President Donald Trump calls on a reporter during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House today. AP Michael Goodwin
The coronavirus epidemic is shaking humanity and turning the world upside down. Quick, somebody alert the media.
The Washington press corps is covering one of the largest, continuing stories in recent history the same way it has covered the Trump administration since Day One.
The formula is simple: Whatever the president does is not just wrong, it’s borderline evil. Details at 11.
In the real world, events are unfolding at a pace and scale impossible to comprehend. But at too many news outlets, the aim is not to inform. It’s to render the harshest possible judgment on the man journalists love to hate.
This is beyond shameful. When antagonists like Sen. Chuck Schumer finally are working with Trump and when the Democratic governors of New York and California swap praise with the president over their partnerships, the media ought to take a hint that this time is different and there is no place for biased journalism-as-usual.
Instead, after failing to bring down Trump with Russia, Russia, Russia and impeachment, they’re now putting their chips on the narrative that he’s bungling the public health crisis.
To get there, they’ve had to reverse themselves on a key allegation. For three years the same media told us Trump was a fascist and a budding Hitler, but now his refusal to rule with an iron fist is also cause for condemnation.
Suddenly, the man whose “Authoritarian style is remaking America” (Washington Post), and whose “Authoritarian Ambitions” were exposed by impeachment (New York magazine), foolishly refuses to use the powers of the Oval Office. As usual, other countries are doing it right and America is wrong.
When Trump advised people to stop unnecessary travel and avoid bars, restaurants and groups of more than 10, a Times headline moaned that the “Guidelines Fall Short of the Mandates in Other Countries.”
The Gray Lady’s latest complaints involve the Defense Protection Act, which gives the president the authority to commandeer private industry. But he’s a lousy authoritarian because, as the Times put it Friday, “Trump Resists Pressure to Force Companies to Make Coronavirus Supplies.”
Behind every complaint is a roster of anonymous sources and Obama administration grousers.
Meanwhile, because of its one-track agenda, the media are missing one of the biggest stories — the sense of unity against the epidemic being forged across America.
Even Dem presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders largely slipped out of sight, a welcome sign that they realize now is not the time to try to score political points.
And the public, despite the media, gets it that the president is doing his best against an unprecedented and invisible enemy. Polls reflect a belief that, after a slow start, Trump is mobilizing an enormous national response involving both the public and private sectors and is committed to victory.
An ABC News/Ipsos survey released Friday finds 55 percent approve of the president’s leadership, while 43 percent disapprove. Those figures are a reversal from a week earlier, when 43 percent approved and 54 percent disapproved.
Of course, to recognize this shift in the national mood would mean the media would have to give Trump credit, and that is forbidden. Stark polarization is what the media like and want — and refuse to see anything else.
Tellingly, the more information and access Trump gives the White House press corps, the angrier the members get. The president and his team provide daily updates, announce new efforts and take numerous questions.
While many of the questions try to flesh out details, virtually every day there is also an obvious “Gotcha” effort. Frustrated by Trump’s refusal to surrender to their superior intelligence, his inquisitors, graduates of the Jim Acosta school of journalism, end up berating and arguing with him.
One day there were repeated assertions thinly disguised as questions about why the president continues to call the virus the “Chinese virus.” Doesn’t he realize that’s racist?
His answers were to the point: “That’s where it came from” and “Everybody knows it came from China.”
As some commentators noted, the questions parroted a talking point of the Chinese Communist Party. That makes this a case of Trump Derangement Syndrome with a coronavirus twist.
It’s also a clear case of China trying to meddle in our elections. Once upon a time, the media cared about that.
Friday’s briefing featured Trump scolding NBC reporter Peter Alexander, with others in the room defending Alexander.
The sequence was revealing, with Alexander firing off questions faster than Trump could answer. Alexander first tried to drive a wedge between the president and Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggesting they were at odds over whether new treatment drugs could represent a breakthrough.
As Trump downplayed any differences, Alexander fired an insult posing as a question, saying, “Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?”
Again, Trump answered, saying “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” only to be interrupted with another Alexander question. Alexander finally let Trump answer, then changed course again, asking “So, what do you say to Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
Trump finally had enough, saying “you are a terrible reporter, that’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question. I think it’s a very bad signal that you are putting out to the American people. They’re looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism . . .”
Naturally, that became a big story for CNN and the other usual suspects. Mission accomplished.
