“In the coming days, a patent will finally be issued on a five-year-old invention, a feat of molecular engineering that is at the heart of at least five major Covid-19 vaccines. And the United States government will control that patent.
The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.
The question is whether the government will do anything at all.
The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.
David Lindsay: This is a tough problem, and I quake at trying to master all the issues. My gut tells me that the United States should have included standard language from the Gates Foundation, keeping some rights to all of its patents and any research and product that came of its 8 billion dollar investment in rapid vaccine development. Tne drug companies should be allowed large paybacks, for a limited time and amount, and then be by contract, limited to what the Government sees as fair and responsible for taking care of the international pandemic, since Americans are not safe until we do so. Since the Trump administration did not include any such language in its contracts, it gets messy, but we do have the War Production Act, which gives the government great powers in what is determined to be a national emergency.
“As the valedictorian of her Dallas high school, Melinda Gates delivered a graduation speech that included a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,” she told her classmates, “this is to have succeeded.”
Decades later and billions of dollars wealthier, Ms. Gates says the quote is still ringing in her ears. “That’s been my definition of success since high school,” she said. “So if I have an extra dollar, or a thousand dollars, or a million dollars, or in my case, which is absurd, a billion dollars to plow back into making the world better for other people, that’s what I’m going to do.” “
Back in 1996, I ran Derric Computer, and was helping a customer with his home office. He complained that he had to buy and use Microsoft Windows, because he despised Bill Gates, who was the richest man in the country, and had never given a cent to charity. We verbaly pissed on Bill Gates together, and it was a bonding experience. However, Bill has rehabilitated himself. We had no idea how strong a philanthopist he would become, in partnership with his wife, Melinda French Gates. Their story is exemplary, and I’m saddened to hear of their divorce. I am confident that their partnership in philanthropy will continue unabated.
“Years ago, Alexis Tsipras, the party leader of Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, surprised me with a question. “Here in the United States,” the soon-to-be prime minister asked me over breakfast in New York, “why do you not have this phenomenon of passing money under the table?”
The subject was health care. Greece has a public health care system that, in theory, guarantees its citizens access to necessary medical care.
Practice, however, is another matter. Patients in Greek public hospitals, Tsipras explained, would first have to slip a doctor “an envelope with a certain amount of money” before they could expect to get treatment. The government, he added, underpaid its doctors and then looked the other way as they topped up their income with bribes.
Take a close look at any country or locality in which the government offers allegedly free or highly subsidized goods and you’ll usually discover that there’s a catch.
France’s subsidized day care is, by all accounts, fantastic for working parents who get their children into it. Except there’s a perpetual shortage of slots. In Sweden, a raft of laws protects tenants from excessively high rent. Except wait times for apartments can be as long as 20 years. In Britain, the National Health Service is a source of pride. Except that, even before the pandemic, one in six patients faced wait times of more than 18 weeks for routine treatment. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
I feel a bit sorry for Bret Stephens and Ross Douthat, and other modern, young, conservatives. They deserve pitty for their bubbleheadedness. Or hardheadedness? Stephen’s attacks on France, especially for its high unemployment, contrasts with Paul Kruman last week, who reported that France has more woman working than the US does. One reason, is that they have state supported childcare. Their suicide rate is lower, and their life expectancy is higher. et cetera. I humbly suspect that the elephant in the room is that the real conservatives are more like myself, ardent climate hawks, deeply concernced about the environment. We recognize that income inequality has hurt the poor and gutted out the middle class. These young men are so bright and articulate, you suspect that they might accidentally wake up, and realize that the woke conservatives are now the right wing of the Democratic party. The Republicans turning to Trumpism, and no nothingism, white supremacy and anti-science and anti-democracy positions, left us little choice.
“. . . The behind-the-scenes moves by the four original founders showed that whatever their political goals, they were also privately taking steps to make money from the earliest stages, and wanted to limit the number of people who would share in the spoils. Over time, the Lincoln Project directed about $27 million — nearly a third of its total fund-raising — to Mr. Galen’s consulting firm,from which the four men were paid, according to people familiar with the arrangement.
Conceived as a full-time attack machine against Mr. Trump, the Lincoln Project’s public profile soared last year as its founders built a reputation as a creative yet ruthless band of veteran operators. They recruited like-minded colleagues, and their scathing videos brought adulation from the left and an aura of mischievous idealism for what they claimed was their mission: nothing less than to save democracy.
