Coronavirus epidemic news

Jerry Russell

Staff member
Sirotkin had already posted an excellent review of the case for lab origins as of Jan. 31, 2020. As I remember, that blog post was widely referenced in the alt media at that time, including at Zero Hedge. So it may well have been the actual cause of the hubub in the emails.
This isn't what happened. The Sirotkin post wasn't quoted at Zero Hedge until this article "Sudden Militarization of Wuhan's P4 Lab Raises New Questions About The Origin Of The Deadly Covid-19 Virus" appeared on Feb. 13, 2020. (This article establishes that if the Wuhan lab wasn't a military lab before the outbreak, it certainly became such a lab afterwards.) Earlier articles appeared on Zero Hedge on Jan. 24th, Jan. 26th, and Jan. 29th.

The email discussion between Fauci and Anderson explicitly mentioned only an article in Science Magazine, "Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak's origins", dated Jan. 31, 2020. The article discusses zoonotic theories, but the narrative demonstrates that the zoonotic source, if any, was elusive. The author goes on to mention that "conspiracy theories also abound", and says that Richard Ebright of Rutgers generally supports the possibility that lab-leak theories could be correct, but that Peter Daszak disagrees. The question is not decisively settled, at least not in this article.

...[Sky News video] ...more fascinating revelations about Fauci...
The 2012 paper seems to be in the "everybody knew but me" category.

I can't find where the featured interview with Fauci came from, though. Of course Sky News is a Murdoch outlet, like Fox in the USA. And they don't say where the interview came from, though I doubt they would stoop to creating or endorsing a deep fake.

I suspect the original source might be One America News Network? They seem to have taken down the vast majority of their videos from YouTube, presumably in hopes of avoiding censorship. And I can't find the videos on Bitchute or Odysee,

Jerry Russell

Staff member
For some reason, comments on Carrier's website seem to be closed for this particular essay of his.
Well, that was my error. There's a tiny little comment box that appeared as if disabled (at least when viewed in my browser.) But it grows when you click on it, and it does allow "Patrons & Select Persons" to comment. And so I've done that.

[Those who have read Carrier's entire post, and my reply, might enjoy this interlude....]

Carrier's article makes the point that peoples' views on topics like vegetarianism, or Fauci, can be heavily influenced by their cognitive biases and preconceptions. This is certainly true about the lab-leak hypothesis! Nicholas Wade posted an article strongly arguing that the virus was a result of GOF research, which is widely credited as the cause of the renewed level of interest and credibility for the topic. That is, along with US intelligence claims that three researchers at the Wuhan lab sought hospital care for respiratory symptoms in November 2019.

Rather than reply to any of Wade's substantial arguments, the WSWS chose to attack him because of his 2014 book "A Troublesome Inheritance", which they denounce as "racist pseudo-science". I'm not going to defend Wade's 2014 book; I haven't read it and I don't agree with the reported conclusions. But I feel it's safe to say that the WSWS has not evaluated Wade's arguments scientifically, any more than they've seriously looked into the science behind the lab-leak theory. In both cases, they are reacting purely on the basis of their evaluation of the political consequences of the theories.

Jerry Russell

Staff member
I've been letting my Facebook friends know about this amazing, excellent scientific journal article: Kostoff et al., "Why are we vaccinating children against COVID-19?" In reply, a friend-of-a-friend posted a link to this rebuttal written by Samuel Klein of Harvard's Berkman Klein Center, where Klein is "currently developing the Underlay Project for federating global public knowledge".

If I told you that Harvard has a plan for "federating global public knowledge", you'd say I'm some sort of conspiracy theorist. But there it is. And, Klein's reply to Kostoff et al. is rather alarmingly revealing about what "Federated Global Public Knowledge" is going to look like. Klein's post is so egregious, that I've decided to offer a line-by-line breakdown.

The title is a pun on a website entitled "The Cost of Knowledge", which protests Elsevier's business practices. The complaint is that Elsevier publishes a lot of journals, and offers them for sale as a "package deal" to libraries which might not subscribe to all of them otherwise. Thus, the accusation seems to be that Elsevier is making too much money. And furthermore, Elsevier supported SOPA and PIPA, which seems to be a rather out-of-date complaint since those bills failed in ~2012.

Academic publishing does seem to be something of a racket, as explained by Martin Hagve in this article: "The money behind academic publishing." The costs of research and writing are paid by research funds (public and corporate sources, or occasionally student tuition); editors and peer reviewers receive symbolic pay at best; and access is now mostly digital, so even printing costs are disappearing. As a result, traditional academic publishing is enormously profitable: Elsevier has net margins of 40% on revenues of $9.8 Billion (2019). As the single largest publisher, Hagve says they have 16% of the total market.

