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CDC Admits It Can"t Back Claim That Vaccines Don"t Cause Variants

CDC Admits It Can't Back Claim That Vaccines Don't Cause Variants Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it does not have documents backing its claim that COVID-19 vaccines do not cause variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC’s website calls it a myth that the vaccines cause variants. “FACT: COVID-19 vaccines do not create or cause variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent new variants from emerging,” the website states. “New variants of a virus happen because the virus that causes COVID-19 constantly changes through a natural ongoing process of mutation (change). As the virus spreads, it has more opportunities to change. High vaccination coverage in a population reduces the spread of the virus and helps prevent new variants from emerging,” it also says. The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), a nonprofit, asked the CDC in Freedom of Information Act requests for documentation supporting the claim. In one request, the group asked for “All documents sufficient to support that COVID-19 vaccines do not create or cause variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.” Another requested “All documents sufficient to support that the immunity conferred by COVID-19 vaccines does not contribute to virus evolution and the emergence of variants.” The CDC has now responded to both requests, saying a search “found no records responsive” to them. The first response came in January (pdf); the second came on May 4 (pdf). If the CDC is making declaratory statements, the agency should have documents supporting them, Aaron Siri, an attorney representing ICAN, told The Epoch Times. The responses are “very troubling,” Siri said. “I thought the CDC was a data-driven organization, that they made their decisions based on the studies and the science and the data.” The CDC did not respond to a request for comment. ICAN has been one of the more prolific requesters of information from the CDC during the pandemic. Many requests have yielded information. Others have not. In this case, the CDC should act to ensure continued public trust, Siri says. “Remove the language or provide the evidence,” he said. “There obviously are going to be instances where recommendations from the CDC might prove helpful or useful. And I think they do a disservice to everybody by hurting their own credibility by making statements that they either don’t have support or won’t produce the support for.” Scientists outside the CDC have also said that vaccines can help prevent new variants. “As more people get vaccinated, we expect virus circulation to decrease, which will then lead to fewer mutations,” the World Health Organization says on its site. But many of the claims relied on the vaccines being able to stop infection from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. The vaccines are increasingly unable to do so, particularly against the newest dominant strain, Omicron. Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche, a virologist, is among those who say that the vaccines themselves are behind new variants. “All COVID-19 vaccines fail in blocking viral transmission, especially transmission of more infectious variants. This is a huge problem as viral transmission is now increasingly taking place among healthy people in general and vaccinees in particular (as their S-specific Abs do not sufficiently neutralize S variants),” Vanden Bossche says on his website. “The resulting suboptimal S-directed immune pressure serves as a breeding ground for even more infectious variants.” Tyler Durden Fri, 05/13/2022 - 21:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMay 13th, 2022

Omicron: The Lockdowners" Last Stand

Omicron: The Lockdowners' Last Stand Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute, Just as President Biden’s unconstitutional vaccination mandates were being ripped up by the courts, authoritarian politicians, public health bureaucrats, and the mainstream media, announced a new Covid variant to justify another round of lockdowns and restrictions. The things that didn’t work last time would be a good idea to do again this time, they claim. For these authoritarians, the timing of omicron’s emergence was perfect. The variant was first discovered in South Africa, with the US and European media running endless scare stories. Authoritarian politicians used the manufactured fear to justify another attack on liberty. Europe shut down and became a virtual prison camp. In Austria, Germany, and elsewhere, citizens became non-persons without a vaccine passport. South African health officials reported that the variant seemed to be more contagious but far milder than previous variants, as usually happens with such viruses. But the lockdowners would not hear of it. From Boris Johnson in the UK to DeBlasio in New York City, the variant was perfect cover for them to put their boots back on the necks of terrorized citizens. As to be expected, Fauci reveled in the emergence of the new variant, warning of “record deaths” for the unvaccinated. Similarly, President Biden warned that this would be a “winter of death” for the unvaccinated. But here’s something the media isn’t reporting about the omicron outbreaks: they are taking place among the fully vaccinated. Cornell University, with 97 percent of the campus fully vaccinated and a mask mandate, has announced that it would return to online only instruction after a massive Covid outbreak. Likewise, the National Football League has postponed several games this weekend due to Covid outbreaks, even though the League is virtually 100 percent vaccinated. And the National Basketball Association, which is above 95 percent fully vaccinated, has just announced that due to a surge in Covid cases it too will postpone games. The vaccine is not working to prevent infection or transmission of the virus: cases are raging in states with the highest vaccine levels. Yet the “experts” continue to maintain that the only thing that can stop the spread of omicron is vaccines! More people are catching on that this makes no sense. If vaccines don’t stop the spread, how can vaccines stop the spread? Meanwhile, South Africa, with one of the lowest rates of vaccination, has just announced that they are only seeing a tiny fraction of hospitalizations with omicron compared to previous variants. South Africa’s Covid response authority has written to the health minister recommending an end to containment efforts, contact tracing, and quarantines. Unvaccinated South Africa is ending Covid restrictions while the hyper-vaccinated North is locking down. Something doesn’t add up. Fauci loves to say that to question him is to question science, but this has nothing to do with science. It’s about power. Fauci, the political authoritarians, and the corrupt Big Pharma billionaires are trying to make a last stand, desperate to push omicron as a justification for further tyranny and profits. But actual science is not cooperating. Omicron is spreading and vaccines are not stopping it. Thus far nearly half of omicron infections are asymptomatic. Some experts are predicting that omicron will spell the end of Covid-19. But we know that as long as people like Fauci are around, Covid-19 will never end. Unless, of course, we repudiate the charlatans and profiteers and reclaim our liberty! Tyler Durden Tue, 12/21/2021 - 14:07.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 21st, 2021

Futures Jump In Volatile Session Dragged By Latest Twists In Omicron Saga

Futures Jump In Volatile Session Dragged By Latest Twists In Omicron Saga Much of the overnight session was a snooze fest with stocks drifting first higher then lower after surging on Tuesday, as the narrative meandered from "omicron fears ease" optimism to "vaccines won't work" pessimism, before futures took a sudden leg lower, dropping into the red just after 530am ET, following news that UK's Boris Johnson would introduce new restrictions in England to curb Omicron spread, sparking fears that Omicron is more dangerous that expected (and than futures reflected). However, this episode of pessimism proved short-lived because just an hour later, the WSJ confirmed that Omicron is really just a pitch for covid booster shots when it reported that even though the covid vaccine loses significant effectiveness against Omicron in an early study, this is miraculously reversed with a booster shot as three doses of the vaccine were able to neutralize the variant in an initial laboratory study, and the companies said two doses may still protect against severe disease. Futures quickly shot up on the news, spiking above the gamma "all clear" level of 4,700 in a move best summarized with the following chart. And so, after going nowhere, S&P futures climbed for a third day, last seen 12 points, or 0.3% higher, just around 4,700 after rising the most since March on Tuesday. Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index rose following the biggest jump in more than a year. In addition to the omicron soap opera, which as we noted yesterday turns out was just one staged covid booster shot advertisement (because Pfizer and Moderna can always do with a bigger yacth), sentiment was also lifted by Chinese authorities' reversal to "easing mode" and aggressive efforts to limit the fallout from property market woes which lifted risk assets in Asia even as key debt deadlines at China Evergrande Group and Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd. passed without any sign of payment. "Clearly in the very short term uncertainty has risen over the Omicron virus... but overall at this stage we do not believe it will derail the macro picture in the medium-term," said Jeremy Gatto, multi-asset portfolio manager at Unigestion. Treasury yields were little changed after rising across the curve Tuesday. The VIX spiked first on the FT news, then dropped back into the red, while the dollar was flat and crude rose after turning red. Besides macro, micro was also in play and here are some other notable premarket movers Apple (AAPL US) ticks 1% higher in premarket trading following a Nikkei report that the tech giant told suppliers to speed up iPhone output for Nov.-Jan, citing people it didn’t identify. Amazon.com (AMZN US) shares in focus after an Amazon Web Services outage is wreaking havoc on the e-commerce giant’s delivery operation Stitch Fix (SFIX US) tumbles 25% in U.S. premarket trading after a 2Q forecast miss that analysts called “surprising,” while customer additions also disappointed Pfizer (PFE US) shares drop 2% in U.S. premarket trading after an early study showed that the company’s vaccine provides less immunity to the omicron variant Dare Bioscience (DARE US) soars 41% in premarket trading after Xaciato gets FDA approval for treating bacterial vaginosis EPAM Systems (EPAM US) soars 8% in premarket after S&P Dow Jones Indices said co. will replace Kansas City Southern in the S&P 500 effective prior to the opening of trading on Dec. 14 Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT US) upgraded to buy from hold and target boosted to Street-high $32 from $29 at Deutsche Bank with the company seen as a major beneficiary from the shift to electric vehicles. Shares up 4.3% in premarket trading NXP Semiconductor (NXPI US) shares slide 2.2% in U.S. premarket trading after the chipmaker got a new sell rating at UBS Dave & Buster’s (PLAY US) gained 3.5% postmarket after the dining and entertainment company reported EPS that beat the average analyst estimate and authorized a $100 million share buyback program "Every day that passes without a wave of severe cases driven by Omicron is offering more hope that this won't be the curveball to throw the recovery off course," wrote Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid in a note to clients. In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index initially drifted both higher and lower then bounced 0.3% on the favorable Pfizer and BioNTech news one day after posting its bigger surge in a year. European benchmark index earlier rose as much as 2%, dropped 2.1%. Health care sub-index leads gains, rising 1.2%, followed by travel stocks. The Stoxx 600 closed 2.5% higher on Tuesday, biggest gain since November 2020 Earlier in the session, Asia stocks also rose for a second day as concerns about the omicron variant and China’s economic slowdown eased. The MSCI AsiaPacific Index climbed as much as 0.9% after capping its biggest one-day gain in more than three months on Tuesday. Technology and health-care shares provided the biggest boosts. Benchmarks in New Zealand and India -- where the central bank held rates at a record low -- were among the day’s best performers. “The biggest point appealing to investors is that the Omicron variant doesn’t seem to be too fatal,” which is encouraging to those who had been going short to close out their positions, said Tomoichiro Kubota, a senior market analyst at Matsui Securities in Tokyo. “Worry that the Chinese economy will lose its growth momentum has subsided quite a bit.” Thus far, Omicron cases haven’t overwhelmed hospitals while vaccine developments indicate some promise in dealing with the variant. While vaccines like the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech SE may be less powerful against the new strain, protection can be fortified with boosters. The two-day rally in the Asian stock benchmark marks a sharp turnaround following weeks of declines since mid-November. Stocks in China also climbed for a second day. The nation’s central bank said Monday it will cut the amount of cash most banks must keep in reserve from Dec. 15, providing a liquidity boost and helping restore investor confidence In FX, news on the Omicron variant rippled through G-10 currencies after a report the Pfizer vaccine could neutralize the Omicron variant boosted risk appetite. The pound underperformed other Group-of-10 peers, extending declines after reports that the U.K. government is poised to introduce new Covid-19 restrictions.  A gauge of the dollar’s strength fluctuated as Treasuries pare gains and stocks rally after a report that said Pfizer and BioNTech claim three vaccine doses neutralize the omicron variant. EUR/USD rose 0.1% to 1.1277; USD/NOK falls as much as 0.8% to 8.9459, lowest since Nov. 25 Sterling fell against the euro and the dollar, as traders pare bets on the path of Bank of England rate hikes following reports that the U.K. could introduce fresh Covid-19 restrictions such as working from home and vaccine passports for large venues. Money markets pare rate hike bets, with just six basis points of interest rate hikes priced in for the BOE meeting next week. GBP/USD falls as much as 0.6% to 1.3163, testing the key level of 1.3165, the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of gains since March 2020. EUR/GBP gains as much as 0.7% to 0.85695, the highest since Nov. 11. “The market will probably see this as more U.K. specific and therefore an issue for the pound at least in the short term,” said Stuart Bennett, FX strategist at Santander. In rates, Treasuries were mixed with markets reacting in a risk-on manner to the Dow Jones report that Pfizer and BioNTech claim three vaccine doses neutralize the omicron variant. Yields remain richer by less than 1bp across long-end of the curve while front-end trades cheaper on the day, flattening curve spreads. Session’s focal points include $36b 10-year note reopening at 1pm ET, following Tuesday’s strong 3-year note auction. Treasury 10-year yields around 1.475%, near flat on the day; gilts outperform slightly after Financial Times report that further Covid restrictions will be announced imminently to curb the variant’s spread. U.S. 2-year yields were cheaper by 1bp on the day, rose to new 2021 high following Pfizer vaccine report; 2s10s spread erased a flattening move In commodities, crude futures turned red, WTI falling 0.8%, popping back below $72. Spot gold holds Asia’s modest gains, adding $8 to trade near $1,792/oz. Looking at the day ahead, and Olaf Scholz is expected to become German Chancellor in a Bundestag vote today. From central banks, the Bank of Canada will be deciding on rates, and we’ll also hear from ECB President Lagarde, Vice President de Guindos and the ECB’s Schnabel. Finally, data releases include the JOLTS job openings from the US for October. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.2% to 4,693.75 STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 480.55 MXAP up 0.7% to 194.84 MXAPJ up 0.6% to 632.78 Nikkei up 1.4% to 28,860.62 Topix up 0.6% to 2,002.24 Hang Seng Index little changed at 23,996.87 Shanghai Composite up 1.2% to 3,637.57 Sensex up 1.8% to 58,654.25 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 1.3% to 7,405.45 Kospi up 0.3% to 3,001.80 Brent Futures down 0.5% to $75.04/bbl Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,790.33 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.17% to 96.20 German 10Y yield little changed at -0.38% Euro up 0.2% to $1.1286 Brent Futures down 0.5% to $75.04/bbl Top Overnight News from Bloomberg The omicron variant of Covid-19 must inflict significant damage on the euro-area economy for European Central Bank Governing Council member Martins Kazaks to back additional stimulus “The current phase of higher inflation could last longer than expected only some months ago,” ECB vice president Luis de Guindos says at event The earliest studies on omicron are in and the glimpse they’re providing is cautiously optimistic: while vaccines like the one made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE may be less powerful against the new variant, protection can be fortified with boosters U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce new Covid-19 restrictions in England, known as “Plan B,” to stop the spread of the Omicron variant, the Financial Times reported, citing three senior Whitehall officials familiar with the matter. French economic activity will continue to rise in December, despite another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and fresh uncertainty over the omicron variant, according the Bank of France The Kingdom of Denmark will sell a sovereign green bond for the first time next month to help the Nordic nation meet one of the world’s most ambitious climate targets Tom Hayes, the former UBS Group AG and Citigroup Inc. trader who became the face of the sprawling Libor scandal, has lost his bid to appeal his U.K. criminal conviction Poland is poised for a hefty increase in interest rates after a spike in inflation to a two- decade high convinced central bankers that spiraling price growth isn’t transitory. Of 32 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, 20 expect a 50 basis-point hike to 1.75% today and 10 see the rate rising to 2%. The other two expect a 25 basis-point increase Australia is weighing plans for a central bank-issued digital currency alongside the regulation of the crypto market as it seeks to overhaul how the nation’s consumers and businesses pay for goods and services Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Masayoshi Amamiya dropped a strong hint that big firms are in less need of funding support, a comment that will likely fuel speculation the BOJ will scale back its pandemic buying of corporate bonds and commercial paper A detailed summary of global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asian equity markets traded positively as the region took impetus from the global risk momentum following the tech-led rally in the US, where Apple shares rose to a record high and amid increased optimism that Omicron could be less dangerous than prior variants. This was after early hospitalisation data from South Africa showed the new variant could result in less severe COVID and NIH's Fauci also suggested that Omicron was 'almost certainly' not more severe than Delta, although there were some slight headwinds in late Wall Street trade after a small study pointed to reduced vaccine efficacy against the new variant. The ASX 200 (+1.3%) was underpinned in which tech led the broad gains across sectors as it found inspiration from the outperformance of big tech stateside, and with energy bolstered by the recent rebound in underlying oil prices. The Nikkei 225 (+1.4%) conformed to the upbeat mood although further advances were capped after USD/JPY eased off the prior day’s highs and following a wider-than-expected contraction to the economy with the final annualised Q3 GDP at -3.6% vs exp. -3.1%. The Hang Seng (+0.1%) and Shanghai Comp. (+1.2%) were less decisive and initially lagged behind their peers as sentiment was mired by default concerns due to the failure by Evergrande to pay bondholders in the lapsed 30-day grace period on two USD-denominated bond payments and with Kaisa Group in a trading halt after missing the deadline for USD 400mln in offshore debt which didn’t bode well for its affiliates. Furthermore, China Aoyuan Property Group received over USD 650mln in repayment demands and warned it may not be able to meet debt obligations, while a subdued Hong Kong debut for Weibo shares which declined around 6% from the offer price added to the glum mood for Hong Kong’s blue-chip tech stocks, as did reports that China is to tighten rules for tech companies seeking foreign funding. Finally, 10yr JGBs languished after spillover selling from T-notes and due to the heightened global risk appetite, but with downside stemmed by support at the key psychological 152.00 level and amid the presence of the BoJ in the market today for over JPY 1.0tln of JGBs. Top Asian News China Clean Car Sales Spike as Consumers Embrace Electric Gold Edges Higher as Traders Weigh Vaccine Efficacy, Geopolitics Paint Maker Avia Avian Falls in Debut After $763 Million IPO Tokyo Prepares to Introduce Same-Sex Partnerships Next Year Equities in Europe shifted to a lower configuration after a mixed open (Euro Stoxx 50 -0.7%; Stoxx 600 -0.1%) as sentiment was dented by rumours of tightening COVID measures in the UK. Markets have been awaiting the next catalyst to latch onto for direction amidst a lack of fresh fundamentals. US equity futures have also been dented but to a lesser extent, with the YM (-0.1%) and ES (Unch) straddling behind the NQ (+0.2%) and RTY (+0.2%). Sources in recent trade suggested an 85% chance of the UK implementing COVID Plan B, according to Times' Dunn; reports indicate such restrictions could be implemented on Thursday, with the potential for an announcement today. In terms of the timings, the UK cabinet is penciled in for 15:45GMT and presser for 17:30GMT on Plan B, according to BBC's Goodall. Note, this will not be a formal lockdown but more so work-from-home guidance, vaccine passports for nightlife and numerical restrictions on indoor/outdoor gatherings. APAC closed in the green across the board following the tech-led rally in the US. The upside overnight was attributed to a continuation of market optimism after early hospitalisation data from South Africa showed the new variant could result in less severe COVID, albeit after a small study pointed to reduced vaccine efficacy against the new variant. Participants will be closely watching any updates from the vaccine-makers, with the BioNTech CEO stating the drugmaker has data coming Wednesday or Thursday related to the new COVID-19 variant, thus markets will be eyeing a potential update this week ahead of the Pfizer investor call next Friday. Back to European, the UK’s FTSE 100 (Unch) and the Swiss SMI (+0.8%) are largely buoyed by their defensive stocks, with sectors seeing a defensive formation, albeit to a slightly lesser extent vs the open. Healthcare retains its top spot closely followed by Food & Beverages, although Personal & Household Goods and Telecoms have moved down the ranks. On the flip side, Retail, Banks and Travel & Leisure trade at the bottom of the bunch, whilst Tech nursed some earlier losses after opening as the lagging sector. In terms of individual movers, Nestle (+1.8%) is bolstered after announcing a CHF 20bln share repurchase programme alongside a stake reduction in L'Oreal (+1.0%) to 20.1% from 23.3% - worth some EUR 9bln. L’Oreal has shrugged off the stake sale and conforms to the firm sectoral performance across the Personal & Household Goods. Meanwhile, chip names are under pressure after Nikkei sources reported that Apple (+0.8% pre-market) was forced to scale back the total output target for 2021, with iPhone and iPad assembly halted for several days due to supply chain constraints and restrictions on the use of power in China, multiple sources told Nikkei. STMicroelectronics (-1.7%) and Infineon (-5.0%) are among the losers, with the latter also weighed on by a broker downgrade at JPM. Top European News ECB’s Kazaks Sets High Bar for Omicron-Driven Extra Stimulus Biden Is Left Guessing Over Putin’s Ultimate Aim in Ukraine Byju’s Buys Austria’s GeoGebra to Bolster Online Math Courses Scholz Elected by Parliament to Take Charge as German Chancellor In FX, the Dollar index continues to hold above 96.000, but bounces have become less pronounced and the range so far today is distinctly narrower (96.285-130) in fitting with the generally restrained trade in pairings within the basket and beyond, bar a few exceptions. Price action suggests a relatively muted midweek session unless a major game-changer arrives and Wednesday’s agenda does not bode that well in terms of catalysts aside from JOLTS and the BoC policy meeting before the second leg of this week’s refunding in the form of Usd 36 bn 10 year notes. AUD/EUR - Notwithstanding the largely contained currency moves noted above, the Aussie is maintaining bullish momentum on specific factors including strength in iron ore prices and encouraging Chinese data plus PBoC easing that should have a positive knock-on effect for one of its main trading partners even though diplomatic relations between the two nations are increasingly strained. Aud/Usd has also cleared a couple of technical hurdles on the way up to circa 0.7143 and Aud/Nzd is firmer on the 1.0500 handle ahead of the RBA’s latest chart pack release and a speech by Governor Lowe. Elsewhere, the Euro has regained composure after its sub-1.1250 tumble on Tuesday vs the Buck and dip through 0.8500 against the Pound, but still faces psychological resistance at 1.1300 and the 21 DMA that comes in at 1.1317 today, while Eur/Gbp needs to breach the 100 DMA (0.8513) convincingly or close above to confirm a change in direction for the cross from a chart perspective. CHF/CAD/JPY/GBP/NZD - All sitting tight in relation to their US counterpart, with the Franc paring some declines between 0.9255-30 parameters and the Loonie straddling 1.2650 in the run up to the aforementioned BoC that is widely seen as a non-event given no new MPR or press conference, not to mention the actual changes in QE and rate guidance last time. Nevertheless, implied volatility is quite high via a 63 pip breakeven for Usd/Cad. Meanwhile, Sterling lost grip of the 1.3200 handle amidst swirling speculation about the UK reverting to plan B and more Tory MPs calling for PM Johnson to resign, the Yen is rotating around 113.50 eyeing broad risk sentiment and US Treasury yields in context of spreads to JGBs, and the Kiwi is lagging after touching 0.6800 awaiting independent impetus from NZ manufacturing sales for Q3. SCANDI/EM - The Nok extended its advantage/outperformance against the Sek as Brent rebounded towards Usd 76/brl in early trade and Riksbank’s Jansson retained reservations about flagging a repo rate hike at the end of the forecast horizon, while the Mxn and Rub also initially derived some support from oil with the latter also taking on board latest hawkish talk from the CBR. However, the Cny and Cnh are outpacing their rivals again with some assistance from a firmer PBoC midpoint fix to hit multi-year peaks vs the Usd and probe 6.3500 ahead of option expiry interest at 6.3000 and a Fib retracement at 6.2946, in stark contrast to the Try that is unwinding recent recovery gains with no help from the latest blast from Turkish President Erdogan - see 10.00GMT post in the Headline Feed for more. Conversely, the Czk has taken heed of CNB’s Holub underscoring tightening signals and expectations for the next rate convene and the Pln and Brl are anticipating hikes from the NBP and BCB. In commodities, crude futures have been hit on the prospect of imminent COVID-related measures in the UK, albeit the measures do not involve lockdowns. Brent and WTI front month futures slipped from European highs to breach APAC lows. The former dipped below USD 74.50/bbl from a USD 76.00/bbl European peak while its WTI counterpart tested USD 71.00/bbl from USD 72.50/bbl at best. Overnight the benchmarks traded on either side the USD 75/bbl mark and just under USD 72/bbl after the weekly Private Inventories printed a larger-than-expected draw (-3.6mln vs exp. -3.1mln), albeit the internals were less bullish. Yesterday also saw the release of the EIA STEO, cut its 2021 world oil demand growth forecast by an insignificant 10k BPD but raised the 2022 metric by 200k BPD – with the IEA and OPEC monthly reports poised to be released next week. On the vaccine front, a small preliminary study of 12 people showed a 40x reduction in neutralization capacity of the Pfizer vaccine against Omicron, but early hospitalisation data from South Africa showed the new variant could result in less severe COVID. BioNTech CEO said they have data coming in on Wednesday or Thursday related to the new Omicron variant. The geopolitical space is also worth keeping on the radar, with US President Biden yesterday warning Russian President Putin that gas exports via Nord Stream 2 will be targeted and more troops will be deployed if he orders an invasion of Ukraine. Further, reports suggested, an Indian army helicopter crashed in Tamil Nadu, with Chief of Defence staff reportedly on board, according to Sputnik. Note, Tamil Nadu is located towards the south of the country and away from conflict zones. Elsewhere spot gold was supported by the overnight pullback in the Dollar, but the recent risk aversion took the yellow metal above the 100 DMA around USD 1,790/oz, with nearby upside levels including the 200 DMA (1,792/oz) and the 50 DMA (1,794/oz). Copper prices meanwhile consolidated within a tight range, with LME copper holding onto a USD 9,500/t handle (just about). Dalian iron ore extended on gains in a continuation of the upside seen in recent trade. US Event Calendar 7am: Dec. MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -7.2% 10am: Oct. JOLTs Job Openings, est. 10.5m, prior 10.4m DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap A reminder that we are currently conducting our special 2022 survey. We ask about rates, equities, bond yields and the path of covid in 2022, amongst other things, and also return to a festive question we asked in 2019, namely your favourite ever Christmas songs. The link is here and it’ll be open until tomorrow. All help filling in very much appreciated. My optimism for life has been shattered this morning. Not from the markets or the virus but just as I woke this morning England cricketers finally surrendered and collapsed in a heap on the first day of the Ashes - one the oldest international rivalries in sport. It was all I could do not to turn round and go back to bed. However out of duty I’m soldering on. After the twins nativity play went without incident yesterday, this morning it’s Maisie’s turn. Given she’s in a wheelchair at the moment she can’t get on stage so they’ve given her a solo singing spot at the start. I’m going so I can bring a bucket for all my wife’s tears as she sings!! If I shed a tear I’ll pretend it’s because of the cricket. The global market rebound continued to gather strength yesterday as investors became increasingly optimistic that the Omicron variant wouldn’t prove as bad as initially feared. To be honest, it was more the absence of bad news rather than any concrete good news helping to drive sentiment. Late in the US session we did see some headlines suggesting that the Pfizer vaccine may provide some defence against Omicron but also that the new variant does evade some of the immunity produced by this vaccine. This report of the small study (12 people!!) from South Africa lacked substance but you could take positives and negatives from it. More information is clearly needed. For the markets though, every day that passes without a wave of severe cases driven by Omicron is offering more hope that this won’t be the curveball to throw the recovery off course. Indeed, to get a sense of the scale of the market rebound, both the S&P 500 and the STOXX 600 in Europe have now clocked in their strongest 2-day performances of 2021 so far, with the indices up by +3.27% and +3.76% respectively since the start of the week. Meanwhile, the VIX fell below 25 for the first time in a week. On the day, the S&P 500 (+2.07%) put in its strongest daily performance since March, whilst the STOXX 600 (+2.45%) saw its strongest daily performance since the news that the Pfizer vaccine was successful in trials back in November 2020. Once again the gains were incredibly broad-based, albeit with cyclical sectors leading the way. The Nasdaq (+3.03%) outperformed the S&P 500 for the first time in a week as tech shares led the rally. Small cap stocks also had a strong day, with the Russell 2000 up +2.28%, on the back of Omicron optimism. This recovery in risk assets was also seen in the bounceback in oil prices, with Brent crude (+3.23%) and WTI (+3.68%) now both up by more than $5.5/bbl since the start of the week, which puts them well on the way to ending a run of 6 consecutive weekly declines. For further evidence of this increased optimism, we can also look at the way that investors have been dialling back up their estimates of future rate hikes from the Fed, with yesterday seeing another push in this direction. Before the Omicron news hit, Fed fund futures were fully pricing in an initial hike by the June meeting, but by the close on the Monday after Thanksgiving they’d moved down those odds to just 61% in June, with an initial hike not fully priced until September. Fast forward just over a week however, and we’re now not only back to pricing in a June hike, but the odds of a May hike are standing at +78.8%, which is actually higher than the +66.1% chance priced before the Omicron news hit. A reminder that we’re just a week away now from the Fed’s next decision, where it’s hotly anticipated they could accelerate the pace at which they’ll taper their asset purchases. With investors bringing forward their bets on monetary tightening, front-end US Treasury yields were hitting post-pandemic highs yesterday, with the 2yr Treasury yield up +5.8bps to 0.69%, a level we haven’t seen since March 2020. Longer-dated yield increases weren’t as large, with the 10yr yield up +3.9bps to 1.47%, and the 5s30s curve flattened another -1.8bps to 54.4bps, just above the post-pandemic low of 53.7bps. Over in Europe there was similarly a rise in most countries’ bond yields, with those on 10yr bunds (+1.4bps), OATs (+1.0bps) and BTPs (+4.4bps) all moving higher, though incidentally, the 5s30s curve in Germany was also down -2.2bps to its own post-pandemic low of 50.0bps. One pretty big news story that markets have been relatively unperturbed by so far is the rising tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine. Yesterday saw a video call between US President Biden and Russian President Putin. The US readout from the call did not offer much in the way of concrete details, but if you’re looking for any optimistic news, it said that both sides tasked their teams with following up. Setting the background for the call, there were reports immediately beforehand that the US was considering evacuating their citizens and posturing to stop Nord Stream 2 if Russia invaded Ukraine. The Ruble appreciated +0.42% against the dollar, and is now only slightly weaker versus the dollar on the week. Overnight in Asia stocks are trading mostly higher led by the Nikkei (+1.49%), CSI (+1.11%), Shanghai Composite (+0.86%) and the KOSPI (+0.78%) as markets respond positively to the Pfizer study mentioned at the top. The Hang Seng (-0.12%) is lagging though. In Japan, the final Q3 GDP contracted -3.6% quarter on quarter annualised against consensus expectations of -3.1% on lower consumer spending than initially estimated. In India, the RBI left the key policy rate unchanged for the ninth consecutive meeting today while underscoring increasing headwinds from the Omicron variant. Futures markets indicate a positive start in the US and Europe with S&P 500 (+0.41%) and DAX (+0.12%) futures trading in the green. Back on the pandemic, despite the relative benign news on Omicron, rising global case counts mean that the direction of travel is still towards tougher restrictions across a range of countries. In fact here in the UK, we saw the 7-day average of reported cases move above 48,000 for the first time since January. In terms of fresh restrictions, yesterday saw Canada announce that they’d be extending their vaccine mandate, which will now require employees in all federally regulated workplaces to be vaccinated, including road transportation, telecommunications and banking. In Sweden, the government is preparing a bill that would see Covid passes introduced for gyms and restaurants, while Poland put further measures in place, including remote schooling from December 20 until January 9, while vaccines would become mandatory for health workers, teachers and uniformed services from March 1. One move to ease restrictions came in Austria, where it was confirmed shops would be reopening on Monday, albeit only for those vaccinated, while restaurants and hotels would reopen the following week. If you see our daily charts you’ll see that cases in Austria have dropped sharply since the peaks a couple of weeks ago, albeit still high internationally. In DC, Congressional leaders apparently agreed to a deal that would ultimately lead to the debt ceiling being increased, after some procedural chicanery. Senate Majority Leader McConnell voiced support for the measure, which is a good sign for its ultimate prospects of passing, but it still needs at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to pass. McConnell indicated the votes would be there when the Senate ultimately takes it up, which is reportedly set to happen this week. The House passed the measure last night. Yields on Treasury bills maturing in December fell following the headlines. Looking ahead, today will mark the end of an era in Germany, as Olaf Scholz is set to become Chancellor in a Bundestag vote later on, marking an end to Chancellor Merkel’s 16-year tenure. That vote will simply be a formality given the three parties of the incoming coalition (the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP) have a comfortable majority between them, and the new cabinet will feature 7 SPD ministers, 5 Green ministers, and 4 from the FDP. Among the positions will include Green co-leader Robert Habeck as Vice Chancellor, Green co-leader Annalena Baerbock as foreign minister, and FDP leader Christian Lindner as finance minister. Running through yesterday’s data, the US trade deficit narrowed to $67.1bn in October (vs. $66.8bn expected), marking its smallest level since April. Meanwhile in the Euro Area, the latest Q3 growth estimate was left unchanged at +2.2%, but both Q1 and Q2’s growth was revised up a tenth. Over in Germany, industrial production grew by a stronger-than-expected +2.8% in October (vs. +1.0% expected), with the previous month’s contraction also revised to show a smaller -0.5% decline. In addition, the expectations component of the December ZEW survey fell by less than expected to 29.9 (vs. 25.4 expected), but the current situation measure fell to a 6-month low of -7.4 (vs. 5.7 expected). To the day ahead now, and Olaf Scholz is expected to become German Chancellor in a Bundestag vote today. From central banks, the Bank of Canada will be deciding on rates, and we’ll also hear from ECB President Lagarde, Vice President de Guindos and the ECB’s Schnabel. Finally, data releases include the JOLTS job openings from the US for October. Tyler Durden Wed, 12/08/2021 - 07:58.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 8th, 2021