They also hit upon a geyser of cash, discovering that biting attacks on a uniquely polarizing president could be as profitable in the loosely regulated world of political fund-raising as Mr. Trump’s populist bravado was for his own campaign.” . . . “
I supported the Lincoln Project by reposting their attack ads against Trump on my my blog and facebook page. I decided not to send them any money, since they were an opaque organization with no public financials. Also, there were some red flags. I searched for their library of attack ads, and only found three or four, and two of them were buried inside fundraising infomercials. Also,one of the ads was so ugly, that it made me suspect the quality of the writing. Three of the four founders, who all made of like banits financially, were decried by a spokesperson for the McCain family, who said that she wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire. I’m gratefull that they these people helped defeat Donald Trump, but I’m equally pleased that I never gave them even a small donation. We know that a third of the $81 million they raised was scimmed off by the four founders. It appears that they each paid themselves about $7 million. My guess is that another third went into overhead, and only a third or less actually was spent trying to bring down Trump with fees to place videos and advertisements, etc.
“After a long year and a lot of anticipation, getting the Covid-19 vaccine can be cause for celebration, which for some might mean pouring a drink and toasting to their new immunity. But can alcohol interfere with your immune response?
The short answer is that it depends on how much you drink.
There is no evidence that having a drink or two can render any of the current Covid vaccines less effective. Some studies have even found that over the longer term, small or moderate amounts of alcohol might actually benefit the immune system by reducing inflammation.
Heavy alcohol consumption, on the other hand, particularly over the long term, can suppress the immune system and potentially interfere with your vaccine response, experts say. Since it can take weeks after a Covid shot for the body to generate protective levels of antibodies against the novel coronavirus, anything that interferes with the immune response would be cause for concern. . . . .”
David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Anahad O’Connor, for an excellent wake up reminder, that we have to be vigilant, if we like our alchohol too much. I am disappointed by the NYT commenting blogosphere today, as so many attack you for being down or causing stress. Hark, perhaps you have struck a nerve. It is not just in Russia, that many people drink regularly, and sometimes to excess. I have to monitor my own behavior, as Professor Moody desccribed fighting Voldemort, “with constant vigilance.” Two terrific but alcoholic parents are clear indicators that I fall in that half of the US, and probably world population, that is very easily addicted to sugar based products, that include sweets, alcholic beverates, opiods and niccotine. There was an astonishly good book about this by a researcher, called “The Hidden Addiction,” by Dr. Janice Phelps and Dr. Alan Nourse. All these dangerous but popular products have a commen source of molecules, belonging to the sugar family. I’m so sorry that so many here attack you for presenting life-protecting information, as if you were out to take away the punch bowl just as the party got cooking. However, more often than not, that is what responsible people, reading the science, should do more often, and I thank you for the clarity of your reporting. I just measured 1.5 ounces, and it is easily half of what I thought it was. Your new fan, David. David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.
“History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
This statement by Karl Marx admirably serves two functions: (1) It describes the difference between the two times the teaching of Darwin’s theories were put on trial in this country, in Tennessee in 1925 and in Pennsylvania in 2005; (2) Because it is from Karl Marx, it will automatically be rejected, along with the words to follow, by those who judge a statement not by its content but by its source. That is precisely the argument between Darwinism and creationism. Stanley Kramer‘s “Inherit the Wind” (1960) is a movie about a courtroom battle between those who believe the Bible is literally true and those who believe, as the Spencer Tracy character puts it, that “an idea is a greater monument than a cathedral.”
The so-called Monkey Trial of 1925 put a young high school teacher named John T. Scopes on trial for violating a state law, passed the same year, prohibiting the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical account of divine creation. Darwin’s theory of evolution was also therefore on trial. Two of the most famous lawyers and orators in the land contested the case. Scopes was defended by the legendary Clarence Darrow, and the prosecution was led by three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Darrow’s expenses were paid by the Baltimore Sun papers, home of the famed journalist H.L. Mencken, who covered the trial with many snorts and guffaws.
In Kramer’s film, Darrow becomes Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy), Bryan is Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March), Mencken is E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly), and Scopes is Bertram T. Cates (Dick York). Another major player is the gravel-voiced Harry Morgan, as the judge. So obviously were the characters based on their historical sources that the back of the DVD simply refers to them as “Bryan” and “Darrow,” as if their names had not been changed. . . . “
Kathleen and I saw the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind on Saturday night, and were enthralled and moved. I was sure that some of the vital exchanges in the courtroom probably happened, but did the good, god-fearing people of Hillsboro really march while singing about lynching Clarence Darrow and the local school teacher Scopes. Apparently, that was all made up by the propagandist, Stanley Kramer. I’m sorry he made those lies, because he didn’t need them. His inaccuracies diminish the underlying truth of his brilliant work.
