|From: Don Green||11/20/2021 12:11:31 PM|
|The Fasten Seat Belt Sign Just Lit Up|
Founder, Editor & Publisher
The Felder Report
A few months ago, I drew attention to the fact that the Nasdaq was showing signs of increasing dispersion under the surface, a warning regarding the relative health of the uptrend, states Jesse Felder of The Felder Report.
The following month, the NASDAQ Composite ( ^COMPX) underwent a brief correction of about 8% (from high to low). It has since recouped those losses and then some, but these breadth warnings have only continued.
Specifically, I am referring to a signal called the Hindenburg Omen that is triggered when the index sits at or near a new high, and both the number of new 52-week highs and lows on the exchange rises above a certain threshold. The indicator gets a bad rap, as it was originally billed as a signal of an impending crash and has a terrible track record in this regard.
The vast majority of signals are not followed by stock market crashes as they occur with far too great a frequency.
Still, I find that tracking the number of signals over certain time periods has a great deal of value at forecasting increasing volatility. The history of the Nasdaq Composite over the past couple of decades is a good example of this.
This week saw the index trigger its 13th and 14th Hindenburg Omens of the year. In the past, this degree of persistent dispersion has been a consistent precursor to corrections or bear markets in the index.
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|From: Don Green||11/20/2021 4:27:56 PM|
|How Hunter Biden’s Firm Helped Secure Cobalt for the ChineseThe president’s son was part owner of a venture involved in the $3.8 billion purchase by a Chinese conglomerate of one of the world’s largest cobalt deposits. The metal is a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles.|
Nov. 20, 2021Updated 12:18 p.m. ET
Hunter Biden speaking in Washington in 2016.Paul Morigi/Getty Images
An investment firm where Hunter Biden, the president’s son, was a founding board member helped facilitate a Chinese company’s purchase from an American company of one of the world’s richest cobalt mines, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mr. Biden and two other Americans joined Chinese partners in establishing the firm in 2013, known as BHR and formally named Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company.
The three Americans, all of whom served on the board, controlled 30 percent of BHR, a private equity firm registered in Shanghai that makes investments and then flips them for a profit. The rest of the company is owned or controlled by Chinese investors that include the Bank of China, according to records filed with Chinese regulators.
One of BHR’s early deals was to help finance an Australian coal-mining companycontrolled by a Chinese state-owned firm. It also assisted a subsidiary of a Chinese defense conglomerate in buying a Michigan auto parts maker.
The firm made one of its most successful investments in 2016, when it bought and later sold a stake in CATL, a fast-growing Chinese company that is now the world’s biggest maker of batteries for electric vehicles.
The mining deal in Congo also came in 2016, when the Chinese mining outfit China Molybdenum announced that it was paying $2.65 billion to buy Tenke Fungurume, a cobalt and copper mine, from the American company Freeport-McMoRan.
As part of that deal, China Molybdenum sought a partner to buy out a minority stakeholder in the mine, Lundin Mining of Canada. That is when BHR became involved.
Records in Hong Kong show that the $1.14 billion BHR, through subsidiaries, paid to buy out Lundin came entirely from Chinese state-backed companies.
China Molybdenum lined up about $700 million of that total as loans from Chinese state-backed banks, including China Construction Bank. BHR raised the remaining amount from obscure entities with names like Design Time Limited, an offshore company controlled by China Construction’s investment bank, according to the Hong Kong filings. nytimes.com
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|From: Glenn Petersen||11/21/2021 10:10:35 AM|
|Supply-Chain Problems Show Signs of Easing|
Asian output is coming back and some bottlenecks are clearing, but labor shortages could persist into next year
By Stella Yifan Xie, Jon Emont and Alistair MacDonald
Wall Street Journal
Nov. 21, 2021 7:00 am ET
Congestion at the Port of Los Angeles has lessened but remains severe. PHOTO: APU GOMES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Global supply-chain woes are beginning to recede, but shipping, manufacturing and retail executives say that they don’t expect a return to more-normal operations until next year and that cargo will continue to be delayed if Covid-19 outbreaks disrupt key distribution hubs.
In Asia, Covid-related factory closures, energy shortages and port-capacity limits have eased in recent weeks. In the U.S., major retailers say they have imported most of what they need for the holidays. Ocean freight rates have retreated from record levels.
Still, executives and economists say strong consumer demand for goods in the West, ongoing port congestion in the U.S., shortages of truck drivers and elevated global freight rates continue to hang over any recovery. The risk of more extreme weather and flare-ups of Covid-19 cases can also threaten to clog up supply chains again.
