News Releases

Report: Trump Era Covid Strategy “Likely Resulted in Many Deaths”

Last week, the congressional Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report on the Trump administration’s embrace of a herd immunity strategy via mass infection in the second half of 2020 and first months of 2021. The report details how the strategy was promoted by Dr. Scott Atlas while he was a Special Advisor to the President. In October 2020, Atlas—along with other Stanford professors affiliated with the university’s right-wing think tank, the Hoover Institution––signed onto the highly controversial Great Barrington Declaration. At the time, experts argued that the Declaration, which advocated for a “focused protection” strategy, would leave millions vulnerable to the virus. 

The subcommittee report now states that the strategy advocated by the signatories of the Declaration “likely resulted in many deaths that would have been prevented by an effective national mitigation strategy.” 

BILL HANAGE; please direct media requests to Nicole Rura at nrura@hsph.harvard.edu 
    Hanage is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

MALLORY HARRIS, contact via Twitter DM @malar0ne
    Harris is a PhD candidate in biology at Stanford. 

The report is the first installment of the Select Subcommittee’s findings “showing that the Trump Administration’s political interference was rampant and degraded every major facet of the nation’s public health response during the first year of the pandemic.” Hanage told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that “there will be much more to be written on this sorry period, but this [report] is an eye-opening start.”

Hanage said the report “depicts crucial missteps in pandemic management and the way they came about… This was achieved by appointing the likes of Dr. Scott Atlas [in July 2020], who had no relevant experience in infectious disease but did have a history of making scientifically unfounded statements belittling the severity of the pandemic. 

“The Select Subcommittee reports new evidence that in March 2020, Dr. Atlas was in contact with officials claiming that Covid would lead to about 10,000 deaths in the United States. That milestone was in fact passed within a few weeks… Dr. Atlas was not in any position to provide expert guidance to forecast the course of the pandemic or produce a sustainable pandemic management strategy. He did, however, provide cover in the form of a medically qualified individual prepared to support the chosen policies of the administration: policy-based evidence, if you will, instead of evidence-based policy.” In particular, Atlas successfully pressed the administration to weaken and reduce testing and undermined and politicized mask-wearing. 

Hanage added: The report offers “important insights into how ‘herd immunity’ strategies came to dominate the conversation and become a major––if unstated––component of the U.S. response to the pandemic prior to vaccination.” Justin Feldman, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, also notes that these strategies have essentially been taken up by Democrats and the Biden administration this past year. 

Hanage said: “In the simplest epidemiological models, in which recovered individuals have lifelong immunity against future infection, epidemics eventually burn themselves out once they’ve exhausted the supply of available hosts––a point which is referred to as the ‘herd immunity threshold.’ A small minority of scientists proposed that enough infections in relatively low-risk individuals would allow this to be attained, and for society to then reopen once the virus had burned itself out. The difficulty is that the virus would not be expected to be eliminated by such a strategy, and there was (and is) no evidence that recovery from Covid-19 produces durable protection against future infection. So seeking herd immunity through infection would only defer the danger to older/high risk individuals, at the cost of significant morbidity (and mortality) in the young.” 

Harris has also followed how professors and scientists, especially from Stanford and including Atlas, were able to shape federal and state policies on the basis of data that was unsupported by the rest of the scientific community. Here, she details how the Great Barrington Declaration and Atlas influenced federal policy. Harris told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that it is not “new information that [these professors] were in direct contact with the federal government,” but that the report “gives us a better sense of the extent of [their activities]” as well as the extent to which Atlas had access to top officials in the White House.” Harris said that it has been “frustrating to see the name of the university” used to leverage Trump’s policies, in contrast with the public health policies that the majority of experts on the Stanford campus support. 

Migrants Dead in Trailer “Predictable”

Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights Open Media) - Kindle edition by Miller, Todd. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.TODD MILLER, toddmemomiller@gmail.com, @memomillerMiller’s books include Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security and Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World. His latest piece will be posted today at The Border Chronicle on Substack.

