Monday, May 11, 2020


Last night, 60 Minutes reported on a U.S.-based infectious-disease scientist who's lost his federal grant because he cooperates with a lab in Wuhan -- even though his work could lead to COVID-19 treatments or a vaccine.
Peter Daszak is a scientist whose work is helping in the search for a COVID-19 cure. So why did the president just cancel Daszak's funding? It's the kind of politics which might seem ill-advised in a health crisis....

Peter Daszak [is] president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance....

In China, EcoHealth has worked for 15 years with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Together they've catalogued hundreds of bat viruses, research that is critical right now....

On April 14, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China's Wuhan Institute had, quote, "birthed a monster." Gaetz is a vigorous defender of the president....

Matt Gaetz on "Tucker Carlson Tonight": The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.

There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But, the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House...

That grant was to Peter Daszak's U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance for disease prevention it does throughout the world. His work was considered so important that, last year, the grant was reauthorized and increased by the Trump administration....

Dishonest and negligent allegations have now ended EcoHealth's carefully reviewed research designed to stop pandemics.
Also yesterday, The New York Times reported on charges that China and other nations are hacking virus data.
The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic....

The forthcoming warning is also the latest iteration of a series of efforts by the Trump administration to blame China for being the source of the pandemic and exploiting its aftermath.
I realize I'm being naive, but when I consider the possibility that China might steal coronavirus data in order to create a vaccine first, my initial reaction is: Is that a bad thing if it gets us a vaccine sooner? Obviously it's bad for scientists whose work is stolen. And it's bad if, as some have warned, China intends to use its control of the vaccine for national advantage. It's conceivable that China might withhold the vaccine from Americans in return for major concessions on trade or territory.

But I'm more worried about the opposite possibility: that Mad King Trump will be reelected and will tell us all that we can't trust "the Wuhan vaccine" and he's going to put conditions on allowing access to U.S. markets. As I've said several times, I already assume that he and de facto chief of staff Jared Kushner will make a shambles of the vaccine rollout, preventing any transparency about how the process is working while providing special favors to their friends. But would Trump block a Chinese vaccine altogether, at least temporarily, even as people continue to die from COVID-19? I think it's quite possible.

It might be that Trump's vendetta against the Chinese will end if he's reelected -- it's hard to tell whether he hates China the way he hates Barack Obama, or whether he's just positioning himself as a China foe because he thinks it will help him in November. I'm skeptical about the usefulness of this in the election -- voters in Trump's base will hate anyone he tells them to hate, but do swing voters feel the same way about China? And doesn't the fact that the media and Joe Biden can pull up clips of Trump saying nice things about China more or less neutralize the issue?

In any case, this is also happening:
The State Department on Friday described a Chinese Twitter campaign to push false narratives and propaganda about the virus.
Twitter executives have pushed back on the agency, noting that some of the Twitter accounts that the State Department cited were actually critical of Chinese state narratives.
The narratives the Trump administration is complaining about, according to this U.S. News story, are narratives that aren't gaining much purchase, at least in America:
Lea Gabrielle, who oversees the State Department's Global Engagement Center, tasked with identifying and responding to foreign propaganda, told reporters Friday morning her office had identified "a new network of inauthentic accounts" on Twitter designed to bolster China's narrative that it was not responsible for the global spread of COVID-19. Proxies of both China and Russia appear to be working in coordination to magnify this narrative on the social media platform, leading Gabrielle to conclude the two governments are likely working together out of shared interest.
But even the fiercest critics of the U.S. response to the virus acknowledge that China was the source of the virus, and that China wasn't fully honest in the early days of the pandemic and may now be overstating its success in containing the virus. What difference does any of this make to Americans now? The virus is here. We have to contain it on our own territory.

And this is projection, because we've lied about the origins of the virus.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed this month that there was “enormous evidence” that the virus had come from a Chinese lab before backing off to say it had come from the “vicinity” of the lab in Wuhan. United States intelligence agencies say they have reached no conclusion on the issue, but public evidence points to a link between the outbreak’s origins at a market in Wuhan and China’s illegal wildlife trafficking.
Scientists don't believe the virus was created in a lab, but Pompeo presses on with this assertion, even though he and the rest of the administration could simply criticize China for its initial efforts to conceal the crisis, and for its lax control of wet markets and the wildlife trade, and Americans across the political spectrum would find that reasonable.

If we ever have a vaccine, I don't know where it will come from. Despite the crazies, I think most Americans will be desperate to have it. But if Trump is still president, I have no idea what he'll do when it's available. What I'm sure he won't do is the right thing.

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