Saturday, May 15, 2021

A vaccine for all occasions

It took Barney Graham, Jason McLellan and their collaborators just a weekend in January 2020 to design a novel vaccine they believed would be capable of protecting people against COVID-19. Their design formed the basis for the vaccines that Moderna, Pfizer and others would eventually use to inoculate millions of Americans a little more than a year later, a pace of development unprecedented in the annals of modern medicine.

By then, however, the two pioneering virologists were already thinking about future pandemics— and how they might get ahead of them.

Graham and McLellan are part of a corps of researchers hoping to take the technology they used on COVID-19 vaccines and apply them to an even more futuristic creation: an arsenal of off-the-shelf premade vaccines that could be easily modified to attack new pathogens as they arise—a kind of “pan” or “universal” coronavirus vaccine capable of protecting against many different strains of the virus at the same time.

Even as scientists race to develop booster shots and tweak existing vaccines to work against new variants to SARS2, they’re looking ahead to future pandemics caused by entirely new pathogens from the same coronavirus family, one of just 26 known to infect humans. But SARS-CoV-2 is the third novel, deadly coronavirus to cross over from animals to humans in the last 20 years, and many scientists warn more will inevitably follow. Even though a “universal” vaccine that can protect against any new coronavirus that nature throws at us probably won’t be available this year or next, development has become a high priority.

“We want to be proactive rather than reactive to coronaviruses,” McLellan says. “The idea is to develop a single vaccine that could protect against all different coronaviruses, including ones that are still in bats and haven’t emerged yet.”

The idea isn’t new. Many scientists were already working on pandemic preparation projects before the coronavirus hit, including several experimental pan-coronavirus vaccines. Approaches that show promise include efforts to identify distinct protein molecules common to all coronaviruses that could attract virus-killing antibodies and custom-made nanoparticles studded with viral fragments from a number of different varieties, to name two. Scientists have also been working for years on a universal influenza vaccine that would do away with the need for a yearly shot that only protects against some common strains.

Scientists have long complained that these efforts—particularly those geared toward coronaviruses—have been hampered by low funding and a lack of urgency. Now that may be changing. Over the last six months, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a notice of “special interest” calling for research labs to apply for funding to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine. Democrats have introduced legislation that would allocate a $1 billion investment for the project, and private foundations and public health officials have promised to contribute, too.

The scientific establishment, meanwhile, has been stepping up its lobbying efforts. In recent months, leading public health officials and scientists have penned editorials in leading scientific journals, including Nature and Science, and begun to make the case for a major investment. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, has used his platform to argue the case.

“I believe that we have the capability scientifically to develop one that really covers at least all of the SARS-CoV-2 mutations, but also the entire spectrum of the family of coronaviruses,” Fauci said at a public event in February. Then, referring to MERS, which killed about one-third of those who caught it, SARS1, which killed up to 10 percent of its victims, and COVID-19, which has so far caused more than 3 million deaths around the world, he warned: “We got hit with three in 18 years that have been either pandemic or pandemic potential, so shame on us if we don’t develop the universal coronavirus vaccine.”

Humans develop immunity to an invading virus when the body learns to recognize unique shapes formed by the proteins on the pathogen’s surface, and then starts producing cellular-level sentinels, known as antibodies, that seek out those specific shapes, glom on to them and keep them in check until other immune cells can arrive to destroy the pathogen they belong to.

Only certain parts of a pathogenic virus are visible to the immune system. Most viruses consist of a piece of genetic material wrapped in a protein and encased in a protective soap-bubble-like membrane. Protruding from this membrane is a grappling hook-like spike used to ensnare and hijack vulnerable host cells. These grappling hooks have distinct shapes, designed to allow them to fit into the protruding target proteins, and bind to them, like a key in a lock. These protruding parts of a virus used to attack the cells are also its Achilles heel

In the early 2010s, Graham, who oversees two dozen scientists focused on developing vaccines for a wide array of respiratory viruses at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, began collaborating with Mc- Lellan, then a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Peter Kwong, to develop a vaccine that would target a deadly pathogen known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It was difficult to develop a vaccine against this virus, which caused a sometimes fatal respiratory condition in children, because the proteins it used to glom onto cells were capable of shape-shifting—engaging in what one structural biologist describes as a form of “crazy protein yoga” that made it difficult for antibodies to recognize them.

To combat this, McLellan and Graham developed a technique that allowed them to engineer synthetic versions of the grappling-hook-like proteins found on the surface of the respiratory syncytial virus. These synthetic proteins had a few carefully chosen changes to their genes that prevented them from bending and shape-shifting, effectively locking them into a single position so the body had a chance to develop strong antibodies against them. When Graham created a vaccine using the technique and injected it into macaque monkeys, it elicited among the most potent immune responses he had ever seen.

“The body will make antibodies against whatever shape you show it,” explains McLellan. “But you need to show it the right shape.”

Adds Graham: “We thought we already had potent monoclonal antibodies or neutralizing antibodies for RSV but these ones were 100 to 1000 times more potent.”

They two scientists published a paper detailing their success in 2013, showcasing their new technologies and how they could help usher in a new age in vaccine development that involves creating custom-made antibody recipes and turning them into vaccines that can be mass produced. The vaccine entered human Phase III clinical trials in late 2020, and results are expected next year.

By the time the RSV paper was published, Graham, McLellan and their collaborators had already begun modifying their approach to prepare for pandemics. When a virus capable of sparking a deadly new respiratory infection broke out in the Arabian Peninsula, called the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Graham and McLellan used their new technique to create a vaccine that attacked the spike-like proteins on the MERS virus. It was never approved for human use—MERS had died out before human trials could begin—but it later formed the basis for their work on the COVID-19 vaccine.

After the MERS outbreak, Graham also approached his boss, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about developing a blueprint for an arsenal of new tools to protect against future pandemics. His plan—which he officially unveiled in a paper published in the summer of 2019 titled a “Prototype Pathogen Approach for Pandemic Preparedness”— called for the NIH to develop vaccine prototypes and stockpile the materials needed to make them for at least one representative pathogen in each of the 26 viral families known to infect humans—including influenza and coronaviruses. By the time the paper came out, Graham had already begun a collaboration with Moderna to demonstrate the feasibility of a prototype vaccine for coronavirus.

Then the pandemic hit. When Chinese researchers published the genome of COVID-19 in early January, McLellan and Graham quickly pulled out their plans for the MERS vaccine and copied the genetic instructions used to stabilize the virus’ grappling-hook protein. Then they incorporated these spike-stiffening genetic tweaks into a vaccine they believed would work against COVID-19 and shipped it off to colleagues at Moderna and some other drug manufacturers. “We started all this before we had the first case in the United States,” Graham says.

Graham is hoping the success of the COVID-19 vaccine will create momentum to move ahead with a unified effort to develop prototype vaccines that protect against future pandemics. In the meantime, the battle to keep pace with the current virus, SARS- CoV-2, and prepare for new unrelated coronavirus pathogens has continued. The new tools of structural protein design continue to play a key role.

