Tall Oaks From Small Acorns Grow.

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Before any effective treatment can be commenced, it is essential to first establish an accurate diagnosis to save the life of a severely ill patient. To do that, the doctor will apply years of knowledge and experience, then balance their judgement after a careful and objective examination of all the evidence.

In some cases, like septic shock, the only effective treatment may involve the loss of an organ or limb so the life can be saved and then, the onus on doctors to make that accurate diagnosis quickly is paramount, if the patient is to have a chance of survival.

Many of us experience these difficult circumstances in our lives – from both sides of the coin – but when it is our own life in the balance, all we can do is place our trust in those doctors – and have faith in our own resilience.

But by the time a cancer patient faces the surgeon’s knife, they will understand what is required to have a good outcome. The diagnosis and treatment plan will have been carefully explained and they can prepare themselves to make whatever sacrifices required to ensure survival. If they are fortunate, for sometimes the disease is so severe and threatening, there is little time to prepare.

Humanity is that acutely ill patient. Without warning, our busy life has been rudely interrupted by a critical health crisis that is rapidly progressing towards the gravest outcome – unless appropriate treatment is commenced without delay.

But as we lie in Intensive Care, watching our doctors’ dither and argue and fail to even recognise the most obvious symptoms of the illness, what hope do we have for our survival when such glaring incompetence and inexperience is revealed before us? Our predicament is made even worse with the knowledge that some of the doctors we are relying on are complicit in our demise by their neglect and mismanagement.

Should we resign ourselves to the inevitable tragedy – or do we seek a second opinion without delay?

The virus outbreak has provided much clarity. We have known for many years that our “economy” – our way of life – has been truly toxic for much of the planet and has destroyed many of the ecosystems and resources that are essential to maintain the diversity and environment we rely on to survive. Even with all the warnings, we have been unable or unwilling to change our ways.

Just like a chronic drug-addict whose unfortunate exposure to prescription opioids has created a potentially terminal illness, humanity has several urgent decisions to make before commencing life-saving treatment. Who do we trust? Which sacrifices must we make? What can we do to ensure a good recovery and prevent recurrence? What is the best treatment available?

On the question of trust, we can now see that our ‘doctors’ – with their extensive entourage – are no specialists, but snake-oil salesmen – and we would be foolish in the extreme to have any faith in their opinions.

In seeking to preserve the economy, politicians are not only prolonging and exacerbating the crisis, but risk our very survival by their actions. A complete change of direction is required yet it is increasingly obvious they are ignorant and incapable of doing so. Even at this late stage, we must summon the courage to dismiss them from any further responsibility in our affairs before they inflict the fatal blow.

We must remember this:

As a country with its own currency, the UK can never run out of money – but it can run out of people and the essentials to life – food and fuel – if the combined consequences of a pandemic disease with unknown potential and the evaporation of trust in the authorities are realised. By ignoring the desperate plight of millions of ordinary people, governments across the world are failing in their principle duty – to protect their citizens. Instead many have already been sacrificed on the altar of greed and power in the desire to save the status quo. This neglect can only lead to social collapse and disorder, which will greatly enhance the deadly progress of the virus and render recovery impossible for many generations to come.

That will be our final legacy if we fail to act decisively now.

We must first realise and accept that the virus has completely destroyed the global economy – and in doing so, it has done humanity and the planet a great favour. Within a few months all of the established fiscal frameworks have collapsed, forcing governments to issue new currency to meet increased spending costs amidst grave uncertainties and falling revenue. Growth and productivity have all but ceased and many businesses have already closed for good.

Our malign problem has been surgically and efficiently removed, but our dependency and addiction has left us weak and vulnerable following the operation and we face a critical time ahead on life-support. But as we recuperate, there is time to consider the clarity the outbreak has also provided in clearing the mists and myths obscuring the reality with money and government spending.

Last week (23r April 2020), Gertjan Vlieghe, an ‘external’ member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), gave a speech headed “Monetary Policy and the Bank of England’s Balance Sheet” in an attempt to explain the extraordinary sums of money that are appearing out of thin air. It’s a good effort, using the prevailing mists and myths from telling the story in everyday language – but really the game is well and truly up for these dishonest characters, who by their own admission, have been exploiting those mechanisms for the last half century.

