HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

Confronting “Health Care Royalists.”

Posted on | July 19, 2021 | 5 Comments

Mike Magee

Earlier this month President Biden signed a far-reaching executive order intended to fuel social and economic reform, and in the process created a potential super-highway sized corridor for programs like universal healthcare. In the President’s view, the enemy of the common man in pursuit of a “fair deal” is not lack of competition, but “favoritism.”

To understand the far-reaching implications of this subtle shift in emphasis, let’s review a bit of history. It is easy to forget that this nation was the byproduct of British induced tyranny and economic favoritism. In 1773, citizens of Boston decided they had had enough, and dumped a shipment of tea, owned by the British East India Company, into the Boston Harbor. This action was more an act of practical necessity than politics. The company was simply one of many “favorites” (organizations and individuals) that “got along by going along” with their British controllers. In lacking a free hand to compete in a free market, the horizons for our budding patriots and their families were indefinitely curtailed.

Large power differentials not only threatened them as individuals but also the proper functioning of the new representative government that would emerge after the American Revolution. Let’s recall that only white male property owners over 21 (excluding Catholics and Jews) had the right to vote at our nation’s inception.

Over the following two centuries, power imbalances have taken on a number of forms. For example, during the industrial revolution, corporate mega-powers earned the designation “trusts”, and the enmity of legislators like Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, led the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

He defined a “trust” as a group of businesses that collude or merge to form a monopoly. As University of California historian Nelson Lichtenstein recently noted, to Sen. Sherman, J.D. Rockefeller, the head of Standard Oil, was no better than a monarch. “If we will not endure a king as political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessities of life”, he said.   The law itself stated “[e]very contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.”

In the middle of the Great Depression, FDR also focused on financial favoritism as the source of the common man’s misery. Branding the powerful as “economic royalists”, he saw political corruption and worker exploitation as human foibles, and government regulation as an essential safeguard against our inborn tendencies toward greed and avarice.

Note the shift in emphasis. To FDR, the problem was not simply a structural lack of competition in our capitalist society, but also the absence of adequate regulation and oversight of humans who, in the pursuit of power and favoritism, levied harm and discrimination against each other.

By the time Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, mass movement of people, data, and products had created a global marketplace. This new emphasis on “global competitiveness” provided moral cover for a twenty-year campaign of deregulation that spanned Republican and Democratic administrations. Now worldwide competition ruled the reign, ultimately descending to Trumpian reductionism where you were either a “winner” or a “loser.”

As corporate profits soared, wages and benefits for workers were slashed, and the gap between rich and poor soared. Over the past forty years, CEO pay increased by over 1000%, while the typical worker’s wage inched up by a meager 10%. Our favored 1%, supported by an army of state and federal lobbyists, argued that the solution to a widening power differential was more unfettered capitalism. That was until the COVID 19 pandemic arrived on our shores.

Strangely enough, the pandemic became an equalizer, a truth-teller, and a social experiment on a grand scale. All Americans sheltered at home for 18 months, and to varying degrees reflected on their purpose and priorities.

As an equalizer, the virus was “democratic”, showing little preference. All were vulnerable. The poor and minorities were slightly more at risk. But so were the elderly, those with chronic disease, and those ignorant enough to politically posture and deliberately place themselves at risk.

As a truth teller, the pandemic exposed the lack of national health planning, a limited capacity to handle a national health emergency, vulnerable and exposed health care workers, and enormous geographic variability in the quality of our health services. Our inadequate health system lay naked and exposed.

Finally, as a social experiment, for the first time in recent memory, our government provided direct relief and resources to our citizens themselves rather than “trickling down” relief through the hands of powerful intermediaries. Citizens found themselves part of the “favored” class. Fears of inappropriate use proved ill founded. The relief sustained our economy. Every day citizens’ purchases were wise and restrained. Debt was paid down and savings expanded.

Biden’s executive order, including 72 initiatives that impact health care, technology, transportation, agriculture and the environment, seeks to expand economic equality, not so much by injecting competition that can be manipulated and compromised by those who wield the power in our society, but by interacting simply and directly with America’s 99%.

Take just one initiative – the direction to allow over-the-counter sale of hearing aids. Traditionally defined, this move injects competition. But combined with expansion of Medicare benefits, the move entrusts every day people with the power to care properly for family and loved ones.

