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TBR News May 21, 2020

May 21 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. May 21, 2020: Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it. “
Comment for May 21, 2020:”God spare me from living in Interesting Times!
Here we have the coronavirus frenzy, the mindless media braying like a donkey with a hot sweet potato shoved up his ass, fake scientists making as much noise but without the sweet potato, hordes of sheep wearing useless masks surging back and forth on the social scene like drunks on New Year’s Eve, reams of fiction gushing forth in the sleazy internet scene like sewage from a broken pipe and overall, the idiot remarks by our mentally disturbed President that sound like tape recordings of a group therapy session in a back ward.
Interesting times?
Unproductive times, economically suicidal times to be sure.
And over all the milling, wailing and mindless chatter, the realization that a wolf is a much older species than man and far more intelligent.
When the human occupation of the planet peters out, trust me, all that will be left will be trees and wolves.
And peace and quiet.”

The Table of Contents
• Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic
• Background of coronavirus attack
• Where did Covid-19 come from? What we know about its origins
• ‘All the psychoses of US history’: how America is victim-blaming the coronavirus dead
• MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic
May 20, 2020
by Reid Wilson
The Hill
Nearly half of Americans say in a new survey that they or someone in their household has lost employment income because of the coronavirus pandemic, a devastating loss that has fallen most heavily on lower income workers.
The Census Bureau’s survey, meant to track the pandemic’s impact on Americans, shows 47.5 percent of all households reporting job losses.
More than half of households with incomes under $50,000 say they have seen their incomes slide, as have more than half of households in which no one has attained a bachelor’s degree.
Households headed by people under the age of 55 were more likely than not to have lost income, and almost twice as many people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they had lost income. Both African American and Hispanic households were more likely than not to lose income, the report found.
About 43 percent of non-Hispanic white households said they had lost income, while job losses were far less likely among older people, those with a bachelor’s degree and those in higher income brackets.
Ten percent of Americans said they had been unable to pay rent or their mortgages on time, and one-fifth of those who responded said they had little or no confidence they would be able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage.
The losses are being felt most acutely in states that heavily depend on tourism and in states where the pandemic struck first. Though Hawaii has reported few cases of the virus, 59 percent of residents say they have lost income. In Nevada, which experienced an early outbreak and shuttered its iconic casinos, 56 percent said the same.
More than half of households in New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan and New York — all early epicenters of confirmed coronavirus cases — said they had lost income. More than half of households in California and Oregon reported job losses, too. Both of those states acted earlier than others to lock down their economies to halt the spread of the virus.
By contrast, residents of some of the most rural states, where the coronavirus is only now beginning to break out, were least likely to say they had lost out on income — but the number of those households that had lost income is still staggeringly high. More than a third of residents in Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho, Montana and Arkansas said they had lost wages.
The jurisdiction where households were least likely to have lost income is Washington, D.C., a city with a highly educated population and where the dominant industry, the federal government, has faced virtually no layoffs. Still, one-third of all District residents surveyed reported losing income.
The stress of the pandemic is becoming more apparent, too. Almost 30 percent of respondents in the new survey said they had felt anxious or nervous more than half the days last week. About one in six reported feeling down most of last week, and more than a fifth said they took little interest or pleasure in doing things.
A separate survey of small businesses found more than half had experienced significant negative effects from the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 4 in 5 restaurant and accommodation businesses and three-quarters of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses.
The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, conducted in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed 74,413 people in the last week.