Being mostly faithful to the play, the film engages in literary license with the facts and should not be relied upon as a historical document. For example, Scopes (Bertram Cates) is shown being arrested in class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher. William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a “busted belly” while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom. The townspeople are shown as frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant. None of that happened in Dayton during the actual trial. This is because the story is an allegory for McCarthyism.
Because the judge ruled that scientific evidence was inadmissible, a ruling which the movie depicted, Darrow called Bryan as his only witness and attempted to humiliate him by asking Bryan to interpret Scripture. When Darrow, in his closing remarks, called upon the jury to find Scopes guilty so that he could appeal the verdict, Bryan was kept from delivering his own summation. The guilty verdict was overturned two years later. Bryan suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep five days after the trial ended.“
“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ pared-down pandemic version of the Oscars on Sunday could be described as either incredibly refreshing or incredibly awkward — depending on what you thought of Glenn Close doing Da Butt, among other moments.
What did you think of Frances McDormand’s howl? The meandering format, with few clips of the nominated movies? Yuh-Jung Youn’s gentle trolling of Brad Pitt? We asked readers to share their thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards — the highlights, oddities and innovations. A selection of their responses, edited for clarity and length, follows.
Give us your take in the comments section.
Which aspects of the ceremony do you think were more — or less — effective than in previous years?
It occurred to me that this version of the Oscars was like the very first ceremonies, when it was an industry affair held in a hotel ballroom, with no thought of communicating with a mass audience. Eventually, the yearly show turned into entertainment, which this year’s was not. All in all, the worst Oscars ever, and that’s quite an accomplishment. — Glenn Lambert, Los Angeles”
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
2020 was the worst Oscar I can remember. It had great moments, but I was repeatedly angry at the recipients: tell us about your documentary, animation, or even movie, most of us don’t know anything about it! You are talking about shows, show us clips and trailers, so we can see what the insider fuss is all about. Thirty years ago, I discovered that if a saw the Oscars, I could decide what movies to go find and seek out. I became a devoted Oscar watcher, even though I only saw a handful of movies a year, I picked them out at the Oscars. To my utter disappointment, there has been a slow slide into pathetic, uninteresting blabber, of one recipient after another thanking their team, their mothers and their third grade teachers. Every year is seems, there is less of the absolutely invaluable clips and trailers, and more of the utter boring gratefulness to teams, mentors and sex partners. This year, by my personal standard was the worst, because it had the fewest little hints and videos of the products under consideration, and an avalanche of pathetically boring speeches. There were some shining exceptions, like speeches by Chloe Zoe for best director, and Yuh Jung Youn for best actress in a supporting role. What I also remember, is not knowing what most of the shows were actually about, or what they looked like, and whether I might want to take the time to watch them. Time to quit? David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.
We just watched a documentary on PBS, “Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World.” Surprisingly well done, where she goes from rallys to interviews of oustanding scientists, economists and politicians. She interviews coal miners in Poland at the Belchatow Power Station, and they said they accepted the transition away from coal because of the threat of climate change, but wanted supports to find new work. A similar message to the beginning of the following Krugman piece, left out in the ending below. I continue to lobby or at least pray and sing for a carbon tax.
“. . . . . Some background: Conventional economics suggests that the best way to limit greenhouse gas emissions is either to impose a carbon tax or to create a cap-and-trade system in which polluters must buy permits for their emissions.
This argument underlies high-profile initiatives like the Climate Leadership Council, whose founding members included a wide array of business leaders and economists — including Janet Yellen, now the Treasury secretary — and a number of major corporations. The council, whose creation was announced in 2017, calls for carbon fees whose proceeds would be redistributed to families. This plan is part of a “bipartisan road map” for action.
This is, however, not the path the Biden administration is taking. Why?
First, the economic case for relying almost exclusively on a carbon tax misses the crucial role of technological development. The reason large reductions in emissions look much easier to achieve now than they did a dozen years ago is that we’ve seen spectacular progress in renewable energy: a 70 percent fall since 2009 in the cost of wind power, an 89 percent fall in the cost of solar power.
And this technological progress didn’t just happen. It was at least partly a result of investments made by the Obama administration. These investments were ridiculed by conservatives; back in 2012 Mitt Romney declared that all of the money went to “losers” like Solyndra and, um, Tesla. In retrospect, however, it is clear that government spending provided a crucial technological lift. And this suggests that public investment, as well as or even instead of a carbon tax, can be a way forward in fighting climate change.
Second, the idea that a carbon tax can achieve bipartisan support is hopelessly naïve. Only 14 percent of Republicans even accept the notion that climate change is an important issue. And redistributing the proceeds of such a tax to families in general won’t win over voters who believe that climate action will threaten their jobs and communities.
