Brilliant Words from AOC: Medicare for All

We only have empty pockets when it comes to the morally right things to do. But when it comes to tax cuts for billionaires or unlimited war, we seem to be able to invent that money very easily.

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Chris Cuomo asked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez how we pay for Medicare for All, tuition-free college, and the green new deal. It gives people sticker shock.
Her answer:
People talk about the sticker shock of Medicare for All, but they do not talk about the sticker shock of our existing system. In a Koch brothers-funded study, it shows that Medicare for All is actually much cheaper than the current system.
Let’s not forget that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act because they ruled that each of these monthly payments that everyday Americans make is a tax. We pay it every single month. (Or we pay at tax season if we don’t buy plans off of the exchange.)
Americans have the sticker shock of healthcare as it is. Why aren’t we incorporating the cost of funeral expenses of those who die because they can’t afford access to healthcare? That is part of the cost of our system. Or the cost of reduced productivity because of people who need to go on disability or are not able to participate in our economy because they don’t have access to the healthcare that they need?
At the end of the day, we see that this is not a pipe dream. Every other developed nation in the world has this. Why can’t America? And that is the question we need to ask.
We write blank checks for war. We just wrote a $2 trillion check for the GOP tax cut. And nobody asks how are we going to pay for it.
So my question is why are our pockets only empty when it comes to education and healthcare for our kids? Why are our pockets only empty when we talk about 100% renewable energy that is going to save this planet and allow our children to thrive?
We only have empty pockets when it comes to the morally right things to do. But when it comes to tax cuts for billionaires or unlimited war, we seem to be able to invent that money very easily. To me, it belies a lack of moral priorities that people have right now, especially the Republican Party.
Nov 27, 2020

 

Bitcoin will get rid of all empires, including the American one – Max Keiser

Nov 26, 2020
The hosts of RT’s Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, look for some reasons to be thankful in an otherwise miserable year.

“Here we have this Thanksgiving celebration, which was the beginning of the end for the native population and the beginning of the beginning for the American empire,” Max says.

“In my view, bitcoin will get rid of all empires, including the American empire. So, this is the beginning of the end of the American empire that we are seeing on this Thanksgiving Day.”

Max adds: “I think, now going forward, whoever doesn’t adopt bitcoin will be living on reservations of their own ignorance and inability to love and seek peace.”

I’m an epidemiology professor and I have some genuine concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. Here’s why…

I’m an epidemiology professor and I have some genuine concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. Here’s why…
As the world awaits the roll-out of a vaccine to combat coronavirus, the announcement of AstraZeneca’s trial results this week was greeted with enthusiasm by some and scepticism by others. I believe there will be better options.

With over one-and-a-half million Covid-19 deaths and six million recorded cases worldwide, everyone is aware that the need for a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus is urgent. It has to be developed swiftly and safely, and target all age groups, particularly those at higher risk.

The race is hotting up, and among those working on one is the Swedish/British company AstraZeneca, which announced earlier this week that it had developed a vaccine that was ‘on average’70 percent effective. This claim came five days after US pharmaceutical company Pfizer had announced that its coronavirus vaccine was 95 percent effective and had “no serious side effects”.

Perhaps AstraZeneca was confident enough that its product would be strongly competitive in the market due to two key advantages it offers over rival products – a lower price and the relatively uncomplicated way of storing it.

But the AstraZeneca announcement did not impress Wall Street – the company registered a drop of two percent in the stock market. It’s worth bearing in mind that the primary goal of western pharmaceutical corporations is not to serve public health, but maximising the profits of the company. And that was primarily the reason, in my opinion, why AstraZeneca updated the interpretation of the results of its clinical trials. By 24 November, the media headlines were reporting that AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 90 percent effective. The previously mentioned ‘70 percent’ – and ‘62 per cent’ in some circumstances – had been dropped.

closer view of the AstraZeneca reports showed that the ‘70 percent’ was obtained as the ‘average’ of two different doses regimes – one with 62 percent effectiveness, from samples in Brazil; one with 90 percent from the UK sample. Neither data details on the trials, nor peer reviewed reports, are available. In addition, it has now became established that the 90 percent efficacy UK sample was obtained with only younger subjects.

