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China Scrambles to Clean Up Damage after Admitting to Shoddy Vaccine

Director-general of Chinese Disease Control and Prevention Gao Fu speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China, January 22, 2020. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

On the menu today: While the Chinese make fortunes selling their vaccines to other countries, the head of the country’s CDC admits their vaccines just aren’t very effective; another series of white-supremacist rallies fizzles, raising the question of whether the country is worrying about an overhyped threat; Joe Biden’s promised migrant policy and the reality are not even distant cousins; and a particularly implausible excuse from the Biden administration’s “migrant czar.”

China Rips Off the World with a Shoddy Vaccine

Brazil’s Butantan Institute concluded in January that China’s Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine was barely better than a coin-flip, with an efficacy rate that fell to 50.4 percent. Apparently the Chinese government can admit the obvious when the stakes get high enough, as the head of China’s CDC acknowledged Saturday that the Sinovac vaccine is just not effective enough:

China is exploring the option of mixing different Covid-19 vaccines as a solution to the relatively low efficacy of its existing jabs, the head of the country’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

Gao Fu told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday that the country was examining two routes “to solve the problem that the efficacy of its existing vaccines is not high.”

“The levels of antibodies generated by our vaccines are lower than mRNA vaccines and the efficacy data are also lower. I think it is a natural conclusion that our inactivated vaccines and adenovirus vectored vaccines are less effective than mRNA vaccines.”

Of course, that’s not what the Chinese government wants to hear, and within 24 hours, Gao Fu was insisting he had not said what he had just said:

The Director of the Chinese Center of Disease Control on Sunday refuted claims by some media outlets and overseas social media platform users that the director “admitted” Chinese COVID-19 vaccines have a low protection rate, saying that “it was a complete misunderstanding.”

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Gao Fu, head of the China CDC, said as scientists around the world are discussing vaccine efficacy, he offered a scientific vision: that to improve the efficacy, adjustment of vaccination procedures and sequential inoculation of different types of vaccines might be options.

“The protection rates of all vaccines in the world are sometimes high, and sometimes low. How to improve their efficacy is a question that needs to be considered by scientists around the world,” Gao said. “In this regard, I suggest that we can consider adjusting the vaccination process, such as the number of doses and intervals and adopting sequential vaccination with different types of vaccines.”

Back in January, I noted that, “after allowing a deadly plague to escape its borders and infect every other country in the world, and following that with exporting millions upon millions of defective personal protective equipment to other countries, the government of China has now bequeathed to Brazilians a vaccine that barely works.

But it gets even worse: Some other countries have paid through the nose for this coin-flip of a vaccine. Hungary paid $36 per dose for five million doses. Senegal paid $19 per shot.

Meanwhile the African Union is buying vaccines with much more proven effectiveness for much lower prices: “620,000 doses of the Pfizer Inc two-shot vaccine at $6.75 per shot, more than 1.2 million of AstraZeneca’s two-shot vaccine at $3 each, and nearly 1.5 million of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine at $10 each.”

Then again, perhaps it’s understandable that other foreign leaders would have high hopes for the official COVID-19 vaccine developed and distributed by the Chinese government. After all, the Chinese officials are the ones who invented the virus — er, I mean, they’re the ones who just happened to have an outbreak in the middle of a city with not one but two government-run research laboratories focusing on coronaviruses found in bats.

Have You Noticed That Right-Wing Domestic Extremist Groups Aren’t Growing Bigger and Stronger?

You may recall that after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, many people worried about similar violent clashes and frightening scenes at the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington in August 2018 . . . only for that rally to attract about 25 adherents, who were vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters.

Then, in 2019, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant was arrested for plotting terror attacks, and many news organizations and activist groups warned about extremist organizations infiltrating the ranks of the U.S. military. But as some of us pointed out at the time, publicly identified cases of extremists in the military were rare — seven in the preceding year or so, in a military force of nearly 1.3 million men and women in uniform on active duty and about 800,000 in the reserves.*

Then the January 6 Capitol Hill riot occurred, and some feared it signaled the dawn of new era of persistent and widespread violent extremism and domestic terrorism.

Authorities feared attempts or more attacks on January 16, on Inauguration Day, and on March 4. Thankfully, not much happened those days. And yesterday, the “White Lives Matter” rallies flopped with little attendance. (There was some scuffles and arrests in Huntington Beach, Calif.)

