Bat Viruses? Puppy Experiments? Fact-Checking Critics’ Latest Claims About Dr. Fauci.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing a storm of new conservative-led criticism that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — which he’s led for decades — funded everything from risky coronavirus research in China to unnecessary experiments on dogs; here, we break down the outrageous and not-so-outrageous new claims, and the evidence supporting them.

Key Facts

Claim: House Republicans claim a letter sent to them by the National Institutes of Health last week “confirmed” a 2018-2019 study in the Chinese city of Wuhan involved gain-of-function research, a contentious method of studying viruses by enhancing them — despite denials from Fauci that the NIH funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.

Context: The NIH letter said mice unexpectedly “became sicker” during an experiment in Wuhan involving bat coronaviruses whose spike proteins were replaced — but it didn’t mention gain-of-function research, and Fauci and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins argued last week the study didn’t meet the definition of gain-of-function, though several experts still told the New York Times and The Intercept this kind of research is risky.

Claim: Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) told Fox News last week the NIH letter “proves all along that this virus was started in the Wuhan lab,” tying it to months of insinuations from Republicans that Covid-19 began after a virus leaked from a lab.

Context: These bat viruses “could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic” because they’re too genetically distinct, the NIH says, an argument seconded by many scientists and the EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit recipient of the Wuhan NIH grant.

Claim: Separately, in recent weeks, lawmakers like Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) have chastised NIAID for funding “barbaric and gruesome” experiments on dogs, including studies allegedly exposing dogs to insects, cutting their vocal cords or euthanizing them.

Context: NIAID defended its dog experiments in a statement: It said researchers need to follow federal guidelines on humane treatment of animals, and dogs are sometimes given vocal cordectomies “humanely under anesthesia” to cut down on hazardous noise.

Claim: News outlets and advocates have spread photos of beagles from Tunisia whose heads were put in mesh cages filled with flies, part of a parasitic disease study that initially cited NIH funding when it was published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Context: NIAID told Forbes it actually “did not support this specific research,” and PLOS spokesperson David Knutson says the journal is issuing a correction to clarify the study’s funding was “erroneously attributed to the US National Institutes of Health.”

Chief Critic

Fauci has served as the director of NIAID — part of the NIH — since 1984, but he earned mainstream fame after Covid-19 emerged, and his support for public health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing has driven criticism from conservatives. In recent months, he’s also clashed with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) over the NIH’s ties to bat virus research in Wuhan. Most notably, during an explosive July hearing, Paul accused Fauci of lying about whether this work involved gain-of-function methods, and Fauci insisted the NIH hasn’t funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.

Key Background

Gain-of-function research is ill-defined, and opinions on the practice vary widely. Some scientists view it as a useful way of predicting viruses’ future trajectory, but critics warn modifying viruses could pose a biosafety risk. The NIH paused gain-of-function studies for certain viruses in 2014, and three years later, it reopened this research but added extra scrutiny for any experiments that could enhance pathogens’ effectiveness against humans. However, the Wuhan research — which studied various coronaviruses — wasn’t subject to these additional rules because the bat viruses under study weren’t known to infect people, the NIH claimed in last week’s letter to Republicans on the House Oversight Committee.

Surprising Fact

The NIH’s letter to Republicans also said EcoHealth Alliance was required to report any growth in disease for its experiment beyond a certain threshold, but it “failed to report this finding right away.” NIH’s leader Collins told the Washington Post the group “messed up here,” though its findings weren’t necessarily dire. But EcoHealth spokesperson Robert Kessler told Forbes it believes these claims were a “misconception about the grant’s reporting requirements,” saying the group reported the data in question to the NIH in 2018.

What We Don’t Know

Some of this acrimony is tied to uncertainty about the pandemic’s origin. Fauci and many experts think the virus most likely jumped from animals to humans naturally and argue there’s insufficient evidence to suggest the virus escaped from a laboratory, but other scientists say an accidental leak from a lab is still a plausible theory, and Fauci and the Biden administration say they haven’t ruled out this possibility yet.

