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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In POLITICS There are FEW Coincidences, Defined as “Remarkable Concurrences of Events or Circumstances without Apparent Causal Connection.”

YouTube screen grab

Brian C. Joondeph

When everything from professional sports to entertainment award shows have become political forums, it’s no surprise that an infectious disease outbreak moved from the realm of science to politics.

In politics there are few coincidences, defined as “Remarkable concurrences of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.” What to the casual observer appears random are events actually created or steered in a certain direction for political objectives. The Trump presidency provides a timeline of such examples, including the current viral pandemic, suggesting that these are not simply serendipitous events.

Seeing the forest and the trees, finding the larger pattern among apparently random events, is the mysterious and enigmatic Q group, a small military intelligence team working in the dark shadows with and for the president.

Q often asks the question, “Do you believe in coincidences?” From their bird’s eye view, Q frequently points out such coincidences. And did so recently. Let’s start with the virus itself. Are events surrounding this recent viral outbreak random or part of a wider pattern?

A SARS coronavirus occurred in Southern China in 2003. A 2007 microbiology review paper concluded, “Coronaviruses are well known to undergo genetic recombination, which may lead to new genotypes and outbreaks” Chinese wet markets are the ideal petri dish for genetic mixing, secretions of multiple wild animals comingling before the animals are eaten by humans, making the zoonotic jump from animal to human pathogens. “The reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories” was a “time bomb” and “the need for preparedness should not be ignored.”

Time bombs are innocuous until the fuse is lit, counting down to an explosion at some predetermined future time. Did the fuse on this current novel virus just happen to light itself? Or was it lit on purpose? And why now?

Here is where the coincidences begin. Wuhan, where the virus originated, just happens to be the location of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China’s only level 4 biosafety lab.

Could the virus have originated in that lab? The “consensus of scientists” say no, that this is just a conspiracy theory. Perhaps, but other consensuses of scientists tell us President Trump is mentally ill and that man-made global warming is melting the polar icecaps.

The virus may have developed naturally in a Wuhan wet market, according to experts who are adamant, “Humans could have never dreamed this up.” Could those same wet market conditions be replicated in a laboratory, producing similar results? The Chinese keep their secrets so we may never know.

Also curious is how quickly Wuhan purportedly became virus free. And how other major Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing weren’t affected. While the Chinese government quarantined Wuhan, the virus had already been around for months, potentially spread by Chinese New Year travel before the quarantine was placed. Yet the outbreak was quite limited and short-lived in China, unlike elsewhere, almost as if they were prepared. What a coincidence.

Move from science to politics for more coincidences, under the backdrop of the Trump presidency and upcoming election. The Chinese Coronavirus was first noted in in China in December 2019. What was happening politically here at home at that exact time?

The House was holding impeachment hearings over President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, alleging election interference, obstruction of justice, quid pro quo, and anything else Reps Schiff and Nadler could fabricate.

The Ukrainian allegations coincidently originated shortly after the Mueller Special Counsel investigation came up empty in their efforts to remove Trump from office. Articles of impeachment were passed on a partisan basis in December but not acted upon until January, despite the “urgency” of removing the “existential threat” from the Oval Office.

Note the sequence of events, each failed plan was followed by another scheme, all with the same goal of destroying President Trump. Why was the impeachment trial delayed until January? It’s almost as if that was the perfect time to distract the president, the media, and American people while a viral time bomb was beginning to explode.

January was when the Chinese virus was spreading. The intel agencies briefed Trump and Congress. Trump took notice and instituted a travel ban on arrivals from China. Congress ignored the warnings and plowed on with a Senate impeachment trial, guaranteeing no media interest or reporting on the new SARS-like Chinese virus. Was the fuse of the time bomb lit when it was apparent that the Ukraine phone call was a dud, with impeachment a good cover for the burning fuse?

Another way to look at this is to ask: who stands to gain by the economic and social destruction this virus is wreaking?

Start with China. Faced with crippling economic sanctions and tariffs placed by the first US president willing to stand up to their economic bullying, China would much prefer a President Biden or Clinton, or Bush and Obama, happy to let them have their way or readily bought off.

Just a month ago, Trump’s economy was on top of the world, literally. A booming stock market, strong economic growth, and record low unemployment was Trump’s first term legacy. What better way to derail a gangbuster economy than shutting it down due a viral pandemic? It would be an ideal way to weaken a president ahead of an election. So what if there was collateral damage? Trump is the existential threat to the globalist deep state and the ends justify the means. What a coincidence in timing.

The quarantines began shortly after Super Tuesday when Joe Biden took a healthy, but not overwhelming, lead in delegates over Bernie Sanders. The virus was a convenient excuse to cancel additional primaries and debates, protecting Joe Biden from public appearances. Who does this benefit?