There is much talk that the coronavirus epidemic will permanently alter aspects of American life. Let us hope that a new and improved journalism is among the changes.
Putz’s cheap shots
Reader Robert Pilgrim is among those panning the performance of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He writes: “I watched Mayor Putz squander an opportunity to display leadership in a time of crisis. He chose instead to take shots at President Trump. If this is not the height of incompetence, I don’t know what is.
De Blasio says he needs help from Trump. If you need someone’s help, a cheap shot is NOT the way to get it.”
Michael Bloomberg spent more than $900 million on his brief presidential fantasy, and now people who worked for him are paying the price. Politico reports that “staffers who were promised jobs through November no matter what” are getting fired by the hundreds.
Integrity wasn’t in the budget.
Tom Brady leaves Patriots for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Finally, big news that doesn’t involve sickness and death.
A drug developed over half a century ago to treat malaria is showing signs that it may also help cure COVID-19 — especially when combined with an antibiotic, a promising new study reveals.
Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil — and also used to treat arthritis and other ailments — was determined to be effective in killing the deadly bug in laboratory experiments, Forbes reported, citing findings published March 9 in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal.
“(W)e predict that the drug has a good potential to combat the disease,” the study’s authors, most from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, wrote in a letter published in Cell Discovery on Wednesday, according to the report.
Now, French physician-researchers have completed a largely successful clinical trial using the drug — approved for use in the US in 1955 — to treat confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to a study published Wednesday.
A total of 36 patients — including 20 treated individuals and 16 infected controls — were enrolled in the study, led by Didier Raoult, an infectious disease expert from l’Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire in Marseille.
The treated group was given 600 mg of Plaquenil each day.
The researchers found that 50 percent of the treated group turned from positive to negative for the virus by the third day — and by day six, that figure was up to 70 percent.
Of the 20 test patients, six who were treated with both Plaquenil and the antibiotic azithromycin showed impressive results — with five testing negative at day three. All six of them tested negative at day six.
“Despite its small sample size our survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients and its effect is reinforced by azithromycin,” the study concluded.
Meanwhile, researchers found that a pill containing two HIV drugs touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19 was not effective.
A test of Chinese patients with a severe case of the novel coronavirus found that the 99 who received AbbVie Inc.’s Kaletra, a cocktail of lopinavir and ritonavir, did not do any better than the 100 who received standard care.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (center) visited the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing to portray himself as a leader firmly in charge of a “people’s war” against COVID-19. State media are suggesting that China may cut off critical supplies for U.S. drug companies even as Americans grapple with a pandemic that originated in China. (Associated Press photo). Photo by: Ju Peng Guy Taylor
As the war of words between China and the U.S. over COVID-19 heats up, Chinese state media have raised the specter of using Beijing’s pharmaceutical leverage to block critical components and supplies for dependent U.S. drug companies and send America into “the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.”
While India and several European nations play critical roles in the global medical supply chain, China is among the top providers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) — the basic components for antibiotics and other prescription drugs consumed by Americans.
With the coronavirus crisis threatening to strain the U.S. government’s large stockpiles of such drugs, health experts warn that China’s own outbreak and related societal shutdown could mean major shortages ahead as Chinese factories struggle to keep up production of the APIs.
The Trump administration and lawmakers from both parties are now calling for a dramatic revamping of domestic U.S. drug manufacturing operations that have been outsourced to China and a handful of other nations over the past two decades.
The Pharma Letter, an online news site covering the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, offered some stark numbers on U.S. dependence on Chinese producers.
China, the newsletter reported Tuesday, “accounted for 95% of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91% of U.S. imports of hydrocortisone, 70% of U.S. imports of acetaminophen, 40% to 45% of U.S. imports of penicillin and 40% of U.S. imports of heparin, according to Commerce Department data. In all, 80% of the US supply of antibiotics are made” in China.
Even without a conscious boycott policy by the Beijing government, the disruption to Chinese domestic production caused by the pandemic is straining the global system.
“It was a blunder of epic proportions that we allowed the manufacture of penicillin to leave our shores,” said Rosemary Gibson, the author of the 2018 book “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine.”
“Right now, we have virtually no capacity in the United States to make even basic drugs for treating coronavirus, or antibiotics for infections that may come with it, including bronchitis or pneumonia,” Ms. Gibson, a senior advisor with the Hastings Center bioethics research institute, told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
“And now we’ve got a perfect storm of a production shutdown in China and a disease outbreak there, where they need medicines for their own people, coupled with rising global demand on that same global supply source,” she said. “This is a wake-up call.”
