home | rich profile | rich freebies | rich tools | rich data | online shop | my account | register |
  rich wrap-ups | **richLIVE** | richPodcasts | richRadio | richTV  | richInterviews  | richCNBC  | 
Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Wednesday 09th of June 2021

Register and its all Free.

read more

“Oryx and Crake”

Atwood, who is the daughter of a biologist 

pigs that are genetically altered with human DNA; after the apocalypse, these extra-clever “pigoons” go hunting for Snowman like hounds after a fox.

read more

"I keep it simple." said light "One day at a time" @lemnsissay

"How do you do it?" said night 

"How do you wake and shine?" 

"I keep it simple." said light 

"One day at a time"

read more

The Autumn of the Patriarch Gabriel García Márquez @NewYorker

Over the weekend the vultures got into the Presidential Palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows, and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur. 

Only then did we dare go in without attacking the crumbling walls of reinforced stone, as the more resolute had wished, and without using oxbows to knock the main door off its hinges, as others had proposed, because all that was needed was for someone to give a push and the great armored doors that had resisted the lombards of William Dampier during the building’s heroic days gave way. 

It was like entering the atmosphere of another age, because the air was thinner in the rubble pits of the vast lair of power, and the silence was more ancient, and things were hard to see in the decrepit light. 

All across the first courtyard, where the paving stones had given way to the underground thrust of weeds, we saw the disorder of the quarters of the guard who had fled, the weapons abandoned in their racks, the big, long rough-planked tables with plates containing the leftovers of the Sunday lunch that had been interrupted by panic, in the shadows we saw the annex where Government House had been, colored fungi and pale irises among the unpled briefs whose normal course had been slower than the pace of the driest of lives, in the center of the courtyard we saw the baptismal font where more than five generations had been christened with martial sacraments, in the rear we saw the ancient viceregal stable, which had been transformed into a coach house, and among the camellias and butterflies we saw the berlin from stirring days, the wagon from the time of the plague, the coach from the year of the comet, the hearse from Progress in Order, the sleepwalking limousine of the first century of peace, all in good shape under the dusty cobwebs and all painted with the colors of the flag. In the next courtyard, behind an iron grille, were the lunar-dust-covered rosebushes under which the lepers had slept during the great days of the house, and they had proliferated to such a degree in their abandonment that there was scarcely an odorless chink in that atmosphere of roses which mingled with the stench that came to us from the rear of the garden and the stink of the henhouse and the smell of dung and fermented urine from the cows and soldiers of the colonial basilica that had been converted into a milking barn. Opening a way through the asphyxiating growth we saw the arches of the gallery with potted carnations and sprigs of astromeda and pansies where the concubines’ quarters had been, and judging from the variety of domestic leftovers and the quantity of sewing machines we thought it possible that more than a thousand women had lived there with their crew of seven-month runts, we saw the battlefield disorder of the kitchens, clothes rotting in the sun by the washbasins, the open slit trench shared by concubines and soldiers, and in back we saw the Babylonian willows that had been carried alive from Asia Minor in great seagoing hothouses, with their own soil, their sap, and their drizzle, and behind the willows we saw Government House, immense and sad, where the vultures were still entering through the chipped blinds. We did not have to knock down the door, as we had thought, for the main door seemed to open by itself with just the push of a voice, so we went up to the main floor along a bare stone stairway where the opera-house carpeting had been torn by the hooves of the cows, and from the first vestibule on down to the private bedrooms we saw the ruined offices and reception rooms through which the brazen cows wandered, eating the velvet curtains and nibbling at the trim on the chairs, we saw heroic portraits of saints and soldiers thrown to the floor among broken furniture and fresh cow flops, we saw a dining room that had been eaten up by the cows, the music room profaned by the cows’ breakage, the domino tables destroyed, and the felt on the billiard tables cropped by the cows. Abandoned in a corner we saw the wind machine, the one which counterfeited any phenomenon from the four points of the compass, so that the people in the house could bear up under their nostalgia for the sea that had gone away, we saw birdcages hanging everywhere, still covered with the sleeping cloths put on some night the week before, and through the numerous windows we saw the broad and sleeping animal that was the city, still innocent of the historic Monday that was beginning to come to life, and beyond the city, up to the horizon, we saw the dead craters of harsh moon ash on the endless plain where the sea had been. In that forbidden corner which only a few people of privilege had ever come to know, we smelled the vultures’ carnage for the first time, we caught their age-old asthma, their premonitory instinct, and guiding ourselves by the foul smell from their flapping wings in the reception room we found the wormy shells of the cows, their female hindquarters repeated many times in the full-length mirrors, and then we pushed open a side door that connected with an office hidden in the wall, and there we saw him, in his denim uniform without insignia, in his boots, the gold spur on his left heel, older than all old men and all old animals on land or sea, and he was stretched out on the floor, face down, his right arm bent under his head as a pillow, as he had slept night after night every night of his ever so long life as a solitary despot.

