Saturday 26th of September 2020

you can take off your mask now if you wish...


With the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks looming like a hangover it is worth asking the price we pay for fear itself. Barack Obama said at his convention you must vote Democrat out of fear for our democracy. Don Jr. said pretty much the same a week later, just reversing the names and the politics. Everyone wants you to be afraid of anarchy, either the white or black version. The message from all sides is fear. It sounds so 2020 but it is as old as the modern era.

America’s fear in my childhood was that we were going to die at school when the Russians nuked America. We hid under our desks during drills, we huddled away from the windows with our coats over our heads and waited to die. For an elementary student raised to believe what he was taught, it was a nightmare. My third grade teacher even identified Ground Zero as the cinder parking lot next to the school, and for some reason told us it would happen in the morning.

Americans were taught to be afraid even as we were the apex predator on the planet with the world’s only atomic bomb. We dutifully rewarded president after president for maintaining the most massive national security state ever known, but we never felt safe. We spent the best years of the American Century huddled like shelter dogs. We never saw that it was all a trick, like conjuring a pandemic out of a virus which doesn’t even cause symptoms in many of its hosts and unlike almost anything else, like cancer or heart attacks, has a fatality rate well below a single percent (so we count cases, not fatalities—to generate fear). As with terrorism, diabetes and ladder falls harm more American lives than the Russians.

In the face of COVID, living in daily fear of terrorism seems almost nostalgic. For me, our first family plane trip after 9/11 started at a Japanese airport where security seemed about the same as before. But when we transferred to a U.S. domestic flight the world changed.

The newly-erect TSA tore into us. After shouting at my lack of preparedness to present various documents quickly enough, they pulled my pre-teen daughter away and impounded a nail clipper and some sort of medieval-looking eyebrow curling device. She started to cry, and when I tried to go to her I was held back. A security incident was underway I was told. The TSA agent said harshly to her “I’m trying to keep you from dying on that airplane!” My little one started to say something, but I shouted to her to be quiet. I’d learned at some eastern European border checkpoint long ago the only answer. Submit and board the plane. Submit and we can see grandma tonight at our destination.

Later, as a federal whistleblower, I was placed on some sort of list. I could fly, but my trips through the airport would be met with a firm “Sir, I need you to step over here.” The protocols created to protect me from terrorists had been twisted to turn me into one. Every time I was told I had been randomly selected, wonderfully Orwellian in how the TSA workers at least seemed to believe it.


I of course could refuse to hand over my electronics, but TSA would just confiscate them, so why resist? Of course I could speak to a supervisor, but I’d miss my flight. My old computer took minutes to cold boot and that angered the TSA agents and prolonged my searches. So I bought a fast Chromebook to make my surveillance more convenient.

In a perfect melding of fears the 9/11 Memorial Museum showed us how much of this is farce. After being closed since March to protect us from COVID they will reopen to the general public on September 12. A symbolic day for sure but one with no science behind it. Why not September 3 or 24? Because it doesn’t matter, the danger was never very real. And the museum, with its cavernous interiors (it is built into the basements of the old Twin Towers) is allowed to host only 25 percent of its capacity. Same for every other museum in NYC, 25 percent whether they have state-of-the-art HVAC systems and thousands of square feet or are contained within early 19th century parlors. It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter; there’s no science behind it because there is no serious threat behind it.

In New York we are told it will be the death of us to reopen restaurants for a quick meal, but from day one of the virus we have been welcome to sit in poorly ventilated subway cars. We can’t have more than a handful of customers inside a store, but we can spend six hours inside an airplane cabin. Ten people gathered for a party is a death trap but 300 massed for a BLM protest isn’t. The less it makes sense the more it makes sense to just submit and go along, because thinking is hard.

So it is no surprise I wear a mask outside. I alone seem to remember enough from biology class to question how a soggy piece of cloth, or a dust mask with an air escape valve on the side (i.e., your virus-laden exhaled breath goes out) is unlikely to do much, like hanging garlic to ward off vampires. But I am allowed to buy milk at the store with a mask. I am allowed to be part of society. I can avoid being scolded by the self-appointed mask Jugend. I can have a socially distanced conversation with my Democrat neighbor who believes she will literally risk her life to vote in-person, saving democracy itself after Trump supposedly gutted the post office. Like many, she has an Old Testament view of the virus; it is both punishment for electing Trump and the way of delivering us from him.

Those irrational fears from the Cold War and post-9/11 are nothing compared to today; imagine the McCarthy Red Scare powered by social media. Every week it has been something new that will destroy us—war with North Korea and Iran, Boogaloo Bois, Trump the Manchurian Candidate, not enough beds, and not enough ventilators. We’re worried a fascist government is taking away free speech and we’re worried the government isn’t doing enough to suppress free speech to stop hate. There are too many guns for us to be safe and not enough guns to protect us.