Which brings me to Universal Health Care. As I document in my book, “Code Blue: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex” (Grove/2020), America threw all its’ health care eggs into a profiteering capitalist basket over 70 years ago, leaving behind huge swaths of our citizenry, progressively diminished as the Health Sector profiteers cornered rough 1/5 of our GDP.

With the aid of new information technologies, and coordinated lobbying in a largely deregulated society, the Medical Industrial Complex followed the Standard Oil playbook, creating virtual horizontal and vertical integrated networks that were both collusive and monopolistic. Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) programs were but one example, opaquely moving data, pills and money, as their lobbyists secured the right to share hidden kickbacks among themselves.

President Biden’s actions last week weaken the hold of “competition” as a cure all for this nation’s economic injustice and inequity. By stating that “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.” our President is inching the debate forward. Exploitation subtly suggests it is now our time to confront modern-day “economic royalists.”

What Biden needs to do now is double-down on the provision of direct benefits to our citizens themselves. As the pandemic has demonstrated, they can be trusted with this power to use our resources wisely without the help of powerful intermediaries. Extending a public health care option as a “favored” gesture to the 99%, would be a wise next step, and would send a clear message to “Health Care Royalists” that their reign of coercive terror may soon be coming to an end.

Who Will Write Tomorrow’s American Story? A Hamiltonian Perspective on COVID 19.

Posted on | July 12, 2021 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee MD

“In countries where there is great private wealth much may be effected by the voluntary contributions of patriotic individuals, but in a community situated like that of the United States, the public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource. In what can it be so useful as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?”

Those were the words of Alexander Hamilton published on December 5, 1791 in his “Report on the Subject of Manufactures.” He was making the case for an activist federal government with the capacity to support a fledgling nation and its leaders long enough to allow economic independence from foreign competitors.

Today’s “foreign force” of course is not any one nation but rather a microbe, gearing up for a fourth attack on our shores with Delta and Lambda variants. This invader has already reeked havoc with our economy, knocking off nearly 2% of our GDP, as the nation and the majority of its workers experienced a period of voluntary lockdown.

Our leaders followed Hamilton’s advise and threw the full economic weight of our federal government into a dramatic and direct response. Seeing the threat as akin to a national disaster, money was placed expansively and directly into the waiting hands of our citizens, debtors were temporarily forgiven, foreclosures and evictions were halted, and all but the most essential workers sheltered in place.

Millions of citizens were asked to work remotely or differently (including school children and their teachers) or to not work at all – made possible by the government temporarily serving as their paymaster and keeping them afloat.

As we awake from this economic coma, many of our citizens are reflecting on their previously out-of-balance lives, their hyper-competitiveness, their under-valued or dead-end jobs, and acknowledging their remarkable capacity to survive, and even thrive, in a very different social arrangement.

If our nation is experiencing a trauma-induced existential awakening, it is certainly understandable. America has lost over 600,000 of our own in the past 18 months, more people per capita than almost all comparator nations in Europe and Asia. This has included not just the frail elderly, but also those under 65. In the disastrous wake of this tragedy, 40% of our population reports new pandemic related anxiety and depression.

A quarter of our citizens avoided needed medical care during this lockdown. For example, screening PAP smears dropped by 80%. And so, Americans chronic burden of disease, already twice that of most nations in the world, has expanded once again. There will be an additional price to be paid for that.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent Health System Dashboard lists COVID-19 as our third leading cause of death, inching out deaths from prescription opioid overdoses. Year to date spending on provider health services through 2020 dropped 2%, but pharmaceutical profits, driven by exorbitant pricing, actually increased, bringing health sector declines overall down by -.5% compared to overall GDP declines of -1.8%. The net effect? The percentage of our GDP devoted to health care in the U.S. actually grew during the pandemic – a startling fact since our citizens already pay roughly twice as much per capita as most comparator nations around the world for health care.

In the “pause”, other nations have been soul-searching as well. A common theme has been work. Two of the most popular discussions include remote work from home and the four day work week. These discussions were already well underway pre-pandemic in Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Iceland and beyond. But now, they are cropping up in U.S. corporations like PepsiCo and Verizon as Human Resource departments grapple with scarce or reluctant employees, and consider paid time off, flexible work schedules and remote work arrangements.

