India’s COVID Surge: The Curious Facets of U.S. Response

The volume and tenor of pleas for help escalated to new heights this past week as India was engulfed in the pandemic.

You’ve likely seen images of numerous funeral pyres and many graves along with sick outside overfull hospitals.

Apart from the pyres, it looks like Wuhan in January 2020, the U.S. in March 2020, and Brazil at the end of this March.

And yet there is something really wrong here, very off. The case counts and deaths are truths which can’t be escaped but the insistence the U.S. somehow is failing to meet India’s needs is off base.

~ ~ ~

All that’s left of a couple thousand word post I wrote and wrote, and  then rewrote over the last several days is what remains above.

The situation over this past weekend changed rapidly, thought the angry ranting at the U.S. and Big Pharma never let up.

The Biden administration issued a couple of statements between Sunday and Monday about the steps it would take to aid India, which included COVID testing kits, PPE, oxygen, therapeutics for treatment, raw materials for vaccine production, and funding to ramp up capacity of India’s own vaccine producer, BioE.

The media did its usual weak sauce reporting.

Not a single outlet noted extremely curious facets about the Biden administration’s outreach to India:

• U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his counterpart, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval this weekend;

• There are no reports of Prime Minister Mahendra Modi contacting Biden to ask for help though they have spoken in the last 24 hours (perhaps as recently as this morning Eastern Time);

• There was scant coverage of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks at least a week ago with his counterpart, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, regarding COVID and vaccines.

Why did the National Security Adviser play such a big role, with the White House statement issued by NSC office?

~ ~ ~

In the mean time invective against the Biden administration and Big Pharma has continued, some of it based in what looks like weak and less-than-thorough reporting.

Claims that Big Pharma has decided profits come before the lives of India’s people follow reports that Big Pharma refused to give India patents or transfer intellectual property.

Except that Big Pharma is represented in India by AstraZeneca, which is making their adenovirus-vector vaccine in country. It’s the same vaccine which has been used in Europe, and is still in FDA safety review here.

India also has its own Big Pharma in Bharat Biotech, which has developed Covaxin vaccine in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. The vaccine left Phase 3 trials in early January.

Yet intelligent people continue to harangue the U.S. and Big Pharma about their refusal to help India with the IP needed for licensing. They retweet stuff like this:

The account that wrote this was opened only weeks ago in January 2021. There’s almost nothing in its profile to suggest this is a human with credible background education or experience; the account hasn’t been validated by Twitter. Note the number of times this has been shared by retweet or quote tweet, yet the majority of roughly 6000 tweets by this account are about pop culture.

This is the kind of social media content which ramped up tension around U.S. response to India’s ongoing COVID surge and continues to do so because it remains uncontested.

The issue the tweet focused on was vaccine manufacturers’ request for indemnification by countries which use its vaccine or licensing to manufacture vaccines. How odd that an account tweeting about beauty products and the Kardashians chose to phrase indemnification this way.

~ ~ ~

One of the reasons the U.S. National Security Adviser may be involved is the lack of an effective top-level response by India’s government to the surge. From Reuters via Yahoo:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India’s government has decided to leave the import of COVID-19 vaccines to state authorities and companies, two government officials told Reuters, a decision that may slow acquisitions of shots as a second wave of the pandemic rips through the country.

They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would instead aim to support domestic vaccine makers by guaranteeing purchases from them. The government this month paid Indian producers in advance, for the first time, for vaccine doses.

Under fire for his uneven handling of the world’s worst COVID-19 surge, Modi has opened vaccinations for all adults from next month but supplies are already running short.

Negotiations between countries on exports/imports are usually handled by their state departments or external affairs and not at lower state/province level. What amounts to the transfer of technology between a nation and individual states is a security risk, let alone problematic for individual pharmaceutical companies.

This is likely why the initial agreement between the U.S. and India’s national security advisers addressed shipment of supplies and other support but not vaccines, technology, or licensing.

It surely didn’t encourage the Biden administration to see how badly Modi has bungled handling the pandemic:

In late January, Modi indulged in a smarter version of Trump’s March 10, 2020 remark, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Addressing the World Economic Forum’s online Davos Agenda Summit, PM Modi said India has beaten all odds to battle the pandemic. “When Covid-19 arrived, India had its share of problems. At the beginning of last year, several experts and organizations had made several predictions that India would be most affected by the pandemic. Someone had even said that 700-800 million would be infected and someone had said that over two million Indians would die from the pandemic. Looking at the condition of countries with better health infrastructure, the world was right in worrying about us,” he said.

“India, however, took a proactive public participation approach and developed a Covid-specific health infrastructure and trained its resources to fight Covid,” the PM added.

This was a mere 12 weeks ago; it was complete hogwash and hardly the stuff needed to instill confidence. India’s situation deteriorated greatly after Davos because Modi failed to take any effective measures to mitigate COVID’s spread in advance of a weeks-long major religious holiday, the Hindu observation of Kumbh Mela.

Nor has it helped develop trust in Modi and his government when they have demanded Twitter hide tweets critical of Modi’s COVID response from Indian public view.

Faith in the individual Indian states is tenuous at best; there are far too many anecdotes about state governments lying about COVID response and health care resources.

This is an insane level of denial:

Amid reports of patients and hospitals struggling to find and maintain oxygen supply, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and seize the property of individuals who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media and try to “spoil the atmosphere”.

Mr. Adityanath asserted that there was no shortage of oxygen supply in any COVID-19 hospital – private or government-run – but that the actual problem was blackmarketing and hoarding.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is expending more resources on suppressing “rumours” than on demonstrating to the public there is ample oxygen and other resources for COVID therapy.