Last spring, McLellan published a second-generation version of his stabilized spike protein vaccine design which makes even more changes in the structure of the synthetic spikes that makes them even more immobile—and seems to create an even more potent immune response against the COVID-19 virus. The added potency makes it easier to manufacture using the existing infrastructure than developing nations rely upon to make annual flu vaccines, which could help solve the supply bottleneck that has many nations lagging behind the United States in vaccination efforts. Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil and Mexico all have launched clinical trials to test out the new techniques.

Meanwhile, western pharmaceutical companies manufacturing vaccines have begun exploring ways to ensure their existing COVID-19 immunizations are effective against newly emergent variants.

Andrea Carfi, head of infectious disease research at Moderna, says the company has been closely monitoring variants. “Among all the variants that we have looked at so far—the variant in California, the variant from New York, the variant from the UK and the South African variant—the one that raises most of the concerns is the one that was identified in South Africa,” he says. 

The South African variant is the one most likely to develop the ability to escape the immune protection of the initial vaccine, due to the way its genetic mutations change the shape of the spike proteins antibodies use to identify it. Moderna currently is testing three different approaches against it: one is to inject subjects with a third dose of the original vaccine in the hope of increasing the number of antibodies in circulation that will neutralize it; a second approach uses a vaccine based on a separate spike structure of South African variant designed to elicit antibodies against its unique shape; the third approach combines the old original vaccine with the South African variant.

In the long run, however, a universal coronavirus vaccine is perhaps the best way to protect against new strains, since it would also work against novel strains.

In his lab, McLellan has identified a portion of the spike protein that appears to be highly conserved in multiple coronaviruses. But he has only just begun experimenting with ways of creating a stable protein structure that will stay in one shape long enough to elicit the desired antibodies.

Researchers in other labs have also identified promising targets. In 2014, a pair of scientists at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh identified a portion of an enzyme present in all known human coronaviruses. Researchers at the University of Virginia have found a part of the SARS2 spike protein that appears to persist among many of the variants. A vaccine that targets this part was able to protect pigs from both COVID-19 and another coronavirus that gives pigs diarrhea. And researchers at the University of North Carolina, isolated antibodies in the blood of an individual who had survived SARS1 that appeared to offer protection against SARS2, suggesting molecules common to viruses.

One of the most clinically advanced efforts is being developed by VBI Vaccines Inc., a biotechnology firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In recent months it has received tens of millions of dollars in research grants to develop a mechanism of delivering custom-designed proteins to the immune system that closely resemble native pathogens. They are preparing to test new vaccines in humans that would protect against the South African variants and would only require one dose—human trials could begin later this year.

The company has demonstrated in mice that a single vaccine also in development using this technology can provoke an immune response against SARS2, SARS1 and MERS virus and had the added benefit of protecting against a coronavirus that is responsible for 42 percent of common colds. “If you think about those spike proteins as being the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, we showed that exposing mice to them could also produce neutralizing antibodies of orange,” says Jeff Baxter, the company’s CEO.

At the NIH, meanwhile, Graham is also working to develop a pan or universal COVID vaccine. For the last five years, he has been collaborating with Neil King, a University of Washington structural protein biologist, who has developed a technique to make custom designed, self-assembling nanoparticles that resemble microscopic soccer balls. Instead of a mosaic of black and white pentagrams, however, their surface displays 20 different varieties of distinctly-shaped, spike-like proteins, which resemble those present on different varieties of coronaviruses. When introduced into the human body through a vaccine, the nanoparticles will hopefully train the immune system to recognize and attack all of the proteins in the mosaic, and many in between. King relies on computational techniques to determine which varieties are most likely to elicit a response that will work against viruses with different shapes on their spikes.

Prior to COVID-19, King and Graham had already begun testing one version in mice, complete with six different varieties of coronavirus spikes—one from SARS, MERS and four other common varieties. The hope is that any new varieties of novel coronaviruses to arise in the years ahead will prove sufficiently similar to at least one of the six different inoculated strains for the body to recognize them as dangerous and attack.

“If this approach works, we’ll have made a broadly protective coronavirus vaccine,” says King. “We’re going to get it. It’s just a matter of blood, sweat and tears. And money.”




Friday, May 14, 2021

2.4 Million US College Students Face Vaccine Mandate, Immune or Not

More than 180 college and university campuses across the United States are requiring more than 2.4 million students to produce proof of vaccination against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus to attend in-person classes this fall, regardless of whether the students have acquired immunity to the virus.

The number of schools with a mandate is likely to grow by then, especially if the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval for one or more vaccines in the coming months. None of the schools currently accept acquired immunity as an exemption from the vaccination mandate, even amid evidence that prior infection results in broad and lasting protection from the virus, according to an Epoch Times review of more than 130 university vaccine mandate notices and immunization requirement pages.

Only a handful of the four dozen schools contacted for this article offered direct responses for why infection-conferred immunity isn’t being considered as an exemption. The vast majority responded by referencing their immunization exemption rules, which don’t address acquired immunity. When pressed for an answer, several schools said they couldn’t offer more information, while others said they are still finalizing their policies.

The few that responded pointed to guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which advises people to still be vaccinated because “experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.”

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

“BSU will not be offering exemption based on prior infection,” Dr. Christoper Frazer, executive director of the Wellness Center at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, told The Epoch Times.

“For students who have already had COVID-19, we are still requiring that they be vaccinated and recommend they talk to a doctor about when it is best to do so,” Daniel Telles, assistant director of media relations at the University of San Diego, told The Epoch Times in an email. “Even if members of our university community have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that they could again be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.”

“As the CDC suggests, data from clinical trials indicate that COVID-19 vaccines can be given safely to people with evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Therefore, Wesleyan University will require all students, even those who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have had positive COVID-19 antibodies, to be vaccinated in order to enroll in fall semester classes,” Olivia Drake, the campus news editor for Wesleyan University, told The Epoch Times in an email.

According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, 95 percent of the people with prior COVID-19 infections had durable immunity to the CCP virus lasting up to eight months.

Preliminary data on vaccines suggest they offer a similar level of protection and durability. Pfizer and Moderna are already developing booster shots because the efficacy of their vaccines drops over time. Pfizer says efficacy diminishes to 91 percent from 95 percent in six months. The efficacy of the Moderna vaccine drops to 90 percent after six months, according to the company. Both vaccine makers foresee that an annual revaccination may be necessary.

Two Columbia University students who spoke to The Epoch Times on campus in New York took no issue with the school not providing an exemption for immune students. Both used similar reasoning to the CDC, saying that too much is still unknown about the virus.

“I think because there is so much that we don’t know there, it makes sense that that’s not enough for them,” said Courtney Treglia, a postgraduate student who plans to teach an in-person course in the fall.