Only when we turned him over to look at his face did we realize that it was impossible to recognize him, even though his face had not been pecked away by vultures, because none of us had ever seen him, and even though his profile was on both sides of all coins, on postage stamps, on condom labels, on trusses and scapulars, and even though his engraved portrait with the flag across his chest and the dragon of the fatherland was displayed at all times in all places, we knew that they were copies of copies of portraits that had already been considered unfaithful during the time of the comet, when our own parents knew who he was because they had heard tell from theirs, as they had from theirs before them, and from childhood on we grew accustomed to believe that he was alive in the house of power because someone had seen him light the Chinese lanterns at some festival, someone had told about seeing his sad eyes, his pale lips, his pensive hand waving through the liturgical decorations of the presidential coach, because one Sunday many years ago they had brought him the blind man on the street who for five centavos would recite the verses of the forgotten poet Rubén Dario and the blind man had come away happy with the nice wad they had paid for a recital that had only been for him, even though the blind man had not seen him, of course, not because he was blind but because no mortal had ever seen him since the days of the black vomit, and yet we knew that he was there, we knew it because the world went on, life went on, the mail was delivered, the municipal band played its retreat and silly waltzes on Saturday under the dusty palm trees and the dim street lights of the main square, and other old musicians took the places of the dead musicians in the band. In recent years when human sounds or the singing of birds were no longer heard inside and the armored doors were closed forever, we knew that there was someone in Government House because at night lights that looked like a ship’s beacons could be seen through the windows of the side that faced the sea, and those who dared go closer could hear a disaster of hooves and animal sighs from behind the fortified walls, and one January afternoon we had seen a cow contemplating the sunset from the presidential balcony, just imagine, a cow on the balcony of the nation, what an awful thing, what a stinking country, and all sorts of conjectures were made about how it was possible for a cow to get onto a balcony, since everybody knew that cows can’t climb stairs, much less carpeted ones, so in the end we never knew if we had really seen it or whether we had been spending an afternoon on the main square and as we strolled along had dreamed that we had seen a cow on the presidential balcony, where nothing had been seen or would ever be seen again for many years, until dawn last Friday, when the first vultures began to arrive. Rising up from where they had always dozed on the cornices of the charity hospital they came, they came from farther inland, they came in successive waves, out of the horizon of the sea of dust where the sea had been, for a whole day they flew in slow circles over the house of power until a king with bridal-fan feathers and a crimson ruff gave a silent order and that breaking of glass began, that breeze of a great man dead, that in and out of vultures through the windows imaginable only in a house which lacked authority, so we dared go in too and in the deserted sanctuary we found the rubble of grandeur, the body that had been pecked at, the smooth maiden hands with the ring of power on the bone of the third finger, and his whole body was sprouting tiny lichens and parasitic animals from the depths of the sea, especially in the armpits and the groin, and he had the canvas truss on his herniated testicle, which was the only thing that had escaped the vultures in spite of its being the size of an ox kidney, but even then we did not dare believe in his death, because it was the second time he had been found in that office, alone and dressed and dead seemingly of natural causes during his sleep, as had been announced a lung time ago in the prophetic waters of soothsayers’ basins.

there was always another truth behind the truth.

read more

A Sultan in Autumn Erdogan Faces Turkey's Uncontainable Forces
Law & Politics

The unprecedented economic growth and personal popularity once enjoyed by the Turkish leader have given way to stagnation, a dwindling support base, and problems abroad.

During his first decade in power, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintained his popularity by delivering unprecedented economic growth and dramatically increasing access to healthcare, education, and other essential services. 

But in recent years, he and his party have faced setbacks, including humiliating mayoral election losses in Istanbul, Ankara, and other major cities in 2019. 

At home, the once robust Turkish economy has sputtered, while abroad Erdogan must balance a perilous alliance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin against the need to maintain amicable relations with Washington. 

A potential refugee crisis from Syria looms as another threat. 

And on the political front, Erdogan can no longer count on majority support from Turkish voters, a trend driven by disillusionment among millennials, his own clumsy anti-elitist messaging, and establishment fatigue, among other factors.

read more

In 1998, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons: “There is no way in which one can buck the market.”
Law & Politics

Erdogan remains a limit short trading position.

He said, “Don’t get high on your ambitions. You won’t be able make money on the back of this nation. You won’t be able to make this nation kneel.” 

And then ‘’Even if they got dollars, we got ‘our people, our God’’’ [In the markets that is called a ‘’Hail Mary’’ pass]

read more

The number of new cases of #covid19 reported to WHO has now declined for 6 weeks, and deaths have declined for 5 weeks”, says @DrTedros at @WHO presser. @kakape

"However, we still see a mixed picture around the world.” Deaths went up in Africa, Americas and Western Pacific last week.

read more

Across whole of England, 76% [74-78%] of all newly diagnosed infections now B.1.617.2. @TWenseleers

We see familiar pattern of combination of declining B.1.1.7 epidemic with exponentially increase in B.1.617.2 infections.

read more

Sanger Institute data Growth rate advantage of B.1.617.2/Delta vs B.1.1.7/Alfa of 10.8%/day, which with generation time of 5.5 days would translate to 81% higher infectiousness @TWenseleers

Yesterday Sanger Institute data were updated, so here also some updated fits. Growth rate advantage of B.1.617.2/Delta vs B.1.1.7/Alfa of 10.8%/day, which with generation time of 5.5 days would translate to 81% higher infectiousness (due to increased transmissibility+immune esc).

read more

The Invisible Dead of COVID Colonialism @intelligencer

On the first day of June, Peru formally updated its COVID-19 death toll, nearly tripling a previous estimate and making the country not just the place in the world with the longest and strictest lockdown but also the one with the most lethal pandemic: 180,000 dead in a population of about 33 million. 

