During the early days of the pandemic, America's mainstream media outlets blithely amplified claims by Dr. Anthony Fauci that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, had made its great leap to infecting humanity via "zoonotic" transmission, and that the Hunan wet market in downtown Wuhan - a market that just happened to be located a few miles away from a Level 4 Biosafety Lab dedicated to studying bat coronaviruses, just like the one that was now infecting the globe.
Yet, from the very beginning, even before scientists really had a chance to evaluate the origins of the virus, Dr. Fauci (and allies like Dr. Peter Daszak) insisted that zoonotic transmission was indisputably the source of the pandemic. This was long before the world learned the truth: that both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Daszak had been involved n funnelling American research dollars to dangerous and illegal "gain of function" research on coronaviruses at the WIV.
Still, in the name of defending "science" and combating "conspiracy theorists", tthe media launched a scorched earth campaign denouncing everyone who questioned the official narrative as a racist conspiracy theorist. At one point, Zero Hedge was sucked into the controversy by being "permanently" banned from Twitter for months for purportedly suggesting that the virus may have been genetically engineered, then leaked, from the WIV.
Fast-forward a year, and the American press's assessment of COVID's origins has grown much more skeptical, ever since the Washington Post and a handful of other mainstream media outlets published leaked intelligence reports claiming that the evidence supporting the lab leak hypothesis A WHO report (composed by a team led by Daszak) acknowledged that the lab-leak theory was possible, just unlikely. The backlash to this report forced President Joe Biden to call on the intelligence community to "get to the bottom of this". Now, the media must take for granted that the intelligence community places serious credibility in the lab leak theory.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul has done an admirable job interrogating Dr. Fauci, illustrating via public records how money from the NIH was funneled to the WIV despite an Obama Administration ban on so-called "gain-of-function" research (when viruses are manipulated to make them artificially stronger or more infectious in humans). Dr. Fauci has responded with an escalating series of denials and ad hominem attacks.
Ultimately, what Dr. Fauci says isn't as important as what the media reports. And in a surprising twist, the New Yorker (owned by corporate media giant Conde Nast) - a magazine that once lambasted believers in the lab-leak theory as witless conspiracists - has just published possibly the most detailed accounting to date of the controversy, quoting skeptics who believed that "almost from day one...the virus appeared like a human virus."
From the beginning of the pandemic, even before the WHO officially declared it a global pandemic, Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease expert at Scripps Research in San Diego, was perplexed by COVID's rapid spread across the globe. Like the original SARs showed us, while coronaviruses could be deadly, they're typically not so great at human-to-human transmissions.
Kristian Andersen, an infectious-disease expert at Scripps Research, in San Diego, began tracking the virus in January, 2020. He found the degree of contagion not just scary but unusual. Chinese scientists had already established that it belonged to a genus of coronaviruses commonly found in bats in southern China. It shared eighty per cent of its genome with the first SARS, and was more distantly related to MERS, another bat coronavirus. This new virus, however, was spreading far more quickly, reaching at least twenty-six countries by the end of the month. "It seemed to be locked and loaded for causing the pandemic," Andersen told me. Most viruses circulating in the wild, though some can be deadly, are not very good at transmission. They are still animal viruses. "This, almost from Day One,” Andersen said, “appeared like a human virus."
He quickly shared his thoughts with Dr. Fauci, claiming "Andersen wrote to Fauci and others that the SARS-CoV-2 genome seemed 'inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.'"
Andersen noted that “a really small part” of SARS-CoV-2’s genome had “unusual features.” Its spike—the crucial bit of surface protein that a coronavirus uses to invade a cell—appeared able to bind tightly to a human-cell receptor known as ACE2. This, Andersen told me, “means that it’s more effective at infecting human cells.” The other significant trait, a rare insertion in the genome of twelve nucleotides, called a furin cleavage site, might also increase the virus’s transmissibility, and lower the species barrier, allowing the virus to jump more easily to humans. “One has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” he wrote. There was much more data to analyze, he continued, “so those opinions could still change.”
