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FTR#1258 Pandemics, Inc., Part 8: Covid Update

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“Polit­i­cal language…is designed to make lies sound truth­ful and mur­der respectable, and to give an appear­ance of solid­i­ty to pure wind.”

— George Orwell, 1946

EVERYTHING MR. EMORY HAS BEEN SAYING ABOUT THE UKRAINE WAR IS ENCAPSULATED IN THIS VIDEO FROM UKRAINE 24 [5]

ANOTHER REVEALING VIDEO FROM UKRAINE 24 [6]

Mr. Emory has launched a new Patre­on site. Vis­it at: Patreon.com/DaveEmory [7]

FTR#1258 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment [8].

Intro­duc­tion: Updat­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, this broad­cast explores trou­bling devel­op­ments in the admin­is­tra­tion of aspects of the pan­dem­ic.

NB: Mr. Emory is not an anti-vaxxer. When prop­er­ly man­u­fac­tured and vet­ted, they are fun­da­men­tal to the main­te­nance of pub­lic health.

The dis­turb­ing aspects of Biden’s vac­cine pol­i­cy sug­gest the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the reg­u­la­to­ry hand­i­cap­ping of the FDA advo­cat­ed by Trump backer Peter Thiel and his ide­o­log­i­cal fel­low trav­el­ers may have been imple­ment­ed, under the pres­sure of the pan­dem­ic.

That de-reg­u­la­tion of the FDA may have car­ried over into Avi­a­tor Glass­es Joe’s admin­is­tra­tion.

An inter­est­ing and trou­bling sto­ry [9] con­cerns the FDA’s “thumbs down” on the John­son & John­son vac­cine because of a blood-clot­ting dis­or­der that affects 3.25 recip­i­ents per mil­lion. There have been a total of nine deaths from the dis­or­der out of 18 mil­lion recip­i­ents of the vac­cine.

The mRNA vac­cines, by way of con­trast, pro­duce a seri­ous con­di­tion called myocardi­tis in strong, healthy adults. That strikes eleven in every one hun­dred thou­sand recip­i­ents.

One must won­der why this con­clu­sion was reached. Is there Big Phar­ma prof­it-mak­ing con­sid­er­a­tions at play here? Or is the read­i­ly-adapt­able mRNA tech­nol­o­gy to new organ­isms that might be craft­ed as part of a bio­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gram loom­ing in the back­ground of such a deci­sion?

An even more dis­turb­ing, per­haps relat­ed, arti­cle [10] con­cerns sub­stan­tive indi­ca­tions that the much-maligned John­son & John­son vac­cine is more effec­tive than its mRNA com­peti­tors.

It may pro­vide bet­ter pro­tec­tion against the Omi­cron vari­ant.

” . . . . By now, all the vac­cines seem to be per­form­ing about equal­ly well against coro­n­avirus infec­tions; in fact, John­son & John­son appears to be hold­ing up slight­ly bet­ter. . . . Over­all, then, the John­son & John­son vac­cine appeared to be some­what more pro­tec­tive against infec­tion than the two alter­na­tives. . . . . . The J.&J. vac­cine may pro­duce anti­bod­ies that decline more slow­ly than those pro­duced by the oth­er vac­cines, some research sug­gests. Or those anti­bod­ies may become more sophis­ti­cat­ed [11] over time, through a bio­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non called affin­i­ty mat­u­ra­tion. . . . Per­haps, some researchers sug­gest, the vac­cine offered a more robust defense against the Omi­cron vari­ant, respon­si­ble for the huge increase in infec­tions over the past few months. And stud­ies have shown that the vac­cine trains [12]oth­er parts of the immune sys­tem [12] at least as well as the oth­er two vac­cines. . . .”

Anoth­er stun­ning devel­op­ment [13] con­cerns the FDA’s deci­sion to vet the next gen­er­a­tion of [mRNA] boost­ers with mouse tri­als, instead of human!

” . . . . ‘For the FDA to rely on mouse data is just bizarre, in my opin­ion,’ says John Moore [14], an immu­nol­o­gist at Weill Cor­nell Med­i­cine in New York. ‘Mouse data are not going to be pre­dic­tive in any way of what you would see in humans.’ . . . .”

WHY?

Peter Thiel favored “kneecap­ping the FDA” [15] in order to bring Big Phar­ma’s prod­ucts to mar­ket soon­er, in full aware­ness of the col­lat­er­al dam­age that would result from this.

” . . . . For Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion com­mis­sion­er, he [Thiel] attempt­ed to nom­i­nate can­di­dates who shared his belief that the FDA’s main role—regarding tri­als for drugs—was unnec­es­sary. One of Thiel’s allies in this cru­sade, and his top pick to lead the FDA, was Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan, the Stan­ford com­put­er sci­ence lec­tur­er and cryp­tocur­ren­cy entre­pre­neur who’s invest­ed along­side Thiel in Cur­tis Yarvin’s com­pa­ny and shared Thiel’s views. . . . ‘For every thalido­mide,’ he tweet­ed, “many dead from slowed approvals.” . . . . Thiel had argued much the same. . . .”

Note that the FDA’s reg­u­la­to­ry “red light” on the use of thalido­mide saved the U.S. from the birth defects night­mare expe­ri­enced by Europe.

We note in that regard that Thiel comes from an “I.G.” back­ground, to coin a term. As not­ed in FTR #718 [16], Thiel’s father was a chem­i­cal engi­neer from Frank­furt, the cap­i­tal of I.G.

After the pan­dem­ic, Thiel seemed pleased [15] at that event, main­tain­ing that it had pro­ject­ed us into the future. ” . . . . ‘COVID-19 cre­at­ed a shift. There used to be this feel­ing that the future was being held back some­how. Changes that should have tak­en place long ago did not come because there was resis­tance. Now the future is set free.’ He was, it seemed, wel­com­ing the pan­dem­ic as a chance to reset soci­ety accord­ing to his ideals and plans. . . .”

Joe Biden’s pol­i­cy [17] vis a vis Covid may well be eugeni­cist in its ori­en­ta­tion. Return­ing to “nor­mal,” in most respects, but allow­ing the virus to cir­cu­late, plac­ing seniors–no longer in the workforce–at risk

We have not­ed that Biden’s social poli­cies appear to be exten­sions of his nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy. He has stat­ed that com­pet­ing with Chi­na is a pri­or­i­ty.

