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With George Landrith, Tom Donelson, Larry Fedewa & Joe Mangiacotti
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The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control admitted Wednesday that her agency’s problems, magnified during its mishandling of the COVID pandemic, can only be remediated by what she called an ‘ambitious’ overhaul.- Sponsored –
Dr. Gail Walensky, former professor at Harvard Medical School and the one-time chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital said Wednesday that missteps during the most recent pandemic and the slow response to the spread of the disease known as “Monkeypox” have persuaded her significant changes are necessary.
CDC critics have long argued its COVID recommendations were often useless or counterproductive to stopping the virus from spreading. Sometimes both. One oft-cited example is its development of a test to detect the disease that failed to work after it was made available, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the novel coronavirus’s spread.
The agency’s new focus, she wrote in an agency-wide email, would be on becoming “more nimble and responsive to needs that arise in health emergencies,” Statnews.com reported, while making it a priority to gather data “that can be used to rapidly dispense public health guidance, rather than craft scientific papers.”
Yet it is the issuance of exactly that kind of public health guidance, agency critics say, that led to confusion during the COVID pandemic, potentially making the situation worse by creating a false sense of security that left people feeling they were protecting themselves by utilizing measures that were ineffective in stopping the spread or preventing exposure to the virus. One of those, the social distancing guideline setting out the need for people to remain at least six feet apart from one another is now known to have been issued based on no scientific testing whatsoever. It was, people now feel comfortable acknowledging, a made-up number that did not come from, as it was popular to say at the time, “following the science.”
In her email, Walensky told the agency’s 11,000 employees, “For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations.” Her new goal, she wrote, is to create “a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”
She has a long way to go. Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health told CBS News “We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary.”
What the agency did do was assist in the politicization of the disease, confuse the public, and fight all efforts to be held accountable for its mistakes on Capitol Hill. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Zachary Faria – who acknowledged Walensky was not at the CDC when the pandemic began – nonetheless added to the confusion by misstating the president’s intentions regarding vaccine mandates.
“She confused the public repeatedly, saying that President Joe Biden was considering a vaccination mandate before backtracking to say that there ‘Will be no federal mandate.’ Not even two months later, Biden did indeed put a vaccine mandate in place,” Faria wrote.
The CDC director also helped inflame the public’s anxiety by appearing at congressional hearings wearing two masks despite having received several doses of the vaccine. Such displays of caution on her part conflicted with the messages public health experts were sending to the American people who, seeing things with their own eyes, saw that even they were not sure what they were telling everyone was correct.
“Worst of all was how Walensky and the CDC justified restrictions on children, who have never been at serious risk from COVID,” Faria wrote, explaining her repeated change in position about social distancing in schools and the need to vaccinate teachers and students helped keep schools closed for an unacceptable period.
“If your culture is not aligned entirely with what your mission is, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is. It doesn’t matter what your org charts are. It is all about the workforce culture,” Jay Varma, who spent 20 years at CDC before becoming director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response at Weill Cornell Medicine told Statnews.com.
“It’s an agency run by geeks. It’s run by doctors and Ph.D.’s,” Varma said. “What are doctors and scientists notoriously bad at? Managing. They’re really good at hypothesis-driven research and analyzing information and making predictions about what might happen. What they’re really bad at is managing people in an effective way.”
Walensky will need time to make the changes – but it is time the country may now have. The CDC has been slow to respond to the emergence of Monkeypox, an infectious viral disease occurring in humans and other animals marked by fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that forms blisters that eventually crust over. The fact that is spreading disproportionately “among men who have sex with men and their sexual networks,” as CNN recently put it, has heightened concerns that political sensitivities are being allowed to interfere with the steps needed to prevent it from spreading into the at-large population.
“Not wanting to reproduce the kind of anti-gay stigma seen during the early AIDS crisis, some argue that articulating which group is at highest risk for monkeypox infection might be dangerous,” CNN said, probably unaware that this was an almost exact description of how the CDC and other public health agencies failed in their reaction to COVID even before it reached the pandemic level.
Against the advice of many who suggested the primary objective should be the isolation of those at high risk for fatal outcomes following exposure to COVID, the CDC and others attempted to isolate and immunize the nation. This led to economic and social lockdowns from which it will take years, perhaps decades before America can recover. It can be said the CDC’s bad advice, politicization and lack of readiness cost the nation hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
For nearly two years the CDC and other public health agencies and administrators made pronouncements that infected the American way of life at every level, often without debate or examination. Efforts to call their dictates into question were ridiculed, even suppressed, at great cost to the nation. It’s helpful that Walensky wants to reform her agency, but the best reforms come only after we know what happened to cause the problems.
Somehow, Walensky and other public health policymakers want to skip over that critical phase. No one wants to acknowledge their mistakes in public, especially if people died because of them. Nonetheless, they should not be allowed to hide behind the banner of reform now without being held accountable. America deserves an explanation, post-COVID, of how things were allowed to get as bad as they did. Not just an explanation of where the disease came from and whether it was produced in some far-off biological research facility and somehow got away but why the response to the infection was met with so much inconsistent advice coming from the government agencies employing the well-paid, well-funded experts who were supposed to know it all.
They didn’t, and we deserve to know why.
In the wake of a virus that killed millions, these Senate witnesses say it’s time to start treating pandemic research as a national security issue.
Three scientists who testified at the first Senate hearing on gain-of-function research on Wednesday said that stronger oversight is needed to make sure research that’s supposed to prevent pandemics isn’t causing them.
The hearing, held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight and led by ranking member Rand Paul of Kentucky, was agreed to by both parties, but only Republican members chose to participate.
Richard Ebright, laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and hearing witness, said gain-of-function research involves changing pathogens to make them more dangerous. “Gain-of-function research of concern is defined as research activities reasonably anticipated to increase a potential pandemic pathogen’s transmissibility, pathogenicity, ability to overcome immune response, or ability to overcome a vaccine or drug,” Ebright said.
This research has multiple risks, Ebright added, and limited benefits. It results in new health threats because it creates “new potential pandemic pathogens.” He said that “if the new potential pandemic pathogen is released into humans, either accidentally or deliberately, this can cause a pandemic.”
Another risk, according to Ebright, is that once this gain-of-function research is published, people can use it to construct pandemic pathogens from synthetic DNA for well under $10,000. “Publication of the research provides instructions — step-by-step recipes — that can enable a rogue nation, organization, or individual to construct a new pathogen and cause a pandemic,” Ebright said.
Kevin Esvelt, another witness who is a biologist and director of the Sculpting Evolution group at MIT Media Lab, said this is a risk whether scientists are creating potential pandemic viruses through gain-of-function experiments or simply researching naturally occurring ones. He estimated that once the genome of a potential pandemic virus is published, there are 30,000 people with doctorates in the United States alone who would be able to create the virus in a lab.
Trying to identify potential pandemic virus is supposed to help prevent natural pandemics, Esvelt added, but he calculated the research is likely to kill a hundred times as many people as it saves because the likelihood of the research being used maliciously far outweighs the likelihood of it helping prevent a pandemic.
“In the hope of preventing natural pandemics,” Esvalt said, agencies including the National Institutes of Health “seek to identify viruses that could kill as many people as a nuclear weapon, to alert the entire world to what they find, and to publicly share[e] the complete genome sequences of those viruses so that skilled scientists everywhere will be able to make infectious samples.”
Esvelt said that “in the wake of a pandemic that has killed more people than could any thermonuclear explosion,” we need to start addressing pandemics in terms of national security. “We are so used to thinking of pandemics as a health and safety issue that we’ve missed the national security implications of identifying viruses that could be deliberately unleashed to kill millions of people.”
Steven Quay, the CEO of Atossa Therapeutics, said the SARS2 virus that causes Covid-19 “has features consistent with synthetic biology gain-of-function research.” He added that “two features involve acceptable academic gain-of-function research” while one region of the virus “has features of forbidden gain of function research: asymptomatic transmission and immune system evasion.” According to Quay, the permissible gain-of-function features were aspects of research that the United States and Wuhan Institute of Virology had proposed in 2018, while the forbidden features were aspects of research that was already going on at the lab.
Paul said he hopes the scientists’ suggestions can be incorporated into a bipartisan bill for better oversight of research that could lead to pandemics. “I don’t think the people doing the research are able to adequately and objectively regulate themselves,” Paul said. “And I think having a million people die, there should be bipartisan curiosity in this, that we should be able to move forward.”
In response to a question from The Federalist, Paul said that if the GOP wins the Senate and he becomes chairman of the committee, he’ll pursue investigations to hold people accountable for funding this research.