Pro-China Joe is anointed the nominee and the quarantines provide a convenient excuse for Joe to avoid anything more than short scripted podcasts from home. Compare this to President Trump holding a daily briefing, speaking and answering endless questions from the media for hours at a time. Could Biden handle five minutes of Trump’s life? No way.

Bernie Sanders, for the second time in four years, has quickly become irrelevant as the Democrat establishment found a convenient excuse to offer him the consolation prize again.

Joe’s nomination is all but secured and he is safely tucked away until the summer convention. Biden’s rallies were a snooze fest, unlike Trump’s. Yet both are shut down because of the virus. What a coincidence.

Ironically, while not exactly a campaign rally, President Trump is in front of millions of Americans every day during his Coronavirus briefings, acting presidential, masterfully answering questions, inspiring confidence, while Biden is sputtering during low ratings cable news interviews where he can’t remember how many grandchildren he has.

Last week the House held the country hostage over the Chinese virus relief bill, loading it with pork, practicing the Rahm Emanuel axiom of “never let a crisis go to waste”. What an opportunity for Democrats to get their wish list, delaying financial assistance to millions of Americans in an effort to reinstate Obama-phones and mandate green energy standards. Democrats needed a national disaster to push some of their unpopular schemes through Congress. Another coincidence.

As cities and states shut down with stay-at-home orders, based on media led panic and frenzy, the economy takes further hits, hurting the incumbent president who up until recently was running for reelection on his roaring economy. What a coincidence.

Tying it all together, Trump is indeed an existential threat to the globalist agenda including open borders and an America-last policy. China is under Trump’s thumb, its superpower status threatened as global supply chains may now steer far clear of China's Belt and Road Initiative. Trump is cruising to reelection against a hapless senile Democrat candidate. In a second term, without facing another election, Trump is free to complete his MAGA agenda.

How convenient that a long-predicted viral outbreak occurred at the perfect time to inflict maximum damage on the president. Are these just a series of random events or is there a pattern? What are the odds of all of these events playing out in sequence? Is it beyond the realm of mathematical probability?

A viral outbreak, whether hatched in a laboratory or a wet market, could have been a nuisance like past outbreaks. Yet this one was treated far differently, devastating world economies. What are the odds?

As Q likes to ask his followers, “Do you believe in coincidences?” If Q sees the pattern, President Trump does as well and will be more than prepared, with his own moves and countermoves. As Q also likes to say, “Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing.”


Pelosi Only Talks to Trump 'AS NEEDED': 'I Don't Know What I Would Learn in a Conversation' with Him

'I don't know what I would learn in a conversation with the president'

President Donald Trump turns to House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.   (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool) **FILE**
President Donald Trump turns to House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool) **FILE**

David Sherfinski

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said she speaks to U.S. presidents on an “as-needed” basis amid reports that she and President Trump haven’t spoken extensively in months.
“I’ve always spoken to presidents on an as-needed basis,” Mrs. Pelosi said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s an historic occasion when the speaker and the president speak - it’s history.”
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland were the main point people for the administration in the negotiating over the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package Mr. Trump signed last week.
Mrs. Pelosi said she respects such an arrangement.
She also pointed out that she attended Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address, after which she ripped up a copy of his speech.
“If it’s necessary, I’m sure we will speak,” she said. “I don’t know what I would learn in a conversation with the president. We speak to each other right now, and that’s what he really hears, what people say publicly much more than what you might say in a call.”
“I think that those should be public anyway so everybody knows what actually happened in the conversation,” she said.
Mr. Trump confirmed that he was watching Mrs. Pelosi’s TV appearance.
“I watched a portion of low rated (very) Morning Psycho (Joe) this Morning in order to see what Nancy Pelosi had to say, & what moves she was planning to further hurt our Country,” the president said on Twitter. “Actually, other than her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person, she wasn’t bad. Still praying!”
Mr. Trump has questioned the sincerity of Mrs. Pelosi’s oft-used line that she’s praying for him and for the country.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Media Reaction To Yamiche Alcindor DUSTUP With Trump Shows WHY Their Approval Ratings Are LOW

Her peers rushed to defend her, but Alcindor has a track record of partisan commentary and unnecessarily hostile and silly questions.
Media Reaction To Yamiche Alcindor Dustup With Trump Shows Why Their Approval Ratings Are Low

Mollie Hemingway

The ongoing dysfunctional codependent relationship between the political media and President Donald Trump flared up again on Sunday afternoon during a Rose Garden press conference on the government’s handling of the Wuhan virus that has swept the globe.