In a statement released by the company, Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, declared: “Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90 percent effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated…”

Aside from the aggravating fact that the ‘90 percent’ result was arrived at via a mistake in dosage caused by a manufacturing error by AstraZeneca, the question is, who is then going to buy the ‘62 percent’ dosing regimen vaccine? Or, as Anthony Fauci, the Director of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, put it“What are you going to do with the 70 percent when you’ve got two [vaccines] that are 95 percent?”

Fauci was referring to the Pfizer vaccine and one from Moderna, but an equally effective product, with demonstrated 95 percent effectiveness, is the pioneer Sputnik V one developed by the Gamaleya Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow.

According to The Telegraph, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in talks with the Russian research institution that worked on Sputnik V “concerning its potential application for Emergency Use Listing”. It is already being trialled in Hungary.

The Sputnik V has a vaccine efficacy of over 95 percent, 42 days after the first dose. On day 28 after the first dose it achieves 91.4 percent efficacy. Clinical trial protocols indicate that over 18,000 volunteers had received the first and second doses of the vaccine.

Comparing the Swedish/British AstraZeneca vaccine with the Russian Sputnik V, substantial differences can be observed in their composition and in their targeting, which may explain the different degrees of effectiveness they have in humans.

The AstraZeneca program works out an adenovirus, chimpanzee-originated, whose DNA genetic payload has been detached, then replaced with a DNA to produce the SARS-CoV-2 virus protein. There have been suggestions in the scientific community that the first shot may hamper the immunity capability.

Instead, Sputnik V uses two different human adenovirus vectors. It is a two-stage dose, using firstly an Ad26-spike vaccine, and 21 days later a booster with an Ad5 spike. The two different adenovirus are to prevent hampering the second shot, which would happen if the same vector is used in the schema.

As Dr Fauci explained, in the AstraZeneca schema “the smaller initial dose [the priming] may “tickle” the immune system enough to generate T cells, but not trigger development of antibodies that might work to suppress the response to the booster shot.”

AstraZeneca’s international marketing of its vaccine suggested that its price would be much lower than its competitors. To me, it sounds like a neo-colonialist challenge directed to countries with poorer economies: trade effectiveness for affordability. Richer countries will opt for quality, regardless of price.

There is another decisive factor why the Sputnik V vaccine should actually be considered by poorer countries. This is the fact that the Russian vaccine can be transported and stored in a standard cold chain, without the need for ultra-low temperatures (such as around minus 80° C as in the case of Pfizer). This would avoid the investment in large and expensive ‘cold farms’, that these poorer countries would have difficulty in implementing. As Charlotte Houldcroft, a University of Cambridge virologist, stated“Sputnik V…needs a standard cold chain to be rolled out rather than an ultracold chain like the RNA vaccines, and that’s a big plus.”

Furthermore, my scientific epidemiological confidence in Sputnik V is demonstrated by the fact that I am trying, from Italy, to acquire – with my own private funds –740 dosing units to donate to the elderly population of one commune in Bergamo, San Giovanni Bianco, that has been one epicentre of the pandemic. Yes, the administration of the vaccine would first have to be approved by the Italian health authorities. But assuming it is, perhaps other local initiatives would, or should, do the same to protect their elderly population at risk.

One other element worth mentioning regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine is the problematic topic of safety, which I discussed when interviewed recently on RT television.

During the clinical trials, there were issues which – to the best of my knowledge – have not been fully clarified. For example, in the preclinical phase, where rhesus macaque monkeys were used, it was not shown that sufficient protection against infections was provided. In the combined 2 and 3 trials, blood monitoring was recorded in one out of ten of participants: in 46 percent of these a transient decrease of the white blood cells (neutrophils) was observed. And most concerning was a case, possibly two, of transverse myelitis, inflammation of the spinal cord.