Biden is considering invoking considerable powers, but executive actions taken for a ‘climate emergency’ would be unconstitutional.
The left is pressuring President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency and his consideration of this declaration is a sign of desperation and weakness. Executive actions taken as a result of a “climate emergency” would die in the U.S. Supreme Court (more on that later).
The reason Biden may declare a climate emergency is simple: His green agenda has stalled. Persistent inflation, led by rising energy costs, and a nation likely in recession, has reduced the likelihood that a narrowly divided Congress will approve the application of additional environmental leaches to an anemic economy.
It appears green dreams are the ultimate First World luxury good — it’s all fun and games until the average family shells out $5,000 a year more for gas, food, electricity, and rent.
Yet the left demands more. Elected representatives are a roadblock. The people don’t know what’s best for them. The Vanguard of the Proletariat have met and decided that if Congress won’t act, then an array of administrative acronyms led by the dogmatic theoreticians of the White House — none of whom who have run a business — will.
The powers Biden is considering invoking are considerable, though none of them were intended by Congress to do what administration is preparing to do.
Even a short summary is terrifyingly breathtaking in ambition and disingenuous creativity.
In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a rule to require “climate-related disclosures for investors.” This rule, if finalized, would deal further hammer blows to the domestic oil and gas industry — just after Biden was forced to go hat in hand to Saudi Arabia to beg Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for more oil. It would do that by requiring publicly traded companies to detail their greenhouse gas emissions, including those of their suppliers, whether they are publicly traded or not. In other words, privately held firms, family-owned companies, and individual proprietorships would be burdened with costly reporting requirements, causing more money to be put into paperwork and less money to be put into productive activity.
Next, just because the Supreme Court rolled back regulatory power in June’s West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision doesn’t mean that the EPA won’t still be used to achieve climate goals in ways Congress never authorized. For instance, it’s expected that the EPA will issue new particulate thresholds that would have the practical effect of regulating all combustion for energy and transportation purposes. Particulates are small particles that, in today’s era of clean air, are mostly generated by farming, wildfires, and construction activities — modern combustion is remarkably clean. However, because ambient levels of particulates are very hard to push below a certain level, there will always be an excuse to squeeze for more until every vehicle powered by hydrocarbons is removed from the road or curbed by fees. Put another way, it’s a war on using hydrocarbons to make energy or power vehicles.
The declaration of a climate emergency would also embolden the Biden administration to invoke Section 202 of the Federal Power Act. This law, clearly intended by Congress to be used only in time of war or an emergency due to an increased demand for electricity or a shortage of electricity, will be used to shift electrical power from regions that have responsibly planned for their power needs to states that have gone green and, as a result, have made their grids vulnerable to the vicissitudes of weather. This means that the federal government could literally divert power contracted for by Arizona and shift it to California — a version of this happened a year ago. Essentially, a maximalist use of Section 202 will allow leftwing Biden appointees to turn the power off wherever they choose — all for environmental justice and the planet, of course.
Finally, Biden’s environmental zealots are looking to the Defense Production Act (DPA) to commandeer any part of the economy they feel should be drafted into the fight against climate change. Former President Donald Trump used the DPA to order 3M to produce N95 masks and General Motors to produce ventilators for the federal government. Biden invoked it for Covid-19 purposes as well and then improbably expanded its use to (try to) address the baby formula shortage. With the DPA now unleashed for decidedly non-war applications, the ability to muck with all aspects of the economy for the “climate emergency” are endless.
Fortunately, due to the unlikely success of the duo of Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the federal bench was well-provisioned with constitutionally minded jurists. As a result, the unbridled powers of the administrative state have been in retreat.
Former six-term Indiana Republican Congressman John Hostettler, vice president of federal affairs with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, observes that, “Justice Alito’s concurrence in Gundy v. United States was a clear signal that he is willing to put an end to the administrative state if the right case comes before the Supreme Court. And the left knows it.”
Hostettler was referring to Justice Samuel Alito’s 2019 opinion, which was characterized by his colleague, Justice Neil Gorsuch, as “not join[ing] either the [court] plurality’s constitutional or statutory analysis,” In it, Alito stated:
The Constitution confers on Congress certain “legislative [p]owers,” Art. I, §1, and does not permit Congress to delegate them to another branch of the Government…. Nevertheless, since 1935, the Court has uniformly rejected nondelegation arguments and has upheld provisions that authorized agencies to adopt important rules pursuant to extraordinarily capacious standards….
If a majority of this Court were willing to reconsider the approach we have taken for the past 84 years, I would support that effort. But because a majority is not willing to do that, it would be freakish to single out the provision at issue here for special treatment.
Moreover, Hostettler maintains, “Given the addition of the likely votes of Justices [Brett] Kavanaugh and [Amy Coney] Barrett, there’s even more cause for optimism that the High Court is likely to do what Congress seems unable to accomplish. That optimism was bolstered with the outcome in West Virginia v. EPA. Although West Virginia wasn’t the nondelegation case that Alito’s previous pronouncement called for, it’s close enough to stiffen the resolve of Constitutionalists to come up with the right case so that the Court’s majority can further cement its direction on the ‘major question’ doctrine — the concept that if an agency seeks to regulate on a ‘major question’ the statute must clearly grant that express authority.”
For this reason, Hostettler is confident that the Biden administration’s climate emergency overreach would “do to the expansive power of the administrative state what Dobbs did to Roe v. Wade.”
In war there are casualties — and Biden’s climate war threatens to claim the once-mighty power of unelected bureaucrats and left-wing appointees to rule our lives without our votes.
Free Beacon Investigates: Five cities, five free crack pipes
Crack pipes are distributed in safe-smoking kits up and down the East Coast, raising questions about the Biden administration’s assertion that its multimillion-dollar harm reduction grant program wouldn’t funnel taxpayer dollars to drug paraphernalia.
The findings are the result of Washington Free Beacon visits to five harm-reduction organizations and calls to over two dozen more. In fact, every organization we visited—facilities in Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Richmond, Va.—included crack pipes in the kits.
The kits became the subject of national attention in the wake of a Free Beacon report in February indicating that a $30 million harm-reduction program was set to fund the distribution of free crack pipes in “safe-smoking kits.” Pressed on the matter in a Feb. 9 press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a full-throated denial.
“They were never a part of the kit, it was inaccurate reporting,” Psaki said of the pipes. “A safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases.”
While the contents of safe-smoking kits vary from one organization to another—and while those from some organizations may not contain crack pipes—all of the organizations we visited made crack pipes as well as paraphernalia for the use of heroin, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine readily available without requiring or offering rehabilitation services, suggesting that pipes are included in many if not most of the kits distributed across the country. All of the centers we visited are run by health-focused nonprofits and government agencies—the types of groups eligible to receive funding, starting this month, from the Biden administration’s $30 million grant program.
None of the organizations responded to inquiries about whether they applied for government grants. It is not clear which organizations will receive those grants, nor has the administration said how it will ensure the kits will not contain crack pipes. The Department of Health and Human Services, which will oversee the Biden grant program, declined to provide a list of groups that have applied for funding, citing “confidentiality.” The Biden administration is set to announce grant recipients on May 15.
The Free Beacon‘s findings contradict claims from a raft of fact-checkers who, based on the White House’s ex-post-facto denial, deemed the Free Beacon‘s reporting false.
A USA Today headline asking, “What’s inside a safe smoking kit?” answered: “No, it’s not a crack pipe.” The outlet based its fact-check solely on the administration’s denial and does not appear to have done any additional research on safe smoking kits. The author, Michelle Shen, did not respond to a request for comment.
A survey of more than two dozen harm reduction organizations found that not all harm reduction organizations distribute safe smoking kits, but those that do almost always provide crack pipes. The few that don’t include crack pipes in their kits say they are willing to, but unable to.
At Washington, D.C.’s Family and Medical Counseling Service, Inc., for example, a member of the group’s needle exchange team told the Free Beacon that the organization would love to offer crack pipes as part of its safe smoking kit but hasn’t been able to purchase them.
“I would if I knew how,” said Tyrone Pinkney, who distributes clean needles from a recreational vehicle and said he did not know where to buy crack pipes to include in the kits.
Pinkney, however, appears to be an exception. Here is what the Free Beacon found in each city.
At Charm City Care Connection, a nonprofit that provides harm reduction services to combat “oppression,” an employee said that identification is not required to receive a smoking kit, but did ask for initials, a date of birth, and zip code before handing over two smoking kits containing glass crack pipes as well as Chore Boy copper mesh, a cleaning product used to hold the crack rock at the end of the pipe.
