ing in large amounts of data from hos­pi­tals around the coun­try for the pur­pose of detect­ing the spread of the virus and assess­ing the need for med­ical resources. The fol­low­ing arti­cle expands on what we now about the HHS con­tract. It’s called the “HHS Pro­tect Now” project And based on the way it’s being described, Palan­tir’s soft­ware is going to be the core of the that HHS virus track­ing effort. In addi­tion, the infor­ma­tion gen­er­at­ed by Palan­tir’s tools are being direct­ly viewed by the top Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials when mak­ing their deci­sions about how to respond. Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the coor­di­na­tor of the White House’s coro­n­avirus response, receives night­ly brief­in­gs based off data com­piled and ana­lyzed on Palan­tir’s sys­tem. Pres­i­dent Trump, in turn, relies on Dr. Birx’s pre­sen­ta­tions of the data to deter­mine when and where busi­ness­es can be encour­aged to reopen:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Team Trump Turns to Peter Thiel’s Palan­tir to Track Virus

    Palan­tir, a long­time part­ner of intel­li­gence agen­cies, co-found­ed by major Trump backer Peter Thiel, is help­ing build “the sin­gle source for [coro­n­avirus] test­ing data.”

    Erin Ban­co
    Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Reporter
    Spencer Ack­er­man
    Senior Nat’l Secu­ri­ty Cor­re­spon­dent

    Updat­ed Apr. 21, 2020 7:21PM ET / Pub­lished Apr. 21, 2020 7:15PM ET

    A Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny co-found­ed by a close ally of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will play a major new role in help­ing the gov­ern­ment track the spread of the coro­n­avirus, pulling infor­ma­tion that is being used by top admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, includ­ing the pres­i­dent him­self.

    Palan­tir, the data-min­ing firm cre­at­ed by investor Peter Thiel, is best known for its work with glob­al intel­li­gence, mil­i­tary, and law enforce­ment agen­cies. Now, the com­pa­ny has a con­tract with the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices to help the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment cre­ate a new data plat­form called HHS Pro­tect Now.

    The Dai­ly Beast has con­firmed that Palan­tir will pro­vide a major aspect of the ana­lyt­ics plat­form. Sources famil­iar told The Dai­ly Beast that Palantir’s data suites will be a pri­ma­ry con­trib­u­tor to HHS Pro­tect Now, if not the core ele­ment of the tool.

    Palantir’s involve­ment in the cre­ation of a new gov­ern­ment coro­n­avirus data plat­form sys­tem under­scores the Trump administration’s reliance on close polit­i­cal allies of the pres­i­dent to respond to the glob­al pan­dem­ic. Thiel was Trump’s ear­li­est and high­est-pro­file backer in Sil­i­con Val­ley, and deliv­ered a prime-time speech at the 2016 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion. A ttop donor to con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es and the first out­side investor in Face­book, Thiel was, accord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal, instru­men­tal in push­ing the social net­work­ing giant to allow politi­cians to lie in adver­tise­ments on the plat­form. It’s a pol­i­cy that many out­side observers believe will help the Trump campaign—which Thiel has again pledged to sup­port.

    Palan­tir, which Thiel helped found—and still retains a size­able stake in —has watched its already-lucra­tive gov­ern­ment busi­ness sky­rock­et in the Trump era. Palan­tir “pro­vid­ed dig­i­tal pro­fil­ing tools” to Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment “as it car­ried out Pres­i­dent Trump’s increas­ing­ly con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies for appre­hend­ing and deport­ing undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants,” accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post. The firm had antic­i­pat­ed going pub­lic, although the coro­n­avirus may have delayed plans for an IPO.

    The HHS Pro­tect Now plat­form, which is set to be unveiled lat­er this week, pulls data from across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, state and local gov­ern­ments, health­care facil­i­ties, and col­leges, to help admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials deter­mine how to “mit­i­gate and pre­vent spread” of the coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to a spokesper­son for the depart­ment.

    Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the coor­di­na­tor of the White House’s coro­n­avirus response, receives night­ly brief­in­gs based off data com­piled and ana­lyzed on the plat­form, the spokesper­son said. Birx has, over the past sev­er­al weeks, often appeared at dai­ly press brief­in­gs to speak about her analy­sis of coro­n­avirus data-relat­ed test­ing, hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and com­mu­ni­ty spread.