Thankfully, we now have, a simple translation of the speech and its implications for governments and individuals in every country.

This is one example how HMG could structure a response where money is no problem:

All policies directed to maintain the two vital ingredients essential for our recovery; preservation of the individual and those services fundamental to our survival – the NHS, food and medicines and the basic utilities – power, fuel and communications. It is incumbent on the State to apply adequate fiscal support to both until the outbreak and its inevitable consequences are contained and absorbed. That process may be counted in years if not decades.

Thus, direct payment to the individual must be apportioned immediately. This can be achieved by making everyone an employee or student of the ‘State’, with every person receiving a regular monthly ‘salary’ in addition to other supporting measures.

  • No debt repayments of any kind – mortgages, rents, loans, taxes including VAT, will cease immediately.
  • No payments for utilities, communications, prescriptions.
  • A weekly free-of-charge package of groceries and household items.
  • Emergency grants and funding for all community activities assisting the response and for restoration and support of essential business and services.

This represents a critical investment in a workforce we will desperately need if we are to survive intact and in sufficient numbers to bring with us the expertise, skills and knowledge that will be essential in the years and decades ahead.  We will need new skills and a radically different focus for business. This will take time, careful planning and consensus to formulate. The difficult, but crucial period of isolation provides a unique opportunity for everyone to participate towards that goal.  But only if they have support.

To achieve this, the ‘State’ – using emergency powers – assumes responsibility for all utilities, telecommunications, mobile and Internet providers, insurance and other essential business such as food production and distribution, supermarkets and pharmacies.  The commercial banks are nationalised and serve as a conduit for funding from government. All off-shore banking activities and financial markets under UK control, should be suspended immediately and access to existing deposits will be restricted.

Without this investment and reforms, our children will never know or benefit from anything we have learned and achieved in our lifetimes. Instead they will face the bleakest and most savage future imaginable.

If we are in in this together, it must be on equal terms – or not at all.

The net worth or earning capability of any individual is no longer important or representative of their true value. It never was. Is a footballer or media celebrity more important than a cleaner or carer? Do billionaires like Branson, Green and the Windsors deserve any better than you or your family?

It is simply not possible – and highly undesirable – to transition from one society to another under the heavy burden of unjust inequality and unrestrained greed. In time we will need to reconcile these discrepancies in a fair and sensible manner – but for the foreseeable duration, whilst our very survival is in the balance, we must all be on an equal footing financially – and in all other areas of support.

Nothing less will do.

History has taught us that every civilisation, at the point of collapse, has but the briefest of time to adjust to the new circumstances and threats. As yet, none have grasped the moment or faced the challenge with any realism and all have failed.

We have everything we need at our disposal to navigate through the troubled waters ahead, but we are being dragged down by the weight of a snarled anchor.

Just as humanity must dispense with the discredited snake-oil salesmen it is time to cut the chains from the deadweight below – those who the salesmen truly represent. There is much to be done – how we organise and support each other through the difficult times ahead.

How we recover and rebuild. How we restore, not only ourselves but also this place we call home. Unless we do this together, many of us will perish. Together, on equal terms, we may yet again flourish and learn to appreciate the true value of this life and each other. But everything needs to change.

Unfortunately, it won’t – at least not with any Westminster government and the British Establishment in charge of our affairs. As Vlieghe’s speech illustrates – even when Pandora’s Box has been opened, they still try and claim it’s nothing more than a meaningless trinket. They are the very worst of the snake-oil villains and will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo. They have yet to realise that is no longer possible. That dichotomy spells disaster.

On that basis, I appeal to those in Scotland in a position of authority to urgently consider the potential for Scotland, as an independent country with its own currency, to provide for its citizens a radically different fiscal stimulus, where the only limit on spending and progressive policies is our own imagination.

All of the suggestions outlined above can be achieved in a moment if the Scottish people and government have sovereignty over their own affairs. The time for decisive leadership is surely upon us. It is a matter of survival – nothing less.