The bag included directions for how to use the pipe, heat-resistant mouthpieces, wooden sticks for packing the mesh into the pipe, and alcohol wipes. Most importantly, the organization provides all drug paraphernalia recipients an “Authorized Harm Reduction Program Participant Card” that serves as a get-out-of-jail-free card to show to law enforcement, because the paraphernalia is otherwise illegal in the state of Maryland.
Charm City Care Connection receives funding from both the Baltimore city and Maryland state governments, as well as at least $200,000 from left-wing billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations as part of the organization’s “Addiction and Health Equity Program.” According to the group’s disclosures, it received $200,000 in government grants in 2019. It has a partnership with Johns Hopkins University and half of its board of directors work for the university.
Women in Baltimore can have crack pipes delivered to their door. Katie Evans, the outreach director of the SPARC Women’s Center, says the organization will deliver smoking kits with crack pipes to anyone with “non-men identities.” The center, which is run through Johns Hopkins University, will also deliver syringes, snorting kits, and “sex supplies,” Evans said.
Evans would not say whether SPARC Women’s Center applied for a Health and Human Services grant. Charm City Care Connection also did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
In Boston’s South End neighborhood, a man was seen injecting a needle into his calf about 30 feet away from a police car outside the Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education facility, which is run by the Boston Public Health Commission.
Inside the facility, an employee recorded our initials, date of birth, housing situation, and HIV status before offering an array of drug equipment. The bin of crack pipes was visible just above a bin of syringes labeled “biggie smalls” and “ultra fine,” different options for injecting drugs into different parts of the body.
“One pipe per person, once a day,” a worker, who emerged with a crack pipe, meth pipe, and additional drug accessories such as Chore Boy copper, told the Free Beacon.
An employee said the facility no longer offers get-out-of-jail-free cards because the police don’t arrest people for drug possession any longer.
“We’re way past that,” the employee said, though possession of drug paraphernalia is still a crime in the city. The Boston Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The Boston Public Health Commission did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
At the Alliance’s Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, a young staffer offers up a long menu of drug paraphernalia available free of charge. Included on the menu was a “booty bump” kit for rectal ingestion of narcotics, which is recommended by many harm reduction centers as a safer way to use meth.
After providing initials, date of birth, and zip code, the Free Beacon was given two drug pipes, one for crack and one for meth, as well as an authorized program card similar to what was given out in Baltimore. The smoking kits include literature with “safer smoking tips,” including a warning that “crack and meth use can lead to unprotected sex by increasing your sex drive or making you more sexually passive.” Other tips advise addicts obtain crack from a “source you trust,” and to “smoke only a little bit first if unsure about its purity.”
In addition to the Chore Boy copper mesh, the center gave out pipe screens, which work as an alternative to hold crack rocks in the pipe. The center advertises that its pipes are made of Pyrex, a stronger tempered glass designed for high heat.
The Alliance for Positive Change, also known as AIDS Service Center NYC, has received $20 million from Health and Human Services since 2004—mostly for AIDS and HIV-related programs—with the majority of grants distributed during the Obama administration. The organization has received $74 million in government grants since 2009.
The Alliance for Positive Change did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
Just about a mile from the U.S. Capitol and within blocks of two elementary schools, a harm reduction center in Washington, D.C., had readily available pipes for crack and meth, as well as Chore Boy mesh, copper screens, and the same mouthpieces offered in Baltimore.
“Which kind do you want?” a volunteer asked after this reporter inquired about smoking kits. No information was recorded, and the center declined to look at identification that was offered. Program cards are no longer distributed by the center because possession of drug paraphernalia is decriminalized in the nation’s capital.
The harm reduction center goes by HIPS, which formerly stood for Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive but has been altered to stand for Honoring Individual Power and Strength.
HIPS since 2018 has received $3.1 million from Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which oversees the Biden administration’s harm reduction program. The funds are provided through two separate programs: one for LGBTQ housing and another for medication-assisted treatment.
HIPS did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
Employees of the River City Harm Redux organization were found at a table set up outside a hotel on the outskirts of Richmond, Va. This reporter asked for two crack smoking kits, but was told only one remained in the day’s offerings. To make up for the shortcoming, the employees added a meth pipe along with two “snorting kits,” which include straws, a plastic razor blade to break up drugs, short plastic straws, a small spoon, and a bedazzled playing card to snort drugs off of.
The organization is not an authorized harm reduction site recognized by the Virginia Department of Health. Possession of drug paraphernalia in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia can result in up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
“If they are not authorized they are not protected by the law that allows sites to furnish paraphernalia,” Bruce Taylor, the drug use coordinator for the department, told the Free Beacon. Taylor said Virginia does not allow harm reduction facilities to include crack pipes in their smoking kits, and that his department is not aware of River City Harm Redux.
River City Harm Redux did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had applied for a Health and Human Services grant.
The Chinese government has chosen to enforce its ‘Zero Covid’ policy with a degree of cruelty and zealousness the Chinese people haven’t experienced since the Cultural Revolution.
Reportedly responding to more infectious Covid-19 variants, the Chinese government has recently put 46 cities and 343 million residents under strict lockdowns. The ruthlessly enforced lockdown policies, empty shelves in grocery stores, and widespread food shortages have become a wake-up call for many.
After the Chinese Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, it offered the Chinese people an unwritten grand bargain: exchanging their political freedom for economic growth. The last four decades of economic reforms have lifted China’s living standards.
“Many Chinese believe that the country’s recent economic achievements—large-scale poverty reduction, huge infrastructure investment, and development as a world-class tech innovator—have come about because of, not despite, China’s authoritarian form of government,” observe Rana Mitter and Elsbeth Johnson in Harvard Business Review. The party’s censorship, tight control of all aspects of Chinese society, and the rising nationalist movement have left little room for dissenting from this view.
The CCP’s genocide in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims and other minorities and the party’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement were stories that either received no coverage or distorted coverage in mainland China. Many mainlanders chose to believe the Chinese government’s rhetoric that these stories were manufactured by hostile Western forces who sought to destabilize China and stop the nation’s inevitable return to its rightful place as a dominant power in the world.
The majority of Chinese supported Beijing’s “Zero Covid” policy between 2020 and 2021, which relied on mandatory vaccination, testing, quarantines, and border control to isolate the entire nation from the rest of the world for more than two years. They point to China’s low Covid case numbers and deaths (many outside of China found those numbers highly questionable), in contrast to high case numbers and fatalities in the West, as evidence that China’s political system is superior to Western democracy.
Some in the West agreed. Early last year, New York Times China correspondent Li Yuan gleefully tweeted her piece, “In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom.” She claimed that “the pandemic has upended many perceptions, including ideas about freedom. Chinese don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, or freedom from fear, but they have the freedom to move around and lead a normal day-to-day life,” thanks to the Chinese government’s aggressive response to the pandemic.
But the Chinese people and overseas cheerleaders of the CCP regime had a rude awakening this year thanks to the lockdown in Shanghai, a city of 26 million people known for their wealth and sophistication. The Chinese government has chosen to enforce its “Zero Covid” policy with a degree of cruelty and zealousness the Chinese people haven’t experienced since the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
For example, residents have been locked inside their apartments like animals, and some even have metal barriers and fences outside their homes. One foreigner in Shanghai told the BBC, “No one can get out, and I feel helpless.”
There’s widespread hunger because people are not allowed to go grocery shopping and the government-run food delivery has been meager. Guards in white protective gear beat residents who attempted to sneak out to buy some food or even tried to dig up herbs in the yard.
People with chronic illnesses or medical emergencies couldn’t get timely treatment. After a video showing a community worker in a white hazmat suit beating a corgi to death, pet owners have additional concerns.
Chinese social media is full of posts of desperate Shanghai residents pleading for food, medical help, or someone to take care of their pets. Adults have been taken from their homes and forced to spend weeks in poorly run mass quarantine camps, and young children have been cruelly separated from their parents.
Some of the Communist regime’s overseas cheerleaders have changed their minds following the brutal Shanghai lockdowns. Yuan of The New York Times, who lectured Americans that the Chinese version of freedom is more preferable than the freedom in the United States, recently wrote, “China’s ‘Zero Covid’ Mess Proves Autocracy Hurts Everyone.”
More importantly, what happened in Shanghai has evoked the older generation’s memories of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and shattered younger generations’ confidence in the government. More and more Chinese people have shown they’re losing faith in the Chinese government’s policies and narratives.