In some ways, we remain the nation that Hamilton described in 1791. We have been unable to come fully to grip with our racist past, and have used both our state and federal governments – not to provide economic room for our citizens to survive foreign competitors – but rather to maintain the status-quo advantages of home-grown “haves” over “have-nots.”

On the surface, Red vs. Blue America seem ill prepared to start anew, to learn from and progress off the back-end of this historic pandemic.

Americans have had a year and a half to reflect and think about work and life, priorities and the future. Our discomfort with the current arrangement is palpable. Is this the America we want?

As Lin-Manuel Miranda, author of Hamilton: The Revolution,  wrote, “History is entirely created by the person who writes the story.” Tomorrow’s story of America is now being written by us.

What if we managed to spread our nation’s resources more equitably? What if we eliminated “non-real work” and allowed remote work as the rule rather than the exception. What if health care and early childcare programs were universal, and not tied to one’s job? What if technologic innovation was employed to advance equity and justice? What if we decided that making our lives better was the goal instead of just maximizing our GDP.

Wouldn’t that be a better way to live?

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 2021 – Sharing The Truth In Red, White, and Blue.

Posted on | July 4, 2021 | 3 Comments

Mike Magee

Four years ago, on July 4th, as we came to grip with Trumpism, I wrote a piece titled “A Nation At Risk This 4th of July.”

At the time, I noted the fact that the US was the only developed nation in the world that spent more on Health Care than all other Social Services combined according to a 2015 Commonwealth Fund study. This regressive achievement remains true today, reinforced by pandemic induced revelations of lack of capacity to plan and execute for national health emergencies.

Besides reflecting our distorted financial and ethical priorities, and the natural end point of a profit-driven free enterprise health care system, Covid graphically continues to expose our nation’s vulnerability, as most Republican led states intentionally politicize preventive strategies and vaccinations.

Our inability to come to grips with a 1947 decision to throw our weight behind private profiteering health insurance has crowded out all other US priorities and threatens our economy. A simple shift to consolidate back room insurance functions (not the management or delivery of care) could trim 15% off the US health care bill immediately. But more than this, it would allow us to develop for the first time an integrated plan to assure a more healthy America.

Under such a plan, medical schools could integrate social mission into health professional education as Fitzhugh Mullan had suggested before his untimely death. Also in the positive column, regressive policies such as those proposed by Trump EPA chief Scott Pruit, now recognized in the new Biden era as economically dangerous and ethically disastrous, could be integrated into health planning.

As we wait for the US populace to catch up with this new administration (in much the same way as 1970 America’s Nixon supporters took 19 months to finally come to grips with the fact that their President was both corrupt and unwell), we all need to continue to expose the truth in words and graphics. As we do this, we need to shore up the weaknesses in our governance, revealed so obviously on January 6th, and in the halls of Republican state legislatures to this day.

Paul Voosen, Earth and Planetary Science journalist for Science magazine in the June 30, 2017 issue of Science depicted the loss in state and county GDP as a result of the predicted impact of global warming. Four years later, regressive policies meant to undermine the sacred right to vote in our democracy in these very same states, led by Trump’s most loyal supporters, punctuates that this July 4th much remains to be done to fulfill America’s promise.

As Frank Rich predicted four years ago in a New York magazine cover story, “How A Presidency Ends”, Trump is ultimately arriving at the same end point as Richard Nixon. Rich perhaps foresaw the January 6th Insurrection when he prophesized Trump’s demise, writing “Between now and then, there will be lulls in the downward trajectory, …and many shocks and surprises.” 

We have a new President, and challenges from health care, to the environment, to tumbling infrastructure and more. But none of these amount to more than the many obstacles Americans have overcome in our 245 years as a nation.

We shall survive, and may even thrive as equitable, fair, joyful and wise. But only if patriotic Americans continue to doggedly and respectfully pursue, display and share the truth in red, white and blue.

Happy July 4th!

Health Tech – Part II: The Risk of Under-Powering The Vision.

Posted on | July 3, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Few can disagree that, in the fog of the Covid 19 pandemic, health technology entrepreneurs have been on a tear. In the first year of Covid’s isolation induced new reality, digital health companies experienced a $21.6 billion investment boost, double that of the prior year, and four times 2016 funding.

By year two, the investment community exhibited some signs of self-restraint by raising a few open ended questions. For example, in early 2021, Deloitte & Touche led a Future of Health panel at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference, reporting that “panelists suggested that entrepreneurs need to go beyond products that simply improve processes or solve existing problems.”