Still, even if the virus leaked from a lab, the NIH says the viruses studied in the Wuhan lab with EcoHealth Alliance’s participation were “very far distant from SARS-CoV-2,” the virus linked to Covid-19. Likewise, Kessler said none of those viruses “bear a close enough resemblance to the virus that causes COVID-19 to have played any role in its emergence.” And in his July exchange with Fauci, Paul said he isn’t necessarily alleging the NIH’s research specifically caused Covid-19.

Tangent

Some conservative pundits tied their anger over NIH-funded dog research to broader complaints about Fauci, but dog experiments have been controversial for years. NIAID says its rules around animal testing aim to “ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their welfare,” and argues this research is useful. One study blasted by activists used dogs as an “appropriate model” to test a vaccine for a brutal mosquito-borne parasite, NIAID told Forbes, and another study in Tunisia — which it said is separate from the experiment that placed dogs’ heads in cages — investigated a vaccine for a common parasite by letting dogs roam in an “enclosed open space” during sandfly season.

However, advocates cast this research as cruel and unnecessary. Justin Goodman from the White Coat Waste Project, an anti-animal experimentation group often critical of Fauci, told Forbes in a statement the group’s concerns are “not about photos in Tunisia — or any one beagle lab. It’s about Dr. Fauci’s widespread and long pattern of wasteful and punishing puppy abuse.”

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I am a breaking news reporter at Forbes. I previously covered local news for the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts University in 2019. You can contact me at jwalsh@forbes.com or on Twitter at @joewalshiv

Source: Bat Viruses? Puppy Experiments? Fact-Checking Critics’ Latest Claims About Dr. Fauci.

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New SEC Boss Wants More Crypto Oversight to Protect Investors

It’s become a parlor game in Washington, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley to figure out where U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler stands on cryptocurrencies. Industry lobbyists tune in when he testifies before Congress. Lawyers parse his speeches. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wealth advisers recently boasted in a research report about looking for clues in 29 hours of the Blockchain and Money course he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That’s an arduous but perhaps not novel undertaking, since videos of the classes have garnered millions of views online, something that amazes even Gensler. In his first extensive interview about the digital money craze, Gensler signaled that his deep interest in the subject doesn’t mean he’s simpatico with the hands-off oversight approach that many enthusiasts would like to see.

Policymakers have struggled with how to respond to the mostly unregulated $1.6 trillion market, which has seen explosive growth and wild price swings. Gensler is contemplating a robust oversight regime, centered on establishing safeguards for the millions of investors who’ve been stocking their portfolios with tokens. “While I’m neutral on the technology, even intrigued—I spent three years teaching it, leaning into it—I’m not neutral about investor protection,” says Gensler, who on Tuesday will give a speech about crypto at the Aspen Security Forum.

“If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud.” Gensler has asked Congress to pass a law that could give the agency the legal authority to monitor crypto exchanges, but he says the SEC’s powers are already broad. There’s been much discussion over the years about which kinds of digital assets fall under the SEC’s purview.

Some such as Bitcoin that act like currencies are considered commodities, not securities. But there are thousands of other coins, and Gensler believes most are unregistered securities that must comply with SEC rules. Broadly he noted that technology has sparked economic progress throughout human history, and he sees a similar boost from digital assets. That may only come, however, with strong and thoughtful regulation.

As an analogy, he says the automobile industry didn’t fully take off until governments laid out driving rules. Speed limits and traffic lights provided public safety but also helped cars become mainstream. “It’s only with bringing things inside—and sort of clearly within our public policy goals—that a technology has a chance of broader adoption,” he says.

Hester Peirce, a Republican commissioner on the SEC known for her advocacy of light-touch regulation of digital assets, says she’s eager to work with Gensler. “A lot people just want more clarity,” she says. “I come from a perspective that people should have the maximum freedom to engage in transactions they want to engage in voluntarily. Society needs to have that discussion about what is the right regulatory framework.”

Gensler didn’t give a timeline for any SEC action. He has a to-do list that includes 49 non-crypto policy reviews that could slow progress on cryptocurrencies. Many are high-profile and time-consuming efforts, like responding to the GameStop Corp. trading frenzy and the blow-up of the Archegos family office. The SEC is also working to impose new rules that would require companies to disclose carbon emissions and other environmental risks, a Biden administration priority.