Some chose to speak out. Zhong Hongjun, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said the government’s actions are so “inhumane” that he regretted supporting the “Zero Covid” policy.
Some chose to protest. In one residential compound, residents clashed with health authorities and police in a desperate attempt to block the government from turning their housing complex into quarantine camps for Covid patients. Police arrested several protesters.
Since speaking out and protesting in broad daylight are dangerous in an authoritarian regime, others chose more discrete ways to express their anger and frustration. A six-minute video titled “The Voice of April” went viral in China on April 22. It included voices of Shanghai residents complaining about food shortages and lacking medical care and revealing the human toll of the government’s Covid policies.
The video had millions of views, and Chinese netizens tried many creative ways to preserve and share it before the censors took it down, including saving copies on blockchains. Zeyi Yang, a writer for Technology Reviews, calls the Chinese netizens’ actions an example of “digital protesting.”
There are other signs that more Chinese people are losing faith in the Chinese government after witnessing what has happened in Shanghai. China’s capital city Beijing is facing a Covid-19 outbreak. Worrying that Beijing would undergo a Shanghai-style lockdown, Beijing residents stocked up on food and wiped grocery stores clean, despite government officials’ repeated announcements of no food shortages.
There are indications the lockdowns will result in an exodus of people and capital. An online survey revealed that about 85 percent of Shanghai’s expat residents were considering leaving China due to its lockdown policies. Shanghai-based immigration consultants reported that immigration inquiries from wealthy Shanghai residents have skyrocketed.
One consultant received more than 200 immigration inquiries in one day. He explained that “The authorities are making people sacrifice their basic needs to fight a disease that’s a bit more severe than seasonal flu. Our clients chose to vote with their feet.”
Since the Chinese government has put hundreds of millions of residents under lockdown, Shanghai residents’ torment has been repeated in many other parts of China, so many share Shanghai residents’ anger and frustration. Not surprisingly, more Chinese people have woken up from the government’s lies and cruelty. Beijing’s insistence on harsh “zero Covid” measures may become the regime’s undoing, as more and more Chinese have finally learned that their health, safety, and prosperity are not secure without political freedom.
Sunshine State challenges White House defense of trans hormone treatment for children
The Florida Department of Health slammed the Biden administration for promoting transgender treatments for minors, accusing the White House of “injecting political ideology into the health of our children.”
The Sunshine State on Wednesday released health guidelines that dispute the Department of Health and Human Services declaration last month that “gender-affirming” treatments, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and sex-reassignment surgery, are “crucial” for the well-being of transgender children. The Florida Department of Health says the latest medical research undermines the Biden administration’s claims about the practices, calling “into question the motives of the federal HHS.”
“The federal government’s medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care,” Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo said in a statement Wednesday. “It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children. Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18.”
HHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Arkansas last year became the first state to ban hormone therapy for minors, but lawsuits from liberal legal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have blocked the state from enforcing the legislation. Arizona and Alabama passed similar bans this year but also face legal challenges from the ACLU and LGBT advocacy groups.
The Florida legislature attempted to pass a ban on hormone treatment for minors this year but the bill has stalled. The Florida Department of Health guidance advises against hormone treatments for minors but does not enforce any restrictions on the hormone drugs, which are not approved by the FDA.
“Physicians may use guidance from different authoritative sources, including government entities and professional associations, in determining the best course of treatment for their patients,” Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary for the department, told the Washington Free Beacon.
The department noted that a 2015 paper published in the International Review of Psychiatry found 80 percent of people who seek transgender therapy lose their desire to identify as the opposite sex. A 2018 study in the American Academy of Pediatrics found that there is “low-quality” evidence in favor of transgender treatment for adolescents and that future research is needed to accurately assess the risks or benefits. Several other studies concluded there are no clear benefits of gender transitions for adolescents.
While the Biden administration has embraced hormone treatment for children—White House press secretary Jen Psaki called it “life-saving” during a press conference this month—other countries have moved to restrict the practice. The High Court in the United Kingdom ruled in 2020 that minors under the age of 16 need permission from a court to receive hormone treatment. France’s National Academy of Science in March warned medical professionals to exercise “great caution” in prescribing the treatments, citing the permanent health risks of hormone treatment and surgery.
To promote gender transitions for minors, the White House and HHS cited a study from an LGBT group funded by a hormone-drug manufacturer, the Free Beacon reported earlier this month.
Florida’s parental rights law has leftists up against a wall, and their methods for coping are getting stranger every day.
The perpetually miserable left has apparently reached the “acceptance” stage of grieving over Florida’s new parental rights law, but their funny hysteria is still the same.
Within the last week, The Washington Post ran two articles offering the same idea for “queer” and transgender leftists who hate the legislation: sue teachers who acknowledge biological reality!
That’s a serious proposal from the Post’s Kate Cohen, who wrote on April 15, “What if we took these laws at their word and treated every lesson that endorsed any sexual orientation or gender schema as an actionable offense?”
“What if we filed a complaint every time a teacher instructed our children to use certain bathrooms solely on the basis of their gender identity?” she continued. “What if we called a lawyer when we discovered our children were learning that the ‘mommies on the bus’ said ‘shush, shush, shush’”?
Similarly, Cohen’s colleague Greg Sargent wrote Monday that “the law’s vagueness might end up handing opponents a hidden weapon against it.” That weapon, he said, is that the law allows parents to bring lawsuits “against references to heterosexuality or cisgenderism.”
Gay and transgender activist groups are already taking legal action against the law, claiming it’s discriminatory and in violation of the First Amendment. I have no idea how that will turn out, but I do know that Cohen and Sargent are either mentally slow or willfully ignorant.
The law in no way bans references by school personnel or students to gender, sex, or even sexual orientation. The children are, in fact, not regulated at all. What the law says — at least the part that has frustrated so many leftists — is that classroom “instruction” in grades kindergarten through three should exclude “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
A person would have to either be dumb or pretend to be dumb in order to not know what that means. And, contrary to what the left insists, biological differences between males and females exist, regardless of how anyone feels.
Instructing children to use the restroom corresponding with their biology isn’t a matter of orientation or identity. It’s a matter of science.
Likewise, acknowledging that women have babies or that mothers and fathers exist isn’t some type of weird theory. It’s reality.
True, some children are raised by two men or two women. A male teacher might be married to another man. Recognizing those truths is not under duress.
So, while a lawsuit brought against a teacher who says the word “mother” is possible — anyone can be sued for anything — the left should be prepared for a sane judge to laugh them out of court for bothering.
I get it. A lot of Floridian teachers are mad that they can no longer giddily talk with seven-year-olds about what it means to be “trans fem” or instill in children that “boy parts” and “girl parts” are irrelevant. (There’s a word for people who fancy chatting with kids about such things… I’ll think of it later.) But that’s not the same thing as identifying a pregnant woman, or recognizing aloud that Jane has two dads.
The law has them up against a wall, and their methods for coping are getting stranger every day.
The Biden administration is under attack over its continuing support for animal experimentation worldwide. Outrageously, given the current global political climate, that support includes funding for experiments on cats being conducted in Russian laboratories.
In a story first reported by The Washington Times, it was revealed that the U.S. National Institutes of Health – described on its website as the world’s largest biomedical research agency – is still underwriting medical experiments on cats at four facilities located in Russia despite global economic sanctions imposed following the unprovoked attack on Ukraine nearly a month ago.
As is often the case with research conducted on animals, the funding is being used ostensibly for scientific purposes. Nevertheless, say some Capitol Hill Republicans, the idea that any U.S. government dollars are going to Russia for any reason makes a mockery of the sanctions and raises real questions about how serious the White House is about forcing the Russian invaders back behind their borders.
“Our tax dollars should never be going to our foreign adversaries, especially as the U.S. puts crippling sanctions on the Kremlin,” Michigan GOP Rep. Lisa C. McClain told the paper.
McClain was one of a group of members of Congress who wrote the White House recently saying that cutting off the NIH grants should be “a bipartisan, common-sense position” and that the administration should take “swift and decisive action to block and further tax dollars from going to Russian research labs.”
This is not the first time the Biden administration has found itself being criticized for its refusal to end funding for experiments on animals. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a group that claims more than 17,000 doctors as members – held a protest at the White House in December 2021 during which its leaders called for the appointment of a new NIH director “who prioritizes human-relevant, nonanimal experimentation.”
“President Joe Biden has a momentous opportunity to positively transform health research,” Catharine E. Krebs, Ph.D., medical research specialist with the doctors’ group said in Lafayette Park. “The importance of this decision cannot be overstated; the lives of all Americans, and many, many animals, will be impacted.”