A study on NBA players and staff found vaccinated people with breakthrough infections may be less likely to spread COVID-19 to others

The study, done when Alpha and Delta were dominant in the US, found vaccinated people "clear" the virus days earlier than those who are unvaccinated. Mohammed, 18, receives his first Pfizer vaccine on June 6, 2021 in Stanmore, Greater London.Hollie Adams/Getty Images The study was conducted in partnership with the NBA. It examined nearly 20,000 viral samples from the league's occupational health program. It found vaccinated people cleared their infections an average of two days faster. A new study of NBA players, staff, and household members provides yet more evidence that fully vaccinated people who get a breakthrough case of COVID-19 may be less infectious than their unvaccinated peers.The data, collected when the Alpha and Delta variants of the coronavirus were dominant, supports a commonly-held theory among experts.Last July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention walked back earlier guidance that had said vaccinated people need not wear masks indoors, saying they should do so in areas of the country experiencing high rates of infection. At the time, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky cited the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant and "worrisome" new science that indicated vaccinated individuals "may be contagious and spread the virus to others."The new study, published by the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine, does not challenge that claim — researchers found that people with breakthrough infections may be just as contagious as unvaccinated people.However, researchers found that individuals with breakthrough illnesses are infectious for a shorter period of time, reducing the opportunity for them to pass the virus onto others. What's more, previous evidence suggests vaccinated people are also far less likely to be infected in the first place, especially if they have received a booster shot.The vaccinated have a shorter transmission window, the study foundTo reach their findings, scientists partnered with the National Basketball Association and analyzed 19,941 viral samples from 173 people enrolled in the professional league's occupational health program between November 2020 and August 2021. Under the program, NBA players were subject to regular testing for COVID-19.According to the study, vaccinated people remained infected for 5.5 days, on average, compared to 7.5 days for unvaccinated people. That's 48 hours — or roughly 36% — less time to infect others. Researchers found no difference between those who received the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine and the one-dose viral vector vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. (Moderna's mRNA vaccine was not assessed due to a small sample size.)"Our work provides the most detailed information to date about how viral concentrations change in the body across the full duration of SARS-CoV-2 infection," study co-author Stephen Kissler said in a statement. Kissler is a research fellow at the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which led the study.The findings support earlier claims about vaccinesWhile the NBA partnership provided a steady stream of samples, it also produced a study population that was overwhelmingly young, healthy, and male, and therefore not representative of the public at large.It was also conducted before the rise of Omicron, the latest variant of concern. While it's not yet clear whether Omicron is more infectious or virulent than Delta, more research is needed to see how well our vaccines fend it off.Nevertheless, the findings support what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious disease expert, said last summer: that vaccinated people are "less likely" to spread the virus. Previous studies have also found that vaccinated people typically experience shorter, milder symptoms if they are infected, as well as a faster pace of clearing the virus, all of which points to a narrower window for transmission.Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.comRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 1st, 2021

Bill Gates said it"s "tragic" if a conspiracy theory about him putting tracking microchips in COVID-19 vaccines is driving people to not get vaccinated

"I don't know why they think I'm interested in knowing people's locations — that one I still have to laugh at," Gates said. Ryan Lash / TED Bill Gates said it's tragic if conspiracy theories are preventing people from getting COVID-19 vaccines.  A discredited theory claims Gates is using vaccines to implant location-tracking microchips into people.  Gates called the conspiracy theory laughable and bizarre.  Bill Gates said it's "tragic" if conspiracy theories about him putting microchips in COVID-19 vaccines is preventing people from getting vaccinated. "The one about tracking people, I don't know why they think I'm interested in knowing people's locations — that one I still have to laugh at — but if it's holding people back from getting vaccinated, then that's tragic," Gates said in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Friday. Gates told Cooper conspiracy theories are "fun to click on" and that it may be easier for people to believe "simple explanations," like the claim that the vaccines were only created for profit than to understand the complicated science behind the fast development of COVID-19 vaccines. Conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers continue to spread false information about COVID-19 vaccines.  In the early days of their development, unfounded claims about the vaccines, including the that Gates will use them to implant people with location-tracking microchips, prompted fierce vaccine hesitancy among many Americans.Gates has previously said the assertions were so bizarre that they're almost laughable. "It's almost hard to deny this stuff because it's so stupid or strange that even to repeat it gives it credibility," Gates said in 2020. Insider's Andrea Michaelson reported that while the exact origins of this myth aren't clear, the theory could have evolved from information taken out of context, including a video that went viral at the beginning of the pandemic where Jay Walker, the executive chairman of syringe maker Apiject, discussed a potential optional barcode-like label for the vaccine.Vaccine-makers did not request the use of this label, which would have been placed on the outside of the syringe and not injected into the patient. It would have been used to "distinguish the real vaccine from counterfeit or expired doses, and to track when injections are used."On Friday, he told Cooper that theories that he's only trying to profit off of the vaccine are also inaccurate."We've given billions for vaccines and saved millions of lives. If you just kind of invert that and say no, we're trying to make money from vaccines, you know, not trying to save lives, that's a popular conspiracy theory," he said. While vaccine hesitancy was reduced in the US, Gates said the US "still has a lower full vaccination rate than many other countries," and the country needs to figure out ways to reach individuals who are still skeptical."Are they open-minded? Because it's to their benefit and to the people around them, so I'm surprised that the US, it's been this tough, and, you know, even somewhat a political thing," Gates said. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMay 14th, 2022

CDC Admits It Can"t Back Claim That Vaccines Don"t Cause Variants

CDC Admits It Can't Back Claim That Vaccines Don't Cause Variants Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it does not have documents backing its claim that COVID-19 vaccines do not cause variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC’s website calls it a myth that the vaccines cause variants. “FACT: COVID-19 vaccines do not create or cause variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent new variants from emerging,” the website states. “New variants of a virus happen because the virus that causes COVID-19 constantly changes through a natural ongoing process of mutation (change). As the virus spreads, it has more opportunities to change. High vaccination coverage in a population reduces the spread of the virus and helps prevent new variants from emerging,” it also says. The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), a nonprofit, asked the CDC in Freedom of Information Act requests for documentation supporting the claim. In one request, the group asked for “All documents sufficient to support that COVID-19 vaccines do not create or cause variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.” Another requested “All documents sufficient to support that the immunity conferred by COVID-19 vaccines does not contribute to virus evolution and the emergence of variants.” The CDC has now responded to both requests, saying a search “found no records responsive” to them. The first response came in January (pdf); the second came on May 4 (pdf). If the CDC is making declaratory statements, the agency should have documents supporting them, Aaron Siri, an attorney representing ICAN, told The Epoch Times. The responses are “very troubling,” Siri said. “I thought the CDC was a data-driven organization, that they made their decisions based on the studies and the science and the data.” The CDC did not respond to a request for comment. ICAN has been one of the more prolific requesters of information from the CDC during the pandemic. Many requests have yielded information. Others have not. In this case, the CDC should act to ensure continued public trust, Siri says. “Remove the language or provide the evidence,” he said. “There obviously are going to be instances where recommendations from the CDC might prove helpful or useful. And I think they do a disservice to everybody by hurting their own credibility by making statements that they either don’t have support or won’t produce the support for.” Scientists outside the CDC have also said that vaccines can help prevent new variants. “As more people get vaccinated, we expect virus circulation to decrease, which will then lead to fewer mutations,” the World Health Organization says on its site. But many of the claims relied on the vaccines being able to stop infection from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. The vaccines are increasingly unable to do so, particularly against the newest dominant strain, Omicron. Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche, a virologist, is among those who say that the vaccines themselves are behind new variants. “All COVID-19 vaccines fail in blocking viral transmission, especially transmission of more infectious variants. This is a huge problem as viral transmission is now increasingly taking place among healthy people in general and vaccinees in particular (as their S-specific Abs do not sufficiently neutralize S variants),” Vanden Bossche says on his website. “The resulting suboptimal S-directed immune pressure serves as a breeding ground for even more infectious variants.” Tyler Durden Fri, 05/13/2022 - 21:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMay 13th, 2022