When I was a young boy, my grandmother died from a simple act of medical negligence that was completely avoidable. No one had the knowledge to speak up at the time and we can never bring her back. I still miss her today. She instilled in me her great love of this beautiful country, its people, their history and traditions. “It has everything you could ever want”, she used to say. It does; we should hold onto it with everything we can. Especially the Blackmount Rowan.

On her mantelpiece was another tree – a porcelain ornament with an inscription below and another lesson:

“Tall oaks from small acorns grow.”

Now is the time to make that happen.

 

Also published at: https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/tall-oaks/

Photograph of the Ban Vane Oak reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Alan Walsh.

Monday 9th November 2015

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Monday the 9th November 2015 was an unremarkable day in world events. It was sunny and warm in Britain – 13C in London; the Russians were banned from athletics for doping offences; Seaworld was under pressure for its treatment of killer whales; a painting by the Italian artist, Modigliani became the second most expensive piece of art – reaching $170m at auction – and Justin Bieber released the single “Love Yourself”  – which would earn him a Grammy Award the following year.

But on that same day, a respected scientific journal published a paper by a group of researchers from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina about a recent discovery they had made whilst experimenting with a group of viruses, derived from samples of bat excrement.

Their paper examined the potential for a particular strain of coronavirus – similar to that which had created the SARS and MERS outbreaks – that one of the researchers had isolated in horseshoe bats in Shitou Cave near Yunnan, China – where they conducted intense sampling during different seasons over five consecutive years.

Dr Shi Zhengli—a virologist – who is often called China’s “bat woman” by her colleagues because of her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves, was one of the authors. She was on secondment to the UNC during the research, which was co-funded by the US military bio-warfare division at Fort Detrick.

In essence, the paper established the potential for a reverse engineering a coronavirus called SHC014-CoV and increasing its lethality through a series of modifications to its structure. This process is called “gain of function”.

In 2012, a Dutch virologist, Ron Fouchier, published details of an experiment on the recent H5N1 strain of bird flu. This strain was extremely deadly, killing an estimated 60% of humans it infected – far beyond even the Spanish flu. Yet its inability to pass from human to human had so far prevented a pandemic. Fouchier wanted to find out whether (and how) H5N1 could naturally develop this ability. He passed the disease through a series of 10 ferrets, which are commonly used as a model for how influenza affects humans. By the time it passed to the final ferret, his strain of H5N1 had become directly transmissible between mammals.

The work caused fierce controversy. Much of this was focused on the information contained in his work. The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity ruled that his paper had to be stripped of some of its technical details before publication, to limit the ability of bad actors to cause a pandemic. And the Dutch government claimed that the research broke EU law on exporting information useful for bioweapons. But it is not the possibility of misuse that concerns me here. Fouchier’s research provides a clear example of well-intentioned scientists enhancing the destructive capabilities of pathogens known to threaten global catastrophe.

But the USNSABB were silent when the researchers from UNC published their paper in 2015 and it remains online today. Just like Fouchier’s paper three years earlier – it provided a blueprint for ‘bad actors’ to initiate a pandemic – as noted by scientists a week after publication.

The abstract for the paper is instructive:

“The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV underscores the threat of cross-species transmission events leading to outbreaks in humans. Here we examine the disease potential of a SARS-like virus, SHC014-CoV, which is currently circulating in Chinese horseshoe bat populations. Using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, we generated and characterized a chimeric virus expressing the spike of bat coronavirus SHC014 in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone. The results indicate that group 2b viruses encoding the SHC014 spike in a wild-type backbone can efficiently use multiple orthologs of the SARS receptor human angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2), replicate efficiently in primary human airway cells and achieve in vitro titers equivalent to epidemic strains of SARS-CoV. Additionally, in vivo experiments demonstrate replication of the chimeric virus in mouse lung with notable pathogenesis. Evaluation of available SARS-based immune-therapeutic and prophylactic modalities revealed poor efficacy; both monoclonal antibody and vaccine approaches failed to neutralize and protect from infection with CoVs using the novel spike protein. On the basis of these findings, we synthetically re-derived an infectious full-length SHC014 recombinant virus and demonstrate robust viral replication both in vitro and in vivo. “

The paper describes how they achieved the dramatic gain of function by manipulating the genome sequence of a SHC014-CoV virus obtained from Fort Detrick, then combining various intermediary host pathways that enable cross-species transmission with enhanced adaptations, to increase its lethality.

