Friday, June 17, 2022

Australia: New 'sticky' Omicron variants taking over

Two new Omicron variants are set to become the most dominant in NSW as a result of their "growth advantage" over previous strains, according to a new report.

The new variants— BA.4 and BA.5 — are set to overtake the previously prevalent BA.2 variant in coming weeks, the NSW Health respiratory surveillance report said.

"It is anticipated that in coming weeks the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages, first identified in early April, will become the dominant strains," a NSW Health spokesperson said.

"And will likely be associated with an increase in infections."

Virologist Stuart Turville from the University of NSW's Kirby Institute said BA. 5 was "stickier" than its predecessors because of differences in its spike glycoprotein, which influences how the virus engages with cells.

"BA.5 doesn't look to be a big seismic shift like we saw with BA.1 and BA.2 in comparison to Delta," Professor Turville said.

"[But] the thing we're keeping an eye on with BA.5 is that it's starting to like tissue that pre-Omicron variants like ... it likes proteins on the lung.

"What we want to know now is does it like it as much as Delta and pre-Omicron variants or is it just a bit of a shift from BA.2?"

Infectious disease experts say there is evidence the Omicron sub-variants are effective at reinfecting people with previous infections from BA.1 or other lineages.

There is also concern these sub-variants may infect people who have been vaccinated.

However, there hasn't been a link to an increase in disease severity just yet, although this is being closely monitored, according to the NSW Health report.

Hospital and lab surveillance noted an early start to influenza season this year as well as a rapid increase in reported cases, raising concerns for strains on essential services.

University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health Professor Elizabeth Elliott said there was no doubt "chaos" would be caused by the emergence of new variants in the winter flu season.

"Hospitals are already struggling with the load. And kids are not exempt. We recommend flu and COVID vaccines for all eligible," she said.


Fed accelerates rate hikes, but still too little, too late to stop crushing inflation

If the administration returned to balanced budgeting there might be a hope of inflation being temporary but huge excess spending is locked in so whatever the Fed does inflation will continue -- JR

By Robert Romano

The Federal Reserve on June 15 once again hiked the Federal Funds Rate — the rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions — up another 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, following 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent rate hikes at its March and May meetings.

That came after the January meeting when the Fed left its rate at 0 to 0.25 percent, even though inflation was already running north of 7 percent.

The acceleration of the Fed’s rate hikes, after tepid expectations of just 0.25 percent increases at each meeting, now stand out as an admission that the central bank thinks it was wrong. That, in sum, the central bank waited far too long to begin the process of ending the emergency measures enacted to mitigate the economic impacts of the Covid pandemic lockdowns.

A quick gander at the Fed’s economic projections tells the tale. Just in Dec. 2020, the Fed was projecting just 1.7 percent Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index inflation for 2021. It came it at 3.87 percent. In Dec. 2021, it was projecting 2.7 percent for 2022. So far, it’s already up to 6.3 percent as of April 2022.

When compared to a separate measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, now at 8.6 percent, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, similarly, since inflation first rose above 5 percent in June 2021, the Federal Reserve has kept its policy rate far below that of the inflation rate.

Just in Nov. 2021, the central bank was confidently promising the inflation would be “transitory”: “Inflation is elevated, largely reflecting factors that are expected to be transitory… an easing of supply constraints are expected to support continued gains in economic activity and employment as well as a reduction in inflation.”

A month ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed was not even considering a 0.75 percent rate hike, telling reporters on May 4, “Seventy-five basis points is not something the committee is actively considering.”

And yet, a month later, that is exactly what the Fed did.

Meaning, the Fed has not only been consistently wrong about the state of the economy, it is not even a reliable source of information about what its own policy posture actually is on a month-to-month basis. It doesn’t even know what it wants to do.

Of course, the American people have noticed the inflation, as their money doesn’t go as far as it used to. Real average hourly earnings are down 3 percent from May 2021 to May 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The inflation itself is little wonder. Congress spent and borrowed more than $6 trillion to fight Covid after Jan. 2020: the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and the $900 billion phase four legislation under former President Donald Trump, and the $1.9 trillion stimulus and $550 billion of new infrastructure spending under President Joe Biden.

As a result, the national debt has increased by $7.2 trillion to $30.4 trillion since Jan. 2020, of which the Fed monetized half, or $3.4 trillion, by increasing its share of U.S. treasuries to a record $5.7 trillion while the M2 money supply has increased by $6.3 trillion to $21.8 trillion, a 41 percent increase, since Jan. 2020.

To be fair, one exigent event is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which unquestionably disrupted global grain supplies, with Russia and Ukraine accounting for one-third of all wheat exports, and the world’s oil and gas supply, since Russia is a top producer.

And, the Fed knew about the war in March and May when it did its tepid 0.25 and 0.5 percent rate hikes.

Still, the supply crisis has not improved. Production slowed down in 2020 in response to the Covid lockdowns, demand picked up sooner than expected, but when it comes to agriculture or oil and natural gas production, both are still below pre-Covid levels. Whether rates are rising slowly or very fast, if we don’t boost production soon, it might not matter where the Fed sets the interest rate, inflation will still get worse. Stay tuned.


The Emergence of Neo-Fascism in Public Health

Fascism is the art of hiding the truth behind a facade of wholesome virtue. It is, presumably, as old as humanity. Mussolini just gave it a name—hiding his authoritarian ideas behind the drainage of swamps, village renewal, kids in school, and trains running on time. The 1930s picture of Nazism was not broken windows and old men being beaten in the street, but happy smiling youths working together in the outdoors to rebuild the country.

Putting such labels to the present time is dangerous, as they carry a lot of baggage, but it also helps to determine whether the current baggage we had thought was progressive is actually regressive. Those happy smiling youths of the 1930s were actually being trained in the arts of self-righteousness, denigration of wrong-think, and collective obedience. They knew they were right, and that the other side was the problem. Is that familiar?

The societal changes of the past two years have been defined by, and led by, ‘public health.’ So it is right to look for public health analogies in the past to help understand what is happening, what the drivers are, and where they might lead. We have witnessed our public health professions and the associations that represent them call for active discrimination and coercion over medical choice. They have advocated for policies that impoverish others, whilst maintaining their own salaries, controlling normal family life, and even dictating how they can mourn their dead.

Hospitals have refused transplants for those who made unrelated medical choices the hospital did not like. I have witnessed them refuse a family access to a dying loved one until they accept injections they do not want, then allow immediate access thereby confirming it was not immunity, but compliance, that was sought.

We have all seen prominent health professionals publicly vilify and denigrate colleagues who sought to restate principles on which we were all trained: absence of coercion, informed consent, and non-discrimination. Rather than put people first, a professional colleague informed me in a discussion on evidence and ethics that the role of public health physicians was to implement instructions from the government. Collective obedience.