This is the equivalent of almost 2 million American deaths, and it has happened despite Peru’s closed borders, the shuttering of all nonessential businesses, and lockdowns enforced by the military in which citizens were allowed out of their homes only on alternating days of the week. 

Mask-wearing and driving without permission were policed, too. 

On Sundays last spring, no one was allowed out at all. 

A year later, the government abruptly added more than 100,000 names to a future coronavirus memorial.

Invisible deaths have been a morally disorienting feature of the pandemic from its beginning

In Peru, the dramatic revision was the result of incorporating estimates of “excess mortality” — fatalities beyond the expected level in a normal year. 

Excess deaths are not uniformly the result of COVID infection, and skeptics have argued they reflect the brutality of lockdowns more than the disease itself, but in several countries where they have been studied closely, it has been estimated that three-quarters or more were undiagnosed COVID cases. 

Data collection has been a bigger problem in poorer parts of the world than in richer ones, in general, but even in the U.S., where most experts agree that, after the initial spring surge, testing has been relatively robust, we may be undercounting coronavirus deaths by 100,000 or more. 

One recent estimate suggested we are missing as many as 300,000 American deaths.

If you are quickly doing that math in your head, what is the baseline you are adding to? The correct answer is 600,000, but the official figures long ago grew numbing for even the most informed. 

Some of those who could afford to follow the pandemic from their homes and their phones found their way to believing the disease was only as bad as the flu; others were so preoccupied by the failures of pandemic leadership they couldn’t see beyond the country’s borders to the experiences of nations elsewhere, many of them just as bad or worse. 

In India, the true death toll of the recent wave was almost certainly at least twice the official count, a recent New York Times investigation found, and possibly five times as high — enough to bring the country, once considered a pandemic success story, into line with the devastating level of Europe. 

There was some chance, the Times suggested, that the true Indian figure was ten times as high

Globally, the Economist recently calculated, the true total is likely between 7 million and 13 million dead — at least twice as bad as official figures and possibly as much as four times worse

Whatever your mental model of the lethality of the pandemic, you can probably safely double it and still find yourself underestimating by half.

Revisions of this kind suggest that the full scale of the brutality will soon come into view, as our statistics accommodate deaths once unseen or unacknowledged. 

But for Americans now breathing sighs of relief, celebrating their own vaccinations and watching national trajectories decline, the opposite is just as likely: 

They will turn more and more away from a pandemic that is now concentrated abroad, treating deaths in the global south as invisible. 

This is both understandable and grotesque, especially because, as Zeynep Tufekci has recently suggested, the deadliest phase of the pandemic may still lie ahead of us, and “it’s now entirely possible that most COVID deaths could occur after there are enough vaccines to protect those most at risk globally.” 

Tufekci’s essay was published in the Times the same week the newspaper discontinued the print section it had devoted to international coverage of the virus since April 2020. 

The following Wednesday, Brazil had its second-highest day of reported cases of the entire pandemic. 

On June 3, the World Health Organization warned of a third wave across Africa, where test positivity was rising in at least 14 countries, and where only 31 million, in a total population of 1.3 billion, had received even a single vaccine dose. 

Alarm about the Indian surge has subsided here without being replaced by concern about COVID spread elsewhere in the subcontinent. 

Over the past month, the infection rate in Nepal has been higher than in India; in the Maldives, it was often ten times as high.

For much of the past year, the crisis was concentrated in the world’s richest places, a sort of pandemic reversal of fortune that gave those privileged to live in “advanced economies” the unusual experience of social distress they imagined only occurred in developing parts of the world. 

Indeed, a widespread sense of superiority to pandemic disease was partly what produced, across the West, a fatal complacency last spring. 

But while it was possible then, in the depths of our own COVID struggle, to believe that the suffering of the global north might yield some sense of common humanity and vulnerability with the rest of the planet, the arrival of vaccines has tightened our circle of empathy. 

The pandemic may well be “over,” or close to it, from the perspective of those vaccinated in the U.S. or the U.K. But entirely turning the page on the past year amounts to a return to that unfortunate status quo ante, defined by an acceptance of even an intensified global health inequality. 

This is the coronavirus’s colonial period, in which the world’s thriving rich regard the dying of its poor with a smug indifference, when they even bother to contemplate it. 

Perhaps they even take a perverse kind of comfort from it. Thank God we’re not India, plenty of Americans found themselves muttering last month, many of them, armed with vaccine passports, planning summer trips abroad to countries where the timelines to community protection can stretch into 2023. 