Biden seeks to pass $10 billion COVID-19 bill to prevent a potential wave of 100 million infections in the fall

A White House official told The Washington Post in a background briefing the US could have 100 million new COVID infections over the coming fall. A $10 billion bipartisan COVID bill has been held up in Congress for a month, as officials warn of 100 million infections.AP COVID-19 could infect 100 million more Americans this fall and winter, an official told WaPo.  A $10 billion COVID-19 bill for vaccines and treatments has been held up in Congress for a month.   The US reported 1 million COVID-19 deaths, with more than 24 million suffering from long COVID. US President Joe Biden is pushing US lawmakers to release $10 billion in new COVID-19 funding as evidence suggests there could be 100 million infections in the fall and winter, according to reports.The Washington Post reported a background press briefing by a senior White House administrative official on Friday that tried to emphasize the outside risks from "inaction" as falling immunity and waning vaccine efficacy leaves the US exposed to a record wave. A senior administrative official told CNN that the estimate was based on an underlying assumption of no additional resources or extra mitigation measures being taken, including new funding from Congress or dramatic new variants. The White House didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside normal working hours. There have been 81 million infections reported so far throughout the whole of the pandemic, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The White House is working to build US preparedness for a renewed wave of COVID-19 infections with the purchase of vaccines and therapeutics, as well as a boost to testing capacity. The Biden administration had initially asked for $22.5 billion in March, warning that "inaction will set us back in this fight, leave us less prepared, and cost us more lives." This was pared back to a $10 billion bipartisan bill, which has been held up in Congress for the last month in a reported attempt to extend former President Trump-era immigration reforms. In response to the blocking on April 6, Press Secretary Jen Psaki accused some Congress members of "skirting their responsibility to the American people.""The virus is not waiting for Republicans in Congress to get their act together," Psaki said. "We know BA.2 is here." She added: "We know that it is more transmissible. We know that it is leading to increased cases, and we know we're already seeing an impact on our resources." According to the CDC, nearly 1 million Americans are reported to have died from COVID-19. The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates that 80 million Americans have recovered from the virus, while more than 24 million are estimated to be suffering from "Long Covid."  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 7th, 2022

"Deep State" Was Working Against Trump On COVID-19 Response: Dr. Paul Alexander

'Deep State' Was Working Against Trump On COVID-19 Response: Dr. Paul Alexander Authored by Harry Lee and Roman Balmakov via The Epoch Times, According to Paul Alexander, when former President Donald Trump was trying to tackle COVID-19 in 2020, the “swamp” or the “deep state” was working against him, using flawed data to tarnish him, locking down society, and keeping schools closed. “Can you imagine the president of the United States fighting against the [teachers’] union, fighting against the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)], fighting against his own task force?” Alexander told EpochTV’s “Facts Matter” program in an interview that will air on May 3. “They’re working against him. So you need to be there to understand when he said ‘the swamp’ - and he talked about deep state - it is real. I dealt with them. It is the bureaucracy. The entrenched bureaucracy is real.” From late March till early September 2020, Alexander served as scientific adviser to Michael Caputo, then-assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Paul Alexander in an interview with EpochTV's "Facts Matter" program. The interview is scheduled to premier on May 3rd, 2022. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times) During that time, Alexander was attacked by the media and some health agency officials for trying to “tweak” the COVID-19 death numbers in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). On Aug. 8, 2020, in an email to Caputo (pdf) and other officials, Alexander wrote: “CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration and meant at this time to impact school re-openings and they then send it to the media knowing it is deceiving. I ask it be stopped now! … Nothing to go out unless I read and agree with the findings how they CDC, wrote it and I tweak it to ensure it is fair and balanced and ‘complete.’ And not misleading.” At the time, Alexander also pushed for herd immunity to handle the pandemic, insisting the only way to do so was to allow the non-high-risk groups to expose themselves to the virus. Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, in Washington on May 1, 2018. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images) However, some media outlets depicted Alexander’s proposal as trying to get people infected intentionally. They also claimed that Caputo was promoting unfounded accusations and conspiracy theories in a Facebook video. Pressure from the media and some government officials later led to the departure of Caputo and Alexander. On Sept. 16, 2020, HHS announced that Caputo would take a 60-day medical leave of absence, and Alexander would leave the department. “New York Times wrote—now it’s part of the public discussion—that the CDC reporting to the public and the data is suboptimal. It’s incomplete. It’s not balanced. It’s missing information. So that is exactly what I was trying to say two years ago, that I was attacked for,” said Alexander. The New York Times on Feb. 20 reported that the CDC has been withholding critical COVID-19 data on boosters, hospitalizations, and other analyses. A CDC spokesperson told the outlet that one reason is the agency was afraid the data might be misinterpreted as the vaccines being ineffective. In March, the CDC quietly removed 72,277 deaths, including 416 among children, that were said to have been from COVID-19 from its data tracker web page. “The CDC removed 72,000 deaths. Why? I will say it this way, under the Trump administration, the CDC worked with the [National Institutes of Health (NIH)]  and the media to make the response terrible for him. Make it look, on a day-to-day basis, terrible, like bad. And they will do that with the numbers. They will report escalating infections, escalating cases, any which way they could,” said Alexander. “But now, in the present administration, they want to remove those deaths and those problematic metrics because it makes the present administration look bad. Fact is that more people have died from COVID under President [Joe] Biden than died under President Trump.” The CDC responded that the change was to make the data more accurate. “CDC constantly reviews our COVID-19 data to ensure its accuracy,” a CDC spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email last month, adding that “CDC’s algorithm was accidentally counting deaths that were not COVID-19-related.” Lockdown Based on Flawed Numbers In early April 2020, the United States reported more than 260,000 COVID-19 cases and about 6,200 deaths. On April 1, 2020, Trump said he would leave it up to state governments to decide whether to implement lockdowns. A day later, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that there should be a federal lockdown. “I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” he said. On March 20, 2020, California became the first state to order a lockdown. By the end of May 2020, 42 states and territories issued mandatory stay-at-home orders. Alexander said the lockdowns were based on flawed numbers, and no study showed they work. “They closed society on a test that had a 97 percent false positive,” said Alexander, referring to the PCR test that is still widely used to determine a positive COVID-19 infection. “And remember, at that point, we were having problems in terms of how deaths were classified, how COVID infections were classified, and whether we were really having such an extensive number of infections or cases or hospitalizations,” Alexander said. HHS has been criticized for changing the rules for writing death certificates so that deaths were primarily attributable to COVID-19. The agency has also been targeted for a high number of false-positive COVID-19 results from PCR tests that were authorized for emergency use. “We were having a problem at that point with the PCR test. The PCR tests [were] over-cycled, and we knew over 24 cycles,” said Alexander. “Once you cycle over 24, 25, you are picking up viral dust and viral junk, non-infectious, non-viable pathogens. So let me put it this way, the vast majority, maybe 90 percent of people in 2020 and 2021, who were designated as COVID-positive with PCR tests were false-positive.” A medical worker places a nasal swab into a test tube after performing a COVID-19 PCR test at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in Boston, Mass., on Dec. 20, 2021. (Joseph Prezioso/AFPvia Getty Images) An Irish doctor first claimed that PCR tests have a false rate of 97 percent. Some fact-checkers deemed the claim as false. One fact-checker interviewed Harvard professor Michael Mina, an epidemiologist, who said the claim was not true and “a clear misunderstanding of the PCR primers.” However, Mina also told The New York Times in 2021 that “in Massachusetts, from 85 to 90 percent of people who tested positive in last July with a cycle threshold of 40 would have been deemed negative if the threshold were 30 cycles.” On July 21, 2021, the CDC announced it would withdraw the request for an emergency use authorization for the agency-developed PCR test after Dec. 31, saying the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized “hundreds” of other COVID-specific tests. “We’ve argued from the beginning, this was never an emergency that they made it out to be,” said Alexander. “We could have properly protected the vulnerable and let the rest of society live largely normal lives.” Earlier this month, a study showed that states with strict lockdowns and other restrictive measures, such as California, New York, and New Jersey, handled the pandemic poorly. Florida, which ditched COVID-19 restrictions early, performed among the best states. “Trump was working to open society and to open schools. And he had a daily battle with that task force that what you saw there—that was like a clown car show—that was real. Behind the scenes, Trump was fighting them, fighting Fauci, fighting [Dr. Deborah] Birx, and the union, and the CDC to open schools because we were getting reports of young children in America hanging themselves. Children across America committed suicide because of the school closures,” said Alexander. President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen to White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speak in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on March 29, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) In July 2020, Fauci warned parents to send kids back to school in the fall semester, saying a study showed kids over 9 years old could transmit the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus as well as adults. The authors of the study later issued a correction, saying they could not define what direction transmission was happening within their study. Birx, then-White House COVID-19 task force coordinator, told media in August 2020, “If you have high caseload and active community spread … we are asking people to distance learn at this moment, so we can get this epidemic under control.” According to Dr. Scott Atlas, former special adviser to Trump on the coronavirus pandemic, only the three most influential doctors on the task force—Birx, Fauci, and then-CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield—could advise governors to implement lockdowns. (L-R) Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, and CDC Director Robert R. Redfield attend the daily briefing on COVID-19 in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on April 8, 2020. ( Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images) “We could have handled this pandemic just by properly protecting the vulnerable and allowing everybody else to live a normal life, become exposed naturally and harmlessly among their own natural immunity,” said Alexander. “That’s how we do it for the last 100 years. But with COVID, we’ve done something different. We lock the healthy society down.” Alexander said he once had a discussion with some State Department officials talking about Trump. “They told me in no uncertain terms that: ‘Trump is only a visitor here. He doesn’t seem to understand we run things.’” “‘We the bureaucracy, we the deep state that you call the deep state pal, yes, we run things here. The president just visits here. He’ll be gone. We’ll be here,’” recalled Alexander. “That’s how they think. And that is the crux of the matter.” Tyler Durden Mon, 05/02/2022 - 20:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 2nd, 2022

Being A Successful Trader Is A Paradox

Being A Successful Trader Is A Paradox By Alex Barrow of Macro Ops Musings Winners Evolve This will make you sit up in your chair (emphasis mine): In the 1990’s Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson performed some research to try to understand some of the qualities that make up a well-run hospital. She was not prepared, however, for one of the results her research produced. After surveying the nurses at eight different institutions, one of the things her study found was that in those hospitals where nurses reported the very best leadership team, along with great relationships with their co-workers, the number of medical errors reported was ten times higher! What could possibly explain this outcome? …In hospitals where the nurses felt safe and highly regarded, both by their peers and by their managers, the reason they reported more errors was that they felt more psychologically “safe.” Nurses in these more cohesive, well-led units made comments such as “mistakes are natural and normal to document,” and “mistakes are serious because of the toxicity of the drugs, so you are never afraid to tell the nurse manager.” By contrast, in those environments where mistakes were not forgiven and miscreants were punished, nurses were more likely to report that “The environment is unforgiving, heads will roll.” In other words, it was highly likely that just as many mistakes — if not more — were made in these institutions, but not reported. Instead of learning from their mistakes, these hospitals were hiding from them. – Don P, Peppers & Rogers Group, Does Your Company Make Enough Mistakes? That opener is so eye-opening it is worth repeating: “in those hospitals where nurses reported the very best leadership team, along with great relationships with their co-workers, the number of medical errors reported was ten times higher!” Think about what this implies: the sheer number of hospital errors that DON’T get reported the number of errors that even top hospitals make (a lot) the number of errors that marginal to poorly run hospitals make (surely a lot more) the number of hidden or non-reported errors that are missed completely An observed reporting spread of 10-to-1 suggests the hospital error base rate is remarkably high. If there are remarkably high error rates in the confines of hospitals — where medical processes are exhaustively detailed and regimented — think how much more capacity there is for error in the relatively undocumented world of discretionary trading and investing. And if top hospitals report an order of magnitude more errors than second or third-rate peers… while surely having a lower absolute number of errors (because top-performing institutions are better run)… think of the overwhelming number of errors sloppy performers must make… and by simple logical extension, the vast quantity of errors marginal traders and investors must be making over and over again, every single day. (The collective presence of investor error fuels real trading opportunity, by the way, for the same reason errors at the poker table are profit opportunities for the skilled. Difference being, in a poker game you typically only have one opponent on the other side of a big hand. In a big trade you can have myriad investors, who have collectively all made the same mistake, pooling profits in your pocket by way of their positioning.) “Heads Will Roll” This fuels a delicious irony: If Edmondson’s findings translate to traders, one of the strongest indicators of performance quality is the frequency with which one admits and reports weaknesses or mistakes rather than hides them. This is 180 degrees from the attitude of “I never make mistakes ever.” When interviewing a prospective money manager, then, what you want to hear is: “We’ve messed up plenty of times but learned a lot, and continue to learn.” If instead you get some variant of “We’ve always been perfect and will continue to be perfect,” walk away fast. Why is it, then, that top performers are more willing to admit mistakes? Perhaps because lesser performers operate out of fear: fear that bosses will judge them harshly fear that clients or investors will judge harshly (or even pull funding) an inaccurate self-judging compass (the perception that all mistakes are bad) an ego-preserving data distortion field (fear of ego being bruised or even shattered) Unfortunately, bad bosses and bad clients actually justify such fear in all too many cases. The notion that “heads will roll” is the result of subconscious signals delivered and received. Within organizations, bad leaders really do “shoot messengers”… confuse useful feedback with negative performance… fail to distinguish between luck and skill… fail to cultivate small improvements… R&D expansion into adjacent areas… better results monitoring… and so on. In the investment world, bad clients are even worse: Rewarding slickly polished presentations from “empty suits”… chasing performance over a cliff… being emotionally averse to inevitable flat periods… disregarding the value of risk control… preferring artificial smoothness to organic robusticity… etcetera ad infinitum. (The answer to the “heads will roll” problem is tongue-in-cheek but effective: Avoid bad bosses and clients! If someone with a functional lack of understanding and/or an obtuse point of view has the ability to impact your future in a negative way, change your situation to remove that person’s impact — or at least minimize it — as soon as you can…) Mistakes vs Weaknesses For mechanical traders, and discretionary traders who long ago check-listed their basic processes, it is also important to distinguish between “mistakes” and “weaknesses” — and to recognize that reporting and studying a “weakness” can have the same beneficial impact as a mistake. Take the practice of honoring one’s risk points, for example, or always following a daily homework routine. For traders with a certain level of experience and professionalism, these standards are virtually never deviated from. For a seasoned and disciplined trader, mistakes defined as “a deviation from established best practices” might happen once in a quarter, or even less frequently than that (e.g. less than 2% percent of the time). Even still though, weaknesses can be treated as a form of mistake — and every process that crosses a minimum complexity threshold – like most any trading or investing methodology — has potential weaknesses embedded that can be observed, reported on and contemplated: Flaws in the structure of the process… potential adjustments to variable component weightings… adjustments to the step-by-step pre- and post-analysis process… the shoring up of knowledge gaps or re-tooling of assumptions… and so on. An Emphasis on Culture At Macro Ops we are keenly aware of mistakes — and “weaknesses,” which apply even when processes are down cold — and as a result have a very strong emphasis on culture. Institutional culture is real and powerful. You cultivate it, establish it, and strengthen it via what you do and how you do it, day after day. Think of the winning habits, processes and mindsets a successful person relies on until they are “second nature.” Then expand those mental models, ways of thinking and doing and interpreting, across a team, an organization, an entity of multiple individuals, where values and step-by-step actions, “ways of doing things” are passed on to anyone new who comes through the door. That’s culture. As the size of our research team grows — and we are hiring in 2021 by the way! — an emphasis on growing and maintaining the MO culture becomes ever more important. This is not just because culture contributes massively to consistent outperformance (though it certainly does)… but because the quality of your culture determines the rate at which you evolve. And the rate at which you evolve goes back to errors, weaknesses and mistakes… EVOLUTION, MORPHEUS, EVOLUTION Think of the following logic chain: Error Data (Mistakes + Weaknesses) = Constructive Feedback Constructive Feedback = Opportunity to Analyze and Refine Analyzing and Refining = Incremental Improvement Incremental Improvement = Micro-Evolution Micro-Evolution over extended time cycles = Macro-Evolution Macro-Evolution = Smarter, Faster, Deeper, Stronger Smarter, Faster, Deeper, Stronger = DOMINATE To approach from another angle: Natural evolution = serendipitous impact of randomly distributed trial and error Accelerated evolution = guided impact of shaped and observed trial and error Trial and error = experimentation, hypothesis, “useful failures” etc Which cycles back around to errors, weaknesses etc as “Constructive Feedback” The trading organizations that deliberately nurture a “culture of embracing mistakes” will receive a much higher volume of constructive feedback… and will further be better positioned to respond and hypothesize… in turn allowing them to “analyze and refine” at a faster rate… allowing them to improve and evolve at a faster rate than their peers. In trading and investing, this is huge. But individuals can apply these ideas too. You don’t need a team to create a culture (though it certainly helps). You can embrace mistakes on your own by asking questions like: Am I a vigilant observer of my trading and investing process? Do I diligently record my errors and mistakes? Do I seek out and contemplate potential weaknesses? Do I probe and test for weaknesses as a matter of habit… …not to bring myself down, but to make my process stronger? Do I constantly seek to analyze, refine and evolve as a matter of survival? Do I give myself permission to acknowledge weaknesses and still feel like a winner? Cheerful vs Zero Tolerance Keep in mind, too, that there is an important balance here. Being a winner means walking the line between tolerating mistakes — responding to them cheerfully and constructively — and ruthlessly stamping them out with a “zero tolerance” attitude. At Macro Ops, our general mode of operation is a response of positive urgency to fresh mistakes we uncover. When the observation bell goes off, we “halt the assembly line” and ask questions like: What was the origin of this mistake (or observed weakness)? Did it come from a gap in process, misread of information, judgment error etc? Was it something subtle and nuanced, or big and obvious? Does it fall under research, execution, strategic allocation, or something else? How do we extract maximum tuition from this? Should a specific step-by-step aspect of the process be modified? Should a conceptual or philosophical principle be explored (or re-explored)? How can we best evolve and strengthen from this? How do we use this to become more awesome? We can’t claim originality in this. The most successful organizations in the world, be they trading-focused or something completely different, all have some variant of the same mindset. For instance: The following quotes are from Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater (one of the most successful hedge funds of all time): More than anything else, what differentiates people who live up to their potential from those who don’t is a willingness to look at themselves and others objectively. I believe the biggest problem humanity faces is an ego sensitivity to finding out whether one is right or wrong and identifying what one’s strengths and weaknesses are. Your ability to see the changing landscape and adapt is more a function of your perceptive abilities and reasoning abilities than your ability to learn and process quickly. Recognize that you will certainly make mistakes; so will those around you and those who work for you. And what matters is how you deal with them. If you treat mistakes as learning opportunities that can yield rapid improvement if handled well, you will be excited by them. If you don’t mind being wrong on the way to being right, you will learn a lot. Of course, there is also a certain class of mistakes we have “zero tolerance” for — things like: Neglecting risk or failing to follow a risk management protocol Blatantly neglecting an established process step Any type of “phoning it in” or extended delivery of subpar effort Being “mentally hard of hearing” — not paying attention to repeated instruction Making the same mistake repeatedly (failing to learn from repeated trials) In other words, some mistakes are understandable and even exciting — as Ray Dalio puts it — because their presence indicates forward evolution and opportunity for advancement on the capability frontier. But other mistakes — the ones that go back to well-covered areas, well-developed process, or issues of moral code and doing one’s best work — represent serious internal issues and thus receive a brutally harsh response. (We aren’t afraid to lose our tempers.) The Circle of Competence In evaluating mistakes, you can picture acceptable vs unacceptable in the context of a circle — a “circle of competence.” Mistakes on the circumference of the growth circle are acceptable, and even desirable… if they represent intelligent efforts at expanding competence. The only way you make the circle bigger is by evolving your capabilities… and you do this via thoughtful trial and error, risk-adjusted tinkering and refining, allocations to R&D, and so on. Mistakes deep within the circle are unacceptable, however, because they represent failure in areas already covered… or failure in areas that should be covered… or worse yet, a failure of internal structure as relating to things like capacity for hard work, commitment to accuracy, moral commitment to excellence, and so on. Furthermore there are at least two competence circles that matter: The circle for the individual team member, and the circle for the organization as a whole. Efforts to expand the organization as a whole — via contributions to team knowledge or net capability — are appreciated and rewarded. There are many “good failures” in respect to this endeavor, because the potential ROI (return on investment) is so long-term beneficial. (This is a good acid test of leadership by the way. Does the leadership “get” this? Do they embrace it as a directive?) On the individual team member side, competence circles should match up with experience levels and expectations. A senior trader or analyst with 10+ years of experience will be expected to have a much larger competence circle than, say, a fresh analyst with lots of talent but only a modicum of seasoning. For this reason a certain type of mistake or weakness may be acceptable in one team member but not in another, again relative to situational differences. Altogether this unites to create an enlightened (in our opinion) and goal-oriented approach to evaluating mistakes and weaknesses: We want to maximize top performance, minimize “unforced errors” and low-grade process failures, and cultivate a healthy expansion of competence for both individual team members and the organization as a whole. Mistakes made in alignment with this goal are not only tolerated but appreciated — “winners evolve” is our short and sweet motto, and it applies across the board. Mistakes of the unacceptable kind, if made too frequently, result in a friendly parting of the ways (so as to avoid team resentment and “Full Metal Jacket” treatment). Confidently Humble In many ways, being a successful trader is a paradox. You must develop a deep sense of confidence in your methodology and talent, yet remain ever humble and flexible. You have to trust yourself, but also know when to intelligently doubt yourself — and have no fear of doing so. You need a profound unshakeable faith in who you are and what you can do… yet at the same time maintaining the attitude of the humble student, the raw beginner, the white belt always ready to learn. Getting this mix right is also the key to personal evolution and incremental improvement, because evolution itself is such an iterative, trial-and-error driven process (and thus a reflective / contemplative process).  It’s not enough to get your hands dirty and fall on your face every so often. Having fallen, you must have the presence of mind to put your ego aside… objectively examine your weakness or mistake… and then put in the elbow grease of analyzing, and intelligently responding to, the data born of your stumble. None of this is rocket science. But it is harder than it sounds… harder even than rocket science in some aspects… and thus represents a golden opportunity, because so few can do it! The need for ego preservation is a massive block to trading in so many ways — even among people who appear “humble” on the outside, yet cannot apply a “culture of embracing mistakes” on the internal level. Tyler Durden Sun, 05/01/2022 - 15:10.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 1st, 2022