The NIH, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is currently without a full-time leader. Its acting director, Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., took over after Dr. Francis Collins, a key policymaker during the COVID pandemic stepped down in December. President Biden has yet to nominate a successor to Collins – whom he recently tapped as his acting science advisor and acting co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology – and Tabak is believed to not have the clout or the desire to make the change in policy members of Congress like McClain are calling for without specific orders from the White House.
U.S. government funding of research on animals is often controversial. During the Trump administration, it was the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that came under fire over its use of beagles in experiments critics said were of dubious value. A study recently published by the White Coat Waste Project, a self-described “animal rights group,” placed the value of the funding sent to Russia’s state-run Pavlov Institute of Physiology at more than half a million dollars. The money was used, it said, to fund spinal cord research on cats, most of whom “did not survive long after the experiment was finished,” the paper said. In 2018, NIH is reported to have provided a similar grant to the Russian lab of more than $220,000 to fund a similar project.
In its materials, the physicians’ group maintains there is “increasing recognition among scientists that animal experiments do not produce the health solutions needed to prevent and protect against disease.” It also insists such experiments have a “dismal success rate” predicting whether the treatments being tested will be successful.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay white coats in the Russian government to torture and kill cats in wasteful treadmill experiments,” Mackie Burr, vice president of the White Coat Waste Project said in a release, adding that the “four Kremlin-run animal testing labs that NIH has authorized to receive our money” should be defunded as part of the sanctions imposed over Ukraine.
Whoever Biden appoints as the next NIH director will likely face congressional investigations looking into these and other agency activities. It is believed by many, for example, that NIH grants to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology may somehow have been involved in the development of the virus commonly known as COVID-19. The connection has not been proven to a certainty but at least one prominent member of Congress, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, has promised to hold hearings investigating what the Wuhan lab did with the money it received from the U.S. should the Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate after the November 2022 elections.
The Biden administration last week was forced to vehemently deny it will fund the distribution of crack pipes, after the Washington Free Beacon‘s reporting uncovered plans for “safe smoking kits” included in a $30 million “harm reduction” grant. The denial surprised not only administration officials—who still seem unsure if they were ever going to distribute pipes—but also some advocates, who claimed the administration was letting “clickbait” and “racism” drive policy.
A bigger question has been lost in the dispute over the administration’s plan: Why did anyone think handing out government-funded crack pipes was a good idea in the first place? Why would HHS be funding “safe smoking kits” which, even if they don’t contain “stems,” do include other paraphernalia that facilitate the use of crack cocaine, meth, heroin, and other drugs?
Such methods are just one example of “harm reduction,” an approach to drug policy that has attracted attention in some big, blue cities; the “unprecedented” harm-reduction grant program is one of several signs that federal policymakers are similarly interested. Amid a historic wave of drug overdose deaths, it’s little surprise that policymakers are considering unorthodox ideas. But while some harm reduction ideas have merit, the label is often a cover for radical proposals backed by the shoddiest evidence, proposals that could do real harm.
In principle, “harm reduction” refers to practices that mitigate the harms of drug use without reducing use itself. Such approaches need not be controversial. HHS’s grant outline, for example, mentions funding disease-testing kits to help people who use drugs be informed about their HIV or hepatitis C status, and therefore hopefully reduce transmission. In the broader context of drug policy, harm reduction can operate alongside enforcement, treatment, and education to minimize the harms of illegal drugs.
But the term can also include policies pushed by more activist-minded “harm reductionists” who are concerned not just with particular policies, but with a wholesale critique of (their understanding of) American drug policy.
These activists tend to view the “drug war” and drug criminalization as more harmful than drug use. They argue that overdose deaths are driven by an “unsafe” supply of drugs, which is itself (they claim) a product of criminalization. Some—including Columbia University professor Carl Hart—insist that most drug use is not problematic, and that most problematic use is a product of social “stigma” rather than the intrinsically dangerous characteristics of drugs.
The distribution of “safe smoking kits” including “glass stems” is typical of the harm reductionist approach. As the Drug Policy Alliance, a major harm reduction group, describes it, such policies are meant to “meet people where they are at, and keep people free of diseases and alive so they have a chance of recovery and healing.” The group claims that distributing safe smoking kits is an “evidence-based” practice, rhetoric often deployed by harm reductionists to paint political opponents as “anti-science.”
In reality, the evidence on which safe smoking kits are based is paper-thin.
One common argument for crack-pipe distribution is that it reduces hepatitis C and HIV infection among users, by reducing pipe sharing and therefore hypothetical contact between drug users’ cut lips. This was HHS’s stated justification for funding safe smoking kits, for example.
But the evidence that pipe sharing is actually a disease risk is weak, relying on surveys of drug users that correlate sharing with infection while doing little to account for confounding variables. Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not seem to accept the “pipe spread” theory, counting needle sharing as a risk factor for HIV and hepatitis C, but not pipe sharing. One study claims to find an effect of Vancouver’s pipe distribution on users’ self-reported health, but there appears to be no actual trend in the data. Some evidence suggests that pipe sharing persists even when pipes are distributed, possibly because sharing is done as a social activity as much as out of necessity
A better-supported argument for distributing pipes is that users may switch from injecting to smoking, which can in turn reduce disease and other risks. The measured effects are not huge, though: One year after a safe smoking program was rolled out in Ottawa, 56 percent of users reported injecting at the same rate, while only 29 percent said they had started smoking more. Further, it’s hard to square that evidence with the harm reduction commitment to also distributing syringes, something HHS will also fund.
The standard argument against the distribution of drug paraphernalia, and indeed many harm-reduction interventions, is “moral hazard,” the idea that if policy reduces the risks of a harmful practice, people will be more likely to engage in that practice. Even if pipe distribution reduces the average user’s risk of infection per use, for example, it might also lead him to smoke more, increasing the total number of infections overall.
Harm reductionists often dismiss “moral hazard” as a non-issue, but it can show up in even seemingly benign policies. Studies have found that expanding needle exchange programs may lead to an increase in opioid deaths, and that laws which make it easier to access the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in turn cause an increase in opioid-related ER visits, and no reduction in opioid-related deaths. The latter study, by economists Jennifer Doleac and Anita Mukherjee, attracted fierce criticism from harm reductionists when it debuted—criticism that was often more personal than “evidence-based.”
The aforementioned examples do not mean, of course, that pipe distribution necessarily increases drug use or OD deaths. But the evidence is not there to say that distribution works, either. That makes it alarming that states and localities have accepted it as standard practice, or that the Biden administration will fund safe smoking kits—in whatever form—without better research into their effects.
Indeed, policymakers are increasingly accepting harm reductionists’ favorite policies absent evidence against the risk of moral hazard. Major U.S. cities have recently opened so-called safe consumption sites, facilities where people can consume drugs under the supervision of medical staff with access to overdose-reversing medication. The evidence to support their efficacy is similarly weak; some sites saw increases in deaths and drug use in their immediate vicinity.
Nevertheless, the Biden Department of Justice indicated earlier this month that it was “evaluating” such sites “as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety.” That would be a reversal of the Trump administration’s enforcement of the federal ban on drug consumption spaces, and another sign of sympathy for harm reduction from the White House.
Such a policy shift would be uncharted territory, at least for the United States. With drug overdose deaths pushing 100,000 a year, the experiment might be worth it. But it will more than likely cost more lives than it saves, a risk to which progressive leaders seem plainly blind.
The pandemic has revealed Americans to be tacit Social Darwinists, while trapping the Chinese in a vast Panopticon.
Authoritarian regimes tend to boast about themselves and denigrate their rivals. President Xi Jinping’s China is no exception. “As the Covid-19 epidemic takes away hundreds of lives every day in the U.S.,” wrote Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, on Jan. 14, “that country’s propaganda machinery is engaging in vicious smears against China’s dynamic zero-case policy of epidemic prevention … Think about it. More than 800,000 Americans died from Covid-19 in the U.S. Behind these numbers, how many sad and desperate stories are there?”
“The experience and facts of the past two years,” wrote Guo Yan in the Economic Daily five days later, “have shown that China’s general strategy of ‘foreign defense against imported [cases] and domestic defense against breakouts’ and the general policy of ‘dynamic clearing’ are the Covid prevention policies best suited to China’s own national conditions on top of being beneficial to the world … It is the inaction and chaotic actions of some policy makers that have caused the American people to fall into the epidemic crisis time and time again.”
Might the Chinese be right? As we reach the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic, perhaps the most surprising thing is how many Americans have lost their lives compared to how few have perished in China. How are we to explain this astonishing divergence?