These experiments – even in military laboratories – are extremely controversial. President Obama called a moratorium on gain of function experiments in 2014 – and the authors’ make comment to the risks in their summary.

“In addition to offering preparation against future emerging viruses, this approach must be considered in the context of the US government–mandated pause on gain-of-function (GOF) studies. On the basis of previous models of emergence, the creation of chimeric viruses such as SHC014-MA15 was not expected to increase pathogenicity, (however) relative to the Urbani spike–MA15 CoV, SHC014-MA15 shows a gain in pathogenesis.

On the basis of these findings, scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue, as increased pathogenicity in mammalian models cannot be excluded.“

But the information or blueprint was there for any ‘bad actors’ to exploit, should they so wish. However, there is also another, more reasonable and innocent explanation, if the virus eventually is determined to be of chimeric origin.

Dr Shi left UNC in September last year and returned to the Key Laboratory of Special Pathogens and Biosafety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is located about 200m from the animal market, reported to be the source of the current outbreak. She now specialises in horseshoe bat coronavirus pathology and is a leading authority on gain potentiation in engineered methodology.

It is certainly a coincidence that the first victims of a mysterious fatal pneumonia were recorded in Wuhan in workers from a food market – a short distance away from a BSL-4 laboratory just a few weeks after Dr Shi returned from the USA. But this would have likely gone unnoticed, had it not been for the Department of Justice – who arrested another scientist – a Harvard University Professor in Chemical Biology, specialising in nanotechnology – and issued a press release in February this year.

Last week, the authors of the paper issued an update.

  • 30 March 2020

Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this article is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.

When scientists use the words “believe” and “most likely” in defending a hypothesis – particularly when they are themselves the focus of understandable speculation, it is surely time for a very transparent independent investigation – and full public disclosure.

Most countries operate clandestine biowarfare research facilities – the UK has Porton Down, USA has Fort Detrick- Mossad run several as do Russia and China. It really doesn’t matter if it were accidentally released by Chinese scientists working at Wuhan – or a deliberate release by China – or any of the other actors, who wanted to exploit the circumstances to punish China. What matters is that all these secret facilities – & all of the intelligence & security agencies with their nefarious agendas, are dismantled immediately and never resurrected.

Whatever the excuse or justification, we must never again allow the irresponsible and dangerous experimentation with any element – biological, chemical or nuclear – that can has such catastrophic consequences if misused or when mistakes are made.

Now is not the time, but after, when we start to rebuild, there will be a thorough examination of all the activities and experiments, conducted in secret, but in our name, by governments and their agencies – and we will learn from this and never, ever permit these circumstances to arise again.

UPDATE:  – Newsweek 8 May 2020

“Dr. Anthony Fauci is an adviser to President Donald Trump and something of an American folk hero for his steady, calm leadership during the pandemic crisis. At least one poll shows that Americans trust Fauci more than Trump on the coronavirus pandemic—and few scientists are portrayed on TV by Brad Pitt.

But just last year, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the organization led by Dr. Fauci, funded scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.

In 2019, with the backing of NIAID, the National Institutes of Health committed $3.7 million over six years for research that included some gain-of-function work. The program followed another $3.7 million, 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019, bringing the total to $7.4 million.

Many scientists have criticized gain of function research, which involves manipulating viruses in the lab to explore their potential for infecting humans, because it creates a risk of starting a pandemic from accidental release.

SARS-CoV-2 , the virus now causing a global pandemic, is believed to have originated in bats. U.S. intelligence, after originally asserting that the coronavirus had occurred naturally, conceded last month that the pandemic may have originated in a leak from the Wuhan lab. (At this point most scientists say it’s possible—but not likely—that the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated.)