MoviePass Co-Founder Stacy Spikes Is Trying to Stage a Comeback–and Save Movie Theaters in the Process

Any resemblance to Steve Jobs was unintentional, or so Stacy Spikes claims. Back in February, minutes before Spikes was set to take the stage at Lincoln Center in New York City to announce the resurrection of his old company, MoviePass, he realized he was sweating through his white button-up shirt and jacket. He changed into… Any resemblance to Steve Jobs was unintentional, or so Stacy Spikes claims. Back in February, minutes before Spikes was set to take the stage at Lincoln Center in New York City to announce the resurrection of his old company, MoviePass, he realized he was sweating through his white button-up shirt and jacket. He changed into a more breathable black mock turtleneck, which, on his slim figure, paired with dark jeans, sneakers, and glasses, looked a lot like an homage to the Apple co-founder. “I didn’t want to be thinking, Are they going to see my sweaty pits?” Spikes, 54, says during an interview in a Manhattan office several weeks later. “When people said, ‘That’s very Steve Jobs,’ I was like, ‘Everybody in New York dresses in all black.’” [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Spikes will invite the comparison again when his memoir, Black Founder: The Hidden Power of Being an Outsider, arrives in December. For the stark cover, he wore a nearly identical black shirt. Like Jobs, Spikes built a company from scratch only to be pushed out. Like Jobs, he watched from the sidelines as it fell apart. And like Jobs, he will attempt a triumphant return to the business he built. But while Jobs was self-assured to the point of polarizing colleagues and occasionally the public, Spikes charms you into buying his vision of the future—specifically the future of moviegoing. He asks everyone he meets what films they’ve seen lately. He refuses to disparage a movie (to a journalist, anyway), even when I try to goad him into criticizing some of this year’s Oscar contenders. He’s eager to discuss why his friend might have missed the majesty of Dune’s sandy hills by watching the sci-fi epic at home rather than in an IMAX theater. “An adventure should never come with a pause button,” he says. He loves a dramatic metaphor: during his MoviePass 2.0 presentation, he included a slide of a phoenix rising from the ashes. Read More: 10 Oscar-Nominated Movies and Performances You May Not Have Seen—But Should Most people who are familiar with MoviePass—and it had more than 3 million members at its peak in the late 2010s—probably remember it as the company that offered cardholders the chance to see one movie per day at the theater of their choice for just $9.95 a month, and then predictably crashed and burned when the deal proved too good to be true. For Spikes, the story is more complicated—and more personal. It is one of struggling for years to secure funding, which he attributes at least in part to racial discrimination, and then being ignored when he disagreed with the business plan put forth by the company that bought a majority stake. He illustrated the implosion of MoviePass during his presentation with a picture of the Hindenburg. Spikes is staging a comeback in a radically altered moviegoing environment. COVID-19 scared people away from theaters, and the proliferation of streaming services has kept them on their couches. The 2021 domestic box office, which includes the U.S. and Canada, trailed 2019’s by 60%. “We’re at the point where the industry is willing to try things,” says Daniel Loría, editorial director at Boxoffice Pro. “This is probably the perfect time for MoviePass to come back if it was ever going to come back at all.” In its heyday, Spikes says, MoviePass increased any one user’s moviegoing somewhere between 100% and 144% by incentivizing customers to take risks on movies they wouldn’t otherwise see. Now Spikes believes he can boost attendance again. “We ask, Will anyone go to movies anymore? But we don’t ask that about other events,” he says. “We don’t ask, Is anyone going to go to basketball games anymore? Soccer games? Because you can watch those at home, but the live experience is different.” Spikes is a magnetic pitchman, but it’s impossible to assess the feasibility of his plan. He is still trying to strike deals with theater chains and won’t even specify a date for the product’s release beyond that he’s targeting summer movie season. Perhaps most salient, while he says there will be a tiered pricing plan, he won’t say what those numbers actually are until launch day. He will say this: “It won’t be $10.” Spikes often tells the story about how Blade Runner convinced him he wanted to pack his bags for Hollywood. When he was 14, he watched it in a theater wedged between his father, who fell asleep, and his inattentive brother. “I kept nudging my dad, who was just snoring, and my brother’s like this.” Spikes fidgets in his seat. “And I’m there thinking, How can I be a part of this world?” Spikes worked in a video store as a high schooler in Houston, left Texas for California with just $300 in his pocket, and got a job as a production manager at a production company at 19. He worked briefly on the business side of record companies before helping to market film soundtracks at Sony. By age 27, he was vice president of marketing at Miramax. Illustration by Party of One for TIME But it was films like Dumbo that set him on his career trajectory. “Do you know that Dumbo song with the crows?” he asks, before singing a few bars of that song, the one sung by a bird named Jim Crow. (Disney now runs a warning in front of the movie.) “As a kid, I guess it was supposed to be flattering that you were getting seen in something,” says Spikes. “But as I got older and worked in the movie business, I had this whole different view of what I saw in my childhood.” In 1997, he founded the Urbanworld Film Festival, which featured the works of BIPOC filmmakers, including Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler before they were household names. “I was the Spike Lee of distribution because there was no one of color on that side of the fence,” he says. In 2004, the festival hosted the premiere of the thriller Collateral starring Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise, and Jada Pinkett Smith. “I felt like I’d summited Everest, but I needed to find what was next.” Read More: Hollywood So Often Gets Black History Wrong. Black Filmmakers Are Setting the Record Straight In 2006, he designed a system that would allow moviegoers to sign up for a subscription and request tickets via text message. There were already subscription services at the movie theater chains in Europe, so Spikes was just introducing the concept to the U.S. “Everyone was like, ‘A subscription? That’s stupid,’” he says. “I was laughed out of conference rooms.” Or worse. For years, he was unable to get funding for his venture. Black entrepreneurs received about 1% of venture-capital funding in 2011, the year he ultimately launched the company. (A decade later, that number has barely ticked up: Black founders received 1.2% of VC funding in the first half of 2021 when startups raised a record-breaking $147 billion.) “When you want access to higher capital, there’s a Black tax on you,” Spikes says. “It was like I had to run faster, climb higher than these guys who had multiple failed businesses. If you don’t look like Mark Zuckerberg, you don’t fit the mold. I saw a lot of people getting funding for worse business ideas, but they dropped out of Stanford, so they got a shot.” Spikes used to bring an analyst named Geoff Kozma with him to pitch meetings to run the numbers in real time. “So Geoff and I walk into the meeting, and the guy walks over to Geoff, puts his hand out, and goes, ‘Stacy, it’s so nice to meet you,’ and Geoff goes, ‘That’s Stacy.’” Kozma was a young white man. “But even after that, at that meeting and a lot of other meetings, Geoff would be sitting there, and the VC guys’ attention would start drifting toward him. They’d start asking him questions instead of me. And I was like, Really?” The rejections were particularly upsetting because, as his current and former co-workers attest, Spikes is obsessed with going to the movies. Ryan McManus, who started as an intern at the first iteration of MoviePass and is now head of product for MoviePass 2.0, has worked with Spikes on and off for nearly a decade. “I’ve saved every movie-ticket stub going back to 2003,” says McManus, “and he was even more passionate about movies than I was.” In 2011, Spikes brought on Hamet Watt as a co-founder, and they were able to raise a combined $1 million from AOL and the venture-capital firm True Ventures. MoviePass launched that year, but five years after that, it still wasn’t profitable. Mitch Lowe, a former Redbox and Netflix executive, acted as an early MoviePass adviser, and found working with Spikes frustrating. But he felt they always had a connection, and agreed to come on board as CEO in 2016. “His main investor brought me in to essentially be his boss,” Lowe says. “That would be hard for anybody. He put his heart and soul into it. But he and I were great partners for that first year and a half, two years.” Liz Hafalia—The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty ImagesMoviePass co-founders Stacy Spikes, left, and Hamet Watt at AMC in San Francisco, Calif., on January 29, 2011. Around that time the company had 20,000 subscribers who were being charged $34.95 to $49.95 per month, and it was still losing about $50,000 to $110,000 per month. Lowe, too, struggled to convince investors that MoviePass had juice. Looking back, he says Spikes may indeed have faced discrimination, but there was clearly a problem with the business proposition as well. “I met with 120 different investors and got no on 120,” Lowe says. “My wife is African American, so I see racism out there. I see the way people are treated. But I would not say that was the only reason. I wasn’t with Stacy in any of his investment meetings, but I can tell you I had 120 nos, and I’m a white guy.” Then, in 2017, the data-analytics firm Helios and Matheson bought 51% of the company for $25 million. To increase subscribers, Helios and Matheson wanted to run a “promotion” dropping the price to $9.95 a month. Spikes, who had experimented with price points ranging from $19.99 to $49.99 over the years, was not wild about the idea. The average movie-ticket price in the U.S. was $8.97, so users would have access to near unlimited movies for just over the price of a single ticket. In the press, Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson, said they hoped MoviePass would work like a gym membership: plenty of people pay the monthly fee and never go, so the gym turns a profit. Here’s the problem: people don’t like running on a treadmill; they do like going to the movies. Still, Spikes says he agreed to the promotion as long as they upped the price again after 100,000 new sign-ups. “It happened in literally 48 hours,” says Spikes. “I was like, ‘Great, turn it off.’ And they were like, ‘No, no, leave it on. See what happens. We know what we’re doing.’” Spikes calculates they were losing $30 per customer per month. Lowe says it was closer to $17. Either way, they were losing money. “The math didn’t work,” says Spikes. In December 2017, the same month MoviePass reached its millionth subscriber, Spikes was removed from the board. The next month, he was informed he was no longer needed at the company. A few days after he was ousted, Spikes went to the movies. “I walk up to the kiosk. And the person on my left pulls out a MoviePass card. The person on my right pulls out a MoviePass card. And they’re literally looking and smiling at each other. And you knew we were all part of something big,” he says. “And I’d created that. I never forgot that feeling.” Read More: The 10 Best Movie Performances of 2021 By the first half of 2018, MoviePass members were buying 6.6% of all movie tickets in the U.S., according to Lowe. But that year, Helios and Matheson reported an estimated net loss of $329.2 million. In 2020, Helios and Matheson filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and in 2021 the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint alleging that the company had failed to secure customer data and had engaged in fraudulent practices like invalidating users’ passwords to try to prevent them from buying too many tickets. The resulting settlement prohibited the company from misrepresenting its practices and required it to put better security programs in place. But by then, MoviePass was long gone: it shuttered in September 2019. (Lowe said he could not comment on the FTC investigation because of a nondisclosure agreement, but blames the demise of MoviePass largely on user fraud—members sharing cards with one another and otherwise bypassing the system. Farnsworth did not respond to requests for comment.) Spikes equates what he experienced with PTSD. “I was licking my wounds for about two months when my wife was like, ‘You need to put some clothes on and get out of the house.’” Then, late last year, he heard from someone working on a documentary about the rise and fall of MoviePass that nobody had bought the company assets during the bankruptcy auction. He called the trustee, who said the minimum bid was $250,000. Spikes talked him down to $140,000. In September 2020, Spikes drove alone from his home in Manhattan to Hoboken, N.J., donned two masks, and sat in a theater with 10 other people to watch the action film Tenet. The next weekend he returned to see it again. “He’s my people, right?” Spikes says of director Christopher Nolan, who very publicly refused to debut his movie on a streaming service. “I told my wife, even if I have to get on a plane to fly to an open theater, I’m going to support this movie. And I’ve been at the movies pretty much every weekend since.” He’s likely one of the few who can make that claim. Movie attendance plummeted during the pandemic: In 2019, 76% of people in the U.S. and Canada saw at least one movie in theaters. In 2021, that number dropped to 47%. People may have gotten used to streaming movies at home, especially since services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock all launched right before or during the pandemic. Every year, the Motion Picture Association releases data on the combined theatrical and home/mobile entertainment market. In 2019, it found that global digital spending (which includes purchases and rentals of movies from companies like Amazon and Apple) made up 48% of the market, theatrical sales made up 42%, and purchases of physical content like DVDs made up 10%. In 2021, digital spending made up 72% of the market, theatrical 21%, and physical content 7%. That digital spending calculation doesn’t even include the money customers pay for subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix. The window between a theatrical release and a streaming release is also shrinking; would-be moviegoers often have to wait only a few weeks to stream a movie like The Batman. The Oscar-winning CODA was released simultaneously on streaming and in theaters, and studios occasionally skip the theater altogether. Spikes dismisses the threat of streaming and compares the situation to when DVDs went mainstream in the late ’90s. “We forget that we were worried people would stay home then too,” he says. But Rich Daughtridge, CEO of the upstart chain Warehouse Cinemas and president of the Independent Cinema Alliance, views the proliferation of streaming differently: “We see our main competition as the couch.” Read More: The 10 Best Movies of 2021 Spikes often touts the loyalty of MoviePass customers. When he first founded the company, he was inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography to suggest that every employee—including himself—spend at least one day per month on the customer-service line. He recalls one not-so-happy customer who dropped her phone while running to the theater and demanded the company buy her a new $600 smartphone. “I was like, ‘But, ma’am, you dropped your phone,’” he says. “I think I gave her a free month.” But more often the calls would turn into discussions about how much MoviePass members adored going to the movies. They hadn’t abandoned cinema because of Netflix. They’d abandoned it because movie tickets had gotten too expensive: movie attendance was already declining before the pandemic even as the box office ballooned, thanks to higher ticket prices. MoviePass’s relatively low (and later, absurdly low) price tag helped increase its customers’ attendance, until those fervent movie-goers quite literally loved MoviePass to death. Persuading moviegoers to return to MoviePass may prove less challenging than wooing movie theaters. MoviePass buys tickets for its users directly from the theater. If it can buy discounted tickets, in exchange for promoting the theater on its app and incentivizing customers to go to the movies on slow-traffic days, the company can flourish. But if it has to pay full price for tickets, it will have to rely heavily on other revenue streams like advertising. Spikes claims that the pandemic has made theaters much more open to MoviePass. “Before, the conversation was ‘Eh,’” says Spikes of his initial proposal in the 2010s. “Now the conversations are, ‘Congratulations on buying it. How soon can you be up?’ So COVID definitely did something it would have taken us years to do.” My exchanges with theaters were more measured. The head of a small theater chain, who asked to remain anonymous because the company is still considering working with Spikes, said the customer-service issues that plagued MoviePass at the end of its first run “left a bad taste in our mouths.” The big chains—AMC, Regal, and Cinemark—declined to comment for this story. Loría of Boxoffice Pro says those chains likely see MoviePass as competition to their own loyalty programs, which were developed, at least to some degree, because of the success of MoviePass 1.0. Spikes is undeterred. He says he’s had preliminary conversations with Cinemark and Regal, but AMC has not responded to his calls: “My feeling is at the beginning there may be some competitiveness, but if you still have empty seats, what do you care? Get bodies in there.” Justin J Wee for TIMESpikes, who has been infatuated with Hollywood since he was a teen, makes weekly trips to the movies. Smaller chains and independent theaters—which make up about 20% of the industry, according to Daughtridge—seem more open to working with MoviePass. Alamo Drafthouse has 36 locations across the country and boasts comfy seats, meals instead of just concessions, and alcohol. The founders pride themselves on exhibiting smaller films that the bigger chains don’t show. In theory, their interest in saving the indie filmgoing experience should align with MoviePass’s mission. According to Lowe, in 2018, MoviePass was buying 30% of all movie tickets sold in the U.S. for smaller films (ones that grossed $20 million or less). “We’ve been quite disruptive in the space,” says Michael Kustermann, the chief experience officer at Alamo. “So I think we were always curious about MoviePass. I think the $9.95 thing was a mistake. But like all good disrupters, there was probably a seed of a great idea that theaters should have been thinking of themselves.” Kustermann says Alamo, which has its own loyalty program, has not yet decided whether it will partner with MoviePass but has not ruled it out. “Instead of being dictatorial about how people get in the door, Alamo focuses more on the experience once they’re in the door.” After all, most theaters make their money on concession sales, and that’s especially true of chains that sell alcohol. “I’m definitely intrigued,” says Daughtridge, of Warehouse Cinemas, which has two theaters in Maryland. He and Spikes have spoken several times about the potential of MoviePass 2.0. “We’re just running the numbers to make sure we don’t cannibalize our own sales.” This summer will prove a crucial test for MoviePass’s viability, as a backlog of delayed blockbusters, like Top Gun: Maverick, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Jurassic World Dominion, debut exclusively in movie theaters. “All the good content had been moved out. So it’s kind of like starving the patient and asking why they’re not gaining any weight,” Spikes says of the box office. Optimistic prognosticators point to Spider-Man: No Way Home, which in December had the second biggest opening weekend in Hollywood history despite premiering during the Omicron surge, as a sign that audiences will come back. But even with that coup, the domestic box office totaled around $4.5 billion last year, compared with $11.4 billion in 2019. About 10% of the estimated 5,500 movie theaters open pre-pandemic in the U.S. closed either temporarily or permanently, according to Comscore, and the theaters that are open today are mostly surviving on a few hits like Spider-Man and The Batman. Cinephiles fear a future in which studios make only superhero films for the big screen and relegate everything else to streaming. MoviePass doesn’t move the needle on the Marvel or Star Wars movies—people are going to come out for those anyway—but it may be able to have a substantial impact in driving ticket sales to indie films, Oscar bait, and documentaries. If MoviePass can scale, then it could play a major role in saving the moviegoing experience. But with just months before launch, MoviePass won’t confirm whether Spikes has brokered any deals at all. MoviePass can exist without theater buy-in, but it’s unclear if it can thrive. To that end, Spikes will try to build a subscriber base quickly with several changes from its original incarnation, including tiered pricing options and in-app credits that customers can earn by watching ads. They will be able to apply these credits toward tickets for friends and family members who don’t subscribe to MoviePass, and, eventually, Spikes says, users will be able to trade credits among themselves via blockchain technology. Customers can also invest as stakeholders in the company. During the MoviePass relaunch presentation, Spikes floated the idea of implementing technology that would track the user’s eyes during an ad and pause the ad if the user looked away or put the phone down. The demo immediately drew comparisons to dystopias like A Clockwork Orange. “I can say it’s given us some level of pause,” Spikes tells me when we meet. “If it’s something that we even decide to deploy, it might be radioactive. So it maybe doesn’t see the light of day.” A month later, he says he’s decided it will not be a part of the app launch this summer, though he may consider integrating it later. It’s clear that Spikes cares deeply about the future of cinema, but he’s also desperate to give the MoviePass story a happy ending. “I sometimes worry if I build something new, someone will take it away from me again,” he admits. Yet he forged ahead with the relaunch. “I knew I could build something again. Because you can’t take my intelligence. You can’t take away my passion.” Read More: People Longing for Movie Theaters During the 1918 Flu Pandemic Feels Very Familiar in 2021 If MoviePass succeeds, Spikes will be vindicated. Lowe and others who pushed him out will be cast as the obstacles he had to overcome to make his comeback. I ask Lowe how he feels about his role in that potential narrative. “I’d be so happy for his success in this,” he says. “It wouldn’t bother me at all for people to say that he told me so.” With reporting by Mariah Espada.....»»