An easing of supply-chain choke points would allow production to move toward meeting strong demand and would lower logistics costs. If sustained, that, in turn, would help alleviate the upward pressure on inflation.
The number of ships waiting to unload at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the biggest U.S. gateway for imports from Asia, has improved but is still hovering near record levels. There were 71 container ships anchored offshore on Nov. 19, down from a peak of 86 three days before, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, and 17 more were expected to arrive within three days. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for any ships to anchor offshore.
Shipping and retail executives say they expect the U.S. port backlogs to clear in early 2022, after the holiday shopping season and when Lunar New Year shuts many factories for a week in February, slowing output.
Ports world-wide, such as this one in Hong Kong, have experienced backlogs in recent months. PHOTO: ANTHONY KWAN/GETTY IMAGES
German shipowner Jan Held said congestion, particularly in Asia, is getting better. His ships transport mainly industrial goods, like giant windmills, rather than containers, but would sometimes spend a month waiting outside of Asian ports.
Mr. Held said it would be some time before the global transport system normalizes. “For that, the pandemic has to end and that is not happening any time soon, in my opinion,” said Mr. Held, co-owner of Held Bereederungs GmbH & Co. KG, based in the north German city of Haren.
Trans-Pacific freight rates have cooled in recent weeks as most big U.S. retailers have imported what they need for the holiday season, gradually opening up space on the front end of the trip. The cost to move a container across the Pacific fell by more than a quarter in the week ended Nov. 12, the biggest decline in two years. Rates rose about 5% this week to about $14,700 per 40-foot container and are still more than three times year-ago levels, according to the Freightos Baltic Index.
“Globally speaking, the worst is behind us in terms of the supply-chain problems,” said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics. A survey by the research house among what it described as “country experts” covering 45 economies found that almost all believe supply-chain disruptions have peaked or will peak in the last quarter of this year.
Any hiccups, such as a repeat of the temporary closure of China’s Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in August due to a single Covid-19 infection, could send freight rates soaring again.
Many big chains, including Walmart Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Target Corp. , said this past week they are well stocked for the holidays, mainly because they imported goods earlier than usual this year. Some also chartered their own ships to get around bottlenecks.
Few executives said their problems are over, and in the most recent round of results, global companies continued to cite issues at ports and roads around the world. Several retailers reported lower profit margins, citing elevated freight costs to move their goods.
For Christine Humphreys, there seems to be no easing of the supply-chain chaos that means her U.K. drinks company has only half its stock for Christmas, her busiest period.
Journeys from Germany to the U.K. that would have taken two weeks are now taking six, said Ms. Humphreys, a co-founder of the Mindful Drinking Company Ltd. “Come on, it’s not a million miles away, it’s only across the water,” she said.
Covid-19 vaccines being administered to workers at a Malaysian factory in July. PHOTO: LIM HUEY TENG/REUTERS
After slowdowns in production in recent months due to Covid-19 outbreaks, output at factories across Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries rebounded over the past month as Covid-19 cases declined and production limits were lifted, easing some bottlenecks that have choked output of semiconductors and textiles globally.
“It’s a huge change in a positive way as it should improve industrial output in Asia and global supply,” said Trinh Nguyen, senior economist at Natixis in Hong Kong. Still, she cautions that many countries continue to grapple with other problems, like shortages of workers.
“There are certain aspects of supply-chain shocks that are easing, but the shortage issue isn’t going to completely disappear,” she said.
In Vietnam, factory owners in the country’s southern manufacturing hub said production is far smoother than it was several months ago, but challenges remain, including high shipping costs and labor shortages, as many workers that had returned to their villages during the Covid-19 wave have yet to return.
Do Xuan Lap, the head of Vietnam’s Timber and Forest Products Association, said that the situation is improving and that medium-size furniture factories, with around 200 to 500 workers, are operating at around 80% capacity. But larger furniture makers, with up to 3,000 workers, were missing more laborers and operating at around 65% capacity.
A Chinese factory manufacturing Christmas products. Supply-chain worries are likely to abate somewhat following this year’s holiday-shopping season in the U.S. PHOTO: ALY SONG/REUTERS
In China, a power crunch that hit the country’s manufacturing hubs earlier this fall has eased in recent weeks after authorities allowed coal-fired power plants to charge higher prices. Previously, some plants were curbing power output. Oil prices, too, have pulled back after hitting their highest level since the 2014 energy bust.