After attending another meeting With Dr. Fauci and other experts, Anderson told the NYer that attendees' views on whether the virus had been engineered were divided. Some argued that the SARS-CoV-2 genome included several features that one wouldn't expect to in a natural virus, which raised the prospect that it had been "engineered". Others disagreed.
Following the meeting, a series of emails were exchanged between the attendees. The emails, which the New Yorker requested, were mostly redacted. But notably, just a few days later, Andersen insisted that the notion that COVID had been engineered was a "crackpot" idea, and that natural transmission was probably the most likely theory. In March, Andersen co-authored a paper declaring the virus of natural origin. That helped put a rest to the debate for months.
Yet, there were still too many unanswered questions and unlikely coincidences, and the "conspiracy theory" about the virus's origins continued to thrive among a small contingent of professional scientists, who continued to wonder: if it truly was zoonotic, than why were scientists having so much trouble finding a verifiable missing link?
As the pandemic progressed, not everyone was convinced by the natural-origin explanation. A zoonotic spillover would likely require an intermediate animal between bats and humans, but no such species has yet been identified. Initially, the Huanan market, in Wuhan, which sold fish, produce, and meat, seemed like the source of SARS-CoV-2. Nearly a third of the hundred and seventy-four earliest known cases were linked to Huanan. And yet, patient zero likely was not. Chinese officials have said he was a middle-aged accountant, surnamed Chen, who developed symptoms on December 8th, and typically shopped at a supermarket across the river. In May of 2020, George Fu Gao, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim. The novel coronavirus had existed long before.”
By the end of 2020, these skeptics had formulated a new theory: instead of the virus having been deliberately engineered and released, the pandemic very likely might be the result of a lab leak. The lab, led by Shi Zhengli, the head of the WIV's center for emerging diseases, who has become better known by her nickname "Batwoman". Her lab was known to have catalogued more than 19K coronaviruses, mostly culled from bats. Then, questions emerged about Shi's research at a mine in Tongguan where a handful of miners were sickened and died with a mysterious coronavirus years ago. Some questioned whether the researchers were keeping certain strains isolated at the lab secret as they carried out dangerous "gain of function" research. Worries about this technique triggered a mini-panic in 2014, prompting the Obama Administration to ban it in the US. Yet, that didn't stop Dr. Fauci from funneling money to the WIV to help finance the dangerous experiments they may or may not have been conducting. Soon, a publicly available scientific database from the WIV disappeared.
DRASTIC also exposed another mystery related to the W.I.V. In September, 2019, according to Web pages that DRASTIC archived, a W.I.V. database that was once publicly available was made inaccessible. It contained records pertaining to roughly twenty-two thousand samples, including, presumably, the sequences from Tongguan. When asked about it by the BBC, Shi said that the W.I.V. had “nothing to hide."
Still, there's one reality that can't be denied: "At this point, the closest relatives of SARS-CoV-2 are known to have existed in two locations: bat caves in Yunnan, and at the Wuhan Institute of Virology."
Back in 2015, Shi was criticized for running 'risky' experiments involving making bat coronaviruses infectious to humans.
Geography aside, the nature of the experiments undertaken by the W.I.V. and its partners has raised concerns. In 2015, Shi was a co-author on a groundbreaking study, in Nature, with Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert at the University of North Carolina. Through the use of pioneering genetic technology, Baric examined which viral structures could give a coronavirus the ability to infect humans. The work involved synthesizing what is known as a chimeric virus, named for the mythical beast with its parts taken from various animals; in this case, a modified clone of SARS was combined with a spike protein taken from one of the bat coronaviruses that Shi had discovered in Yunnan.
Others who spoke to the New Yorker said that, in the years after these experiments began, some in the international scientific community warned that the WIV wasn't using proper protection protocols. Earlier this year, US intelligence learned that several WIV workers were infected with a severe COVID-like illness in the weeks before the pandemic began.