In conclusion, it’s also worth saying that considering the ever-growing number of Covid-19 deaths and new infections – and the scarcity of health care resources in many parts of the world – it’s unforgivable that Western pharmaceutical corporates have not coordinated research efforts to provide the world with a safe, affordable vaccine in the spirit of human rights for all.

Landmark legal ruling finds that Covid tests are not fit for purpose. So what do the MSM do? They ignore it

Landmark legal ruling finds that Covid tests are not fit for purpose. So what do the MSM do? They ignore it
Four German holidaymakers who were illegally quarantined in Portugal after one was judged to be positive for Covid-19 have won their case, in a verdict that condemns the widely-used PCR test as being up to 97-percent unreliable.

Earlier this month, Portuguese judges upheld a decision from a lower court that found the forced quarantine of four holidaymakers to be unlawful. The case centred on the reliability (or lack thereof) of Covid-19 PCR tests.

The verdict, delivered on November 11, followed an appeal against a writ of habeas corpus filed by four Germans against the Azores Regional Health Authority. This body had been appealing a ruling from a lower court which had found in favour of the tourists, who claimed that they were illegally confined to a hotel without their consent. The tourists were ordered to stay in the hotel over the summer after one of them tested positive for coronavirus in a PCR test – the other three were labelled close contacts and therefore made to quarantine as well.

Unreliable, with a strong chance of false positives

The deliberation of the Lisbon Appeal Court is comprehensive and fascinating. It ruled that the Azores Regional Health Authority had violated both Portuguese and international law by confining the Germans to the hotel. The judges also said that only a doctor can “diagnose” someone with a disease, and were critical of the fact that they were apparently never assessed by one.

They were also scathing about the reliability of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, the most commonly used check for Covid.

The conclusion of their 34-page ruling included the following: “In view of current scientific evidence, this test shows itself to be unable to determine beyond reasonable doubt that such positivity corresponds, in fact, to the infection of a person by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”  

In the eyes of this court, then, a positive test does not correspond to a Covid case. The two most important reasons for this, said the judges, are that, “the test’s reliability depends on the number of cycles used’’ and that “the test’s reliability depends on the viral load present.’’ In other words, there are simply too many unknowns surrounding PCR testing.

Tested positive? There could be as little as a 3% chance it’s correct

This is not the first challenge to the credibility of PCR tests. Many people will be aware that their results have a lot to do with the number of amplifications that are performed, or the ‘cycle threshold.’ This number in most American and European labs is 35–40 cycles, but experts have claimed that even 35 cycles is far too many, and that a more reasonable protocol would call for 25–30 cycles. (Each cycle exponentially increases the amount of viral DNA in the sample).

Earlier this year, data from three US states – New York, Nevada and Massachusetts – showed that when the amount of the virus found in a person was taken into account, up to 90 percent of people who tested positive could actually have been negative, as they may have been carrying only tiny amounts of the virus.

The Portuguese judges cited a study conducted by “some of the leading European and world specialists,” which was published by Oxford Academic at the end of September. It showed that if someone tested positive for Covid at a cycle threshold of 35 or higher, the chances of that person actually being infected is less than three percent, and that “the probability of… receiving a false positive is 97% or higher.”

While the judges in this case admitted that the cycle threshold used in Portuguese labs was unknown, they took this as further proof that the detention of the tourists was unlawful. The implication was that the results could not be trusted. Because of this uncertainty, they stated that there was “no way this court would ever be able to determine” whether the tourist who tested positive was indeed a carrier of the virus, or whether the others had been exposed to it.

Sshhh – don’t tell anyone

It is a sad indictment of our mainstream media that such a landmark ruling, of such obvious and pressing international importance, has been roundly ignored. If one were making (flimsy) excuses for them, one could say that the case escaped the notice of most science editors because it has been published in Portuguese. But there is a full English translation of the appeal, and alternative media managed to pick it up.

And it isn’t as if Portugal is some remote, mysterious nation where news is unreliable or whose judges are suspect – this is a western EU country with a large population and a similar legal system to many other parts of Europe. And it is not the only country whose institutions are clashing with received wisdom on Covid. Finland’s national health authority has disputed the WHO’s recommendation to test as many people as possible for coronavirus, saying it would be a waste of taxpayer’s money, while poorer South East Asian countries are holding off on ordering vaccines, citing an improper use of finite resources.