Background of coronavirus attack
Euro Surveill. 2020 Mar 5; 25(9): 2000178.
doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.9.2000178
PMCID: PMC7068164
PMID: 32156327
First cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO European Region, 24 January to 21 February 2020
Gianfranco Spiteri,1 James Fielding,2 Michaela Diercke,3 Christine Campese,4 Vincent Enouf,5 Alexandre Gaymard,6 Antonino Bella,7 Paola Sognamiglio,8 Maria José Sierra Moros,9 Antonio Nicolau Riutort,10 Yulia V. Demina,11 Romain Mahieu,12 Markku Broas,13 Malin Bengnér,14 Silke Buda,3 Julia Schilling,3 Laurent Filleul,15 Agnès Lepoutre,16 Christine Saura,17 Alexandra Mailles,4 Daniel Levy-Bruhl,4 Bruno Coignard,4 Sibylle Bernard-Stoecklin,4 Sylvie Behillil,5 Sylvie van der Werf,5 Martine Valette,6 Bruno Lina,6 Flavia Riccardo,7 Emanuele Nicastri,8 Inmaculada Casas,18 Amparo Larrauri,19 Magdalena Salom Castell,20 Francisco Pozo,18 Rinat A. Maksyutov,21 Charlotte Martin,22 Marc Van Ranst,23 Nathalie Bossuyt,24 Lotta Siira,25 Jussi Sane,26 Karin Tegmark-Wisell,27 Maria Palmérus,28 Eeva K. Broberg,1 Julien Beauté,1 Pernille Jorgensen,2 Nick Bundle,1 Dmitriy Pereyaslov,2 Cornelia Adlhoch,1 Jukka Pukkila,2 Richard Pebody,2 Sonja Olsen,2,29 and Bruno Christian Ciancio1,29
In the WHO European Region, COVID-19 surveillance was implemented 27 January 2020. We detail the first European cases. As at 21 February, nine European countries reported 47 cases. Among 38 cases studied, 21 were linked to two clusters in Germany and France, 14 were infected in China. Median case age was 42 years; 25 were male. Late detection of the clusters’ index cases delayed isolation of further local cases. As at 5 March, there were 4,250 cases.
Keywords: COVID-19, Novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, SARS, coronavirus disease 2019
A cluster of pneumonia of unknown origin was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 [1]. On 12 January 2020, Chinese authorities shared the sequence of a novel coronavirus termed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) isolated from some clustered cases [2]. Since then, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As at 21 February 2020, the virus had spread rapidly mostly within China but also to 28 other countries, including in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region [3-5]. Here we describe the epidemiology of the first cases of COVID-19 in this region, excluding cases reported in the United Kingdom (UK), as at 21 February 2020. The study includes a comparison between cases detected among travellers from China and cases whose infection was acquired due to subsequent local transmission.
Surveillance in the WHO European Region
On 27 January 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe asked countries to complete a WHO standard COVID-19 case report form for all confirmed and probable cases according to WHO criteria [6-8]. The overall aim of surveillance at this time was to support the global strategy of containment of COVID-19 with rapid identification and follow-up of cases linked to affected countries in order to minimise onward transmission. The surveillance objectives were to: describe the key epidemiological and clinical characteristics of COVID-19 cases detected in Europe; inform country preparedness; and improve further case detection and management. Data collected included demographics, history of recent travel to affected areas, close contact with a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, underlying conditions, signs and symptoms of disease at onset, type of specimens from which the virus was detected, and clinical outcome. The WHO case definition was adopted for surveillance: a confirmed case was a person with laboratory confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection (ECDC recommended two separate SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR tests), irrespective of clinical signs and symptoms, whereas a probable case was a suspect case for whom testing for SARS-CoV-2 was inconclusive or positive using a pan-coronavirus assay [8]. By 31 January 2020, 47 laboratories in 31 countries, including 38 laboratories in 24 European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries, had diagnostic capability for SARS-CoV-2 available (close to 60% of countries in the WHO European Region), with cross-border shipment arrangements in place for many of those lacking domestic testing capacity. The remaining six EU/EEA countries were expected to have diagnostic testing available by mid-February [9].
Epidemiology of first cases in the European Region
As at 09:00 on 21 February 2020, 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in the WHO European Region and one of these cases had died [4]. Data on 38 of these cases (i.e. all except the nine reported in the UK) are included in this analysis.
The first three cases detected were reported in France on 24 January 2020 and had onset of symptoms on 17, 19 and 23 January respectively [10]. The first death was reported on 15 February in France. As at 21 February, nine countries had reported cases (Figure): Belgium (1), Finland (1), France (12), Germany (16), Italy (3), Russia (2), Spain (2), Sweden (1) and the UK (9 – not included further).
The place of infection (assessed at national level based on an incubation period presumed to be up to 14 days [11], travel history and contact with probable or confirmed cases as per the case definition) was reported for 35 cases (missing for three cases), of whom 14 were infected in China (Hubei province: 10 cases; Shandong province: one case; province not reported for three cases). The remaining 21 cases were infected in Europe. Of these, 14 were linked to a cluster in Bavaria, Germany, and seven to a cluster in Haute-Savoie, France [12,13]. Cases from the Bavarian cluster were reported from Germany and Spain, whereas cases from the Haute-Savoie cluster were reported from France and Spain. Cases linked to the Haute Savoie cluster were also detected in the UK, including the index case of this cluster, who was infected in Singapore before travelling to France [14]. The index cases for the cluster in Bavaria was reported to be infected in China [15].
The median age of the 38 cases was 42 years (range: 2–81 years) and 25 were male (Table). The proportion of male cases was higher among cases acquired in Europe (14 males of 21 cases) compared with those acquired in China (8 males of 14 cases) although the difference was not statistically significant (chi-squared test: p = 0.6). There was no difference in median age by sex (males: 45 years; females: 38 years, k-sample median test, p = 1.0) or by whether infection was acquired in Europe or not (acquired in Europe: 47 years; acquired in China: 38 years, p = 0.2).
All but two cases were hospitalised (35 of 37 where information on hospitalisation was reported), although it is likely that most were hospitalised to isolate the person rather than because of severe disease. The time from onset of symptoms to hospitalisation (and isolation) ranged between 0 and 10 days with a mean of 3.7 days (reported for 29 cases). The mean number of days to hospitalisation was 2.5 days for cases imported from China, but 4.6 days for those infected in Europe. This was mostly a result of delays in identifying the index cases of the two clusters in France and Germany. In the German cluster, for example, the first three cases detected locally were hospitalised in a mean of 5.7 days, whereas the following six took only a mean of 2 days to be hospitalised.
Symptoms at the point of diagnosis were reported for 31 cases. Two cases were asymptomatic and remained so until tested negative. The asymptomatic cases were tested as part of screening following repatriation and during contact tracing respectively. Of the remaining 29, 20 reported fever, 14 reported cough and eight reported weakness. Additional symptoms reported included headaches (6 cases), sore throat (2), rhinorrhoea (2), shortness of breath (2), myalgia (1), diarrhoea (1) and nausea (1). Fever was reported as the sole symptom for nine cases. In 16 of 29 symptomatic cases, the symptoms at diagnosis were consistent with the case definition for acute respiratory infection [16], although it is possible that cases presented additional symptoms after diagnosis and these were not reported.
Data on pre-existing conditions were reported for seven cases; five had no pre-existing conditions while one was reported to be obese and one had pre-existing cardiac disease. No data on clinical signs e.g. dyspnea etc. were reported for any of the 38 cases.
