Trump’s favorite new candidate exposes the true depths of GOP radicalization
Perhaps we should be thankful that Rep. Jody Hice is running to be the new chief of elections in Georgia, with the enthusiastic backing of former president Donald Trump. That’s because the Republican’s candidacy is exposing vile truths about the GOP’s ongoing slide into authoritarianism with dispiriting but useful clarity.
We need to retheorize what’s right in front of our noses. Republicans have launched new voter-suppression efforts everywhere, while Democrats are pushing reforms to thwart those tactics and make voting easier. Yet this is often covered as a “partisan” struggle, as if each side were trying to manipulate election rules to its advantage in a manner that was vaguely equivalent.
Peter Hotez/Scientific American:
The Antiscience Movement Is Escalating, Going Global and Killing Thousands
Rejection of mainstream science and medicine has become a key feature of the political right in the U.S. and increasingly around the world
Antiscience is the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains. It targets prominent scientists and attempts to discredit them. The destructive potential of antiscience was fully realized in the U.S.S.R. under Joseph Stalin. Millions of Russian peasants died from starvation and famine during the 1930s and 1940s because Stalin embraced the pseudoscientific views of Trofim Lysenko that promoted catastrophic wheat and other harvest failures. Soviet scientists who did not share Lysenko’s “vernalization” theories lost their positions or, like the plant geneticist, Nikolai Vavilov, starved to death in a gulag.
Now antiscience is causing mass deaths once again in this COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Trump White House launched a coordinated disinformation campaign that dismissed the severity of the epidemic in the United States, attributed COVID deaths to other causes, claimed hospital admissions were due to a catch-up in elective surgeries, and asserted that ultimately that the epidemic would spontaneously evaporate. It also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a spectacular cure, while downplaying the importance of masks. Other authoritarian or populist regimes in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines and Tanzania adopted some or all of these elements.
The State Assault on Voting Rights Hurts All of Us
Republicans are cynically supporting anti-voting measures that will ultimately hurt both parties—and our country.
Beginning with the landmark “Motor Voter” Act in 1993, which allowed people to register to vote while visiting the DMV, both the Democratic and Republican parties have found new ways to encourage their voters to turn out. The result has been a steady rise in participation. Last year, as states expanded early-voting options amid the pandemic, over 159 million Americans cast a ballot—roughly two-thirds of all eligible voters, besting the 1960 peak with the highest proportion in over a century.
And even as turnout soared last year, the election was conducted smoothly and securely. This should have been cause for celebration, regardless of party allegiance. Instead, GOP leaders across the country have leveled baseless accusations of election fraud—and now cite those claims to justify a vast rollback of Americans’ voting rights.
As former elected Republicans—one of us black, the other Latino—we have devoted our careers to bringing voters of all races and backgrounds into the conservative coalition. The bills being peddled by Republicans across the country are naked acts of voter suppression, engineered for partisan gain under the guise of “election integrity.”
New problems erode confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine
In the global battle against COVID-19, the vaccine made by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca has been a source of great hope. It’s easy to store—requiring only refrigeration, not a deep freeze—and the firm has partnered with several other manufacturers as part of its pledge to make the vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, available to countries around the world at low cost.
But the vaccine’s journey has been anything but smooth. The company’s early efficacy claims were confusing and, in some cases, disappointing. And over the past 2 weeks, the waters got particularly choppy. More than 20 European countries suspended use of the shots after more than a dozen recently vaccinated people developed unusual clotting disorders. Immunizations resumed in most countries after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigated the matter.
Then, the company announced the long-awaited results of a large trial in the Americas that seemed to end lingering doubts about the vaccine’s efficacy—only to be rebuffed by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) overseeing the study, which, in a highly unusual clash, suggested the company had presented “outdated information” on efficacy. “It appears that [AstraZeneca] may have been using the most favorable data, and the DSMB wanted to make sure they corrected that,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which appointed the DSMB and made the discord public in a 23 March statement. (The DSMB saw no safety concerns, however.)
The company promised to publish more up-to-date data by 25 March. But the drama left public health experts reeling and raised fears that trust in the vaccine would erode further. “From everything I know, the AZ vaccine is a good vaccine that I would be comfortable having my family get,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted. “From everything I know, AZ’s incompetence at communicating trial results, working with regulatory agencies, etc. is stunning.”
The very rare hematological disorders seen in European recipients are perhaps the most worrisome development for the vaccine, but many scientists are still unsure what to make of them. Germany, Italy, Austria, Norway, and Denmark have all reported cases of people who developed widespread blood clots, low platelet counts, and internal bleeding; at least seven have died. “It’s a very special picture” of symptoms, says Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency. “Our leading hematologist said he had never seen anything quite like it.”
The problems appear to be more common among vaccinees than would be expected by chance. Germany’s regulatory agency, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, recommended pausing vaccinations after receiving seven reports of what it called cerebral venous thrombosis, a rare type of stroke leading to massive, life-threatening bleeding in the brain, occurring in a 2-week window after vaccination; only one such case would have been expected among the 1.6 million vaccinees in that time period.
Covid-19: Birx Lashes Trump’s Pandemic Response and Says Deaths Could Have Been ‘Decreased Substantially’
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, suggested that hundreds of thousands of Americans may have died needlessly, and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the testing czar, said the administration had lied to the public about the availability of testing.
The comments were among a string of bombshells that emerged during a CNN special report that featured the doctors who led the government’s coronavirus response in 2020.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accused Mr. Trump’s health secretary, Alex M. Azar III, and the secretary’s leadership team of pressuring him to revise scientific reports. “Now he may deny that, but it’s true,” Dr. Redfield said in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. Mr. Azar, in a statement, denied it.
Dr. Stephen K. Hahn, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said his relationship with Mr. Azar had grown “strained” after the health secretary revoked the agency’s power to regulate coronavirus tests. “That was a line in the sand for me,” Dr. Hahn said. When Dr. Gupta asked him if Mr. Azar had screamed at him, Dr. Hahn replied: “You should ask him that question.”
But it was Dr. Birx, who has been pilloried for praising Mr. Trump as being “so attentive to the scientific literature” and for not publicly correcting the president as he made outlandish claims about unproven therapies, whose disclosures may have been the most compelling.
As of Sunday, more than 548,000 Americans have died from infection with the coronavirus. “I look at it this way,” she said. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.”
Redemption hopes and a CYA tour by the former officials. None of them except Tony Fauci look good.
America’s pandemic dead deserve accountability after Birx disclosure
The hundreds of thousands of citizens whose deaths from Covid-19 could have been avoided are owed national and political accountability, but the polarization of America that exacerbated the pandemic threatens to deprive them of their due.A haunting admission by Dr. Deborah Birx in a new CNN documentary that after last year’s first infectious wave, the death toll could have been substantially reduced, will prove harrowing for those who lost loved ones. It also throws new scrutiny on the negligent management of the pandemic by former President Donald Trump and his willingness to put economic and political goals above science and the public well-being.
Christine Todd Whitman and Greg Brower/USA Today:
We need a voting rights champion like Vanita Gupta at Justice, and fast: GOP ex-officials
Gupta knows how to fight state efforts to restrict voting access. And she won’t just repair the system, she’ll make it stronger.
As a former senior Department of Justice official and a former governor, we’ve seen the risks and dangers that come with a DOJ that doesn’t prioritize protecting the electoral process and ensuring that it remains free, fair and secure. By contrast, we also know what it means to have leaders at the department who are truly committed to civil rights and voter protection. Given the coordinated voter suppression campaign we are seeing around the country and the lack of enforcement under the previous administration, we need a drastic change in direction, and fast.