“I think that’s a good thing to Columbia because we just don’t know all of the science behind it and at some point, the antibodies do go away, so it’s a good thing, generally,” said a male student, who asked to remain anonymous.

Some schools, including California State University, University of Northern Colorado, and the Southwestern Community College District, are still finalizing their vaccination policies and say they haven’t yet made a decision on how to treat students who request an exemption based on acquired immunity. Despite the discussions, the vaccine mandates on their websites don’t advise students that such exemptions are being considered and could become available.

Fort Lewis College, one of the few schools that spoke on the record about their approach to students with infection-conferred immunity, referenced guidance by the CDC, which states that reinfection is rare in the 90 days after the initial CCP virus infection but cautions that “the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity.”

The statement notably conflates the risk from COVID-19 facing non-immune people with the protection from acquired immunity. The apparent intent of the statement is to warn people who may be considering becoming infected and acquiring immunity as an alternative to getting a vaccine.

The CDC didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for clarification.

“Just like scientists don’t know how severe the COVID-19 illness will be for each person, scientists don’t know how long natural immunity lasts for each person. We are following CDC guidelines which state that regardless of whether individuals have been sick with and recovered from COVID-19, vaccination is recommended,” Lauren Savage, a media relations strategist at Fort Lewis, told The Epoch Times.

“For FLC students, the benefits of the vaccine include protection from severe illness and death, as well as the opportunity to get back to a normal college experience.”

In addition to lasting protection, acquired immunity to the CCP virus is effective against its variants, according to an NIH-funded study led by Dr. Anthony Fauci and published in late March. The immune system cells in people with acquired immunity “could recognize virtually all mutations in the variants studied” and “should offer protection against emerging variants.”

Another NIH-funded study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, found that COVID-19 patients had “broad-based immune memory response” eight months after being infected.

“Naturally acquired immunity is superior to anything this vaccine could deliver. So, any students who have been through infection and COVID-19 should be exempt from vaccination,” H.C. Tenenbaum, professor of laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Toronto, told The Epoch Times.

“There’s a vast array of evidence in the scientific literature that shows definitively that if you’ve had COVID and recovered, the vast, vast majority of people have a durable immunity that it’s very unlikely that you’ll be reinfected and you’ll be protected from reinfection,” Jay Battacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, said during a roundtable discussion with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March.

“Even if you do get reinfected at some later time, it’s very likely to be less severe than the first time. So, yeah, it’s just like the other coronaviruses; if you get infected, you get immunity and it lasts a while. Not forever, but it lasts a while.”

During the same roundtable, Sunetra Gupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist and a professor of theoretical epidemiology at the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, noted the curious way in which some public health experts cling to the notion that it’s unknown whether there would be durable acquired immunity after an infection from the CCP virus.

“What do the scientists do under those circumstances? They look around to other viruses, and we had four others circulating, we still do, coronaviruses, to which we knew from the studies that had already been done, that you do get immunity in a very similar manner,” Gupta said. “You make antibodies … and that those do protect you, particularly from severe disease and death, forever. They don’t protect against reinfection, but they protect you against severe disease and death.”

Regardless of how long acquired immunity is shown to last, the NIH-funded studies suggest that students with acquired immunity who prefer to wait and see when it comes to getting vaccinated have the level of immune protection needed to do so.

One in four young adults ages 18 to 29 wants to “wait and see” before taking the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The data suggests that as many as 600,000 students could be forced to make a vaccination choice before this fall against their current preference and, if they have immunity, with no proven benefit to themselves or those around them.

To date, the risk of adverse negative effects from vaccines remains extremely low. The CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has logged 4,178 deaths following a COVID-19 vaccination, although a review of the cases hasn’t established a causal relationship with vaccines. There have been 15 cases of severe blood clots which are believed to have been caused by the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.




Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Top 10 Absurdities Of The COVID Pandemic... So Far

President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party may be in denial, but the truth is unavoidable. For all intents and purposes, the COVID-19 pandemic which has ravaged our country and our economy for fourteen months is over. As we prepare to close the book on the nightmare it has been, let’s pause for a moment with the Top Ten list for the Month of May to reflect on some of the most ridiculous aspects of the handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

#10 – One-way traffic rules in supermarket aisles –

At the beginning of the pandemic – when we were still making jokes about coronavirus and Corona beer – there was a lot of confusion. As the magnitude of COVID became clear, people were erring on the side of caution; fair enough. But over a year into this thing, we can still see signage in stores telling us which direction to push our carts. If anyone ever abided by these rules, it was only for a short while, and that was a long time ago. If you were one of those people who tried to scold me for going the wrong way down an aisle last June, to which I told you, “shut the hell up,” I’m still not sorry. Here’s a prediction: no one will bother to conduct a study on exactly how many lives were saved by one-way supermarket traffic. And if an accurate analysis does come along it will arrive at this conclusion: Zero.

It could’ve been sillier… they could’ve put in traffic lights

#9 – COVID is Trump’s fault –

Throughout the presidential campaign, the left and their media hammered away at this point. If Trump had acted properly, the pandemic never would have happened. Trump is responsible for every death. There are hundreds of thousands dead because of Trump. Somehow, a substantial portion of the electorate bought into the nonsense. It’s a virus, and a highly infectious one at that. Trump did what he could, and in fact initially received praise from just about every Democratic governor in the country. If anyone is to blame for COVID, it’s China and the World Health Organization. But perhaps nothing better illustrates the ridiculousness of this claim than when Joe Biden, less than a week after taking office, explained, “There’s nothing we can do” about the virus. Well, I’ll be darned.

“Remember all those times I said I was going to kick COVID’s ass? Well, I’m going back to my basement to hang out with Corn Pop now.”

#8 – Teachers can’t go back to work, but everyone else can –

From virtually the very beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that school-aged children were far less susceptible to infection and severe symptoms, and probably not vectors of transmission. Statistically, kids are the least in danger. But while the rest of us were back working in stores or driving trucks, and subjecting ourselves to genuine risks, teachers’ unions across the country continued to push the narrative that it’s too dangerous for teachers and kids to return to school. Like every other industry, at-risk kids and teachers could have been allowed to stay at home while the rest went back to normal. Instead, we inexplicably kept schools closed, gave students a significantly inferior education, and took away opportunities for social interactions that will never come again.

Finally parents became fed up with school closings, but far too many Americans nodded in agreement and played along

#7 – It was xenophobic for Trump to halt travel from China  –

The media would prefer that we all forget their accusations, but we mustn’t. They called President Trump “xenophobe in chief” for his actions, and Nancy Pelosi went to San Francisco’s Chinatown in February to tell everyone how safe things were. Trump had suspended travel from China at the end of January, and in retrospect the only legitimate criticism you could make of Trump is that he waited too long. But to categorize his actions as xenophobic was absurd from the beginning. The virus came from China, and that’s a fact; and it’s not racist or xenophobic to point it out or to act accordingly.