Nor would Gensler comment on the potential for approving a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, a decision that many in the crypto world are eagerly awaiting, because it would provide an easy on-ramp for investors. A Bitcoin ETF would invest in the cryptocurrency and then trade its shares on the stock market. So far the SEC has balked at permitting such funds, citing concerns about the risk of fraud and manipulation in the Bitcoin market.

Gensler has spoken positively about the ETFs during his days at MIT, giving advocates hope that he’s a supporter. Peirce says it’s “high time” the SEC approved a crypto ETF. Behind the scenes, Gensler has pushed the agency’s staff members to take a look at an array of potential policy changes. He says there are at least seven SEC initiatives looking at different crypto issues: initial coin offerings, trading venues, lending platforms, decentralized finance, stable value coins, custody, and ETFs and other coin funds. “I’ve asked the staff to use all of our authorities anywhere we can,” he says.

Gensler says he thinks regulating crypto exchanges is perhaps the easiest way for the government to get a quick handle on digital token trading. But he’s also concerned about new ways people are getting into crypto, such as peer-to-peer lending on so-called decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms. If firms are advertising a specific interest-rate return on a crypto asset, Gensler says, that could bring the loans under SEC oversight. Platforms that pool digital assets could be seen as akin to mutual funds, potentially allowing the SEC to regulate them.

Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during the Obama administration, where he was responsible for bringing federal oversight to the huge market for derivatives known as swaps after the financial crisis. Patrick McCarty, who teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Georgetown University’s law school, says Gensler’s understanding of digital assets means he will give the industry a “fair hearing,” though he will likely disappoint many proponents.

“When the crypto people say they want legal certainty, they don’t mean that—they want to be unregulated,” McCarty says. “That’s never been Gary’s point of view.” Christine Trent Parker, who focuses on crypto assets as a law partner at Reed Smith in New York, says that although new SEC rules would bring more certainty to the industry, they also could divide the policing of the market more starkly—with the CFTC focused on markets linked to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and the SEC handling much of the rest.

“Right now the lines are fuzzy because we have speeches and enforcement and court orders,” instead of bright-line regulation, she says. “If the SEC has sort of a broad framework that pulls in all of the other digital assets, then you have this bifurcated marketplace.” Others have argued that new token developers need some regulatory flexibility to encourage innovation.

Gensler also sits on the Treasury-led Financial Stability Oversight Council and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which recently held a meeting on the impact of stablecoins. These are crypto tokens that are supposed to be backed by traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, and they’ve become a huge part of the crypto trading system. Regulators worry about what could happen if some stablecoin didn’t turn out to be worth what it was supposed to be—prompting an exodus akin to a run on a bank or a money-market fund.

Gensler’s views on the panels carry weight, people who follow the issue note, because unlike, say, the Treasury secretary or Federal Reserve chairman, he has real crypto cred. His understanding of blockchain and digital assets comes largely from the several years he spent at MIT. Along with creating the cryptocurrency course, he’s been a frequent guest at industry conferences—sometimes speaking 30 to 50 times a year—mixing with deep thinkers and entrepreneurs.

He quotes writings of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, from memory and knew some of the core developers of the digital currency. The 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs partner traveled an unlikely path to becoming one of the government’s foremost cryptocurrency experts. It started in 2017, when as chief financial officer of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign he had the lonely job of closing up shop, paying off the final bills, and deciding what to do with the abandoned computers and office supplies.

Like many of his shell-shocked former colleagues, Gensler was looking for something to do—and somewhere to sit out Donald Trump’s presidency. The answer came from economist Simon Johnson, an MIT professor who encouraged Gensler to come to Cambridge, Mass., and teach. Looking to nurture a long-held interest in the intersection of technology and finance, Gensler jumped at the opportunity.

Although he didn’t know much about digital tokens, he connected with people who were part of the university’s burgeoning Digital Currency Initiative and even audited a course in crypto programming. When he suggested MIT teach more about finance and digital money, he was given the job. Little did he know that in a few years he’d have a chance to put his academic studies to real-world use. “Life sometimes is a bit of serendipity,’’ he says.