This has been justified by ‘the greater good’—an undefined term as no government pushing this narrative has, in two years, released clear cost-benefit data demonstrating that the ‘good’ is greater than the harm. However, the actual tally, though important, is not the point. The ‘greater good’ has become a reason for the public health professions to annul the concept of the primacy of individual rights.

They have decided that discrimination, stigma, and suppression of minorities is acceptable to ‘protect’ a majority. This is what fascism was, and is, about. And those who have promoted slogans such as ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ or ‘no one is safe until all are safe’ know the intent, and the potential outcomes, of scapegoating minorities.

They also know, from history, that the fallacious nature of these statements does not impede their impact. Fascism is the enemy of truth, and never its servant.

The point of writing this is to suggest that we call a spade a ‘spade.’ That we state things as they are, we tell the truth. Vaccines are a pharmaceutical product with varying benefits and risks, just like trees are wooden things with leaves on. People have rights over their own bodies, not doctors or governments, in any society that considers all people of equal and intrinsic worth.

Stigmatization, discrimination, and exclusion on the basis of healthcare choices, whether for HIV, cancer, or COVID-19, is wrong. Excluding and vilifying colleagues for differing views on the use of safe medications is arrogant. Denouncing those who refuse to follow orders conflicting with ethics and morals is dangerous.

Blindly following government and corporate dictates simply to comply with the ‘group’ has nothing in common with ethical public health. These all have more in common with the fascist ideologies of the past century than with what was taught in the public health lectures I attended. If that is the society we now wish to develop, we should be up front and state this, not hide behind facades of false virtue such as ‘vaccine equity’ or ‘all in this together.’

Let us not get tied down with political niceties of ‘left’ and ‘right.’ The leaders of Europe’s two main fascist regimes of the 1930s emerged from the ‘left.’ They leaned heavily on public health concepts of ‘greater good’ to weed out the inferior thinkers and non-compliers.

Our current condition calls for introspection, not partisanship. As a profession, we have complied with directives to discriminate, stigmatize, and exclude, whilst blurring requirements for informed consent. We have helped remove basic human rights—to bodily autonomy, education, work, family life, movement, and travel. We have followed the corporate authoritarians, ignoring their conflicts of interest and enriching them whilst our public has become poorer. Public health has failed to put the people in charge, and has become a mouthpiece for a small, wealthy, and powerful minority.

We can continue down this path, and it will probably end up where it did last time, except perhaps without the armies of others to overthrow the monstrosity we supported.

Or we can find humility, remember public health should be a servant of the people and not the instrument of those who seek to control them, and remove the monster from our midst. If we do not support fascism, we can cease to be its instrument. We could achieve this simply by following the fundamental ethics and principles on which our professions are based.




Thursday, June 16, 2022

Fully Vaxxed and Boosted Dr. Fauci Catches COVID

Maybe this will convince people that vaccienations are useless against Omicron. His symptoms are mild but that is typical of Omicron

On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), tested positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen test, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health.

Fauci is fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice. He is reportedly experiencing mild symptoms.

“Dr. Fauci will isolate and continue to work from his home,” the statement reads. “He has not recently been in close contact with President Biden or other senior government officials. Dr. Fauci will follow the COVID-19 guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical advice from his physician and return to the NIH when he tests negative.”

Dr. Fauci is the architect of the nation’s COVID-19 response and was once the most trusted figure when it came to the novel coronavirus. However, his repeated contradictions and deceptions have resulted in Americans losing confidence in our health institutions and prompted calls for his firing.


Imperial College London research finds Omicron not boosting protection against reinfection

New research has found people who caught Covid in the first wave of the pandemic get no boost to their immunity if they catch Omicron.

A study of triple vaccinated people looked at how infections from different Covid strains affected people’s immune response, to help inform future vaccine development.

While three doses of the Covid jab help to reduce the severity of the illness from Omicron, previous infections can affect how the body responds, researchers say.

Imperial College London Professor Rosemary Boyton, who is a co-author of the study, said “if you were infected during the first wave, then you can’t boost your immune response if you have an Omicron infection”.

The study also found that being infected with Omicron did not boost protection against that strain.

“When Omicron started flying around the country, people kept saying that’s OK, that will improve people’s immunity. What we’re saying is it’s not a good booster of immunity,” Prof Boyton told The Guardian.

The study followed 731 triple vaccinated healthcare workers in the UK from March 2020 to January 2022. Each person had a different Covid infection history.

Researchers found that regardless of previous infections, immunity against Omicron waned a few weeks after third Covid jab.

They also found those who caught Omicron did have increased protection from other variants but it only offered a limited boost of protection from another Omicron infection. But in those who had the original strain of the virus - the response was weaker.

The team said those who caught Covid in the first wave of the pandemic did not gain a boost to their immune response after catching Omicron.

This study has raised concerns about what the future holds, with these findings suggesting people are not building up their immunity against the virus.

“We’re not getting herd immunity, we’re not building up protective immunity to Omicron,” study co-author Professor Danny Altmann said, reported The Guardian.

“So we face not coming out the other end of infections and re-infections and breakthrough infections.”

Actor Hugh Jackman has tested positive for Covid for the third time, after performing at the Tony Awards in New York City.

Jackman’s positive Covid result came less than 24 hours after he and co-star Sutton Foster and the ensemble cast of The Music Man performed a set at Radio City Music Hall for the 75th Tony Awards.

The Wolverine star took to social media to share the news, explaining that Max Clayton will take over his role in The Music Man while he recovers.

He also thanked all those who are understudies for their work and helping the show go on.

The Aussie actor had previously missed performances of the musical due to Covid. Over the Christmas period when Jackman contracted the virus for the second time some shows had to be cancelled.


The Subordinate Citizen


I recently led a group of about 100 citizens to tour Israel for nearly two weeks. Before returning to the United States, all participants had to indicate their vaccination status and take a COVID-19 test for reentry.

Anxieties swept the group as Israeli testers swabbed them.

Anyone testing positive would have to delay his return. That quarantine would entail spending thousands of dollars in finding scarce hotel accommodations, additional living expenses, and rebooked airline tickets—depending upon the length of the mandatory sequestration.

Contrast the tens of thousands of foreign nationals now mustering to cross illegally into the United States again this summer. They follow the already 2 million who have entered the country unlawfully since Joe Biden became president.

Does any foreign national worry about being tested for COVID-19, much less fear being turned away if he tests positive or for lack of proof of vaccination?

Or do we scrutinize far more carefully U.S. citizens entering legally their own country than we do noncitizens crossing our borders unlawfully?

For that matter, the government is still determined to fire thousands of federal workers and U.S. military personnel who refused the new mRNA vaccinations. Most citizens who were not vaccinated feared that the inoculations were either possibly dangerous to their health or ineffective in preventing COVID-19 infections or would not necessarily lead to herd immunity.

Are 2 million nonvaccinated foreigners arriving unaudited from impoverished countries less of a threat during the pandemic than fully audited American citizens employed by the federal government? Why would we fire unvaccinated Americans but welcome equally unvaccinated noncitizens?