Hagve goes on to complain that these publishing houses sell their journals based on a quality measure, "Impact Factor", which is calculated according to the number of citations of the journal's articles. And this is the basis of Klein's accusation of "Click Bait": apparently Kostoff's article is too damn popular, and is being quoted all over the Internet and will (predictably) be discussed in other academic journal articles, much to Klein's chagrin.

As Klein is presumably aware, there's another competitive model for academic publishing now. In this model, rather than asking for libraries to pay for paper copies, or asking readers to pay by the article or for subscriptions, the authors themselves are asked to pay for the publisher's costs. Traditionalists complain that this model largely removes the publisher's incentive for quality control, or any need to appeal to the knowledge consumers' demand for a quality product. In extreme cases, this leads to "predatory publishing" (charging exorbitant prices to naive academics desperate for publication) or even "journal hijacking" (publishing a new journal under the same name as an existing successful journal).

Regardless of the complaints, the new "open access" publishing model is clearly meeting a market demand, and holding traditional academic publisher profits in check to some extent. It's possible that much of the outrage against "predatory publishing" is, in fact, turf protection by the traditionalists.

Earlier this month, Elsevier‘s Toxicology Reports (CiteScore 6.2, top quartile) published a special issue on the COVID-19 pandemic. Its includes a remarkable article by Kostoff, et al., claiming that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is, “extremely conservatively“, 5x as likely to kill people over 65 as it is to save them, and even more harmful to younger people. (Kostoff, et al., Tox. Rep. (2020), 7, 1448-1458)

So far so good. Klein correctly observes that Toxicology Reports has an Impact Factor in the top quartile, a respectable performance. And, the article does indeed make the claim that the vaccines are doing more harm than good, by a factor of at least five.

This echoes the fraudulent claims of German homeopath Harald Walach, who briefly published a similar article in MDPI Vaccines in June, before it was promptly retracted.
Klein does not mention that the article was subsequently re-published after a new peer review process, in the journal Science, Public Health Policy & the Law, a new journal published by an academic entity known as IPAK, and edited by James Lyons-Weiler. This is another type of scientific publishing: Lyons-Weiler set up a 501(c)3 educational institution, assembled a qualified board of advisors, and got himself appointed as the editor of the institute's journal. He then recruited other scientists to serve as article editors and peer reviewers. In other words, he does business in more or less the same way as any other scientific journal, aside from the scale of the operation. As far as I can tell, the costs of publication are not foisted on either the libraries or the authors, but are funded by donations to the institute.

In an editorial at the journal, Lyons-Weiler explains his view that the Walach et al. paper was retracted because the editors of the journal caved in to collective pressure from editorial board members, who resigned in protest because they disagreed with Walach's evidence and arguments.

It is sad to bear witness to the fact that science has degenerated into a war against unwanted and inconvenient results, conclusions and interpretations via the process of post-publication retraction for issues other than fraud, grave error in execution, and plagiarism. The weaponization of the process of retraction of scientific studies is well underway, and it induces a bias that could be called “retraction bias”, or, in the case in which a few persons haunt journals in search of studies that cast doubt on their commercial products, a “ghouling bias”, which leads to biased systematic reviews and warped meta-analyses.

Post-publication retraction for mere differences of opinion expressed as interpretation is a form of weak double jeopardy with strong (negative) consequences to knowledge: when journals retract studies that have been conducted and have survived peer review due to prescribed conclusions, knowledge suffers. [...] Viewed on the basis of a reader’s difference of interpretation, journals that retract to maintain a prescribed narrative are participating in the etiological equivalent of book- burning.
Continuing with the analysis of the Klein blog...

A few of the most outrageous claims are listed below. None of this is subtle – unbelievable assertions start in the second paragraph of the abstract; the lead author has no past experience in the field; and the article puts “pandemic” and “vaccine” in scare quotes, and makes regular use of bold italics to emphasize points that are exaggerated.
Indeed, statements that disagree with the consensus narrative, start in the 2nd paragraph. But that doesn't make the points "unbelievable", nor does it make them "assertions". Yes, the article does use scare quotes for “pandemic” and “vaccine”, and it explains its rationale for doing so. As to the bold italics, that seems to be a significant exaggeration, as well as a lousy reason for indignation. The article very rarely uses bold italics, and mostly for clarification.

This is why we have peer review, and editors, to distinguish research from polemic.