Thank God for the vaccines. That we were India, not that long ago, and would be still, or worse, were it not for those vaccines, seemed to produce something less like national humility than a restored, entitled pride.

read more

Gujarat govt claimed 3,578 died in entire state because of Covid in a month (10 April to 9 May). Bhaskar's investigation reveals that 3,416 died in just Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital in that period. @Bhayankur

Gujarat govt claimed 3,578 died in entire state because of Covid in a month (10 April to 9 May).

Bhaskar's investigation calls out the lie and reveals that 3,416 died in just Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital in that period.

read more

The murky origins of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of the COVID-19 pandemic P. Balaram National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru

‘...whenever a new and startling fact is brought to light in science, people first say, “it is not true,” then that “it is contrary to religion,” and lastly, “that every- body knew it before.” ’– Louis Aggassiz

‘I suppose the process of acceptance will pass through the usual four stages: 1. This is worthless nonsense, 2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view, 3. This is true, but quite unimportant, 4. I always said so.’ – J. B. S. Haldane

The coronavirus with its spherical surface decorated with innumerable spikes may well become the defining image of our times. No image produced by scientists has ever before been so readily recognized by millions and possibly billions of people around the world. 

The ability of an invisible particle of about 100 nm diameter to bring the world to its knees reminds us that nature can trump the dominant forces that govern the world today, politics and religion

Where did this fearsome pathogen emerge from in late December 2019? Virologists readily accepted the conventional explanation of zoonotic transfer, where animal reservoirs of pathogenic viruses, bats being the usual culprits, occasionally breach species barriers by jumping to intermediate hosts before infecting humans. 

In previous coronaviral outbreaks, 2003 (SARS1) and 2007 (MERS), the intermediate hosts had been identified, civets in the former and camels in the latter. 

In early 2020, when scientists by the hundreds turned their focus to coronaviruses, the Wuhan wet market in China, with its collection of esoteric live animals, appeared the place to look for the intermediate animal hosts. 

None has been found so far. 

A way out to explain this failure is to argue that this was a direct case of transmission from bats to humans, although it remains a conjecture with no evidence. 

An even more unlikely explanation is that the virus appeared through a contaminated cold food chain. 

Finally, there is the possibility (however improbable) that the virus was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory and an accident, not uncommon even in high safety laboratories, allowed direct human infection and subsequent human–human transmission. 

This last scenario was, of course, the favourite amongst those fond of conspiracy theories, most notably the former US President Donald Trump, who famously and publicly christened the SARS-CoV-2 as the ‘Chinese virus’. 

Even a joint G-7 statement was scrapped when its members refused to endorse the term ‘Wuhan virus’. 

The American scientific establishment predictably closed ranks and high profile groups of scientists published letters in major journals arguing that the virus was clearly the handiwork of nature, through the glacially slow processes of evolution by random mutational processes and natural selection

Both evolutionary processes and laboratory genetic manipulation can leave subtle imprints on the sequences of proteins involved in mediating the transition of a bat virus into a virulent human pathogen. 

Early on in the pandemic in March–April 2020 scientists of little repute, but connoisseurs of sequences, began to point out that the sequence of the SARS-CoV- 2 glycoprotein may hold the key to the mystery of the remarkable virulence of the causative agent of COVID-19

This commentary makes no effort to examine the vast literature on SARS-CoV-2 but is stimulated by the sudden spurt of interest in the American scientific community, which resulted in a second letter to Science, 14 May 2021, which notes

‘We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data. A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven’ (doi:10.1126/science.abj0016)

Curiously, these authors, even while citing CNN, make no reference to 

an earlier letter in The Lancet that appeared in February 2020, which was emphatic in its dismissal of ‘conspiracy theories’, by citing high scientific authorities: ‘......sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID- 19 does not have a natural origin.

Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens. 

This is further supported by a letter from the presidents of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and by the scientific communities they represent. 

Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus. 

We support the call from the Director- General of WHO to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture’ (https://wwwthelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/ PIIS0140-6736(20)30418-9/fulltext). 

The cast of authors in this letter bears careful scrutiny. Their contributions in reopening discussions, sponsored by the US National Academies on dangerous ‘gain of function’ researches, which led to the US National Institutes of Health, lifting an earlier ban on funding for such research, merit attention. 

It is specific undisclosed conflicts of interest of one of the authors, now reputed to be the motivating force behind the letter, which has resulted in the current exploding interest in the possible laboratory origins of the SARS- CoV-2 virus. 

A second letter in April 2020 by other prominent researchers in Nature Medicine weighed in decisively: ‘Our analyses clearly show that SARS- CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus’ (https:// doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9). 

A careful reading of the evidence, marshalled by these authors, favouring natural evolution of the virus, suggests that they were overstating their case. 

A year ago the scientific establishment in the US, which invariably dominates scientific discourse, seemed to be united in its views, a clear example of the scientific orthodoxy closing ranks in the face of new and unusual observations beginning to emerge from inspections of the SARS- CoV-2 genome and more specifically, the unusual features of the spike protein amino acid sequence

What triggered the early Internet conspiracy theories, some of which were apparently postings based on sequence analysis, and what is responsible for the remarkable volte-face by the scientific establishment in the US?