Manufacturing production has largely resumed at normal capacity since October, according to interviews with several factory owners based in China’s southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong.
Shortages of shipping containers also appear to be easing.
Thomas Broertjes, managing director of Foshan Oufeng Furniture Co. based in Guangdong province, said that in September, he wasn’t able to ship any products because he was unable to secure space on even a single shipping container that month. “That was really the lowest point,” he said.
While the company has been able to book more containers since October, it still takes days until it can confirm bookings with vendors. Prices remain three or four times what he paid before 2020. “I’m hopeful that things are getting better. It couldn’t get worse,” he said, though he added, “it’s still a big hassle.”
Last week, trucks were waiting to exit from the Port of Los Angeles, which is still being swamped with containers. PHOTO: BING GUAN/BLOOMBERG NEWS
Other factory owners say they are still struggling to deal with bottlenecks. Since this June, boxes filled with auto parts began to pile up at the warehouse of Zhejiang Songtian Automotive Motor System Co. as more importers from the West held off on taking delivery amid soaring freight rates. The company recently repurposed sections of a new factory to store products.
“The entire factory is now filled with finished goods that couldn’t be shipped out. This is our biggest headache at the moment, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Dai Xuezhi, chief executive of the company based in the southeastern Chinese city of Wenzhou.
Data provider eeSea says containership delays fell in October from September, but there hasn’t been much change when it comes to the vessels waiting outside of ports in November. As of Friday morning, there were 500 large container ships waiting to dock outside ports in Asia, Europe and North America, up slightly from the 497 vessels that waited on Oct. 8.
In the U.S., the destination for many of the goods made in Asian factories, there are few signs that the gridlock is easing.
Freight railroads recently lifted their limits on inbound cargo into congested container terminals in the Chicago area. But boxes are still swamping the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and shipping executives note the backlog of vessels offshore suggests the flow of inbound shipments isn’t letting up.
“We are still in the thick of it,” said Alan McCorkle, chief executive of Yusen Terminals LLC, at the Port of Los Angeles.
—Costas Paris, Stephen Wright, Paul Berger and Sarah Nassauer contributed to this article.
Supply-Chain Problems Show Signs of Easing - WSJ
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|From: Don Green||11/23/2021 8:29:51 AM|
|JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Tesla’s Elon Musk Feud Behind the Scenes|
Bank’s lawsuit against electric-vehicle maker brings the CEOs’ long-simmering tensions into open
Tesla CEO Elon Musk rarely backs down after offering sharp words for critics.Photo: Patrick Pleul/Zuma Press
Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon don’t get along.
Mr. Musk has spurned Mr. Dimon’s JPMorgan JPM 2.13% Chase & Co. for years, turning to other banks while expanding Tesla Inc. TSLA 1.74% and his broader empire. Conversations over the years between the two companies have often upset one side or the other, according to people familiar with the matter.
Messrs. Musk and Dimon have tried to patch things up but clashed instead, the people said. JPMorgan decided some time ago that it is better off without Tesla, according to people familiar with the matter.
A small part of the quiet feud, which pits America’s most valuable car maker against its biggest bank, spilled into the open last week when JPMorgan sued Tesla. In its lawsuit, JPMorgan said Tesla owes it $162 million from a trade the bank helped arrange in 2014. Typically, bankers seek to avoid public fights with big clients and even potential clients, anxious about winning fees and worried the slightest insult could cost them access.
“We have provided Tesla multiple opportunities to fulfill its contractual obligations, so it is unfortunate that they have forced this issue into litigation,” JPMorgan said last week.
“If JPM doesn’t withdraw their lawsuit, I will give them a one star review on Yelp,” Mr. Musk said in response to The Wall Street Journal. “This is my final warning!”
Both chief executives are commanding presences inside their companies and industries. And both have had public fights with rivals or sharp words for critics and regulators, though Mr. Dimon has often wound up expressing regret over what he admits are uncareful slips while Mr. Musk has rarely backed down.
Tesla has captured the market’s imagination about the future of electric cars and become one of the first companies valued at more than $1 trillion, making it the kind of client Wall Street fights over.
JPMorgan’s investment bankers haven’t worked on any Tesla offering or transaction since 2016, according to public records. When JPMorgan worked on Tesla’s 2010 initial public offering of stock and several capital-markets transactions in the following years, it was usually ranked behind rivals such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS 2.26% and Morgan Stanley.
