Past is Prologue
COVID-19 has reportedly killed more than 1,400 people and infected thousands more in what could turn out to be one of the great tragedies of our times if we subscribe to the mainstream news media’s approach to almost everything. The destructive effects of the virus have certainly been felt across the world, including South Florida where Coronavirus-linked contractions in the Chinese service sectors has impacted the lobster fishing industry. Local tourism dollars are also expected to take a hit as quarantined cruise vessels are sure to cool off what has been a historically hot leisure travel market.
Sitting squarely at the top of the global supply chain, the world can barely withstand a significant disruption to China’s economy. If the virus becomes the catastrophe some have warned we could be on the precipice of a civilizational realignment comparable to when Venice, a merchant trading empire at the height of its power, met the beginning of its end through plague-infested rodents, which crawled out of their own ships and into St. Mark’s Square straight into the heart of feudal Europe.
A pandemic of relatively similar proportions afflicting China would place the current economic paradigm in dire straits. But, are the alarmists right about this particular virus or are we witnessing a familiar script from the old geopolitical playbook?
Theories about the virus’ origins proliferated almost as fast as the disease. In January, a team of Indian scientists published a paper pointing to the existence of HIV strains in the Coronavirus’ RNA; a tell-tale sign that the virus had been manufactured.
Mixing HIV into another pathogen might sound like the work of a Bond villain intent on destroying humanity, but it is actually a practice pioneered by Japanese scientist, Yoshihiro Kawaoka and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, as a way to turbo-charge a virus’ replication process. His findings were published in 2011 after a series of experiments carried out on a pathogenic specimen extracted from the exhumed corpse of a frozen Alaska Native who had perished during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919; a virus that killed close to 80 million people.
The Western response to the claims made by the Indian scientists was swift, however. The widely-respected Scripps Research Institute, which receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called their conclusions into question and contributed to the pressure that forced the scientists to remove their paper.
Scripps’ Co-Chair of the institute’s Immunology and Microbiology Department, Dr. Michael Farzan, was rather vague on the issue in a recent radio interview. The main criticism of the Indian paper centered on their findings that the virus genome contained HIV “inserts”; prompting Chinese doctors to administer AIDS medication to patients afflicted with the lethal bug, which they have done with some success. Farzan admits that the Coronavirus has “similar kinds of proteins” to the AIDS virus, but chalks up the fact that China is using AIDS meds to treat the disease to simply using “what is available”. Ultimately, he leaves unanswered the question of whether anti-HIV medications work, leaving the listener to choose their own side. “As far as we can tell”, Dr. Farzan stated, “they should not be especially active against the Coronavirus proteins.”
The good doctor from Scripps spent about 30 seconds on the question dealing with the mysterious HIV-like proteins in the Coronavirus and the rest of the show driving home his real agenda: Drug sales.
That message had already been made on a far bigger platform four days earlier by the Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Anthony S. Fauci when he appeared on Face the Nation that Sunday previously to relay the missive to the interested parties: “I’m seeing interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies that we didn’t see with SARS and other outbreaks”, said Fauci, clearly putting out a CTA for any Big Pharma execs who might be watching that morning.
The NIAID director indirectly exhorted drug makers to make the outlay of “hundreds of millions of dollars” required to manufacture and distribute a vaccine. Fauci didn’t belabor any of his prepped talking points, but did save this particular point for the end of the exchange. Dr. Michael Farzan of the Scripps Institute would not have to be so subtle – and most certainly wasn’t – during his prime time radio interview on Florida’s NPR-affiliate, making five separate appeals to the pharmaceutical industry.
In the middle of boilerplate answers about the virus’ characteristics, the doctor cuts himself off to get right to brass tacks. “I should state that our large challenge now is not identifying compounds that are effective”, Farzan brags by way of introduction. “But, rather, manufacturing and distributing those compounds”.
It was the opening salvo in a barrage of charged pleas to the pill shop owners, like a man who can’t get that meeting he needs. “The good news”, according to Farzan is that the scientific community and ostensibly Scripps itself, already knows everything it needs to develop a vaccine. “The bad news,” he continues, “is that it takes a good deal of time to manufacture…”.
Farzan would work this message into every answer for the remainder of the interview, no matter the relevance to the actual question. The full show is enlightening, but a clip of all the instances Farzan makes appeals to the drug-makers is as just as telling:
The campaign to woo Big Pharma through these public displays likely ties back to behind-the-scenes jostling by the CDC, who’s been refused entry into China and has been lobbying to gain access. While Farsan only touched on the issue in his interview, Fauci led with a common trope used when a non-aligned nation resists official American aid. “Our CDC epidemiologists are the best in the world”, boasted Fauci, as if the arbitrary qualification should be enough reason for China to let agents of an openly hostile government within its borders.
When he was not begging Big Pharma to put up the capital, Farzan was doing an excellent job of extolling the competence and superiority of his own institute and the Western scientific establishment, in general. The script was as tight as a Shark Tank pitch and he did not waver, despite contradicting information about the knowledge epidemiologists actually have to this point about the Coronavirus.
Farzan claims the scientific community attained nearly complete understanding of the Coronavirus since day one, and yet just days after this interview aired, Dr John Sinnott, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, told WLRN that the medical community was basically in the dark. Farzan, on the other hand, spoke at length about how much and soon they already knew. “The most important information that was made available to us… was the genetic sequence of the virus”, Farzan stated unequivocally. “And that was made available to us in early January” he continued, stressing that the science on a vaccine had been all but completed and only two months away from production.
An unstoppable, airborne virus would do wonders for the continued encroachment into the free movement of people since the Patriot Act, implementation of draconian surveillance technology at the border and legitimization of xenophobic federal entities like ICE. In the same Face the Nation interview, Fauci warned quarantined American citizens returning home in a NIAID-coordinated flight that they would be held for 14 days for further medical evaluation. The director also underlined that any American who chose to stay behind in Asia would still be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine whenever they chose to come back.
It was an odd detail to include in the statement, considering that it is highly unlikely that any of the Americans being evacuated from the quarantined cruise ship would choose to stay behind in Asia or even be allowed to, for that matter. But, it was important in one respect: to the viewing American public, it signaled the open-ended nature of this kind of detention at all entry points.
Other questions surrounding the real source of COVID-19 have arisen, such as the location of the virus’ first appearance in the city of Wuhan, an extremely busy travel hub raising suspicions that it was specifically chosen to maximize contagion. Igor Nikulin, former member of the UN Biological and Chemical Weapons Commission, doubts that COVID-19 could develop in the wild. According to the Russian scientist, the virus shows several signs that it is a laboratory creation.
Speculating about the motivations anyone might have for the creation of a deadly pathogen, Nikulin suggested that perhaps American pharmaceutical firms were poised to make a killing on a cure they could already have in stock. Such an accusation might be taken as vile anti-Americanism by a jealous Russian, but in light of Fauci and Farzan acting like pharmaceutical sales reps, the only question remaining is how much they will ultimately profit from it.