~ ~ ~

This level of narcissism, gross incompetence, and denial in another country’s leadership isn’t something the U.S. can fix. Obviously the U.S. is still struggling with cleaning up after its own run-in with a white nationalist populist who was narcissistic and grossly incompetent as well as corrupt.

We’re still playing catch up because the Trump administration obstructed a peaceful and efficient transition, what with Trumpist GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refusing to turn over the keys to Biden’s team after the election. We’re not as far along as we should be with vaccinating the public because there was no federal COVID program when Biden was inaugurated and insufficient amounts of vaccine had been ordered by Trump.

Not to mention the January 6 attempt to overthrow the government and the Big Lie which continues to interfere with outstanding transition issues.

But the U.S. somehow bears some responsibility for the mounting disaster in India?

Otherwise smart people are trashing both the U.S. and their own cred with demands to remedy Modi’s manifold failures; others insist immediate action in spite of global inaction for decades on pandemic preparedness.

Where was all this concern when Trump killed the pandemic monitoring program instituted under Obama?

Where is the awareness of the security risks posed by a failing state like India, which already has patents?

~ ~ ~

There’s one more element in this mix which may explain the presence of the National Security Adviser in the aid offering to India.

Granted, I’m not certain how to get a handle on the risk involved, but some of the intellectual property and technology isn’t as benign as a Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper or an Easy-Bake Oven. It can be militarized and its output weaponized.

When talking about some of the COVID vaccines, we’re talking about development which began as military programs. Research for adenovirus-vector vaccines now used against COVID began in the 1950s inside the Defense Department; a vaccine was developed and distributed to military personnel for more than two decades to prevent acute respiratory disease associated with adenovirus infections. This vaccine didn’t become part of the scheduled vaccines American civilians receive, just as they didn’t receive anthrax vaccines.

How much of the limitations we have seen tossed around in social media, attributed to Big Pharma greed, are really carefully parsed concerns about the potential for the vaccine IP and technology to be acquired by hostile entities for weaponization?

Can we really blame any legitimate pharmaceutical company for expecting indemnification against the misuse of their product, IP, or technology considering this kind of exposure? Let alone the potential claims against them for extremely rare side effects which may be worsened by incompetence in treatment, ex. treating unusual clotting events with blood thinners which may exacerbate the clotting.

But this goes to the lack of global systemic preparedness for pandemic. It’s a global problem, not one for which the U.S. bears sole responsibility.

Imagine the possible blowback from questionable social media accounts with negligible provenance should the U.S. under the Biden administration choose to arbitrarily “Free the patents!” as so many demanded this past week over social media, without due diligence about the security risks these new vaccine technologies pose.

This pandemic requires us to imagine this and a lot more. We need to think systemically, more deeply and widely.

This includes thinking ahead to where will the next crisis begin, because it’s only a matter of time.

102 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Want to note that I have conflicting information as to whether India has approved Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines for distribution. One source says it has, another says it hasn’t, and it makes a lot of difference when people are yelling, “The U.S. is hoarding vaccines!” when the U.S. may not even have the appropriate authorization to ship any extra inventory not already allocated to U.S. citizens.

    Biden noted that surplus AstraZeneca vaccine in U.S. possession will be shipped out as soon as it is approved; AZ has not yet been given an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA so it cannot yet be exported. Imagine again the blowback if the U.S. shipped to another poorer country vaccine which “wasn’t good enough for Americans,” and what that might do to increase vaccine hesitancy.

    • joel fisher says:

      I don’t know the right answer to this question: “Which is more important blowback or saving lives?” I would ship and risk the blowback, but I’m far from confident that that is the right thing to do. I do know this: enemies of the US will make hay out of our choice, whatever we do.

        • joel fisher says:

          It certainly does; and I re-emphasize the fact that I don’t have the answer. But one might note that there’s a difference in saving lives in the here and now vs. more theoretical lives in the future.

        • Rayne says:

          We have to do both. There’s no choice. That’s why AZ is going through the usual thorough assessment by FDA, same as the other vaccines, and sadly a bit more because AZ fucked up its reporting.

          Ignoring this necessary step might kill people now and in the future via blowback.

    • Jan says:

      Um, I live in Canada, and have had my first AZ shot, 8 weeks ago.
      Obviously, it’s approved in Canada. Are we a poor country? Is the UK?
      As long as the country being given the vaccine by the USA has approved it’s use, I don’t see the problem for Biden.
      He can send as much as he likes our way whenever he likes – I won’t get my second shot until late June, if ever. LOL

      • Rayne says:

        Um, where did the AZ you received come from? The UK?

        U.S. laws do not permit export of a pharmaceutical which has not received FDA approval for safety and efficacy under either an Emergency Use Authorization or normal schedule. It’s not merely a matter of Canada approving it; it’s whether U.S. law permits it. The discussion related to a “loan” of the AZ vaccine may be a means to transfer the vaccine without violating export laws, but the negotiation is not yet complete.

        And while you might be happy with your AZ shot (congratulations), there will be entities eager to use any misstep or shortcut on U.S. part to hammer it and the Biden administration.

      • vvv says:

        “I won’t get my second shot until late June, if ever. LOL”

        Please explain why you may not, and what you think is so funny.

        • Davidhigh says:

          Well, I cant speak personally to an individuals reaction, I can say as a Canadian, (living abroad), in my conversations with friends and family, Canada has messed up the vaccine response, are opting to give everyone their first dose, and wait for supply before the second. The if ever laugh, well, its kinda like us saying sorry, but apologizing for the government messing up.