The Biden Administration blasted the Trump southern border wall and canceled all further funding.

Yet it just appropriated $40 billion to Ukraine to ensure that it does not lose its border war against Russian aggression.

That is a tiny percentage of the federal budget. But the aid is full of symbolic irony, nonetheless. The multibillion-dollar appropriation would have more than covered the completion of the entire wall along our own southern border.

An outside observer might conclude that the U.S. government intends to uphold the universal idea of national sovereignty, internationally recognized borders, and the security of citizens inside their own country—as long as they are not American citizens.

There are currently over 550 “sanctuary” jurisdictions established by state and local governments. They aim to prevent federal immigration authorities from deporting illegal aliens, including tens of thousands detained by law enforcement for committing additional crimes.

The nation has not experienced such blatant nullifications of federal laws since the efforts of pre-Civil War Southern states—or the 1960s southern governors who defied federal efforts to enforce U.S. civil rights legislation.

So, can any citizens now simply vote to declare their hometown or local county immune from federal legislation?

That is, can a city or county nullify as it pleases the IRS tax code, endangered species laws, or federal gun registration legislation?

Or is nullification only permissible in the interest of non-citizens and lawbreakers?

These asymmetries also transcend noncitizens.

We have developed entire classes of American elite citizens who are not subject to the enforcement of the law—at least as it is applied to others either less influential or ideologically incorrect.

Federal prosecutors sought to jail Lt. General Michael Flynn for six months for not telling the truth to federal agents.

They put another Trump subordinate, George Papadopoulos, in jail for two weeks for lying to federal prosecutors.

Recently the FBI stormed into an airport to arrest former Trump advisor Peter Navarro for contempt of a congressional subpoena.

OK, defying federal law has consequences. Or does it?

Former Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder brazenly defied congressional subpoenas and was found in contempt—an historic first.

Did the FBI ever arrest Holder, much less as he boarded an airplane?

James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, confessed he flat-out lied under oath to a congressional committee.

So did former Central Intelligence Agency cheif John Brennan—twice!

Andrew McCabe repeatedly lied to federal investigators as acting director of the FBI.

Were any of them arrested or tried in the manner of Flynn, Papadopoulos, or Navarro?

If not, what then is left of the foundation of U.S. citizenship—universal equal treatment under the law?

There are lots of reasons why the looming November midterms will likely see historic levels of pushback against the Biden Administration, Democratic candidates, and the entire progressive agenda.

Take your pick of the many self-induced Biden disasters, among them hyperinflation, unaffordable gasoline, out-of-control crime, and foreign-policy humiliations.

But one reason why voters are furious is rarely expressed.

Americans feel that ordinary citizens like themselves who follow the rules are treated more harshly by their own government than are both non-citizens and our own progressive elites.

And they are right, and they are angry, and we will hear from them very soon.




Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Great California Exodus... to MEXICO: Thousands flock south of the border to escape the crippling cost of living under Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom

Thousands of Californians are fleeing to Mexico amid the soaring cost of living in the golden state. Americans taking advantage of work from home are reaping the benefits of US salaries, while living off Mexico's cheaper lifestyle.

Others are living in Mexico, while commuting to work in the US. But critics have argued that the influx of Americans in cities south of the border has begun to price out local Mexicans.

It comes amid a wider exodus of Californians to other states across the US, including Texas, Washington, and Arizona.

Many feel forced out by rocketing inflation in the golden state that has gas, grocery, and living costs soaring under Governor Gavin Newsom.

'I would say at least half are coming down from California,' Darrell Graham of Baja123 Real Estate Group told CNBC while speaking about the real estate trends he has seen.

'Suddenly the cost of taxes, the crime rates, the politics, all the things that people are unhappy with in California are are coming down to Mexico.

Travis Grossi, a content creator who moved to Mexico in 2020, paid $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, while in Mexico his rent became $850 per-month for two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a shared pool, and 24-hours a day security.

'We were able to cut our budget in half, which allowed us to really focus on our careers and the things we wanted to do artistically without having to just hustle, and hustle, and hustle, every day, every week to just meet the bare minimum,' Travis Grossi, told CNBC.

Monthly rent in Mexico can average as little as $430 per month, while rents can average as high as $1,500 north of the border in San Diego.

The population of California continues to shrink, as residents flee the state's high cost of living and rising crime.

California's population declined again in 2021 for the second consecutive year, state officials said in May, the result of a slowdown in births and immigration coupled with an increase in deaths and people leaving the state.

Critics point to the steady stream of people leaving California as an indictment on the state's policies, which are set by Governor Gavin Newsom and his fellow Democrats in the state legislature.

About 280,000 more people left California for other states than moved here in 2021, continuing a decades-long trend.

With an estimated 39,185,605 residents at the end of the year, California is still the most populous US state, putting it far ahead of second-place Texas and its 29.5 million residents.

But after years of strong growth brought California tantalizingly close to the 40 million milestone, the state's population is now roughly back to where it was in 2016 after declining by 117,552 people this year.

Though the life is good for California ex-pats living in Mexico, the trend has begun a process of gentrification that is pricing out local Mexican citizens who aren't paid in US dollars.

'Certain neighborhoods are now becoming too expensive for Mexican citizens to live in because most of the time people that are actually buying the property developments are being able to do so because they either make money in US dollars, or because they are working remotely,' said Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy institute.

Exactly how many Californians have relocated to Mexico have not been documented, but as of 2019 it was estimated that at least 1.2million Americans lived in the country.

The trend comes as average cost of a gallon of gasoline in the US has risen to $5.014 as grocery costs saw the highest surge in a year since 1979.

Gas prices are up $1.94 from this time last year, spiking 50 cents in the last month alone, according to the AAA Gas Price Index.

The national average passed the $5 mark for the first time in history over the weekend, and President Biden deflected blame for soaring prices to Russia once again.

Meanwhile the cost of groceries rose 11.9 per cent from this time last year, the sharpest increase the country has seen since Jimmy Carter was president.

The Labor Department's report on Friday showed the consumer price index jumped one percent in May from the prior month, for a 12-month increase of 8.6 percent - topping the recent peak seen in March.

The new figures released on Friday suggested the Federal Reserve could continue with its rapid interest rate hikes to combat what has been coined 'Bidenflation,' and markets reacted swiftly, with the Dow shedding around 600 points.

Markets continued to drop during early trading on Monday, as fears of a recession grow stronger.

The runaway inflation rates are hurting American wallets outside of the gas station, most notably at the grocery store.

Grocery costs have increased at staggering rates, and are expected to only keep climbing as the crisis continues.

The price of eggs has risen 32% and poultry is up 16.6% since the year began, following a bird flu outbreak in January that killed off roughly 6% of commercial chickens.

Embargoes against Russia have also led to increases in the prices of grain-based foods, while fats and oils are up 16.9%, and milk is up 15.9%.