All hospitalised cases had a benign clinical evolution except four, two reported in Italy and two reported in France, all of whom developed viral pneumonia. All three cases who were aged 65 years or over were admitted to intensive care and required respiratory support and one French case died. The case who died was hospitalised for 21 days and required intensive care and mechanical ventilation for 19 days. The duration of hospitalisation was reported for 16 cases with a median of 13 days (range: 8–23 days). As at 21 February 2020, four cases were still hospitalised.
Laboratory diagnosis
All cases were confirmed according to specific assays targeting at least two separate genes (envelope (E) gene as a screening test and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) gene or nucleoprotein (N) gene for confirmation) [8,17]. The specimen types tested were reported for 27 cases: 15 had positive nasopharyngeal swabs, nine had positive throat swabs, three cases had positive sputum, two had a positive nasal swab, one case had a positive nasopharyngeal aspirate and one a positive endotracheal aspirate.:
Discussion
As at 09:00 on 21 February, few COVID-19 cases had been detected in Europe compared with Asia. However the situation is rapidly developing, with a large outbreak recently identified in northern Italy, with transmission in several municipalities and at least two deaths [18]. As at 5 March 2020, there are 4,250 cases including 113 deaths reported among 38 countries in the WHO European region [19].
In our analysis of early cases, we observed transmission in two broad contexts: sporadic cases among travellers from China (14 cases) and cases who acquired infection due to subsequent local transmission in Europe (21 cases). Our analysis shows that the time from symptom onset to hospitalisation/case isolation was about 3 days longer for locally acquired cases than for imported cases. People returning from affected areas are likely to have a low threshold to seek care and be tested when symptomatic, however delays in identifying the index cases of the two clusters in France and Germany meant that locally acquired cases took longer to be detected and isolated. Once the exposure is determined and contacts identified and quarantined (171 contacts in France and 200 in Germany for the clusters in Haute-Savoie and Bavaria, respectively), further cases are likely to be rapidly detected and isolated when they develop symptoms [15,20]. In the German cluster, for example, the first three cases detected locally were hospitalised in a mean of 5.7 days, whereas the following six were hospitalised after a mean of 2 days. Locally acquired cases require significant resources for contact tracing and quarantine, and countries should be prepared to allocate considerable public health resources during the containment phase, should local clusters emerge in their population. In addition, prompt sharing of information on cases and contacts through international notification systems such as the International Health Regulations (IHR) mechanism and the European Commission’s European Early Warning and Response System is essential to contain international spread of infection.
All of the imported cases had a history of travel to China. This was consistent with the epidemiological situation in Asia, and supported the recommendation for testing of suspected cases with travel history to China and potentially other areas of presumed ongoing community transmission. The situation has evolved rapidly since then, however, and the number of countries reporting COVID-19 transmission increased rapidly, notably with a large outbreak in northern Italy with 3,089 cases reported as at 5 March [18,19]. Testing of suspected cases based on geographical risk of importation needs to be complemented with additional approaches to ensure early detection of local circulation of COVID-19, including through testing of severe acute respiratory infections in hospitals irrespectively of travel history as recommended in the WHO case definition updated on 27 February 2020 [21].
The clinical presentation observed in the cases in Europe is that of an acute respiratory infection. However, of the 31 cases with information on symptoms, 20 cases presented with fever and nine cases presented only with fever and no other symptoms. These findings, which are consistent with other published case series, have prompted ECDC to include fever among several clinical signs or symptoms indicative for the suspected case definition.
Three cases were aged 65 years or over. All required admission to intensive care and were tourists (imported cases). These findings could reflect the average older age of the tourist population compared with the local contacts exposed to infection in Europe and do not allow us to draw any conclusion on the proportion of severe cases that we could expect in the general population of Europe. Despite this, the finding of older individuals being at higher risk of a severe clinical course is consistent with the evidence from Chinese case series published so far although the majority of infections in China have been mild [22,23].
This preliminary analysis is based on the first reported cases of COVID-19 cases in the WHO European Region. Given the small sample size, and limited completeness for some variables, all the results presented should be interpreted with caution.
With increasing numbers of cases in Europe, data from surveillance and investigations in the region can build on the evidence from countries in Asia experiencing more widespread transmission particularly on disease spectrum and the proportion of infections with severe outcome [22]. Understanding the infection-severity is critical to help plan for the impact on the healthcare system and the wider population. Serological studies are vital to understand the proportion of cases who are asymptomatic. Hospital-based surveillance could help estimate the incidence of severe cases and identify risk factors for severity and death. Established hospital surveillance systems that are in place for influenza and other diseases in Europe may be expanded for this purpose. In addition, a number of countries in Europe are adapting and, in some cases, already using existing sentinel primary care based surveillance systems for influenza to detect community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This approach will be used globally to help identify evidence of widespread community transmission and, should the virus spread and containment no longer be deemed feasible, to monitor intensity of disease transmission, trends and its geographical spread.
Additional research is needed to complement surveillance data to build knowledge on the infectious period, modes of transmission, basic and effective reproduction numbers, and effectiveness of prevention and case management options also in settings outside of China. Such special studies are being conducted globally, including a cohort study on citizens repatriated from China to Europe, with the aim to extrapolate disease incidence and risk factors for infection in areas with community transmission. Countries together with ECDC and WHO, should use all opportunities to address these questions in a coordinated fashion at the European and global level.
Acknowledgements
We are grateful for the essential work of a large number of public health experts, clinical microbiologists, practitioners and clinicians who have been involved in the investigations at national and regional level including all the professionals of the Canarian Health Service and the Balearic Islands Health Service. We acknowledge the work of ECDC data manager, particularly Zsolt Bartha, and country cooperation teams in rapidly establishing the online reporting system in TESSy by 26 January 2020. We thank also the efforts of Catalin Albu, Adrian Prodan, Skaidra Kurapkiene, Per Rolfhamre and Anca Dragnea. ECDC also thanks the Epidemic Intelligence team that provides vital and timely data on global cases of COVID-19. WHO thanks Ka Yeung (Calvin) Cheng, Silviu Ciobanu, Gudrun Freidl, Lauren MacDonald, and Miriam Sneiderman for assistance with data management.
Funding statement: No specific funding.
The authors alone are responsible for the views presented in this manuscript and they do not necessarily reflect the views, decisions or policies of the institutions with which the authors are affiliated.