Early rumblings: the end of the beginning

One of the early credible signs that all may not be well with the natural origins hypothesis came from a posting on bioRxiv, the open access repository for biology, by a postdoctoral researcher from the Broad Institute at Harvard-MIT, USA, Alina Chan, who raised substantive concerns. 

These were, of course, quickly criticized by prominent scientists, including Peter Daszak of the EcoHealth Foundation, USA, whose association with the Wuhan Institute of Virology was not publicly known at that time. 

A Boston Magazine article in September 2020, provides a fascinating account of a young, female researcher raising uncomfortable questions, that are magisterially dismissed by senior established researchers (https://www.boston- magazine.com/news/2020/09/09/alina-chan- broad-institute-coronavirus/). 

Chan then retreated to the safer and apparently more democratic medium, of Twitter, describing herself as a ‘scientist turned detective’. 

Her tweetorials, which make interesting reading, as she worked tirelessly to dismantle the increasingly flimsy arguments in favour of zoonotic transfer, are based on sequences reported from Wuhan (https://twitter.com/ayjchan/ status/1391753059504738308). 

The formidable scientific establishment exerts far greater control over the most prestigious scientific journals than commonly imagined. 

Heretics are easily banished from sight, consigned to the dark corners of the internet, the modern equivalent of the stake on which Giordano Bruno was burnt. 

The wheel appears to have turned the full circle. Chan is now a co-author of the latest letter to Science, which argues that the laboratory origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus must be taken seriously. 

She is in the midst of a distinguished group of authors, all leaders in their fields, from the best of institutions. 

If there is a lesson here for senior, established scientists it is this: It is always advisable to listen carefully to younger and committed colleagues, who are often more familiar with the mind-numbing details of analysing data, than those who work at higher levels of the scientific stratosphere. 

The wall of resistance truly crumbled with the appearance of the deeply investigated article by Nicholas Wade, a veteran of science journalism, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. 

Wade’s highly readable and detailed account sets the cat among the pigeons with a telling commentary on the consequences of ‘virologists omerta’ and the fact that ‘science reporters, unlike political reporters, have little innate skepticism of their sources’ motives; most see their role largely as purveying the wisdom of scientists to the unwashed masses. So when their sources won’t help, these journalists are at a loss’. 

One quotation from Wade’s article merits reproduction: ‘ “When I first saw the furin cleavage site in the viral sequence, with its arginine codons, I said to my wife it was the smoking gun for the origin of the virus,” said David Baltimore, an eminent viro- logist and former president of CalTech. “

These features make a powerful challenge to the idea of a natural origin for SARS2,” he said’ (https://thebulletin. org/2021/05/the-origin-of-coviddid-people- or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/). 

Baltimore, the 1975 Nobel laureate, one of the high priests of molecular biology and the co-discoverer of the enzyme reverse transcriptase, central to the RT- PCR diagnostic for SARS-CoV-2, is not a voice to be easily dismissed. One can only wonder, why did he not voice his suspicions earlier.

On the trail of Baltimore’s smoking gun

‘What one man can invent another can discover.’ – Arthur Conan Doyle,

 The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The principal actor in the hypothetical drama of the laboratory engineered virus is the protein that constitutes the spiky projections on the pathogen surface, the spike glycoprotein or more simply, the spike protein (Figure 1). 

The immunologist Peter Medawar in his dictionary of biology, From Aristotle to Zoos, defined a virus, with an anonymous quote, as ‘a piece of bad news wrapped up in a protein’. 

The bad news is, of course, the genetic material, ribonucleic acid (RNA), in the case of coronaviruses that needs to be delivered to the interior of a human cell (in the case of SARS-CoV-2). 

Viruses which inhabit the shadowy no-man’s land between chemistry and biology, are quintessential parasites that subvert the biochemical machinery of a host cell in order to reproduce. 

It is the spike protein (Figure 1) that guides the virus to a specific receptor protein site (the angioten- sin-converting enzyme, ACE 2) on the surface membrane of human host cells. 

Docking to a host cell is necessary, but insufficient to gain entry. Another step which involves the mediation of a host cell enzyme, furin, is needed to break the spike protein, approximately at its centre, to set in motion a complex set of events that lead to membrane fusion and viral entry

Furin, a protease, is an enzyme that breaks specific peptide bonds, that link the over 1200 amino acids together in the long polymeric backbone of the spike protein

This biochemical scissor then cleaves the long spike protein into two segments in preparation for viral entry. 

This is a key step in infection; the more efficient the cleavage, the more effectively will the virus breach the protective barriers of its reluctant host. 

The genome sequence and by extension the spike protein sequence of the SARS- CoV-2 virus isolated from a patient, was made available from the Wuhan laboratory in January 2020. 

Almost immediately, an unusual feature became visible. The new virus contained a furin cleavage site that appeared almost optimal for furin cleavage, clearly different from the sequence of the earlier SARS-CoV-1 virus, which caused the 2003 disease outbreak. 

Where did this new feature emerge from? There was certainly a dramatic ‘gain of function’, an enhanced ability to infect that became evident as the pandemic exploded worldwide. 