He said today: “After the June 27 tragedy in San Antonio in which 51 migrants died in the back of sweltering tractor trailer, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted that the deaths were a result of President Joe Biden’s ‘deadly open border policies,’ and that they show the ‘deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.’ Biden himself stated that the tragedy was ‘horrifying’ and he would send prayers, before saying ‘My administration will continue to do everything possible to stop criminal smugglers from exploiting migrants.’“Both these men on opposite sides of the U.S. political spectrum are saying the same thing: The ‘solution’ to the San Antonio tragedy is to build up, fortify, and militarize the border even more. This bipartisan cooperation is precisely what Democrat and Republicans have been doing for decades on the border. Since, for example, the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 there has been $350 billion invested in an expensive (and profitable) border and immigration apparatus of walls, armed agents, invasive surveillance technologies, biometrics, and drones. This enforcement infrastructure has been deployed using a deterrence strategy purposely designed to make crossing the border as difficult, dangerous, and deadly as possible. Many unauthorized border crossers walk through the desert for days on foot, attempt to cross a rushing river, or hide in vehicles such as tractor trailers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 people have died crossing the U.S. Mexico border since the mid 1990s (and even that could be an undercount). As border and immigration enforcement scholar Gabriella Sanchez wrote, ‘What happened in San Antonio is not a coincidence or unprecedented. It was quite predictable.’ If officials wanted these sorts of tragedies to stop, the solution is simple: they would curtail the further fortification of the border, and allow people freedom of movement.”

Maxwell Sentenced to 20 Years for Conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein: Will Powerful Men be Held Accountable?

One Nation Under Blackmail

Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse minors on Tuesday. Her lawyers have stated they will appeal the sentence.

Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Chris Hedges wrote during Maxwell’s trial that it will “not hold to account the powerful and wealthy men who are also complicit in the sexual assaults of girls as young as twelve Maxwell allegedly procured for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
“Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, hedge-fund billionaire Glenn Dubin, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, former Secretary of the Treasury and former president of Harvard Larry Summers, Stephen Pinker, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, billionaire Victoria’s Secret CEO Les Wexner, the J.P. Morgan banker Jes Staley, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack, real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, former Maine senator George Mitchell, Harvey Weinstein and many others who were at least present and most likely participated in Epstein’s perpetual Bacchanalia, are not in court. … Epstein’s death in a New York jail cell, while officially ruled a suicide, is in the eyes of many credible investigators a murder.”

In February, the British Independent reported “Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre reach ‘£10m’ settlement over sexual abuse claim.” Giuffre was one of the girls targeted by Maxwell.New York magazine just published the piece: “How Leslie Wexner Helped Create Jeffrey Epstein” about how the billionaire Wexner, whose company at one point owned Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, and Bath & Body Works, funded Esptein. “Epstein’s money, Upper East Side mansion, and even the Lolita Express — originally a Boeing 727 owned by L Brands — would all come from Wexner.”

See past accuracy.org news releases citing the work of investigative reporter Whitney Webb. In 2020, she noted: “The fact the FBI won’t even touch or question Les Wexner (‘head of the snake’ of the whole op) tells you that any effort to go after Ghislaine is superficial.”

In her piece, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case,” Webb reports that “Alex Acosta — who arranged Epstein’s ‘sweetheart’ deal in 2008 and resigned as Donald Trump’s labor secretary following Epstein’s arrest — claimed that the mysterious billionaire had worked for ‘intelligence.’”

Webb also wrote about Maxwell’s father, Robert, who worked with the Mossad “according to several books including Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy.” She adds: “In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, [whom] ‘the service maintained for blackmail purposes.’” [Quoting the book Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas.] Webb’s book One Nation Under Blackmail: The Sordid Union Between Intelligence and Crime that Gave Rise to Jeffrey Epstein is scheduled to be released later this year.

MARLON ETTINGER, marlonjettinger@gmail.com@MarlonEttinger
Ettinger covered the Maxwell trial and wrote several pieces for his Substack including “Prince Andrew Settles.”

Michigan Supreme Court Uses “Star Chamber” to Kill Flint Water Charges Against Officials

Flint Water Crisis is ongoing | I was back in Flint today an… | Flickr

AP reports in “Court kills Flint water charges against ex-governor, others” that: “The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water scandal, saying a judge sitting as a one-person grand jury had no power to issue indictments under rarely used state laws.

“It’s an astonishing defeat for Attorney General Dana Nessel, who took office in 2019, got rid of a special prosecutor and put together a new team to investigate whether crimes were committed when lead contaminated Flint’s water system in 2014-15.“State laws ‘authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants’ as a grand juror, the Supreme Court said.“‘But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,’ the court said in a 6-0 opinion written by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.“She called it a ‘Star Chamber comeback,’ a pejorative reference to an oppressive, closed-door style of justice in England in the 17th century.”
NAYYIRAH SHARIFF, nayyirah.shariff@gmail.com, @FlintRising

Shariff is with Flint Rising, which just released a statement: “We at Flint Rising are disgusted with the Michigan Supreme Court ruling that tosses out the indictments of former Governor Rick Synder, Nick Lyon, Richard Baird, Dr. Eden Wells, Darnell Earley, Gerald Ambrose, Jarrod Agen, Howard Croft and Nancy Peeler, the state and local officials responsible for the Flint water crisis. This leaves no one criminally responsible for poisoning 100,000 people in one of the largest public health disasters in this nation’s history.