If your policies don’t work, just call the other guy (who happens to be married to an immigrant) a xenophobe

#6 – Fifteen days to slow the spread  –

The idea itself isn’t absurd at all, and in fact it originated with the Trump White House. We didn’t know the trajectory of the disease in mid-March 2020 when the initiative began; we didn’t want to overwhelm hospitals, and we needed to “flatten the curve.” It took closer to 30 days to reach the goal, but we succeeded, and we achieved those objectives. There wasn’t a location in the country where COVID patients couldn’t access care, and we indeed flattened the curve. What’s absurd is that the approach has continued for almost 400 days now in some places. Many states such as Texas, Florida and Mississippi have been essentially back to normal for months, but other states (mostly of the Blue variety) can’t bear to let go of that power, as lockdowns and mask-mandates continue.

Did we say 15 days? We meant to say 30… no, make that 90… no, no, we meant 400 days

#5 – President Joe Biden: “Help is on the way” –

The claim came in December before he took office, and much of the rhetoric was focused on the economic impact on COVID, but Biden repeatedly made assertions that he would “fix” the federal government’s handling of COVID. By the time Biden was inaugurated, there were already one million vaccinations occurring each day, and one of his first promises was to achieve 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, which would have meant actually decreasing the trend graph for vaccines. Way to set the bar low, Joe. Essentially the only issue in which the Biden Administration has approached COVID differently from Trump is with their authoritarian fixation on masks. That’s it.

Rest easy America, Joe Biden is coming to save us

#4 – The response by The World Health Organization –
Prior to COVID, most Americans were only vaguely aware of the WHO and their efforts. If we heard, “The WHO,” we would immediately think of Roger Daltrey swinging his microphone and Pete Townshend smashing his guitar. Once we learned how they screwed the pooch with the early days of the pandemic, and of their coziness with China, everyone started paying attention. The virus likely originated at the lab in Wuhan – though probably unintentionally – and China thoroughly mishandled the initial infections. Once the virus began spreading, the WHO provided cover for the Chinese by downplaying the extent of the spread and China’s role in it. The organization which gets much of its funding from our tax dollars was in bed with China and covering up their incompetence. President Trump was absolutely correct in pulling our funding, and if Biden had an ounce of integrity he’d do the same thing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pays a visit to his puppets at the World Health Organization

#3 – Blue states did it better –

The media spent the first six months of the pandemic essentially engaging in journalistic copulation with Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, while simultaneously vilifying and openly rooting against Republican governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis. DeSantis would “have blood on his hands” they told us, while concurrently paving the way for issuing an Emmy Award for Cuomo. In reality, the performances were the exact opposite of their narrative. Cuomo was dreadful in his handling of nursing homes in New York, and it was clear from the beginning he was covering up the results; a scandal which may eventually result in his removal from office. Meanwhile DeSantis was stellar in managing the virus in a state with the second oldest population in the country. The worst four states in the country for deaths-per-million are all blue states (#1 New Jersey, #2 New York, #3 Massachusetts, and #4 Rhode Island), and Florida is in the bottom half of that list and going lower. Democrats, unsurprisingly, were absolutely horrible in their handling of COVID, whereas Republicans did pretty well overall.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis  showed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo the proper way of handling the COVID crisis

#2 – Get the vaccine, but keep doing all of the other stuff  –

This is some of the most bizarre messaging we’ve ever seen. We were blessed with three miracles: the vaccines by Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J. All three are not only highly effective at stopping infections, with efficacies of between 75% and 94%, they’re almost 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death in the unlikely scenario you are infected. So what did Biden and the Democrats do? They told everyone that even if you’re vaccinated you need to keep social distancing and keep wearing masks. Those communications begged the question: if I have to keep doing all that stuff, then why should I get the shots? None of it made any sense. If you get vaccinated: 1) it’s highly unlikely you’ll get infected, 2) you’re almost definitely not going to be hospitalized or die from it if you do, and 3) you will not be able to transmit the disease. In other words, if you get the vaccine you can go back to normal.

Democratic Party propaganda, brought to you by their sycophants in the media

#1 – Wear two masks  –

The beginning of the pandemic was chaotic, and it would have been understandable if Dr. Anthony Fauci had simply made a mistake when he told us we didn’t need masks. But it wasn’t a mistake. He lied to us and admitted doing so. Fauci justified his deceit by claiming concern that masks might not be available for health care professionals. Then Fauci decided to stop lying to us and told us to wear masks, but wouldn’t even follow his own directive. Fauci threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals opening game last year, and forget that he threw the ball like a little girl; which, if anything, is insulting to little girls. He was wearing a mask despite the nearest person being sixty feet away. He then proceeded to sit in the stands directly next to a friend, at which point he removed his mask. Then late last year Fauci decided that it would be best if we wore two masks, without any evidence to support his notion. Like lockdowns, there’s still no evidence that mask-wearing had a significant impact on the pandemic. Dr. Fauci has zero credibility at this point, and if you’re following this recommendation by wearing two masks, then you are a moron.




Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Professor Explains Flaw in Many Models Used for COVID-19 Lockdown Policies

Economics professor Doug Allen wanted to know why so many early models used to create COVID-19 lockdown policies turned out to be highly incorrect. What he found was that a great majority were based on false assumptions and “tended to over-estimate the benefits and under-estimate the costs.” He found it troubling that policies such as total lockdowns were based on those models.

“They were built on a set of assumptions. Those assumptions turned out to be really important, and the models are very sensitive to them, and they turn out to be false,” said Allen, the Burnaby Mountain Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, in an interview.

Allen says most of the early cost-benefit studies that he reviewed didn’t try to distinguish between mandated and voluntary changes in people’s behaviour in the face of a pandemic. Rather, they just assumed an exponential growth of cases of infection day after day until herd immunity is reached.

In a paper he published in April, in which he compiled his findings based on a review of over 80 papers on the effects of lockdowns around the world, Allen concluded that lockdowns may be one of “the greatest peacetime policy failures in Canada’s history.”

He says many of the studies early in the pandemic assumed that human behaviour changes only as a result of state-mandated intervention, such as the closing of schools and non-essential businesses, mask and social distancing orders, and restrictions on private social gatherings.

However, they didn’t take into consideration people’s voluntary behavioural changes in response to the virus threat, which have a major impact on evaluating the merits of a lockdown policy.

“Human beings make choices, and we respond to the environment that we’re in, [but] these early models did not take this into account,” Allen said. “If there’s a virus around, I don’t go to stores often. If I go to a store, I go to a store that doesn’t have me meeting so many people. If I do meet people, I tend to still stand my distance from them. You don’t need lockdowns to induce people to behave that way.”

Allen’s own cost-benefit analysis is based on the calculation of “life-years saved,” which determines “how many years of lost life will have been caused by the various harms of lockdowns versus how many years of lost life were saved by lockdowns.”