The simple answer is that, despite being the source of the virus that caused the pandemic, the Chinese managed containment very successfully, while the U.S. bungled everything from testing to mask-wearing to quarantining.
Some people go even further, arguing (as does Chinese Communist Party propaganda) that the difference in death tolls illustrates the superiority of China’s political system over America’s corrupt and self-indulgent democracy. However, I have never bought this second argument. And I am no longer satisfied with the first.
We now have a U.S. death toll of between (depending on your source) 860,000 and 883,000 deaths due to Covid, the 20th-highest mortality relative to population globally. Actual mortality is running at 19% above the expected figure (compared with 5% in Canada). We are heading for a million deaths by May. According to the Economist, we may already be there.
True, in relative terms — deaths per million — U.S. mortality is not the worst in the world (it ranks 19th). In terms of excess mortality, too, the U.S. has fared better than a number of Latin American and Eastern European countries. The puzzle remains that on paper — according to the Global Health Index published in 2019 — the U.S. was better prepared for a pandemic than any other country.
Even more remarkable is how few Chinese the new coronavirus has killed: Fewer than 5,000, meaning a death rate three orders of magnitude smaller than the U.S. rate. Considering that the pandemic originated in Wuhan, this is an astonishing achievement. Of course, skepticism is always warranted where Chinese statistics are concerned. But even the Economist’s estimates, which suggest that there may have been significantly higher excess mortality in China, point to a far lower relative death toll than in the U.S.
Two things explain the remarkably high mortality the U.S. has suffered in this pandemic. First, the American public health bureaucracy failed utterly. Initially, when we knew very little except that it was contagious and dangerous, the relevant agencies were staggeringly complacent when they should have been frantically testing, tracing and isolating.Sponsored ContentWhy Decisions Made Now Will Steer the Net Zero TrajectoryUBS
Then, in March 2020, the official mind flipped from complacency to panic, partly on the basis of a paper by the British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson (no relation), who argued that we had to lock people in their homes until vaccines were available or 2.2 million Americans would die.
As it became clear that this approach would wreck the global economy, the public health officials resorted to improvisation, alternately tightening and loosening restrictions on economic and social life in a reactive and mostly ineffective way. Masks were at first dismissed as unnecessary, then became mandatory even in some outdoor locations, where they served no purpose.
When some skeptical scientists challenged the wisdom of lockdowns, the public health establishment was dismissive. The Great Barrington Declaration, published in October 2020 by Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, offered a persuasive critique of blanket pandemic lockdowns, arguing instead for “focused protection” of vulnerable groups such as the elderly or those with medical conditions.
“This proposal from the three fringe epidemiologists … seems to be getting a lot of attention,” Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, emailed Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. “There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises … Is it underway?”
Now that we have vaccines with high efficacy and a variant that causes mild flu-like symptoms in most vaccinated people, the official mind remains wedded to its playbook — in the parts of the U.S. where most people are vaccinated, such as northern California, where I live. Educational institutions have reverted to remote learning (an oxymoron, as everyone knows); masks are ubiquitous, even outdoors; a host of petty regulations persist.
Meanwhile, in the states with significant numbers of unvaccinated and vulnerable people, almost no precautions are taken. Consequently, the intensive care units are filling up once again. I make this the fifth wave of Covid in the U.S., and already mortality relative to population is higher than in South Africa, Denmark and the U.K., where the omicron variant struck sooner.
Yet there is a second reason for the relatively high American mortality during the pandemic, which has to do with public attitudes and behavior. I have come to the conclusion, after observing my fellow Americans for two years that — whatever our public health officials may tell us, and whatever some of us may say — in practice and in aggregate we are a nation of Social Darwinists.
Social Darwinism is a contentious term, I know, but its history is illuminating. A century ago, the ideas that came to be summed up as Social Darwinism by historians such as Richard Hofstadter were not limited to a far-right lunatic fringe. They derived from the writings of some of the era’s pre-eminent proponents of social progress.
Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was the English philosopher who did most to import ideas derived from Charles Darwin and other evolutionary theorists (notably Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) into the study of contemporary human societies. In works such as “First Principles” (1862), “Principles of Biology” (1864) and “The Man Versus the State” (1884), Spencer sought to discern universal laws of evolution.
One of his key contentions was that most social interventions by government were harmful, no matter how well-intentioned, because they interfered with the natural laws of evolution, which were the main driver of progress.
Some Social Darwinists went even further, arguing that infectious disease had a role to play in promoting the survival of the fittest. Franz Ignaz Pruner, a German physician, anthropologist and racial theorist, wrote “The Global Cholera Pandemic and Nature’s Police” (1851), based partly on his observations in Egypt. Wherever Europeans and Americans established colonies in the tropics, officials would periodically muse that the terrifyingly high mortality rates arising from disease — and of course from poor sanitation and malnutrition — must, like famines in India, be part of some providential design.
It was a relatively short step from Social Darwinism to eugenics — the theory popularized by Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and others that government should actively promote the reproduction of the “fit” and limit the reproduction of the “unfit.”
It is easy to forget today how influential such notions were a century ago, when they appealed almost as much to progressives as to proto-fascists. Chicago sociologist and reformer Charles Henderson opposed immigration of the “unfit,” proposed that the “feebleminded and degenerate” be banished to rural labor colonies and sterilized to “prevent their propagation of defects and thus the perpetuation of their misery in their offspring.”
As Spencer had made clear, it was a guiding principle of Social Darwinism that public-health legislation “defeats its own end” and “favours the multiplication of those worst fitted for existence, and, by consequence, hinders the multiplication of those best fitted for existence.”
In “Social Statics,” he used language echoed today by American libertarians:
If … it is the duty of the state to protect the health of its subjects, it is its duty to see that all the conditions of health are fulfilled by them. Shall this duty be consistently discharged? If so, the legislature must enact a national dietary: prescribe so many meals a day for each individual; fix the quantities and qualities of food, both for men and women; state the proportion of fluids, when to be taken, and of what kind; specify the amount of exercise, and define its character; describe the clothing to be employed … and to enforce these regulations it must employ a sufficiency of duly-qualified officials, empowered to direct every one’s domestic arrangements.
Like many of today’s critics of the public-health agencies, Spencer argued that the medical profession and bureaucrats were actuated by self-interest rather than altruism and had an “unmistakable wish to establish an organized, tax-supported class, charged with the health of men’s bodies, as the clergy are charged with the health of their souls.”
Reading “Social Statics” today, you see how completely Spencer lost the argument. As we enter the third year of the Covid pandemic, the public-health clergy have established themselves in precisely the kind of well-paid positions of power that Spencer foresaw, leaving a motley array of lockdown skeptics and anti-vaxxers to rehash his old arguments.
I have tended to steer clear of the lockdown skeptics and to heap opprobrium on the anti-vaxxers. But what we really see in both cases is a kind of revival of Social Darwinism that extends beyond the militant opponents of lockdowns and vaccines to include the many millions of Americans who over the past two years have simply flouted the pandemic rules. Ignoring the prescriptions of an intrusive nanny state, or complying with them so carelessly as to render them ineffective, they have tacitly given free rein to the principle of the survival of the fittest.
Compared with Western Europeans and especially with East Asians, Americans have a remarkably high tolerance of excess mortality, especially when it is heavily concentrated in politically underrepresented social groups. The same is true with respect to the relatively high death toll from firearms that Americans tolerate, not forgetting the staggering mortality caused by opioid overdoses in the past decade, which has no parallel in any developed country.
Now contrast the American experience of the pandemic with the Chinese. If Americans resemble modern-day Social Darwinists, the People’s Republic is a utilitarian Panopticon worthy of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s idealized penitentiary of the late-18th century, which relied on prisoners’ uncertainty about whether they were under observation to incentivize good behavior.
No country has more effectively used non-pharmaceutical restrictions on social and economic life to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 than China. True, these restrictions were widely imitated, as in New Zealand. But the reason they were more effective in China than elsewhere is precisely that the Communist Party’s system of surveillance creates what Bentham called “the sentiment of a sort of invisible omnipresence.”
And yet there turns out to be a catch, in the form of a new and much more infectious variant of the virus. In omicron, Xi Jinping’s Panopticon faces a new and ghastly challenge. Not only does the Chinese population have essentially no natural immunity from previous infections, thanks to the Zero-Covid strategy; the inferior Chinese-made vaccines also offer little protection against omicron. As a consequence, China must impose tighter restrictions than ever before.