Testing, especially PCR testing, is the basis for the entire house of cards of Covid restrictions that are wreaking havoc worldwide. From testing comes case numbers. From case numbers come the ‘R number,’ the rate at which a carrier infects others. From the ‘dreaded’ R number comes the lockdowns and the restrictions, such as England’s new and baffling tiered restrictions that come into force next week.

The daily barrage of statistics is familiar to us all by this point, but as time goes on the evidence that something may be deeply amiss with the whole foundation of our reaction to this pandemic – the testing regime – continues to mount.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Britain’s Class War on Children

 

Britain’s Class War on Children

 

A British family from the film Smashing Kids, 1975. Photo by John Garrett.

When I first reported on child poverty in Britain, I was struck by the faces of children I spoke to, especially the eyes. They were different: watchful, fearful.

In Hackney, in 1975, I filmed Irene Brunsden’s family. Irene told me she gave her two-year-old a plate of cornflakes. “She doesn’t tell me she’s hungry, she just moans. When she moans, I know something is wrong.”

“How much money do you have in the house? I asked.

“Five pence,” she replied.

Irene said she might have to take up prostitution, “for the baby’s sake”. Her husband Jim, a truck driver who was unable to work because of illness, was next to her. It was as if they shared a private grief.

This is what poverty does. In my experience, its damage is like the damage of war; it can last a lifetime, spread to loved ones and contaminate the next generation. It stunts children, brings on a host of diseases and, as unemployed Harry Hopwood in Liverpool told me, “it’s like being in prison”.

This prison has invisible walls. When I asked Harry’s young daughter if she ever thought that one day she would live a life like better-off children, she said unhesitatingly: “No”.

What has changed 45 years later?  At least one member of an impoverished family is likely to have a job — a job that denies them a living wage. Incredibly, although poverty is more disguised, countless British children still go to bed hungry and are ruthlessly denied opportunities..

What has not changed is that poverty is the result of a disease that is still virulent yet rarely spoken about – class.

Study after study shows that the people who suffer and die early from the diseases of poverty brought on by a poor diet, sub-standard housing and the priorities of the political elite and its hostile “welfare” officials — are working people. In 2020, one in three preschool British children suffers like this.

In making my recent film, The Dirty War on the NHS, it was clear to me that the savage cutbacks to the NHS and its privatisation by the Blair, Cameron, May and Johnson governments had devastated the vulnerable, including many NHS workers and their families. I interviewed one low-paid NHS worker who could not afford her rent and was forced, to sleep in churches or on the streets.

At a foodbank in central London, I watched young mothers looking nervously around as they hurried away with old Tesco bags of food and washing powder and tampons they could no longer afford, their young children holding on to them. It is no exaggeration that at times I felt I was walking in the footprints of Dickens.

Boris Johnson has claimed that 400,000 fewer children are living in poverty since 2010 when the Conservatives came to power. This is a lie, as the Children’s Commissioner has confirmed. In fact, more than 600,000 children have fallen into poverty since 2012; the total is expected to exceed 5 million. This, few dare say, is a class war on children.

Old Etonian Johnson is may be a caricature of the born-to-rule class; but his “elite” is not the only one. All the parties in Parliament, notably if not especially Labour – like much of the bureaucracy and most of the media — have scant if any connection to the “streets”: to the world of the poor: of the “gig economy”: of battling a system of Universal Credit that can leave you without a penny and in despair.

Last week, the prime minister and his “elite” showed where their priorities lay. In the face of the greatest health crisis in living memory when Britain has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe and poverty is accelerating as the result of a punitive “austerity” policy, he announced £16.5 billion for “defence”. This makes Britain, whose military bases cover the world, the highest military spender in Europe.

And the enemy? The real one is poverty and those who impose it and perpetuate it.

John Pilger’s 1975 film, Smashing Kids, can be viewed at Smashing Kids.

This is an abridged version of an article published by the London Daily Mirror.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com