Day: January 11, 2021

Storming of the Capitol Fueled by Demagoguery and Threat to Republican Democracy

Last Wednesday, we saw the worst passions of the American republic storm through the doors of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

For hours, people around the world watched as protestors transformed into rioters who ransacked various congressional offices, posed for photos on the House floor, and terrorized hundreds of congressmen and women, senators, staff, journalists, and Capitol Police.

One woman, a protestor and rioter from Arizona, was shot and killed by Capitol Police. Three others died due to medical emergencies, according to Washington Police Chief Robert Contee.

The march outflowed from a “Stop the Steal” rally held by President Donald Trump in the hours prior, decrying the results of the 2020 election and fueling various allegations of voter fraud and manipulation.

He urged his supporters at the rally to turn their attention to Congress, which was deliberating the final tally of the Electoral College votes.

What transpired at the Capitol Wednesday was something no one should tolerate in a liberal democracy. The ransacking of a seat of the federal government, by any force or group of individuals, is an act of aggression that should be prosecuted.

It was, no doubt, a result of demagoguery and a violent urging by Donald Trump.

There are many items of concern that my organization and I have broadly agreed with President Trump: on questioning the role of the World Health Organization early on in the pandemic, dismantling burdensome regulations that quash innovation, pushing for the safe and orderly opening of the economy after devastating coronavirus restrictions, and more.

At the same time, we have opposed the Trump administration when it was needed most: disastrous tariffs that raise prices for all consumers, drug pricing plans that will set back innovation while making drugs more expensive, and a federal vaping flavor ban that will deprive former smokers of the ability to choose a less harmful alternative.

Personally, I have opposed Trump’s desire to severely restrict and reduce immigration. My family immigrated to the U.S. some 30 years ago, and we have enjoyed a much more fruitful life because of it.

But those policy arguments and disagreements are secondary to the very real threat of a violent parade of hysteria through the halls of the Capitol.

We advocate for ideas to improve society based on the rule of law and democratic order. We use the means of free expression, free assembly, and the right to petition our government to ensure that policies that help every consumer and every citizen will be the law of the land.

Seeing a mob trample into the primary seat of one of America’s branches of government achieves none of that, and should be rightly condemned.

Our decentralized republican democracy based on a time-honored Constitution, a system that is unique to the United States and has allowed for some of the most promising economic and social innovation in the world, was threatened. And we cannot excuse these actions in the slightest.

From this point forward, we must restore the rule of law and advocate for liberal democratic principles to advance the American project.

That President Trump should continue to serve out the last two weeks of his term, after this insurrection and rebellion in our nation’s capital, is unacceptable.

Whether it be through his removal from office by the invocation of the 25th Amendment by Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet, or articles of impeachment in the House and swift conviction by the Senate, something must be done to show to the world what happens when order and liberty are transgressed in a representative liberal democracy.

When the actions of certain individuals go too far, and when demagoguery threatens the very system that allows us to freely enjoy our liberty and pursue happiness how we see fit, that is an appropriate time to use the tools at our disposal to rectify injustice.

Let us hope justice conquers after the events of this week.

Originally published here.

Will the GMO vaccine change our views on genetic engineering?

New vaccines use genetic engineering, but the European Union has generally remained opposed to this technology…

The most prominent version of a COVID-19 vaccine was developed through genetic engineering. The is a novelty in vaccine science, because it allows for easier processes in the way we fight diseases such as COVID-19. As Cornell’s Alliance for Science explains:

“That’s what the “m” in mRNA stands for : messenger. Messenger RNA just carries instructions for the assembly of proteins from the DNA template to the ribosomes. (Proteins do almost everything that matters in the body.) That’s it.

This is useful for vaccines because scientists can easily reconstruct specific genetic sequences that encode for proteins that are unique to the invading virus. In the COVID case, this is the familiar spike protein that enables the coronavirus to enter human cells.”

For the European Union, this meant that the European Parliament had to approve a derogation of existing GMO legislation. In a statement, the Parliament said that “The derogation will facilitate the development, authorisation and consequently availability of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments”. According to EU legislation dating back to the early 2000s, genetic engineering is generally forbidden, with only a few exceptions. This was particularly driven by the scepticism of genetic engineering in agriculture.

Now that Europe is facing the largest health emergency in our lifetime, scientific innovation is desperately needed. This must be particularly confusing for all patients who could have been given more of a chance of survival if genetic engineering was allowed across the board for all treatments. The unfortunate reality is that GMOs have been so highly politicised that we have moved away from a sober evidence-based conversation. It is now politically viable to allow for scientific innovation to fight this virus but in the area of agriculture, we are still facing a dead end. If it is safe for vaccines, then shouldn’t we also trust the mountain of scientific evidence that it is safe in food?

Genetic engineering is technology, unlike any other. The precise genetic modification of crops has arisen not out of a need to interfere with nature, but out of necessity and thanks to human ingenuity. Early application of genetic engineering stood to solve the problems of complicated environments with challenging climates. As climate change progresses, these challenges will only grow larger.