Notes
Conflict of interest: None declared.
Contributed by
Authors’ contributions: EB and BC developed the surveillance system and reporting protocol. GS, JB, EB, CA, NB and BC initiated and developed the initial outline of the manuscript. GS performed the analysis. GS, BC, JB, NB, CA, EB wrote the first draft of the manuscript. JF, PJ, DP, JP, RP, SO contributed extensively to additional versions of the manuscript. MD, CC, VE, AG, AB, PS, MJSM, ANR, YVD, RoM, MBr, MBe, SBu, JS, LF, ALe, CS, AM, DLB, BC, SBS, SBe, SvdW, MV, BL, FR, EN, IC, ALa, MSC, FP, RiM, CM, MVR, NB, LS, SJ, KTW, MP were involved in national clinical, microbiological and public health investigations as well as data collection and reporting. All authors provided input to the outline, multiple versions of the manuscript and gave approval to the final draft.
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Where did Covid-19 come from? What we know about its origins
Scientists cast doubt on the Trump-backed theory that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab
May 1, 2020
by Peter Beaumont
The Guardian

Why are the origins of the pandemic so controversial?
How Covid-19 began has become increasingly contentious, with the US and other allies suggesting China has not been transparent about the origins of the outbreak.
Donald Trump, the US president, has given credence to the idea that intelligence exists suggesting the virus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, although the US intelligence community has pointedly declined to back this up. The scientific community says there is no current evidence for this claim.
This follows reports that the White House had been pressuring US intelligence community on the claim, recalling the Bush administration’s pressure to “stove pipe” the intelligence before the war in Iraq.
What’s the problem with the Chinese version?
A specific issue is that the official origin story doesn’t add up in terms of the initial epidemiology of the outbreak, not least the incidence of early cases with no apparent connection to the Wuhan seafood market, where Beijing says the outbreak began. If these people were not infected at the market, or via contacts who were infected at the market, critics ask, how do you explain these cases?
The Wuhan labs
Two laboratories in Wuhan studying bat coronaviruses have come under the spotlight. The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is a biosecurity level 4 facility – the highest for biocontainment – and the level 2 Wuhan Centre for Disease Control, which is located not far from the fish market, had collected bat coronavirus specimens.
Several theories have been promoted. The first, and wildest, is that scientists at WIV were engaged in experiments with bat coronavirus, involving so-called gene splicing, and the virus then escaped and infected humans. A second version is that sloppy biosecurity among lab staff and in procedures, perhaps in the collection or disposal of animal specimens, released a wild virus.
Is there any evidence the virus was engineered?
The scientific consensus rejecting the virus being engineered is almost unanimous. In a letter to Nature in March, a team in California led by microbiology professor Kristian Andersen said “the genetic data irrefutably shows that [Covid-19] is not derived from any previously used virus backbone” – in other words spliced sections of another known virus.
Far more likely, they suggested, was that the virus emerged naturally and became stronger through natural selection. “We propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of Sars-CoV-2: natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic [animal to human] transfer; and natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer.”
Peter Ben Embarek, an expert at the World Health Organization in animal to human transmission of diseases, and other specialists also explained to the Guardian that if there had been any manipulation of the virus you would expect to see evidence in both the gene sequences and also distortion in the data of the family tree of mutations – a so-called “reticulation” effect.
In a statement to the Guardian, James Le Duc, the head of the Galveston National Laboratory in the US, the biggest active biocontainment facility on a US academic campus, also poured cold water on the suggestion.
“There is convincing evidence that the new virus was not the result of intentional genetic engineering and that it almost certainly originated from nature, given its high similarity to other known bat-associated coronaviruses,” he said.
What about an accidental escape of a wild sample because of poor lab safety practices?
The accidental release of a wild sample has been the focus of most attention, although the “evidence” offered is at best highly circumstantial.
The Washington Post has reported concerns in 2018 over security and management weakness from US embassy officials who visited the WIV several times, although the paper also conceded there was no conclusive proof the lab was the source of the outbreak.
Le Duc, however, paints a different picture of the WIV. “I have visited and toured the new BSL4 laboratory in Wuhan, prior to it starting operations in 2017- … It is of comparable quality and safety measures as any currently in operation in the US or Europe.”
He also described encounters with Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist at the WIV who has led research into bat coronaviruses, and discovered the link between bats and the Sars virus that caused disease worldwide in 2003, describing her as “fully engaged, very open and transparent about her work, and eager to collaborate”
Maureen Miller, an epidemiologist who worked with Shi as part of a US-funded viral research programme, echoed Le Duc’s assessment. She said she believed the lab escape theory was an “absolute conspiracy theory” and referred to Shi as “brilliant”.
Problems with the timeline and map of the spread of the virus
While the experts who spoke to the Guardian made clear that understanding of the origins of the virus remained provisional, they added that the current state of knowledge of the initial spread also created problems for the lab escape theory.
When Peter Forster, a geneticist at Cambridge, compared sequences of the virus genome collected early in the Chines outbreak – and later globally – he identified three dominant strains.
Early in the outbreak, two strains appear to have been in circulation at roughly at the same time – strain A and strain B – with a C variant later developing from strain B.
But in a surprise finding, the version with the closest genetic similarity to bat coronavirus was not the one most prevalent early on in the central Chinese city of Wuhan but instead associated with a scattering of early cases in the southern Guangdong province.
Between 24 December 2019 and 17 January 2020, Forster explains, just three out of 23 cases in Wuhan were type A, while the rest were type B. In patients in Guangdong province, however, five out of nine were found to have type A of the virus.
“The very small numbers notwithstanding,” said Forster, “the early genome frequencies until 17 January do not favour Wuhan as an origin over other parts of China, for example five of nine Guangdong/Shenzhen patients who had A types.”
In other words, it still remains far from certain that Wuhan was even necessarily where the virus first emerged.
If there is no evidence of engineering and the origin is still so disputed, why are we still talking about the Wuhan labs theory?
The pandemic has exacerbated existing geopolitical struggles, prompting a disinformation war that has drawn in the US, China, Russia and others.
Journalists and scientists have been targeted by people with an apparent interest in pushing circumstantial evidence related to the virus’s origins, perhaps as part of this campaign and to distract from the fact that few governments have had a fault-free response.
What does this mean now?
The current state of knowledge about coronavirus and its origin suggest the most likely explanation remains the most prosaic. Like other coronaviruses before, it simply spread to humans via a natural event, the starting point for many in the scientific community including the World Health Organization.
Further testing in China in the months ahead may eventually establish the source of the outbreak. But for now it is too early.