Panelists predicted that virtual health delivery services will expand; consumers will demand greater involvement including expansion of home diagnostics; and investment driven mergers and acquistions will explode – all of which has proven to be true.

Adding push to shove, Deloitte added this final nudge: “Entrepreneurs who define new markets, dominate them with a strategy people can understand, and extract value will likely be the most successful.” Recent surveys also reveal that only 1 in 5 health care executives are satisfied with their health tech solutions.

Forty years ago, in the early beginnings of Health Tech, words similar to those above triggered cautionary tones from traditionalists. For example, Dr. John A. Benson, Jr., then President of the Board of Internal Medicine, stated “There is a groundswell in American medicine, this desire to encourage more ethical and humanistic concerns in physicians. After the technological progress that medicine made in the 60’s and 70’s, this is a swing of the pendulum back to the fact that we are doctors, and that we can do a lot better than we are doing now.”

He accurately described the mood then, and for most of the 20th century, of academic clinicians toward technology, a complex love-hate relationship that has rejoiced and cheered on progress, while struggling to accept and master change in a manner that would avoid driving a wedge between academicians, clinicians and patients.

In the lead up to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, the National Commission on Quality Long Term Care attempted to bridge that gap.

As the chair of their technology sub-committee, I wrote the report, “Fully Leveraging Technology to Transform Health Care.” I asked then, “How might technology be applied to re-engineer homes for health and assure maximum connectivity to support aging citizens as part of the multigenerational family, the community and a preventive oriented health delivery system?”

This insight, that the technology should not be limited only to fourth and fifth generation Americans, but rather, in an integral way, be applied to assist as well the three generations below them – their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – reinforces the concept of technology applications as both assistive and transformational.

Such a vision focuses on healthy bodies and health minds. It assists memory as well as mobility. It harnesses software and hardware to not only improve individual quality of life, but to also advantage family, community and societal goals.

Independence also implies responsibility centered on individuals and their networks of support including family, friends and caring professionals. As citizens we have differing capabilities and needs, and these change as we age. We must help each other. But to do so efficiently, we must advantage virtual connectivity and a full range of technologic applications that unlock our fullest individual and collective human potential.7

The revolutionary strength of modern information and scientific technologies is that “they ignore geography.” In so doing they allow us to reorient and connect beyond the limits of a range of barriers whether they be physical, social, financial or political. The danger is not in over-reaching but in under-reaching.

Where are the “killer applications” that would allow lifespan planning to move us ahead of the disease curve? How can we target technologic advances in health to first reach our citizens most at risk? How do we, in powering the health technology revolution, broaden our social contract to include universal health insurance? How do we unite the technology, entertainment, and financial sectors (previously locked out of the health care space) with the traditional health care power players, and incentivize them to work together to create a truly preventive and holistic health delivery system that is equitable, just, efficient, and uniformly reliable? How can each citizen play a role in ongoing research and innovation, and help define lifelong learning and behavioral modification as part of good citizenship? What can corporate America do to advance health in the broadest sense of the word, and in “doing good,” do well financially, serving Main Street as it serves Wall Street?

Technologies can enable, operate, connect, instruct and assist. But to do so logically and efficiently they must conform to a vision that is both generalizable and customizable. Technology offers the flexibility and fluidity to pursue health, independence, mobility, financial security, social engagement and cognition in hundreds of thousands of uniquely different environments simultaneously, while also pursuing a single unified and collectively committed vision for our nation.

In 2005, the Commission reported stated, “Technology has the power to assist us in healing, providing health and keeping our nation and global family whole. But it’s capacity to deliver on this promise is dependent on a vision for health that is both broad and inclusive.”

In 2021, academic medical leaders and health technology investors may find common ground in asking the question, “How does my support for this proposed technology project make America and all Americans healthy?”

Is Health Tech Firing On Too Many Cylinders?

Posted on | June 23, 2021 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

What will be the lasting impact of the Covid 19 pandemic?

We still don’t know the answer to that question in full. But one thing that can be said with some certainty is that it has strengthened the hand of Big Tech and all things virtual. Consider the fact that within the Biden White House administration, 13 senior aides have Big Tech resumes with time spent in firms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and more.

This pandemic-induced scrape with mortality has instigated widely varied responses ranging from existential re-awakenings to explosive entrepreneurship.