  2. jaango says:

    Our nation’s political angst has two justifications, with the first being National Security, and as viewed solely by the Conservatives. Thus, the Virus is not a first shot at the conservative agenda, and yet, now has been replaced–given that the Lackluster Fellow in the Oval Office is no longer in charge, has been shifted to immigration. Hell, “infrastructure” does not equate to any lesser version that has long been touted as “national security. And as to a ‘fair’ comparison, conservatives now see that the shift onto immigration, fits comfortably into a first shot at National Security, and which does not include National Defense. Consequently, the face of politics is now on Immigration and not on the Virus.

    • graham firchlis says:

      Just because a brief news report doesn’t say so doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

      As Rayne correctly stated, US law prevents export of drugs not spproved by FDA. That is the case with the AZ vaccine, as this more comprehensive reporting confirms.

      Export under an EAU will require additional signoffs, so expect a further week or two delay after the EA is granted.

      If there is need for blame look to AstraZeneca, who botched thier clinical trial. The wait now is for AZ to accumulate the data they should have had months ago.

      FDA and Biden are following the law, to keep everryone as safe as possible from poor products. They are to be commended, not condemned.

      Oh and, it is 4 million doses.

      • P J Evans says:

        The place in the US that supplies AZ vaccine is the same one that botched the J&J production. I’m sure *that* figures in, because of safety.

    • Rayne says:

      Come on. Read that Reuters piece carefully. The administration expressed the intent — “plans to send”.

      It’s also not ready — “It is not fully finalized yet but it is our aim” according to Press Secretary Psaki.

      Further indications this is subject to negotiations: “delivered in ‘short order’ once the deal was completed”

      And the means of sharing the vaccine is a loan, which means the U.S. is trying to work out an export situation.

      Do you know which vaccines are approved in Canada, and under what conditions? Because that may be part of the issue not spelled out in this Reuters report.

      Do you know if Canada has already agreed to hold pharmaceutical companies harmless and indemnify them? Because this may also be in negotiations.

      We already know that the U.S. hasn’t approved AZ which means either the U.S. does additional backflips for a vaccine the U.S. may not need, just to ship it to neighbors, or the “loan” is being structured in a way that the U.S. finds and uses a loophole to accommodate MX and CA — but indemnification becomes dicey. Should the U.S. indemnify these pharma companies for vaccine distributed and used by MX and CA but not used in the U.S.?

      I’ll note this Reuters piece is a perfect example of the shaky reporting on COVID and vaccines; there are too many holes in it which should have been addressed.

      But this is emptywheel — you need to bring a better game and do a better job of parsing this stuff yourself. It’s a perfect example of expecting neighbors to the south to fix what appears to be a problem on the northside of the border. I haven’t forgotten that though Pfizer makes its vaccine here in my state, the first truckload was shipped to British Columbia because of a surge there in January while Michigan had only begun to vaccinate health care workers.

      ADDER: It sure looks like Canada has its own administrative issues to address. This late March piece by Reuters indicates Pfizer “accelerated” vaccine doses for Canada, and yet in the same piece it looks like Canada didn’t order enough early enough:

      Canada has lagged the United States and Britain in getting its nearly 38 million citizens vaccinated, but the federal government says the vaccine ramp-up inoculations are underway.

      • MB says:

        OK – guilty of selective parsing. I was specifically looking for a mention of EUA in the article and didn’t find that. But clearly there are other factors at play here as well.

        Regarding Canada, it certainly does seem they’ve been having serious administrative issues with vaccine rollout. According to Bloomberg as of today, Canada’s rollout of the vaccine has covered 16.2% of their population, far worse than the worst of our 50 states – Alabama – who has covered 26% of their residents…

        I have a friend who lives in B.C. and he is getting his first Pfizer shot on May 4.

        • dsl says:

          I’m in Canada! We got some AZ doses in late March/early April from the US. In fact, I think one of those might be running wild in my body right now. The Reuters article appears to be in reference to that. There was also another more recent commitment to send an additional 60 million to Canada and Mexico.

          The vaccine rollout has been bad. We can’t always keep Cons out of power and we just have to hope they aren’t in charge in times of crisis. We also have to hope they don’t have enough power to cause a crisis. So, you know lightning striking twice over here in Ontario.

    • graham firchlis says:

      Canada and Mexico have already approved the AZ vaccine. Canada follows the lax British system, while Mexico sadly is pay to play. The problem is poor planning by both nations, thinking they could skimp.

      The US bought big under Biden, IIRC the next 70 million doses to ship belong to us, and are bound under US law.

      The pending deals are trades, our AZ vaccine doses now – soon – for other medications from each country later. Which meds at what value is the discussion, but that is close to resolution and isn’t expected to delay distribution.

      2.5 million doses to Mexico, 1.5 million doses to Canada, will all come from 7 million doses on the shelf at AZ. The other 3 million are slated for India, if Modi can swallow his pride. The rest are expected to be exported as well, allocations to be determined.

      The IP issue isn’t about giving it away, not a reasonable ask, but about fairly licensing to secure licensees. China not included, nor anyone likely to spill it to them. Not all IP is in the patents, the real stuff is trade secret art and craft, tough to reverse engineer. The value of IP for RNA vaccines is in the trillions. Nobody givin’ that away, but expect us to offer generous tax benefits to get a few international partners up and running for this and future vaccine licenses. We can and must vaccinate the world’s people, and we can do it during this administration. That is Biden’s intent.

      Under Democratic Administration AND Congress there is full understanding that this is a very small planet. It behooves the Left to ensure that Democrats stay in power, all of them however difficult, lest governance again fall from reality into chaos and lies.

      • Rayne says:

        This bit:

        “The IP issue isn’t about giving it away, not a reasonable ask, but about fairly licensing to secure licensees. China not included, nor anyone likely to spill it to them. Not all IP is in the patents, the real stuff is trade secret art and craft, tough to reverse engineer. The value of IP for RNA vaccines is in the trillions. Nobody givin’ that away, but expect us to offer generous tax benefits to get a few international partners up and running for this and future vaccine licenses. We can and must vaccinate the world’s people, and we can do it during this administration. That is Biden’s intent.”