In that regard, trim­ming expens­es, includ­ing the rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive social pro­grams need­ed to care for the elder­ly, is appar­ent­ly on the front burn­er. 

Bot­tom line: old folks don’t work.

” . . . . ‘And the ques­tion I have is, how much death are we OK with?’ she asks. ‘Have we decid­ed this is OK? And if so, why?’ . . . . Covid-19 has always been a dis­ease of the elder­ly, defined almost more by its age skew of mor­tal­i­ty than by any of its oth­er char­ac­ter­is­tics, with risk dou­bling rough­ly every eight years and octo­ge­nar­i­ans hun­dreds of times more at risk of death than young adults. . . .”

Indica­tive of Biden’s cyn­i­cism [18] on social and eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy is his selec­tion to serve on the Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion:

” . . . . Defend­ers of Social Secu­ri­ty on Tues­day urged the U.S. Sen­ate to block Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s lit­tle-noticed nom­i­na­tion of Andrew Big­gs — an Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute senior fel­low with a his­to­ry [19] of sup­port­ing Social Secu­ri­ty pri­va­ti­za­tion — to serve on the inde­pen­dent and bipar­ti­san Social Secu­ri­ty Advi­so­ry Board. . . . Biden was vice pres­i­dent when for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma pro­posed [20] a ‘grand bar­gain’ with the GOP that would have entailed cuts to Social Secu­ri­ty. Big­gs, too, has a long record of advo­cat­ing Social Secu­ri­ty cuts. As Cun­ning­ham-Cook wrote last month, ‘For years, Big­gs has been a vocal crit­ic of expand­ed Social Secu­ri­ty and work­ers’ right to a secure, sta­ble retire­ment free from the vagaries of the stock mar­ket.’. . .”

1a.

In a new­ly filed law­suit, Mod­er­na asserts that the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA coro­n­avirus vac­cines are infring­ing on Moderna’s patents. What’s eye­brow-rais­ing in this law­suit is the time­frame of Moderna’s claims. The com­pa­ny is argu­ing that Pfizer’s vac­cine copied work Mod­er­na had already done on coro­n­avirus vac­cines involv­ing human tri­als going back to 2015 and 2016. Beyond that, Mod­er­na asserts the full-sequence coro­n­avirus spike pro­tein used in Pfizer’s vac­cine was devel­oped by Mod­er­na years before the pan­dem­ic.

Per­haps the biggest set of ques­tions that might be answered in this law­suit involve Moderna’s pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tive role in the broad­er US-gov­ern­ment-fund­ed gain-of-func­tion research being lead by the Eco­HealthAl­liance in col­lab­o­ra­tion with labs around the world like Shi Zhengli’s lab at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) and Ralph Baric’s lab at UNC Chapel Hill. As we’ve seen, Ralph Bar­ic was work­ing on devel­op­ing coro­n­avirus ther­a­peu­tics back in 2017 using gain-of-func­tion-cre­at­ed coro­n­avirus­es in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab at the WIV. And Bar­ic also helped test the Mod­er­na covid vac­cine in 2020 [21]. So was Mod­er­na – which was fund­ed by DARPA – at all involved in this oth­er NIH-fund­ed coro­n­avirus-relat­ed gain-of-func­tion work? The cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sure points in that direc­tion.

Above all, there’s the part of the law­suit claim­ing that Pfiz­er effec­tive­ly stole the full-sequence coro­n­avirus spike pro­tein sequence Mod­er­na had worked out years ear­li­er.

This is a con­fus­ing part of the law­suit since, as we’ve been told, it was the SARS-CoV­‑2 spike pro­tein sequence that was at the heart of the mRNA COVID vac­cine devel­oped in record-break­ing time back in Jan­u­ary of 2020 [22].

What is Mod­er­na talk­ing about when claim­ing that it already devel­oped a coro­n­avirus spike pro­tein years ear­li­er? Recall how Mod­er­na was crit­i­cized back in 2020 over its deci­sion to file a patent in Feb 2020 for a “Beta­coro­n­avirus vac­cine” – a broad-spec­trum vac­cine designed for non-COVID coro­n­avirus­es – with­out acknowl­edg­ing the US gov­ern­ments role in that research [22]Pfizer/BioNTech filed a patent for a sim­i­lar “uni­ver­sal coro­n­avirus vac­cine” back in June [23].

It appears that’s what Mod­er­na is refer­ring to when it claims to have devel­oped a coro­n­avirus spike pro­tein sequence years before the pan­dem­ic. That rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion: was Mod­er­na part of the whole Eco­HealthAl­liance gain-of-func­tion research on coro­n­avirus­es back in their 2015–2016 peri­od?

Gain-of-func­tion research was tech­ni­cal­ly banned in the US from 2014 until the Trump admin­is­tra­tion lift­ed it in 2017. Recall, also, how Baric’s gain-of-func­tion work that was start­ed before the mora­to­ri­um was put into place was allowed to con­tin­ue under a spe­cial exemp­tion [24].

If Moderna’s coro­n­avirus vac­cine devel­op­ment involved the use of virus­es being gen­er­at­ed by Bar­ic under an exemp­tion to the gain-of-func­tion mora­to­ri­um, that would obvi­ous­ly be a very sen­si­tive area of research.

There’s anoth­er facet of this sto­ry to keep in mind: recall that fas­ci­nat­ing Sep­tem­ber 2016 STAT News arti­cle that described how Mod­er­na had shift­ed its focus from mRNA ther­a­peu­tics – which require numer­ous shots over years – to mRNA vac­cines. It was seen as as dis­ap­point­ment by indus­try observers and sign that Mod­er­na was run­ning into undis­closed set­backs involv­ing side effects trig­gered by the lipid nanopar­ti­cle (LNP) deliv­ery vehi­cle for the mRNA. But as we saw, Mod­er­na was insist­ing at the time that it was expe­ri­enc­ing no such set­backs. And yet observers were forced to take their word because the com­pa­ny was being so secre­tive and releas­ing almost no infor­ma­tion about its inter­nal tri­als [25].

There is no men­tion of coro­n­avirus-relat­ed research at all in that arti­cle, while there is men­tion of work on things like a Zika virus vac­cine.