Here we come to Klein's view of the purpose of peer review. That is, according to Klein, there is one Consensus Truth, which is in continuous battle with Disinformation and Falsehood. Editors and peer review, according to Klein, should exist to enforce Truth and suppress Polemic.

Access to a reliable + competent body of reviewers is, in theory, a primary service that giant publishers like Elsevier offer to editors. Another is their name: being an Elsevier journal means you will be taken seriously out of the gate, and added to the major indices.

As if most academics don't personally know any other academics who are qualified to read and give opinions!

Yes, Elsevier is a prestigious publisher, and often features articles that have the Consensus Stamp of Approval, including Big Pharma. In fact, when an article like this appears in an Elsevier journal, I sit up and take notice in the same way that a courtroom goes hush when the alleged criminal 'fesses up to the crime. Coming from Elsevier, Kostoff et al. is an admission against the interest of powerful forces that dominate many of its journals.

We should all be concerned that our publishing model allowed such a deceptive essay to be given the veneer of legitimacy – for weeks now, without correction.

Oh my gosh, the journal and publisher have resisted outside pressure for literally weeks! Another ten days now, and counting, since Klein's blog came out!! Surely the axe must come down sooner or later. But if the article eventually does get retracted, that will have absolutely zero effect on my opinion about the paper itself.

Skipping ahead now in the article... I don't intend to miss any salient points, but Klein (like any author) is somewhat repetitive.

Article-level fraud (by the authors)
1. Extensive misuse of VAERS data: VAERS is an open public registry of unvetted self-reports of health events occurring after vaccination. Most events are not caused by vaccines, but this is a starting point for further analysis. Doctors are supposed to report any deaths or hospitalizations occurring within a week of vaccination, regardless of potential causal link.
The very openness of this data has led to it being widely cited in anti-vax propaganda, misinterpreting VAERS as a catalog of known harms and side-effects. (“Don’t Fall for VAERS scares“)
1a: The article mentions that VAERS data is not causal; but then after a brief hand-waving assumes it is causal in all calculations. (inflating their result by a factor of ~1000)
"Fraud!!" (And in large bold type to emphasize points that are exaggerated!!) Fraud is a crime as well as a civil tort. Furthermore, in many states it is considered to be moral turpitude, which means that false accusations of fraud are Defamation Per Se. The elements of fraud include a knowing intent to deceive a victim, justifiable reliance by the victim, and damage to the victim.

So the first example of "fraud" cited here, is "misuse of VAERS data". But, Klein's description is highly misleading. He says it's a registry of "unvetted self-reports", but then immediately contradicts himself by saying that "Doctors are supposed to report any deaths or hospitalizations." Actually the system is open to self-reports as well as reports from any medical professional. But in reality it's difficult and burdensome to use, and many professionals are actively discouraged from reporting anything, so under-reporting is legion.

The raison d'etre for VAERS is as an early warning system. If a lot of adverse events are coming in, doctors should be investigating. What's happening is that an extraordinarily powerful alarm is being raised, but only the so-called "anti-vax propaganda" sources are paying any attention.

The Kostoff article is a notable peer-reviewed attempt to draw attention to the VAERS data. Far from simply "hand-waving", Kostoff et al. fully acknowledge that challenge of attributing causality, and they show a variety of reasons that the vaccines are indeed the CAUSE of the horrendous rate of adverse events being filed into VAERS on a daily basis. What can you say about describing Kostoff et al's paper as "brief hand-waving"? I call it FRAUD. That is, Klein KNOWS it isn't true, because he's read the paper. He's hoping that his readers won't. His readers know that Klein's views are consistent with the "consensus" and so they're unlikely to question, so their reliance on Klein is justifiable. And if they get the vaxx as a result, and it's as dangerous as Kostoff et al say, they will be harmed.

The true facts matter. If the vaccines are safe, then Klein's criticism of Kostoff is still blatantly false, and his characterization of VAERS is misleading. But if someone takes the vaccine as a result of Klein's distortions, there's no harm done, and so there's no fraud.

But conversely, if the vaccines are dangerous, then Klein is the one who is defrauding his readers, as well as committing willful defamation against Kostoff, his co-authors, peer reviewers, and Elsevier the publisher.

And I put that in bold type. So sue me.

Klein says that Kostoff et al. are overestimating vaccine fatalities by a factor of 1000, because of this one issue. Where does that number come from? Klein seems to have made it up. He seems to be assuming that out of 1000 post-vaccine fatalities, only one was caused by the vaccines, and the other 999 were purely random unrelated events. Where is the research to back up that assertion? Where are the autopsies, the lab tests, the pathology reports? The problem here is, the system can't see what it won't look for. And these studies can't get done, because of the presumption that the vaccines are safe.