        Purely opinion.

        • Bill McIntire says:

          “Granted, I’m not certain how to get a handle on the risk involved, but some of the intellectual property and technology isn’t as benign as a Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper or an Easy-Bake Oven. It can be militarized and its output weaponized.” Pure opinion also.

  3. Fran of the North says:

    Thanks for this post. This bit of froth was subsumed in all of the other craziness that is transpiring of late.

    A case could be made that this is an attempt to turn an additional segment of the U.S. population against their government. It certainly worked in the run-up to ’16 with the right.

    Who exactly would be reading posts from a Twitter account that focuses on pop culture? Quite probably a different audience than those whose politics have already been weaponized. And if you’re focusing on a segment that has some left leaning political views, and is disposed to support equality and social justice, then the messaging is how big corporate and big government is out to screw foreigners and POC’s.

    Just throw a little colonial oppressor language like sovereign wealth and of course nobody likes the military. A perfect recipe to brew up some righteous angst in your target audience and create an easy to share message.

    Dollars to donuts that those accounts are administered by state actors from one of a handful of countries.

    • Rayne says:

      That Twitter account reeked of fake Black. We’ve seen similar attempts all along post-Ferguson with infiltrators attempting to undermine the BLM movement.

      So many white people who are usually smarter fell for it and retweeted that because it was anti-capitalist.

  4. Rugger9 says:

    Excellent post, Rayne, and the details about vaccine distribution are quite important. There are rules for a reason (i.e. thalidomide, which had to do with not understanding the importance of stereochemistry and how proteins fit together). I didn’t see anything in the post about what the WHO is doing in this regard (or the UK etc., et al), that might be worth following up on and frankly it’s a worldwide issue. WHO should spearhead the response.

    India’s PM Modi is a very Trumpy character who is also engaged in creating a Hindustan India where only the Hindus have rights and the others will perhaps be tolerated, noblesse oblige. The documented evidence that FL Governor DeSantis is not alone in the tweaking and twerking of data makes it clear that political games remain a key part of how this response really works and any support has to be forced through those obstacles. One wonders whether the number of ICU beds in Delhi (something like 150 for a city of 29 million) has as much to do with the Indian version of the zip code and/or political association of the neighborhoods.

    • Fran of the North says:

      I don’t claim to be an expert on India, but we’ve got a strong connection through our startup – one of our senior staff members is Indian and got his MBA from an east coast school, and works for a huge Pharma consulting org here, one of his mentees from his university in India – essentially MIT of India – is reporting to me as an intern, and our dev team of 5 individuals is Chennai based.

      Thus I’m talking to folks in India 5-6 times per week. We’re a healthcare startup, so we’ve been focused on the pandemic from the start and so that also has been a common topic, both US and India situations.

      In addition to numbers sculpting, there are some very disturbing criminal trends going on too.

      A common tactic has been for a sick individual to go to the hospital and be falsely diagnosed with C-19. Then you are essentially held hostage in the hospital until you pay a ‘ransom’ equivalent to $30k US or so. Obviously this only applies to well-off families, but I think the process is used for a number of income/wealth segments.

      Our senior staff member had family members ‘held hostage’, and our intern, his sister and parents all had COVID last week. Thankfully they did not infect the grandparents who also live in the home and appear to have recovered.

      It is an unimaginable tragedy, and the government’s duplicity and political panderings are unconscionable. Unfortunately it is only going to get worse.

      • Rayne says:

        Thank you for sharing that. I had been guessing there was some security risk of black market sales of any aid the U.S. sent — you can imagine how much vaccines and oxygen could garner, let alone vaccine technology — but taking patients hostage? That’s wretched, and it will aid a socioeconomic genocide purging those who can least afford health care when they need it most.

        • Fran of the North says:

          Agreed. What I neglected to mention is that these scams are taking place with FULL KNOWLEDGE of the hospital administration where this is happening.

          When I asked Karthik how they could avoid paying and whether there would be charges brought, he laughed and said “Absolutely not. Those institutions are that corrupt and everybody looks the other way.”

          Thus any medical supplies sent to these crooked health care providers will be monetized for greatest benefit to the principals rather than the patients and community.

          Sounds like the former occupant and his hench-people, eh?

        • Rugger9 says:

          This point about the rampant corruption is of course not mentioned in all of the news I’ve seen lately. However, as you point out there is no good reason for Biden to shovel good vaccines and support to be shanghaied and sold off to high bidders or connected families (yeah, of course DJT would have expected a cut of the proceeds).

          I really don’t know what the answer could be short of an intervention which Modi, et al would resist. and I don’t think we have enough material to flood the country to remove the profiteering incentive. The oxygen shipments required military guards last week.

        • Rayne says:

          That’s what Team Trump wanted, along with his sponsors — collapse of the regulatory system so that profiteering can operate unfettered.

          They wanted a mafia state like Putin-ia. The only reason Russia is as poor as it is, not in the top 10 nations ranked by GDP, is that its wealth is siphoned off by corruption especially at the top.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    Part of the outrage is due to statements from Bill Gates reported in the New Republic among others claiming that the pandemic will be gone by the end of 2022 and that he was somehow obstructing distribution. However, consider the source. TNR has an article limit, and other outlets point out Gates may not have said stuff claimed by TNR. It would be nice if these bozos were held accountable for their lies, like Tucker being held accountable for the assaults and litigation that will happen because he demanded that anti-maskers call Child Protective Services on parents who keep their kids in masks (or just rip them off).