Yet, in the new law­suit, Mod­er­na claims it suc­cess­ful­ly car­ried out human tri­als on a coro­n­avirus vac­cine as far back as 2015. It would seem that Moderna’s coro­n­avirus-relat­ed vac­cine research was being kept under wraps dur­ing this peri­od.

We have to ask if the extreme secre­cy around its work dur­ing this peri­od may have been dri­ven by the con­tro­ver­sial nature of devel­op­ing coro­n­avirus vac­cines using gain-of-func­tion coro­n­avirus­es gen­er­at­ed by the Eco­HealthAl­liance net­work. Cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence points in that direc­tion. 

Mod­er­na is appar­ent­ly suing over patents it devel­oped dur­ing its most­ly-still-secret DARPA col­lab­o­ra­tion. Col­lab­o­ra­tion that might be direct­ly relat­ed to the most­ly-still-secret US-gov­ern­ment-financed inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tion ded­i­cat­ed to mak­ing and study­ing nov­el coro­n­avirus­es. Law­suits have a ten­den­cy to unin­ten­tion­al­ly reveal secrets. Thereis clear­ly an abun­dance of secrets still wait­ing to be revealed about Moderna’s coro­n­avirus vac­cine research.

Again, we empha­size the fol­low­ing very inter­est­ing detail in Moderna’s com­plaint: the com­pa­ny is assert­ing that Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech copied Moderna’s full-length spike pro­tein for­mu­la­tion for a coro­n­avirus, which Mod­ern claims to have cre­at­ed years before the emer­gence of COVID-19.

Recall how the shar­ing of the genet­ic sequence of SARS-CoV­‑2 by Chi­nese researchers with the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty allowed for Mod­er­na to and its NIH col­lab­o­ra­tors [22] to design the vac­cine in just two days with just that spike pro­tein sequence infor­ma­tion [26].

Once again, Mod­er­na is suing Pfiz­er over the alleged theft of a coro­n­avirus spike pro­tein sequence devel­oped years ear­li­er, we have to ask whether or not this part of the law­suit is relat­ed to the “uni­ver­sal coro­n­avirus” vac­cine Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech start­ed test­ing back in June [23].

Note, again, that Mod­er­na caught flack back in August of 2020 after it filed patents relat­ed to the coro­n­avirus vac­cine that didn’t dis­close the bil­lions in dol­lars in DARPA mon­ey, includ­ing DARPA involve­ment in the devel­op­ment of a broad spec­turm “Beta­coro­n­avirus” vac­cine that Mod­er­na had filed a patent for in Feb­ru­ary 2020 [22].

That, again, returns us to ques­tions regard­ing Moderna’s involve­ment with the pre-pan­dem­ic gain-of-func­tion coro­n­avirus research car­ried out by the Eco­Health Alliance and col­lab­o­ra­tors like the WIV. Because as we’ve seen, the cre­ation of a broad-spec­trum coro­n­avirus vac­cine was part of the pre-pan­dem­ic work done by the Eco­HealthAl­liance, the WIV, and Ralph Baric’s lab at UNC Chapel Hill [27].

Was Mod­er­na involved in that broad-spec­trum coro­n­avirus vac­cine research? It appears to have been the case.

“Mod­er­na Sues Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech Over Covid Vac­cine” By Jen­ny Gross and Rebec­ca Rob­bins; The New York Times; 08/26/2022 [28]

The law­suit, filed Fri­day, claims that the com­pa­nies’ Covid vac­cine vio­lat­ed Moderna’s mRNA patents.

The vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­er Mod­er­na sued Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech on Fri­day, claim­ing that its rivals’ Covid-19 shot vio­lates its patents pro­tect­ing its ground­break­ing tech­nol­o­gy.

Mod­er­na said in a state­ment that Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech infringed on patents filed between 2010 and 2016 that cov­ered its mRNA tech­nol­o­gy. Mod­er­na, which is based in Cam­bridge, Mass., sued in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Mass­a­chu­setts and the Region­al Court of Düs­sel­dorf in Ger­many, where BioN­Tech is based.

Christo­pher Rid­ley, a spokesman for Mod­er­na, said the com­pa­ny did not have an esti­mate for the amount of dam­ages it was seek­ing.

Pfiz­er and its devel­op­ment part­ner BioN­Tech were “sur­prised by the lit­i­ga­tion,” said Jer­i­ca Pitts, a spokes­woman for Pfiz­er. She added that the com­pa­nies “remain con­fi­dent in our intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty sup­port­ing the Pfizer/BioNTech vac­cine and will vig­or­ous­ly defend against the alle­ga­tions of the law­suit.”

Mes­sen­ger RNA, or mRNA, is the genet­ic script that car­ries DNA instruc­tions to each cell’s pro­tein-mak­ing machin­ery and has been used in the pro­duc­tion of coro­n­avirus vac­cines.

“We are fil­ing these law­suits to pro­tect the inno­v­a­tive mRNA tech­nol­o­gy plat­form that we pio­neered, invest­ed bil­lions of dol­lars in cre­at­ing, and patent­ed dur­ing the decade pre­ced­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic,” said Stéphane Ban­cel, Moderna’s chief exec­u­tive. “This foun­da­tion­al plat­form, which we began build­ing in 2010, along with our patent­ed work on coro­n­avirus­es in 2015 and 2016, enabled us to pro­duce a safe and high­ly effec­tive Covid-19 vac­cine in record time after the pan­dem­ic struck.”

Mod­er­na, which received close to $10 bil­lion in tax­pay­er fund­ing to devel­op the vac­cine, test it and pro­vide dos­es to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, had said in fall 2020 that it would not enforce its Covid-relat­ed patents [29] while the pan­dem­ic con­tin­ued. But on March 7, the com­pa­ny said that said that it was updat­ing its pledge, since vac­cine sup­ply was no longer an issue out­side the poor­est coun­tries. It said it expect­ed man­u­fac­tur­ers out­side the 92 poor­est coun­tries to respect the company’s intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. At the time, it also said that it was expand­ing its patent pledge [30] to nev­er enforce Covid patents for 92 low- and mid­dle-income coun­tries.

Mod­er­na said on Fri­day that it was not seek­ing dam­ages for activ­i­ties before March 8 and that none of the patents relate to intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty gen­er­at­ed dur­ing Moderna’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health on Covid-19, which it said began only after patent­ed tech­nolo­gies were proven suc­cess­ful in 2015 and 2016.