  • 1b: A 2010 working paper suggested that 1% of all adverse events, and perhaps 3-40% of serious adverse events, temporally following a vaccination, are reported to VAERS. The article cites this to suggest that 1% of deaths are reported, although detailed studies show that most potentially-causal deaths are reported. (adding a factor of 100)
References, please? The working paper I'm aware of, Lazarus et al, said that 1% of adverse events are reported, and didn't offer any further data about serious AE's. The authors stated that the CDC stopped returning phone calls, preventing them from carrying out "system performance assessments." Where are these "detailed studies" showing that most"potentially-causal" deaths are reported? What could be the basis for assessing "potential causation"? Until proven otherwise, I submit that Klein is lying about this: if these studies existed, Kostoff et al. would have known about them, and discussed them.

Jerry Russell

Staff member
Klein continues:
  • 1c: VAERS reports of all kinds fall off quickly in the days after a vaccine is administered. However the article assumes reporting rates are constant over time, leading to a large undercounting of the base rate of non-causal events, and an overcounting of events in the first week as causal. (used to justify the inflations above)
I'm going to score this one at least partially for Klein. Kostoff et al. do assume constant reporting rates, which seems completely reasonable in that medical professionals should be equally suspicious of any death or other serious AE occurring anytime within a month or two after the jab. But human nature being what it is, perhaps the rate of reporting does fall off with time, as a result of shoddy reporting practices. In order to reach any conclusions, one would need actual data! Which is not something the CDC wants. Having said that, it's pretty unlikely that the predominance of reports within a short time after the vaccine, is entirely an artifact. And I don't think Kostoff et al. use this for any quantitative work, but only as one facet of their case for a causal relationship between vaccine hazards and VAERS reports.

2. Misstating risks of COVID:

  • 2a: The article suggests disingenuously that when COVID-19 is listed alongside other comorbidities on a death certificate, COVID is not the cause of the death; and ignores all such deaths in his calculations. This is a ridiculous claim copied directly from anti-vax propaganda. (adding a factor of ~20)
This is indeed a long-standing bone of contention, and a prime focus of "anti-vax propaganda". But the dispute is far from ridiculous. In many cases, the comorbidities obviously represent terminal conditions of elderly patients, and at most the virus brought the death forward in time to some extent. There seems to be a legitimate dispute about whether death certificate reporting policies were changed specifically to exaggerate the pandemic death toll. In my opinion, an optimal cost-benefit analysis would look at person-years lost, rather than a body count.

At any rate, there is nothing disingenuous about the presentation in Kostoff et al, which thoroughly discusses the issue and acknowledges both sides.

  • 2b: Throughout the article + appendices the authors drop in vague and counterfactual claims to claim these numbers are conservative, and actual death rates are higher. These claims only start to make sense if you read anti-vax conspiracy theories (misrepresenting how PCR tests are run, claiming no long-term effects from the disease but long-term effects from vaccines, ignoring the communicability of the disease). (adding a factor of 2-20)
Agreed that Kostoff et al. not only read the "anti-vax" literature, but also provide citations in the paper. So Klein shouldn't need to speculate about the sources. There are links to Dr. Mercola's website, Dr. Ray Sahelian's list of vaccine side effects, and David Martin's Fauci / Covid-19 Dossier. Seneff & Nigh's "Worse than the Disease" gets a mention, and also Jessica Rose's analysis of the VAERS reports.

And by the way, "anti-vaxxer" has now been re-defined to include anyone opposed to vaccine mandates, regardless of their opinions about vaccine safety or effectiveness. Who persuaded Merriam-Webster to change the definition? Sometimes a "conspiracy" seems like the best explanation.

Overall, basic statistics is abused; sources misquoted, and standard knowledge and practice misrepresented, extensively, to confirm a desired result. The topline numbers claimed in the article differ by a factor of 5 million from the best serious estimates of risk/benefit analysis for the vaccines. (Walach, in his previous attempt at the world record for vaccine risk inflation, only managed a fudge factor of 500,000.)

There certainly is a massive disagreement here. Split the difference, and say that vaccines are only 50,000 times more dangerous than the Scientific Consensus (aka Big Pharma and their captured agencies) believes? At least Kostoff et al. make some attempt to grapple with uncertainties in the data, in contrast with The Consensus and their pollyanna denialism.