    • Rayne says:

      I only addressed the outrage related to nation-states. I didn’t want to wade into the furor over Gates because he’s not empowered to make decisions for nation-states and he’s got a target on his back all the time for any topic into which he wades.

      He made some comment related to the transfer of IP or licenses which in effect said he didn’t support it, but everything he says ends up distorted, stripped of context. If I had to hazard a guess, people are making the same demands of him they’re making of all the nation-state players and Big Pharma — “Free the patents!” — and he’s concerned about indemnification and technology transfer.

      We could remove the concerns about Big Pharma profiteering by establishing a national vaccine program, but it’s hard to say if it could work fast enough on a vaccine when the next pandemic begins (and one surely will). It wouldn’t remove the issues of indemnification without treaties, and technology transfer would remain a security issue. Given Gates’ background in software IP, he surely grasps all of this.

      (Yuck. I dislike that I’m defending a position Gates might take.)

      • Fran of the North says:

        There are plenty of questionable decisions and behaviors from the biggest tech companies and their leadership. That said, there are some examples of enlightened decision-making and support for good causes.

        Melinda Gates has formed a venture capital organization called Pivotal Ventures that is focused on women’s and family issues. One of their recent efforts has been to work with Techstars to develop an incubator for healthcare solutions for older adults.

      • Rugger9 says:

        In a way, though the corruption Fran reminded us of means that any IP handed over means copycats of suspicious quality (i.e. remember how the PRC government let melamine be used to goose protein levels in pet food and killed many here in the US?) and we’d be blamed for it.

        Given the background on the situation (read First Draft on the topic) it’s a bad situation with no good way out.

        • Rayne says:

          That’s what I’ve been getting at pointing out the indemnification issues — worst case is illegal sales to hostile entities for weaponization, least damaging is bad PR aimed at US and Big Pharma, with a range of bad outcomes in between.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Indeed, and none of those concerns make it past the editors with an agenda to knock Biden down a peg or two because bothsidesism.

  6. subtropolis says:

    That was a good point, about the NSC potentially being concerned about having to deal with individual states. There’s another reason, also: Russia and China. Both have an interest in sullying the reputation of the US in India.

    – – –
    A host of troubling actions from those two countries — including efforts to damage America’s relationships with allies and to violate other countries’ sovereignty — mean the Intelligence Community must do more to show the world what Russia and China are doing, according to the commanders.
    – – –

    The disinformation wars will not slow down anytime soon.

    • madwand says:

      Yesiree and from that article:

      “China and Russia are employing all instruments of comprehensive national power to execute political warfare, manipulate the information environment, violate the sovereignty of nations, co-opt international bodies, weaken the integrity of multilateral institutions, and splinter our alliances and partnerships. Their efforts to reshape the world in their image, proliferate authoritarianism, and advance their ambitions are provocative, dangerous, and destabilizing.”

      And even the EU is realizing the threats.

      So no wonder Blinken and Sullivan were involved.

      • Lex says:

        Serious question: do you agree that one could replace “Russia and China” with “The United States”? Our stated reasons for actions don’t change the actions or absolve them. I’m always confused and disappointed that in the US, no matter which side of politics are taken the world is seen as being full of enemies bent on our destruction and that our titanic struggle of good versus evil must take precedence over all other considerations. I wonder why we are such a warlike people and if we could even accept a world not fundamentally defined by war?

        • Rayne says:

          You’re seriously going to put a democracy (for as long as we can keep this republic) on the same footing with a narco-petro-mafia state and an authoritarian communist state?

          Which of them stands a chance of changing their trajectory inside a couple years’ time?

          Also not certain why this is so simplistic to you, and why accountability isn’t extended to other countries like India, whose leaders have failed, or its more immediate neighbors who should be worried about disease crossing their borders more so than the US oceans away?

        • madwand says:

          To Lex, well, my focus was narrower than yours and I get your thrust, but here goes. If you’re an idealist, even with great command of facts such as Chomsky then justification for your question can certainly be argued. If you’re a political realist along the lines of Morgenthau, who believe states operate within their interest as defined by power, then you have another argument. Chomsky posits a disparity between what citizens believe and want and what government does. Morgenthau believes more in understanding human nature and interest as a guiding principle and he applies that to nation states.

          The idealist might believe that with modernity human nature has changed since classical times, a realist would not. As long as nation states go out into the world for control of resources such as wealth, energy, rare and precious metals, control of sea lanes, control of emergent states, then competition at all levels is inevitable. Call it the great game enlarged and it is ongoing.

        • timbo says:

          Thanks for that.

          I was going to try to formulate something similar but you’ve put it better than I likely ever could. We are creatures who let our imaginations run away with the importance of our particular moment and place in time. In the grand scheme of things, there have been many great nations over the past five thousand years of human history, and each has contributed its own mythology of righteousness to justify existing and dominating other peoples and cultures. Having acknowledged that though, it behooves us to stand back as far as possible from our own rationalizations and look at what really is special about our moments on the world stage…

        • madwand says:

          Exactly and the current tensions involve China, the Russians and the US. Caught this and its
          really prima facie about US motives in India.

          I was always curious about the US motivation to stay in Afghanistan but a look at the map explains it’s surrounding Iran on one side and China on the other. Since we are withdrawing
          from Afghanistan and the Stans are problematic India becomes rational for basing. The article explains the US turnaround on supplying drugs for Covid 19 and one reason for this is the Chinese offers.

    • madwand says:

      This article from Asia Times shows what China says they are doing to help India and other nations in the area. It seems the Chinese are not ready to ship and the Indians are not able to receive.

      Also “Despite the geographic proximity and China being the world’s largest supplier of medical products and equipment sorely needed in India, China is glaringly missing on Narendra Modi’s list of countries from which his government plans to mass purchase emergency goods, according to reports by the India Times.”