Mod­er­na said that Pfiz­er copied two fea­tures of its patent­ed tech­nol­o­gy. First, Pfiz­er took four vac­cine can­di­dates into clin­i­cal test­ing, but ulti­mate­ly pro­ceed­ed with a vac­cine with the same mRNA tech­nol­o­gy as the Mod­er­na vac­cine. Mod­er­na said it was the first com­pa­ny to val­i­date this tech­nol­o­gy in human tri­als in 2015, and that nei­ther Pfiz­er nor BioN­Tech had its lev­el of expe­ri­ence in devel­op­ing mRNA vac­cines for infec­tious dis­eases.

Sec­ond, Mod­er­na claims that Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech copied its full-length spike pro­tein for­mu­la­tion for a coro­n­avirus, which Mod­er­na had cre­at­ed years before Covid-19 emerged. Coro­n­avirus­es refer to a large fam­i­ly of virus­es that cause mild to mod­er­ate upper res­pi­ra­to­ry tract ill­ness­es, accord­ing to the N.I.H. The more seri­ous ones include SARS, MERS and Covid-19.

Mod­er­na said it was not seek­ing to remove Pfiz­er and BioNTech’s vac­cines from the mar­ket, and was not ask­ing for an injunc­tion to pre­vent their future sale, giv­en the need for access to coro­n­avirus vac­cines. . . .

1b. An inter­est­ing and trou­bling sto­ry con­cerns the FDA’s “thumbs down” on the John­son & John­son vac­cine because of a blood-clot­ting dis­or­der that affects 3.25 recip­i­ents per mil­lion. There have been a total of nine deaths from the dis­or­der out of 18 mil­lion recip­i­ents of the vac­cine.

The mRNA vac­cines, by way of con­trast, pro­duce a seri­ous con­di­tion called myocardi­tis in strong, healthy adults. That strikes eleven in every one hun­dred thou­sand recip­i­ents.

One must won­der why this con­clu­sion was reached. Is there Big Phar­ma prof­it-mak­ing con­sid­er­a­tions at play here? Or is the read­i­ly-adapt­able mRNA tech­nol­o­gy to new organ­isms that might be craft­ed as part of a bio­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gram loom­ing in the back­ground of such a deci­sion?

“FDA lim­its use of John­son & Johnson’s Covid-19 vac­cine, cit­ing clot­ting risk” by Helen Bran­swell; STAT News; 05/05/2022 [9]

. . . . Peter Marks, the FDA’s vac­cines lead, told STAT the agency reached its deci­sion after a recent review of the data on the vac­cine revealed anoth­er per­son in this coun­try had died after receiv­ing it — the ninth such death — in the first quar­ter of the year. The vac­cine is made by J&J’s vac­cines divi­sion, Janssen.

“If we see deaths and there is an alter­na­tive vac­cine that is not asso­ci­at­ed with deaths but is asso­ci­at­ed with sim­i­lar effi­ca­cy … we felt it was time at this point to make a state­ment on the [product’s] fact sheet that this was not a first-line vac­cine,” said Marks, who is direc­tor of the FDA’s Cen­ter for Bio­log­ics Eval­u­a­tion and Research.

The clot­ting dis­or­der, called throm­bo­sis with throm­bo­cy­tope­nia or TTS, is rare, occur­ring at a rate of about 3.25 cas­es per mil­lion dos­es admin­is­tered. But the con­di­tion can be fatal or life-alter­ing if an indi­vid­ual sur­vives. With one death for every 2 mil­lion dos­es giv­en in this coun­try, the FDA decid­ed that is a risk most peo­ple don’t need to take, Marks said. . . .

. . . . He acknowl­edged the lat­est announce­ment won’t change much on the ground in the Unit­ed States, where few vac­ci­na­tion sites stock the J&J vac­cine at this point. But it could have impli­ca­tions abroad, where coun­tries still strug­gling to vac­ci­nate their pop­u­laces could be influ­enced by the U.S. deci­sion. . . .

———

2. An even more dis­turb­ing, per­haps relat­ed, arti­cle con­cerns sub­stan­tive indi­ca­tions that the much-maligned John­son & John­son vac­cine is more effec­tive than its mRNA com­peti­tors.

It may pro­vide bet­ter pro­tec­tion against the Omi­cron vari­ant.

” . . . . By now, all the vac­cines seem to be per­form­ing about equal­ly well against coro­n­avirus infec­tions; in fact, John­son & John­son appears to be hold­ing up slight­ly bet­ter. . . . Over­all, then, the John­son & John­son vac­cine appeared to be some­what more pro­tec­tive against infec­tion than the two alter­na­tives. . . . . . The J.&J. vac­cine may pro­duce anti­bod­ies that decline more slow­ly than those pro­duced by the oth­er vac­cines, some research sug­gests. Or those anti­bod­ies may become more sophis­ti­cat­ed [11] over time, through a bio­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non called affin­i­ty mat­u­ra­tion. . . . Per­haps, some researchers sug­gest, the vac­cine offered a more robust defense against the Omi­cron vari­ant, respon­si­ble for the huge increase in infec­tions over the past few months. And stud­ies have shown that the vac­cine trains [12]oth­er parts of the immune sys­tem [12] at least as well as the oth­er two vac­cines. . . .”

“As Virus Data Mounts, the J.&J. Vac­cine Holds Its Own” By Apoor­va Man­davil­li; The New York Times; 03/15/2022 [10]

Rough­ly 17 mil­lion Amer­i­cans received the John­son & John­son Covid vac­cine, only to be told lat­er that it was the least pro­tec­tive of the options avail­able in the Unit­ed States. But new data sug­gest that the vac­cine is now pre­vent­ing infec­tions, hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and deaths at least as well as the Pfiz­er-BioN­Tech and Mod­er­na vac­cines.

The rea­sons aren’t clear, and not all experts are con­vinced that the vac­cine has vin­di­cat­ed itself. But the accu­mu­lat­ing data nonethe­less offer con­sid­er­able reas­sur­ance to recip­i­ents of the vac­cine and, if con­firmed, have broad impli­ca­tions for its deploy­ment in parts of the world.

In Africa, for exam­ple, dis­tri­b­u­tion of a sin­gle-dose vac­cine that can be refrig­er­at­ed for months is by far the most prac­ti­cal option.