In health care for example, health tech start-up’s are altering research, education, care delivery and coordination, data mining, patient privacy and financing.

As we know well from health care, intermingling profit, policy and politics can eventually lead to conflict and recrimination. The current controversy over NIH indirect funding of Shi Zengli’s Wuhan “gain-of-function” viral research through Peter Daszak’s New York based EcoHealth Alliance is a case in point.

But we’ve been there before. In the 1990s, James M. Wilson received a PhD and an MD degree from the University of Michigan, then completed an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. By 1997, he was one of the leading stars in the new gene-therapy movement, directing his own research institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

The institute focused on adjusting the genes of children born with a hereditary disease called ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTD), which prevents the normal removal of ammonia in the body. Wilson’s experimental technique involved genetic engineering, splicing therapeutic genes into supposedly harmless viruses that, once injected into the body, could carry their payload to defective cells and repair the genetic errors.

Dr. Wilson was attempting to determine the maximum dose of genetically modified material that could be safely injected into affected youngsters. He had enlisted 18 participants, including a teenager named Jesse Gelsinger who had a version of the genetic disease in which some of his liver cells carried the genetic abnormality but other cells were entirely normal. Those who have the full-blown disorder die in early childhood. But with his mosaic, Jesse most of the time felt well, as long as he continued to take 32 pills a day.

Jesse and his parents heard about the experiments in nearby Philadelphia and were anxious to help those less fortunate who had the full-blown disease. When he arrived at the clinic on September 13, 1999, to begin the study, his blood ammonia levels were above normal, which in and of itself should have blocked his participation. Nonetheless, Wilson’s team infused Jessie’s bloodstream with 38 trillion colonies of a virus carrying genes engineered to reprogram his cells. Eight hours later, Jesse’s fever hit 104.5 degrees. Two days later he was brain-dead.

The patent for the technique of genetic modification being studied was owned by a company called Genovo, cofounded by the above mentioned James M. Wilson, the institute director. Wilson owned a 30 percent stake valued at over $30 million, and the University of Pennsylvania, which under the rules of the National Institutes of Health, was responsible for ethical oversight of the research protocol design and execution, was a hidden investor. The informed consent Jesse had signed made no mention of Wilson’s financial conflict of interest, or the university’s, or the fact that some of the prior 17 participants had suffered significant liver inflammation, or that three laboratory monkeys had died from massive inflammatory immune responses to injections of the very same agent.

But the perverse financial incentives and conflicts of interest that led to such risk-taking went further up the academic food chain. Dr. Bill Kelley, an accomplished and aggressive medical researcher from the University of Michigan, had assumed the top post at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. Kelley’s goal was to achieve dominance in a crowded and competitive local medical market that included six medical schools. The age of genomics was just gaining steam, and Kelley wanted Penn to lead the way and share the rewards. His rapid expansion and heavy investment in technology and personnel had resulted in a reported $198 million loss by the University of Pennsylvania’s health system in fiscal year 1999. No doubt Kelley harbored hopes that Penn’s investment in Dr. Wilson’s gene company, bolstered by NIH grants and private investors, might help balance the books. Jesse Gelsinger’s death ended not only that research but Bill Kelley’s tenure as well.

The point being that regulatory boundaries, full transparency, and self-imposed brakes on profit-infused exuberance protect researchers, the public, and society overall. As Big Tech’s romance with Big Health flowers and blooms, our leaders need to step back and consider where we are going, and not just how fast we can get there.

Coming Next: Health Tech – Part II: Are We Under-Powering The Vision?

American Science’s “Odd Couple” – Dr.’s Koop and Fauci.

Posted on | June 8, 2021 | 2 Comments

The following 5-part series is excerpted from an as yet unpublished history of 20th Century medicine in the United States by Mike Magee MD.

PART I: The Conversion of C. Everett Koop

On the day after Ronald Reagan’s election, Christian conservative Jerry Falwell was euphoric. As he said, “I knew that we would have some impact on the national elections, but I had no idea that it would be this great.”(1)

One other big personality who saw, in Reagan’s win, a win of his own was C. Everett Koop. Carl Anderson, a Catholic aide to North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, had informally approached him that fall to explore in earnest his willingness to accept the nomination as Surgeon General of the United States.