      Then “But no Indian officials showed up when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday hosted a videoconference on vaccine supply and distribution attended by counterparts from five of India’s neighbors, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.”

      Any port in a storm? Not when its a Chinese port.

      • timbo says:

        It is likely that China is not seen as a strong possible ally by the Modi regime. If you want to see some of the odd undercurrents in India today, if you haven’t viewed it already, I suggest seeing “The White Tiger”, a compelling film that works the idea of modern China as an interesting foil for the main character to express his life story.

        • madwand says:

          Thanks I am working my way through (for the second time) David Reisch’s discussion of Indian ancestry and how Indian scientists would not accept Reisch’s determination how West Eurasian ancestry had contributed to the Indian cline. He had to rename two ancestral groups so they would accept the results of his DNA findings. Interesting reading,

  7. jaango says:

    In our international approach to the Virus, I am reminded that our Sombrero of History informs that shortly after FDR was elected to a third term in the Oval Office, he finally came forward in the form for establishing the Lend-Lease Act, during World War Two.

    Now, if President Biden wants to move forward successfully, the notion of National Security application could be readily applied and done so accordingly, since the war materiel did not require the transfer of ownership for the research that’s covered in all covid-19 aspects. And the opinion of the Facebook owners, becomes irrelevant when compared to relevant constructivism, despite the over-abundance of opinion, inclusive of myself.

  8. Jon says:

    India has been needing all the help it can get for at least two months (because COVID is out of control before hospitalization numbers start to spike) – as have been a lot of other countries that aren’t getting so much attention. That said, and FWIW, BBC News this morning had interviews with at least two people who said that India’s primary problem was not a supply of oxygen, but that sufficient supplies (particularly the tanks) are being hoarded by fearful individuals for anticipated personal need. And the hope is that new, outside supplies can be get in the public health ecosystem, and not be siphoned off.

    • Rayne says:

      Which comes first, chicken or the egg? Is it the hoarding of oxygen supplies or the persistent lying by officials about oxygen supplies? And it’s a big lie — Uttar Pradesh alone is the size of Brazil, 2/3rds the size of the U.S. in terms of population, and officials are lying about oxygen across UP state. That alone might cause the lies.

      Or it’s part of the scam Fran of the North mentions: the public is told there’s enough oxygen; they go to the hospital believing they’ll get it, but they’re extorted out of money to get treated, and then perhaps there’s little to no oxygen. Is Uttar Pradesh’s leadership in on this, if this is the case?

  9. observiter says:

    India has one billion more people than the U.S. And it’s three times smaller, land-wise, then the U.S. It is an example of a severely overpopulated country that appears to depend on disease, lack of food/water, and the occasional war to address this major problem.

    We shouldn’t be so surprised at this country’s efforts towards itself. After Trump, it seems familiar, yes?

    • Rayne says:

      I did refer to Modi’s January remarks as parallel to Trump’s, didn’t I? Modi is a Hindu nationalist as compared to Trump’s white nationalism; this explains why Modi did not a thing to restrain a Hindu religious observation which became a mass spreader event the like of which the world has probably never seen.

      • observiter says:

        With such a large population, it’s almost impossible to “isolate.”

        India has been a flashing warning sign for decades to the rest of the world. With such huge overpopulation, the options for pandemic response, especially once the virus arrived, are limited or nonexistent.

        It’s beyond arrogance for humans to think it’s ok to support unlimited population growth. Look what it does to our land and environment. Look at the large amount of resources required to support just one person. Wars between countries are fought over these resources. I forgot…we’re only supposed to talk about climate change.

        It is horrific what is occurring in India, but it is not the first time there has been massive death there.

        • observiter says:

          All of the countries/cities you refer to have faced terrible Covid impacts. I understand Singapore’s government follows a rather draconian way of enforcing its laws.

          Here are population figures:
          S Korea=51,715,162
          Hong Kong=7,546,526
          New York City=18,823,000

          I read today (CNN) that it is feared that India has around 1/2 billion Covid cases.

        • Rayne says:

          Dude…”All of the countries/cities you refer to have faced terrible Covid impacts.” No. You didn’t really think you were going to just pull that out of your ass, did you?

          South Korea — pop. density: 1,338/sq mi
          Total cases: 120K
          Recovered: 110K
          Deaths: 1820

          Singapore — pop. density: 20,446/sq mi
          Total cases: 61K
          Recovered: TBD
          Deaths: 30

          Hong Kong — pop. density: 17,565/sq mi
          Total cases: 11.7K
          Recovered: TBD
          Deaths: 209

          In contrast to India which is much less densely populated and with case+death count likely under-reported:

          India — pop. density: 1,066/sq mi
          Total cases: 17.3 M
          Recovered: TBD
          Deaths: 195 K

          India can’t use population density as its argument for the number of cases or severity of outcome. As for Singapore’s and one might also argue South Korea’s “draconian” methods, let’s ask the residents how they feel as they go about living fairly normal lives in spite of the pandemic.

          Christ, my county in Michigan with a population of 200K has a death toll equal to 31% of South Korea’s, with a pop. density of 250/sq mi. Population density is not a reason/an excuse for high COVID death tolls.

          (Source, population density)

  10. Peterr says:

    One big reason for the US National Security Advisor to get involved in the situation in India that no one has mentioned: India has nukes. A nation with nuclear weapons that is melting down is one of those things that appear in the nightmares that keep the national security advisor up at night.

    “Hey buddy . . . yeah, you, the guy guarding the nukes. I can hook you up with vaccines for you and your whole family, but I need you to do me a favor . . .”