John­son & John­son has at least tem­porar­i­ly shut down [31] the only plant mak­ing usable batch­es of the vac­cine. But the South Africa-based Aspen Phar­ma­care is gear­ing up to sup­ply [32] large quan­ti­ties to the rest of the con­ti­nent. Only about 13 per­cent [33] of Africans are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed, and only about 1 per­cent have received a boost­er dose. . . .

. . . . But the notion that the vac­cine is infe­ri­or has grown out­dat­ed, some experts said: More recent data sug­gest that it has more than held its own against its com­peti­tors.

“We’ve been aware that J.&J. has been kind of down­grad­ed in people’s minds,” Dr. Gail-Bekker said. But “it punch­es above its weight for a sin­gle-dose vac­cine.”

Until last June, the cumu­la­tive data from the C.D.C. showed that immu­niza­tion with the Mod­er­na vac­cine result­ed in the low­est rates of break­through infec­tions; those who got John­son & John­son saw the high­est rates, with Pfiz­er-BioN­Tech some­where in the mid­dle.

Dur­ing the sum­mer months, the gaps — par­tic­u­lar­ly between J.&J. and Pfiz­er — began to nar­row. By now, all the vac­cines seem to be per­form­ing about equal­ly well against coro­n­avirus infec­tions; in fact, John­son & John­son appears to be hold­ing up slight­ly bet­ter.

As of Jan. 22, the lat­est data avail­able, unvac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple were 3.2 times as like­ly to become infect­ed as those who received the sin­gle-dose John­son & John­son vac­cine; they were 2.8 times as like­ly to become infect­ed as those who received two dos­es of the Mod­er­na vac­cine and 2.4 times as like­ly as those with two dos­es of Pfiz­er-BioN­Tech. Over­all, then, the John­son & John­son vac­cine appeared to be some­what more pro­tec­tive against infec­tion than the two alter­na­tives. . . . . .

. . . . The find­ings indi­cate that the J.&J. vac­cine deserves a clos­er look, said Dr. Lar­ry Corey, an expert in vac­cine devel­op­ment at the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Research Cen­ter in Seat­tle.

“This vac­cine plat­form may have some sur­pris­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics that we hadn’t antic­i­pat­ed,” he said. The data “is inter­est­ing, provoca­tive, and we should spend more time under­stand­ing it.”

Dr. Corey said the results jibe with his expe­ri­ence in H.I.V. research with the ade­n­ovirus that forms the back­bone of the John­son & John­son vac­cine. “It has much longer dura­bil­i­ty than almost any oth­er plat­form that we’ve ever worked with,” he said.

Sci­en­tists are only begin­ning to guess why the vaccine’s pro­file is improv­ing with the pass­ing months.

Lev­els of anti­bod­ies sky­rock­et in the first few weeks after immu­niza­tion, but then rapid­ly wane. The J.&J. vac­cine may pro­duce anti­bod­ies that decline more slow­ly than those pro­duced by the oth­er vac­cines, some research sug­gests. Or those anti­bod­ies may become more sophis­ti­cat­ed [11] over time, through a bio­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non called affin­i­ty mat­u­ra­tion.

Per­haps, some researchers sug­gest, the vac­cine offered a more robust defense against the Omi­cron vari­ant, respon­si­ble for the huge increase in infec­tions over the past few months. And stud­ies have shown that the vac­cine trains [12]oth­er parts of the immune sys­tem [12] at least as well as the oth­er two vac­cines. . . .

3. Anoth­er stun­ning devel­op­ment con­cerns the FDA’s deci­sion to vet the next gen­er­a­tion of [mRNA] boost­ers with mouse tri­als, instead of human!

” . . . . ‘For the FDA to rely on mouse data is just bizarre, in my opin­ion,’ says John Moore [14], an immu­nol­o­gist at Weill Cor­nell Med­i­cine in New York. ‘Mouse data are not going to be pre­dic­tive in any way of what you would see in humans.’ . . . .”

WHY?

“What’s behind the FDA’s con­tro­ver­sial strat­e­gy for eval­u­at­ing new COVID boost­ers” by Rob Stein; npr.org; 8/18/2022 [13].

The U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion is using a con­tro­ver­sial strat­e­gy to eval­u­ate the next gen­er­a­tion of COVID-19 boost­ers.

The approach is stir­ring debate as the agency works to make new, hope­ful­ly improved, boost­ers avail­able in Sep­tem­ber to help pre­vent severe dis­ease and save lives in the fall and win­ter.

For the first time, the FDA is plan­ning to base its deci­sion about whether to autho­rize new boost­ers on stud­ies involv­ing mice instead of humans. 

“For the FDA to rely on mouse data is just bizarre, in my opin­ion,” says John Moore [14], an immu­nol­o­gist at Weill Cor­nell Med­i­cine in New York. “Mouse data are not going to be pre­dic­tive in any way of what you would see in humans.” . . . .

But oth­ers defend the approach, argu­ing that the coun­try has had enough expe­ri­ence with the vac­cines at this point to be con­fi­dent the shots are safe and that there’s not enough time to wait for data from human stud­ies.

“We have 500 peo­ple a day dying of coro­n­avirus right now. Those num­bers sad­ly might very well rise in the fall and the win­ter. The ques­tion is: ‘Can we do some­thing bet­ter?’ ” says Dr. Ofer Levy, [34] a pedi­atrics and infec­tious dis­ease researcher at Har­vard Med­ical School who also advis­es the FDA. “And I think the answer is: ‘We can, by imple­ment­ing this approach.’ ” . . .

. . . . But the big con­cern is the boost­ers may not work as well as the mouse data might sug­gest. Mouse exper­i­ments are noto­ri­ous­ly unre­li­able. . . .

. . . . “We need to make sure that we have sol­id immuno­genic­i­ty data in peo­ple to show that you have a dra­mat­i­cal­ly greater neu­tral­iz­ing anti­body response against BA.4, BA.5,” says Dr. Paul Offit  [35]of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, who also advis­es the FDA. “I think any­thing short of that is not accept­able.” . . .

4. Peter Thiel favored “kneecap­ping the FDA” in order to bring Big Phar­ma’s prod­ucts to mar­ket soon­er, in full aware­ness of the col­lat­er­al dam­age that would result from this.