For Chick, the timing was perfect. At 64 1/2, he saw his days in the operating theatre at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia as numbered. He was filled with a sense of mission that energized him, and his wife, Betty, was encouraging him to pursue the new role. In his customary fashion, Chick did his homework, gauging his supporters and his opponents. (2) Among the former, in addition to Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, there was the conservative Catholic Henry Hyde of Illinois. Regrettably on the negative side of the ledger sat the American Medical Association, which saw him as unpredictable and were already on record as supporting University of Texas vice chancellor of Health Affairs, Edward Brandt Jr.

The opposition of the AMA should have been an early warning signal. But Chick, hard-nosed, direct, and science driven, was also something of a dreamer, a Don Quixote optimist, prone to a romantic vision of the world and his role in it. His governor in Pennsylvania, Richard Schweiker, the lead candidate to head up Reagan’s Department of Health and Human Services, split the difference. Edward Brandt would be made the Assistant Secretary of the department, and Koop would be nominated for Surgeon General.(3)

If Chick thought that this compromise had resolved the issue, he was soon surprised as an avalanche of opposition to his nomination rapidly congealed.(4) Anticipating speedy approval, he had taken leave of his position in Philadelphia, resigned from the Boards of several Christian Conservative organizations, and taken up residency in Washington. He knew that the AMA had approached the White House through the back door and was encouraging them to drop him, but he felt that issue had already been decided. He knew as well that his past publications and activism as writing and traveling tour partner to uber conservative minister Francis Schaefer ensured the opposition of Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, and the National Gay Alliance. But when the American Public Health Association (APHA) came out in full-throated opposition – that was a surprise. In the past 100 years, they had never before formally opposed a nominee for this post.(2)

For the dignified surgeon and conservative Presbyterian, who was used to professional adulation, and believed that he had led a conscience driven, moral and upstanding life, in the service of his fellow Americans, the APHA move was a slap in the face. But that was nothing compared to what he read on the editorial page of the New York Times when he opened his paper on April 9, 1981. There, in black and white, was the lead editorial with a blaring title – “Dr. Unqualified”.(5) In the editorial, they acknowledged in the first line that he had a “fine reputation as a pediatric surgeon” but found him “not deserving” of the role of Surgeon General. The charge that he had no “significant experience in the field of public health” wasn’t a big surprise, especially since the APHA had torched him. But the attack that followed, cued up by the supposition that his “attractiveness to the Administration must lie elsewhere” had to bring a grimace to his stately face.

Answering their own query, the editors said, “That ‘elsewhere’ may be his anti-abortion crusade. Two years earlier, he and Francis Schaefer had toured 20 cities with a film whose message was that abortion led inexorably to euthanasia for the elderly. And he has described amniocentesis, a procedure used to detect congenital disorders like Down’s syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease in fetuses, as ‘a search-and destroy mission.’”

Pending approval, Schweiker put Koop on the payroll as his assistant. The months dragged on, and Koop, encouraged to stay under the radar screen, focused on establishing as many relationships as possible. The people he met were surprised, as they had always been throughout his life. The severe physical package did not reflect the accessible and generous individual within. Chick would later reflect, “Out of those tough months, I made a number of very important friends in HHS who believed in me, believed I was being given a raw deal, who did think I was credible, who did think I had an idea and the ability to do something with it.”(6)

In October, 1981, while testifying before Congress, he surprised his audience when he stated clearly, “It is not my intent to use any government post as a pulpit for theology”.(6) Apparently, his Christian conservative backers thought this was simply a matter of political slight of hand. But for the Democratic leaders, like Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy, this was a turning point. In November, the Senate confirmed him with a vote of 68 to 24, and on January 21, 1982, more than a year after the battle had engaged, C. Everett Koop was sworn in as the 13th Surgeon General of the United States.(7)

Next: PART II – A Communications Genius Rides Tobacco To Success.

References: On request.

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The U.S. Medical Industrial Complex Had a Role In The Wuhan Covid Catastrophe.

Posted on | June 3, 2021 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

The truth hurts.

Eighteen months into a disaster that has claimed 3.5 million lives around the globe, the truth is seeping out. Human error likely caused the Covid pandemic, and America’s Medical-Industrial Complex was right in the middle of it.

Signs of a “great awakening” have emerged from various corners in the month of May.

On May 14, UNC’s top virologist, Ralph Baric, who worked closely with Wuhan chief virologist and batwoman extraordinare, Shi Zhengli, signed on with 17 other scientists to a Science editorial that demanded a reexamination of Covid’s causality writing “theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable.”