By: Robert Schmidt

Source: Will Government Regulate Crypto? SEC Chair Gary Gensler on Bitcoin and Oversight – Bloomberg

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Netflix And Boeing Among Today’s Trending Stocks

According to a report from the Washington Post dropped June 12, 1-year inflation is up 5%, while 2-year inflation sits around 5.6%. This has impacted everything from raw materials like lumber and glass to manufactured products. Used cars are up 29.7% in the last year, while gas has shot up over 56%, and washing machines and dryers sit up around 26.5%.

This comes as the global microchip shortage compounds retailers’ problems as they struggle to automate their supply chains. And while the economy (and the stock market) is certainly rebounding from covid-era recession pressures, consumers are stuck footing high-priced bills as both demand and the cost of materials continue to rise. Still, the Fed maintains that prices should stabilize soon – though “soon” may mean anywhere from 18-24 months, according to consulting firm Kearney.

Until then, investors will have to weigh their worries about inflation on the equities and bonds markets against the growing economy to decide which investments have potential – and which will see their returns gouged by rising prices across the board. To that end, we present you with Q.ai’s top trending picks heading into the new week.

Q.ai runs daily factor models to get the most up-to-date reading on stocks and ETFs. Our deep-learning algorithms use Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to provide an in-depth, intelligence-based look at a company – so you don’t have to do the digging yourself.

Netflix, Inc (NFLX)

First up on our trending list is Netflix, Inc, which closed at $488.77 per share Friday. This represented an increase of 0.31% for the day, though it brought the streaming giant to down 9.6% for the year. The company has experienced continual losses for the past few weeks, with Friday ending below the 22-day price average of $494 and change. Currently, Netflix is trading at 47.1x forward earnings.

Netflix, Inc. trended in the latter half of last week as the company opened a new e-commerce site for branded merchandise. Currently, the store’s offerings are limited to a few popular Netflix tv shows, but the company hopes to increase its branded merchandise branded to shows such as Lupin, Yasuke, Stranger Things, and more in the coming months. With this latest move, the company hopes to expand its revenue channels and compete more directly with competitors such as Disney+.

In the last fiscal year, Netflix saw revenue growth of 5.6% to $25 billion compared to $15.8 billion three years ago. At the same time, operating income jumped 21.8% to $4.585 billion from $1.6 billion three years ago. And per-share earnings jumped almost 36% to $6.08 compared to $2.68 in the 36-month-ago period, while ROE rose to 29.6%.

Currently, Netflix is expected to see 12-month revenue around 3.33%. Our AI rates the streaming behemoth A in Growth, B in Quality Value and Low Volatility Momentum, and D in Technicals.

The Boeing Company (BA)

The Boeing Company closed down 0.43% Friday to $247.28, trending at 9.93 million trades on the day. Boeing has fallen somewhat from its 10-day price average of $250.67, though it’s up over the 22-day average of $240 and change. Currently, Boeing is up 15.5% YTD and is trading at 180.1x forward earnings.

The Boeing Company has trended frequently in recent weeks as the airplane manufacturer continues to take new orders for its jets, including the oft-beleaguered 737 MAX. United Airlines is reportedly in talks to buy “hundreds” of Boeing jets in the next few months, while Southwest Airlines is seeking up to 500 new aircraft as it expands its U.S. service. Alaskan Airlines, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, and Ryanair have also placed orders for more Boeing jets heading into summer.

Over the last three fiscal years, Boeing’s revenue has plummeted from $101 billion to $58.2 billion, while operating income has been slashed from $11.8 billion to $8.66 billion. At the same time, per-share earnings have actually grown from $17.85 to $20.88.

Boeing is expected to see 12-month revenue growth around 7.5%. Our AI rates the airline manufacturer B in Technicals, C in Growth, and F in Low Volatility Momentum and Quality Value.

Nvidia Corporation (NVDA)

Nvidia Corporation jumped up 2.3% Friday to $713 per share, trending with 10.4 million trades on the books. Despite its sky-high stock price, Nividia has risen considerably from the 22-day price average of $631.79 – up 36.5% for the year. Currently, Nvidia is trading at 44.44x forward earnings.