After a decade of terrorists everywhere (when they were actually nowhere) we transition to live in terror of the virus. People not only support the restrictions and lockdowns, they want more to feel safer, much like Americans demanded more nukes thinking they’d sleep better during the Cold War. The enemy is those who oppose more retrictions.

It’s not to say people do not die from the virus or there aren’t reasons to take prudent action. It’s to say what we are doing in response does not keep many more alive for the price we are paying. Same story as with terrorism, the Cold War, whatever noise makes you jump in the dark. The bark outweighed the bite.

Fear as a policy has yielded a nuclear arms race which nearly destroyed the world, the lost decade of freedoms sacrificed to protection from terrorism, and the hundreds of thousands dead in pointless revenge wars. Now comes the wasted spring, summer, and autumns of COVID overreaction, destroying the economy and breaking the spirit of people. The goal of conditioning through fear is always the same.

Because submission scales. Decades-long nuclear arms race? OK. Support a war in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Libya and Yemen and Somalia? Patriot Act, torture, prison camps, drone assassinations? Yes is always the easiest way to imagine you can allay fear forever until the next scary thing is revealed. Yale welcomes students back to campus with all sorts of restrictions then warns them they will see death in their dorms. So in 2020, already conditioned to accept being humiliated barefoot before every flight, it is easy to accept losing jobs, or to lock down whole cities, or close off state borders. It was easy for people to accept being denied saying goodbye to a terminally ill loved one, or to be blocked from attending church or their child’s birth, by the government.

Fear is very powerful, and learned helplessness a dangerous thing. So forgive my dry heart when I am not sure I should fear for our democracy even as I fear for our sanity. And don’t be surprised at how quickly the virus clears away once the election is over. And don’t be surprised when it is replaced by a new thing to fear.



Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.




One thing for sure, the fear of the Covid has displaced the fear of terror...

the old kook fear...



confounding the purposes and the ideologies...

Coronavirus skeptics march in Germany alongside far-right activists

Skeptics around the world have rejected government regulations meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, calling them too extreme. Some are taking their outrage public. In Germany, they're marching alongside right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists in mass protests.


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Not a good look being a sceptic at the moment... Even some of the skeptics organisation are supporting the official politicisation of the Covid-19 sciences, because sciences are the way to go. No dispute from Gus. But these sciences, still in the doldrums/imprecision domain of statistics, are used by politics to hammer a weird "new normal" . Questioning these statistics places us in company of crackpots, flat-earth conspiracists, Nazis, Brazilian dictator and Trump-lovers... Let me cry. And if you openly question the official narrative, you SHALL BE FINED big bucks... (at least the denialists of global warming, including politicians, are PAID to argue)... We need to be more astute and our testing needs to be more accurate, while protecting the oldies.


The official response hurts common sense. Sciences only exist because they question their theories all the times — and should not let politics buy into these, one way or the other. Please note that Politics and Economics AREN'T SCIENCES, but art forms in which the parameters are decided instead of being OBSERVED. Presently politics are using sciences to lead us into an indefinite error...


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The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error...

sputnik V

Kirill Dmitriev: Questions on Sputnik V Vaccine Answered, Critics need to Look for Plank in Own Eyes


Since the launch on August 11 of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Gamaleya Center scientists, Russia has seen immense interest and expressions of hope from many countries and has received requests for 1 billion doses of the vaccine.

However, it has also faced criticism and questions from some Western countries and companies, especially those developing their own vaccines—often based on technologies yet to be proven for safety and efficacy, such as mRNA or monkey adenoviral vector-based platforms. Following the publication of the results of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials of Sputnik V in The Lancet, we would like to summarize answers to these questions and ask some of our own. 

Question 1: Did you steal your vaccine?

No, we did not steal it. The vaccine uses a unique two-vector human adenovirus technology which no-one else in the world currently has for COVID-19. Vectors are engineered viruses, unable to reproduce, which carry genetic material from the spike of coronavirus. Our technology employs two different human adenoviral vectors, Ad5 and Ad26, for a first and a second injection. This technology helps to overcome pre-existing immunity to adenoviruses. Russia has benefitted from modifying for COVID-19 an existing two-vector vaccine platform developed in 2015 for Ebola fever, which went through all phases of clinical trials and was used to defeat the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2017. 

Admittedly, after some initial hype this question was dropped even by Russia’s most strident critics, because it had no grounds. But it is still important to highlight it since we saw attempts to paint the Russian vaccine in dark colors even before it was registered.

Question 2: When will the Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials results be published?