President Trump on Tuesday played down the likelihood China could effectively blackmail the U.S. with curbs on drug exports.
“I don’t see that at all,” he told reporters at the White House. “And I think China has every incentive to make sure that things work well.”
But concern has grown since the Chinese state news agency Xinhua published an article earlier this month claiming U.S. medical supplies were already “extremely scarce” and that an “out of control” American coronavirus outbreak was “almost inevitable.”
The article said that while some drugs get imported to the U.S. from Europe, the production base for both is 90 percent reliant on exports from China — and that if China were to ban such exports, the “United States will fall into the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.”
It went on to say Beijing had not engaged in such a ban because “there is great love in the world.”
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he was surprised by the Xinhua article because the Chinese government has officially said it is “working hard to try and resume the supply of API production and delivery around the world as quickly as possible.”
Chinese officials are wary of even hinting at a supply disruption that would push U.S. customers away from their current reliance on China, Mr. Huang said. “That’s definitely not something the Chinese want to have happen.”
“This is a globalized supply chain, so there’s no such thing as a zero-sum game here,” he added. India — the world’s No. 1 supplier of generic drugs — could also dramatically impact the flow of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment into the United States, he noted.
New Delhi already announced restrictions on the export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients, including one sold in some markets as acetaminophen, in a move analysts say was made in preparation for India’s own possible manufacturing slowdowns caused coronavirus.
It’s not clear how the development will impact the U.S. market.
Pushing for change
Despite Mr. Trump’s comments Tuesday, some of the president’s top advisers and U.S. lawmakers are already pushing for a major shift in policy toward both American drug manufacturing and import laws.
Some Republican lawmakers, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, claimed Tuesday that Beijing has already intentionally slowed exports to the global market.
“The Chinese government’s efforts to block or manipulate the export of life-saving pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment in the midst of a global pandemic — which, it must be noted, originated on their soil — are undermining the security of supply chains upon which we all depend,” the Idaho Republican told The Times. “This demonstrates what kind of leader China seeks to be in the international system.
“Moving forward,” Mr. Risch said, “pharmaceutical companies will need to make tough choices about where they trust to base their manufacturing and distribution hubs. The U.S. government will do the same.”
Other Republicans on the committee, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso offered similar comments.
“The coronavirus has demonstrated that America is far too dependent on China for critical drugs,” said Mr. Barrasso. “Never again must the United States find ourselves in this situation,” he said. “Our essential medical supplies need to be produced in the United States.”
Mr. Rubio told The Times he began warning more than a year ago of “the long-term dangers posed by America’s supply chain vulnerabilities and dependence on China in critical sectors of our economy, including in our health care sector.”
“The coronavirus pandemic made this systemic vulnerability impossible to ignore, and we must take action to rebuild our nation’s industrial capacity,” the Florida Republican said.
Other lawmakers are already pushing for action. Sens. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, introduced legislation this month to increase American manufacturing of pharmaceutical ingredients, noting that “only 28% of API-producing facilities are in the United States and the number of Chinese facilities has more than doubled since 2010.”
The bill would provide $100 million to develop advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing centers for research and training.
The Trump administration appears eager to push even more immediate action, with White House senior trade advisor Peter Navarro telling CNBC on Monday that he’s already preparing an executive order that bring medical supply chains back from overseas to the United States.
“China has managed to dominate all aspects of the supply chain using the same unfair trade practices that it has used to dominate other sectors — cheap sweatshop labor, lax environmental regulations and massive government subsidies,” Mr. Navarro told The New York Times last week.
The executive order would reportedly repeal provisions that allow U.S. government agencies to purchase pharmaceuticals, face masks, ventilators and other medical products from foreign suppliers. The Pentagon, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services have been given waivers in the past to purchase massive amounts of medical drugs and equipment annually through supply chains that ultimately lead to China.
The big question is how quickly the U.S. companies and workers can fill the gap if the Trump administration pushes through an order demanding a massive uptick in U.S. production.
“The capability is here,” she said. “We have very talented people in this country who can ramp up production. … We’re already seeing it happen for the production of medical face masks, … and when it comes to medicine, there is a the capability to launch massive manufacturing of critical generic drugs.”