JPMorgan has been paid about $15 million by Tesla for advice and capital-markets work in the past decade, while Goldman has made about $90 million, according to Dealogic.
Mr. Musk has used Morgan Stanley, Goldman and Bank of America Corp. for the personal loans he has pledged his stockholdings against, according to public filings.
JPMorgan’s Chase consumer bank is a big auto lender, but it was hesitant to be an early backer of Teslas and other electric vehicles, people familiar with the matter said. Bankers raised concerns about the long-term value of electric-vehicle batteries.
Later, Chase executives approached Mr. Musk about an agreement to make Chase the primary lender to Tesla buyers at dealerships, the people said. The bank has similar deals with Maserati and Jaguar Land Rover. Mr. Musk said no, the people said.
The bank recently signed a similar pact with a Tesla rival, the electric-truck maker Rivian Automotive Inc. RIVN -8.16% It has also been financing more Teslas recently for its customers, the people said.
Last week’s lawsuit is likely to increase the tension. Tesla will be represented by Alex Spiro, the lawyer who successfully defended Mr. Musk in a defamation lawsuit.
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|To: Don Green who wrote (28313)||11/23/2021 8:30:58 AM|
|From: Don Green|
|RFK Jr.: Fauci And Bill Gates Should Be Criminally Prosecuted For Gross Negligence And Profiting Off COVID|
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Big Pharma and the media have divided the political parties and created racial animus so nobody will notice they are making billions to "execute the controlled demolition of American constitutional democracy." In an interview with Michael Cohen on his podcast, RFK Jr. argued you are no longer allowed to criticize government policies or you will be removed from YouTube.
RFK Jr. said Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates should be criminally prosecuted for gross negligence and profiting off of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MICHAEL COHEN, HOST: Does it concern you then that your book and its views are being given the most prominent airtime from people like Tucker Carlson who believe that the January 6th insurrection was an inside job created to crack down on the far right?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: I'll talk to anybody. I'll talk to the biggest idiot in the world and I'll talk to criminals if their the only way that I can get my message out, you know, Anderson Cooper's not going to put me on CNN because CNN is run by pharmaceutical companies that gives, you know, 70% of revenues the evening news are coming from, from NPR is, you know, Bill Gates giving $319 million to the public television and, and the so-called independent news. Anybody who wants to criticize pharmaceutical products or government or question government policies cannot do that on a normal network TV, social media. They're thrown off. If you're a person who has suffered a vaccine injury, and you talk about that on Facebook, you will be evicted. You're not, you will never get on a TV program to talk about that.
When Ron Johnson, Senator from Wisconsin, had a group of people, of physicians and people who've been injured -- clearly injured by vaccines, including people who were part of clinical trial, ended up public hearing in front of the United States Senate committee last week and recorded their sworn testimony. And all of that was removed from YouTube.
Cause you are no longer are allowed to criticize government policies. Oh yeah. I will go to places that, you know, people -- I've always done that. I've always been willing to talk to people who don't agree with me on virtually anything. I've been on Hannity probably a dozen times. Hannity and I agree on literally zero.
I think democracy is about building bridges to people with whom you don't agree. With creating, you know, finding where there is common ground with other human beings. The biggest thing. The most important productive strategy or the big talk around the oligarchs and the intelligence agencies and the pharmaceutical companies who are trying to impoverish us and, you know, and, and dramatically, and, and obliterate democracy, their strategy is to create fear and division.
So orchestrated fear and divide Republicans from Democrats and blacks from whites and get a lot of infighting so nobody notices that they are making themselves billions and billions, and while they
impoverish the rest of us and, and, and execute the controlled demolition of American constitutional democracy.
And we need to talk, I probably agree with you on almost nothing. I came on here because I'm willing to talk to anybody who is willing to listen about this. Uh, you know, I think we need to start talking
to each other even about with people we don't agree. My father told me that partisanship is poison and it's intellectually dishonest. It's tribalism. It's bad for democracy.
Now we need to start talking to people as human beings, not as Republicans and Democrats. Now I don't have to agree with Tucker Carlson on, on anything. If he invites me on a show, I'm going to go on it. Because he has a big audience. And I don't. have to agree with you, Michael. I appreciate you letting me talk to your audience. It does not mean I am endorsing your views.
COHEN: Based on your findings, do you believe that Dr. Fauci and Bill Gates should be investigated for criminal wrongdoing?
RFK JR.: Yes.
COHEN: Plain and simple?
RFK JR.: Of course. I mean, I think Fauci's policies -- 80% of the people who died from COVID should not have died.