” . . . . For Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion com­mis­sion­er, he [Thiel] attempt­ed to nom­i­nate can­di­dates who shared his belief that the FDA’s main role—regarding tri­als for drugs—was unnec­es­sary. One of Thiel’s allies in this cru­sade, and his top pick to lead the FDA, was Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan, the Stan­ford com­put­er sci­ence lec­tur­er and cryp­tocur­ren­cy entre­pre­neur who’s invest­ed along­side Thiel in Cur­tis Yarvin’s com­pa­ny and shared Thiel’s views. . . . ‘For every thalido­mide,’ he tweet­ed, “many dead from slowed approvals.” . . . . Thiel had argued much the same. . . .”

Note that the FDA’s reg­u­la­to­ry “red light” on the use of thalido­mide saved the U.S. from the birth defects night­mare expe­ri­enced by Europe.

We note in that regard that Thiel comes from an “I.G.” back­ground, to coin a term. As not­ed in FTR #718 [16], Thiel’s father was a chem­i­cal engi­neer from Frank­furt, the cap­i­tal of I.G.

The Con­trar­i­an by Max Chafkin; Pen­guin Press [HC]; Copy­right 2021 by Max Chafkin; ISBN 9781984878533; p9. 253–254. [15]

. . . . For Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion com­mis­sion­er, he [Thiel] attempt­ed to nom­i­nate can­di­dates who shared his belief that the FDA’s main role—regarding tri­als for drugs—was unnec­es­sary.

The con­sen­sus view among drug devel­op­ers, even many in Sil­i­con Val­ley, has been that “you don’t want to put indi­vid­u­als at risk,” said Zach Wein­berg, the cofounder of Flat­iron Health, a Sil­i­con Val­ley-backed med­ical research firm that is now owned by the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal giant Roche. “Peter Thiel’s view is that will slow things down. His whole game is if a few peo­ple get hurt and that cre­ates progress, he’s will­ing to take that trade.” 

One of Thiel’s allies in this cru­sade, and his top pick to lead the FDA, was Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan, the Stan­ford com­put­er sci­ence lec­tur­er and cryp­tocur­ren­cy entre­pre­neur who’s invest­ed along­side Thiel in Cur­tis Yarvin’s com­pa­ny and shared Thiel’s views. . . . 

 . . . . “For every thalido­mide,” he tweet­ed, “many dead from slowed approvals.” . . . .

Thiel had argued much the same. . . .

. . . . the agency’s [FDA] refusal in the ear­ly 1960’s to approve thalido­mide, a sleep­ing pill, is regard­ed as one of the great admin­is­tra­tive suc­cess sto­ries. In Europe, where a less-reg­u­lat­ed mar­ket allowed thalido­mide to be pre­scribed to preg­nant women, thou­sands of babies were born with­out ful­ly formed limbs. . . .

. . . . Thiel’s oth­er choice to run the FDA was Jim O’Neill, who’d run the Thiel Foun­da­tion and had since worked as an investor at Mithril, Ajay Royan’s ven­ture cap­i­tal firm . . . . He also believed in rolling back the FDA man­dates about drug effi­ca­cy. . . .

5. After the pan­dem­ic, Thiel seemed pleased at that event, main­tain­ing that it had pro­ject­ed us into the future. ” . . . . ‘COVID-19 cre­at­ed a shift. There used to be this feel­ing that the future was being held back some­how. Changes that should have tak­en place long ago did not come because there was resis­tance. Now the future is set free.’ He was, it seemed, wel­com­ing the pan­dem­ic as a chance to reset soci­ety accord­ing to his ideals and plans. . . .”

The Con­trar­i­an by Max Chafkin; Pen­guin Press [HC]; Copy­right 2021 by Max Chafkin; ISBN 9781984878533; p9. 327–328. [15]

. . . . How could any­one devot­ed to life exten­sion not be moved by so many pre­ventable deaths? By late March more than 550,000 Amer­i­cans had died from Covid, mak­ing the pan­dem­ic dead­lier than U.S. casu­al­ties in World War I and World War II com­bined. The Unit­ed States has suf­fered one of the worst per-capi­ta mor­tal­i­ty rates in the world. How had those grim fig­ures not moved him to break with Trump or to at last spend more ambi­tious­ly to help? . . . .

. . . . Thiel spoke to Die Welt­woche, a Swiss news­pa­per whose edi­tor Roger Kop­pel is a mem­ber of the country’s nation­al-con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Par­ty. Dur­ing an inter­view with Kop­pel, Thiel char­ac­ter­ized the dis­ease as a men­tal pathol­o­gy rather than a phys­i­cal one. “I see it as a psy­cho­log­i­cal indi­ca­tor that peo­ple know deep down: There is no way back to the old nor­mal,” he said.

He con­tin­ued: “COVID-19 cre­at­ed a shift. There used to be this feel­ing that the future was being held back some­how. Changes that should have tak­en place long ago did not come because there was resis­tance. Now the future is set free.” He was, it seemed, wel­com­ing the pan­dem­ic as a chance to reset soci­ety accord­ing to his ideals and plans. . . .

6. In an alto­geth­er spec­u­la­tive ele­ment, we review dis­cus­sion of Nazi chem­i­cal giant I.G. Far­ben’s influ­ence in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal busi­ness, the pro­gram access­es infor­ma­tion about the tran­quil­iz­er thalido­mide. When pre­scribed for preg­nant women in the ear­ly 1960’s, it led to hor­ri­bly deformed babies. A new book claims that the drug was actu­al­ly invent­ed by the Nazis and test­ed in con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing World War II.

“Thalido­mide ‘Cre­at­ed by Nazis’ ” [TimesOn­line]; The Aus­tralian; 2/08/2009. [36]

“The morn­ing sick­ness drug thalido­mide, which caused preg­nant women to give birth to babies with­out arms and legs, was first devel­oped by the Nazis, prob­a­bly as part of their chem­i­cal weapons pro­gramme, accord­ing to new research.

Two sep­a­rate aca­d­e­mics have revealed the dis­cov­ery of doc­u­ments indi­cat­ing that the drug did not orig­i­nate with Chemie Grunen­thal, the post-war Ger­man chem­i­cal firm, as has always been claimed.