They were published on September 4 in The Lancet, one of the oldest and most respected medical publications in the world, after going through a thorough peer review process. This is just the beginning of a series of publications. The key points of The Lancet article are:

  1. Phase 1-2 clinical trials of Sputnik V showed no serious adverse events (SAE, Grade 3) for any of the criteria, while the incidence of serious adverse events for other candidate vaccines ranged from 1 to 25 percent.
  2. In 100 percent of participants in the clinical trials Sputnik V generated a stable humoral and cellular immune response. The level of virus-neutralizing antibodies of volunteers vaccinated with Sputnik V was 1.5 times higher than the level of antibodies of severe COVID-19 patients who had recovered from COVID-19. In contrast, British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca demonstrated the level of antibodies of its volunteers under its clinical trial at a level virtually equal to the level of antibodies of those who had recovered from coronavirus. T-cell immunity with both types of CD4+ and CD8+ special cells was formed in all volunteers participating in clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine. These special cells recognize and disrupt the cells infected by SARS-CoV-2 and form the basis for long-term immunity.
  3. Specialists from the Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology managed to prove the effectiveness of the human adenoviral vectors platform, despite concerns that vaccinated people could have pre-existing immunity to human adenoviruses. The optimal safe dosage has been determined, which allows an effective immune response to be achieved in 100 percent of those vaccinated in trials, even in those who have recently had an adenovirus infection. Concern about the pre-existing immunity for adenoviral infections was the main reason for the emergence of alternative methods such as monkey adenoviral vector or mRNA platforms that have not been studied and tested over
    many years. The proven efficacy of Sputnik V reduces the need for hasty development of such platforms at the expense of safety.
  4. Through the use of two different vectors - based on human adenovirus serotypes Ad5 and Ad26 - in two separate shots, it is possible to achieve a more effective immune response. Whereas in the case of using the same vector for two shots, the immune system launches defense mechanisms and begins to reject the drug in the second injection. Thus, the use of two different vectors in the Sputnik V vaccine avoids a possible neutralizing effect and provides for a stronger and more durable immune reaction.

Question 3: Were there too few participants in Phase 1-2 trials of Sputnik V?

On the surface the Sputnik V trial with 76 participants seems smaller in size compared to 1,077 people that, for example, AstraZeneca had in its Phase 1-2 studies. However, the design of the Sputnik V trial was much more efficient and based on better assumptions. AstraZeneca ran its trial from the beginning with a one-shot model but that was a false assumption since only a two-shot model can provide a long lasting immunity as AstraZeneca conceded following the trials. As a result of wrong initial assumptions, AstraZeneca tested the two-shot model only on 10 people out of 1,077. Overall, the number of people who received two injections in the Sputnik V trial exceeded the similar number in AstraZeneca trial by 4 times. Most media missed this point.

Question 4: Will there be clinical trials on more people?

The post-registration studies involving more than 40,000 people started in Russia on August 26, before AstraZeneca has started its Phase 3 trial in the U.S. with 30,000 participants. Clinical trials in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Philippines, India and Brazil will begin this month. The preliminary results of the Phase 3 trial will be published in October-November 2020.

Question 5: Why has the Sputnik V vaccine already become eligible for emergency use registration?

Because of the very positive results of the Phase 1-2 trials and because the human adenoviral vector-based delivery platform has been proven the safest vaccine delivery platform over decades including through 75 international scientific publications and in more than 250 clinical trials.

The scientists provided convincing data on safety of use of human adenoviral vaccines and medicines worldwide based on studies since 1953. According to records, more than 10 mln U.S. military personnel have received human adenoviral vaccines since 1971. A cancer treatment, Gendicine, based on human adenoviral vectors has been administered to more than 30,000 people in China in the course of 15 years. Clinical trials of vaccines based on human adenoviral vector technology using the same vectors as Sputnik V, have already involved more than 25,000 people worldwide. Since 2015 more than 3,000 people were administered human adenoviral vector-based vaccines against Ebola fever and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) created in the Gamaleya Center.

So Russia registered the vaccine because it had a previously approved, a safe and efficient human adenovirus delivery platform for other illnesses. Since the registration of Sputnik V in Russia, other countries also announced plans to follow the Russian approach for emergency use registration of their vaccines. Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine received a similar approval in China. The government of the United Kingdom and the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Stephen Hahn have signaled potential for fast-track registration for British and American vaccine makers, respectively, despite their earlier reservations.

Question 6: Does anyone else use similar technology for their vaccines?

Some other companies are using human adenoviral vector-based platforms for their COVID-19 vaccines. For example, Johnson & Johnson uses only Ad26 vector and China’s CanSino only Ad5 while Sputnik V uses both of these vectors. The work of Johnson & Johnson and CanSino not only validates the Russian approach but also shows Sputnik V’s advantage as studies have demonstrated that two different vectors produce better results than one.