Clearly, extremist groups and radicalized individuals exist, and in a set of circumstances such as the perfect storm on January 6, they can overwhelm law enforcement, establish a de facto state of anarchy, and do terrible things — including killing people. But as of this moment — (knocking on wood) — these extremist movements appear small and disorganized.

Back on January 18, I wrote:

The Capitol Hill riot might turn out to be akin to the Oklahoma City bombing, or the Columbine shooting. Ironically, Oklahoma City represents the better scenario.

Timothy McVeigh ended up discrediting the militia movement he supported, because he transformed their image from one that some Americans might agree with — “we are men who are angry with the government and contend it does not respect our Constitutional rights” — to “we are men who blow up buildings with day care centers and kill children.” Thankfully, there’s already some evidence that the extremist groups are starting to fracture; apparently the QAnon stuff is too crazy for the other groups. Demonstrations at state capitols were pretty minimal this weekend.

But Columbine inspired one copycat after another; it represented a dangerous national ideation. To a certain type of angry, isolated, alienated teenager or young adult, a mass shooting was how they were supposed to express their rage.

So far — again, knocking on wood and recognizing the situation could change dramatically in an instant — the January 6 riot looks more like the Oklahoma City bombing: an act of violence so heinous and beyond the pale that it repelled almost everyone who might have been initially sympathetic to its perpetrators’ cause. And we have had another attack on Capitol Hill since then, but one committed by a man who was studying to be a member of the Nation of Islam.

We shouldn’t underestimate these movements and ideologies, but we shouldn’t overestimate them, either; then we end up being afraid of our own shadows.

*A review of 257 individuals who had been charged in federal court for their involvement in the Capitol Hill riot found 31 veterans, one current member of the National Guard, and one current member of the Army Reserves.

Joe Biden’s Big-Announcement, No-Follow-Through Refugee Policy

This weekend in the Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins offered a classic example of the casual omissions and deliberate framing that permeates so much of the coverage around immigration:

NPR’s Tom Gjelten, in an unctuous sermon in which he lets us know he prefers what he imagines to be Joe Biden’s refugee policy to Donald Trump’s , intones, “In 2016, the last year of the Obama presidency, the United States resettled 85,000 refugees in this manner. But under Trump, the resettlement program was nearly shut down. Last year, fewer than 12,000 refugees were admitted, the smallest number in the history of the U.S. refugee program.”

You have to be some kind of journalist not to notice an intervening variable that might mess up the comparison, namely a global pandemic. In fact, the 12,611 who were admitted in the 2020 fiscal year were out of a mere 30,113 who applied, a 71% drop from the previous year for reasons enumerated in an annual report to Congress: “travel restrictions in and out of refugee processing sites worldwide,” “reduced flight availability,” a U.S. economic lockdown and school closures that made transferring to the U.S. less urgent.

The honest comparison would be to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when the Trump administration admitted 92,623 refugees (i.e., human beings fleeing violence), a number the Obama team never approached in its best year.

This morning, the Washington Post offers an even more eye-opening complication. (Notice that there’s no indication of the drastically reduced refugee cap being related to the pandemic.)

In February, Biden announced he was raising the annual cap on refugee admissions to 125,000 for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, up from Trump’s historically low limit of 15,000.

However, Biden has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination. Without that action, Trump’s old policies and his 15,000-person cap on refugee settlements remain in effect.

Signing a presidential determination typically takes place almost immediately after such policy announcements. The delay has so far lasted eight weeks.

Because of it, Biden is on track to accept the fewest refugees this year of any modern president, including Trump, according to a report released Friday from the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit humanitarian aid group.

The Biden administration has admitted only 2,050 refugees at the halfway point of this fiscal year, despite Biden’s promises to reverse Trump-era immigration policies, dramatically raise the cap on refugee settlements and respond to what his officials have called “unforeseen and urgent situations,” the IRC report noted.

For the vast majority of casual-news-watching voters, a promise to do something is indistinguishable from doing something. They don’t really care if their guy keeps his promises, because he’s making the right promises.

ADDENDUM: In case you missed it this weekend, Roberta S. Jacobson, the former ambassador to Mexico whom President Biden chose as his “border czar” on the National Security Council, announced she will be resigning around the end of the month. But the administration wants you to know her surprisingly early departure is not in response to the crisis at the border! The claim from the Biden team is that Jacobson always intended to leave the job after the first 100 days. I noticed that absolutely no one ever mentioned this fact in any previous coverage or her previous media appearances — almost like they just made it up to cover up some other reason for her departure. How strange!

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