Dr. Fauci did not respond to Newsweek’s requests for comment. NIH responded with a statement that said in part: “Most emerging human viruses come from wildlife, and these represent a significant threat to public health and biosecurity in the US and globally, as demonstrated by the SARS epidemic of 2002-03, and the current COVID-19 pandemic…. scientific research indicates that there is no evidence that suggests the virus was created in a laboratory.”

The NIH research consisted of two parts. The first part began in 2014 and involved surveillance of bat coronaviruses, and had a budget of $3.7 million. The program funded Shi Zheng-Li, a virologist at the Wuhan lab, and other researchers to investigate and catalogue bat coronaviruses in the wild. This part of the project was completed in 2019.

A second phase of the project, beginning that year, included additional surveillance work but also gain-of-function research for the purpose of understanding how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans. The project was run by EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit research group, under the direction of President Peter Daszak, an expert on disease ecology. NIH canceled the project just this past Friday, April 24th, Politico reported. Daszak did not immediately respond to Newsweek requests for comment.

The project proposal states: “We will use S protein sequence data, infectious clone technology, in vitro and in vivo infection experiments and analysis of receptor binding to test the hypothesis that % divergence thresholds in S protein sequences predict spillover potential.”

In layman’s terms, “spillover potential” refers to the ability of a virus to jump from animals to humans, which requires that the virus be able to attach to receptors in the cells of humans. SARS-CoV-2, for instance, is adept at binding to the ACE2 receptor in human lungs and other organs.

According to Richard Ebright, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University, the project description refers to experiments that would enhance the ability of bat coronavirus to infect human cells and laboratory animals using techniques of genetic engineering. In the wake of the pandemic, that is a noteworthy detail.

Ebright, along with many other scientists, has been a vocal opponent of gain-of-function research because of the risk it presents of creating a pandemic through accidental release from a lab.

Dr. Fauci is renowned for his work on the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1990s. Born in Brooklyn, he graduated first in his class from Cornell University Medical College in 1966. As head of NIAID since 1984, he has served as an adviser to every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan.

A decade ago, during a controversy over gain-of-function research on bird-flu viruses, Dr. Fauci played an important role in promoting the work. He argued that the research was worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to make preparations, such as investigating possible anti-viral medications, that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred.

The work in question was a type of gain-of-function research that involved taking wild viruses and passing them through live animals until they mutate into a form that could pose a pandemic threat. Scientists used it to take a virus that was poorly transmitted among humans and make it into one that was highly transmissible—a hallmark of a pandemic virus. This work was done by infecting a series of ferrets, allowing the virus to mutate until a ferret that hadn’t been deliberately infected contracted the disease.

The work entailed risks that worried even seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted. The problem, they said, is that it increased the likelihood that a pandemic would occur through a laboratory accident.

Dr. Fauci defended the work. “[D]etermining the molecular Achilles’ heel of these viruses can allow scientists to identify novel antiviral drug targets that could be used to prevent infection in those at risk or to better treat those who become infected,” wrote Fauci and two co-authors in the Washington Post on December 30, 2011. “Decades of experience tells us that disseminating information gained through biomedical research to legitimate scientists and health officials provides a critical foundation for generating appropriate countermeasures and, ultimately, protecting the public health.”

Nevertheless, in 2014, under pressure from the Obama administration, the National of Institutes of Health instituted a moratorium on the work, suspending 21 studies.

Three years later, though—in December 2017—the NIH ended the moratorium and the second phase of the NIAID project, which included the gain-of-function research, began. The NIH established a framework for determining how the research would go forward: scientists have to get approval from a panel of experts, who would decide whether the risks were justified.

The reviews were indeed conducted—but in secret, for which the NIH has drawn criticism. In early 2019, after a reporter for Science magazine discovered that the NIH had approved two influenza research projects that used gain of function methods, scientists who oppose this kind of research excoriated the NIH in an editorial in the Washington Post.

“We have serious doubts about whether these experiments should be conducted at all,” wrote Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins University and Marc Lipsitch of Harvard. “[W]ith deliberations kept behind closed doors, none of us will have the opportunity to understand how the government arrived at these decisions or to judge the rigor and integrity of that process.”