Trump needs the media to act the way they do so he can dunk on them and look good by comparison. The media are enjoying the short-term rush of their war with Trump, wearing his abuse as a badge of honor among their peers.

On Sunday, the media were pretty sure they had Trump in a bind when he reacted negatively to a question by PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor. You can watch the whole shebang here, but her first question was about Trump’s comments from a few days ago about ventilator needs and whether they were being exaggerated by some politicians. While the question was typically accusatory, it was somewhat mild compared to many of her typical questions.

Still, in response, he accused her of being negative and then gave a winding three-minute answer in which he complimented her and critiqued her again. Vintage Trump. She wanted a second question and he said it wasn’t fair for other reporters. When he called on a CNN reporter a bit later, that reporter yielded to Alcindor. She asked another accusatory question suggesting it was insane to worry about widespread suicide or depression resulting from an economic catastrophe.

Then followed the CNN reporter’s question. It was a train wreck. Also accusatory, the reporter snipped a quote to make Trump sound like he’d said something different than what he’d said at a previous press conference. Trump forced him to read the quote in context, showing that the accusatory “gotcha” question was not an accurate depiction of what had been expressed.

In this sense, all three questions were absolutely golden for Trump, who could tee off on them in the way he tees off on most political media.

But political media really thought the moment went well for them. Maggie Haberman of The New York Times spun the exchange (and added some trademark Haberman mindreading) as if it were “triggering” for the president widely known for enjoying dustups with his media foes. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post dramatically claimed that Alcindor “routinely gets under his skin with probing questions,” and said Trump was “losing his cool, again.” The Obama bros who host “Pod Save America,” excitedly announced that Alcindor — “The incredible reporter who puts up with this shit from Trump all the time” — would be their next guest.

Many media figures spent the evening doing something very constructive. How constructive? Well, they worked really hard to get #WeLoveYamiche trending on Twitter! “What did you do during the Coronavirus Era, grandpa?” “Well, I spent some evenings trying to get a hashtag trending, and other similar important work, much like firefighters do.”

It is sad that some people think getting something trending, if it was indeed trending, is how one wins an argument. But such is the high-level thinking we’re dealing with these days.

In any case, as trust in media remains low, it is worth noting that Alcindor may be a perfectly fine reporter at times, but she also has done her fair share to make people think she’s similar to her peers in terms of extreme bias and sensationalism.

Most recently, she was the reporter who wasted valuable time asking President Trump if he approved of something that supposedly someone in the White House said to a reporter, although the reporter refused to identify the person in question. The supposed thing that supposedly happened was that someone — we don’t know who — called the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, the “Kung Flu” virus. It was an utterly ridiculous question during a global pandemic even if the event had verifiably happened.

Alcindor was also one of the reporters who deceptively edited a quote to make it sound like Trump had told governors they were on their own, when in fact he had explicitly said the federal government would help them if the more efficient method for acquiring needed goods was a bust.

Alcindor has at times been a poster child for press bias toward Trump, such as in an incident where she sounded more like President Barack Obama’s personal press secretary than a White House reporter. CNN has praised Alcindor for her support of the Russia collusion narrative. She complained when President Trump visited troops in Iraq, suggesting it was nothing more than a political rally. Of Communist China, she wrote, “your chances of improving your station in life there vastly exceed those in the United States.”

Alcindor is not consistently accusatory or hostile toward politicians. Sometimes she is very favorable or gentle toward them, such as when Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., proposed restricting Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights if she were elected president. Alcindor praised Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett, D-CO, when he railed against Republicans on the Senate floor for the government shutdown.

This was way back to last year, when journalists cared about the economic consequences of federal workers not being paid for a few weeks. Alcindor claimed people were scraping together their last pennies and Bennett “losing it on the Senate floor in that way was really a lot of Americans saying, ‘We can’t take this anymore.'”

When Jussie Smollett made his rather difficult-to-believe claim about being brutally attacked by a culturally astute roving gang of MAGA-hat-wearing bigots, Alcindor totally bought it. “We have to do better as a country. This is disgusting,” she wrote.

She’s also the reporter who accused people who support the national interest of being racist.

Alcindor clearly has many friends in the press corps, and they were elated to have a chance to defend her. It’s always good to have friends who defend you when powerful people critique you.

The incident is a good time to remember, though, that the country would benefit from a press corps less concerned with their cliques and more concerned about the American public they ostensibly report for. Perhaps it’s time to give political reporters a rest from the White House briefings and replace them with public health, mental health, business, education, and other beat reporters.

Trump flourishes the more the White House press corps is riddled with political activists posing as journalists. But the country might fare better with more informed questions from reporters able to think through issues less politically.