What might win over at least some of these voters, however, is the kind of program the United Mine Workers is calling for: targeted spending designed to help retrain former miners and support development in coal country communities.
I don’t want to be overly optimistic about the Biden strategy. For one thing, while there’s a compelling case against relying exclusively on a carbon tax to fight climate change, public investment alone also probably isn’t enough. Eventually we will almost surely have to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, politically difficult though that will be.
On the other side, while it’s great to see the mine workers’ union call for policies that support “coal country,” not coal jobs — that is, communities rather than a specific industry — that’s still a tall order. Although Covid-19 created temporary disruptions, it remains true that the 21st-century economy “wants” to concentrate good jobs in major metropolitan areas with highly educated work forces. Promoting job creation in West Virginia or eastern Kentucky won’t be easy, and may be impossible.
But we can and should make a good-faith effort to help workers and regions that will lose as we try to avoid environmental catastrophe, and in general to make climate policy as politically palatable as possible, even at some cost in efficiency. Climate action is too important a task to insist that it be done perfectly.
I do not endorse this op-ed, but find it has some good and perhaps some bad ideas. It will be worth studying, to determine which is which. The thesis, that the oil and gas establishments are embedded in our trade and policy laws is probably true, and will require serious attention and reform.
By Kate Aronoff, April 22, 2021
Credit…Illustration by Jim Datz/The New York Times; Photographs by Doug Mills/The New York Times and Charles O’Rear/Getty Images
” “We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil … preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft,” Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in 1965. That ethos would inspire a generation of environmentalists to see the fates of this planet’s inhabitants as intertwined. By contrast, the ecologist Garrett Hardin, who was labeled a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 1974 urged a “lifeboat ethics”: for rich countries to be “on our guard against boarding parties” in predominantly nonwhite countries whose residents he saw as an intolerable strain on the planet’s resources.
Racked by ever-worsening fires and floods, our little craft is not doing well. This week, the White House is welcoming world leaders to a virtual summit on curbing climate destruction. Countries will present their plans to meet the goal inscribed in the Paris Agreement to cap warming at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. President Biden has pledged to cut emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030, aiming for “net zero” emissions by 2050.
But accounting for the United States’ outsize responsibility for the climate crisis requires much bolder action, according to a recent recommendation from several groups, including Friends of the Earth U.S. and ActionAid USA: “a reduction of at least 195 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” compared with 2005 levels by 2030 — 70 percent cuts within U.S. borders and “the equivalent of a further 125 percent reduction” by providing support for emissions reductions abroad.
The question, then: Does the White House want to helm a spaceship or a lifeboat? . . . “
“I once boarded a flight from Dubai to Kabul alongside a team of Afghan soccer players — teenage girls in red uniforms, chatting and laughing much as they might have anywhere else in the world. I thought of those players again after President Biden announced plans for America’s complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
I hope they have the means to get out before the Taliban take over again, as sooner or later will most likely happen.
The United States did not go into Afghanistan after 9/11 to improve the status of women. We did so anyway. Millions of girls, whom the Taliban had forbidden to get any kind of education, went to school. Some of them — not nearly enough, but impressive considering where they started from and the challenges they faced — became doctors, entrepreneurs, members of Parliament. A few got to watch their daughters play soccer under the protective shield of Pax Americana.
Those women are now being abandoned. So is every Afghan who struggled to make the country a more humane, hospitable, ethnically and socially tolerant place — some by taking immense personal risks to help U.S. troops, diplomats and aid workers do their jobs. As George Packer writes in The Atlantic, there are some 17,000 such Afghans waiting for the wheels of U.S. bureaucracy to turn so they can get their visas. . . . “
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Bret Setphens for trying, but no thank you. In researching our fiasco in Vietnam, I discovered the writing of Sun Tzu, who wrote “the Art of War,” about the wisdom accued from about 300 years of civil war in ancient China. He collected a list of important ideas, which included: Never invade another country unless it is an emergency, and then, get in and get out, or the cost of the occupation will be more than any gain you achieved initially. He also wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself, and, as correctly quoted in the movie “Wall Street,” don’t go into a fight unless you already know you will win. The Chinese are delighted that we waisted 2 trillion dollars in this hopeless occupation, and they would love to see us double our losses. We need to put gigantic sums into our infrastructure, and human capital, and research and developent. I admit that when David Brooks suggested last Friday on the News Hour, that we should maintain a small force as a long term deterent, I knew that that was the only viable argument. But while 500 hundred was enough in nothern Syria, 2500 wasn’t apparently enough in Afgahistan. It will be up the Afghan people to fight or change the Taliban.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.