Category: topSource: timeApr 27th, 2022

Experts react to airlines dropping mask rules, and share how they plan to stay safe from Omicron variants while flying

Masks are optional on planes, trains, and buses in most places across the country, but experts explain why they're keeping theirs on for now. The majority of travelers at Los Angeles International Airport were still wearing their face coverings on April 18, 2022.Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images A federal judge in Florida struck down the mask mandate on public transport Monday, calling it unlawful. Masks are optional on planes, trains, and buses across the country now, according to the TSA. But public health experts say it's still a good idea to keep wearing one, especially as the BA.2 Omicron variant spreads.   Masks are now officially optional for travelers in most places across the US. On Monday, the Transportation Security Administration said it will no longer enforce a federal mask requirement on public transportation and in transit hubs nationwide. The TSA's announcement came after a federal judge in Florida ruled the mask mandate was unlawful, arguing that it "exceeded the CDC's statutory authority." But leading public health experts told Insider why they will continue masking up when on planes, despite the rule change."I am concerned that removing this mask mandate does increase the risks of transmission at a time when we're seeing a surge in the BA.2 variant," Leonard Marcus, co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard, said. "My hope was that by being cautious for another two weeks, while we're in the middle of this potential surge, we would be better on the other end, and that the chances that we could relax the mask mandate safely would be different two weeks from now."Airplanes do have high quality air filtration systems — but they're not always on, and they don't protect you from everythingAir filtration systems are sometimes turned off when planes are on the ground.ShutterstockGigi Gronvall, an epidemiologist and Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said she'll keep wearing her mask on planes and in other public indoor spaces, despite the Florida ruling. "Definitely, the highest risk is when you're getting on the plane and getting off it," Gronvall said.Any time that large groups of people from different places are congregating indoors without masks or tests during the pandemic has the potential to be a high-risk COVID-spreading event. People may be infectious with very few symptoms, or totally unaware they have COVID, spreading it to others unknowingly. And, with maskless air travel, people can spread more contagious variants into new geographic areas more quickly, which is what seems to be happening in Europe already.Marcus, like Gronvall, said the mask order relaxation isn't going to derail his travel plans, but it's also not going to change his behavior while traveling. "I'm flying next week," he said. "I will be wearing an N95 mask, and I'll be wearing another mask over it, to keep it real tight."Marcus, and his team at the Aviation Public Health Initiative, recently assembled a set of two expert briefs on how to stay safe from COVID-19 at the airport. Their recommendations included masking, as well as other disease mitigation measures like recommending airlines leave the ventilation systems on planes running, even during boarding and de-planing."To reduce the risks of disease transmission, there should be multiple layers of protection for both the crew and passengers," Marcus said. "My recommendation to travelers and to crew is to continue wearing the masks. The protections that we get are reduced now, because there are probably going to be a lot of people not wearing masks."Ventilation systems on planes work well in flight, but "if you have somebody who's sitting in the row in front of you who's coughing, the air handling system's not gonna help you with that," Gronvall said. "I definitely appreciate that wearing a mask on planes is not as great as not wearing one," she added, acknowledging the inconvenience, while also stressing "it's just something to keep the viruses to yourself, it shouldn't be as big a deal as it is."Tips for vulnerable people preparing for a maskless flightGronvall said she was worried that the new ruling could "make it really hard" to bring masks back "if there is another variant that is much more severe." She said it's "really unfair that people have to take on this burden to try to protect themselves," especially children under 5 years old who can't be vaccinated, or immunocompromised patients who can't derive good protection from vaccines. "It's so frustrating that we don't have a vaccine for people under five at this point," Gronvall said. Former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Twitter "this isn't just about planes," either, imagining the risks that immunocompromised people like cancer patients might have to take when boarding a poorly-ventilated bus to seek treatment. Mask mandates on public transport are also especially beneficial to the workers, who are exposed to travelers all day.Gronvall suggests that people who are worried about the mask change make a testing plan, be vigilant about their ventilation, get good quality masks, and consider where they might get access to monoclonal antibodies or antiviral pills if they do test positive. (The federal government has a test-to-treat website online.) "It's just not a great situation," she said. "People have to think more carefully about how they can reduce their own risks." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 19th, 2022

What to know about the ultra-infectious Omicron subvariants circulating the US as COVID rates rise, Broadway shows pause, and a mask mandate returns

It's possible that the new, ultra-infectious subvariants driving up cases now could be a sign the virus is settling into a more predictable pattern. A protestor wears a helmet decorated as a COVID-19 virus at the Los Angeles "Defeat the Mandates" rally on April 10, 2022.AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes New, more infectious versions of COVID-19 are spreading in areas of the US. The new subvariants are leading to a surge in cases along parts of the East Coast. But experts say this continued viral evolution, taking place within Omicron, may actually be good news. The mayor of New York. The speaker of the House. Sarah Jessica Parker. They are just three of the many Americans who've recently caught COVID-19, in a wave of infections that's being blamed for cancelled Broadway shows, and a prolonging of the federal mask mandate for travel.It's almost certainly all because of viral evolution within Omicron.Coronavirus cases are on a steady uptick along the Eastern Seaboard of the US, from Washington DC to New York and Boston. The uptick is so pronounced that Philadelphia recently reinstituted its mask mandate for public indoor spaces.The current case rates pale in comparison to those recorded in the initial Omicron surge at the beginning of the year, but wastewater data — a reliable way to track COVID — suggests the level of virus circulating in the community is going back up to heights not seen since early February in many places on the East Coast. The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Manhattan has been rising steadily since mid-March.COVID Alert NYThis uptick in the northeast is likely being driven by more infectious Omicron subvariants, which have evolved further from the Omicron that was first detected in the US in late 2021. Though it might sound scary, this pace of reconfiguration and proliferation in the Omicron family, it's actually nothing unusual — viruses do this kind of mingling and reproducing all the time.In fact, it's possible that this could be a sign the virus is settling into a more predictable trajectory, and some experts say that could be good news.The Omicron subvariants to know about, from BA.2 to XEAround the world, countries including Botswana, Belgium, and Denmark have detected other, highly infectious Omicron subvariants, such as BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.In the UK, where case rates have been high in the past couple of months, virus trackers recently identified a recombinant version of Omicron — a mixture of BA.1 and BA.2 — called XE. It's unclear whether XE will ever spread very far, and only a handful of XE cases have been detected so far in the US.In the US, experts say the most prevalent coronavirus strains now are all versions of BA.2, which is responsible for about 85% of cases nationwide.Why new Omicron subvariants aren't necessarily a bad thingOmicron is, genetically speaking, quite different from other versions of the virus we've seen during the pandemic, and its emergence was impossible to predict. But now that Omicron is dominant, experts are cautiously optimistic that evolution of the virus may stay Omicron-specific for a little while.Nextstrain via FDA VRBPAC meeting, April 6, 2022.So far, the newly-detected Omicron subvariants are marginally more transmissible than BA.1, giving them an advantage on the viral playing field. But these subvariants don't seem to be any more dangerous to people, and aren't causing different symptoms. They're still Omicron relatives.Epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina said in her newsletter last week that continued viral evolution within Omicron "may be good news," for two key reasons:For now, an Omicron infection likely provides some pretty good temporary immunity against other Omicrons, which means that since already more than half of the US has had the variant, we may get a nice break from high COVID-19 case counts over the next few months.Continued evolution within Omicron would help us better prepare and plan. For the past two years, COVID-19 has been on an unpredictable tear, morphing from Alpha to Beta Delta and Omicron, without giving clear clues about whether it'll bear much resemblance to previous variants. If viral evolution drifts in a more predictable, flu-like pattern, it will become much easier to plan new vaccines and be ready to tackle the virus's next moves.We know that 99.2% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that the world is dealing with is Omicron, and both cases and deaths are coming down. Vaccines and booster shots still work extremely well against this virus when it comes to severe outcomes, as do well-fitted respirators and face masks made from medical-grade materials. "I'm going to try my best to avoid it," Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN's Kate Bolduan on Wednesday of Omicron. "It will be out there, and I'm going to have to make risk assessments. I'm vaccinated, I'm doubly boosted, and I'm not careless in what I do. Does that mean I'm not going to get infected? No. I think everyone has some degree of risk. The risk is not zero for anyone unless you stay in your room and don't come out."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 14th, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via Medium.com, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, www.instagram.com/upgradeur_life Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

2 leading disease modelers predict low COVID rates this summer — but we may need new vaccines by fall

Infectious disease modelers told the FDA we're "peaking" at around 80% immunity against Omicron now, but that level of protection won't last. A skater in Campo das Cebolas square on April 1, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal.Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images Modelers suspect "we are peaking at about 80% protection right now against Omicron" in the US. 2 leading experts who often resist making strong predictions say they are fairly confident we will have a peaceful summer, COVID-wise. Experts expect more infections in the fall, which may mean more booster shots or a new vaccine. After more than two years of nonstop COVID surprises, experts are understandably wary to make any sweeping predictions about exactly what will happen next. But two of the smartest infectious disease modelers in the US are suggesting that maybe — just maybe — we might catch a decent break from COVID this summer. Dr. Chris Murray, who directs the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told experts at a US Food and Drug Administration vaccines meeting on Wednesday that there may be "not much impact" of BA.2 on Americans this spring and summer, as many have feared.In the US, he said, "we are peaking at about 80% protection right now against Omicron." His prediction is propped up by the fact that scientists believe there is good cross-protection from earlier Omicron infections toward the currently dominating BA.2 Omicron subvariant. "We're at the tail end of the global Omicron wave, with the exception of China," Murray said.Combine the immunity from earlier Omicron infections with immunity from other variants, as well as vaccines and boosters, and you have a strong immunity soup cooking in the US, for now at least. Another top virus modeler, Trevor Bedford, the "genius" computational virologist from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, agreed that the US looks set for a stable summer.Speaking at the FDA meeting this week, Bedford said "we should be planning for" BA.2 to be the biggest thorn in our side over the next 12 months, with the variant becoming nimbler and more transmissible as it evolves — but that's not necessarily a terrible thing, since our collective immunity against BA.2 is strong. (The IHME, where Murray works, predicts that once the BA.2 wave is complete worldwide, about 60% of the globe will have been infected with some kind of Omicron, which means the COVID immunity of the globe will be at its most robust yet.)"Upper airway exposures that cause very mild or no disease will boost the responses, and keep you immune," Dr. Barney Graham, one of the co-inventors of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health, told Insider previously.  Murray won't totally rule out the idea that the country could see many more COVID infections in the coming weeks. It's still possible the US could experience a big uptick in cases in the coming month as the UK has, or even a jump in deaths, as Denmark and Hong Kong recently experienced. But it's also conceivable that the US's BA.2 wave will be a smaller blip, like Spain's or South Africa's.We can't predict when a new variant might hit, but we are better prepared for it than we've ever been beforeFDA VRBPAC April 6, 2022One key question modelers don't have good answers for is whether, and when, we might some day see a completely new variant, or a "reversion back to higher severity variants," like Delta, Murray said.If a new variant were to emerge this summer, there's a possibility for more large outbreaks, and lots of fatality.However, we're in a different place now than we were when Delta emerged last year. Antiviral drugs that are available now could keep more people alive, compared to previous waves. Pharmaceutical companies are also discussing the need for a more comprehensive multivalent vaccine that could target various mutations at the same time.And, with time, we may get a better handle on how to model the virus's next moves.Ideally, "if SARS-CoV-2's future becomes more predictable, then we'll be able to anticipate mutations and prepare," infectious disease expert Katelyn Jetelina said in her newsletter on Friday.After all, "it's only been two years," which is a true blink in the eye of a virus's evolution. It's possible that this virus will simply continue evolving from BA.2 Omicron, and taking on more "flu-like drift" at this point, she said. Whatever happens next, whether viral evolution continues to be driven by BA.2 or not, most experts expect COVID cases could tick back up again in the fall, as people move indoors, and Omicron immunity wanes. At that point, even if we sail through a peaceful summer, we will likely return to the same question: is it time for more boosters?Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 8th, 2022

Bet on These 4 Low-Beta, High-Dividend MedTech Stocks for 2022

Stocks like Becton, Dickinson and Company (BDX), Phibro Animal Health (PAHC), McKesson Corporation (MCK) and UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH) are right picks with strong fundamentals. Healthcare has traditionally been one of the most stable and recession-resistant sectors. Irrespective of the in-hand income status, everyone needs healthcare at some point.Going by a WHO report, about $8.3 trillion is spent on healthcare globally and almost $3.8 trillion in the United States alone. With the healthcare sector growing considerably faster than the overall global economy, these numbers will likely swell by the end of the decade.Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed MedTech, a major healthcare wing, into the limelight. Over the past couple of years, medical devices and supplies have been in demand consistently, with ventilators, diagnostic equipment, and PPE being needed by healthcare systems struggling to fight the global crisis. For 2022, data shows that MedTech has not only weathered major challenges but has entered a period of renewal.However, considering the ongoing emergence of new COVID-19 variants across the globe, investors keen on MedTech stocks should ideally focus on low-beta and high-yield dividend MedTech companies with sustainable business models and a long track of profitability. Considering this, stocks like Becton, Dickinson and Company BDX, Phibro Animal Health Corporation PAHC, McKesson Corporation MCK and UnitedHealth Group Inc UNH seem like the right picks.Dividend Yield Stocks With Low Beta: A Winning StrategyAmid the market turmoil, it is prudent to adopt a longer-term investing strategy and pick some dividend-paying, low-beta MedTech stocks which are fundamentally strong.Dividend acts as a major source of consistent income for investors in any market though it does not offer impressive price appreciation. While several dividend stocks could provide capital appreciation, focusing on those with a history of dividend growth should lead to a healthy portfolio with greater scope for capital appreciation instead of simple dividend-paying stocks or those with high yields.One measure that captures the downside protection provided by these stocks is beta, which calculates an individual stock's volatility versus the overall market. Any beta below 1.0 indicates a stock that is less volatile than the market. The calming effect of lower beta is most apparent during periods of stock market decline.We suggest investors consider stocks with low beta (less than 1), which tend to be less volatile with rising dividend yield.Choosing the Right StocksWe have used the Zacks Stock Screener to narrow down on three stocks that provide regular dividends with low beta and have a favorable Zacks Rank.Becton, Dickinson and Company (also known as BD) is witnessing significant improvement in base revenues and robust performances by the majority of its segments. BD Medical segment’s Medication Delivery Solutions business recorded strong growth in the United States in the reported quarter, particularly in catheters and vascular care products. The strength in Pharmaceutical Systems on the back of continued strong demand for pre-fillable devices enabled by capacity expansion is promising. BD has collaborated with ReturnSafe (the all-in-one software solution for COVID-19 employee health, safety and compliance) in February to integrate the BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Test directly within the ReturnSafe testing management platform. Moreover, a raised financial outlook for fiscal 2022 buoys optimism.Becton, Dickinson and Company Price Becton, Dickinson and Company price | Becton, Dickinson and Company QuoteBD, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), raised its dividend six times in the past five years, with its payout growing 29% over the period. BDX has a 5-year annualized dividend growth rate of 3.55%. It has a beta of 0.65.Phibro’s fiscal second quarter marked the highest single quarter of sales in the company's history. Robust performances by the Animal Health and Mineral Health segments buoy optimism. The company’s raised revenue and EPS guidance for fiscal 2022 on improving business trends instill confidence in the stock. Phibro’s existing operations and established sales, marketing and distribution network in more than 75 countries provide it with ample scope to take advantage of global growth opportunities. Moreover, Phibro is focusing on new developments along with incremental registrations and growing volumes of existing nutritional specialties and vaccine technologies.Phibro Animal Health Corporation Price Phibro Animal Health Corporation price | Phibro Animal Health Corporation QuotePhibro, carrying a Zacks Rank #2, raised its dividend once in the past five years, with its payout growing 38% over the period. PAHC has a 5-year annualized dividend growth rate of 4.71%. It has a beta of 0.52.McKesson’s strong position in the Distribution market continues to favor the stock. The company played a crucial role in the COVID-19 response efforts in the United States and abroad via the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, ancillary supply kits and COVID-19 tests. The company played a key role in the COVID-19 response efforts in the United States and abroad by distributing COVID-19 vaccines, ancillary supply kits and COVID-19 tests. Its strong business model and differentiated capabilities aided business growth and delivered value to shareholders. Furthermore, McKesson continues to actively pursue deals, divestitures and acquisitions to drive growth.McKesson Corporation Price McKesson Corporation price | McKesson Corporation QuoteMcKesson, carrying a Zacks Rank #2, raised its dividend five times in the past five years, with its payout growing 8% over the period. MCK has a 5-year annualized dividend growth rate of 8.41%. It has a beta of 0.72.UnitedHealth Group’s top line has been growing and the momentum should continue in the years ahead on the back of a strong market position and an attractive core business that continues to be driven by new deals, renewed agreements and expansion of service offerings.   Its expansion of the health services segment and international business provides significant diversification benefits and shields against stringent regulations in the United States. For 2022, the company expects revenues in the range of $317-$320 billion, the midpoint of which indicates an upside of 10.7% from the 2021 reported figure.UnitedHealth Group Incorporated Price UnitedHealth Group Incorporated price | UnitedHealth Group Incorporated QuoteUnited Health, carrying a Zacks Rank #2, raised its dividend five times in the past five years, with its payout growing 31% over the period. UNH has a 5-year annualized dividend growth rate of 17.18%. It has a beta of 0.88. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. Special Report: The Top 5 IPOs for Your Portfolio Today, you have a chance to get in on the ground floor of one of the best investment opportunities of the year. As the world continues to benefit from an ever-evolving internet, a handful of innovative tech companies are on the brink of reaping immense rewards - and you can put yourself in a position to cash in. One is set to disrupt the online communication industry. Brilliantly designed for creating online communities, this stock is poised to explode when made public. With the strength of our economy and record amounts of cash flooding into IPOs, you don’t want to miss this opportunity.>>See Zacks’ Hottest IPOs NowWant the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (UNH): Free Stock Analysis Report Becton, Dickinson and Company (BDX): Free Stock Analysis Report McKesson Corporation (MCK): Free Stock Analysis Report Phibro Animal Health Corporation (PAHC): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksApr 8th, 2022

Woke Medicine"s Got A Tricky Operation: Grafting "Systemic Racism" Onto Hard Science