We should've been doing early treatment like the Chinese did. The Chinese put early treatment protocols with chloroquine, which is hydroxy -- the cousin of the hydroxychloroquine.
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|To: Les H who wrote (28312)||11/23/2021 11:53:44 AM|
|From: Les H|
|How conspiracists exploited COVID-19 science|
Kathleen Hall Jamieson
Nature Human Behaviour volume 5, pages1464–1465 (2021)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, conspiracy theorists have exploited the provisional nature of scientific consensus and the realities of how science is conducted to paint scientists and public health leaders as malign actors.
Instead of envisioning an untidy world filled with randomness, unintended consequences, innocent action gone awry and new evidence, conspiracists envision one that is inhabited by powerful individuals who conceal malign activities and intent. The fluid nature of emergent science provides fuel for conspiracy theorists who offer certainty in place of the provisional, sometimes-updated statements of health experts. At the same time, conspiracy proponents question the trustworthiness and motives of those in the federal agencies, philanthropic institutions and pharmaceutical companies who fund basic research and develop, deliver and, in the case of some of the federal agencies, regulate public access to medical treatments, including vaccines.
Filtering the world through these lenses, during the pandemic conspiracists have drawn on and manipulated statements and actions by public health experts, such as Dr Anthony Fauci (director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), on topics that range from mask wearing and COVID-19 treatments to vaccine safety and the funding of coronavirus research. Understanding the susceptibilities that conspiracists exploit should help us to identify ways to better safeguard both the trustworthiness of health science and public trust in it.
The updating of scientific knowledge
Statements and updates by Dr Fauci about mask wearing and hydroxychloroquine were among those used by conspiracy theorists during the pandemic. As indications accumulated that individuals without symptoms can transmit SARS-CoV-2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Surgeon General and Dr Fauci did an about-face on the advisability of routine mask wearing in public settings. When randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials found that hydroxychloroquine was ineffective as a COVID-19 treatment, Dr Fauci’s agnosticism about its value shifted to opposition. He was not alone. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also withdrew its Emergency Use Authorization of it. “Much of what Fauci said about this virus, the drugs that could treat it, and the measures that could be taken to slow the spread was untrue”, said Fox News’s Laura Ingraham on the 2 June 2021, “He knew it was untrue”. After listing “cruise ships, masks, lockdowns, the origins of COVID-19, [and] the models and projections” as topics on which Dr Fauci had been “wrong”, on 2 June 2021, Fox News’s Sean Hannity asked “What did Dr Fauci know and [w]hen did Dr Fauci know it, and was he engaged in some kind of scientific cover-up?”.
For conspiracists of an ideologically conservative bent, some of conclusions of the science community did not reflect science but instead a desire to undercut Trump’s re-election prospects. “The partisan Democrats, the conjugal media, and the scientists, the deep state scientists want America sick through November”, alleged Michael Caputo, who was appointed by Trump as assistant health and human services secretary for public affairs. Among the decisions at issue were whether the whole population other than essential workers needed to be ‘locked down’ to ‘bend the curve’, the speed with which the economy should be re-opened after the ‘lockdown’ and when a vaccine would be available for distribution. The insistence of experts such as Dr Fauci that decisions about the use of proposed treatments such as hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, and the authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, should await high-quality clinical trial data was also interpreted as being anti-Trump in intent. “The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd”, tweeted President Trump on 22 August 2020.
Funding structures in science
A desire to sabotage the electoral prospects of the incumbent US president was not the only motive that conspiracists saw at work. Greed and abuse of power and trust were assumed to be at play as well. Presuppositions of self-interested collusion among actors in federal agencies, philanthropic institutions and the biopharmaceutical industry incorporate two accurate premises: they are all major funders of health science, and the pharmaceutical companies commercialize federally funded research. But what is actually going on, according to Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the head of the anti-vaccination organization Children’s Health Defence, is more sinister: philanthropist Bill Gates pays Dr Fauci, who in turn develops drugs and passes them to drug companies in which Gates is invested. Gates then guarantees markets in Africa through his control of the World Health Organization (WHO), which requires those countries to buy the drugs and vaccines1.