Currently, over 20 million people are under some form of lockdown in half a dozen cities, notably Xian and Tianjin, because small numbers of people tested positive. Traditional Lunar New Year celebrations are being restricted. The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place with almost no foreign spectators. The volume of international flights to China has been reduced by more than 90%.
In some ways, China’s reversion to being a closed society is of a piece with Xi’s attempt to revive other aspects of Maoism: his reassertion of the Communist Party’s dominance over the private sector, his call for more egalitarian social outcomes, his intolerance of domestic dissent and ethnic minorities, his readiness to threaten war. But it is not at all clear how any of this helps the Chinese economy grow sufficiently fast to overtake that of the U.S.
By contrast, the American propensity to ignore (or at least honor mainly in the breach) the bureaucracy’s rules and regulations — combined with the opening of the fiscal and monetary floodgates — has meant that paradoxically, the public health disaster of the pandemic has been accompanied by an economic recovery so red-hot that U.S. inflation has jumped to a rate not seen since 1982.
In the eyes of today’s Western public health experts, none of this makes sense. Neil Ferguson gave an interview last year in which he described how he and his fellow scientific advisors to the British government realized that they might be able to copy the Chinese strategy for containing Covid. “People’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March ,” he recalled. “They [i.e., the Chinese] claimed to have flattened the curve. I was sceptical at first. … But as the data accrued it became clear it was an effective policy.”
The question was: Could the West copy China’s lockdown? “It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought,” said Ferguson. “And then Italy did it. And we realized we could.”
It continues to puzzle me that so many smart people were convinced that the People’s Republic of China should be the role model for a free society faced with a pandemic (as opposed to the East Asian democracies like South Korea and Taiwan that have contained the virus with minimal lockdowns). But that was the road we attempted to go down, inflicting immense economic disruption until we realized that it was unsustainable — that not even Ferguson (or, it turns out, the government he was advising) could adhere to a system of universal house arrest, much less don’t-tread-on-me Americans.
In the U.S. today, Covid has become as much a bureaucratic as a medical condition. Having had omicron in December, I and my family remain subject to a plethora of rules that make absolutely no sense, as we can neither catch nor transmit the virus again so soon after having been infected. I pointlessly wear a mask at meetings and on planes. I pointlessly submit to regular Covid tests. I pointlessly fill out online forms attesting to my children’s health.
Perhaps at some point this year a new variant — Pi, Rho, Sigma, take your pick — will emerge that I can catch and that will give me and others something more than a mild cold. But until that time comes, I shall feel a sense of individualist resentment — that I now realize is very American — about the whole dysfunctional edifice of rules and regulations. When (if?) they are finally swept away, I shall rejoice.
And, if the Chinese Panopticon finally loses control of Chinese virus in this, the third plague year, I’ll recall that, in the history of struggles between rival empires, the fitness that determines survival is seldom correlated with a state’s power over the individual — or its propensity to boast.
The COVID bureaucracy preaches lies, censors anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually admits the same truths they previously denounced.
The COVID bureaucracy has spent two years now preaching lies, censoring anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually coming around to admit the same truths they previously denounced.
In the case of masks and vaccines, the flip-flop was even more elaborate: They insisted masks didn’t work (when they were scarce) and that the vaccine was suspicious (under Trump), only to spin around and tout both. And now that neither works effectively against the omicron variant, the narrative is falling apart again.
Over the weekend, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky appeared on numerous news shows and bluntly admitted some big truths that critics of COVID mania have been saying all along. Another admission of hers from August resurfaced on social media, after months of the media memory-holing it.
It’s about time the COVID bureaucrats come clean — and Walensky’s comments don’t cover the half of it — but we’re old enough to remember what the same group of bullies was saying not too long ago.
“Our vaccines are working exceptionally well … but what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission,” Walensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in August, in a clip that made the rounds anew over the weekend.
But that’s not the narrative we’ve been inundated with for the past year. USA Today ran a “fact-check” with the headline “Vaccines protect against contracting, spreading COVID-19” in November 2021, quoting health “experts” who insisted that getting the jab makes people “much less likely to be infected therefore much less likely to spread the virus.”
President Joe Biden went even further, claiming in July, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” In October, he said, “We’re making sure health care workers are vaccinated because if you seek care at a health care facility, you should have the certainty that the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you.”
He continued to parrot the claim just last month, implying that vaccinated people couldn’t spread COVID when he asked, “How about making sure that you’re vaccinated so you do not spread the disease to anybody else?”
In a “Good Morning America” appearance, Walensky admitted that “the overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities.” That’s what we’ve been saying all along: that response efforts should focus on protecting vulnerable populations (i.e., not sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes) and maintaining normal activities for populations that are at low risk (i.e., not shutting down schools for semesters on end).
But it was Walensky herself who confessed last February that the CDC’s guidelines for reopening schools were influenced by the vehemently anti-in-person-learning teachers unions, which Walensky admitted resulted in “direct changes to the guidance.” Emails uncovered in September further showed that the CDC had changed its school masking policy under pressure from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.
And it was the coalition of power-hungry lockdown advocates and fawning media who put disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a pedestal, despite his decision to force COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths among the most vulnerable.
This coalition also worked with the CDC to push months of lockdowns, business closures, mask mandates, travel restrictions, and now vaccine mandates on Americans, despite the fact that the average healthy American is at low risk of dying from COVID.
“How many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID are from COVID or how many are with COVID?” Fox News’s Bret Baier asked Walensky on Sunday. “Those data will be forthcoming,” Walensky promised, acknowledging the distinction Baier pointed out.
But a bureaucracy that was intent on maximizing COVID panic (and death counts) to undermine Trump and stir the popularity of tyrannical policies wasn’t so keen on admitting this distinction in the past.
In Washington state, for example, a May 2020 report found that the state’s health department was “overreporting COVID-19 cases by up to 13 percent by counting anyone who ‘tests positive for COVID-19 and subsequently dies’ as a coronavirus death.” A subsequent investigation found that Washington health officials appeared to be doing it again in December of the same year.
In Colorado, gunshot victims were also counted among COVID death tallies if the victims had “tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 30 days.” And local authorities in Florida counted a man who died in a motorcycle crash as a COVID victim in July 2020. But that didn’t stop media outlets and bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci from using inflated death tolls to stoke fear and panic as justification for more restrictions and mandates.
What COVID factoid — that anti-lockdowners have been insisting all along — will Walensky and the CDC admit next? Who knows.
But it’s safe to say there won’t be any apologies or honest acknowledgments of error. There weren’t with masks, the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, vaccines, the lab leak theory, or schools, after all. Instead, you can expect them to use half-truths and flat-out lies to try convincing you they’ve never been wrong — all evidence to the contrary.
The 10-page plan, which Vanity Fair has obtained, would enable the U.S. to finally do what many other countries had already done: Put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission. The plan called for an estimated 732 million tests per month, a number that would require a major ramp-up of manufacturing capacity. It also recommended, right on the first page, a nationwide “Testing Surge to Prevent Holiday COVID Surge.”
The antigen tests at the center of the plan can detect the virus when patients are at their most contagious.
Three days after the meeting, on October 25, the COVID-19 testing experts—who hailed from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations—received a back channel communication from a White House official. Their big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, they were told, was dead. That day, the administration instead announced an initiative to move rapid home tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process.
The rapid-test push, in particular, seems to have bumped up against the peculiar challenges of fighting COVID-19 in the 21st-century United States. Difficulties include a regulatory gauntlet intent on vetting devices for exquisite sensitivity, rather than public-health utility; a medical fiefdom in which doctors tend to view patient test results as theirs alone to convey; and a policy suspicion, however inchoate, that too many rapid tests might somehow signal to wary Americans that they could test their way through the pandemic and skip vaccinations altogether. “It’s undeniable that [the administration] took a vaccine-only approach,” said Dr. Michael Mina, a vocal advocate for rapid testing who attended the October White House meeting. The U.S. government “didn’t support the notion of testing as a proper mitigation tool.”
President Biden, before departing on Marine Force One, Monday:
Q President Biden, why did your administration reject the holiday testing surge in October? Does the buck stop with you there — rejecting the surge?
THE PRESIDENT: We didn’t reject it.
We’re left with the same feeling after President Biden insisted no military adviser recommended to him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, after U.S. Central Command General Frank McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley told Congress under oath they had recommended that action. Or Biden’s claim that he himself had predicted that the Afghan government would collapse by the end of the year. Or Biden’s claim that his late son Beau served in the U.S. Navy in landlocked Afghanistan, or his claim to have been opposed to the war in Afghanistan from the beginning. Or the number of times Biden stated that vaccinated individuals cannot spread Covid-19, or that “you’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.”