As inflation-borne production costs climb, producers and retailers alike have indicated that they will be forced to continue hiking prices.

Overall, global oil prices are rising, compounded by sanctions against Russia, a leading oil producer, because of its war against Ukraine.

In addition, there are limits on refining capacity in the U.S. because some refineries shut down during the pandemic.

The combined result is seeing the cost of filling up surging, draining money from Americans who are facing the highest rate of inflation since 1981.

Surveys show that Americans see high inflation as the nation's top problem, and most disapprove of Biden's handling of the economy.

A top UK economist scolded the Federal Reserve Bank on Sunday, suggesting that the current inflation could have been avoided but for the naivete, or arrogance, of the central bankers who dismissed rising prices as temporary.


The federal government is sitting on 22 million acres of farmable land during a global food crisis. Biden should tap it.

The federal government continues to pay farmers not to farm on some 22 million acres of farmlands that are a part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program, established in 1985 to address soil erosion and other environmental impacts caused by farming, even as the global supply crisis, the war in Ukraine and bad weather are all combining to reduce global agriculture production in 2022, threatening starvation in the third world.

In any given year, before the Covid supply crisis or the war in Ukraine, 9 million people were already starving to death each year, according to global health estimates by the United Nations and the World Food Programme.

Now, that crisis could get even worse, as global wheat production is taking a major hit, according to the latest data by the Department of Agriculture in May: “Global production is forecast at 774.8 million tons, 4.5 million lower than in 2021/22. Reduced production in Ukraine, Australia, and Morocco is only partly offset by increases in Canada, Russia, and the United States. Production in Ukraine is forecast at 21.5 million tons in 2022/23, 11.5 million lower than 2021/22 due to the ongoing war.”

Recently, wheat has been particularly hard hit, with U.S. wheat production down 15 percent since 2019, from 1.93 billion bushels in 2019 to 1.64 billion in 2021, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to a March Department of Agriculture release on prospective plantings, 2022 will be the fifth lowest area planted since 1919: “All wheat planted area for 2022 is estimated at 47.4 million acres, up 1 percent from 2021. If realized, this represents the fifth lowest all wheat planted area since records began in 1919.”

Just on June 7, Peter Sands, the executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, told Reuters that the current global food crisis could kill just as many people as Covid. To date, almost 7 million people have died globally from Covid.

Sands warned: “Food shortages work in two ways. One is you have the tragedy of people actually starving to death. But second is you have the fact that often much larger numbers of people are poorly nourished, and that makes them more vulnerable to existing diseases… It’s not as well-defined as some brand new pathogen appearing with distinctive new symptoms. But it could well be just as deadly.”

Meaning, millions more could starve — more than usual — if global agriculture production does not soon catch up to demand.

So, what are we doing about it? On May 11, President Joe Biden told the nation that U.S. farmers were “expanding production and feeding the world in need” this year. But so far, Biden only pointed to a federal insurance program to incentivize farmers in the short term to engage in double cropping, whereby fields are planted twice in a season and harvested early.

That might help. But what about the 22 million acres that the federal government is sitting on as a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program? Why aren’t we tapping that as is already allowed under federal law?

Specifically, 16. U.S.C. section 3833(b)(1)(B)(i)(I)(cc) allows the Secretary of Agriculture to allow for farming on lands in the Conservation Reserve Program when there is a drought or another type of emergency: “The Secretary… shall permit certain activities or commercial uses of established cover on land that is subject to a contract under the conservation reserve program if… the Secretary… includes contract modifications … without any reduction in the rental rate for … emergency haying, emergency grazing, or other emergency use of the forage in response to a localized or regional drought, flooding, wildfire, or other emergency, on all practices, outside the primary nesting season, when… the Secretary … determines that the program can assist in the response to a natural disaster event without permanent damage to the established cover…”

We have all of the above. There’s a drought in the southwest United States presently. There’s too much rainfall in North Dakota. There’s also the overall global supply crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Overall U.S. agriculture production has been down, with planted acres recently peaking at 319.3 million acres in 2018, according to data compiled by USDA. In 2019, amid flooding, it was down to 303 million acres planted, 310 million acres planted in 2020 during Covid and 317 million acres planted in 2021.

And that is far below the level of farming that used to take place here. Acres planted actually peaked in 1932 at 375 million acres planted. That was right before the Dust Bowl of 1934, which drove planting down to 339 million acres planted before recovering to 361 million acres planted in 1935.

Then, with the advent of suburbs, agriculture production took further hits in the 1960s, when annual land planted was down to less than 300 million acres. It experienced a resurgence in the 1970s and then peaked again at 361 million acres planted in 1981.

Those numbers took a big hit, though, after the 1985 Conservation Reserve Program was established. In 1985, before the program took effect, 353 million acres were planted. In 1986, that number immediately dropped to 338 million acres planted. And in 1987, it was down to 315 million acres planted.

If there ever was a valid basis for President Biden and the USDA to take exception to the Conservation Reserve Program, this is it. These farmlands should be planted before it is too late. My worry is that we will look back on this situation in a year or so and ask, “Why didn’t we plant more?”




Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Sovietization of American Life

One day historians will look back at the period beginning with the COVID lockdowns of spring 2020 through the midterm elections of 2022 to understand how America for over two years lost its collective mind and turned into something unrecognizable and antithetical to its founding principles.

“Sovietization” is perhaps the best diagnosis of the pathology. It refers to the subordination of policy, expression, popular culture, and even thought to ideological mandates. Ultimately such regimentation destroys a state since dogma wars with and defeats meritocracy, creativity, and freedom.

The American Commissariat

Experts become sycophantic. They mortgage their experience and talent to ideology—to the point where society itself regresses.

The law is no longer blind and disinterested, but adjudicates indictment, prosecution, verdict, and punishment on the ideology of the accused. Eric Holder is held in contempt of Congress and smiles; Peter Navarro is held in contempt of Congress and is hauled off in cuffs and leg-irons. James Clapper and John Brennan lied under oath to Congress—and were rewarded with television contracts; Roger Stone did the same and a SWAT team showed up at his home. Andrew McCabe made false statements to federal investigators and was exempt. A set-up George Papadopoulos went to prison for a similar charge. So goes the new American commissariat.

Examine California and ask a series of simple questions.

Why does the state that formerly served as a model to the nation regarding transportation now suffer inferior freeways while its multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project remains an utter boondoggle and failure?

Why was its safe and critically needed last-remaining nuclear power plant scheduled for shutdown (and only recently reversed) as the state faced summer brownouts?

Why did its forests go up in smoke predictably each summer, as its timber industry and the century-old science of forest management all but disappeared from the state?

Why do the state’s criminals so often evade indictment, and if convicted are often not incarcerated—or are quickly paroled?

Why are its schools’ test scores dismal, its gasoline the nation’s highest-priced, and the streets of its major cities fetid and dangerous—in a fashion not true 50 years ago or elsewhere today?