    “Hey buddy . . . yeah, you, the gal who writes the code for the nukes and their control systems. I can hook you up with vaccines for you and your whole family, but I need you to do me a favor . . .”

    “Hey buddy . . . yeah, you, the caterer who brings the food to the bases where the nukes are kept. I can hook you up with vaccines for you and your whole family, but I need you to do me a favor . . .”

    When the USSR broke up at the end of the 80s and early 90s, there was lots of cheering from GOP politicians and lots of “Oh Shit” from folks at the Pentagon. At the time, Ukraine had the 3rd largest nuclear arsenal, and what was going to happen to all those weapons when the USSR melted down and the new collection of nations and leaders came into being? Both Russia and the US spent a lot of time and money trying to keep them from getting into the wrong hands. See here for a rundown. See also here for one of the “implementing arrangement” documents.

    I’m not saying India is going to break apart or disappear from the map. But when a member of the nuclear weapons club has problems on this order of magnitude, I’d be hugely surprised if the US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State were NOT involved in trying to deal with it.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Peterr: Thanks for that reminder on the thermonuclear issues involved. As Rayne comments, there are lots of regional stressors, and very few norms. I’ve seen reports of ‘low level’ hostilities that involve lobbing artillery at one another at extreme altitudes in the mountains, just to assert ownership and as a display of military might.

      The challenge with rapidly changing events and imperfect information is that errors in judgement abound. The fog of hot peace is just as real as that of war.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Not to sound like a broken record, but Glenn Greenwald is an angry misogynist, consumed with jealousy over others’ success. (He’s also abandoned reporting to rant from his front porch, the one next to Tucker Carlson’s, in the gated GOP community of Celebrityville.)

    Greenwald has long had EW on his shit list, but he’s happy to attack unpaid interns as well as seasoned professionals, especially if they attack his sacred Devin Nunes – Russiagate!. Today, Greenwald added Natasha Bertrand to that list, ranting about her no good, very bad reporting. Not coincidentally, Bertrand, who made Forbes list of under 30s to watch, just left Politico to become a lead reporter for CNN.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Unrelated, but EW rts a comment by Joe Weisenthal, about Tony Blair’s new 1300-page “multi-disciplinary” book. Blair says he’s been working on it for ten years. (He could have saved a few years by hiring an editor. At that size, he could launch it from a trebuchet.) But it’s the accompanying photo of Blair that’s interesting. It makes him look as if, when seeking a cup from which to drink, he did not choose wisely.

        • Fran of the North says:

          I think you’ve identified what lies underneath the covers in the picture of Joseph Colt in EW’s post on the Dis (semi???) organized militias of Jan 06.

    • Rayne says:

      most of the countries

      Dobber would not name the countries.

      AstraZeneca, Britain’s second-largest drugmaker, has pledged to supply a total of more than 2 billion doses at no profit in agreements with the United States,

      To back its claim to forgo profits from the $1.2 billion collaboration in the United States, Astra has even granted the government access to financial accounts related to the venture, according to Dobber.

      Reading between the lines, the U.S. has had a deal to fund development and a right to purchase a finite quantity under the funding agreement, but there may not be a purchase deal — a contract of delivery as you called it — finalized with the U.S. because AZ’s vaccine hasn’t yet met criteria necessary for an Emergency Use Authorization let alone standard vaccine schedule.

  12. Eureka says:

    This is all reminding me of the Trump – Mar-a-Lago pal – Indian (+)-sourced hydroxychloroquine / Modi-Trump deals/hustles/scams (which I’ll digress back to in a moment).

    Given the national security risks and practical issues (ahem, local customs) on the ground — as detailed by Rayne, Fran, and Peterr — it would be much safer and visible to public accountability to send whole vaccines rather than the tech. We can assume corruption and misuse regardless of what’s sent; we can also assume a much faster reduction in crisis by having individuals vaccinated (and the world monitoring ~ India’s “percent vaccinated”) rather waiting on their factories (with apparent supply and other issues) to kick up to full speed — all other things being equal. [And the “Sure, why not both?” aspect as Rayne addressed has some … holes yet to be resolved.]

    • P J Evans says:

      WRT Indian drug manufacturers:
      One of mine is a generic made in India. The pharmacy has been trying to refill it for a week, and they currently estimate it will be Friday. (The first estimate was for last Saturday.) I don’t know that ti’s the manufacturer – the shipment could be sitting in a container on one of the ships parked offshore.

      • Fran of the North says:

        Apologies for not tracking, ‘one of yours’:

        A drug you take regularly? Is it a generic replacement or under patent and only available from the Indian mfr? Are there no comparable subsititutions?

        WAY off topic: The pharma industry in the US is whacked beyond belief.

        • P J Evans says:

          One of my several prescription – all generic – but this one is the only one that isn’t “maintenance”. I know it’s made in India because it’s one of two that generally come in the original bottles.
          (My opinion on drug price negotiations: the congresscritters who are against that should be told how much theirs would cost for the brand-name version without insurance. It’s a *lot* more than they think.)

        • J R in WV says:

          OT: The pharma industry is littered with snake oil salesmen and hedge-fund managers with no morals/ethics. I took a generic drug with a $3.90 co-pay for a chronic condition. One day it was no longer covered by my insurance at any co- pay level because the cost for a 30 day supply had instantly gone from $6.00 to $3,000.00 ~!!~

          A Trust fund baby had bought the company with the right and license to produce the medication and ran the cost up to become a newly hatched billionaire. Now I take another generic drug with several producers — let alone that it doesn’t work as well as the one no longer available to me.