“It has been 2,986 days since the start of the Flint water crisis. Throughout the years, we’ve sent buses of Flint residents to our state and nation’s capital, shared our stories, marched in the streets, and fought for reparations for our community. Before Flint, it wasn’t common knowledge that drinking water was a source for lead exposure. Our narratives and organizing drove revisions to [the] Lead and Copper Rule at the state and federal level. We were successful in leveraging our advocacy into making lead service line replacement a reality for communities across the country through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“Yet no one has been held accountable. We thought that the pain our families faced and the trauma we shared would lead to accountability at the end of this horrendous journey. We held onto the elusive hope that someone would be held criminally responsible. This is the second time that the promise of accountability has been snatched away from poisoned Flint residents. It has become increasingly clear that the judicial system is not a viable option for a poor majority Black community facing injustice.” See full statement.

Covid Behind Bars Project Finds Failure of Geriatric Parole Reform

Since the start of the pandemic, UCLA Law’s Covid Behind Bars Project has tracked, collected and analyzed public information about Covid-19 in prisons, jails, youth facilities and immigration detention centers. Last week, the project released a study called Only Six,” in which researcher Isabelle Geczy analyzed Nevada’s emergency medical use mechanisms (including geriatric parole and compassionate release) during the pandemic. 

SHARON DOLOVICH, JD, PhD, dolovich@law.ucla.edu, @SharonDolovich
    Dolovich is a professor of law at UCLA School of Law and the director of the UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program. 

In a summary of the study, Geczy writes that Nevada could have been “uniquely well-positioned” to save the lives of people incarcerated in Nevada state prisons during the pandemic. “In 2019,” Geczy notes, “the state legislature passed A.B. 236, a sweeping omnibus criminal justice bill that contained…reforms to the state’s geriatric parole system. Prior to 2019, the state had barely any functional geriatric parole system.” 

But the “Only Six” study details how “opposition groups, including prosecutors and law enforcement officials, argued that such broad eligibility for geriatric parole [as originally described in A.B. 236] would threaten public safety in Nevada communities.” Before the bill was signed into law in June 2020, its policy recommendations were “excluded or significantly watered down,” making its geriatric reform provisions “so weakened as to be almost meaningless.”

In the end, only six people were found eligible for geriatric parole, and zero received a parole hearing. During that time, 8,000 people incarcerated in Nevada reportedly tested positive for the virus, and at least 60 have died from it.  

Dolovich, the director of the UCLA Covid Behind Bars Project, told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the Nevada research was part of a study looking at geriatric parole in every state––and that the group was “inundated with the same story over and over again. Those lawmakers who initially introduced the legislation seemed motivated to develop mechanisms that would function in a meaningful way,” Dolovich said. But invariably, “their draft bills would be whittled down in the legislative process after objections by prosecutors and police.” “The exclusions come thick and fast,” she said.

Geriatric parole releases have waned since the first months of the pandemic, when the subject was a relatively prominent concern for the public, courts and legislators. By the end of May 2020, however, concern from the public had largely dissipated. In her article “Mass Incarceration, Meet Covid-19,” Dolovich describes how––although jails saw pronounced population drops in the first months of the pandemic and prisons had saw smaller but still substantial drops––by October 2020, “jail populations had begun to creep back up, prison releases had largely ceased, and few signs remained of a more robust decarceral strategy.” 

Dolovich pins that shift not only on the public’s Covid fatigue, a lack of adequate testing in jails and prisons, and a shift in social justice-oriented media coverage, but also to the fact that “by mid-May, it was clear that the federal courts were not going to be an effective channel for release,” easing the pressure correctional officials may have previously felt to speed up or expand releases in order to avoid possible legal liability. 

Now, a year and a half later and in the context of a media environment impacted by current political rhetoric about rising crime in major U.S. cities, Dolovich told IPA that “beyond question this rhetoric will empower constituencies to make sure compassionate release clauses have no teeth and no meaning for people in practice––leaving elderly, medically compromised people, who are more likely to have serious complications and die from Covid,” out in the cold. This is especially significant given that, as Dolovich has noted, “people in prison are generally physiologically older than their chronological age would suggest, and are consequently more likely than other members of society to have a host of medical issues known to exacerbate complications from [Covid], including heart disease, asthma, hypertension and diabetes.”