‘All the psychoses of US history’: how America is victim-blaming the coronavirus dead
As racism warps the US pandemic response, a health crisis has escalated into a culture war
May 21, 2020
by Lois Beckett
The Guardian
Why do Americans represent less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly a third of the known coronavirus death toll? Not because of government incompetence, the Trump administration is arguing, but because Americans are very unhealthy.
The United States’ organized response to the pandemic had been “historic”, Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar, told CNN on 17 May, but America “unfortunately” has a “very diverse” population, and black Americans and minorities “in particular” have “significant underlying disease”.
Jake Tapper, the CNN anchor interviewing Azar, paused and squinted. Surely, he asked, Azar was not arguing that “the reason that there were so many dead Americans is because we’re unhealthier than the rest of the world?”
Azar doubled down: “These are demonstrated facts.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the American people that the government failed to take adequate steps in February …” Tapper said.
“This is not about fault. It’s about simple epidemiology,” Azar said, adding in a pious tone: “One doesn’t blame an individual for their health condition. That would be absurd.”
Blaming black Americans for dying from a novel virus because they had diabetes or high blood pressure was precisely what Azar was doing. Someone had to be held responsible for an American death toll approaching 100,000 people, worse than any other country’s reported deaths. In order for the Trump administration to remain blameless, someone else had to be blamed, and the administration was now blaming the dead.
It took less than a month after the first shelter-in-place orders to devolve into a full-blown partisan culture war, complete with armed protests egged on by the president; conservatives questioning or denying death numbers; pundits arguing against a continued lockdown with lines like, “You can call me a Grandma killer”; attempts by hair salons and barbers to stage acts of civil disobedience; and some states led by Republican governors moving to quickly reopen, even as other states with Democratic governors announced months of continued restrictions.
A majority of Americans remain supportive of public health restrictions, including nearly half of Republican voters and 68% of people who have lost a job or suffered a pay cut.
The anti-lockdown demonstrations at state capitols have attracted a messy jumble of protesters: anti-vaccine activists and other conspiracy theorists, rightwing provocateurs, members of known anti-government militias, gun rights advocates, established conservative groups backed by wealthy billionaire donors, Republican stalwarts and people who were actually out of work.
It would be wrong to argue that racism was the sole motivation for the protests, or even a decisive factor for the many different protesters who showed up.
But the moment when the US response to coronavirus escalated into a full culture war is revealing. The big protests at state capitols, with crowds of white Americans demanding their governors reopen the economy, started about a week after national news outlets began reporting in early April that black Americans made up a disproportionate number of the dead.
Systemic racism created the health disparities that made black and brown Americans more vulnerable to dying from coronavirus, public health experts say; and now the same racism is also shaping, and undermining, the country’s political response to the pandemic.
Back to the Puritans
It’s not surprising that Americans, who are used to tackling every problem through the lens of “individual rights”, would struggle with how to respond to the collective demands of a pandemic.
“It’s this mismatch in terms of a social problem, and the tools we have at our disposal to make sense of it,” the sociologist Jennifer Carlson said.
Americans don’t have much of a national vocabulary for talking about collective action and sacrifice. Jon Stokes, a gun rights activist from Austin, Texas, has strong opinions about tyranny and freedom. But he said he was frustrated that some of his usual allies did not seem to understand that dealing with a novel virus, in a country where no one has immunity, required a different kind of politics.
“Our rights are being violated. That is all actually real,” Stokes said. “But this is one of the few times when that’s OK. Pandemics – these call for a collectivist response. They don’t work without one.”
For some wealthy Americans eager to reopen the economy, the motivating fear may be the risk of social change, the historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz said.
“The capitalist class, those who benefit most from the unequal system, they know it’s not sustainable,” she said. “They’re desperate not to stay locked down too long, so people get used to fresh air, breathing air without carbon in it,” she said. “People might get ideas of a different kind of world.”
To Dunbar-Ortiz and other historians, Americans’ push to reopen the economy during a pandemic, and some Americans’ willingness to hold armed demonstrations in order to do so, looks like a case of almost psychotic repetition.
It’s not a new idea that thousands of people must die to preserve America’s “business as usual”. It’s not a new assumption many of those people will be brown or black.
The Navajo Nation, where many families do not even have running water to wash their hands, has one of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country.
The coronavirus culture war is “kind of a petri dish of all the psychoses of US history”, as Dunbar-Ortiz, the author of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, put it.
European colonists established their settlements in the midst of the mass death of indigenous people and opened the American market for business “at gunpoint, in the wake of that epidemic”, said Patrick Blanchfield, the author of a forthcoming 500-year history of American gun violence. Enslaved black people died performing the essential labor that kept the economy running. The smallpox virus the Europeans had brought to a new continent full of people with no immunity would leave tens of millions of people dead.
Today, “who is being asked to die for the market to be open?” Blanchfield said. “It’s black people. It’s Native American tribal communities.”
Early Puritan accounts of arriving in the New World and seeing indigenous people dying of illness are marked by a familiar self-righteousness. The Puritans look at an epidemic and “think it’s a divine dispensation”, Blanchfield said. “The very fact that people are dying is taken as both pragmatically offering market opportunities … but also as a theological vindication of your own survivorship.”
That Puritan instinct to see infection as a sign of guilt, and health as a kind of vindication, is currently playing out across the political spectrum.
American liberals sometimes treat their belief in science as a kind of religion, Blanchfield argued, fetishizing technocrats and rejoicing when conservatives who do not “believe in science” are punished.
Some liberals have posted comments regretting that they could not wish that participants in “reopen” protests would get coronavirus, because they might infect other, innocent people, Adam Kotsko, a political theorist, said.
After Georgia decided to reopen businesses early, despite continued warnings from public health officials, one liberal activist with a large following tweeted “*sips coffee*” as her only comment on an article reporting that Georgia had seen 1,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
Even as some leftists on Twitter were calling the GOP a “death cult”, other leftists were suggesting that the punishment for unbelievers should be death.
This impulse to blame other people for getting sick is rooted in fear, said Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.
“Everyone wants some narrative, to explain the unimaginable level of illness and death and vulnerability that we’re all feeling,” he said. “Everyone wants there to be a logic to this.
The victim-blaming on the left, though, has come from individuals’ Twitter accounts, not Democratic party leadership. The victim-blaming of black Americans has come from the highest levels of government.
‘An acceptable sacrifice’
Just days after national news outlets first reported the emerging racial disparities in coronavirus deaths, Trump’s surgeon general, Jerome Adams, said at a White House briefing that communities of color needed to “step up” and advised them to “avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs”.
“Do it for your Big Mama,” said Adams, who is black.
Lecturing individual black Americans about smoking, rather than talking about African Americans’ increased environmental exposure to air pollution, a demonstrated coronavirus risk, was classic “victim-blaming”, the Rev William J Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, and his son, William J Barber III, a climate activist, wrote in the Nation.
In early April, some black mayors told media outlets they were afraid that African Americans were not taking the pandemic seriously. Media reports described rumors that black people could not get coronavirus.
Ibram X Kendi, the director of the Anti-Racism Research Center at American University, said he was skeptical of these concerns, and of the implication that ignorance was the reason for the racial disparities in infection. Poll results from mid-March had shown black respondents were actually more likely than white respondents to see coronavirus as a serious threat to their own health, he said.
After crowds of mask-less white protesters had started showing up at state capitols, the claims that black people not taking the virus seriously vanished, Kendi said.
It’s hard, when you have so many white people who are protesting and not social distancing, to argue that they are taking it more seriously and that’s why they are less likely to die,” he said.
But the same argument that black Americans were to blame for dying simply evolved, Kendi said, to focus more on their “pre-existing conditions”.
In Louisiana, Senator Bill Cassidy, a white Republican and a medical doctor, had already cast doubt on whether inequities rooted in systemic racism were the reason so many black Louisiana citizens were dying of coronavirus. “That’s rhetoric,” he told NPR in early April. The real answer, the answer backed by science, was that “African Americans are 60% more likely to have diabetes” and that “we need to address the obesity epidemic”.
Addressing coronavirus disparities by suggesting that people lose weight did not actually make sense, said Finn Gardiner, an advocate at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University. On what time frame were at-risk Americans supposed to become thinner in order to protect themselves from a pandemic already in their communities?
But Cassidy’s fat-shaming was familiar, Gardiner said, a way for some Americans to watch the unfolding death while avoiding any responsibility. Americans of all races with larger bodies were left feeling “expendable”, that they were “an acceptable sacrifice”, he wrote.
Blaming the victims of American racial disparities for what they suffer has a reliable outcome: nothing is done. The deaths mount.
As southern states that have seen some of the starkest racial disparities reopen, “I feel like it’s only going to get worse,” Kendi said.
Recent polls of white Americans by a progressive polling firm found that certain white voters were more likely to endorse the idea of “personal responsibility” for health disparities when the people affected were black
Ronald Reagan attacked America’s post-war investment in social programs, Kotsko said, “by pointing out that the generosity is now extending to black people” and suggesting that “it’s better to tear down the system of solidarity than to allow the wrong people to get the benefits”.
But the victim-blaming of black Americans may also have shaped how white Americans have estimated their own risk.
“If you really thought the coronavirus was going to be lethal to you and your family, would you rush in a big group of people to the statehouse without a mask?” Metzl said. “I think you would only do that if you thought you were somehow safe or immune.”
The problem, of course, is that death and life during a pandemic are not actually determined by moral righteousness. Blaming dead people of color for being sinful, rather than trying to fix underlying problems, only leads to many more people dying.
Metzl argued in his book Dying of Whiteness that the way racism has shaped gun policy and healthcare choices in this country has led to outcomes that hurt black and brown Americans, but that also led to measurable increases in the deaths of white Americans. Today, he’s afraid that same dynamic is playing out again.
But there has only been a “damning” silence from the White House, Metzl said, on any plan to fix the disparities that are leading to tens of thousands of deaths.
It’s not easy to describe what it’s like to be forced to witness the violent repetitions of American history. Listening to other Americans argue that you are responsible for your own death, that your body is inherently expendable, takes a particular toll, said Gardiner, the disability rights advocate, who is black.
The Puritans had a form of torture called “pressing”, used during the Salem witch trials. They made the accused person lie on the ground, and then very slowly, over many days, placed one rock on their chest, and then another.
The terror for Americans now is not that coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge: it’s that all this is so devastatingly familiar.

MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)
The Myth Exposed
May 21, 2020
by Christian Jürs

This country will not survive if the very people paid to properly transact and control the home buying process are double dipping. This is not an isolated case. It is happening everywhere. The only way to stop it is to make these institutions and their employees responsible for their actions. Because of the very nature of the fraud, the people in the network are not rookies. Most of them are educated professionals holding well paying, respectable jobs and position in their communities. Unfortunately, our local, state and federal government is infected with people that help facilitate the transactions of these fraudulent activities as well. The war is not in IRAQ. It is here in the United States. Where do you think the money goes? Hidden originally in a trust account that is not audited and then electronically transferred OFFSHORE. Out of the reach of our government. All tax-free. Money Laundering at the Speed of the Internet.
The first time I heard the term “MERS” was in April 2003. Not one person I have asked since knows what it is even though a few people acknowledge hearing the term before. “MERS” is short for Mortgage Electronic Registration System. It has quickly become the single most threatening thing to Homeland Security along with the 9th Circuit Courts in the United States. Why? Simple, both MERS and the 9th Circuit Courts are being manipulated and used to commit fraud. Unfortunately, the uninformed public will be left to bear the burden if the insanity doesn’t end soon. In the case of MERS, when JQ public borrows money to buy a home, the lender takes a second loan for the exact same amount as well. Since the lender is generally a bank, as long as they can balance the collateral against their outstanding loan obligations, they take as much as they want. Effectively, doubling the consumer debt by 100% for each real estate transaction made in the United States today. The purchase contracts are written up on VPN contracts (Virtual Private Network) agreements, which look like a normal escrow form with VPN on the bottom left hand corner of each page. What the hell am I taking about? MERS………… Lets start at the beginning.
*Excerpt from CTA Federal Legislative and Regulatory Committee White Paper written by James E. Cornwall, Chairman
In 1993, a “Whole Loan Book Entry White Paper” was published jointly by the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae. The paper outlined a concept for a national registry system for tracking mortgage loans. The original concept is now a reality and is known as MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System).
CTA’s involvement in MERS began in 1994 when they began monitoring various news releases concerning the subject of electronic loan registration. In November 1995, CTA hosted a MERS meeting, which was attended by approximately twenty-five of our members and featured Dr. Leilani Allen of Tenex Consulting, representing MERS.
WHAT IS MERS?
MERS is an industry-owned electronic registry and clearinghouse that revolutionizes the way the mortgage market works by eliminating paper, and cutting the cost of the mortgage process. A loan registered with MERS will receive a permanent 18-digit mortgage identification number (MIN) as early as loan application. The MIN will be a loan’s identifier throughout the life of the loan, even if ownership or servicing rights are transferred. Currently, a lender records the mortgage or deed of trust with the County Recorder and this step will remain the same. In addition, an assignment will be recorded with the County Recorder reflecting MERS as the mortgagee of record. The MERS database will reflect the name of the actual owner of the loan.
TECHNOLOGY PARTNER
In April 1996, MERS selected EDS of Plano, Texas as its official information technology partner to develop the systems needed to make MERS work. MERS also held its inaugural meeting of the MERS Advisory Council in April 1996. The Council is made up of representatives from the broader real estate finance industry that is not directly engaged in originating, funding or servicing mortgage loan. (CTA is a member of the Advisory Council)
MERS TODAY
On April 28th, MERS production software was delivered to its first users, Norwest Mortgage, Inc. and Allied Group Mortgage Company. Both companies were the first companies to register mortgages electronically with MERS, Paul Mullings, Chief Executive Officer of MERS, said “MERS represents the culmination of a dream that those of us in the mortgage industry have long had, and that is to transform our business through the cooperative application of advanced business process and technologies. Many have been skeptical about our chances of bringing the entire industry together to create something that would be beneficial to all parties involved.
To date, more than 130 entities, including mortgage companies, data processing companies and trustees have signed on to become part or MERS. Several CTA members, including First American Title Company, Stewart Title Company, Cal-Western Reconveyance Corporation and T.D. Service Financial Corporation are listed as MERS members.
I’m not sure if this “White Paper” is accurate or not. I found it on the Internet during my research of MERS. Assuming it is accurate, than why hasn’t anyone heard about MERS? According to their website, MERS recently celebrated its 20 million recording. Twenty million real estate loans recorded and no one’s ever heard of it. I will tell you what it is. It’s white-collar crime. It is greed orchestrated through the use of technology unregulated and gone wild. It’s E-commerce controlled by imposters of our Federal and Local Governments in Cyber World. Every day of the business week, five thousand plus recordings are recorded with the County Recorder of Clark County, Nevada. This is the average per day, 5,000 recordings. That’s 25,000 per week, 100,000 per month, 1,300,000 per year. How is that possible? Its only possible if 50% of the recordings are fraudulent, and they are. Clark County is the center of the e-recording world where fraudulent transactions are recorded to offset the transactions taking place in Cyber Space. MERS is a major factor in these recordings. Still, no one knows what MERS is. Or do they? The only people that know about MERS are the insiders using it for ill-gotten gain. It is nothing more than a database of mortgage loans that are kept track of nationally in one place and are still recorded in the County where the property exists.
*According to the “MERS Quality Assurance Procedures Manual, Version 2.0 November 17, 2003: (in italics)
Legal title to the mortgage lien or the lien of other security agreements must be vested in the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.; a Delaware stock corporation with its principal offices at 1595 Spring Hill Road, Suite 310, Vienna, VA 22182.
The loans are vested in MERS recorded in the MERS database but not on the recordings in the County where the property exists. MERS is supposed to be the beneficiary on the note and not the lender. In my case, MERS is not listed anywhere on the title or note but apparently are listed as beneficiary on the MERS database for my properties. This double recording creates the opportunity for fraud. By changing the beneficiary on the MERS recording, they are essentially creating another record for the same loan. This enables them to issue two loans, one for the borrower and one for the lender. The second loan is collaterized by the same property as the first loan. Since the beneficiary is listed as the lender on the recordings made in the local County where the property exists, the borrower sees the lender or trustee listed as the beneficiary and has no reason to question the recording. At the same time, the mortgage is recorded on MERS with MERS as the beneficiary essentially creating two recordings for the same property. The MERS recording is used to keep up with the cross-collaterization that has just happened. Another place to track the double recordings is at www.knowx.com This is owned by Choice Point in Atlanta, GA. Know X is a national public records database open to the public. It is a fee based search engine and is used extensively by law firms and credit managers in the United States. The MERS recording comes up as a (trustee deed forclosure) on record with knowx if you have a loan that is recorded with MERS and with the county recorder. Essentially, it keeps track of the fraud. If you have a loan listed on knowx.com with (trustee deed forclosure) beside it, the property has been double-mortgaged. The second loan, which the consumer doesn’t know about, is a mirror loan. It will be exactly the same amount, issued the same date, etc. etc. as the originating transaction. This is done so that if there is a cross up and the consumer somehow gets a statement or invoice for the second loan, it appears to be information concerning the first loan. If the second loan is the same amount, same interest rate, issued the same day, then the amortization schedule will be exactly the same. This makes the second loan basically undetectable.