Make no mistake, the fact that the New Yorker - the magazine that employed Ronan Farrow to help take down Harvey Weinstein - has managed to publish such a details story exploring all the holes in the "animal-to-human transimission" theory, expect other mainstream outlets to follow suite.
‘Build Back… You Know, The Thing’: Americans Have No Idea What’s In Biden’s Economic Plan
‘Build Back… You Know, The Thing’: Americans Have No Idea What’s In Biden’s Economic Plan
While Congressional Democrats spar over the ultimate size of President Biden’s "Build Back Better" economic plan, Bloomberg astutely points out that..
While Congressional Democrats spar over the ultimate size of President Biden's "Build Back Better" economic plan, Bloomberg astutely points out that Americans have no clue what they're signing up for with their tax dollars. In fact, according to a CBS News poll published Oct. 10, just 10% of Americans say they know the specifics of the bill, while only 1/3 think it would benefit them directly.
What's more, "Not even Congress knows what the bill would accomplish, with the contents of the plan changing day-by-day as Democrats squabble over how much it should spend, who it should benefit and who should pay for it."
For example, on Tuesday, the White House suggested it would jettison free community college. The next day, Democrats were focused on proposed tax hikes after moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) put her foot down over corporate and personal tax rates.
In an attempt to provide some clarity (don't hold your breath), Biden on Thursday night held a CNN town hall-style event (on the same night as Dune's US release).
In short, their messaging sucks.
"I will state the obvious, but they need to shift the focus away from process to policy. So far, the coverage around their proposal is all around Democratic divisions, which inevitably makes it impossible to sell," said former Marco Rubio communications director, Alex Conant. "Frankly, they need to talk about what their goals are," he added. "Why is this necessary?"
Republicans, on the other hand, are clear on their messaging; "Massive government spending leads to massive tax hikes," according to GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. "When you have a shifting number and shifting programs, it becomes confusing to follow."
Instead of focusing on the legislation’s new investments in child care, the elderly, education, healthcare and climate change, Democratic lawmakers have openly haggled over the price tag. A standoff between the party’s progressive and centrist factions has created cable news-ready drama.
“Given how much is wrapped up in this package, it was always going to be a long and intense negotiation,” said Ben LaBolt, a former spokesperson for President Barack Obama. “One way to start is to build the case for the way this will help middle class families and focus the public on those conversations, while at the same time preserving room for the closed-door negotiations to bring all of the elements of the party together for the biggest, most comprehensive approach possible.” -Bloomberg
In a Wednesday speech in Scranton, PA, Biden tried - and failed - to convey how his economic agenda would help working class families - by intermingling stories about growing up in the area and programs contained in the legislation.
"Frankly, they’re about more than giving working families a break; they’re about positioning our country to compete in the long haul," said Biden, doing his usual poor job of reading a teleprompter. "Economists left, right, and center agree."
Meanwhile, Biden - let's face it, Biden's 'advisers' have failed to ink a final compromise between warring factions of Democrats. For the Build Back Better plan to pass, every single Senate Democrat must be on board. As moderates Sinema and Joe Manchin (D-WV) balk on the price tag and demanding deep cuts, progressive House Democrats are sure to similarly balk at passing the smaller, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that's already passed the Senate.
While advocacy groups have started to spend heavily to promote policies in the plan, most of the discussion remains centered on its cost.
Biden’s advisers are banking on the presumption that ordinary Americans don’t pay much attention to the machinations of everyday Washington. Much as they were during the presidential campaign, the president’s aides are largely dismissive of what they call horse-race stories.
But Biden’s team had a much easier time selling his pandemic relief legislation, the American Rescue Plan, in March, with its convenient focus on three clear issues -- money for vaccines, money to re-open schools and checks sent directly to American households. -Bloomberg
"They haven’t laid out why we need this, other than Democrats are in power now and aren’t going to have it again for a long time," said Conant.
Good luck with that.