The trick will be generating demand and a buyer for the ramped-up American production lines, she said.
“I think most taxpayers will agree that we should be using taxpayer dollars for things like the nation’s defensive and strategic medical stockpiles,” she said.
Mr. Huang said U.S. consumers should be prepared for the reality that they will eventually have to pay more, whether it is for a diversified international supply chain that reaches beyond China for APIs, or for drugs fully manufactured in the United States.
“Why do we currently get APIs from China? Because it’s cheaper, right?” he said.
He said he had hoped Washington and Beijing might have been brought closer together in responding to the “common enemy” of the coronavirus pandemic
“But what we’re seeing instead is this relationship continuing to deteriorate, with the outbreak only accelerating that process,” Mr. Huang said. “So I’m concerned the drug supply chain and Chinese exports to the U.S. will become a victim of this increasingly sour U.S.-China relationship.”
• Ben Wolfgang, Tom Howell and Lauren Meier contributed to this report.
JUPITER, Fla. — Over the course of this Covid-19 ordeal, a number of outlandish conspiracy theories have emerged that the virus was produced in a Chinese, Canadian, or American lab. Conspiracy theories have become an increasingly common part of everyday life in recent years, but a new study on Covid-19’s origins is disproving this theory. A team of international researchers have concluded that the novel coronavirus has entirely natural origins through evolution.
Public genome sequence data on Covid-19, as well as similar viruses, was extensively analyzed for this study. The results show absolutely no indication that the virus was produced artificially or in a lab setting.
“By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” comments co-author Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, in a release.
Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Sydney also worked on this project.
Coronaviruses in general are nothing new. The two most recent examples of a new coronavirus popping up are the SARS outbreak in Asia around 2003 and MERS in the Middle East in 2012. This new strain, largely being referred to as Covid-19, was only brought to the WHO’s attention on New Year’s Eve 2019.
Chinese scientists were the first to sequence the new virus’ genome, and immediately made their findings available to scientists all over the world. Incredibly, this data indeed indicates that Covid-19 has spread to hundreds of thousands after initially being “introduced” to just one person.
It was this genetic template that allowed the study’s authors to investigate the virus’ origins. They discovered that Covid-19’s receptor-binding domain (RBD), a kind of “grappling hook” that attaches itself to host cells, had evolved to target a specific molecular feature of human cells. That feature is called ACE2, and it is a receptor involved in maintaining regular blood pressure. The research team believe this development was the work of natural selection, not some type of genetic engineering.
Why? The virus appears to be so efficient at its newly evolved skill, that it is essentially impossible that modern science could have created such a monstrosity.
Additionally, if some nefarious entity were really attempting to create a deadly virus, they would have based it off of a known illness-causing virus. Researchers say that Covid-19’s molecular structure is quite different from previous coronaviruses, and more closely mimics viruses found in bats and pangolins.
“These two features of the virus, the mutations in the RBD portion of the spike protein and its distinct backbone, rules out laboratory manipulation as a potential origin for SARS-CoV-2” Andersen says.
“It is crucially important to bring an evidence-based view to the rumors that have been circulating about the origins of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19,” adds Josie Golding, PhD, epidemics lead at UK-based Wellcome Trust. “They conclude that the virus is the product of natural evolution, ending any speculation about deliberate genetic engineering.”
So, what are Covid-19’s true origins? The study’s authors have two main theories. The first is that the virus evolved pathogenically through natural selection within a non-human host and then made the jump to people. If this was the case, it’s likely that the virus evolved within bats, made the jump to an intermediary host, and then was passed onto a human.
The second theory is that the virus was largely non-pathogenic before making the transition to humans, and only evolved into it’s current deadly form within the human population.
At this point, researchers believe it’s nearly impossible to determine which of the two scenarios occurred. That being said, we should all hope for scenario two. If the novel coronavirus did in fact transfer over to humans already in its fully evolved pathogenic form, that would raise the chances of further outbreaks in the future.
How About Your Failed Benghazi Response Hillary? ...tmiraldi Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends the premiere of the Hulu documentary “Hillary” at the DGA New York Theater on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Hillary Clinton accused President Trump of relying on “racist rhetoric” to turn attention away from his bungled response to the coronavirus.
The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available, and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis.
Don't fall for it. Don't let your friends and family fall for it.
I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the “borders” from China - against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!