The Encyclopedia of American Loons
Jill Stanek

Jill Stanek is a radical anti-abortion activist and nurse, national campaign chair of the anti-abortion organization the Susan B. Anthony List, and currently affiliated with Newsbusters and regular columnist for the WND. Yeah, “columnist for the WND” should really tell you all you need to know. As for her anti-abortion campaigning, Stanek is the kind of person who compares abortion to the Vietnam War, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the atrocities of the Taliban and says that she won’t be mourning the death of Nelson Mandela because, according to her, Mandela’s pro-choice record means he “engaged in mass genocide of his own innocent people” and “has the blood of preborn children on his hands.” But OK: we are willing to write those claims up as a matter of consistent application of some deranged moral principles.
What secures Stanek an entry in our Encyclopedia, however, is her relentless pushing of pseudoscience in the name of ideology. Stanek is for instance one of the main promoters of the utterly discredited idea that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. She does cite studies when she claims that there is a link, though from places like the pseudojournal JPANDS and with complete disregard for the quality of those studes or the fact that good studies on the link overwhelmingly show no link.
And just for the record: Stanek isn’t merely opposed to abortion; she also “opposes contraception, not only because some of its forms may cause abortions, but also – moreso – because the thinking behind contraception makes it the forerunner to abortion.” She bases her reasoning “on several Biblical concepts,” the foremost being “that God is always described in Scripture as the sole procreative decision-maker. To my knowledge, every incident in Scripture describing pregnancy or barrenness gives God complete credit. If that premise is true, who has the right to say no to God? Who can say they have a better grip on timing than God?” Just imagine where parallel reasoning would get you on virtually any other topic (she also fails to notice that if her premises were correct, contraception or not really shouldn’t matter either). She has also claimed that legalizing the purchase of Plan B emergency contraception over the counter would lead to more pedophilia because, well, she perceived the claim to be rhetorically effective, mostly. Stanek has, moreover, designated June 7 as “The Pill Kills Day” in honor of the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut decision: According to Stanek, birth control pills can cause chemical abortions (another common myth from Stanek) but “radical pro-aborts don’t want you to know.” The information has been suppressed because “if women knew, some would feel morally obligated to refuse that contraceptive option. And that would mess up lucrative birth control pill sales, which nets pro-aborts hundreds of millions of dollars a year, as well as abortion sales from failed birth control pills.” This is, if nothing else, a good illustration of deranged conspiracy theorizing in action.
Stanek has also at least expressed sympathy with the anti-vaccine movement, having apparently bought into the “aborted fetal tissue” claim – it is nonsensical, of course, but Stanek predictably buys it: in her post “Vaccines made with fetal cells causing autism?” (Yes, Betteridge’s law at work, but Stanek isn’t really asking a question) she claims, based purely on meaningless speculation, that “aborted fetal tissue” in vaccines are a likely cause of autism and asserts that “[t]he conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the same sort of ideological culprits we see covering up the abortion-breast cancer link are also involved here.” The comparison is actually rather apt, but not in the way Stanek thinks, of course.
Diagnosis: Yes, this is the kind of mockery of reasoning that the term “wingnut science” is supposed to describe. Completely unable to distinguish facts and evidence from what she wishes were facts and evidence to support her agenda. And Stanek is a significant voice in certain wingnut circles.

Timothy Standish

Timothy Standish is one of the mainstays of the Intelligent Design Creationist movement, and has given numerous talks and contributed numerous articles to creationist publications, such as a chapter in the 2006 anthology Darwin’s Nemesis, a series of essays in honor of Phillip Johnson. Standish’s creationism is of the young-earth variety, and he is affiliated with the Geoscience Research Institute, a Seventh Day Adventist front organization. He is, of course, also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s embarrassingly self-undermining petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism as well as on the CMI List of Scientists Alive Today Who Accept the Biblical Account of Creation.
Standish ostensibly does “research” in molecular biology, though his “research” seems to be mostly limited to writing articles for Origins (the Geoscience Research Institute magazine) and similar creationist publications – he has, for instance, contributed to propaganda at Answers in Genesis.
As Standish sees it “[E]volution survives as a paradigm only as long as the evidence is picked and chosen and the great pool of data that is accumulating on life is ignored.” This observation is of course based on Standish himself ignoring the data real scientists actually have, and misrepresenting and misunderstanding the rest. Standish is rather well known for using misrepresentations and misunderstandings to draw whatever conclusions he wants to draw.
Diagnosis: Now, Standish does have some credentials, and he seems to honestly believe he is a scientist who engages with science with something resembling intellectual honesty. It’s actually rather sad.