Could the often obscure and slow processes of evolutionary change be responsible for the emergence of this new and most virulent pathogen? Or is a human hand visible in the fashioning of the virus? 

On the surface, these are not easy questions to answer, even by those steeped in virology and genome sequence analysis, with the limited data publicly available. 

But the smoking gun may still be found, hidden in the sequences of the spike proteins from bats and humans. 

Figure 2 shows a comparison of the furin cleavage site sequences

Figure 1. Image of the coronavirus (CDC, Atlanta, USA) with expansion of the trimeric spike, highlighting one protein molecule. (far right) atomic level structure of the protruding part of the trimeric spike protein, with an expanded view of the long projecting loop harbouring the furin cleavage site. 

The furin site is missing, presumably disordered (green loop), in the determined structure (Protein Data Bank Code:6VXX)

Figure 2. Comparison of the spike protein segment containing the furin cleavage site across viruses specific for bat and human hosts. The top two rows are bat sequences. The middle three are the agents of severe human disease. 

The last four rows are sequences from the coronaviruses generally causing relatively mild respiratory infections. 

The blue coloured rows highlight the identity of the segments flanking the furin cleavage site in the virus responsible for COVID-19 and a bat virus. 

Residues conserved at the furin cleavage site (690–695) are highlighted in yellow. 

The NCBI accession numbers for the sequences are indicated in parentheses.

of bat coronaviruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2, the three infectious coronaviruses which have caused disease in the 21st century and the much less dangerous coronaviruses, isolated from humans suffering from relatively mild respiratory infections. 

Interestingly, the sequences of the bat RaTG13 and the current pathogen, SARS-CoV-2 are practically identical across a length of over 1200 letters (amino acids), with the offending PRRAR segment sticking out like a sore thumb. 

The question forbidden by the scientific establishment throughout 2020, was whether this bait for attracting furin cleavage was deliberately engineered into a bat template, thereby ‘humanizing’ the bat virus. 

Experiments using ‘humanized’ mouse models, where the mouse now carries an engineered human ACE receptor, thus permitting infection by a virus specific for human host, have been done. 

It is then a small step to test the effects of engineering a new cleavage site and thus produce more ‘infectious’ viruses. 

It is such ‘gain of function’ experiments that have been so widely debated in the United States, leading to even the lifting of a ban on funding for such experiments.

How would one design a better furin site to enhance human infection by a bat virus? The clues may lie in Figure 2.

The relatively mild coronaviruses isolated from humans decades ago, 

Dorothy Hamre’s original isolate 229E (https:// science.thewire.in/the-sciences/finding- dorothy-hamre-the-first-person-to-iso- late-a-strain-of-a-coronavirus/) and NL- 63 contain the doublet sequence PR. 

The other two previously studied human pathogens contain the more highly basic segments RRKRR (HKU1) and RRSRG (OC43). Is the furin site absolutely necessary for viral infectivity? 

No. Alternative cleavage pathways, much less efficient than furin, can substitute and promote, albeit poorly, virus entry into the host cell. Furin does the job much better. 

Furin homes in on the basic segments rich in the residue arginine (R). This inviting cleavage site projects outwards as a long unstructured loop, hanging out as a bait to attract furin. 

Indeed, in the crystal structure of SARS-CoV-2 (Figure 1), this magnet for the protease furin is invisible, disordered and disobeys the dictates of local symmetry. 

What has been outlined above is a ‘thought experiment’, creating a possible obvious rationale for choosing a PRRAR segment for insertion into a bat sequence, in order to ‘humanize’ it. 

Such manipulations must, of course, be done at the level of the gene by altering the sequences of nucleotides, a process

Figure 3. Codons used for the furin cleavage site in SARS-CoV-2.

which has often captivated the public imagination, loosely described as ‘genetic engineering’. 

It is there that we must search for Baltimore’s ‘smoking gun’. 

Figure 3 shows the sequence of the nucleic acid bases corresponding to the PRRAR segment of SARS-CoV-2.

The RR amino acid sequence is coded by the triplet codons cggcgg. For the uninitiated, three letters of the nucleic acid alphabet (which contains only 4 letters) translate into single letters of the protein alphabet (which contains 20 letters). 

Arginine (R) is coded for by as many as six triplet codons. The frequency of occurrence (%) of these codons across the eight natural viruses in Figure 2 (omit- ting SARS-CoV-2) is: agg16.1, aga30.6, cga6.6, cgt32.8, cgg3.5, cgc10.4. 

It is clear that the most infrequent codon used in nature is cgg. Yet this is found to code for the contiguous RR segment in the causative agent of the ongoing pandemic. Is this Baltimore’s smoking gun? 

If it is then the barrel appears hot enough to singe the hand. Even as this commentary is being written, an article authored by groups at the Imperial College, London and the University of Sheffield has appeared with the provocative title, 

‘The SARS-CoV-2 variants associated with infections in India, B.1.617, show enhanced spike cleavage by furin’ (https:// doi.org/10.1101/2021.05.28.446163). 

The variant B.1.617, now widely spread in India and elsewhere, carries a single mutation at the furin cleavage site. 

