Usher's News & Analysis for May 18, 2020

If a company uses biotech to create a product that has traits that could have been achieved through traditional plant breeding, it would no longer have to go through a pre-market review through USDA, the agency said.

No biotech can do that yet. Nevertheless, the Trump appointed regulators will claim it does anyway.

Biotech is not even remotely as exacting as claimed. Things happen during the engineering that are not expected or desired. In fact, many of the things that happen are exactly why organic farmers and scientists and consumers are dead set against biotech as it stands.

It's putting the wealth of the biotech executives and investors over the health and safety of everyone else. It's bad risk-management. If I were an insurance underwriter, I would not underwrite it.

U.S. Completes Overhaul of Biotech Farm Product Regulations

“While I appreciate companies that have already taken action to return premiums, the Department of Insurance will be checking that the reductions are adequate and consumers and businesses are not shortchanged.”

California Expands Order for Insurers to Partially Refund Premiums

It is a false choice to claim the country must immediately reopen despite the health risks. This is a red herring political maneuver by Trump. We can protect public health and economic security so we can quarantine safely and reopen when it is safe. This includes a public health system in every county that screens and tests for COVID19, traces the contacts of those who test positive and isolates all positives and their contacts until they are clear. It requires a universal basic income until the pandemic and recession are over. And it requires housing for all, universal health care and debt forgiveness. Essential workers must be provided with whatever they need to protect their health during the pandemic. This may include child care and separating them from their families so they can work.
The crises of COVID and economic collapse are triggers for people to demand change as a gateway to a new and better world. The short term demands of public safety and economic security should be followed by longer-term demands for Medicare for all with a community-controlled national health service. After the pandemic and recession, we need to restart the economy in a way that provides economic security for all by confronting inequality and protecting the planet with a Green New Deal.

We Don’t Have To Choose Between Our Health And The Economy

Kernel DMA Protection for Thunderbolt™ 3

... in Wuhan, China ... every one of the 11 million inhabitants are to be tested after new cases have been discovered.[v] Such exhaustive testing would suggest that sampling of the general population or testing of selected (or self-selecting) individuals does not pass muster. Chinese authorities want to remove uncertainty from sampling, although the issues of false positives and negatives may well remain.

However we look at it, we are confronted with life-and-death decisions based on metrics that are very difficult to obtain accurately. However, it is well worth the effort to acquire such metrics than not to do so. Critical decisions should be based on significant, accurate and timely data and honest interpretations of those data, Such life-and-death decisions are only as good as the quality of data and metrics and it behooves us to make the effort to ensure that quality.

Value and Uncertainty in Pandemic Metrics

The following are 2 good articles because they, and others like them, will force this discussion into the mainstream where it should have been all along.

PT: It's interesting that you talk about how the virus is constructed. There was a recent paper in Nature Medicine claiming that this couldn't possibly be a lab-constructed virus, because of the way that it was constructed. They were talking about it not having the sort of expected viral backbone and things like that. So they were using almost the same science to say, no it wasn't from the lab, it was from nature. So how do we as lay people make sense of this sort of thing?

SN: So, when I read that paper it raised some red flags for me, because the people who wrote that paper made a very strong assertion about it being very unlikely to have originated in a lab. And what were the arguments they used? First they said it has a very avid receptor-binding domain, but it's not an ideal one. If scientists had designed it they would have designed it differently.

Well, that was kind of ridiculous to me because there are papers going back 20 years that say that this domain is something that is very important to look at. And they said that people should try a lot of different possibilities to see what it is that makes it bind. So the fact that this is not what other scientists have found to be ideal, by computer programs,doesn't mean that this wasn't manipulated. And they didn't refer to those papers that talked about modifying those domains. I was surprised by that.

Then they [the authors] point out that the furin cleavage domain has part of the spike protein, and they said this is not part of any other viruses like this. Well, that wasn't a good argument either, because they do refer to a paper where it [the spike protein] was inserted by genetic engineers. The last thing was that they said that the experimental backbone—that if you started from scratch to try to modify a virus you would take something off the shelf, which is called the standard backbone and you modify it—they said that this doesn't have the standard backbone. But in fact, people looking at these viruses take them from the wild, bring them into the lab and kind of compare them to each other. They don't always begin with the standard backbone. So they came up with this very unlikely scenario that somebody would try to make something really nasty and release it. And they said, well this doesn't look like it happened that way.