If, as their research sug­gests, thalido­mide was first devel­oped by sci­en­tists work­ing in wartime Ger­many, it could have impli­ca­tions for the lia­bil­i­ty of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment. So far it has giv­en com­pen­sa­tion only to Ger­man vic­tims, although the drug was dis­trib­uted in 46 coun­tries.

Thou­sands of the drug’s vic­tims are still bat­tling for increased finan­cial aid to help them cope with its lega­cy. There are 457 thalido­miders remain­ing in the UK; 2,700 in Ger­many; and a total of up to 6,000 worldwide.s

Moth­ers pre­scribed it between its launch in 1957 and 1961, when it was removed from the mar­ket, gave birth to chil­dren who lacked prop­er arms, legs, hands and feet. Some had also suf­fered brain dam­age and oth­er dis­abil­i­ties.

Dr Mar­tin John­son, direc­tor of the Thalido­mide Trust which pro­vides help for sur­viv­ing vic­tims in the UK, has writ­ten a paper detail­ing evi­dence sug­gest­ing that the drug had been devel­oped before Grunen­thal secured a patent in 1954.

The com­pa­ny has always main­tained that thalido­mide was cre­at­ed by chance in 1953 by sci­en­tists who had tried to cre­ate an anti­his­t­a­mine but end­ed up with a tran­quil­liz­er.

John­son sus­pects that it was actu­al­ly first pro­duced as a pos­si­ble anti­dote to nerve tox­ins such as sarin, which was devel­oped by Otto Ambros, a Nazi sci­en­tist who joined Grunen­thal after the war.

‘It is now appear­ing increas­ing­ly like­ly that thalido­mide was the last war crime of the Nazis,’ said John­son.

One doc­u­ment unearthed by the Thalido­mide Trust shows that Grunen­thal appar­ent­ly pur­chased the trade name of the drug — Con­ter­gan — and there­fore prob­a­bly the sub­stance itself, from a French firm, Rhone-Poulenc, which was under Nazi con­trol dur­ing the war years.

A con­fi­den­tial let­ter sent from Astra, which held the Swedish licence to dis­trib­ute thalido­mide, to its Nor­we­gian sub­sidiary in 1958 states: ‘Unfor­tu­nate­ly we can’t use the name Con­ter­gan in the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries, since Grunen­thal obtained the name exclu­sive­ly for the Ger­man mar­ket through an agree­ment with Rhone-Poulenc.’

From 1942 onwards Rhone-Poulenc reg­is­tered 14 sim­i­lar drugs, all end­ing with the same ‘ergan’ suf­fix, a char­ac­ter­is­tic unique to the firm. Many of the drugs shared prop­er­ties with thalido­mide, such as affect­ing the ner­vous sys­tem.”

7. Joe Biden’s pol­i­cy vis a vis Covid may well be eugeni­cist in its ori­en­ta­tion. Return­ing to “nor­mal,” in most respects, but allow­ing the virus to cir­cu­late, plac­ing seniors–no longer in the workforce–at risk

We have not­ed that Biden’s social poli­cies appear to be exten­sions of his nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy. He has stat­ed that com­pet­ing with Chi­na is a pri­or­i­ty.

In that regard, trim­ming expens­es, includ­ing the rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive social pro­grams need­ed to care for the elder­ly, is appar­ent­ly on the front burn­er. 

Bot­tom line: old folks don’t work.

” . . . . ‘And the ques­tion I have is, how much death are we OK with?’ she asks. ‘Have we decid­ed this is OK? And if so, why?’ . . . . Covid-19 has always been a dis­ease of the elder­ly, defined almost more by its age skew of mor­tal­i­ty than by any of its oth­er char­ac­ter­is­tics, with risk dou­bling rough­ly every eight years and octo­ge­nar­i­ans hun­dreds of times more at risk of death than young adults. . . .”

“Endem­ic Covid-19 Is Look­ing Bru­tal” by David Wal­lace-Wells; The New York Times [17]; 7/24/2022. [17]

. . . . More than 300 Amer­i­cans have been dying near­ly every day for months; the num­ber is today above 400, and grow­ing.

Right now, [Dr. Trevor] Bed­ford says, around 5 per­cent of the coun­try is get­ting infect­ed with the coro­n­avirus each month and he expects that pat­tern to large­ly con­tin­ue. What would that imply death-wise, I ask? As a ball­park esti­mate, he says, going for­ward we can expect that every year, around 50 per­cent of Amer­i­cans will be infect­ed and more than 100,000 will die. . . .

. . . . A hun­dred thou­sand deaths is more than the annu­al toll of any oth­er infec­tious dis­ease and would make Covid-19 a top-10 cause of death in the coun­try — a major and nov­el cause of wide­spread death cloud­ing the Amer­i­can hori­zon with anoth­er dark lay­er of mor­bid­i­ty we had nev­er known before. It’s a few mul­ti­ples of a typ­i­cal flu sea­son and more than die each year from dia­betes, pneu­mo­nia or kid­ney dis­ease. It is what this news­pa­per once called, in an immor­tal front-page ban­ner, “an incal­cu­la­ble loss [37].”

How do you cal­cu­late a loss 10 times as high? How can you reck­on with that lev­el of dying, each year, going for­ward? Accord­ing to Céline Gounder, an infec­tious dis­ease epi­demi­ol­o­gist and a senior fel­low at the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, that fig­ure is actu­al­ly the low end — the ball­park, she says, runs from 100,000 to 250,000. That’s not her esti­mate of this year’s toll but of the annu­al con­tin­u­ing mor­tal­i­ty bur­den rolling for­ward indef­i­nite­ly into the future. “And the ques­tion I have is, how much death are we OK with?” she asks. “Have we decid­ed this is OK? And if so, why?” . . . .

. . . . Covid-19 has always been a dis­ease of the elder­ly, defined almost more by its age skew of mor­tal­i­ty than by any of its oth­er char­ac­ter­is­tics, with risk dou­bling rough­ly every eight years and octo­ge­nar­i­ans hun­dreds of times more at risk of death than young adults. But in a time of wide­spread vac­ci­na­tion and almost uni­ver­sal infec­tion, that gap may well expand.