Woke Medicine's Got A Tricky Operation: Grafting 'Systemic Racism' Onto Hard Science Authored b John Murawski via RealClear Investigations, Just a few years ago, concepts such as “white supremacy,” “systemic racism,” and “structural intersectionality” were not the standard fare of prestigious medical journals. These are now the guiding ideas in a February special issue of “Health Affairs” that focuses on medicine and race. Piron Guillaume Featuring nearly two dozen articles with titles such as “Racism Runs Through It” and “Sick and Tired of Being Excluded,” as well as a poem called “Identity,” the Washington, D.C.-based, peer-reviewed journal analyzes racial health disparities not through biology, behavior, or culture, but through the lens of  “whiteness,” along with concepts such as power, systems of oppression, state-sanctioned violence, and critical race praxis – a sampling of terms that come up in the February issue. Health Affairs, dubbed by a Washington Post columnist as “the bible of health policy,” represents something much more ambitious than woke virtue signaling. Its February issue reflects the effort of newly empowered “anti-racist” scholars to transform concepts that are still considered speculative and controversial – and some say unprovable – into scientific fact. This growing effort to document, measure, and quantify racism is being advanced by other high-profile publications, including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and Scientific American, which last year ran articles entitled “Modern Mathematics Confronts Its White, Patriarchal Past” and “Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy.” But this scientific aspiration faces major challenges. Science demands verification, testability, and replicability, whereas race is a social construct that can be difficult to separate from factors like class or culture, and explaining the data often remains dependent on academic theories about systemic racism. The articles in Health Affairs indicate that elevating the concept of systemic racism from moral certitude to scientific fact will require developing new tools and methods – and even more theories – in the face of skepticism and resistance from dissenters who view this direction in research as unscientific and ideological. For example, five co-authors of the Health Affairs article “Improving the Measurement of Structural Racism to Achieve Antiracist Policy” observe that “there is a disconnect between the conceptualization and measurement of structural racism in the public health literature” – that is to say that acceptance of the idea outpaces the evidence for it. In a Health Affairs paper titled “The Intellectual Roots of Current Knowledge on Racism and Health,” researchers from Harvard University and the University of Maryland argue that turning the study of systemic racism into a scientific enterprise will require the scientific community to embrace terminology and research that “can be unsettling to some”: Until recently, the language and terminology of racism has been contested, often ignored, and viewed as not relevant to, or acceptable for, accounting for and intervening on racial and ethnic inequities in health. The Harvard and Maryland scholars identify “the critical need for paradigmatic shifts that incorporate racism as a driver of inequities,” noting that “scientific language has the power to encourage normative standards.” In another article, a team of five scholars calls for “outlining specific methodological approaches that will move the field forward.” Those pushing the effort expect that it will take years to build up a knowledge base and critical mass of scholarly research. If successful, it would empower the anti-racist movement with what advocates expect to be recognized as unimpeachable scientific authority that could be used to support a myriad of diversity and equity policies and interventions that are now being advocated as moral and polemical arguments by legal scholars, educators, historians, and journalists. According to researchers now studying the relationship of medicine and race, racial inequalities in lifespans, health, income, and other metrics largely result from a single cause: cultural norms and unconscious beliefs that have the appearance of colorblindness but systematically privilege whites and males at the expense of groups that lack power and are oppressed. Since the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer in May 2020, the cultural elites advocating this view – whether one calls it wokeness, systemic racism, critical race theory, or just the truth – are no longer marginalized outsiders. They are now in charge of many leading institutions that produce culture and certify knowledge through the media, publishing, universities, scholarly journals, foundations and advocacy groups, large K-12 school systems, and the sprawling apparatus of the federal government. Although medical research informed by critical race theory has been conducted for decades, its broad embrace by the field’s highest echelons has been both sudden and expansive. Alan Weil, Health Affairs’ editor-in-chief, committed the journal to “dismantling institutional racism” in January 2021. Scientists must question their assumptions about merit, quality, and excellence and make room for new research designs, methods, paradigms, and theories, Weil suggested, because traditional scientific protocols can make it impossible to study racism in the United States or recognize the problem within their own institutions. “The reason it’s relevant is because if you decide only certain [research] methods are valid, then you have also decided that certain questions cannot be answered – they can’t even be asked,” Weil said in a phone interview. “I view this as a call to researchers to try to look at questions that they might have historically passed by -- or viewed as ones that couldn’t be studied.” Mass Brigham General, where equity is now a core part of the institutional culture, like patient safety. Mass Brigham General The February issue of Health Affairs provides examples of how the new approach to research can be implemented to make the case for the pervasiveness of systemic racism in routine aspects of society. The first of the nearly two dozen articles in the February issue sets the tone. The article describes an anti-racist initiative at the Mass General Brigham health system, where measuring and attaining equity – an ideal of equal health outcomes across racial groups – is now a core component of the institutional culture, like patient safety. One thing that system leaders are not doing: studying whether or not racism actually affects health outcomes. “They believe that this fundamental question has already been answered,” the article states. The anti-racist initiative, called United Against Racism, will cost $40 million in the first year alone. “The initiative has no set end date,” the article states, and a system executive “expects their budget to increase every year.” Another article urges the need to teach white Americans “the truth” about racial oppression, “despite the discomfort that it generates.” True racial progress requires the “understanding by White people of how they have benefited from systemic racism” – and how much more they stand to gain from social justice. An article about the generational trauma of racism recommends respect for “Indigenous principles” and adopting a policy of federal reimbursement to traditional Native American healers who perform ceremonial and spiritual interventions. There are also articles about black women in low-wage jobs in the healthcare sector; about black people living farther from rural hospitals than whites; about racial and minority Medicaid enrollees reporting significantly worse experiences; an article titled “Addressing the Interlocking Impact Of Colonialism And Racism On Filipinx/a/o American Health Inequities,” and more. Medicine is just one of the major American institutions that has committed itself to equity. The seemingly overnight transformation has not been without its share of “cancellations” and controversy over such issues as prioritizing non-whites for Covid vaccines and suspending conventional academic standards to boost diversity. As high-profile journals advance the systemic racism argument, other influential institutions are putting the contested ideas into practice. The American Medical Association’s 86-page strategic plan for racial justice and health equity also challenges the morality of prevailing standards of quality and merit as a strategy of protecting the privileged domain of white males: The AMA condemns “equal treatment” and meritocracy as “malignant” white supremacist ideologies that obscure “true power and site of responsibility.” The Association of American Medical Colleges, which co-sponsors the accrediting body for U.S. medical schools, is working to establish an advocacy culture in medical schools that haven’t yet gotten with the program voluntarily. The AAMC is expected to issue an update this year to its recommended professional “competencies,”  the AAMC's term for professional standards and best practices, that medical schools would be encouraged to adopt. The proposed competencies include practicing self-reflection, “allyship,” and cultural humility, as well as attaining fluency in the “various systems of oppression,” to wit: colonization, white supremacy, acculturation, and assimilation. For medical school faculty, the AAMC sets such professional expectations as teaching “how systems of power, privilege, and oppression inform policies and practices and how to engage with systems to disrupt oppressive practices.” Not surprisingly, the handful of people who are willing to risk their careers and reputations to publicly critique anything to do with systemic racism and equity say the medical establishment has become captive to a leftist ideological agenda. These dissenters argue that “anti-racism” can be hard to distinguish from anti-science when it fixates on a single variable (race), selectively seeks out data to prove a hypothesis (confirmation bias), ignores plausible alternative explanations – and worst of all – silences criticism.  “Confounding science with political ideology is never good,” said Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, whose monthly column was terminated at Scientific American after 18 years in a disagreement over what Shermer saw as woke ideology infecting the venerable publication. “They’re saying we already know the answer – the answer is racism,” Shermer said in a phone interview with RealClearInvestigations. “We’re going to ignore all the other variables. They’re just reducing complex problems to one variable.” Stop and frisk: "Racialized violence" by police impacts health, self-described antiracist scholars say. Franklin This embrace of systemic racism is piggybacking on a long tradition of public health research that attributes population health disparities to social conditions, going back to a study by Friedrich Engels in the 1840s that said life expectancies in Liverpool, England, varied by the occupation of the city’s residents. For generations, however, the mainstream medical establishment understood racial health disparities to be a matter of genetics, behavior, culture, class – or a combination of these factors. Public health scholars, meanwhile, have been pouring forth hundreds of scholarly articles that attribute racial disparities in heart disease, diabetes, mental illness and other key metrics to societal conditions. Health Affairs traces the evolution of racism as medical scourge through the release of “Unequal Treatment,” the groundbreaking 2003 Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) report that said black people received inferior care in nearly every medical category. More recent is the 2019 declaration by the Pan American Health Organization, a regional arm of the World Health Organization, that structural racism is a key driver of health inequity, followed by the 2021 declaration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that racism is a public health threat. The Health Affairs articles in the February special issue rely on sociological theories, personal testimonials, and even poetry to augment traditional scientific protocols. Because there is no single correct way to measure structural racism, the five scholars “encourage the use of a theory-driven approach” to interpret data that would otherwise have to be treated as random or inconclusive. For such scholars, theory is often the connective tissue that can link practices or events that, to the untrained eye, might seem too remote or speculative or simply unrelated. Within the narrative structure of a productive theory, facts fall neatly into place, and hidden patterns emerge. Thus, theories are the key to linking sociological phenomena separated by 50, 100, and even 200 years. “Future studies should examine how modern health is shaped by a wider array of past forms of structural racism, such as slavery, lynching, unequal treatment in the criminal-legal system, forced sterilization, and other manifestations of racialized violence,” according to the quintet of academic scholars. “Theory suggests inextricable links,” they say, “with historical forms directing, constructing, and molding contemporary structural racism.” Researchers from Duke University and Florida State University argue that depriving African American felons of the right to vote affects the health of the entire community. The co-authors acknowledge they can’t directly prove that voting prohibitions for convicted felons harmed community health, but they noted that “there is a strong theoretical basis on which to expect that racialized disenfranchisement affects health.”  The article states that living in states with higher levels of “racialized felony disfranchisement” is "associated with" worse physical and mental health among black people, such as more symptoms of depression and functional limitations. The article concludes that "enacting laws to dismantle racialized felony disenfranchisement would likely improve the health of Black people and make progress toward achieving health equity." That claim includes footnotes that take the reader to three other articles – one based on “ecosocial theory,” another drawing on sociologist Bruce Link's theory of “stigma power,” and another resting on the theory of “fundamental causes.” These articles provide the so-called theoretical basis for concluding that stripping felons of the right to vote affects community health. (The Link theory posited that "stigma is a form of power" used to control, exploit, and dominate people with mental illness.)  “Skeptics dismiss structural racism as a slippery concept for which robust empirical evidence documenting its effects is lacking,” the two researchers declare in their paper. “This study provides empirical evidence that makes it harder to dismiss the links between health and structural racism manifested as disproportionate Black felony disenfranchisement.” Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a kidney specialist who retired last year from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, agreed to review this article for RCI. A former associate dean of curriculum at Penn’s medical school, Goldfarb said the Health Affairs article contains all the mandatory caveats about its methodological limitations, and then ignores them. “This approach just drives me crazy. It’s basically finding associations and claiming it proves causality,” Goldfarb said. “They are going to find evidence for their theory because they are trying to do everything they can to prove their theory. That’s why they keep saying: We have to find the evidence.”  Alan Weil declined to discuss critiques of individual Health Affairs articles, and the lead author of the felon study and of the hospital study didn’t respond to RealClearInvestigations’ emails. But Weil, and others, say the anti-racist imperative in medicine is no more of an ideological “agenda” than the quest to discover a cure for cancer. Moreover, the advocates assert that the imperative to dismantle systemic racism is more urgent because it is more lethal than cancer. “These sociopolitical exposures are exposures, just like we study in cancer research,” said Katherine Theall, a social epidemiologist and professor of public health at Tulane University. “And they’re even more powerful in many ways across a host of health outcomes.” One way of summarizing this dispute is that traditionalists like Goldfarb are suspicious of scholarly activism as a corrupting influence on science, whereas researchers like Weil and Theall are suspicious of neutrality and colorblindness as an invisibility cloak for systemic racism. “We want objective science, but there’s a point in public health, too, where we need to be doing more consequential work,” said Theall, a co-author of one of the Health Affairs articles. “We should be doing more advocacy, we should be trying to change these factors that we know matter for health.” Weil describes researchers as “heroic” for trying to make sense of a complicated problem for which there is no single measure, but whose existence is beyond dispute. “I don’t find the existence of systemic racism to be a controversial or difficult question to answer,” Weil said. “I see it around me all the time. I think the evidence base is so clear that I don’t want to spend a lot of my time trying to figure out whether or not the problem exists.” Other articles in Health Affairs seek to document evidence of systemic racism in unexpected places. The team of scholars that includes Theall suggests that urban policing, specifically stop-and-frisk encounters, can lead to domestic violence and violent crime, as well as to poorer community health. Theall said there are a number of theories scholars can “pull off the shelf” to analyze the effect of stop-and-frisk encounters on community health and local crime. But the causality is complicated, she said, because some effects, like heart disease and obesity, can take years to develop. Other effects, like rates of smoking or inadequate physical activity, could happen relatively quickly. And taking this tack requires scholars to connect smoking for the alleviation of stress, or a reluctance to go outside for exercise, to police harassment – as opposed to connecting it to, say, gang terror. Theall said it takes years of effort and reams of studies to create a convincing case, patiently building evidence and refining methods. “Our thesis is that even if you’re not a perpetrator of violence, for example, that level of community stress, of over-policing, is important for health,” Theall said. “And it’s important for that production of violence, whether that’s additional violent crime in the neighborhood or maybe the stress of living in a stressful neighborhood and what that might do for domestic violence.”  Theall’s article focuses on data from New Orleans. The article notes that the city had the fourth-highest murder rate in the United States in 2019 – a rate five times the national average. Much of the action in Theall’s article takes place in the substratum of footnotes. The cited research relies on an array of sociological, psychological, and criminological theories that associate cops with harmful effects, including stress and distrust, the latter presumably causing residents not to call 911 for police assistance when they need it. One of the articles cited by Theall (in footnote 27), in turn, cites previous articles that have been passed down from paper to paper. And it is here, burrowing into the footnotes, where one can find explanations and theories that speculate on how policing can lead to crime and poor health. “Policing may also have epigenetic implications,” the reader learns, “whereby chronic exposure to stress from a particularly imposing police presence can lead to altered gene transcription/expression and epigenetic changes that can be passed on to subsequent generations.” But with so many theories to choose from, could a researcher be tempted to cherry-pick a theory, or just make one up, to make the data tell a coherent story about how cops are escalating crime and violence and community illness?   “I don’t know the best answer for that, but I see where it can be a critique,” Theall said. “I would just think that’s probably not the route most researchers are taking in terms of analyzing their data, and then finding a theory to fit it.”  To the contrary, Theall believes some scholars are so scrupulous that they “overcontrol” for random factors and end up with research findings that are inconclusive. She said that because papers with negative findings tend not to get published as often as papers with splashy results – a research phenomenon called publication bias – a misimpression can result, that anti-racist scholars find racism everywhere they look.   Still, there is a theory in criminology called “the Ferguson effect,” developed after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that posits the opposite of Theall’s: that crime increases when cops reduce pro-active policing. Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. (not related to the Ferguson effect theory), agreed to read Theall’s paper for RCI. He described this scholarship as a classic example of stubborn data being shoehorned into an uncooperative theory. “This feels like an example of institutional capture, where you’re only good if you buy into the theory,” he said, “and therefore everything is seen through the lens of that theory, no matter how much you have to torture the data to make that happen.” Ferguson is a hardcore skeptic of this sort of research. In a Quillette article last December, he described his resignation from the American Psychological Association as a protest against the organization’s embrace of wokeness. In the long run, Ferguson predicted, this research approach will prove unsustainable. “We’re in this confirmatory mode where people try to find evidence and not look at alternative explanations,” he said. “That’s the best way to form a consensus – just exclude the scholars who disagree. “What happens is, other scholars begin to pick at it and it falls apart,” Ferguson added. “Twenty years out this is going to look like a huge embarrassment.” email: jmurawski@realclearinvestigations.com Twitter: @johnmurawski Tyler Durden Wed, 04/06/2022 - 21:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 6th, 2022

What Is The "Great Reset" And What Do The Globalists Actually Want?

What Is The "Great Reset" And What Do The Globalists Actually Want? Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.us, I first heard the phrase “Great Reset” way back in 2014. Christine Lagarde, who was head of the IMF at the time, was suddenly becoming very vocal about global centralization. It was an agenda that was generally only whispered about in the dark corners of institutional white papers and the secretive meetings of banking elites, but now these people were becoming rather loud about it. Lagarde was doing a Q&A at the World Economic Forum and the notion of the “Reset” was very deliberately brought up; what the project entailed was vague, but the basic root of it was a dramatic shift away from the current economic, social and political models of the world into a globally centralized and integrated system – A “New World Order,” if you will… It’s important to remember that we had just jumped through the fires of an international credit collapse which started in 2008 and had continued to cause uncertainty in markets for years. The central banks had dumped tens of trillions of dollars worth of stimulus into the system just to keep it on life support. Some of us in the alternative media believed that these actions were not meant to save the economy, only zombify the economy through currency devaluation and inflation. Not long down the road, this zombie creation would turn on us and try to eat us alive, and only the central bankers new exactly when this would occur. Think of the crash of 2008 as Stage 1 of the Reset agenda; the globalists were getting cocky and were ready to unveil their plans to the public. Lagarde’s discussion at the WEF was also held around the time that Klaus Schwab was introducing his 4th Industrial Revolution concept, which is a little more forward with what the globalists really want. He talks excitedly of a true “global society” and a world in which people turn to Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a better means of governance. He even suggests that laws would eventually be dictated by AI and that courts would be run by robots. Of course, he admits that this cannot happen without a period of economic deconstruction in which people and governments will have to choose between sacrifice for the sake of stability or continued pain in the name of holding on to the “old ways.” Look at it this way: The Great Reset is the action or the chaos, and the 4th Industrial Revolution is the intended result or planned “order.” That is to say, it’s a new order created out of engineered chaos. Yeah, it sounds like bad science fiction, but remember these are the people that enjoy the undivided attention of many of our political leaders and they rub elbows with the central bankers at the Federal Reserve. I’ll say it again: The proponents of the Great Reset and the 4th Industrial Revolution, who want to completely undermine and reconstitute our society and way of life, are close partners with our national leaders and the very bankers that could force such a reset to happen through a deliberate collapse. The globalists have been trying to rebrand and repackage their New World Order agenda for many years, and the Reset was what they came up with. Rather than being innocuous sounding, the term threatens systemic upheaval and an erasure of the past. When you “reset” something it usually goes back to zero – A blank slate that the engineers can use to rewrite the code and the functions. But what does this really mean? What do the globalists REALLY WANT? Here are the details, so far as I can prove or support with evidence, of what the “Great Reset” actually is and what programs they hope to enforce: Total Global Economic Centralization Some people might claim that we already have global economic centralization, but they don’t understand what this really means. While national central banks are all members of the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements and take their marching orders from these institutions, what the globalists want is open global governance of finance, probably through the IMF. In other words, it’s not enough that they manipulate economies secretly by using national central banks as proxies; what they want is to stop hiding and to come out into the light as the magnanimous rulers they think they are. The ultimate goal of full centralization is to erase the very idea of free markets and to allow a handful of people to micromanage every aspect of trade and business. It’s not just about influence, it’s about economic empire. But in order to achieve a global central bank they must first implement a one world currency plan. A One World Digital Currency System The IMF has been talking about using their Special Drawing Rights basket as the foundation for a global currency for years (since at least the year 2000). Around a decade ago China started taking on trillions of dollars in debt just to qualify as a member of the SDR system, and the IMF has hinted that when all is said and done that system will go digital. All that is needed is the right kind of crisis to shock the public into compliance. This was evident at the height of the covid pandemic lockdowns and the threat of economic disaster when globalist institutions began to suggest that the IMF’s SDR could be used as a safety net for nations, with strings attached, of course. But beyond the stresses of the pandemic there is a much bigger crisis; namely the stagflationary crisis now on our doorstep. With multiple national currencies in decline and the dollar’s world reserve status increasingly in question, I have no doubt that the globalists will take the opportunity to offer the public their digital currency as a solution. The new system would be more like a phantom currency for a time. The SDR would be the glue or the backing while national currencies remain in circulation until the digital framework becomes pervasive. The IMF and the people behind it would become the defacto world central bank, with the power to steer the course of all national economies through a single currency mechanism. On the micro-economic side, each and every individual would now be dependent on a digital currency or cryptocurrency which removes all privacy in trade. All transactions would be tracked, and by the very nature of blockchain technology and the digital ledger this would be required. The money elites wouldn’t have to explain the tracking, all they would have to say is “That’s how the technology functions; without the ledger it doesn’t work.” A Global Social Credit System The evil inherent in globalism was readily apparent during the recent lockdowns and the violent push for medical tyranny. Despite the fact that covid only had a median Infection Fatality Rate of only 0.27% according to dozens of official studies, the WEF contingent of politicians and world leaders were frothing at the mouth, proclaiming that the existence of covid gave them the right to take total control of people’s lives. Klaus Schwab and the WEF happily announced that the pandemic was the beginning of the “Great Reset” and the 4th Industrial Revolution, stating that the covid crisis presented a perfect “opportunity” for change. The vaccine passports were thankfully defeated by numerous conservative red states in the US, leading to the complete reversal of such policies across most of the western world. We were free for years while many blue states and other countries were facing authoritarianism and this caused a lot of problems for the globalists. It’s hard to institute a global medical dystopia when people around the world can look at the conservatives in the US and see that we are living just fine without the controls. The vax passports need to be understood as a first step towards something else – The beginning of a massive social credit system much like the one being used in China right now. If you think cancel culture is a nightmare today, just think what would happen if the collectivist mob had the power to drop a review bomb on your social credit account and declare you to be untouchable? Imagine if they had the power to simply shut down your ability to get a job, to shop in grocery stores and even shut down access to your money? Without your compliance to the collective, access to normal survival necessities would be impossible. This is what the globalists want, as they openly admitted at the start of the pandemic, and the vax passports would have been an introduction to that technocratic horror had we conservatives not stood our ground. You Will Own Nothing And Be Happy By 2030 The “Sharing Economy” (also sometimes referenced in parallel with “Stakeholder Capitalism”) is a concept that has been making the rounds in the WEF for a few years now. The media has attempted at every turn to spread lies and disinformation claiming that the plan does not exist; but again, it is openly admitted. The sharing economy is essentially a communistic economy, but distilled down to a bizarre minimalism even people who lived in the Soviet Union did not have to experience. The structure is described as a kind of commune based society in which people live in Section 8-style housing, with shared kitchens, shared bathrooms, and barely any privacy. All property is rented, or borrowed. All cars are borrowed and shared, most transit is mass transit, basic personal items such as computers, phones, and even cooking utensils might be shared or borrowed items. As the WEF says, you will own nothing. Being happy about it is another matter. The argument for this kind of society is of course that “climate change” and the frailties of consumer economics demand that we reduce our living standards to near zero and abandon the sacred ideal of property ownership for the sake of the planet. Set aside the fact that carbon based global warming is a farce. The world’s temperatures have only risen by 1 DEGREE CELSIUS in the span of a century, according to the NOAA. This was data that climate scientists had attempted to hide or gloss over for years, but now it is out there for everyone to see. There is no proof of man made global warming. None. The globalists have been scheming to use environmentalism as an excuse for centralization since at least 1972, when the Club Of Rome published a treatise titled ‘The Limits To Growth’. Twenty years later they would publish a book titled ‘The First Global Revolution.’ In that document they specifically recommend using global warming as a vehicle: “In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.” The statement comes from Chapter 5 – The Vacuum, which covers their position on the need for global government. The quote is relatively clear; a common enemy must be conjured in order to trick humanity into uniting under a single banner, and the elites see environmental catastrophe, caused by mankind itself, as the best possible motivator. They present the solution of the shared economy concept as if it is a new and bold idea. What the globalists ultimately want for their Great Reset, however, is a tidal wave reversal from freedom and individual prosperity back to a very old manner of doing things, similar to ancient feudalism. You become a peasant working on land owned by the elites, or by the state, and you will never be allowed to own that land. The only difference would be that in a feudal empire of the past peasants could not own land because of the class system. This time around, you won’t be allowed to own anything, including land, because wanting to own anything is “selfish” and destructive to the planet. Total Information Control The truth is a rare commodity these days, but nowhere near as rare as it will be if these elitists get what they want. The globalists are far more open about their agenda today than they have ever been before, and I suspect this is because they believe they will be able to rewrite the history of today’s events with impunity after the Reset unfolds. They think they will own the world of information and will be able to edit our cultural memory as they go. The mainstream media calls all of this “conspiracy theory.” I call it conspiracy reality. It’s hard to deny openly spoken admissions by the globalists themselves, all they can do is try to spin the information as much as possible to keep the public on the fence in terms of what needs to be done, which is a purge of the globalists from our country and perhaps the entire world. If we do not do this, there will come a time when nothing I say here is remembered and no evidence of the Reset plan will exist. The establishment will have eliminated all notions of it from written history, leaving only a fantasy tale of how the world collapsed and a small organization of “visionary” globalists saved it from oblivion through a new religion of centralization. *  *  * If you would like to support the work that Alt-Market does while also receiving content on advanced tactics for defeating the globalist agenda, subscribe to our exclusive newsletter The Wild Bunch Dispatch.  Learn more about it HERE. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/02/2022 - 23:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 2nd, 2022