    Two offi­cials work­ing with the administration’s coro­n­avirus task force said the pres­i­dent is him­self rely­ing on Birx’s pre­sen­ta­tions in deter­min­ing where and when to reopen parts of the U.S. econ­o­my. That posi­tions HHS Pro­tect Now as one of the most impor­tant data tools the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pos­sess­es.

    Palan­tir declined to com­ment for this sto­ry. The White House did not return a request for com­ment. HHS told The Dai­ly Beast that the depart­ment was work­ing with the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) and the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Sys­tem (FEMA) on scal­ing the HHS Pro­tect Now project, which became oper­a­tional on April 10.

    “We are using the data aggre­gat­ed... to paint a pic­ture for the Task Force, and state and local lead­ers to show the impact of their strate­gic deci­sions,” the spokesper­son said. “For instance, if there are a num­ber of cas­es con­cen­trat­ed at a hos­pi­tal next to an air­port and a mass tran­sit stop, we can build a pre­dic­tive mod­el using a trans­mis­sion chain to pre­dict how quick­ly the dis­ease will spread tak­ing into account these fac­tors.”

    HHS said it has 187 data sets inte­grat­ed into the plat­form, with inputs that include hos­pi­tal capac­i­ty and inven­to­ries, sup­ply chain data from the gov­ern­ment and indus­try, diag­nos­tic and geo­graph­ic test­ing data, demo­graph­ic sta­tis­tics, state pol­i­cy actions, and coro­n­avirus and flu-like emer­gency depart­ment data. The spokesper­son also said HHS was rely­ing on “pri­vate sec­tor part­ner con­tri­bu­tions of data.”

    An inter­nal Trump admin­is­tra­tion doc­u­ment obtained by The Dai­ly Beast said HHS Pro­tect Now would be “the sin­gle source for test­ing data by April 20.”

    One of Palantir’s data plat­forms, known as Foundry, is expect­ed to play a key role, accord­ing to sources famil­iar with the arrange­ment. Forbes report­ed in March that the CDC was using Foundry to keep track of hos­pi­tals’ abil­i­ty to cope with the surge in coro­n­avirus patients.

    Accord­ing to a for­mer Palan­tir offi­cial, Foundry aggre­gates and visu­al­izes a vast array of data and is par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful for iden­ti­fy­ing when data is missing–like, for instance, if states, coun­ties or hos­pi­tals sub­mit­ting infor­ma­tion on avail­able hos­pi­tal beds leave out a cell on a dig­i­tal spread­sheet.

    ...

    On April 10, Palan­tir received a $17.3 mil­lion con­tract with HHS for a dif­fer­ent and old­er data inte­gra­tion tool called Gotham. It’s unclear if Gotham, which start­ed out as a tool for intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment to track tar­gets, will be sep­a­rate from HHS Pro­tect or will aid in per­form­ing con­tact trac­ing. That HHS con­tract is nowhere near Palantir’s most lucra­tive. In Feb­ru­ary, the firm scored half of a Pen­ta­gon data-man­age­ment con­tract worth over $800 mil­lion.

    ———–

    “Team Trump Turns to Peter Thiel’s Palan­tir to Track Virus” by Erin Ban­co and Spencer Ack­er­man; The Dai­ly Beast; 04/21/2020

    “The Dai­ly Beast has con­firmed that Palan­tir will pro­vide a major aspect of the ana­lyt­ics plat­form. Sources famil­iar told The Dai­ly Beast that Palantir’s data suites will be a pri­ma­ry con­trib­u­tor to HHS Pro­tect Now, if not the core ele­ment of the tool. ”

    The core ele­ment of HHS Pro­tect Now. That’s the role Palan­tir in play in this HHS effort. But it’s not just the core ele­ment of HHS Pro­tect Now. It appears to be the core ele­ment in the White House­’s deci­sion-mak­ing process because the deci­sions being made by the White House are being made based on the data and analy­sis pro­vid­ed by Palan­tir. Accord­ing to one doc­u­ment, this HHS Pro­tect Now tool would be “the sin­gle source for test­ing data by April 20.” So this plat­form real­ly is at the core of the reopen­ing deci­sion-mak­ing process because that test-data is what should be dri­ving the reopen­ing:

    ...
    The HHS Pro­tect Now plat­form, which is set to be unveiled lat­er this week, pulls data from across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, state and local gov­ern­ments, health­care facil­i­ties, and col­leges, to help admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials deter­mine how to “mit­i­gate and pre­vent spread” of the coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to a spokesper­son for the depart­ment.

    Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the coor­di­na­tor of the White House’s coro­n­avirus response, receives night­ly brief­in­gs based off data com­piled and ana­lyzed on the plat­form, the spokesper­son said. Birx has, over the past sev­er­al weeks, often appeared at dai­ly press brief­in­gs to speak about her analy­sis of coro­n­avirus data-relat­ed test­ing, hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and com­mu­ni­ty spread.

    Two offi­cials work­ing with the administration’s coro­n­avirus task force said the pres­i­dent is him­self rely­ing on Birx’s pre­sen­ta­tions in deter­min­ing where and when to reopen parts of the U.S. econ­o­my. That posi­tions HHS Pro­tect Now as one of the most impor­tant data tools the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pos­sess­es.

    ...

    HHS said it has 187 data sets inte­grat­ed into the plat­form, with inputs that include hos­pi­tal capac­i­ty and inven­to­ries, sup­ply chain data from the gov­ern­ment and indus­try, diag­nos­tic and geo­graph­ic test­ing data, demo­graph­ic sta­tis­tics, state pol­i­cy actions, and coro­n­avirus and flu-like emer­gency depart­ment data. The spokesper­son also said HHS was rely­ing on “pri­vate sec­tor part­ner con­tri­bu­tions of data.”

    An inter­nal Trump admin­is­tra­tion doc­u­ment obtained by The Dai­ly Beast said HHS Pro­tect Now would be “the sin­gle source for test­ing data by April 20.”
    ...

    And note that this tool became oper­a­tional on April 10, sug­gest­ing that it’s Palan­tir data that dri­ve Trump’s push over the past cou­ple of weeks to reopen states soon­er rather than lat­er:

    ...
    Palan­tir declined to com­ment for this sto­ry. The White House did not return a request for com­ment. HHS told The Dai­ly Beast that the depart­ment was work­ing with the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) and the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Sys­tem (FEMA) on scal­ing the HHS Pro­tect Now project, which became oper­a­tional on April 10.
    ...

    So it’s pos­si­ble we’re already see­ing the impact of Palan­tir’s HHS Pro­tect Now sys­tem in a big way with the reopen­ing pro­cess­ing begin­ning at the end of this week.

    But there’s anoth­er aspect of putting Palan­tir at the cen­ter of this effort that could play into reopen­ing process: Since the Trump admin­is­tra­tion push to reopen soon­er rather than lat­er appears to be dri­ven heav­i­ly by polit­i­cal con­cerns — and the eco­nom­ic and ide­o­log­i­cal con­cerns of the GOP mega-donor class — the ques­tion of how the admin­stra­tion is plan­ning on deflect­ing blame if reopen­ing too soon results in a wave of new infec­tions is going to be a grow­ing ques­tion as this reopen­ing process plays out. Will Palan­tir tak­ing con­trol of the data analy­sis that will be offi­cial­ly guid­ing this reopen­ing process pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to engage in CYA if the reopen­ing steps back­fire? We’ll see, but the obvi­ous excuse if there’s a renewed wave of infec­tions from reopen­ing too soon is that the deci­sion was made from bad/faulty/inadequate data. It’s prob­a­bly the best viable excuse the admin­is­tra­tion will have and Palan­tir will be in con­trol of that data and analy­sis the White House will be rely­ing on. So don’t for­get that while Palan­tir is now at the core of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts to con­trol the spread of the virus, that also places Palan­tir in a posi­tion to be at the core of the White House­’s polit­i­cal dam­age con­trol if this back­fires and the virus spreads even more. It’ll be a lot eas­i­er for the White House to claim “we did­n’t know!” when one of Trump’s clos­est and most amoral polit­i­cal allies is in con­trol of what the White House knew and when it knew it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 22, 2020, 1:31 pm
  6. @Pterrafractyl–

    Although I have not been able to get the already-record­ed audio track for FTR #1126 up on the web­site due to the logis­tics of the shel­ter-in-place order, that pro­gram high­lights Palan­tir and what they have done.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 22, 2020, 2:15 pm

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