[Dr. Michael] Mina com­pares the build­ing of immu­ni­ty to the learn­ing of a lan­guage. “It’s a fact of the biol­o­gy of immu­ni­ty that it’s real­ly hard to build a brand-new mem­o­ry and keep it if you’re old,” he says. “And so I do think that for quite a while our elder­ly pop­u­la­tion is going to keep hav­ing real­ly big prob­lems because they just can’t retain these new mem­o­ries.” Peo­ple exposed today, who will become 80 years old in 25 years or so, won’t have the same prob­lem, Mina says, because they will have built their immune mem­o­ry at a younger age. . . .

8. Indica­tive of Biden’s cyn­i­cism on social and eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy is his selec­tion to serve on the Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion:

” . . . . Defend­ers of Social Secu­ri­ty on Tues­day urged the U.S. Sen­ate to block Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s lit­tle-noticed nom­i­na­tion of Andrew Big­gs — an Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute senior fel­low with a his­to­ry [19] of sup­port­ing Social Secu­ri­ty pri­va­ti­za­tion — to serve on the inde­pen­dent and bipar­ti­san Social Secu­ri­ty Advi­so­ry Board. . . . Biden was vice pres­i­dent when for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma pro­posed [20] a ‘grand bar­gain’ with the GOP that would have entailed cuts to Social Secu­ri­ty. Big­gs, too, has a long record of advo­cat­ing Social Secu­ri­ty cuts. As Cun­ning­ham-Cook wrote last month, ‘For years, Big­gs has been a vocal crit­ic of expand­ed Social Secu­ri­ty and work­ers’ right to a secure, sta­ble retire­ment free from the vagaries of the stock mar­ket.’. . .”

“Biden’s Nom­i­nee for Social Secu­ri­ty Board” by Jake John­son [Com­mon Dreams]; Con­sor­tium News; 7/6/2022. [18]

The advo­ca­cy group Social Secu­ri­ty Works is urg­ing the Sen­ate to block Andrew Big­gs’ appoint­ment by high­light­ing his role in the George W. Bush administration’s failed attempt to pri­va­tize the New Deal pro­gram in 2005.

Defend­ers of Social Secu­ri­ty on Tues­day urged the U.S. Sen­ate to block Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s lit­tle-noticed nom­i­na­tion of Andrew Big­gs — an Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute senior fel­low with a his­to­ry [19] of sup­port­ing Social Secu­ri­ty pri­va­ti­za­tion — to serve on the inde­pen­dent and bipar­ti­san Social Secu­ri­ty Advi­so­ry Board.

Social Secu­ri­ty Works, a pro­gres­sive advo­ca­cy group, is lead­ing the charge against Big­gs, high­light­ing his role in the George W. Bush administration’s failed attempt [38] to pri­va­tize the New Deal pro­gram in 2005. At the time, Big­gs worked on Social Secu­ri­ty as an asso­ciate direc­tor of Bush’s Nation­al Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil.

“Andrew Big­gs has advo­cat­ed for Social Secu­ri­ty cuts through­out his career. And now, he’s been nom­i­nat­ed to over­see Social Secu­ri­ty,” Social Secu­ri­ty Works tweet­ed [39] on Tues­day.

The group, whose pres­i­dent cur­rent­ly serves [40] on the Social Secu­ri­ty Advi­so­ry Board (SSAB), is also shar­ing a sam­ple call script [41] for those who wish to con­tact their rep­re­sen­ta­tives about Big­gs.

“The Sen­ate can, and must, block this ter­ri­ble nom­i­na­tion,” the orga­ni­za­tion wrote. “Please call your sen­a­tors at 202–224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on Andrew Big­gs.”

The White House announced [42] Big­gs’ nom­i­na­tion to the SSAB in May, a move that drew lit­tle notice at the time.

Last month, The Lever‘s Matthew Cun­ning­ham-Cook called atten­tion [19] to the president’s pick and warned it sug­gests “there could soon be a coor­di­nat­ed push in Wash­ing­ton to cut the Social Secu­ri­ty pro­gram, which pro­vides retire­ment, dis­abil­i­ty, and sur­vivor ben­e­fits to 66 mil­lion Amer­i­cans.”

While Biden vowed [43] on the cam­paign trail to back an expan­sion of Social Secu­ri­ty, he has pre­vi­ous­ly sup­port­ed [44] cut­ting the program’s ben­e­fits. Biden was vice pres­i­dent when for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma pro­posed [20] a “grand bar­gain” with the GOP that would have entailed cuts to Social Secu­ri­ty.

Big­gs, too, has a long record of advo­cat­ing Social Secu­ri­ty cuts. As Cun­ning­ham-Cook wrote last month, “For years, Big­gs has been a vocal crit­ic of expand­ed Social Secu­ri­ty and work­ers’ right to a secure, sta­ble retire­ment free from the vagaries of the stock mar­ket.”

“He has dis­missed the retire­ment cri­sis as a non-issue [45] and as recent­ly as 2020 blamed [46] prob­lems with the Social Secu­ri­ty sys­tem on ‘old­er Amer­i­cans’ game of chick­en,’” he added. “While the seat on the bipar­ti­san board is by tra­di­tion assigned to a Repub­li­can, Biden could have cho­sen a mod­er­ate can­di­date — or even leaned on prece­dent to avoid the nom­i­na­tion process alto­geth­er. For­mer Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump rou­tine­ly refused [47] to nom­i­nate Democ­rats for seats on boards and com­mis­sions.”

Sim­mer­ing out­rage over Big­gs’ nom­i­na­tion to serve on the SSAB, which was formed in 1994 to advise the pres­i­dent and Con­gress on Social Secu­ri­ty, comes as pro­gres­sives are demand­ing an expan­sion of the program’s mod­est ben­e­fits — while Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, per usu­al, eye cuts [48].

Last month, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) and Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D‑Mass.) led the intro­duc­tion [49] of the Social Secu­ri­ty Expan­sion Act, which would lift the cap on income sub­ject to the Social Secu­ri­ty pay­roll tax and boost the program’s annu­al ben­e­fits by $2,400.

“At a time when half of old­er Amer­i­cans have no retire­ment sav­ings and mil­lions of senior cit­i­zens are liv­ing in pover­ty, our job is not to cut Social Secu­ri­ty,” Sanders said at the time. “Our job must be to expand Social Secu­ri­ty so that every senior cit­i­zen in Amer­i­ca can retire with the dig­ni­ty they deserve and every per­son with a dis­abil­i­ty can live with the secu­ri­ty they need.”