Parents were fine with sweeping school vaccination mandates five decades ago – but COVID-19 may be a different story
Public health experts know that schools are likely sites for the spread of disease, and laws tying school attendance to vaccination go back to the 1800s.
The ongoing battles over COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. are likely to get more heated when the Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use of a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, expected later this fall.
California has announced it will require the vaccine for elementary school attendance once it receives full FDA approval after emergency use authorization, and other states may follow suit. COVID-19 vaccination mandates in workplaces and colleges have sparked controversy, and the possibility that a mandate might extend to younger children is even more contentious.
Kids are already required to get a host of other vaccines to attend school. School vaccination mandates have been around since the 19th century, and they became a fixture in all 50 states in the 1970s. Vaccine requirements are among the most effective means of controlling infectious diseases, but they’re currently under attack by small but vocal minorities of parents who consider them unacceptable intrusions on parental rights.
As a public health historian who studies the evolution of vaccination policies, I see stark differences between the current debates over COVID-19 vaccination and the public response to previous mandates.
Compulsory vaccination in the past
The first legal requirements for vaccination date to the early 1800s, when gruesome and deadly diseases routinely terrorized communities. A loose patchwork of local and state laws were enacted to stop epidemics of smallpox, the era’s only vaccine-preventable disease.
Vaccine mandates initially applied to the general population. But in the 1850s, as universal public education became more common, people recognized that schoolhouses were likely sites for the spread of disease. Some states and localities began enacting laws tying school attendance to vaccination. The smallpox vaccine was crude by today’s standards, and concerns about its safety led to numerous lawsuits over mandates.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld compulsory vaccination in two decisions. The first, in 1905, affirmed that mandates are constitutional. The second, in 1922, specifically upheld school-based requirements. In spite of these rulings, many states lacked a smallpox vaccination law, and some states that did have one failed to enforce it consistently. Few states updated their laws as new vaccines became available.
School vaccination laws underwent a major overhaul beginning in the 1960s, when health officials grew frustrated that outbreaks of measles were continuing to occur in schools even though a safe and effective vaccine had recently been licensed.
Many parents mistakenly believed that measles was an annoying but mild disease from which most kids quickly recovered. In fact, it often caused serious complications, including potentially fatal pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
With encouragement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all states updated old laws or enacted new ones, which generally covered all seven childhood vaccines that had been developed by that time: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. In 1968, just half the states had school vaccination requirements; by 1981, all states did.
Expanding requirements, mid-20th century
What is most surprising about this major expansion of vaccination mandates is how little controversy it provoked.
The laws did draw scattered court challenges, usually over the question of exemptions – which children, if any, should be allowed to opt out. These lawsuits were often brought by chiropractors and other adherents of alternative medicine. In most instances, courts turned away these challenges.
There was scant public protest. In contrast to today’s vocal and well-networked anti-vaccination activists, organized resistance to vaccination remained on the fringes in the 1970s, the period when these school vaccine mandates were largely passed. Unlike today, when fraudulent theories of vaccine-related harm – such as the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism – circulate endlessly on social media, public discussion of the alleged or actual risks of vaccines was largely absent.
Through most of the 20th century, parents were less likely to question pediatricians’ recommendations than they are today. In contrast to the empowered “patient/consumer” of today, an attitude of “doctor knows best” prevailed. All these factors contributed to overwhelmingly positive views of vaccination, with more than 90% of parents in a 1978 poll reporting that they would vaccinate their children even if there were no law requiring them to do so.
Widespread public support for vaccination enabled the laws to be passed easily – but it took more than placing a law on the books to control disease. Vaccination rates continued to lag in the 1970s, not because of opposition, but because of complacency.
Thanks to the success of earlier vaccination programs, most parents of young children lacked firsthand experience with the suffering and death that diseases like polio or whooping cough had caused in previous eras. But public health officials recognized that those diseases were far from eradicated and would continue to threaten children unless higher rates of vaccination were reached. Vaccines were already becoming a victim of their success. The better they worked, the more people thought they were no longer needed.