In a word, the one-party state is Sovietized. Public policy is no longer empirical but subservient to green, diversity, equity, and inclusion dogmas—and detached from the reality of daily middle-class existence. Decline is ensured once ideology governs problem-solving rather than time-tested and successful policymaking.

In a similar fashion, the common denominator in Joe Biden’s two years of colossal failures is Soviet-like edicts of equity, climate change, and neo-socialist redistribution that have ensured (for the non-elite, in any event) soaring inflation, unaffordable energy, rampant crime, and catastrophic illegal immigration. Playing the role of Pravda, Biden and his team simply denied things were bad, relabeled failure as success, and attacked his predecessor and critics as various sorts of counterrevolutionaries.

Biden rejected commonsense, bipartisan policies that in the past kept inflation low, energy affordable, crime controlled, and the border manageable. Instead, he superimposed leftist dogma on every decision, whose ideological purity, not real-life consequences for millions, was considered the measure of success.

The Caving of Expertise

Entire professions have now nearly been lost to radical progressive ideology.

Do we remember those stellar economists who swore at a time of Biden’s vast government borrowing, increases in the monetary supply, incentivizing labor non-participation, and supply chain interruptions that there was no threat of inflation? Were they adherents of ideological “modern monetary theory”? Did they ignore their own training and experience in fealty to progressive creeds?

What about the Stanford doctors who signed a groupthink letter attacking their former colleague, Dr. Scott Atlas, because he questioned the orthodoxies of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the state bureaucracies—who we now know hid their own involvement with channeling funding to deadly gain-of-function research in Wuhan? Did they reject his views on empirical grounds and welcome a give-and-take shared inquiry—or simply wish to silence an ideological outlier and advisor to a despised counterrevolutionary?

Or how about the 50 retired intelligence “experts” who swore that Hunter Biden’s laptop was not genuine but likely Russian disinformation? Did they really rely on hundreds of years of collective expertise to adjudicate the laptop or did they simply wish to be rewarded with something comparable to a “Hero of Woke America” award?

Or what about the 1,000 medical “professionals” who claimed violating quarantine and protective protocols for Black Lives Matter demonstrations was vital for the mental health of the protestors? Or the Princeton creators of a video identifying Jonathan Katz as a sort of public enemy for the crime of stating that racial discrimination of any sort was toxic?

Career Advancement, Cowardice, and Membership in the Club

There can be no expertise under Sovietization; everything and everyone serves ideology. Our military—especially its four-star generals, current and retired—parroted perceived ideologically correct thought. Repeating party lines about diversity, white supremacy, and climate change are far more relevant for career advancement than proof of prior effective military leadership in battle.

The ultimate trajectory of a woke military was the fatal disgrace in Afghanistan. Ideologues in uniform kept claiming that the humiliating skedaddle was a logistical success and that misguided bombs that killed innocents were called a “righteous strike.” Afghanistan all summer of 2021 was to be Joe Biden’s successful model of a graduated withdrawal in time for a 20th-anniversary commemoration of 9/11—until it suddenly wasn’t.

Pentagon decision-making increasingly privileges race, gender, sexuality, and green goals over traditional military lethality—a fact known to all who are up for promotion, retention, or disciplinary action.

How predictable it was that the United States fled Kabul, abandoning not just billions of dollars worth of sophisticated weapons to terrorists, but also with Pride flags flying, George Floyd murals on public walls, and gender studies initiatives being carried out in the military ranks. Ask yourself: if a general during the Afghanistan debacle had brilliantly organized a sustainable and defensible corridor around Bagram Airfield but was known to be skeptical of Pentagon efforts to address climate change and diversity would he be praised or reviled?

The elite universities in their single-minded pursuit of wokeness are ironically doing America a great favor. For a long time, their success was due to an American fetishization of brand names. But now, most privately accept that a BA from Princeton or Harvard is no longer an indication of acquired knowledge, mastery of empiricism, or predictive of inductive thinking over deductive dogmatism.

Instead, we now understand, various lettered certificates serve as stamps for career advancement—proof either of earlier high-school achievement that merely won the bearer admission to the select, or confirmation that the graduate possesses the proper wealth, contacts, athletic ability, race, gender, or sexuality to be invited to the club.

Universities’ abandonment of test scores and diminution of grades—replaced by “community service” and race, gender, and sexuality criteria—has simply clarified the bankruptcy of the entire higher education industry.

Our “diversity statements” required for hiring at many universities are becoming comparable to Soviet certifications of proper Marxist-Leninist fidelity. Like the children of Soviet Party apparatchiks, privileged university students now openly attack faculty whose reading requirements or lectures supposedly exude scents of “colonialism” or “imperialism” or “white supremacy.”

Faculty increasingly fear offering merit evaluation, in terror that diversity commissars might detect in their grading an absence of reparatory race or gender appraisals. The result is still more public cynicism about higher education because it is apparent that the goal is to graduate with a stamp from Yale or Stanford that ensures prestige, success, and ideological correctness—on the supposition that few will ever worry exactly what or how one did while enrolled.

We have our own Emmanuel Goldsteins who, we are told, deserve our three minutes of hate for counterrevolutionary thought and practice. Donald Trump earned the enmity of the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the IRS. Now Elon Musk and his companies are suddenly the targets of the progressive state, including repartees from the president himself. To vent, the popular Soviet directs its collective enmity at a Dave Chappelle or Bill Maher, progressives who exhibit the occasional counterrevolutionary heresy.

Cabinet secretaries ignore their duties—somewhat

understandable given their resumes never explained their appointments. What binds a Pete Buttigieg, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Jennifer Granholm is not expertise in transportation, border security, or energy independence but allegiance to an entire menu of woke policies that are often antithetical to their own job descriptions.

“Diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” started out as mandated proportional representation as defined by the state allotting spoils of coveted admissions, hiring, honors, and career advancement by race and gender percentages in the general population. The subtext was that federal and state governments imported and incorporated largely academic theories that alleged any disequilibrium was due to bias.

More specifically, racial and sexual prejudices were to be exposed and punished by morally superior castes—in politics, the bureaucracy, and the courts. There was never any interest in detailing how particular individuals were personally harmed by the system or by the “other,” which explains the Left’s abhorrence of racially blind, class-based criteria to establish justified need.


In the last five years, American Sovietization has descended into reparatory representation. Due to prior collective culpability of whites, heterosexuals, and males, marginalized self-defined groups of victims must now be “overrepresented” in admissions, hiring, and visibility in popular culture

As the Soviets and Maoists discovered—and as was true of the Jacobins, National Socialists, and cultural Marxists—once radical ideology defines success, then life in general becomes anti-meritocratic. The public privately equates awards and recognition with political fealty, not actual achievement.