Picture the state of human medicine prior to the development of certain advances. Ear or mouth infections or pneumonia led to the death of millions until penicillin came into widespread use. What is true in medicine, also applies for modern agriculture: high-yield farming has made our societies more advanced, provided us with a safer food supply, and has provided more food for fewer resources. The technologies of today are incomparable with those of 30 years ago. In fact, the invention of gene-editing has opened a new chapter for agriculture, allowing us to act precisely, with trusted experts. Pinpointed DNA-changes allow us to much more precisely target and understand the changes that we are making.

The GMO vaccine derogation is a first recognition that pinpointed DNA changes are safe and viable in human medicine. However, this was a realisation the Parliament was only able to reach because it was faced with unprecedented urgency. The concept of making this structural reform in the 2001 GMO Directive — which are necessary — is something that needs to be overcome politically. The scientific opinions are there: we know that genetic engineering can be conducted in a safe manner. What we now need to do is shift the conversation on the European stage, overcoming the unscientific narratives of many parliamentarians, and ushering in a new age of science in the European Union.

Originally published here.

How West Virginia, one of America’s poorest and most rural states, became a leader in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine

By comparison, Canada’s vaccine rollout has been glacial

The average Canadian doesn’t know much about West Virginia. For most of us, familiarity with the state is limited to cheap stereotypes or John Denver’s classic country music song “Take me home, country roads.” Little did we know that the Mountain State, ignored by many, would end up a leader in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine.

While Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was battling it out on Twitter with Liberals over who should get priority vaccinations, West Virginia delivered, and offered, a COVID-19 vaccine to every single person currently residing in a long-term care home. You read that right. Every single person who wanted the vaccine, in each and every one of West Virginia’s 214 long-term care homes, has been vaccinated. West Virginia’s rollout has been so successful it will start vaccinating teachers and school staff next week.

To do a better job rolling out the vaccine, Canadian provinces should follow West Virginia’s lead

Canadians should be both astonished and outraged. The virus has killed more than 16,000 of our fellow citizens, and more than 80 per cent of those deaths have been people living in long-term care homes. How has West Virginia, one of the United States’ poorest and most rural states, accomplished the seemingly impossible?

First off, it sidestepped Operation Warp Speed’s recommendation for two main vaccine facilitators (CVS and Walgreens). Instead, it decentralized as much as it could and partnered with hundreds of pharmacies, both independent and chain, to deliver and administer the vaccines in long-term care homes. Pharmacies with sufficient cold storage and backup generators were mobilized in a hub-and-spoke model that tasked each pharmacy with ensuring local long-term care vaccinations. This, alongside the state’s not getting too bureaucratic about its priority schedule, helped these pharmacies take only two weeks to give every single long-term care resident their first dose of the vaccine. This hub-and-spoke model, coupled with the less rigid priority schedule, allowed for the state to be far more dynamic, which is why the rollout was 50 per cent quicker than originally planned.

By comparison, Canada’s vaccine rollout has been glacial. Our federal government was late to procure vaccines, and although it overcompensated by mass-purchasing vaccines from virtually all providers, we’re too far down most providers’ lists to get supplies quickly. Provinces have also dropped the ball. Ontario, for example, made the mistake of pausing vaccinations over the Christmas break, as if the virus has any regard for our holiday schedule. Our long-term care workers were certainly in need of a holiday break, but couldn’t other qualified professionals have helped fill the gap over the holidays?

When we compare Canada with our international counterparts, the depressing nature of our reality sets in. As of Jan. 8, we were vaccinating approximately 31 times slower than Israel, 15 times slower than the United Arab Emirates, seven times slower than Bahrain, three times slower than the U.K., 2.8 times slower than the U.S., 2.8 times slower than Denmark, 2.3 times slower than Iceland, and 1.2 times slower than Slovenia and Italy. If the trend continues, almost all of Europe could pass Canada within the next seven to 10 days.

To do a better job rolling out the vaccine, Canadian provinces should follow West Virginia’s lead. We should call in pharmacies and other health-care providers to help so that we exhaust our supply as soon and safely as possible. Every health-care professional qualified to give a needle, draw blood or provide other vaccines, should be authorized to give the COVID-19 vaccine. Going this route ensures we have as many access points as possible, at each stage, which in turn means we aren’t left twiddling our thumbs while provincial authorities stumble their way through the rollout.

A more rapid rollout that exhausts supply as quickly as possible puts more pressure on the federal government to ensure quicker delivery for the vaccine orders it has secured. Right now, the two levels of government are pointing fingers at each other. A faster provincial rollout would prevent Ottawa from passing the buck on its procurement responsibilities. That’s exactly the position West Virginia is in right now. When the state’s “COVID czar,” Dr. Clay Marsh, was asked what Washington could do to help, his response was simple: “Give us more vaccines!”

Because of vaccines the end of the pandemic is in view. Canadians have accepted a lot during the COVID crisis. They will not accept that we have so few doses and can’t seem to administer the short supply we do have. Politicians at both levels of government need a kick in the pants. Looking at West Virginia could and should get things moving in the right direction.

David Clement is North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

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