Well I agree with that, but the fact that it didn't use the standard backbone is not at all a good argument. It's not only me, but a number of other people have found that although the research in that paper is very good, the conclusions that they draw from it are very speculative and really raise red flags.
SN: I think one thing that people should really understand is that there's this idea that's been hanging around for 50 or more years. That we know how genes behave because we know how to sequence genes, and we know how to study genes in a test tube. And we think that what genes do in an organism is simplistic. But in fact, these are very complex systems, and if you put something simple into a complex system that wasn't there before—like genetic engineering the crops for example—you can get all sorts of poisons being unleashed that weren't there before but are induced by the new engineered form.

Let me give you an example of this. In the year 2000, there was an experiment in Australia. They were trying to develop some kind of birth control gene therapy, some gene manipulation that would cause infertility. They genetically engineered a mouse virus, and this mouse virus was innocuous, it basically made the mice slightly sick. But then they put an extra protein in this virus, an extra gene that was already present in the mouse genome. They didn't add anything that they didn't know about. Then this virus killed every mouse that it encountered, it became absolutely lethal for all mice. So they stopped that experiment very quickly. They had no idea that was going to happen, they put a known gene into a known virus and they got something completely unexpected.

Why Gain-of Function Research Should Be Banned: The Author of 'Biotech Juggernaut' Speaks Out on COVID-19

New reports keep making it clear how early and often they were warned, including a claim by ABC News that the first alarms started ringing way back in November, when US intelligence picked up on the outbreak through intercepted communications in China and flagged it as potentially “cataclysmic.” ...
In 2013, the WIV discovered SARS-CoV, the cause of SARS, in a cave in Yunnan Province. Shi’s team found that the bats of southern China were full of viruses, especially coronaviruses. Over 10 years, her team collected more than 10,000 samples from bats in the region and discovered hundreds of new coronaviruses, including some with the ability to infect humans. Many bats harbored multiple viruses, and there were alarming signs that the viruses were recombining with each other—swapping chunks of genetic code as they replicated, producing novel viruses with new abilities. “It is highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China,” Shi and her colleagues wrote in a 2019 paper that now seems chillingly prescient. “Therefore, the investigation of bat coronaviruses becomes an urgent issue for the detection of early warning signs.”
... She frantically searched her lab’s records, looking for signs of an accident or inappropriate disposal, only relaxing once the genetic code of the new virus was sequenced and didn’t match the coronaviruses in her lab. “That really took a load off my mind,” she said. “I had not slept a wink for days.”
The best protocols in the world can’t eliminate human error, which is the cause of most accidents in high containment biolabs. Official incident reports read like something from the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in The Simpsons. A wrench got caught in the lid of a centrifuge and kicked over a tray of pathogens. An animal cage containing bedding potentially contaminated with novel SARS coronavirus got knocked over by a freezer door and spilled its contents onto the floor. Liquids aerosolize. Lab mosquitoes can escape. Lab rats bite. Lab technicians attempting to inject lab animals accidentally hit their own fingers. Often, as the Laboratory-Acquired Infection Database reveals, there’s no smoking gun explaining how the researcher got infected. Nature finds a way.
An investigation by USA Today, published in 2015, found that more than 100 high-security labs in the United States had suffered “the most egregious safety or security breaches.” The pressurized “space suits” worn by researchers ruptured 37 times in American BSL-4 labs from 2013 to 2014. Rats were found making nests out of biohazard bags and used lab supplies outside a UCLA lab. A Texas A&M University researcher stuck himself with a needle while handling a mouse carrying Lyme disease bacteria, then a week later (while still taking a round of antibiotics to deal with the first incident) was bitten by another mouse carrying the same bacteria. On multiple occasions, mice carrying either SARS or H1N1 flu escaped from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.

The Non-Paranoid Person’s Guide to Viruses Escaping From Labs – Mother Jones

China doesn't understand the international optics of its decision to complain.

Coalition of 116 countries back Australia's push for independent coronavirus inquiry

Senator Rubio calls for fast action to extend U.S. payroll protection program

I wrote at the time that the bail-in wouldn't fly in the US. It didn't. I also wrote that the repo system would be bailed out and that there would be no banking crash. It was bailed out and there was no crash.

“The justification of private profit,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in a 1938 address, “is private risk.” Banking has now been made virtually risk-free, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States and its people. The American people are therefore entitled to share in the benefits and the profits. Banking needs to be made a public utility.