In response to this lack of urgency, the CDC launched a nationwide push in 1977 to help states enforce the laws they had recently enacted. Around the country, health officials partnered with school districts to audit student records and provide on-site vaccination programs. When push came to shove, they would exclude unvaccinated children from school until they completed the necessary shots.
The lesson learned was that making a law successful requires ongoing effort and commitment – and continually reminding parents about the value of vaccines in keeping schools and entire communities healthy.
Add COVID-19 to vaccine list for school?
Five decades after school mandates became universal in the U.S., support for them remains strong overall. But misinformation spread over the internet and social media has weakened the public consensus about the value of vaccination that allowed these laws to be enacted.
COVID-19 vaccination has become politicized in a way that is unprecedented, with sharp partisan divides over whether COVID-19 is really a threat, and whether the guidance of scientific experts can be trusted. The attention focused on COVID-19 vaccines has given new opportunities for anti-vaccination conspiracy theories to reach wide audiences.
[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]
Fierce opposition to COVID-19 vaccination, powered by anti-government sentiment and misguided notions of freedom, could undermine support for time-tested school requirements that have protected communities for decades. Although vaccinating school-aged children will be critical to controlling COVID-19, lawmakers will need to proceed with caution.
James Colgrove has received funding from the National Library of Medicine, the Greenwall Foundation, the Milbank Memorial Fund, and the William T. Grant Foundation.cdc disease control emergency use authorization covid-19 vaccine fda spread
2 High Yielding Canadian Dividend Stocks to Add Today
Many investors are looking to achieve financial freedom. Ditching that 9-5 job and being financially free is certainly a lifestyle to get excited about. To achieve this, many buy high-yielding Canadian dividend stocks. But, what many don’t realize is…
Many investors are looking to achieve financial freedom. Ditching that 9-5 job and being financially free is certainly a lifestyle to get excited about.
To achieve this, many buy high-yielding Canadian dividend stocks. But, what many don't realize is that the dividend yield of a company is not the first thing you should be looking at. In fact, a high yield can sometimes be a looming disaster. Look no further than the record-breaking amount of dividend cuts we had during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There's no point in purchasing a high yielding Canadian dividend stock if you're going to watch your capital shrink. So, in this article we're going to highlight a few options that not only present a high dividend yield for investors buying stocks to churn out more passive income, but a reliable dividend yield, one that can stand the test of time.
Reliability found in Enbridge (TSX:ENB)
If you're an income investor, you've likely heard of Enbridge (TSE:ENB). The company has paid a notoriously high yield for decades, and has maintained one of the longest dividend growth streaks in the country, raising consistently for more than 2 and a half decades.
Enbridge is a midstream company with a growing renewable energy portfolio. To give an indication of the company's dominance, it states that it is responsible for shipping more than 20% of the natural gas that is consumed in the United States, and 25% of North America's crude oil.
Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and the renewable future
Its renewable energy portfolio is quite small, accounting for only 3% of 2020 adjusted EBITDA, but it is one that is growing fast, and investors should take note. As we move further into the future, renewables will no doubt play a key role in Enbridge's growth.
There's also a chance you've glanced at Enbridge during a pre-screen and avoided the company due to excessively high payout ratios. Which, is fairly reasonable. The company is currently paying out over 110% of trailing earnings towards its dividend. But, you may be missing a massive opportunity here.
When analyzing pipelines, you want to be looking at something called distributable cash flow, or DCF. This cash flow calculation is produced by the company themselves, and calculations can vary to some degree. Given the complex business structure of a pipeline company, this is the most reliable indicator to use when it comes to dividend safety.
In 2021, Enbridge expects to generate $4.70-5 in distributable cash flow. With a dividend of $3.34 per year, this puts the company's payout ratio at 66.8% on the high end. Of note, Enbridge's target is to keep its payout ratio within this range, and the company has done so for quite some time.