Were recent Netflix productions reflections of merit or ideological criteria governing race and gender? Do the Emmys, Tonys, or Oscars convey recognition of talent, or of adherence to progressive agendas of diversity, equity, and inclusion? Does a Pulitzer Prize, a Ford Foundation grant, or a MacArthur award denote talent and achievement or more often promote diversity, equity, and inclusion narratives?

Consequences of Failing Up

Where does woke Sovietization end once accountability vanishes and ideology masks incompetence and malfeasance?

We are starting to see the final denouement with missing baby formula, epidemics of shootings and hate crimes, train-robbings reminiscent of the Wild West in Los Angeles, Tombstonesque shoot-up Saturday nights in Chicago, spiking electricity rates and brownouts, $7 a gallon diesel fuel, unaffordable and scarce meat, and entire industries from air travel to home construction that simply no longer work.

Everyone knows that the status of our homeless population in Los Angeles or San Francisco is medieval, dangerous, and unhealthy. And everyone knows that any serious attempt to remedy the situation would cause one to be labeled an apostate, counterrevolutionary, and enemy of the people. So, like good Eastern Europeans of the Warsaw Pact in the 1960s, we mutter one thing under our breath, and nod another publicly.

Behind all our disasters there looms an ideology, a creed that ignores cause and effect in the real world—without a shred of concern for the damage done to those outside the nomenklatura.




Monday, June 13, 2022

‘Outright lying’: Australian scientist hits out at TGA after ‘life-changing’ Covid vaccine injury

An Australian scientist, left unable to work for eight months after a debilitating neurological reaction he blames on the Covid shot, has likened the treatment of people suffering vaccine injuries to that of returning veterans with health issues after the Vietnam War.

Dr Rado Faletic has slammed the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) adverse event reporting process, saying the medicines regulator tasked with vaccine safety surveillance was “simply uninterested” in investigating his symptoms despite submitting multiple reports.

“I’m similar to thousands of Aussies. After the vaccine I had a huge constellation of symptoms from head to toe,” the 46-year-old said, describing it as similar to “mutant long Covid”.

“The worst has been an oppressive brain fog. I’ve had headaches, chest pains, abdominal pains, unbelievable muscle twitching, issues focusing my vision. Basically I’ve been unable to work for eight months. I’m only now just starting to feel a little bit normal. This is not a mild side effect – this has been life-changing.”

Dr Faletic said doctors and specialists were unable to find anything obviously wrong with him.

“You go to the hospital, they take your blood, do an echocardiogram or X-ray or MRI and don’t find anything,” he said. “They say, ‘Well you look fine, go home and rest.’”

He added, “I don’t necessarily blame the doctors. The problem is there hasn’t been a test to find out what’s wrong. I know some people are getting misdiagnosed with anxiety or functional neurological disorder – that’s not what’s going on. It’s a physical injury.”

Dr Faletic, who earned his PhD in hypersonic technology from the ANU and now runs an international research consulting firm based in Canberra, says his faith in the scientific and medical community has been badly shaken by his experience.

He received his first Pfizer dose on October 19 last year and his second on November 9. He had a bad reaction to both “within hours”, but says the second was “dramatically off the charts”.

“I waited a little while (to take the vaccine) – I work with technology and have a science background, so I understood that with a new product, new technology, there could be some things we don’t know about,” he said.

“I thought, enough time has passed, surely our government would have flagged any reactions of concern. I took it and all this stuff happened to me. It’s not a matter of it being a coincidence – it all happened within hours of the shots. Then I thought, surely the government would be interested in what’s happened to me? Nope.”

Dr Faletic says it soon became clear to him that the TGA wasn’t interested. “I’ve done 50 rounds with the TGA on this,” he said.

“They’ve said, ‘We can find no safety signals,’ which I think is disingenuous if not outright lying. In my small personal circle I know over a dozen people with different long vax problems, [ranging from] ongoing headaches, memory problems or brain fog to some people who were basically bedridden for months.”

When he went searching for answers, he found “hundreds of people” in online groups who had experienced similar symptoms and submitted reports themselves.

“The TGA still claims there is nothing to see,” he said.

“We are being treated with the same type of derision and condescension as Vietnam vets when they came back damaged. The government doesn’t want to acknowledge us, people in the community look down on us. There are a lot of parallels.”

In the 1970s, Australian troops who had returned from Vietnam began to experience high incidences of cancer and other illnesses, with the government initially denying exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals sprayed by the US military was to blame.

While health regulators and drug manufacturers including Pfizer have previously denied any causal link between the vaccines and neurological symptoms, the tide appears to be slowly turning as a growing number of experts call for more investigation.

Earlier this year, Sydney woman Daniella Lenarczyk, 34, spoke out about her persistent symptoms that included migraines, tinnitus, neck pain and numbness in her arm.

In the US, the National Institutes of Health conducted a small observational study last year of patients who reported neurological problems within one month of Covid vaccination, including pins and needles in the face or limb, orthostasis – sudden decrease in blood pressure when standing or sitting – heat intolerance and palpitation.

That paper, currently in preprint, concluded that “a variety of neuropathic symptoms may manifest after SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations and in some patients might be an immune-mediated process”.

“There doesn’t seem to be a majority theory,” Dr Faletic said.

“Whilst we’ve all been damaged in the same way, our cluster of symptoms vary from person to person.”

In a statement, the TGA said it “monitors the safety of Covid-19 vaccines using information from a variety of sources, including analysis of adverse event reports submitted to the TGA, emerging published literature, worldwide safety data submitted by vaccine sponsors and information shared by international regulators”.

“If the TGA identifies a safety concern it will take regulatory action to address the safety issue and promptly provide information to the public,” a spokeswoman said.

“The recognised adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines are included in the approved Product Information (PI). These are updated as new safety information is identified. To date, the TGA has undertaken 26 actions with the sponsors to include new safety information in the PIs for Covid-19 vaccines.”

Those have included the addition of hypoaesthesia (reduced sense of touch or numbness) and paraesthesia (an unusual feeling in the skin, such as a tingling or crawling sensation) to the PIs for Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca).

Meanwhile, new figures obtained by reveal the federal government’s vaccine injury compensation scheme has approved just 16 payouts in six months of operation.

The Covid-19 vaccine claims scheme allows people to claim a one-off payment ranging from $1000 to $20,000 for lost wages or other expenses if they suffer a bad reaction, and in cases of death the family may be able to claim funeral costs.

But the scheme has been criticised by legal experts and victims as overly complex and narrowly targeted towards a very limited number of officially recognised adverse effects.

Services Australia confirmed it had received 2225 applications as of June 2. Of these just 16 have been approved, 49 have been withdrawn and 671 are “waiting further information from applicants”.

“The assessment process can be complex, and claims may also be reviewed independently by medical and other appropriately qualified experts,” a spokesman said.

“In many cases, Services Australia has had to seek additional information from applicants in order to further progress consideration of their application. In other cases, applications have also been withdrawn. If found eligible, applicants are given up to six months to accept an offer of compensation, therefore finalisation of claims may also take some time.”