The PRRAR bait for furin is now mutated to RRRAR, a mutational change that requires only a flip of a single letter in the coding triplets. 

Whatever be the origin of the furin site, deliberate design or an accident of biology, random mutations by successive passages through human hosts, followed by natural selection for the phenotype of enhanced cleavage, may have indeed been at play. 

The article goes on to use small peptide substrates mimicking the viral cleavage sites to argue that this single mutation may indeed contribute substantially to transmissibility of the new viral strain. 

If this scenario is indeed true, then nature can quickly improve on human constructs given the rapid viral replication time scales. 

For the mutant watchers inspecting the growing database of SARS-CoV-2 sequences, this raises the issue of which site is likely to enhance viral infectivity as a consequence of mutation, spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) or the furin cleavage site.

Aficionados of biomolecular recognition will recognize that the step of virus binding to its host-membrane receptor, is determined by the physics of inter- atomic interactions, non-covalent in nature, a process determined by diffusion and collision. 

The cleavage step goes beyond recognition of the cleavage site on the spike protein by the enzyme furin. This step necessarily requires chemistry to break covalent bonds. Loosely, physics is faster than chemistry. 

One would imagine that speeding up the slower step, ‘rate determining’ in the parlance of chemistry, would be an effective approach to enhancing viral entry into cells.

The beginning of the end

‘Survival ... is an infinite capacity for suspicion.’ – George Smiley in John Le Carre’s Tinker, Soldier, Tailor, Spy

More flags have been raised on the sequence data on bat coronaviruses deposited by the Wuhan laboratory. 

The abstract of a very recent analysis (A re- constructed historical Aetiology of the SARS coronavirus-2 spike by B. Soren- sen et al., slated to appear in the Quar- terly Review of Biophysics Discovery), concludes: 

‘Henceforth, those who maintain the zoonotic transfer hypothesis need to explain precisely why our simpler model of laboratory manipulation is wrong, before asserting that their evidence is persuasive’ 

(https://www.daily- mail.co.uk/news/article-9629563/Chinese- scientists-created-COVID-19-lab-tried- cover-tracks-new-study-claims.html). The various hypotheses to explain the origins of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 still lack definitive evidence to establish their veracity beyond doubt. That evidence is unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future, hidden as it is (or even destroyed) behind the impenetrable wall of secrecy that surrounds coronavirus research in China. However, it is becoming increasingly likely that the gain of function research on pathogenic viruses, so vigorously defended in the US by influential sections of the scientific establishment, may have contributed significantly to Chinese efforts in this area. 

Thus far, the major scientific journals, which act as gatekeepers for the credibility of the scientific literature have refrained from weighing in on the controversy surrounding the origins of the coronavirus. 

Their own credibility has been strained by their uncritical publication of correspondence last year, declaring that a natural origin for the virus was almost a foregone conclusion. 

Has a ‘prima facie’ case, a phrase beloved by our hyperactive inves- tigative agencies, been established for the laboratory origin of the coronavirus? 

Sifting through the available evidence should challenge the best of science detectives, but we might well remember the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes: ‘... when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’

Note added in proof: In this fast-moving detective story some of the key clues have been unearthed by those who work in the shadows of high-profile science. 

Readers may like to see the following: Rahalkar, M. C. and Bahulikar, R. C., Front. Public Health, 20 October 2020, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.581569

a team of largely anonymous internet detectives https://drasticresearch.org/ 

and those who marshal data, but whose ana-yses are consigned to what are dismissively termed as ‘low impact’ journals, Segreto, R. et al., Environmental Chemistry Letters, https://doi.org/10.1007/ s10311-021-01211-0.

P. Balaram is at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru 560 065, India.

e-mail: pb@iisc.ac.in

read more

01-MAR-2020 :: The Origin of the #CoronaVirus #COVID19

What is clear is that the #COVID19 was bio-engineered The Science [and I am not a Scientist is irrefutable and in the public domain  for those with a modicum of intellectual interest. 

This information is being deliberately suppressed.

This took me to Thomas Pynchon

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.”

“There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of the things they aren't telling us.”

 Now Why are we being led away from this irrefutable Truth

read more

13-JUL-2020 :: Year of the Virus

I am convinced that the only ‘’zoonotic’’ origin was one that was accelerated in the Laboratory.

There is also a non negligible possibility that #COVID19 was deliberately released – 

read more

04-JAN-2021 :: What Will Happen In 2021

Today only the Paid for Propagandists and Virologists and WHO will argue that there is a ''zoonotic'' origin for COVID19. 

It is remarkable that the Propaganda is still being propagated more than a year later. 

Those who have chosen to propagate this narrative are above the radar and in plain sight and need to be called to account. 

The Utter Failure to call these 5th columnists to Account is the clearest Signal that there is no external threat because it is already on the inside.

read more

09-MAY-2021 The Markets The Lotos-eaters
World Of Finance

"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land, "This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."

On 8th March when the Bears had gotten hold of the US 10 Year, I wrote that I expected the 10 Year to target 1.45% well we got real close on Friday before the market reversed 

Ten- year yields initially plunged to a more than two-month low of 1.46%, then reversed to end the day at 1.58%. However, I am resetting my target Yield to 1.25% now.