Blinded by “Russiaphobia”

File:Vladimir Putin 11-10-2020 (cropped).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

JOHN “PAT” WILLERTON, jpw@email.arizona.eduWillerton is a professor of political science in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona focusing on Russia. See his TEDx Talk, “The Russian Soul” from 2013.

He said today: “We have — from the start — misjudged Russia, its political, economic, and military realities, and we now confront a Russia that is winning the conventional war in Ukraine while we face the reality that Russia is politically united and its economy withstanding the sanction pressures we have applied. This is the consequence of living in a world of our own hyped constructions about Russia that vary far from Russia’s reality.

“Our misperceptions are grounded in a profound Russophobia that has yielded bad policy choices. We suffer from the problem of ‘paradigm blindness,’ our Russophobic paradigm blinding us to Russian domestic realities and intentions.

“The Russian economy is stronger than westerners thought and it shows minimal stresses from sanctions. As time passes, it is cutting many economic deals, and it is doing so on its terms (e.g., energy deals in rubles). Meanwhile, outside of the West, most of the world refuses to apply sanctions and many countries do business with Russia.

“Russian society is proving to be prepared to confront the privations that could come with a ‘Western crusade.’ Public support for Russian efforts in Ukraine and in confronting the West are overwhelming now. Russian society appears more unified while fissures are already evident in Europe.
“Perhaps it’s time to step back and try to analyze Russia as it really is, rather than rely on cartoon character arguments that cannot yield effective policies.”

* After Roe in Alabama * Counterpacking the Court

ROBIN MARTY, via Ruth Weiner, ruth@sevenstories.com, @robinmarty

Marty is director of operations at West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and author of the book Handbook for a Post-Roe America from Seven Stories Press. She was just featured by NPR: “Patients in ‘trigger law’ states reorient after access to abortion care halts.”

FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle@illinois.edu

Boyle is professor of law at the University of Illinois. His books include Tackling America’s Toughest QuestionsHe has been advocating that the Democrats embrace expanding the court for years. Boyle told the Guardian in 2018: “I think Kavanaugh was put on there to ensure Roe is overturned. … He has used the Roberts dodge of saying it is settled law. So what? The supreme court can unsettle it tomorrow. He did not say it was decided correctly.”Boyle said today: “The Federalist Society, with its complete distortion of the Constitution and phony concept of ‘Originalism,’ has been packing the courts since the Reagan administration. The Democratic Party should embrace counterpacking the courts.

“But the Democratic Party is only going to be moved by sustained, massive protests.“The Federalist Society is ultimately going to target much of FDR’s New Deal and the Warren Court precedents including even Brown v. Board of Education. Also, freedom of the press — they will seek to overturn New York Times v. Sullivan protecting America’s Fourth Estate.“Contrary to what many claim, FDR’s plan to expand the Supreme Court was a great success. The court got the message and began to uphold his New Deal legislation after previously striking it down, which prompted his scheme in the first place. So he did not have to pack the court. But these Federalist Society members are so hard core, it will be needed now. [Boyle is a longtime critic of the Federalist Society, see “Hijacking Justice” from 1999 in Emerge magazine.]“Eliminating life tenure would require a Constitutional amendment, which is a non-starter to begin with and even a waste of time, efforts and money to try. Counterpacking is the best way to deal with this.”

Calls for U.S. to Unfreeze Afghan Funds

An earthquake in Afghanistan has killed at least 1,000 people.

ZAHER WAHAB, zwahab@lclark.edu
Professor emeritus at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education, Wahab was senior adviser to the education ministry in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006. He was featured on an IPA news release earlier this year: “Facing Starvation and Sanctions, How Does Afghanistan Move Forward?

ROSSELLA MICCIO, FRANCESCA BOCCHINI, via David Lloyd Webber, david.lloydwebber@emergency.it
Miccio is president of the group EMERGENCY. Bocchini is advocacy manager for the organization which last month released the report: “How to guarantee humanitarian aid to the Afghan people after August 2021?

Based in Italy, EMERGENCY provides free, high-quality healthcare to victims of war, poverty and landmines, alongside building hospitals and training local medical staff. EMERGENCY has treated over 12 million people in 20 countries and currently operates in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Italy, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen.

The recent report states: “The Taliban takeover in August 2021 marked a new phase of a complex and severe economic crisis. The de facto government’s international isolation, the sudden cessation of grant inflows, freezing of central bank assets in the U.S. ($7 billion) and in Europe ($2.1 billion), the imposition of sanctions, the subsequent paralysis of the Afghan Central Bank (DAB), and the breakdown of international banking relationships caused economic output over the last months of 2021 to decline by one-third.”