Leanna Standish

Leanna Standish, “N.D., Ph.D., Dipl.Ac.” (and more recently also “LAc, FABNO”), is one of the movers and shakers in the movement to legitimize and popularize quackery, woo and nonsense in the US. A “licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist”, Standish is also former Director of the Bastyr University Research Institute from 1987 to 2001 and, as naturopathic cargo cult science practictioners see it, a “Senior Research Scientist” in “experimental neuroscience with numerous publications.” Her “clinical practice specializes in cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C and neurological diseases”. Apparently she also directed “the Breast Cancer Research Program at Bastyr University” at one point and was a member of the Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (currently NCCIH) from 1999 to 2001; she has also served on the NCI Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the NCI Institute of Medicine’s committee to investigate the “Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by the American Public”, discussed here, together with luminaries like Jeanne Drisko.
Standish has been principal investigator on several NIH/NCCAM funded research projects in the areas of HIV/AIDS and basic neurophysiological research on mind/body interaction, and has published extensively in questionable journals such as Integrative Cancer Therapy (which has also published e.g. Stanislaw Burzynski’s stuff) and the Journal of Natural Medicines. Still a faculty member at Bastyr, her classes include e.g. a course, “within the Spirituality, Health and Medicine program”, on “scientific evidence from physicians and biology that addresses some of the propositions emerging out of modern spiritual disciples [sic]”. It is safe to say that the investigative method used to connect science with “spiritual disciples” is, shall we say, of the more associative kind.
Currently her research is focused on things like functional brain imaging in the treatment of brain cancer and integrative oncology outcomes (they’ve received extensive funding for the latter, apparently, and her study is completely pointless) – we’re talking $3 million to do an observational study with no control; there is a good discussion of integrative oncology here – and developing research programs on the use of IV Resveratrol and IV Curcumin to treat cancer. She is also e.g. “co-principal investigator for the Bastyr/UW Oncomycology [oh, yes] Translational Research Center”. Standish has also tried to demonstrate, in a splendid illustration of tooth fairy science, that one person’s brain can influence the EEG findings of a person who is about 45 feet away, apparently believing that “distant healing” is possible through brain-to-brain “neural energy transmission.” There is a long tradition in naturopathic circles for such investigations. The “research” was apparently NCCAM-funded. (This discussion is useful for context.)
Of course, some of Standish’s credentials might look impressive to the uninformed or those who cannot be bothered to take a deeper look. Naturopathy, of course, is bullshit, and Standish’s list of publications e.g. on her speciality HIV/AIDS include the 20-page chapter on HIV/AIDS in the 199) edition of the Textbook of Natural Medicine (naturopathy’s leading textbook), in which recommended treatment includes large doses of beta carotene; vitamin C (see also this) and vitamin E 400; cod liver oil; multivitamin and mineral supplement twice a day; colloidal silver; and a long list of other nonsensical and potentally harmful products, including dozens of worthless homeopathic products such as “homeopathic marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, heroin, amyl nitrate, etc.” (the chapter does note that there is no evidence that naturopathic care has any beneficial effect for HIV positive people, but that doesn’t prevent Standish from promptly providing a long and detailed list of recommendations based on neither plausibility nor evidence).
Diagnosis: Yes, not only has she wasted her life, career and efforts on nonsense – and the worthless pseudoeducation offered by her institution is hardly free either – Standish is also a serial recipient of public funding. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on Leanna Standish and co. to support quackery by superficially science-sounding motivated reasoning. It’s really a multilayered tragedy.

Erick Stakelbeck

Yet another rightwing commentator whose only recognizable qualifications are anger and paranoia, Erick Stakelbeck is a former sports reporter who has become recognized by some wingnuts (e.g. Pat Robertson) as a “terror expert” because he says stupid things they happen to agree with. Stakelbeck has no credentials or expertise in anything resembling such fields, but you won’t find anyone who does who are also willing to say the stuff Stakelbeck says, so there you are. So, according to Stakelbeck, Obama was a “revolutionary Marxist” trying to destroy “Judeo-Christian western civilization.” He seems to have no clear idea what any of those words mean.
Probably the main threat to the US at present, as Stakelbeck sees things, is anyways the Left. And Islam. Which are more or less the same – according to Stakelbeck the “Left sees Islam as an ally and Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition is the enemy” because they “have a shared hatred for this country.” Apparently gays are in cahoots with radical Islam/the Left as well, and they hate not only America but Jesus himself, too. Stakelbeck is pretty adamant that facts don’t matter here.
In his capacity as a terrorism expert, Stakelbeck has also offered “expert analysis” of the Syrian civil war, complete with biblical prophecy. On Marcus and Joni Lamb’s show Celebration in 2012 he revealed that the war will end with the destruction of Damascus because “the Bible says it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen.” He also claimed that Islamic terrorists have infiltrated cities all over the United States (though the media doesn’t cover it because of political correctness), including Dearborn, Michigan, which is a “radical Islamic enclave” – he called it “Dearbornistan” – presumably to the surprise of the people of Dearborn, only a minority of whom are Muslim. Apparently Brooklyn and Chicago are other examples of radical Islamist enclaves. At least he answered any concerns with respect to his claims to expertise that might have arisen from realizing his complete lack of credentials: while he was in Israel God spoke to him and told him to defend Israel; therefore, Stakelbeck, said, “I know why I’m here on this earth.” After all, how could expertise gained from reading, carefully analyzing and understanding compete with the word of God?
But the Muslims are everywhere. Stakelbeck has pointed out for instance that Grover Norquist, Huma Abedin and André Carson are all part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “fox in the henhouse strategy” to perpetrate “stealth jihad” hidden behind “suits and ties,” “fluent English,” and “eloquent tones, at least in public.” And with fellow conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles, Stakelbeck wondered why John McCain and Lindsey Graham have “sided” with the Muslim Brotherhood. Worst of all, perhaps, is Obama (of course), or “Imam Obama”, as Stakelbeck calls him, who is “empowering and emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood;” and don’t you forget Benghazi.
Stakelbeck is of course vehemently opposed to the First Amendment, at least when it is used to allow people he doesn’t like to say or do things he disagrees with.
Diagnosis: Moron. He has no credentials, no expertise, no understanding of anything. But he does say what other morons want to hear, and has therefore achieved a position of authority in certain groups.

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