The process of generating conspiracy theories interweaves uncontested facts about ongoing activities in the government, philanthropic institutions and biopharmaceutical companies (for example, that the Gates Foundation funds vaccine development or that post-vaccination deaths have been reported to the US government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System); historical instances in which a pattern of allegedly comparable behaviour occurred (for example, that the US government authorized the 1932–1972 syphilis experiments at Tuskegee or that babies of colour were given an unlicensed vaccine in the early 1990s without their parents’ informed consent2); and pre-existing unwarranted conspiracy theories (for example, that the CDC is covering up evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism). A conspiracy theory may also convert temporal associations into causal inferences (as in a since-deleted Instagram post3 claiming that Hank Aaron and Marvelous Marvin Hagler “died after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.” The COVID vaccine killed both!). “Coincidence is turning out to be quite lethal to COVID vaccine recipients”, noted Kennedy4.
Into this brew, conspiracists add conjecture (“maybe [the COVID-19 vaccine] doesn’t work and they’re simply not telling you that”5) and insinuations that are intended to identify a conspirator’s motive (for example, that Dr Fauci is a registered Democrat6, a past CEO of Moderna7 and a vaccine shareholder8). Such factors are interlaced to warrant context-specific conspiracy theories (for example, that the FDA is covering up the fact that the mRNA vaccines cause serious side effects and death9; or that, in league with ‘Big Pharma’, Dr Fauci mandates vaccines from which he, Big Pharma, the Gates Foundation, Chan-Zuckerberg, WHO, CDC and the Chinese Communist Party benefit10).
Personal greed is one ascribed motive, and sociopathy or lust for power, glory and knowledge are others. Accordingly, one theory accuses Dr Fauci of opposing the approval of hydroxychloroquine — a drug that Trump cast as a possible “game changer”11 — because Dr Fauci wanted the virus to spread until a vaccine could be developed and named after him12. On another front, by terming the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist the ‘father of the virus’, conspiracists assumed the motive explored in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — an arrogant search for knowledge unmindful of the risks or consequences. The meme ‘Fauci Lied. Millions Died’13 capsulizes the conspiracy assertion that by denying that a US$600,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) subaward from EcoHealth Alliance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology14 involved gain-of-function research, Dr Fauci and compatriots such as NIH director Dr Francis Collins are covering up (that is, ‘Fauci Lied’) the supposed reality that the resulting explorations created SARS-CoV-2 and with it the pandemic (that is, ‘Millions Died’).
Here, conspiracists are exploiting uncertainty about the genesis of SARS-CoV-2. As the presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine noted in a statement on 15 June 2021, “The origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the circumstances of the first cases of human infection, remain unknown”. Whether intended as parody or not, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart reinforced the broader inference when, appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on 14 June 2021, he told the host Stephen Colbert, “I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to science. Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic — which was more than likely caused by science”.
Proactively reducing susceptibility
Because those with a conspiratorial world view can readily cast their critics as part of the conspiracy15 and massage evidence that contravenes a particular theory into proof of it16, they are unlikely to be persuaded by counterevidence17. However, as David Robert Grimes has suggested, acceptance of “medico-scientific consensus” is a spectrum that includes those who are reachable18. Our goal should be reaching them.
To minimize conspiracists’ exploitation of instances in which scientific authorities update scientific knowledge, health experts ought to note routinely that their statements are based on ‘what we now know’. When, as in the case of mask wearing, fresh evidence prompts an apparent U-turn, public health spokespersons should justify the change by repeatedly explaining ‘what we know now that we didn’t know then’.
Scientists and journalists also should showcase the ways in which the scientific norms of transparency and critique both forestall and make it possible to uncover the effects of human bias and venality on the research enterprise. Federal grants are not only subject to extensive review by multiple parties, but also — as press review of the EcoHealth Alliance’s NIH award attests — their provisions are subject to public scrutiny. Moreover, it was institutionalized forms of disclosure (for example, the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s database) that made it possible for fact checkers to confirm that Dr Fauci is not a vaccine shareholder. Fact checkers used other open sources to undercut claims that he is a registered Democrat or a past CEO of Moderna. And publications were retracted that “relied on a significant amount of data” from what Retraction Watch characterized as “a questionable company....which is now famous for refusing to share its data in articles published in The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine”19.
By exploiting the provisional nature of scientific knowledge, its inevitable updating and the realities of the scientific funding structures, conspiracists eroded the trust of some susceptible individuals in the recommendations of public health authorities about lifesaving behaviours including mask wearing and vaccination. Their success in doing so made community immunity, and with it an end to the pandemic, more elusive. Understanding the vulnerabilities that conspiracists exploit should help us to identify ways to better safeguard both the trustworthiness of health science and public trust in it.
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