Services Australia declined to provide any data on the amounts of payouts or types of claims, citing privacy concerns due to the small number involved.

According to the TGA’s most recent safety update, there have been 129,995 total adverse event reports from 59.4 million vaccine doses administered to June 5.

Eleven deaths have been ruled as likely linked to vaccination, all after AstraZeneca.

No deaths have been officially linked to Pfizer in Australia from around 41 million doses administered.

In New Zealand, three deaths have been ruled as likely due to vaccine-induced myocarditis after Pfizer, from around 11 million doses.

Last month, the family of one of the 11 Australians who died after receiving AstraZeneca spoke out for the first time.

Victorian woman Robyn, a “fit and healthy” 77-year-old, died in September last year from Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Speaking to ABC Radio, her children said while they still supported Covid vaccination, they felt let down by the lack of government support.

They said they believed they were entitled to a lump-sum payment of $70,680 plus funeral expenses, but were critical about the complexity of the application process.

Her son Ross said reading through the vaccine claims policy, it felt callous. “It’s a policy that’s designed to protect medical professionals from legal repercussions if something happens, like to my mother,” he said.

“My understanding is that it is to facilitate the actual vaccine rollout, so the doctors aren’t scared to administer vaccines. But for people who have suffered from the side effects, it feels like we’re just an afterthought to that.”

Dr Faletic said he had also looked over the scheme carefully and “it’s absolutely clear they’ve written it to not include people like me”.

“From a philosophical point of view we had these massive, broad, sweeping economic sanctions on all of us – lockdowns, travel shutdown – all done because someone may transmit Covid, the precautionary principle,” he said.

“But when it’s these vaccines it’s the exact opposite – you have to prove every single thing.”


‘Significant’ Cases of Neurological Disorder Associated With the AstraZeneca Vaccine

A UK study by University College London has confirmed “small but significant” cases of the serious Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19.

The researchers speculate that “the majority or all” of the 121 UK cases of GBS (pdf) in March to April 2021 were associated with first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered in January.

“A similar pattern is not seen with the other vaccines or following a second dose of any vaccine,” said lead author Prof. Michael Lunn on May 30.

The team observed that from January to October 2021, 996 GBS cases were recorded in the national database but with an unusual spike from March to April with about 140 cases per month rather than 100.

To identify whether any or all of these cases were linked to vaccination, the team linked dates of GBS onset to vaccination receipt for every individual and found that 198 GBS cases (20 percent of 966) occurred within six weeks of their first dose of COVID-19 vaccination in England; of these, 176 people had an AstraZeneca vaccination, 21 for Pfizer, and 1 for Moderna.

The researchers found no excess GBS cases associated with mRNA vaccines, but observed 5.8 excess cases of GBS per million doses of vaccine for AstraZeneca, equating to a total excess between January to July 2021 of around 98–140 cases, confirming the association between the vaccine and GBS.

GBS is a rare and serious neurological disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own nerves, typically resulting in numbness, weakness, pain in the limbs, and sometimes even paralysis of breathing.

The disease is commonly associated with Campylobacter infections that prompt the body to attack its own nerves.

However, GBS cases were also observed in the 1976 following administration of the swine flu vaccine as well as modern influenza and yellow fever vaccines, though none of them had rates as high as AstraZeneca.

Whilst the majority of the vaccination-associated GBS patients had recovered from symptoms of weak limbs, weak deep tendon reflexes, and monophasic sleep, one patient in the study had recurring neuropathic symptoms well after the second dose.

The patient initially developed facial paralysis on both sides and a tingling sensation in their limbs after the first dose and improved with treatment. However, two weeks after receiving their second dose, they developed increasing weakness with pain, changes in their nerves, and only partial response to the treatment.

Researchers are currently still speculating the reasons behind rises in GBS cases following the vaccine.

“It may be that a non-specific immune activation in susceptible individuals occurs, but if that were the case similar risks might apply to all vaccine types,” said Lunn.

“It is therefore logical to suggest that the simian adenovirus vector, often used to develop vaccines, including AstraZeneca’s, may account for the increased risk.”

Studies in the United States have also confirmed increased cases of GBS after receiving adenovirus vector COVID-19 vaccines, with significant cases of the disease associated with the vaccine.

According to the CDC, 1 to 2 people out of 100,000 in the United States develops GBS, however, a 2022 U.S. study found the incidence in receivers of J&J’s adenovirus vaccines to be 32.4 per 100,000 people within 3 weeks following the vaccine; well above the background rate.

A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca told The Epoch Times that “vaccination of any kind is a known risk factor for GBS” and “the small number of GBS cases [following the AstraZeneca vaccine] appears similar to increases previously seen in other mass vaccination campaigns.”

She wrote that reports of GBS have been very rare following vaccination and that “current estimates show that globally the vaccine has helped prevent 50 million COVID-19 cases, five million hospitalizations, and to have saved more than one million lives.

“The Emergency Medical Associates and other international bodies including the WHO, have all stated that the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh any potential risks.”




Sunday, June 12, 2022

Vaccines are worse than the disease

I recently received a communication from my GP’s surgery:

‘Influenza is spiking early. Our GPs report that those with 2022 flu have a rapid onset of illness with high fevers, dry cough, body aches, and headache. They are generally more unwell than those with a Covid infection. We recommend everyone receive a flu vaccine.’

This was followed by the same advice on a second Covid booster (that is, fourth vaccine). ‘They are generally more unwell than those with a Covid infection.’

When will the penny drop? Perhaps more pertinently, what – if anything – will make the penny drop?

Some of us have been arguing for some time that we must learn to live with the virus as we live with the flu, including (maybe) an annual vaccine, provided it has better efficacy and less concerning safety signals. Lo and behold, in an editorial on May 30, The Economist turned this around and suggested that maybe governments should begin to treat flu like Covid, with active monitoring, surveillance, home testing, working from home, and vaccines – of course.

Describing this as a ‘thought experiment’, the magazine noted:

‘Epidemiologists worry that two years of low exposure to flu may have caused immunity to wane to low levels. That may result in an extraordinary number of cases this winter, at a point when huge waiting lists will still clog up the National Health Service (NHS).’

An alternative twofold conclusion from this is that it proves the NHS is no longer fit for purpose, should be abandoned and a new system built from scratch; and that prolonged lockdowns that drastically reduce mass exposure to the perennially circulating pathogens to interfere with the build-up of natural immunity are perhaps not such a good idea? Yet in the US, Jeffrey Tucker warns, the CDC wants to make the Covid regime permanent.

Reduced immunity may be one explanation, along with the collateral harms from widely predicted warnings that lockdowns would lead to increased deaths down the line from preventable diseases that were no longer caught in time because of cancelled screenings, etc. Studies are now confirming a rise in all-cause excess mortality.