On May 26, Francis Collins, head of the NIH, which funded in part Zhengli’s risky bat virus research (more on that in a moment), admitted to Congressional investigators that “we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident.”

And on June 3rd, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the ever-present Tony Fauci advised all who would listen “to keep an open mind.” What he would like us to open our minds to is not a Chinese run weaponized microbe conspiracy, but simply scientific recklessness and human error.

It’s now well established that three Wuhan virology scientists were hospitalized in the Fall of 2019 with Covid. But the initial report from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, of this cluster of cases of pneumonia was only released on the last day of 2019.

It took only 50 more days for the tight knit group of global research virologists to get their act together and pen a Lancet editorial in which they stated “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” and that they  “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”

Their coordinator-in-chief was one Peter Daszak, chartered power broker within the U.S. Medical Industrial Complex and president of New York based EcoHealth Alliance which was a major funder of Shi Zhengli’s work in Wuhan.

Daszak is known for adopting militarized terms in the battle against global infectious diseases. In 2020 he wrote in the New York Times, “Pandemics are like terrorist attacks: We know roughly where they originate and what’s responsible for them, but we don’t know exactly when the next one will happen. They need to be handled the same way — by identifying all possible sources and dismantling those before the next pandemic strikes.”

Daszak’s argument that risks involved in Shi Zhengli’s Wuhan bat virus research were justified as defensive and preventive was convincing enough to the NIH and the Department of Defense that his EcoHealth Alliance was funded from 2013 to 2020 (contracts, grants, subgrants) to the tune of well over $100 million – $39 million from Pentagon /DOD funds, $65 million from USAID/State Dept., and  $20 million from HHS/NIH/CDC.

As veteran Science reporter Nicholas Wade deciphered in a classic article in Science – The Wire, “For 20 years, mostly beneath the public’s attention, they had been playing a dangerous game. In their laboratories they routinely created viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature. They argued they could do so safely, and that by getting ahead of nature they could predict and prevent natural ‘spillovers,’ the cross-over of viruses from an animal host to people. If SARS2 had indeed escaped from such a laboratory experiment, a savage blowback could be expected, and the storm of public indignation would affect virologists everywhere, not just in China.”

The EcoHealth Alliance’s connection to Wuhan, and Daszak’s connection to Shi Zhengli was somewhat insulated by a UNC virologist named Ralph Baric. Zhengli and Baric had teamed up in November, 2015 to manipulated the crucial spike protein of the SARS1 virus creating “chimera” – possessing genetic material from two different viral strains. At the time, other scientists were sounding alarms including Pasteur Institute’s Simon Wain-Hobson who wrote “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory.”

The risky experiments, termed “gain-of-function” studies, were justified as super-secure, safe, predictive, and preventive. Shi returned to her labs in 2018 and 2019 with grant funding from Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Nicholas Wade read the grant proposal and somewhat alarmingly concluded that Shi was creating chimeric viruses with a range of human infectivity as measured in genetically altered “humanized” mice. In essence, she was assisting the virus in discovering “the best combination of coronavirus backbone and spike protein for infecting human cells.”

When you see pictures of scientists in space suits clumsily attempting to complete experiments, that is maximum safety – BSL4. As it turns out, Shi’s experiments on “gain-of-function” were conducted in part two rungs down the safety ladder at BSL2– , the safety level equivalent to a dentist’s office.

On January 15th of this year, the State Department fessed up releasing this statement, “The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

It is not as if the Medical Industrial Complex was not warned. Seven years earlier, a group of concerned scientists called the Cambridge Working Group issued this statement: “Accident risks with newly created ‘potential pandemic pathogens’ raise grave new concerns. Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza, poses substantially increased risks. An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control.”

As Nicholas Wade’s investigation lays out in detail, while absolute proof remains to be uncovered, the overwhelming and rising mountain of evidence points to human error supported on a national scale. As Wade sees it, “The US government shares a strange common interest with the Chinese authorities: neither is keen on drawing attention to the fact that Dr. Shi’s coronavirus work was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.”

As Fauci stated this week, “We need to keep an open mind.” This apparently extends in both directions. His National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, as recently as August, 2020, awarded $82 million to establish the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases to ten principal investigators. Peter Daszak is #3 on the list.

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