Sure, maybe Biden is just lying when he says his administration didn’t reject a holiday testing surge. But what if the president genuinely doesn’t remember what he’s been told in briefings, conversations, and decisions?
Or in the case of the rejection of the massive expansion of testing, was this decision made without Joe Biden’s involvement?
Amid rising inflation, an ongoing border crisis, and a stalled legislative agenda, Biden is looking for someone to blame.
few days after the 2020 presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden pledged to be “a president who seeks not to divide but to unify,” a theme he’d campaigned on. “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he said in his victory speech. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again.”
So much for all that. As Biden’s first year in office comes to a close, he has proven to be one of the most divisive presidents in generations, surpassing even Donald Trump in his vindictiveness and willingness to demonize Americans who disagree with him — even if it means lying about COVID-19.
Consider the events of the past few days. Following a White House briefing last Thursday on the spread of the omicron variant, Biden said, “We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.”
The next day, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients repeated this line, saying, “We are intent on not letting omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this,” he said. “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”
So that’s the official administration line: opened schools and businesses for the vaccinated and “severe illness and death” for the unvaccinated, who will overwhelm hospitals with the omicron variant and, by implication, bear responsibility for the pandemic from here on out.
It’s one of the most bizarre and appalling statements from a presidential administration in American history, breathtaking in its dishonest scapegoating and shocking in its callous disregard for the millions of Americans who have decided, for reasons of their own, not to get the Covid shots.
Bullying these people will not persuade them, and neither will lying about the omicron variant. There’s no evidence right now that omicron is going to bring “severe illness and death,” or that it’s even going to cause a surge in hospitalizations. The evidence so far suggests just the opposite.
In South Africa, where omicron first emerged last month, hospitalization rates have fallen by 91 percent amid the current wave. Just 1.7 percent of all Covid patients were admitted to a hospital in the second week of the omicron surge, compared to 19 percent in the same week of the delta surge, according to South African health officials.
What’s more, the omicron variant appears to be milder than earlier strains of Covid-19. “We are really seeing very small increases in the number of deaths,” said Michelle Groome, head of health surveillance for South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Others have also noted a decoupling of new Covid cases and deaths in South Africa, whereas in past surges they have been closely aligned.
More evidence of this decoupling comes from the United Kingdom, where Covid deaths haven’t surged along with a rising case count from omicron. Indeed, there is no data anywhere to suggest that the omicron variant is anywhere near as deadly as previous strains of the virus, or that it causes more severe illness. The data so far show just the opposite.
Indeed, if omicron is a more contagious but also a milder strain (as we would expect with a mutating virus in a pandemic), then it makes sense that cases would surge but severe illness and death would not.
Here in the United States, that appears to be what we’re seeing so far: a surge of new cases but a slight decrease in hospitalizations. So instead of freaking out about omicron, prognosticating death and doom for the unvaccinated, maybe it’s time to do what some states, like Florida and Texas, have been doing all along: work to protect the most vulnerable and prevent deaths, ensure hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, and keep schools and businesses open.
In other words, manage the pandemic, which at this point is looking increasingly endemic. (Even The Atlantic has at last come around to this way of thinking — except for science writer Ed Yong, who bizarrely canceled his own birthday party over omicron. Sad!)
So much for Biden’s dishonesty about what a winter surge of the omicron variant will bring to the United States. What about his callousness and contempt for unvaccinated Americas?
It’s hard to imagine a message more calculated to divide the country than what Biden’s White House has put out, essentially diving Americans into an ingroup of vaccinated and an outgroup of unvaccinated, then blaming the entire pandemic on the outgroup — including whatever happens this winter.
The only possible explanation for such messaging is that Biden feels his presidency is in chaos and his legislative agenda has stalled out. If that’s the case, he’s not wrong. Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, announced he won’t support Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, a massive entitlement expansion that would cost some $5 trillion over the next decade. It was the signature piece of Biden’s agenda, and now it’s dead.
On the border, illegal immigration is still surging at historic levels, with the promise of another surge and an ever-deepening crisis this coming spring. Biden has done his best to ignore the crisis, even as a growing number of Americans say they disapprove of his handling of the border.
The economy is struggling, inflation remains high, and Biden’s popularity is sinking to dangerous lows just a year into his presidency. So his last resort, it seems, is to scapegoat the unvaccinated.
Never mind that many of the unvaccinated have already gotten and recovered from Covid, and have foregone the shot because they have natural immunity (a reality that never seems to factor into the Biden administration’s pandemic policies or messaging). Never mind that some people, having seen over the course of nearly two years that Covid is not as dangerous as the media and political elites have made it out to be and that Covid treatment has vastly improved, have assessed their risk and decided not to get the shots.
Never mind any of that. For Biden, blaming the unvaccinated is a way to deflect from the manifest failures of his administration on almost every other important issue.
These are not the actions of a great “unifier,” or even a marginally competent leader. After his inauguration, Biden embraced comparisons to Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, who enacted titanic government welfare programs amid great changes in American society.
But more apt comparisons, at this point, would be to inept 19th-century presidents like Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, one-termers whose blundering tenures were marked by chaos, division, and dangerous incompetence.
It is hard to believe that Spring 2020 was almost two years ago. The empty grocery store shelves and panic buying of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned foods feels like both a lifetime ago and also just yesterday. Many actions of that season have had reverberating effects – namely, the panic buying and unparalleled demand for those products.
Hand sanitizer, something that we were told we needed to stay safe and healthy, flew off the shelves faster than major manufacturers could produce it. This led the Trump administration to relax certain regulations and issue emergency guidance to allow producers to ramp up production and help meet the record demand. This was a reasonable approach at the time, as we had severe shortages of hand sanitizer and many stores had none to sell; however, it also led to lax practices in refilling, distributing and labeling hand sanitizers, and even dangerous and harmful products ending up in the hands of Americans. Now that we are almost on the other side of the pandemic, and businesses have their doors back open, the FDA needs to issue guidance on bulk distribution of hand sanitizer, to protect American citizens who are still relying on hand sanitizer for some measure of safety. 0:00 / 48:556 seconds…
Just this month, hand sanitizer manufacturer ArtNaturals had to recall hand sanitizer due to high amounts of “benzene, acetaldehyde and acetal contaminants,” and these are products that are being used on college campuses and in businesses.
Terrifyingly, benzene is linked to blood cancers, including leukemia, and is considered a high-risk carcinogen, and it is being given to Americans, unbeknownst to them. Many businesses purchased hand sanitizer in bulk — in gallon jugs — and then used it to refill existing branded hand sanitizer dispensers. The branded hand sanitizer was effective and safe, but in many instances the bulk sanitizer used to refill the branded dispensers was neither safe, nor effective.
The businesses who did this were not guilty of bad intent. But the effect was nonetheless harmful to the public, as they thought they were protecting themselves and reducing risk to themselves and others when, in fact, they were doing nothing to combat the virus, and even making themselves more at risk for other, more dangerous diseases like cancer.
As Americans are back out in the world and our economy begins to ramp back up, both students and consumers need to know that the hand sanitizer they are using at businesses they visit is effective and won’t put them at risk for other diseases. Ads by
Hopefully, we are overcoming the pandemic, and the crisis will soon be in our past. But hand sanitizer isn’t merely useful in combatting COVID-19. The common cold and the flu can be combatted with effective hand hygiene that includes reliable hand sanitizer. The flu season is coming and having access to safe and effective hand sanitizer is important, even if the risk of COVID-19 is decreasing.
Studies have shown that to effectively kill germs and viruses, the alcohol content needs to be at least 60 percent. Generally, more is better. Some have said that it shouldn’t be less than 70 percent. But there can be no doubt or disagreement that hand sanitizer should not contain known carcinogens at such high levels that their use is actually harmful and exposes people to an increased risk of cancer.
So, the FDA was correct to withdraw the emergency guidance and return to the previous and well-established standards, but the FDA now also must make sure that schools, retailers, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and other frontline businesses are providing safe and effective products, that includes advising against the practice of topping off refillable dispensers with dangerous, mislabeled and ineffective products.
Current science suggests that COVID-19, like the flu, will not be completely eradicated. Thus, we will have to mitigate their impact and harm. U.S. business owners have been through so much, and they fought to stay open, with the hope that they will have the necessary tools to keep their patrons safe. One effective way is through proper hand hygiene, which clearly includes having access to effective and safe hand sanitizer.