Given the volume of money Printing and the extraordinary stimulus I have to say that the US Recovery is actually really weak and I believe it will be very short lived and the Penny will drop soon with the Bond Market and the Shorts will be forced to cover.

The Consensus View appears to be that the Global economy is going to accelerate big time and that its going to BOOM! 

I beg to differ

Furthermore The Central Banks are in a corner. 

They have fired a lot of bullets and even if there was a meaningful bounce they cannot raise rates.

Here is why central banks are trapped and cannot raise rates even if inflation rises: @dlacalle_IA Feb 2 

read more

Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.2180

Dollar Index 90.078

Japan Yen 109.474

Swiss Franc 0.8963

Pound 1.4155

Aussie 0.7743

India Rupee 73.004

South Korea Won 1115.45

Brazil Real 5.037

Egypt Pound 15.67

South Africa Rand 13.5777

read more

08-FEB-2021 :: The Markets Are Wilding
World Currencies

@elonmusk I am become meme, Destroyer of shorts

Mr. Musk can pump [and dump] just about anything with a tweet. he has superpowers.

And on February 4 He tested that hypothesis

No highs, no lows, only Doge @elonmusk Feb 4 

Dogecoin is the people’s crypto @elonmusk Feb 4

read more

MicroStrategy Is Selling Corporate Bonds to Buy Bitcoin
World Of Finance

MicroStrategy Inc. is borrowing $400 million to buy more Bitcoin while also writing down the value of its existing holdings. 

It’s the first-ever junk bond sale used for financing purchases of the volatile cryptocurrency.

The Tysons Corner, Virginia-based enterprise software company said in a filing Monday that the senior secured notes will be available to qualified institutional buyers. 

The private placement is $23 million higher than the company’s entire operating cash flow since 2016, according to Bloomberg data. 

MicroStrategy, in a separate filing, said that it’s taking a roughly $284.5 million charge during its next earnings report thanks to losses related to fluctuations in the price of the digital asset. That amounts to more than its cumulative earnings since 2011.

MicroStrategy has, with Michael Saylor at its helm, emerged as one of the most bullish public companies on cryptocurrencies. 

It has already issued convertible bonds worth around $1 billion in its quest to scoop up more of the coins, though this is the first-ever corporate bond sale with proceeds earmarked for such purchases. 

Saylor’s focus on Bitcoin, including making it an official corporate strategy, has drawn the ire of critics.

“The $400 million in debt isn’t being used to fund an acquisition or growth. It’s being used to speculate on a volatile asset,” said Marc Lichtenfeld, chief income strategist at the Oxford Club. 

“Does MicroStrategy even have a business anymore or is it simply a proxy for Bitcoin -- with borrowed money?”

The notes will mature in seven years and can’t be bought back for three. Jefferies Financial Group Inc. is the sole bookrunner on the deal, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the details are private.

MicroStrategy is in early pricing discussions with investors for a yield between 6.25% and 6.5% on its debut junk-bond sale, according to separate people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the transaction is private.

By comparison, the average junk bond yields 4.01%, according to Bloomberg Barclays index data.

read more

Timelines of *reported* COVID-19 deaths in Africa @Marco_Piani

Tunisia and South Africa are the two countries officially with the highest toll (per capita), and Tunisia is still experiencing a significant number of deaths

Most other countries exhibit numbers that are suspiciously low...

read more

.@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance 
now has a Nobel Prize Winner whom I am reliably informed

PM Abiy His inner war cabinet includes Evangelicals who are counseling him he is "doing Christ's work"; that his faith is being "tested". @RAbdiAnalyst

@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

read more

Exports of coffee, once the leading export commodity, totaled $255m in first half of FY21, representing 20% of the value of exported gold. @RichardHumphri1

And: traditional agri export commodities (maize, sugar, cotton, tobacco) replaced by cocoa beans, fruits, vegies, base metal products, cement

read more

Meanwhile, the former president and apparent dictator wannabe is praising Nigeria’s president for banning @Twitter @AndrewFeinberg

Meanwhile, the former president and apparent dictator wannabe is praising Nigeria’s president for banning @Twitter and suggesting that he should have tried doing so when he was in office. He also appears to think Mark Zuckerberg runs Twitter.

read more

Highlights from KCB's [@KCBGroup] CEO, Joshua Oigara with @The_EastAfrican: @MwangoCapital
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment

1. On the bank's Q1 2021 results:

"It is a difficult start for the year for us but we already have our plans on how to deliver our ambitions for the full year…Our focus for the full year remains."

read more

The biggest challenge was the Kenyan business. Joshua Oigara @The_EastAfrican
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment

Today, the contribution of the subsidiaries to the group’s total profit for the first quarter is 17 percent 

It is a 28 percent growth year-on-year and that is even before we bring in the acquisition in Rwanda and the acquisition in Tanzania. 

All our businesses in Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda are performing much stronger than they were last year.

read more

by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
Login / Register

Forgot your password? Register Now
June 2021

In order to post a comment we require you to be logged in after registering with us and create an online profile.