Another Bank Bailout Under Cover of a Virus

What I'd like to point out is that the Fed has even dropped the pretense of reserves. There really aren't any reserves and never were. The Fed always had the ability to create all the "credit" (money) it wants. Even the US government, which has the constitutional power to do it, refuses to. The Fed has the power and does it.

The entire currency system in the US is completely controlled by the commercial banking industry for itself, not the welfare of the People. That needs to be changed, and now is the time to do it.

Third Mega-Crisis in 12 Years: Eurozone Economy Plunges at Fastest Rate on Record

When you watch the video below, keep in mind that it depends upon where people go outside, when they go out, and who they are. It would still be highly unwise to go out where and when the virus is at its worst, especially for the most susceptible and those with the very underlying illnesses that are statistically significantly associated with death with COVID-19. So, don't just be willy-nilly rushing for the crowded places outside.

COVID-19 protesters who gathered suffered a higher rate of cases, which was probably a direct result. It's too early to know how many of those will, or have, become seriously ill.

All of that said, I read and watch "alternative" news and medicine and don't discount Vitamin D and a host of other nutrients at all that support and enhance the bodies immunity to viruses in general.

It's also my strong suspicion that major pharmaceutical companies do not want a cheap, natural treatment or cure for COVID-19. They want to make more money by supplying drugs and vaccines. They want to advertise those and have the platforms where they do that suppress any information concerning cheap, natural treatments or cures. I say that based upon the clear, documented history of the industry. They act much like the carbon-fuel industry and global warming, much like the tobacco industry acted concerning lung cancer and other diseases, much like the GMO "food" industry, and on and on. The scandalous info is there, and they don't want to tangle with those who know how to dig it out and present it in court. They just work more to marginalize the truth instead of tangling.

Someone once said, "The love of money is the root of all evil." Well, it certainly is of the same spirit. It turns people in the wrong direction and causes great harm and suffering.

Are Sunshine and Vitamin D a Cure For COVID-19?

Commuters are turning to bicycles to stay away from crowds in subways and buses. More than 80% of Americans see cycling as safer than taking public transportation, according to an April survey of 1,000 Americans by manufacturer Trek Bicycle, one of the the biggest-selling brands in the U.S., and researcher Engine Insights.

Bicycle sales surge with Americans eager to get moving again

“The decision-makers’ fear was driven by young people on ventilators in New York City, and it didn’t move the societal needle that people were dying in nursing homes elsewhere or even in our own country.”
Canada is far from the only country with calamitous outbreaks in long-term care homes. The World Health Organization said half of Europe’s covid-19 deaths occurred in such facilities. Nearly 40 percent of all U.S. deaths have occurred in nursing homes, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. At least 1 in 10 U.S. nursing homes have reported outbreaks, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Canada’s nursing home crisis: 81 percent of coronavirus deaths are in long-term care facilities

The suit had also argued that emergency powers only last for a month and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval. The judge agreed.

Laws will be changed in various states so emergency powers will last longer but with specific requirements for it.

Judge tosses coronavirus restrictions by Oregon governor

There are signs that the toll of the coronavirus crisis — with nearly 90,000 Americans dead so far and roughly 36 million unemployed — has so rattled the electorate that broad segments may be open to a more expansive government.

A recent poll from Navigator Research, a progressive group that does daily coronavirus-related surveys, found that 50% of Americans said the federal government should be doing more to improve the economy. A late April poll by the liberal Groundwork Collaborative found roughly 70% of respondents backed “major, sweeping action” by the government to address the pandemic’s economic impact.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Poll has similarly found high support for government coronavirus aid across party lines, a notable contrast from the polarized views of the 2009 stimulus package adopted amid the Great Recession.
“The good news is that so many progressive solutions where there’s a lot of enthusiasm among voters happen to be the solutions that meet the moment with this coronavirus crisis,” Green said, “so it creates a win-win for Biden to both be the president people want and unify the party by bringing progressives over.”
Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, has stepped up its attacks on Trump’s handling of the pandemic’s economic fallout, charging that the administration’s efforts to aid businesses have favored the well-off and well-connected over small business owners. Biden and Warren co-wrote an op-ed blasting Trump for shrugging off oversight requirements for coronavirus aid.

Before the coronavirus, Joe Biden offered stability. Now he’s talking bold change