Based on his lost-life calculation, lockdown measures have caused 282 times more harm than benefit to Canadian society over the long term, or 282 times more life years lost than saved.

Furthermore, “The limited effectiveness of lockdowns explains why, after one year, the unconditional cumulative deaths per million, and the pattern of daily deaths per million, is not negatively correlated with the stringency of lockdown across countries,” writes Allen. In other words, in his assessment, heavy lockdowns do not meaningfully reduce the number of deaths in the areas where they are implemented, when compared to areas where lockdowns were not implemented or as stringent.

Today, some 14 months into the pandemic, many jurisdictions across Canada are still following the same policy trajectory outlined at the beginning of the pandemic. Allen attributes this to politics.

He says that politicians often take credit for having achieved a reduction in case numbers through their lockdown measures.

“I think it makes perfect sense why they do exactly what they did last year,” Allen said.

“If you were a politician, would you say, ‘We’re not going to lock down because it doesn’t make a difference, and we actually did the equivalent of killing 600,000 people this last year.’”

You wouldn’t, he said, because “the alternative is they [politicians] have to admit that they made a mistake, and they caused … multiple more loss of life years than they saved.”

Allen laments that media for the most part have carried only one side of the debate on COVID-19 restrictions and haven’t examined the other side. Adding to the concern, he says, is that views contrary to the official government response are often pulled from social media platforms.

He says he has heard that even his own published study has been censored by some social media sites.

“In some sense these are private platforms. They can do what they want. But on the other hand, I feel kind of sad that we live in the kind of a world where posing opposing opinions is either dismissed, ignored, or … name-called, [and] in some ways cancelled,” Allen said.


More job losses in the Biden era

BRADDOCK, Pennsylvania -- Exactly two years ago, U.S. Steel Corporation announced that the company would turn its Mon Valley Works operations into a key source of lightweight steel for the automotive industry.

At the time, local leaders and company officials called the investment "transformational."

It involved a whopping $1.5 billion upgrade to the three Mon Valley Works plants, all in Pennsylvania -- the Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock, the Irvin Plant in West Mifflin and the Clairton Coke Works in Clairton -- with technology and improvements that would have resulted in cleaner air for all three communities as well as good-paying jobs providing regional prosperity for decades.

On April 30, U.S. Steel said that after months of tug of war with the Allegheny County Health Department, it was canceling the $1.5 billion upgrade and idling three batteries at Clairton Coke Works by 2023.

U.S. Steel said in a statement that a dragged-out delay from Allegheny County officials for permitting the project contributed to the decision, along with the new direction that the company is taking to focus on sustainability.

Allegheny County chief executive Rich Fitzgerald, a city Democrat, said he was "blindsided by the news."

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, also a Democrat, was simply devastated. "It is heartbreaking," said Fetterman, whose home is across the street from the sprawling 148-year-old Edgar Thomson Works that hugs the Monongahela River.

Local economic development forecasters estimate over 1,000 direct jobs will be lost, as well as countless supporting jobs that would have facilitated the buildout.

Jeff Nobers, the president of Pittsburgh Works, an economic group made up of officials in manufacturing, steel, energy and labor unions, said the unknown costs and future implications due to this decision are formidable and long-lasting. "We have to be thinking about what manufacturers who were looking to locate here are thinking," he said. "Do they look at the climate here and wonder if it is worth it? Well, that is a problem, too."

Local elected officials are of several minds on this project. Most of them were just hoping it would fly under the radar of the climate justice warriors and go up without notice. That was never going to happen. The rest fully backed its demise because of their views on climate change.

One exception has been Fetterman, the progressive populist Democrat who is seeking his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2022. He was a vocal supporter of the project, which sometimes placed him at odds within his own party's ranks. His support created a strange alliance between him and Republican state lawmakers such as Allegheny County state Sen. Devlin Robinson and the state Senate majority leader, Kim Ward.

Ward said that although she does not agree with Fetterman on much, she sure does "on this one."

Robinson agreed. "The constant rhetoric attacking manufacturing in this country is going to impact jobs," he said. "That is not something to worry about in the future -- it is happening right in front of us."

Critics of the closure also point to the constant drumbeat coming from local environmental justice nonprofits and reporting organizations funded by elite, left-wing foundations such as the Heinz Endowments. These, they argue, are contributing to a hostile business climate.

The Edgar Thomson Steel Works, named after a Pennsylvania Railroad president, was built by Andrew Carnegie in the 1870s on the site of an old French and Indian War battlefield.

U.S. Steel also told its investors that it is reallocating capital to other places -- which means all of the work that was going to go here will likely go someplace where bureaucrats are less beholden to (or aligned with) environmentalists.

Fetterman calls the moment an opportunity lost: "We could have made the safest, greenest steel in the world right here in Braddock. We could have secured thousands of good-paying union jobs."

Now that opportunity is gone.

President Joe Biden said in his joint speech to Congress that there's no reason steel can't be continually manufactured in the United States, and in a safe and green way. Biden even riffed, "There's no reason the blades for wind turbines can't be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing."

"Well, that's what this investment was about," said Robinson. "This $1.5 billion was about making steel in a more environmentally friendly way. But the current environment right now is so hostile to manufacturing, manufacturers know making things in America is not a viable option. Especially not now, and especially not into the future, where they're going to see a return on their investment."

Manufacturers may have to relocate to places where there are no unions, or even outside the country. This makes hollow Biden's promise to protect union jobs and bring back manufacturing -- and it will be doubly hollow if he looks the other way when things like this happen.

This conflict between manufacturing and environmentalism is also going to place Biden at odds with both sides. Biden argues that a decarbonizing economy will create millions of jobs. Here, however, it meant zero jobs created and perhaps many destroyed.




Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Here's How You Know Democrats Rigged and Stole the 2020 Election

By Wayne Allyn Root

Let me put this in terms even Democrats can understand.

Let's say a white police officer killed a black man who did nothing wrong. Unlike George Floyd, this man had not committed any crime, did not resist arrest, didn't have fentanyl in his system and had no record of violent crime. Assume this poor guy was a law-abiding, taxpaying, churchgoing American and that the cop killed him for the crime of "driving while black."

How do the police react? They say the shooting was righteous. They refuse to investigate. There is bodycam footage, but they refuse to release it. And get this: They refuse to allow anyone to even talk about it. If any cop talks about it, he loses his job. If anyone in the black community talks about it, social media will suspend them or ban them for life.

What would all of that mean to you? Guilty as charged, right? The police must be covering up a crime. No one who's innocent acts like that, right?

Guess what? That's equivalent to the reaction (or, should I say, overreaction) of liberals, Democrats and assorted socialists and communists when Republicans make accusations of massive voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

I thought we're all allowed to have our opinion in America. I thought we have free speech. I thought we have a right to investigate. I thought we have a right to see the videotapes. I thought we have a right to forensic audits.

I was wrong.