The authors also did not do basic diligence in searching for existing studies of the subject — the potential adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines have been studied extensively, and good analyses exist. From the top page of a quick scholarly search:

  • Klein, et al (with a group of statisticians and epidemiologists) published a statistical analysis of 12 million shots: “Surveillance for Adverse Events After COVID-19 mRNA Vaccination“. They found exactly two significant effects – a higher risk of temporary myocarditis the week after the shot, and a lower risk of appendicitis in the 3 weeks after.
  • Canada published a comprehensive overview of the adverse effects from their first 20M vaccination shots, attributing 1 death, and contributions to 3 other deaths to those 20M shots.
This is rich!! Kostoff et al. didn't cite papers that weren't published or released yet as of their publication date! As to the data, I'm suspicious that Klein's database has the same problem as the VAERS data, with tremendous under-reporting caused by an institutional bias against seeing anything. Canada's surveillance system is no doubt similar to VAERS as well. So, these two citations do nothing to resolve the controversy.

Journal-level fraud (by the editors)
How did an article that was problematic by the end of the abstract, and fraudulent just beneath the surface, get published in a modestly successful Elsevier journal?
I'm not going to get down in the mud here with Klein, but basically his issue is that Tsatsakis, the editor of the journal, also writes articles for it. For some reason, Klein considers this not only unethical but also fraudulent, even though it's not unusual in scientific publishing, and it's fully disclosed on the masthead. And furthermore, the journal frequently features "anti-vax" authors. This also is neither unethical nor fraudulent.

Amazingly, Klein alleges (with no proof whatsoever) that the articles are not peer reviewed. What he means is, they haven't been peer-reviewed into oblivion by Big Pharma shills. They certainly look like they've received careful editing and review.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty:

The direct implication of this paper is that noone, particularly no children or elderly people, should get a COVID-19 vaccine. By all but the most fringe scholarship on the matter, this is a deadly recommendation that will lead to widespread death and chronic illness, and an ongoing degradation in public health. It was immediately picked up by explicit anti-vax campaigns.
Kostoff is killing people!! As if everyone in the Western world hasn't been ceaselessly bombarded with vaccine ads, and now threatened with expulsion from society. As if vaccine effectiveness is a proven fact! And as if people are malleable children and idiots who can't look at the controversy and make their own decisions.

What would we ever do, without Pompous Peer Reviewers to determine the Truth for us? Including, defining highly accomplished scientists away as "fringe".

Publisher-level fraud (by the managers)
In the last three months, we have seen three very high-profile examples of COVID conspiracists publishing dangerously flawed research as fact, under the banners of MDPI, JAMA, and Elsevier – some of the giants of the industry. Moreover, while extensive complaints by hundreds of readers can sometimes lead to retractions, many flawed papers are never retracted, and the visibility of retractions is always a fraction of that of the initial flawed work.
Not only is there no accountability for the publishers, they may benefit from the attention of anti-vax and anti-science networks. And they directly benefit from the high publication volume, and volume-driven reputation metrics, that lets such fraud thrive. This is a crisis at a grander scale, defrauding us all of an effective knowledge commons.
How did we get here?
Elsevier runs a popular and profitable journal factory. They encourage people to start new journals. A legitimate and respected scholar founded this one, led it for a few years, then passed on the reigns to someone else. The second lead editor began using it to publish himself and his circle of colleagues. A journal’s peer review is only as good as its reviewers and process, and there is no way to tell if opaque reviews are happening at all. Current models of scholarly recognition and tenure privilege raw publication and citation counts over most other things, so running your own journals (either publishing yourself or publishing people who can publish you) and randomly adding the names of others to your papers, directly advances your career.

There's that fraud accusation again, and this time Klein thinks that publishers like Elsevier need to micro-manage the scientists working on their journals, to make sure that no heresies slip through. He alludes darkly that Elsevier actually benefits when they publish articles that attract readers and get cited by other authors. Who knew that publishing heresy could actually be profitable, by improving Impact Factor scores? The heresy is spreading! (Actually the impact score would improve just as well with articles contesting Kostoff's conclusions, and promoting the Consensus View -- but clearly Klein thinks that the heresy is so vile that it should be mentioned as little as possible.)

How do we remedy this?
Klein proposes all sorts of remedies, which "we" need to implement. Sadly, this is likely to happen, but not because of anything "we" do. Elsevier is a corporate entity, and most such entities on a worldwide basis are solidly under control of New World Order institutions. Profitability and truth are secondary to the Great Reset agenda. It wouldn't be surprising at all if Tsatsakis's journal gets mowed down. Another voice crying out in the wilderness to be silenced. Elsevier probably would have put a stop to it already, if only they had known at headquarters.

Klein will be enthusiastic about that. Now we know what his "federated global public knowledge" is going to look like.