Nvidia is trending this week thanks to surging GPU sales amidst the global chip shortage, as well as its planned 4-for-1 stock split at the end of June – but that’s not all. The company also announced Thursday that it also plans to buy DeepMap, an autonomous-vehicle mapping startup, for an as-yet undisclosed price. With this new acquisition, Nvidia will improve the mapping and localization functions of its software-defined self-driving operations system, NVIDIA DRIVE.

In the last fiscal year, Nvidia saw revenue growth of 15.5% to $16.7 billion compared to $11.7 billion three years ago. Operating income jumped 20.8% in the same period to $4.7 billion against $3.8 billion in the three-year ago period, and per-share earnings expanded 22.6% to $6.90. However, ROE was slashed from 49.3% to 29.8% in the same time frame.

Currently, Nvidia is expected to see 12-month revenue growth around 2%. Our AI rates Nvidia A in Growth, B in Low Volatility Momentum, C in Quality Value, and F in Technicals.

Nike, Inc (NKE)

Nike, Inc closed up 0.73% Friday to $131.94 per share, closing out the day at 5.4 million shares. The stock is down 6.7% YTD, though it’s still trading at 36.8x forward earnings.

Nike stock has slipped in recent weeks as the athleticwear retailer suffers supply chain challenges in North America. And despite recent revenue growth in its Asian markets, it also continues to deal with Chinese backlash to its March criticism of the Chinese government’s forced labor of persecuted Uyghurs.

In the last fiscal year, Nike saw revenue grow almost 3% to $37.4 billion, up 5.8% in the last three years from $36.4 billion. Operating income jumped 40.9% in the last year alone to $3.1 billion – though this is down from $4.45 billion three years ago. In the same periods, per-share earnings grew 33.7% and 82.8%, respectively, from $1.17 to $1.60. And return on equity nearly doubled from 17% to 30%.

Currently, Nike is expected to see 12-month revenue growth around 10.3%. Our AI rates Nike average across the board, with C’s in Technicals, Growth, Low Volatility Momentum, and Quality Value.

Mastercard, Inc (MA)

Mastercard, Inc ticked up 0.33% Friday to $365.50, trading at a volume of 2.7 million shares on the day. The stock is up marginally over the 22-day price average of $363.86 and 2.4% for the year. Currently, Mastercard is trading at 43.64x forward earnings.

Mastercard has faltered behind the S&P 500 index for much of the year – not to mention competitors like American Express. While there’s no one story to tie the credit card company’s relatively modest stock prices to, it may be due to a combination of investor uneasiness, already-high share prices, and increased digital payments. But with travel recently on the rise, it’s possible that Mastercard will be making a comeback.

In the last three fiscal years, Mastercard’s revenue has risen 3.3% to $15.3 billion compared to $14.95 billion. In the same period, operating income has fallen from $8.4 billion to $8.2 billion, whereas per-share earnings have grown from $5.60 to $6.37 for total growth of 16.4%. Return on equity slipped from 106% to 102.5% at the same time.

Currently, Mastercard’s forward 12-month revenue is expected to grow around 4.7%. Our deep-learning algorithms rate Mastercard, Inc. B in Low Volatility Momentum and Quality Value, C in Growth, and D in Technicals.

Q.ai, a Forbes Company, formerly known as Quantalytics and Quantamize, uses advanced forms of quantitative techniques and artificial intelligence to generate investment

Source: Netflix And Boeing Among Today’s Trending Stocks

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Critics:
The S&P 500 stock market index, maintained by S&P Dow Jones Indices, comprises 505 common stocks issued by 500 large-cap companies and traded on American stock exchanges (including the 30 companies that compose the Dow Jones Industrial Average), and covers about 80 percent of the American equity market by capitalization.
The index is weighted by free-float market capitalization, so more valuable companies account for relatively more of the index. The index constituents and the constituent weights are updated regularly using rules published by S&P Dow Jones Indices. Although called the S&P 500, the index contains 505 stocks because it includes two share classes of stock from 5 of its component companies.

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