Consistent cash flows in "take or pay" contracts
How has it managed to do so? Cash flow with pipelines is extremely consistent, due to long term take or pay contracts. Regardless of whether or not Enbridge is shipping product, the pipeline space is paid for. And not only this, Enbridge can turn around and charge someone else to utilize that space, even if it has already been paid for and goes unused.
This creates an extremely reliable cash flow stream despite the price of natural gas or oil, and is one of the major reasons why Enbridge and other midstream companies are not as susceptible to volatility in commodity prices.
Yielding 6.47%, Enbridge is a solid option to help you bolster your passive income stream and start generating long-standing wealth.
Beefy distribution in A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund (TSX:AW.UN)
Royalty funds are often avoided due to their complex and confusing structure. However, many of them provide excellent opportunities for investors looking to generate passive income. A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund (TSE:AW.UN) is one that does just that.
Many bears will point out that A&W in the United States has been struggling. However, in Canada it is a much different story.
A&W thriving in Canadian space
The company has over 1,000 restaurants in Canada and had system sales of over $1.4B in 2020, despite being in a global pandemic. The company has proven to be exceptionally skilled at marketing its products and has some of the best industry leading growth out of all fast food chains in Canada.
As a royalty company, A&W Royalty collects "top line" cash flows. Which means it is solely dependent on the sales driven through A&W restaurants. This means that its distribution can vary depending on how well the restaurants do, but overall it has been extremely reliable when it comes to payments.
Yes, the chain did suspend its $0.10 monthly distribution because of the pandemic in 2020, however it quickly made up for this by providing 2 special distributions of $0.30 and $0.20 when operations started back up later in the year.
Sales growth through the first 6 months of 2021
Prior to the pandemic, the company had achieved mid to high single digit same store sales growth over the last half decade, and it's off to a roaring start in 2021 as well, with 12.2% sales growth through the first 6 months. Through the first 6 months of the year the company has also added 34 new restaurants. To put this into perspective, the company added 37 in all of Fiscal 2020.
The fund yields 4.77%, and pays out on a monthly basis. Payout ratios will look high, but if you understand the operations of a royalty company, you'll know that it aims to pay out the vast majority of its distributable cash back to shareholders.
Overall, it seems consumers are willing to eat at A&W despite higher costs, which bodes well for the company's growth. It does this with great marketing and higher quality food than similar chains like Burger King and Mcdonalds, and investors are likely to enjoy a beefy (no pun intended) distribution for quite some time.
Copper Price Update: Q3 2021 in Review
Jim Chanos: China’s “Leveraged Prosperity” Model Is Doomed…And That’s Not The Worst Of It
FDA Approves Moderna, J&J Boosters And Releases Guidelines For “Mix And Match”
Walmart Rolls Out Bitcoin ATMs Across 200 Stores Nationwide
Navigating the debt legacy of the pandemic
The FDA’s War Against The Truth On Ivermectin
What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work and what’s expected from the Glasgow summit
Zinc Prices Hit 14 Year High as Power Costs Rise
Seeking Solace in an Equal-Weight Cybersecurity ETF
FDA okays Moderna, J&J COVID jab boosters, plus ‘mix and match’
Crypto14 hours ago
Walmart Rolls Out Bitcoin ATMs Across 200 Stores Nationwide
Stocks19 hours ago
Tesla share price forecast after Q3 results
Stocks10 hours ago
Zinc Prices Hit 14 Year High as Power Costs Rise
Stocks7 hours ago
PayPal Stock Forecast: Everything You Need to Know Before Investing
Stocks17 hours ago
Stocks That Miss Expectations Are Being Hammered By The Most On Record
Crypto15 hours ago
Shanghai Man: Blockchain Week with Vitalik still happening, ‘Bitcoin’ searches on WeChat hit 26M in a day
Stocks1 hour ago
Best Penny Stocks to Watch as The Market Turns Bullish
Science24 hours ago
JPM: “We Could Be Just Weeks Away From Cushing Effectively Running Out Of Crude”