According to a study published this month from the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, between April 2020 and December 2021, ‘Americans died from non-Covid causes at an average annual rate 97,000 in excess of previous trends’, including 32,000 from hypertension and heart disease, and 12,000-15,000 each from diabetes, obesity, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

Meanwhile, a Swedish study published in The Lancet on February 4 based on 1.69 million individuals, divided equally between vaccinated and unvaccinated ‘found progressively waning vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection of any severity across all subgroups’. This, of course, is the question I had raised in my last Flat White article on May 26.

In a little over five months in 2022 until June 7, with very high vaccination coverage, Australia has recorded more than almost three times the total number of deaths with and from Covid compared to the previous 22 months. The figure is more than twenty times higher for New Zealand. Thorsteinn Siglausson notes that deaths in Iceland jumped by 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2022, coinciding with the rollout of booster vaccines. And Alex Berenson highlights how all-cause death rates in Europe are soaring again three months after booster mRNA shots.

The one thing I had neglected to do is to put the Australian and New Zealand experience in global context. Figures 1 and 2 rectify that neglect. For the last two months, Australasian Covid cases per million people have been dramatically higher than African, Asian, European, North and South American, and world averages (Figure 1) at any time throughout the pandemic. While the last part is not true of Covid mortality rates, the current rates in Australasia are nonetheless higher than in any of these averaged death rates by continent (Figure 2).

I ask again: if this is vaccine success, what would vaccine failure look like?

This takes us back to the question: are vaccinations contributing to the upsurge in Covid cases and deaths, (i) by a combination of reduced efficacy over time, with the rate of reduction accelerating with each successive dose as cautioned by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and (ii) owing to harmful side-effects?

As a policy analyst, not a doctor, epidemiologist or virologist, I am in no position to answer that. But I was very interested to read a recent (June 5) letter to Virology Journal by Kenji Yamamoto, a cardiovascular surgeon at Okamura Memorial Hospital in Shizuoka, Japan. He suggests several possible pathways for the decrease in immunity following vaccination, understanding which is beyond my pay grade.

Two of his observations struck me with particular force. First, he remarks: ‘The media have so far concealed the adverse events of vaccine administration, such as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), owing to biased propaganda.’ His institute ‘encounters many cases in which this cause is recognised’.

Second, because, ‘Covid vaccination is a major risk factor for infections in critically ill patients,’ he recommends: ‘As a safety measure, further booster vaccinations should be discontinued.’

‘Besides the risk of infections owing to lowered immune functions, there is a possible risk of unknown organ damage caused by the vaccine that has remained hidden without apparent clinical presentations, mainly in the circulatory system.’


WHO Now Agrees "˜Lab Leak' Theory Needs Investigation

A team of scientists convened by the World Health Organization to better understand the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and possible future outbreaks has said a theory that the virus could have escaped from a laboratory needs "further investigations."

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However, in a report released Thursday, the WHO-backed team said it had not received any new data that would allow it to better evaluate that theory.

Members of the group from Brazil, China and Russia objected to the calls for further investigation into the "lab leak" theory.

The report also said that available data suggests SARS-CoV-2 had a zoonotic origin, which means it spread between animals in a natural setting, but that neither the animal that infected humans nor the place where this infection occurred could be identified.

"At this point, the strongest evidence is still around zoonotic transmission," Marietjie Venter, chair of the WHO team and a virologist at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, said in a Zoom call with reporters before the report was published. "However, the precursor viruses that have been identified in bats are definitely not close enough to be the virus that spilled over into humans."

The report was written by the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), a body made up of experts from the United States, China and 25 other nations that first came together last year after widespread criticism of a joint WHO-China investigation into the coronavirus's origins.

WHO officials emphasized that the report contains only the preliminary findings of the group, which was created to advise the global health body's secretariat. SAGO did not undertake its own studies, but instead reviewed existing research.

The team is designed not only to help investigate the origins of the coronavirus but also to set up a framework for understanding the origins of future outbreaks. Its work is expected to last for years, WHO officials said.

"It is just the start," Maria Van Kerkhove, a World Health Organization epidemiologist, told reporters. "They've made some good progress. They've clearly outlined that there's more work to be done."

Even so, the report may breathe life into a debate that has never come to a firm conclusion: Where did the coronavirus pandemic come from? While many scientists have favored a theory of zoonotic spread, the lab-leak theory has gained prominent support from some experts, including some U.S. officials.

The Wuhan lab-leak theory is getting more attention. That's because key evidence is still missing.

Beijing has fiercely rejected the idea that the coronavirus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or another research institute studying coronaviruses in the Chinese city where covid-19 was first recorded in late 2019.

In its place, Chinese officials promoted wild theories without scientific backing, including that the virus originated in the United States or was imported to China on frozen fish.

The SAGO report aimed to evaluate pandemic origins from a scientific stance, Van Kerkhove said. "We are under no illusions that we can keep all of the politics out, but we will do our damnedest to keep focused on what needs to be done here."

The preliminary SAGO report was released more than a year after the joint WHO-China team traveled to Wuhan and released its own report that ruled out the lab-leak theory as "extremely unlikely," while suggesting that the idea the virus was carried by frozen food needed further investigation.

The WHO-China report concluded that zoonotic spread was the likeliest scenario for the origin of the virus, but failed to find evidence for how it was spread to humans.

That report was widely criticized after being released in March 2021, with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggesting that the report did not conduct an "extensive enough" assessment of the lab-leak theory and voicing frustration with the low level of access given to the mission by Chinese officials.

How Chinese pressure on coronavirus origins probe shocked the WHO "” and led its director to push back

One of the researchers on the joint team, Danish food scientist Peter Ben Embarek, later told interviewers that Chinese researchers on the team had pushed back against including the lab-leak theory in the report at all.

While SAGO was convened to address some of the criticism of the WHO-China report, it also was able to evaluate some new evidence, including data on blood samples from 40,000 Chinese donors in Wuhan between September and December 2019.

According to the report, more than 200 of these samples initially tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, but these were later found to be false positives. SAGO requested further information on the data and methods used to analyze the samples.

The new report suffers from some of the same limitations as the joint WHO-China report, including that Chinese officials cannot be compelled to cooperate with any investigation.

According to the SAGO report, Tedros sent letters to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Health Minister Ma Xiaowei on Feb. 14 and Feb. 21, respectively, requesting information on a variety of factors, including the "laboratory hypotheses."

It is not clear whether Tedros received a reply. Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the WHO, said the body doesn't share correspondence it has with member states.

Venter, the SAGO chair, said Chinese officials had cooperated with the team, sending experts to present and discuss new findings.

"We recognize that they've done a huge amount of work and they have addressed several of the questions" raised in the initial WHO-China report, Venter said.

However, SAGO found that much had not been addressed. Venter identified the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan as one location that needed more study. "We recognize that the market ... may have been an amplification event of the early outbreak, but it's not clear where all those animals came from. We need to follow up on that," she said.