The fix is in. It's crystal clear to me now that not only was the election rigged but so is everything post-election. It's simple psychology. Just look at the absurd reaction, or overreaction, by Democrats.

Would anyone dare ban the right to discuss a possibly racist police killing? Can you imagine the reaction by liberals, black activists and the American Civil Liberties Union? What if the Minneapolis police were to permanently ban any discussion of George Floyd's death? What if every black American trying to give his or her opinion on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube were banned for life?

Who would react like that? Only guilty people.

Here are the questions I want answered.

— If Democrats didn't rig and steal the election, why are they so afraid of forensic audits in key battleground states, specifically the current audit in Arizona?

— When Trump was an 8-to-1 landslide favorite with bettors around the world late on election night and clearly headed toward a landslide electoral victory, why did five states suddenly announce they would pause counting for the night? And how come Biden was suddenly ahead by morning?

— How come Michigan apparently had a dump of 149,772 votes at 6:31 a.m. on Nov. 4, 96% of which went to Biden?

— How did Wisconsin count 149,520 votes for Biden from 3:26 to 3:44 a.m. on Nov. 4?

— How come Philadelphia vote counters were so desperate to keep witnesses out of the counting room? Why did they refuse entry to witnesses (to Republicans) until those witnesses had a court order in hand?

— Why were the windows in a vote-counting location in Detroit covered with cardboard so nobody (no Republican) could see inside?

— There are videotapes filmed in Detroit of vans pulling up in the middle of the night with what obviously look like boxes of ballots. In Atlanta, there are videotapes that clearly show ballot containers appearing at a vote-counting location after a fake water main break was used to force all GOP witnesses out of the counting room. Why can't we discuss these videotapes?

— How come Twitter banned me for life over mentioning these videotapes?

— How come the Arizona Senate's liaison for the vote audit says Maricopa County hasn't complied with the subpoena by turning over passwords to Dominion voting machines?

— How come the Biden DOJ suddenly wants to stop the Arizona audit?

These are all valid questions. Why do we get backlash for asking them and posting them on social media? What are Democrats hiding? What are they so afraid of?

In the end, that's the proof Democrats rigged and stole the 2020 presidential election. The truth is in their ridiculous, heavy-handed overreaction. They're desperate to stop you from looking into or even talking about this.

Democrats are guilty as sin.




Monday, May 10, 2021

Conservatives Condemn Facebook’s Indefinite Suspension of Trump: ‘Un-American,’ ‘Dangerous,’ 'Obscene'

Conservative groups condemned Facebook Oversight Board’s decision Wednesday to continue to block former President Donald Trump’s Facebook page and Instagram account as “un-American” and an “obscene” abuse of power, pointing out that if it treated liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) the same way, people would be outraged.

As reported, the Oversight Board said “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension" of the former president’s account.

The board called on Facebook to review its decision “to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.” The review must take place “within six months of the date of this decision.”

The decision was panned by conservative groups:

This is censorship, plain and simple. Facebook executives are simply attacking President Trump for political reasons as they work to prevent him from communicating with his supporters. Their claim that President Trump’s rhetoric contains ‘a serious risk of violence’ is laughable. If Facebook were really concerned about that, they would have taken down Maxine Waters’ page – not to mention the Facebook pages of all the other Democrats who cheered on the violent riots of 2020. Facebook is silencing our 45th President for purely political reasons. Every American should be appalled by this ongoing attack on free speech.


Cancelling 'anti-Semitism'

by Jeff Jacoby

IT ISN'T OFTEN that a hyphen, or the absence of one, draws attention. But when the Associated Press announced recently that it was changing the spelling of "anti-Semite" and "anti-Semitism" in its highly influential style guide to "antisemite" and "antisemitism," it made news — and drew cheers from historians and civil rights activists.
There is a good deal of history behind that detail of punctuation, and it begins with the fact that the father of "anti-Semitism" was an antisemite.

In 1879, a German nationalist and political agitator named Wilhelm Marr published a pamphlet in which he claimed that Jews were the mortal enemy of the German people and called for their forcible removal from German soil. His document, Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum ("The Road to Victory for Germanness over Jewishness"), argued that Jews posed a particularly dangerous threat not simply because of their religion or behavior, but because they belonged to an alien racial group — the "Semites." Marr wanted a word that would imbue his loathing of Jews with the ring of sophistication, so rather than speak of primitive Jew-hatred (judenhass), he promoted the pseudoscientific term antisemitismus — enmity toward the Semitic race. But there was never any doubt about the meaning of his neologism. Antisemitismus — which became antisémitisme in French and antisemitismo in Spanish — meant only one thing: hatred of Jews. And when Marr founded a new political organization, the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga), it had only one purpose: to ignite anti-Jewish bigotry into a political movement.

When the term entered the English language in 1893, however, it became "anti-Semitism." That is how it has typically been spelled ever since.

But as scholars have long pointed out with consternation, that hyphen and upper-case "S" were a mistake. There is no such thing as Semitism or a Semitic race. "Semitic" is a term in linguistics; it denotes a family of North African and Middle Eastern languages, including Akkadian, Amharic, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and Ugaritic. But people who speak those languages are not "Semites" anymore than people who speak one of the Romance languages — Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan — are "Romantics."

German agitator Wilhelm Marr launched a political movement founded on anti-Jewish bigotry — and popularized the term "antisemitism" as a synonym for Jew-hatred.

Like countless Jew-haters through the ages, Marr made no secret of his animosity, but wanted to cloak it in respectability. So he gave it a name, "antisemitism," that didn't actually mention Jews — not unlike the way racists and nativists a century ago sanitized their bigotry by calling it "eugenics." It was unfortunate that Marr's euphemism came into common usage at all, but the orthography it acquired in English made matters worse. The hyphen, by explicitly turning "anti" into a prefix, encouraged the falsehood that the word adopted by Marr and his followers referred to hostility toward "Semitism" and "Semites."

That is why scholars and Jewish institutions have argued for decades that the word should be "antisemitism" — with no hyphen or upper-case "S," as in every other language. "Why do I spell antisemitism without a hyphen?" asked Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt, whose highly regarded book Antisemitism Here and Now was published in 2019. "Because antisemitism is not hatred of Semitism or Semites — people who speak Semitic languages. Antisemitism is Jew hatred."

Without the hyphen, it becomes easier to recognize "antisemitism" for what it has always been: a generic, undivided word for the hatred of Jews. Obviously it doesn't change the etymology of the word or eliminate Marr's racist motive in using it, but it no longer legitimizes it, either.

A change in punctuation will not undo what has often been called the oldest hatred, or even slow its alarming global rise. But it will at least help to clarify, as the Anti-Defamation League observes, that "hatred toward Jews, both today and in the past, goes beyond any false perception of a Jewish race." Jews can be found across the racial spectrum, even as they can be found in every economic stratum and in every political party. Jews are not united by a single religious identity, a single national affiliation, a single DNA sequence, or even a single definition of what it means to be a Jew.