WHY Do ELECTED Officials Dismiss Positive Information About Coronavirus?

'Why aren't we asking questions?'

Illustration on question on the coronavirus by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times
Illustration on question on the coronavirus by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

 Everett Piper

Dr. Eran Bendavid and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professors of medicine at Stanford University, published an article in the March 24 edition of The Wall Street Journal, stating the following: 
“Fear of Covid-19 is based on an estimated mortality rate of 2% to 4% … We believe this estimate is deeply flawed.” 
Drs. Bendavid and Bhattacharya continue:
“The true fatality rate is the portion of those infected who die, not the deaths from identified positive cases. The latter rate is misleading because of selection bias in testing. The degree of bias is uncertain because available data are limited … If the number of actual infections is much larger than the number of cases — orders of magnitude larger — then the fatality rate is much lower as well. That’s not only plausible but likely based on what we know so far.” 
After summarizing all presently available data from China, Italy, Iceland, and the United States, the authors conclude: 
“An epidemic seed on January 1 implies that by March 9, about six million people in the U.S. would have been infected. As of March 23, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 499 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. If our surmise of six million cases is accurate, that’s a mortality rate of 0.01%, assuming a two-week lag between infection and death. This is one-tenth of the flu mortality rate of 0.1%. Such a low death rate would be cause for optimism … If we’re right about the limited scale of the epidemic, then … we should undertake immediate steps to evaluate the empirical basis of the current lockdowns.” 
I repeat, “This is one-tenth of the flu mortality rate of 0.1%”.
Why are we not demanding that our elected officials tell us why they are dismissing such positive information?  
Have we really become this intellectually obtuse and this addled in our social comforts? 
Do we not care about our freedom, or at least that of our progeny, enough to ask a few questions?  
For example:
Is it possible that, as we sit stupefied on our mounds of toilet paper, that Huxley’s hierarchy is smiling at just how easy it was to control an ideologically complacent people?
Are Orwell’s oligarchs grinning from ear to ear at how quickly we all agreed to submit?  
Is it possible that the smart folks in Belgium, Beijing and the Beltway who fancy themselves our rulers, are watching?
Are they taking notes?
Are they as amazed as we are at how fast entire nations of fearful children were seduced by the tunes of political Pied Pipers promising protection from the “rats” of man’s mortality?  
Why are we not nervous as we watch how easily an entire planet was brought to its knees by the decisions of so few?  
Are “We the People” … a citizenry that is clearly defined by our eternal liberties and not just our temporal lives — truly this eager to set aside nearly all of our God-given freedoms for the fleeting promises of financial protection and personal health? 
Is an entire globe of nearly 8 billion people this willing to be conquered without anyone firing a single shot?  
“Conspiracy theory,” you shout. 
Consider this: 
“If we see continued noncompliance [we] will step in and shut off their water and power. You know who you are, you need to stop it. This is your chance to step up and shut it down — because if you don’t, we will shut you down.” — Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti
And this:
“All public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited … The authorized punishments for conviction are … confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.” — Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam 
And this: 
“The COVID19 bill is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” — Democratic Majority Whip, James Clyburn
And, finally, this:
“We take some pride in the fact that Democrats in the Senate and the House were able to flip this … We have some other things we want to do, but first, we want to take pride in what [we’ve done]. We want more …” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 
C.S. Lewis once admonished that before we read any new books, we should first read a dozen or more of those that are old. He, thus, encouraged us to set aside our inclination to “chronological snobbery” and humble ourselves before the wisdom of the ages.   
In that spirit, I close: 
“After the Age of Utopias came what we may call the American Age … Men seemed to have solved the social riddle … It went with a buoyant optimism [but], that optimism has [turned] into pessimism. For, the Slump [has] brought even more disillusionment than the War. A new bitterness, and a new bewilderment, [runs] through all social life … The Brave New World is more of a revolution [than] Utopia.” — G.K. Chesterton (1932)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

SHAMFUL MEDIA Still Slamming Donald Trump During Coronavirus Crisis

President Donald Trump calls on a reporter during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.
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.
Already The New York Times has twice called the White House response “calamitous,” including once in a supposedly straight-news article.
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.”
Bloomy’s ‘$tiff’-arm 
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.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Old Malaria Drug HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE May Help Cure Coronavirus

Technicians separate specimens from coronavirus disease tests to be processed for a positive or negative result at the UW Medicine Virology lab in Seattle, Washington.

Amanda Woods

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.
Rheumatoid Arthritis drug
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.
With Post wires

'WAKE UP CALL': Chinese Control of U.S. Pharmaceutical Supplies Sparks Growing Concern

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.
Switching over
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.
Ms. Gibson said the shift is doable.
“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.