John Ioannidis: "Public Health Officials Need To Declare The End Of The Pandemic"

John Ioannidis: 'Public Health Officials Need To Declare The End Of The Pandemic' Authored by Ross Pomeroy via RealClear Science, John Ioannidis, a Professor of Medicine, of Epidemiology and Population Health and by courtesy, of Statistics and of Biomedical Data Science at Stanford University, lauded for championing evidence-based medicine, has been harshly criticized over the past two years. Like many highly-credentialed health experts, Ioannidis made some predictions during the pandemic that eventually proved to be incorrect. During a once-in-a-century pandemic replete with unknowns, that's to be expected. But perhaps the greatest reason he has come under fire is for questioning the orthodoxy of strict lockdowns, divisive vaccine mandates, and other restrictive measures to manage the pandemic. Ioannidis is sure to court more controversy with a new commentary published to the European Journal of Clinicial Investigation in which he argues that it's time to declare the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This does not mean that the problem is inappropriately minimized or forgotten, but that our communities move on with life," he writes. "Pandemic preparedness should be carefully thought and pre-organized, but should not disrupt life." (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) While Ioannidis recognizes that there are no quantitative definitions for the end of a pandemic like COVID-19, he contends that the amount of immunity now present worldwide exceeds the threshold needed to declare SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, endemic – constantly present but not a public health emergency. "By end 2021, probably 73-81% of the global population had been vaccinated, infected or both," he says. Pockets of low immunity, such as in places that pursued zero-COVID policies and/or with limited access to effective vaccines, may persist, causing regional outbreaks, but we will likely never see COVID-19 again trigger a global emergency. Declaring the pandemic phase of COVID-19 to be concluded means understanding and accepting a new "normal". "A decrease of COVID-19 deaths back to typical seasonal influenza levels may not necessarily happen in 2022 or even beyond," Ioannidis cautions. "With an increasingly aging global population, "normal" may still correspond to higher death counts... This should not be mistaken as a continued pandemic phase." Easing out of the pandemic requires a widespread mental shift, as well. This means focusing more on indicators like hospital intensive care admissions to guide policy rather than just infections. "If perception of risk focuses on number of documented cases, the spurious perception of emergency situations may be difficult to quell," Ioannidis writes. Exiting the pandemic also means reducing fearmongering coverage of COVID-19 in the popular media, the propagation of which undoubtedly contributed to the public's warped perception of COVID's risks throughout the pandemic. On average, Americans believed in early 2021 that 8% of deaths had occurred in people under the age of 24. The actual percentage as of today is 0.3%. Moreover, a third of the population has consistently believed that COVID leads to hospitalization in over half of infections. During the most recent Omicron wave, the proportion was 3% or lower. Declaring an end to the pandemic phase of COVID-19 has benefits, Ioannidis says. For example, it could allow public health organizations to refocus their time and money on more pressing global health issues, like poor nutrition and hunger, which collectively claim the lives of 9 million people each year, including 3.1 million children. For comparison, at least 6.2 million people have died from COVID-19 over the past two years, the vast majority over age 65. Accepting endemicity and reducing societal restrictions and disruptions would also permit economies to stabilize more rapidly, alleviating hardship, easing inflation, and reducing global inequality. Lastly, moving on from the pandemic could ease some of the political divisions that have fractured societies across the globe. Tyler Durden Fri, 04/01/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 1st, 2022

3 Equity REIT Stocks Poised to Overcome Industry Hiccups

While pandemic, geopolitical tensions and uneven recovery of different sectors are hurting the Zacks REIT and Equity Trust - Other industry, healthy growth in digital economy, easing restrictions and improving asset fundamentals are aiding PLD, CCI and PSA. Although there has been an improvement in the fundamentals of the real estate market from the onset of the pandemic, the crisis-induced demand patterns are prevalent and hurting the REIT and Equity Trust - Other industry’s overall prospects. Also, the recovery of different asset categories is likely to be uneven. Adding to the woes are the rate hike anticipations and geopolitical tensions. However, with the industry offering the real estate structure for several economic activities, be it real or virtual, there are pockets of strength even amid its overall weakness. Particularly, with the healthy fundamentals of the digital economy, migration trends, easing of restrictions and prospects for a rebound, Prologis, Inc. PLD, Crown Castle International Corp. CCI and Public Storage PSA are likely to benefit.About the IndustryThe Zacks REIT and Equity Trust - Other industry is a diversified group that covers REIT stocks from different asset categories like industrial, office, lodging, healthcare, self-storage, data centers, infrastructures and others. The Equity REITs rent spaces in these properties to tenants and earn rental incomes. Economic growth plays a pivotal role for the real estate sector as economic expansion translates into greater demand for real estate, higher occupancy levels and landlords’ increased power to ask for higher rents. Also, the performance of Equity REITs depends on the underlying asset dynamics and location of properties. So, delving into the fundamentals of these asset categories is essential before making any investment decision. It is important to figure out whether the pandemic-induced behaviors result in only a short-term impact or long-term structural changes.What's Shaping Future of the REIT and Equity Trust - Other Industry?Rate Hike, Geopolitical Tension Raise Concerns: The Federal Reserve has already indicated its intention to raise interest rates in the upcoming FOMC meeting to address inflationary concerns. However, the dependence of REITs on debt for business makes investors skeptical about their performance in a rising rate environment. Also, as the investment world treats REITs as bond substitutes for their high and consistent dividend-paying nature, these companies are susceptible to rising rates. This is why REITs’ price performance tends to fluctuate when the Fed is optimistic about raising rates. Moreover, the Ukraine crisis and the resulting sanctions on Russia have affected the commodities market, thereby fueling inflation. Also, the downside risk to the outlook for economic growth has amplified. Therefore, in this uncertain environment, REITs’ performance is likely to be affected as economic growth plays a pivotal role in shaping the demand for real estate properties.REITs to See Asymmetrical Recovery Across Sectors: The rebound in commercial real estate is likely to be imbalanced across sectors, with some lagging the overall economy. For the lodging/resorts real estate category, personal and vacation travel is recovering and creating demand for lodging spaces, particularly in markets that cater to domestic leisure travelers. However, business travel will likely recapture its lost ground at a slower pace, thanks to the online meetings and teleconferences substituting in-person events. Also, international travel, which already suffered due to the pandemic, continues to be affected amid the current geopolitical tensions. For the office REITs, while a number of firms plan to return to office with ebbing of the health crisis, others intend to adopt a more flexible hybrid model. As of now, the impact of the hybrid work model is difficult to be determined. This uncertainty is likely to continue affecting demand for office space, occupancy and rent growth. Particularly, the question remains with respect to the impact of new work patterns and office redesigning on space requirements. For healthcare REITs, although the recovery in occupancy in senior housing and skilled nursing in the latter half of 2021 has been encouraging, there is still a strain on costs for protection against infection. Also, any possibility of more uncertainty with respect to the health crisis, including new variants, will add to the chaos.Demand for Certain Asset Categories to Remain Robust: Shift from in-person communication and commerce to the electronic platform that accelerated during the pandemic is expected to continue even as the pandemic fear fades. This shift to the digital economy is helping sectors like industrial, infrastructure, and data centers that support the digital economy to prosper in the foreseeable future. With stores reopening, brick-and-mortar sales have bounced back. Yet, e-commerce sales continue to build up on earlier gains, with people still preferring the convenience of online purchases for several items. While the sectors supported by digital economy are likely to continue thriving, a number of other asset categories are expected to ride the growth curve. Particularly, the self-storage REITs continue to benefit as the pandemic-led movement of people and the work-from-home environment are creating the demand for storage units, helping occupancy levels to remain elevated. Also, the strength in the housing market is likely to fuel the long-term growth of the self-storage industry. The healthcare REITs are likely to benefit from the strong demographic demands amid the aging of the baby boomer generation. Moreover, demand for life-science real estate has been solid and will likely remain so with effective diagnostics, testing, therapies and vaccines being required to fight the pandemic.Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Bleak ProspectsThe Zacks REIT and Equity Trust - Other industry is housed within the broader Finance sector. It carries a Zacks Industry Rank #155, which places it at the bottom 38% of more than 250 Zacks industries.The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates bleak near-term prospects. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.The industry’s positioning in the bottom 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is a result of the negative funds from operations (FFO) per share outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. Looking at the aggregate FFO per share estimate revisions, it appears that analysts are losing confidence in this group’s growth potential of late. Over the past three months, the industry’s FFO per share estimates for 2022 have remained unchanged, while that for 2023 has moved 3.8% south.Before we present a few stocks that you might want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.Industry Leads on Stock Market PerformanceThe REIT and Equity Trust - Other Industry has outperformed both the S&P 500 composite as well as the broader Zacks Finance sector in a year’s time.The industry has appreciated 10.9%, during this period, compared with the S&P 500’s rally of 6.1%. Meanwhile, the broader Finance sector has gained 1.6%.One-Year Price PerformanceIndustry's Current ValuationOn the basis of the forward 12-month price-to-FFO ratio, which is a commonly-used multiple for valuing REIT - Others, we see that the industry is currently trading at 19.52X compared with the S&P 500’s forward 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E) of 18.56X. The industry is trading above the Finance sector’s forward 12-month P/E of 15.03X. This is shown in the chart below.Forward 12 Month Price-to-FFO (P/FFO) RatioOver the last five years, the industry has traded as high as 22.39X, as low as 14.74X, with a median of 17.40X.3 Equity REIT - Others Stocks Worth Betting onPrologis: This is a leading industrial REIT that acquires, develops, operates and manages industrial properties in the United States and worldwide. The company continues to benefit from the scale of its platform.This industrial REIT behemoth’s performance in the recent quarters reflects robust demand for its properties, an increase in market rents and low vacancies. Along with the fast adoption of e-commerce, logistics real estate is anticipated to gain from a rise in inventory levels. Given Prologis’ capacity to offer high-quality facilities in key markets and robust balance-sheet strength, it is well poised to bank on these trends.PLD, currently, carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Over the past two months, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2022 FFO per share witnessed upward revision of 9.5% to $5.07, reflecting analysts’ bullish outlook. The stock has also rallied 10.9% over the past six months. Crown Castle International Corp.: This REIT is engaged in ownership, operation and leasing of wireless communication towers in the United States. Moreover, investment in fiber and small-cell business on the back of acquisitions, construction and new deployments complements its tower business.An increase in mobile data usage, spectrum availability and high network investments by wireless carriers to deploy 5G networks are anticipated to spur demand for CCI’s properties. Capitalizing on these, Crown Castle is well poised to grow.Additionally, the recent trend in estimate revisions for 2022 FFO per share indicates a favorable outlook for CCI, with estimates moving north over the past two months to $7.38. This also indicates a year-over-year increase of 6.2%. CCI, currently, carries a Zacks Rank #2. The company’s shares have gained 7.4% over the past year. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. Public Storage: This REIT is primarily engaged in the acquisition, ownership, development and operation of self-storage facilities. PSA is, in fact, the most recognized and established name in the self-storage industry, with its presence across all major metropolitan markets of the United States.The self-storage asset category is need-based and recession-resilient in nature. Additionally, the self-storage industry continues to benefit from favorable demographic changes. The migration and downsizing trend and an increase in the number of people renting homes have escalated the needs of consumers to rent space at a storage facility to park their possessions. Demand for self-storage spaces has also shot up in a flexible work environment, an improving housing market, elevated home sales, remodeling and migration in and out of metropolitan markets.Amid these, Public Storage is poised to benefit from its solid presence in key cities and high brand value. PSA has one of the strongest balance sheets in the sector with adequate liquidity to withstand any challenges and bank on expansion opportunities through acquisitions and developments.Public Storage currently carries a Zacks Rank #2. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the 2022 FFO per share moved marginally north to $15.09 over the past week, reflecting positive sentiments. The stock has also rallied 14.5% over the past six months.  Note: Funds from operations (FFO) is a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs rather than net income as it indicates cash flow from their operations. FFO is obtained after adding depreciation and amortization to earnings and subtracting the gains on sales. Just Released: Zacks Top 10 Stocks for 2022 In addition to the investment ideas discussed above, would you like to know about our 10 top buy-and-hold tickers for the entirety of 2022? Last year's 2021 Zacks Top 10 Stocks portfolio returned gains as high as +147.7%. Now a brand-new portfolio has been handpicked from over 4,000 companies covered by the Zacks Rank. Don’t miss your chance to get in on these long-term buysAccess Zacks Top 10 Stocks for 2022 today >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Public Storage (PSA): Free Stock Analysis Report Prologis, Inc. (PLD): Free Stock Analysis Report Crown Castle International Corporation (CCI): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksMar 14th, 2022

Tonix Pharmaceuticals Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2021 Financial Results and Operational Highlights