The only thing all Jews can be said to have in common is that they belong to a minuscule people with an ancient history, and that there have always been those prepared to revile them, for reasons as inconsistent as they are irrational. The AP Stylebook change is admittedly a tiny thing. But it will weaken, at the margins, the racial pretext that has animated far too many Jew-haters, both in Marr's era and in ours. There will always be antisemitism, alas. But "anti-Semitism" has at long last been cancelled, and that is a change to be welcomed.


What’s Behind Masks in Cars and Other COVID-19 Insanity

If you wanted to teach a class on how to cause confusion and distrust, you would follow the U.S. government’s coronavirus playbook.

A lot has been written about the historically low levels of trust Americans have in their leaders and institutions. There’s been less analysis on what happens when a government has no faith in its own citizens.

We are seeing the results today. From the start of the pandemic, health authorities have chosen gamesmanship over honesty.

That has resulted in muddled and inconsistent messaging from national leaders. The end result is a broken country of citizens at one another’s throats.

Mask fights, deboarding flights, and, of course, the crazy people driving around alone in their cars with masks on all stem, at least in part, from a government that has refused to treat Americans like adults who could handle the truth.

It’s important to note that the government has done a lot of good things in response to COVID-19. In the area of vaccine development, we have done more, faster than any other large country.

The combination of heavy government subsidies and an innovative free market system produced strong, reliable vaccines at a record pace. We crushed efforts by China, Russia, and others to fight COVID-19 with medical innovations.

That is why America is ahead of Europe and most of the world. We should celebrate the much-maligned pharmaceutical industry and the administrations of both President Donald Trump, whose Operation Warp Speed was a historic achievement, and President Joe Biden, who helped quicken the vaccine distribution.

Outside of medical innovation, however, the government’s response has been marked by a failed communications plan that shows extreme distrust of the American people.

The government famously began its COVID-19 communications with a lie about masks. Despite what some of the fever swampers may tell you, masks work. That’s why doctors wear them around sick people. They aren’t perfect, of course, but they do help.

Numerous high-ranking officials took part in the lie that masks aren’t effective, including Dr. Anthony Fauci. They defend the lie now by noting, correctly, that we needed to conserve as many masks as we could for health care workers who truly needed them.

Fair enough, but there was another option that our leaders didn’t seem to consider; namely, tell the truth.

They could have told the American people that it’s going to require some sacrifice and that we need to come together as a society to fight this contagious disease.

They could have told everyone that the first step of the fight is saving the professionally made masks and other protective equipment for the first responders.

As part of that message, they could have reminded people that the young and healthy probably weren’t in extreme danger—something we already knew, even then. There will always be people on the margins who won’t cooperate, but I would bet most Americans would have rallied around such an honest message.

After lying about the masks, the government lied about lockdowns. Remember when this all started and we were told to lock down briefly in order to “flatten the curve”?

In many states, that turned into extended lockdowns that destroyed American businesses and families. Why? Couldn’t people have managed to safely go about some semblance of life while taking some prudent precautions? Our government never gave them the chance.

We have known for months that wearing masks outside when walking or running is just silly. The air dissipates quickly, and the research shows these fleeting encounters with others aren’t responsible for much disease transmission.

The risk is tiny, yet in many places, outdoor mask mandates were the norm. Now, for those who have been vaccinated, the risk is negligible.

Yet it took awhile after vaccinations were available for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its outdoor mask guidance, and leaders are still not able to send a consistent message.

Did you see the picture of Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband kissing each other outdoors with their masks on? What message are they trying to send with that insanity?

Intentions aside, people are getting two messages.

The first is that the truly responsible people are still wearing their masks, so we all should. That has likely caused more conflict on America’s streets than any other government communications foible.

The second message is the vaccine doesn’t seem to help much. If the vaccines work as well as our officials claim, why are they all still running around outside with their masks on? It’s a reasonable question, yet it’s one that all these smart people don’t seem to have considered.

The biggest and most destructive part of the government’s dishonesty is school closures. The kids should be back in school.

The scientists have agreed for a long time now that the risks to in-class learning are manageable. On this one, the dishonesty is of a slightly more sinister variety. Just look at which politicians are making excuses for the school closures and where all the teachers unions’ political donations go.

All the dishonesty and gamesmanship from top national leaders comes with huge downsides. The next time the government has something important to say—about vaccines, for instance—people will be less likely to believe it.




Sunday, May 09, 2021

Death by cop in Britain

This would provoke a huge reaction in America but not so much in Britain, where the police are held in better esteem

As is often the case in such matters, judgment depends on the rightness of what a police officer did in one fraught moment.

The cop obviously was frightened by the appearance of a large, aggressive and apparently insane black immediately before him and acted to ensure that the black could not harm anybody.

Whether the actions he took were "excessive" is very hard to say and could only be safely decided by someone else who was there.

The cop should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt. We should probably be grateful to him for the actions he took to safeguard the community

A female police officer has been accused of colluding with her Pc boyfriend to lie about how he kicked ex-Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson in the moments before his death.

Pc Benjamin Monk Tasered Atkinson for 33 seconds before kicking him twice in the head as he lay stunned on the ground, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

His girlfriend and colleague Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, was accused of colluding with her boyfriend in not telling the truth about the kicks.

Alexandra Healy QC for the prosecution told the court: “That Pc Bettley-Smith appears to have colluded in not telling the truth about the kicks to the head, is indicative of the two officers having discussed between themselves how best to account for their unlawful attack on the unarmed Dalian Atkinson.”

The Crown have accused Pc Monk of changing his story because he knew he couldn’t justify his actions, and the jury heard how Pc Bettley-Smith's account was largely the same as her colleague's.

Ms Healy told the jury: “Delivering two forceful kicks to Dalian Atkinson’s head cannot have been an act in reasonable self-defence.

“It is difficult to see how a kick to the head could ever be a reasonable act taken to prevent Dalian Atkinson from getting up. It is impossible to see how two kicks could be.

“The fact that PC Monk claimed in his first interview to have kicked Dalian Atkinson only once to the left shoulder area, when the evidence of what other officers heard him say at the scene shows that he knew full well that he had kicked him in the head, demonstrates that he himself is only too aware that those kicks could not be justified.”

The court previously heard how Pc Monk kicked Atkinson so hard he left the imprints of his laces on the ex-footballer's forehead.

In the view of three prosecution pathologists, it is likely the kicks knocked Atkinson unconscious and that "the prolonged period of Tasering and the kicks to his head made a significant contribution to his death".

Patrick Gibbs QC, defending Pc Monk, told the court it was "not in dispute that he must have kicked Dalian Atkinson twice in the head".

"That’s the only explanation for the marks on his forehead," he said, telling the jury his client "he did it because he had to".

Mr Gibbs also said: "Everyone agrees for those first five minutes, Pc Monk and Pc Bettley-Smith acted lawfully. But they’re then accused of acting unlawfully in the 6th minute. Another thing is whether that distinction is either realistic or fair."