Our Questions

With all this in mind, Russia, as a clear established leader in vaccine research and having developed the safest and the most effective COVID-19 vaccine, has some questions of its own for Western vaccine makers who use mRNA and monkey adenovirus vector-based technologies. We can now ask the critics: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Question 1: Are there any long-term studies of mRNA and monkey adenovirus vector-based technologies for carcinogenic effects and impact on fertility? (Hint: there are none)

Question 2: Could their absence be the reason why some of the leading pharmaceutical firms making COVID-19 vaccines based on these technologies pushed the countries buying their vaccines for full indemnification from lawsuits if something goes wrong?

Question 3: Why is Western media not reporting a lack of long term studies for mRNA and monkey adenoviral vector-based vaccines?

Human Vaccine or Monkey Vaccine

The monkey adenovirus and mRNA vaccines have never been used and approved before and their research is lagging the proven human adenoviral vector-based platform by at least 20 years. However, their developers have already secured supply contracts worth billions of dollars from Western governments and may potentially apply for fast-track registration—while receiving full indemnity at the same time. There are many advantages in mRNA technology, which can play an important role in the future, but long-term safety checks are not yet among these advantages. The fatal flaw of monkey adenoviral vector-based and mRNA vaccines is that even Phase 3 trials do not answer questions on long term risks of these vaccines while such questions on human adenoviral vector-based vaccines have been successfully answered.

At least some executives are open about that. AstraZeneca’s senior executive Ruud Dobber called it “a unique situation where we as a company simply cannot take the risk if in … four years the vaccine is showing side effects. In the contracts we have in place, we are asking for indemnification.”

We believe it is important to make people aware of the risks involved in approval of novel, untested solutions such as mRNA or monkey adenovirus vector-based platforms. We appreciate the planned “pledge of safety” by pharmaceutical companies to be announced shortly but hope that it pledges not only to ensure short term results but also pledges commitment to ensure that there are no increased long term risks of cancer and infertility due to their vaccines. This information will help to safeguard people’s health and demonstrate long term thinking.

Not All Vaccine Platforms Are Created Equal

To conclude: not all vaccine platforms are created equal. While post-registration trials are yet to complete, Sputnik V is built on the safest and proven available platform and has received its emergency use registration in full compliance with Russian law and procedures. Several actors in the West are also considering early emergency use registration, but for vaccines built on unproven novel approaches.

We hope that our questions on long term risks will be answered as well as other questions that unproven vaccine platforms may raise in the future. The worst pandemic in a century has all of us urgently searching for solutions. But we would hope our critics hold themselves to the same standards of rigor, safety and transparency as they have held for the Russian vaccine. After all, we need to address the pandemic jointly, with full transparency and without biases.



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Kirill Dmitriev heads the Russian Direct Investment Fund - one of the world's leading sovereign funds with a reserved capital of $10 billion under management. RDIF was established in 2011 on the initiative of the President and the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation. In all transactions, RDIF acts as a co-investor alongside major international investors, playing the role of a catalyst in attracting direct investment into Russia. RDIF has successfully invested with foreign partners in more than 80 projects totaling more than 1.7 trillion rubles and covering 95% of the regions of the Russian Federation. RDIF has established joint strategic partnerships with leading international co-investors from more than 15 countries totaling more than $40 billion.

Prior to becoming CEO of RDIF in 2011, Kirill Dmitriev headed a number of large private equity funds and completed a series of landmark transactions for Russia, including the sale of Delta Bank to General Electric, Delta Credit Bank to Société Générale, CTC Media to Fidelity Investments, among others. Mr. Dmitriev began his career at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company.

He was appointed by the President of Russia as a member of the BRICS and APEC Business Councils. He serves as a member of the supervisory board of ALROSA, and of the boards of directors of Transneft, Rostelecom, Gazprombank, MDMG, Russian Railways and Rosseti. Mr. Dmitriev is also on the boards of trustees of the Mariinsky Theatre and Moscow State University. He is Vice President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

In 2011 he was the only Russian representative on the list of ‘100 most influential private equity professionals of the decade’ (Private Equity International); in 2009 he was selected by the World Economic Forum as a ‘Young Global Leader’. He holds a BA in Economics with Honors and Distinction from Stanford University and an MBA with High Distinction (Baker Scholar) from the Harvard Business School.

By the decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Dmitriev was awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky and the Order of Honour for his valuable contribution to international investment projects and the socio-economic development of Russia.

By the decree of the President of France, Mr. Dmitriev was awarded the title of Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor for his paramount contribution to strengthening cooperation between Russia and France.

By the order of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Kirill Dmitriev received the highest award of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the King Abdulaziz Second-Class Order of Merit, in recognition of his contribution to strengthening cooperation between the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia.

By the decree of the President of Italy, Kirill Dmitriev was awarded the title of the Commander of the Order of the Star of Italy for his special achievements in the development of friendly relations and cooperation between Italy and Russia.