Immunology and CNS Programs Entering the Clinic in 2022 for Organ Transplantation, Cocaine Intoxication, Fibromyalgia, PTSD, Migraine Headache and Binge Eating Disorder Covid-19 Programs Include Upcoming Phase 2 Trial in Long Covid, Results of First-in-Human T Cell Immunity Skin Test and New Versions of Our Live Virus Covid-19 Vaccine That Express Spike Proteins From the Omicron and BA.2 Variants Expansion of Internal Research and Development Capabilities Underway to Accelerate Infectious Disease Programs and Prepare for Future Pandemic Responses Orphan-Drug Designation Granted for TNX-2900 (Intranasal Potentiated Oxytocin) for Prader-Willi Syndrome Cash and Cash Equivalents Totaled Approximately $179 Million at December 31, 2021 CHATHAM, N.J., March 14, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp. (NASDAQ:TNXP) (Tonix or the Company), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, today announced financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2021, and provided an overview of recent operational highlights. "2021 was an important year for Tonix as we delivered on several important milestones to advance our rich pipeline of immunology, central nervous system (CNS) and infectious disease product candidates," said Seth Lederman, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Tonix. "Our diversified pipeline was built through internal research and development, business development and strategic collaborations. Already in 2022, we have shared results of animal studies of monoclonal antibody TNX-1500 in organ transplantation and announced FDA's award of Orphan-Drug designation for TNX-2900 for Prader Willi syndrome. We look forward to pharmacogenomic analyses, in conjunction with topline data, for the Phase 3 RALLY study of TNX-102 SL in fibromyalgia in the first quarter of 2022." Dr. Lederman continued, "Through acquisitions and the continued buildout of in-house R&D capabilities, Tonix is strengthening its capabilities to develop a broad infectious disease portfolio of product candidates, led by TNX-801 which is a live virus vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox, that is based on horsepox, which is our recombinant pox virus platform (RPV). Also based on the RPV are next-generation vaccine candidates to prevent Covid-19, including TNX-1840 and TNX-1850 which are live virus vaccines designed to express the omicron and BA.2 variants of the spike protein. We look forward to starting a Phase 2 study of TNX-102 SL for Long Covid and reporting topline data from the ongoing first-in-human study of TNX-2100, a diagnostic skin test for T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2, in the first half of 2022." Gregory Sullivan, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Tonix said, "In 2022, we expect to initiate several clinical trials. We intend to start a Phase 1 study of TNX-1500, a humanized monoclonal antibody with several potential indications including the prevention of organ transplant rejection and treatment of autoimmune disorders. Within our CNS pipeline, we expect to start a Phase 2 study of FDA Breakthrough Therapy-designated product candidate TNX-1300 (recombinant cocaine esterase) for cocaine intoxication in the emergency room setting. We also expect to start three trials for TNX-102 SL (sublingual cyclobenzaprine) including: a confirmatory Phase 3 study for the management of fibromyalgia, a Phase 2 study for the treatment of PTSD, and a Phase 2 study for the treatment of Long Covid. Finally, in 2022 we intend to start a Phase 2 study of TNX-1900 for the treatment of migraine and an investigator-initiated Phase 2 study of TNX-1900 for binge eating disorder." Recent Highlights—Key Product Candidates* Immunology Pipeline TNX-1500 (anti-CD40L monoclonal antibody): third generation monoclonal antibody for prophylaxis of organ transplant rejection and treating autoimmune disorders. Tonix expects to start a Phase 1 study in the second half of 2022. Preliminary results from ongoing experiments in heart and kidney transplants in non-human primates at Massachusetts General Hospital indicate that TNX-1500 appears to have monotherapy efficacy in promoting rejection-free transplant organ acceptance and no evidence of thrombosis has been observed. TNX-1700 (stabilized recombinant trefoil factor 2, or rTFF2): biologic for gastric and colorectal cancers In December 2021, Tonix announced a research collaboration with Columbia University focused on advancing TNX-1700 in the treatment of gastric and colorectal cancers. Tonix optioned worldwide rights to develop and commercialize products related to Columbia's rTFF2 technology, and key patent claims have recently been issued in the U.S. The new project, "Development of rTFF2-Based Therapy to Enhance Immuno-Oncology Treatments," is the first sponsored research project of this collaboration. The agreement with Columbia University gives Tonix the option to exclusively license new therapeutic candidates and other technologies that arise from the research collaboration for further development. TNX-1700 is in the preclinical stage of development. Central Nervous System (CNS) Pipeline TNX-1300 (recombinant double mutant cocaine esterase): biologic for life-threatening cocaine intoxication Tonix expects to initiate a Phase 2 open-label safety study of TNX-1300 in an emergency room setting in the first half of 2022. TNX-1300 was licensed from Columbia University and a positive Phase 2a study of volunteer cocaine users in a controlled laboratory setting has been completed. TNX-1300 has been granted Breakthrough Therapy designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). TNX-102 SL (cyclobenzaprine HCl sublingual tablets): small molecule for the management of fibromyalgia (FM) Tonix expects to report topline data from its second Phase 3 study, RALLY, in the first quarter of 2022. Tonix reported interim analysis of RALLY in July 2021 in which the independent data monitoring committee recommended stopping the study for futility. The Company therefore stopped enrollment of new participants while continuing those participating at that time to completion. Tonix plans to employ pharmacogenomic (PGx) techniques to compare the RALLY and RELIEF study populations, which may provide a path to precision medicine-based companion diagnostics for TNX-102 SL in FM. Tonix expects to initiate a new Phase 3 study of TNX-102 SL in FM in the first half of 2022. The Company will use the results of RALLY, including the PGx data, to potentially improve the design of this study. Tonix reported positive results from the Phase 3 RELIEF study for the management of fibromyalgia in December 2020. TNX-102 SL for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Tonix has completed a meeting with the FDA to discuss potential new endpoints for the treatment of PTSD and expects to begin enrolling a Phase 2 study of TNX-102 SL in police in Kenya in the first half of 2022. The new PTSD study will use one month look-back CAPS-5 as the primary endpoint rather than one week look-back. TNX-102 SL for the treatment of Long Covid, also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) The Company intends to initiate a Phase 2 study in patients with Long Covid in the first half of 2022, pending clearance of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application. The Phase 2 study will focus on a subset of Long Covid patients whose symptoms overlap with those of fibromyalgia. TNX-1900 (intranasal potentiated oxytocin): small peptide for migraine, craniofacial pain, insulin resistance and related disorders, and binge eating disorder In November 2021, Tonix announced it received IND clearance from the FDA to support the initiation of a Phase 2 study of TNX-1900 for the prevention of migraine headache in chronic migraineurs. The 505(b)(2) pathway for FDA approval is expected to be acceptable for this program, which is available to new formulations of an approved drug. The Company expects to begin enrollment in the second half of 2022. In March 2022, Tonix announced an agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital to evaluate TNX-1900 in an investigator-initiated Phase 2 clinical trial as a potential treatment for patients with binge eating disorder. The Phase 2 clinical trial is expected to start in the second half of 2022. Tonix's potentiated formulation includes magnesium (Mg), which has been reported to potentiate the binding of oxytocin to the oxytocin receptor. Further evidence for the role of Mg in potentiating the effects of oxytocin at the oxytocin receptor were published by a third party1. TNX-2900 (intranasal potentiated oxytocin): small peptide for the treatment of Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) In March 2022, the FDA granted the Company Orphan-Drug designation for TNX-2900 for the treatment of PWS. In February 2022, Tonix entered into a sponsored research agreement with Inserm (the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and Aix-Marseille Université to study oxytocin in the genetically engineered mouse model of Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes distinct, but related pathological eating disorders in adults and newborns. In adults, PWS causes hyperphagia, or pathological over-eating, which leads to obesity and other complications associated with significant mortality. In newborns, PWS causes a deficiency in suckling, which can lead to low muscle tone and failure to thrive, and has been shown to be normalized by oxytocin treatment. TNX-601 CR (tianeptine oxalate and naloxone controlled-release tablets): small molecule for the treatment of major depressive disorder, PTSD and neurocognitive dysfunction associated with corticosteroid use. Based on official minutes from a pre-IND meeting with the FDA, the Company expects to initiate a Phase 2 study for the treatment of major depressive disorder (depression) in the first quarter of 2023. Tonix plans to initiate a pharmacokinetic study in the third quarter of 2022. Tonix previously completed a Phase 1 trial for formulation development outside of the U.S. Infectious Disease Pipeline TNX-801 (live horsepox virus vaccine for percutaneous administration): smallpox and monkeypox vaccine designed as a single-administration vaccine to elicit T cell immunity Tonix previously reported protection of non-human primates from a monkeypox challenge2. TNX-801 is less virulent than traditional vaccinia vaccines in mice.3 TNX-1840 /-1850 (live virus vaccines based on Tonix's recombinant pox virus vector): COVID-19 vaccines designed as a single-administration vaccine to elicit T cell immunity Because the omicron variant has out-competed the ancestral Wuhan strain, Tonix is now planning new versions of the TNX-1800 vaccine: TNX-1840 and TNX-1850, that are designed to express spike protein from the omicron and BA.2 variants, respectively. TNX-1840 and TNX-1850 are next-generation COVID-19 vaccines using live virus technology, which is known to primarily elicit a T cell response believed to result in longer durability and the blocking of forward transmission. TNX-3500 (sangivamycin): antiviral inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 for the treatment of COVID-19 and potential other viral disorders In November 2021, Tonix announced the publication of "Sangivamycin is highly effective against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro and has favorable drug properties," in JCI Insight. The paper includes in vitro studies conducted by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that show sangivamycin, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in TNX-3500, is a potent antiviral against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, and suppresses viral replication in tissue culture with greater potency than remdesivir, the active pharmaceutical ingredient of Gilead Sciences, Inc.'s Veklury®. When tested in combination with remdesivir, both drugs had additive rather than competitive effect against SARS-CoV-2. Tonix plans to conduct further nonclinical animal studies of TNX-3500. TNX-3600: COVID-19 therapeutic; fully human monoclonal antibody platform In September 2021, Tonix expanded its research collaboration with Columbia University focused on studying immune responses to COVID-19 in healthy volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19 or were asymptomatic, as well as studying in vitro T cell and antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The research is designed to fill in important gaps in comprehensive understanding of immune responses to COVID-19, and to provide a foundation for tailoring vaccines and therapeutics to appropriate individuals with precision medicine. Specifically, the researchers will study T cell and antibody responses in a variety of ways, including at the cellular level by stimulating T cells in vitro with CoV-2 antigens and by generating fully human monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Tonix believes that this research has the potential to lead to the isolation, characterization and cloning of therapeutically relevant fully human neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. TNX-3700: COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate using a zinc nanoparticle (ZNP) formulation.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaMar 14th, 2022

The Questionable Ethics Of Anti-Bitcoin ESG Junk-Science

The Questionable Ethics Of Anti-Bitcoin ESG Junk-Science Authored by 'Level39' via Bitcoin Magazine, Bitcoin environmental concerns are often portrayed in misleading and exaggerated ways contrary to proper research... Bitcoin receives disproportionate media coverage over its tiny fraction of a percent of global emissions and relatively inconsequential environmental impact. Why this happens requires following the money into environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) accounting. ESG accountants appear to be using Bitcoin’s open, transparent ledger — that can be audited by anyone in the world in real time — to exaggerate Bitcoin’s impact on the environment, with shoddy science, while profiting from the very fears they provoke. In February 2022, an op-ed, titled “Revisiting Bitcoin’s Carbon Footprint,” was published in the scientific journal “Joule,” authored by four researchers: Alex de Vries, Ulrich Gallersdörfer, Lena Klaaßen and Christian Stoll. Their written commentary, which admits limitations in their estimates, states that as bitcoin miners migrated from China to Kazakhstan and the United States in 2021, the network’s carbon footprint increased to 0.19% of global emissions. What went unnoticed by the media was that the researchers have professional motives to overstate Bitcoin’s relatively tiny environmental impact. The op-ed’s lead author, Alex de Vries, failed to disclose that he is employed by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), the Dutch central bank. Central banks are no fans of open, global payment rails, which bypass monopolistic government settlement layers. De Vries first released his “Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index” in November 2016, which coincides with his first round of employment with DNB, giving the appearance that DNB encouraged his critique of Bitcoin’s energy consumption. In November 2020, de Vries was rehired by the Dutch central bank as a data scientist in its financial economic crime unit and has been on a worldwide media tour for his “hobby” research ever since. As DNB is now promoting his research, he is effectively a paid opposition researcher for DNB. Source: LinkedIn As an employee of a central bank, de Vries has an incentive to exaggerate Bitcoin’s environmental impact to protect the interests of his employer. Hating on #bitcoin tells me one of two things about you. Either you haven’t learned enough about it, or its success threatens yours. — Evan Prim (@EvanPrim) March 5, 2022 Embedded tweet. His collaborators, however, have different motives altogether. Gallersdörfer, Klaaßen and Stoll are cofounders of the Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute (CCRI), a company that provides data on the carbon exposure of cryptocurrency investments and business activities. Source: Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute Collectively, the three CCRI researchers have authored almost a dozen academic papers on the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies. Source: Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute CCRI’s modus operandi is to exaggerate Bitcoin’s environmental impact through a technique the Cambridge Centre of Alternative Finance (CCAF) describes as presenter bias. This entails making apples-to-oranges comparisons — such as comparing Bitcoin to small countries — in order to elicit outrage, rather than making apples-to-apples comparisons with other industries. CCRI’s best-guess estimates on carbon emissions are then packaged and sold to financial institutions who are under pressure to disclose ESG accounting due to the investor outrage promoted by the presenter bias that CCRI itself used to provoke that outrage. Source: ETC Group It doesn’t matter that the small countries Bitcoin is compared to have a GDP that is half of the value secured by Bitcoin. It doesn’t matter if the published papers are of a low standard or lack rigorous peer review (“Joule”’s peer review process is kept secret and does not require peer review for commentary articles). Nor does it matter that Bitcoin’s emissions are too small to have a meaningful impact on climate change. All that matters is that the media is willing to publish articles highlighting their junk science narratives, along with cherry-picked examples, and the financial industry becomes pressured to contract with the CCRI to utilize their research and data. ESG researchers are able to profit, by leveraging the media to stoke public outrage, over what amounts to such an inconsequential amount of carbon emissions that actual environmentalists should be disturbed that the public’s attention is being distracted from larger issues that have real and substantial consequences for humanity. EXAGGERATING BITCOIN’S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT Ironically, on Cambridge University’s Comparisons page, where it describes the tricks of ESG presenter bias, it publishes a graphic that exaggerates Bitcoin’s power consumption to look larger than it is. Here is Cambridge’s original artwork: Source: Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance Notice how Bitcoin is almost the same size as industries that have significantly higher values. If the Cambridge researchers had drawn the bubbles to proper scale, it would look like this: Source: Data from Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance These kinds of comparisons don’t even tell the full story, given that Bitcoin uses more renewable energy than any of these other industries. Despite what academia and the media would have us believe, Bitcoin’s environmental impact is too small to have any meaningful impact on a global scale. This is not to say that bitcoin miners don’t have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment in their communities. However, those are local concerns and not particularly a good use of outsized international attention if protecting the global environment is the true goal. When environmental researchers, the media and government devote greater than a fraction of a percent of their content discussing Bitcoin’s emissions, it becomes a disservice to environmentalism. Undue diversions only serve to virtue signal, distract from more important issues and make people less trustful of legitimate environmental causes. Source: Figure 11 from Hass McCook’s “Bitcoin's Energy Use Compared To Other Major Industries” CCRI isn’t solving impactful environmental issues when it admonishes Bitcoin. The company mines open blockchain data for its media-driven narratives and shames the market into buying its own data, for profit. This data allows institutional investors to claim carbon neutrality, and entice environmentally conscious investors into their products, while nothing of particular substance is achieved. “‘ESG investing’ in its current form is similar to people who take selfies of themselves in fancy locations to show they were there, while barely experiencing it for real. Mostly theater, little substance. For example, we pollute, but buy offsets to make it someone else's problem. We outsource our manufacturing base to another country to reduce headline energy consumption, but then buy products they make while blaming them for polluting. This is deflection, not reform…People sell their Chinese shares, buy Apple shares instead, and pat themselves on the back. Meanwhile their phone, computer, chair, sneakers, cookware, electronic devices, and kids' toys are all partly Chinese made. A lot of it is window dressing. ‘ESG’ as currently used is corporate, sanitized, and nearly meaningless. It's like the word ‘synergy.’ It's a TPS report. If anything, pretending we are doing good to check off certain boxes as perceived by others, while still doing whatever we were doing before, slows real progress. One of the worst things we can do is to feel like we are doing something constructive, without actually doing so.” — Lyn Alden SELLING PROOF-OF-STAKE INVESTMENTS The CCRI publishes an annual report to promote proof-of-stake networks as environmentally friendly while promoting a highly misleading “energy per transaction” metric. What isn’t acknowledged in the CCRI’s report is that proof of stake is not a replacement for proof of work, as the two consensus mechanisms achieve completely different goals. Proof of work is a consensus mechanism that ensures pools of miners can collectively challenge bad actors — ensuring no one party can assert control over other users, all while providing a fair and meritocratic distribution of new coins. Proof of stake doesn’t accomplish this as it resembles a corporate security structure, where the wealthiest holders have all the voting power and founders pre-mine unimpeachable control authority over users, while receiving compounding dividends. With proof of stake, users have to trust the founders not to denial-of-service (DoS) attack them. In proof of work, miners buy energy on an open market to make DoS attacks too expensive, which in turn allows Bitcoin to protect minority user rights. Proof of work’s energy consumption is a feature, not a bug. Environmental researchers who claim proof of stake to be a more efficient consensus mechanism are like a policy think tank promoting plutocratic authoritarianism as a more efficient kind of government. To equate proof of stake with proof of work entirely misses the point of how decentralization works and what it intends to achieve. But, why does the CCRI produce a report? Institutional investors commission the CCRI’s research, in order to promote centralized altcoins, while using the CCRI’s data to sell ESG-friendly “crypto” investments. By overstating Bitcoin’s global impact and promoting proof of stake as an alternative, the CCRI is effectively driving demand for institutional ESG products and its own ESG services. This isn’t about helping the environment — it’s a money-making scheme. BITCOIN IS AN EASY TARGET Bitcoin’s open and transparent accounting makes it an easy target for those who benefit from exaggerating Bitcoin’s environmental impact for profit. An interesting thought experiment is to consider how environmental accountants would characterize other industries if they were as transparent about their energy consumption as Bitcoin is. A 2020 report by the Rapid Transit Alliance estimated that the global sports industry is responsible for 0.6% of global emissions — more than three times the emissions of Bitcoin. The report uses the same presenter bias of comparing the sports industry’s emissions to that of Spain or Poland. The report states that the global sports industry generates around $500 billion a year, which is considerably less than the amount of value secured by Bitcoin. If the sports industry had open and transparent power consumption data, like Bitcoin does, would ESG accountants shame the sports community for causing an environmental disaster? Would it be a good use of everyone’s time when there are much more important environmental issues that need to be solved? BITCOIN AS A GREEN INVESTMENT It might not be evident from media reports, but Bitcoin is already a relatively green investment. A 2021 paper stated that, “adding Bitcoin to a diversified equity portfolio can both enhance the risk–return relationship of the portfolio and reduce the portfolio's aggregate carbon emissions.” If institutions feel pressured to make their bitcoin holdings carbon neutral, it doesn’t take much effort. According to a January 2022 report by CoinShares, “Each bitcoin would require offsetting 2.2 tonnes of CO2 per year, or roughly the same as one return flight on business class between New York to Tokyo … At a bitcoin price of 42,000 USD, this would amount to an annual cost of 0.48%.” Even bitcoin miners that are demonized in the press, like Greenidge Generation Holdings, have made their entire mining operations 100% carbon neutral without considerable effort. Greenidge uses offset project registries that fund projects to sequester and reduce emissions. And yet, Bitcoin is a powerful, location-agnostic, buyer of last resort of renewable energy, that balances grid loads, can fund renewables stymied by lengthy interconnection queues to congested grids, and helps mitigate flared methane gas. When one realizes that Bitcoin is a solution to help monetize inefficiencies in the renewable energy sector — and as a zero-sum game increasing green mining disincentivizes carbon-intensive mining — some interesting ideas begin to take shape. INCENTIVE OFFSETS In a paper authored by Troy Cross and Andrew M. Bailey, “incentive offsets” are proposed as a way for investors to make bitcoin holdings carbon neutral by investing just 0.5% of their holdings in green bitcoin mining operations. Unlike other proposals to green bitcoin, theirs promotes Bitcoin adoption, preserves the fungibility of bitcoin and costs nothing, while providing a return. Cross recently discussed the idea with Peter McCormack on an episode of “What Bitcoin Did” as well as during a follow-up conversation with Nic Carter. ESG MISINFORMATION ESG advocates are perhaps unlikely to endorse any form of green bitcoin mining, as it would effectively neutralize their conflicted narrative. Already de Vries et al. went out of their way to peddle misleading arguments, in their op-ed, to criticize green mining and downplay its role in environmental solutions. For example, they suggest flared gas mitigation through mining offers limited benefits but ignore the fact that wind and diminishing stack flow rates make bitcoin mining significantly more efficient and ecological than allowing methane to flare and potentially vent into the atmosphere. Environmentalists have recently acknowledged that methane is much a larger problem than was previously realized. Or when de Vries showed Bitcoin’s energy consumption rising after China banned bitcoin mining, which resulted in a well-publicized 50% drop in hash rate. De Vries declined to include it in his estimates and dismissed it by saying, “Because of the previous challenges in determining the most likely energy consumption impact, any adjustment would be arbitrary. For this reason, no adjustments were made to reflect immediate impact of the ban.” This is effectively an admission his own estimates are spurious. De Vries has made an ESG career on top of a debunked “energy per transaction” metric, while 100% double counting the same footprint onto investors. In a paper written by de Vries and Stoll, in 2021, the two erroneously estimated that the average service life of a Bitcoin ASIC miner was only 16 months. This is blatantly false and easily disproved by on-chain data which shows Bitmain S7s, that are seven years old, are still actively used by miners. By weaponizing academia, fraudulent assertions are repeated by the media without fact-checking. In reality, Bitcoin accounts for an estimated 0.05% of global e-waste and since ASIC miners don’t have batteries or complex systems, the parts are easily recyclable. When misleading arguments are used to dismiss Bitcoin’s environmental efforts, while simultaneously overstating its footprint, it becomes evident that critics are not acting in good faith. How can they be when they have glaring conflicts of interest? The ESG community has an ethics problem where its own architects profit off of the hysterics they generate and often fail to disclose those conflicts of interests to the public as their junk science narratives are amplified by the media. Exaggerated comparisons, deceptive arguments and profit-driven motives leaves the public with the perception that criticizing Bitcoin’s relatively miniscule footprint does not stem from a selfless and courageous act of environmentalism. Rather, it appears that Bitcoin critics have professional motives in mind, and a desire to maintain the status quo, that make their claims ethically questionable. Bitcoin, of course, does not care. Renewables need Bitcoin more than Bitcoin needs renewables. The ESG industry can extract Bitcoin’s data, exaggerate its externalities and downplay any progress to profit through green institutional investment products. Bitcoin will keep on producing blocks and paving the way for open payment rails with honest, incorruptible proof of work. All the while, miners will buy up every stranded and wasted megawatt of renewable energy and give it a fighting chance to make headway in the market. The future of energy production is bright and Bitcoin will use it to incentivize innovation and human flourishing. Tyler Durden Mon, 03/14/2022 - 03:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMar 14th, 2022