The court heard how a "frightened" Pc Monk had told his girlfriend to run away from Atkinson as he threatened to "take you to the gates of hell". He was in a relationship with his West Mercia Police colleague Pc Mary Bettley-Smith, 31, at the time and both were responding to a 999 call in Meadow Close, Telford.

The female officer, who was 26 at the time of the incident, was still on her probation period having only become a police constable in 2015. Both were interviewed under caution in 2016, when Pc Monk said he told his partner to run because he was fearful for himself and his girlfriend. Pc Monk described how on approaching Dalian Atkinson's father's house in Meadow Close, Telford, he was aware of a “very, very loud row” taking place within the property.

Alexandra Healy for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told the jury: "Monk explained that Mr Atkinson appeared at the doorway of the house in an obvious rage and said, 'This is the Messiah'.

"He said he produced the Taser, but Dalian Atkinson - but he didn’t know at the time that this was Dalian Atkinson - was apparently unconcerned, saying, 'I am going to take you to the gates of hell'.

"Pc Monk was, he said, fearful for himself, his partner and whoever was in 22 Meadow Close. “And the partner was his partner and colleague at the time but also they were in a relationship.”

The first attempt at Tasering Atkinson failed, and at that point he told Pc Bettley-Smith "to run", the court heard.

The first witness called in the trial was Atkinson's girlfriend Karen Wright, and she told the jury her boyfriend had a premonition that the police would kill him in the weeks leading up to his death.

Karen Wright told Birmingham Crown Court that on the day before he died, Atkinson had told her: “You’ll see when I’m dead. I’m the Messiah.”

Miss Wright told the court: “I’d not heard him say that before. It was unusual. “He was quite convinced he was going to be killed or he wasn’t going to be with us any more.”

Asked if he had told her previously who he thought might kill him, Miss Wright said that her boyfriend said “the NHS or the police will kill me”.

Miss Healy QC for the prosecution told Birmingham Crown Court that the cause of death was "effectively, cardiorespiratory arrest close in time to the deployment of the Taser and followed by restraint and blunt forced trauma in a person who had two serious illnesses - heart and kidney disease".

Pc Monk denies murder and the alternative charge of manslaughter while Pc Bettley-Smith denies assault. The trial continues.


Britons were black 'before these isles were British', says BBC children's show

Exceptionally stupid propaganda

The only evidence for this claim is just one skeleton. Skeletons don't have skin colour. And even if they did there would be no evidence that the skeleton concerned is typical

The special bank holiday edition of the BBC’s Horrible Histories children series will be dedicated to Britain’s ‘black history’ after the show’s creators said they felt the need to “reevaluate” the nation’s ethnic history in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the tearing down of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.

The Telegraph reports that the long-running comedy/history series, adapted from Terry Deary’s beloved kids books have already probed Britain’s racial history with a punchy take on colonialism, but has decided to go further with a special edition.

The opening sketch to illustrate Britain had a black population “from the start” features Hadrian’s Wall being manned by African troops in the 3rd Century AD.

However, auxiliary (foreign) troops serving in Britannia would have come from North Africa, and would not have been black. For one thing, the empire beyond Rome, where most Roman soldiers came from, did not stretch into sub-Saharan Africa. And Romans were a racist bunch too. Roman chronicle, The Historia Augusta notes Emperor Septimius Severus was ‘disgusted’ when offered a black slave to sacrifice.

Winding back further, the episode explores pre-historic Britain’s dark-skinned people going back 10,000 years, “before these isles were British”. The Cheddar Man acts as a reference point and is thought not to have been white. Other topics include: Dark Age churchmen, Tudor servants, the Sons Of Africa abolitionist group, and soldiers during the Second World War.

“We take our lead from what we think our young audience will want to know, what’s on their minds, and what they’re hearing about,” said Richard Bradly, Horrible Histories’ creative lead.

“When we started out we had no idea of the responsibility we would end up having. There is an onus on us to get it right.”

The CBBC show had previously tackled the Civil Rights Movement, but Bradley wanted to “go deeper”. He insists Britain has “always been a country with many races and ethnicities” and added that the decision to make a special black history edition was promoted by the “express demand” of teachers.

He added: “We take our lead from what we think our young audience will want to know, what’s on their minds, and what they’re hearing about.

“When we started out we had no idea of the responsibility we would end up having. There is an onus on us to get it right.”

Horrible Histories came in for a shellacking for its earlier crack at presenting British History from a woke perspective. A song on colonialism described sugar, tea and cotton as “British things” that actually came “from abroad” and were “frankly stolen”. Somehow, Queen Victoria was listed as one of these commodities.

Bradley took a bold line of defence, comparing his pandering programming to British comedy classics.

“Horrible Histories is one of the most British of things,” he said. “It’s in the tradition of Blackadder and Monty Python. And going back to 1066 And All That. We engage with our history and we laugh at our history.”

The creators may laugh, but will anyone else?


Is America racist? Kamala Harris and Tim Scott say no

by Jeff Jacoby

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the first black senator elected from the Deep South since Reconstruction, was chosen to deliver the Republican response to President Biden's address to Congress.

LAST WEEK, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, two of America's most prominent Black elected officials affirmed that the United States is not a racist nation.

The first was Senator Tim Scott, the conservative South Carolina Republican who delivered the GOP response to President Biden's address to Congress on Wednesday.

"Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country," Scott said. He acknowledged that racial bigotry has not been eradicated — indeed, he said, he has himself "experienced the pain of discrimination." But he insisted that race not be deployed as "a political weapon" and that "it's wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present."

On Thursday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris, a liberal Democrat and until recently a California senator, agreed with her former colleague.

Asked during an ABC interview to comment on Scott's remarks, Harris answered clearly. "Well, first of all, no, I don't think America is a racist country," she said. "But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today."

Her answer was noteworthy. It came as Scott was being savaged on the left for rejecting the idea that America is fundamentally racist. In progressive strongholds — the press, academia, much of social media, and what Howard Dean memorably called "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" — the hard-wired racism of America is taken as a self-evident truth. When Scott repudiated that claim, Twitter erupted with so much liberal mockery and venom that the racial slur #UncleTim became a trending hashtag.

Nonetheless, Harris made a point of seconding Scott's motion. President Biden did the same on Friday. "I don't think America is racist," he said on NBC's Today show, "but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it."

Harris, Biden, and Scott are right: While America used to be a society in which racism was entrenched by habit and enforced by law, and while it still contains people who spew racial bigotry, this is no longer a racist country. Until fairly recently, that would not have been a controversial proposition. For the first decade and a half of the 21st century, according to Gallup, large majorities of adults consistently said that relations between white and Black Americans were good.

The president and vice president agree that America, for all its racial flaws and grievous history, is not a racist country. Our national conversation about race remains contentious, but it just got a little better.