EMERGENCY recommends:

•   “It is essential to support the UN Secretary General’s appeal for a creative, flexible and constructive engagement with the de facto authorities, placing the needs of the Afghan people first.

•   “The international community should fill the $2 billion funding gap left after the recent UN appeal for Afghanistan. Funds should be integrated, multi-annual, fast and flexible.

•   “Afghan reserve funds should be unfrozen. Technical assistance to restore the role of the Afghanistan Central Bank as an independent institution and financial regulator should be guaranteed.

•   “It is urgent to reactivate Kabul International Airport to ensure the prompt delivery of humanitarian aid.

•   “Investing in health must be a priority in order to give the Afghan population a future, rebuilding essential services and offering jobs, including to women.

•   “To make the healthcare system more resilient it is vital to invest in health infrastructure and to make education at all levels accessible for all, including women and girls. Investments in higher education and capacity building programmes should be strengthened in terms of quality and quantity.”

Billions to Military While School Lunch Program Expires

Motherly reports: “Congress is letting free school lunch program expire for 10 million children.”

Politico reports: “The Senate Armed Services Committee has endorsed a $45 billion increase to President Joe Biden’s military spending plans in its annual defense policy bill, blowing past the administration’s Pentagon budget for a second straight year.”

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry
McHenry is co-founder of the global Food Not Bombs movement. He said today: “When the USDA reports that over 6 million children are already going without adequate food, how can we cut the school lunch program yet add $45 billion in military spending above President Biden’s already criminal $813 billion request? As the economy crashes millions more children are sure to go hungry. I get calls everyday from desperate families seeking food. We are already struggling to keep up with the need. We have been providing the families at one of our local school districts with groceries and we are only 45 minutes away from the headquarters of Google and Facebook. This spells disaster for the future of the United States. Real national security would be ending hunger and homelessness not delivering hundreds of billions in our tax dollars to the arms industry.”

McHenry has a regular segment on the radio program “Flashpoints” on KPFA, “Foodfight: the Life and Death Battle Against Hunger and Houslessness,”

Food Not Bombs provides free meals. Some governments have tried to stop them. See past IPA news releases: “Santa Cruz Threatens to Evict Food Not Bombs” and “Food Not Bombs Wins Against City Gov Trying to Stop Free Meals; Other Battles Continue.”

Biden’s Saudi Trip: For Cheaper Gas — or for Israel?

Photo credit: Stern Matty, Flickr

The New York Times reports: “Israel Confirms Regional Military Project, Showing Its Growing Role.” Antiwar.com reports: “Israel Reveals It’s Building a U.S.-Backed Regional Military Alliance Against Iran.”

TRITA PARSI, tparsi@gmail.com@tparsi
Parsi is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute and just wrote the piece “The real reason for Biden’s capitulation to the Saudi Crown Prince.”

He writes: “All the latest headlines about President Joe Biden’s July trip to Saudi Arabia focus on a deal to push down gas prices. In reality, he is making a much more sinister and dangerous calculation than most realize: He is reportedly planning to offer the dictators in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — where all but two of the 9/11 terrorists came from — a military pact that commits American lives to defend their regimes. What could go right?

“When Biden ran for the White House, he pledged to break with then-President Donald Trump’s Middle East policy: bring U.S. troops home from the Middle East, renew the Iran nuclear deal, end the war in Yemen, and ‘make the Saudis the pariah that they are.’ But after refusing to take necessary steps to return to the Iran deal, and with rumors abounding that he is about to offer the UAE and Saudi Arabia a military pact, Biden’s policy is increasingly looking like a continuation of Trump’s Middle East strategy.

“Biden isn’t just forgiving Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his direct role in the beheading of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in return for a Saudi promise to pump more oil. As Biden admitted last week, this Middle East trip is about regional security — and that of Israel in particular. ‘The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,’ Biden told reporters June 12. ‘It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going. And it has to do with national security for them — for Israelis.’

“Rumors have been circulating in Washington for months that Biden is seeking to expand Trump’s signature foreign policy initiative — the Abraham Accords — which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain and the UAE; Biden wants to bring Saudi Arabia into a similar kind of arrangement with Israel. Details are beginning to leak of how he will try to get Saudi Arabia to take critical steps toward recognizing Israel. And the most alarming one is that the United States is offering a major security pact to the autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

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