    • Eureka says:

      OK so back to the hydroxychloroquine sagas and how they may be relevant here (in looking up these links, another headline caught my eye where India was still working the HCQ miracle at least as late as August 2020) …

      The MaL pal pushing Indian-made HCQ to Newsom and officials in NY & NJ at the height of the pandemic, via personal phone calls at Trump’s behest:

      There’s a lot going on in this next thread: Rick Bright testifying about Indian- and Pakistan-made HCQ from non-FDA-inspected facilities (and this angle may be another point of reluctance for pharma to share tech now*) being brought in and foisted upon us; also Trump-US being extorted-embarrassed by India live on the twitter, making a diplomatic mess out of the HCQ import-deal (also here is a timeline sketch of Trump-Modi contacts/agreements):

      (scroll up and down)

      *Beyond general issues of indemnification, what public-confidence disasters would unfold should Indian labs (or cold chain issues) render great vaccines into shitty, low(er)-efficacy products?

      When we need: way more folks vaccinated in this first round; lifelong boosters (as currently understood); and appropriate public health responses to the next pandemics, vaccine failures due to poor quality control would create virtually unnavigable national security risks (along with and besides any corporate brand(s) becoming untrusted). As amply discussed above, various hustles seem to prevail in importance over the well-being of (at least certain of) their citizenry. And snafus, incautious or otherwise, would harm the public interest dearly — and in directions we’ve already seen and suffered, and for which no indemnifications would seem to suffice.

    • Rayne says:

      Yes, the HCQ debacle. That. Did Modi think he could successfully pull off whatever legerdemain he did with HCQ but with the vaccines?

      I don’t know that shipping whole vaccines will work given the desperation. An NGO like Doctors Without Borders or UN peacekeeper-type medical teams might be necessary to set up temporary distribution if the vaccines are to be given with adequate recordkeeping. I imagine India may need additional health care help if they are going through a surge as bad or worse than we did last March/April.

      • Eureka says:

        Right. Don’t know the adequacy of our supply (for populations needing single-dose shots) but I’d wondered if we could share some J&J sooner.

        Japan needs help (w vaccines), too — not at the scale India’s dealing with or will require but their vaccination rate is in the basement (thought I’d read that they’d upped their Pfizer order, _perhaps_ to be getting some sooner). Japan also has the geopolitical leverage/ goodwill of the upcoming Olympics.

        Oh look: tried to find that update re Japan but this popped up instead:

        Narendra Modi: “Spoke to PM @sugawitter of Japan on phone. We reviewed the progress in various ongoing bilateral initiatives. We also discussed our cooperation in diverse areas including high technology, skill development and in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic together.”
        4:26 AM · Apr 26, 2021

        • Rayne says:

          Single-dose J&J would be a much better fit for India given constraints on distribution and variability of access to refrigeration.

        • Eureka says:

          Yeah, and facially it might be good for American jobs/workers’ paychecks for us to produce it even beyond an initial allotment (shortly after J&J’s EUA, Merck, incl. a facility in the region, agreed to help produce J&J. Maybe there are other opportunities/facilities for similar arrangements, if given a large order). Win win win.

          And/but who knows what variants are cooking _right now_ in the race against populousness and sampling events. Thanks to all of the world’s quackpot leaders, including our former, for their sundry roles ass-dragging us into this fabulous Live (co-) Evolution Event!

      • Eureka says:

        Also incidentally in that results list (wherein may lie a spot / variant of that legerdemain redux):

        Srivatsa @srivatsayb:
        US : Free Vaccine
        UK : Free Vaccine
        Israel : Free Vaccine
        Japan : Free Vaccine
        China : Free Vaccine

        India is mostly the only country in the world asking it’s citizens to pay for COVID Vaccine. Vishwaguru?
        8:28 AM · Apr 21, 2021

        I checked more than 40 countries. All free Vaccines. Could not find one country which was asking it’s citizens to pay.

        • Rayne says:

          Well that would certainly increase the likelihood of corruption — insisting every citizen pays for their vaccine in this case is a shakedown, opening the door to other shakedowns.

  13. Eureka says:

    The ~ eek ~ LOL when you raised possible defense concerns around some of the vaccine tech brought this (related in a different way) anecdote to mind:

    ~A couple of decades ago, one (or two) of India’s premier researchers on adenoviral-induced obesity (they led this field: fat as contagious) (yikes) moved lab to the US (Texas, as I recall) and wanted to bring in their samples — chicken AdVs, they worked on a chicken model.

    USG said nope, no thanks.

    IDR now how the story changed, but there’s robust research in the US now. Here’s a more recent review which links others:

    Role of adenoviruses in obesity – PubMed

    • Rayne says:

      Holy Jesus, I’d forgotten all about the contagious obesity. Definitely no thanks to that research, definitely a security risk.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Jamelle Bouie cites E.B. Du Bois’s assessment on the building of the 19th century British empire, using the trade in East African slaves and ivory as a metaphor for unregulated capitalism anywhere, anytime. At its height, 50-75,000 elephants died painful deaths every year – not for their fins or tongues or hides, but for their teeth. Bits of them found their way into countless Victorian luxury and everyday objects, such as piano keys and billiard balls: “Neither for the keys nor the music was the death of the elephant actually necessary.”

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Another One Bites the Dust must be top of the charts again: “California man dies after police pin him to the ground for five minutes.”

    Police in Alameda (on Oakland’s SE border) were called about a 26 year-old man, Mario Gonzalez, who was “acting strangely,” in a public park. The usual followed: handcuffs, police holding the 250 lb. Gonzales on his stomach – for Five minutes. I guess no one got the memo. “Think we should roll him on his side?” says one officer. “I don’t want to lose what I got, man,” says another. An initial police description was that Gonzalez had had a “medical incident,” as if he died owing to an unrelated illness, rather than because two police officers knelt on his head and back for five minutes.

    Unlike Elizabeth City, MD, Alameda police have released nearly an hour of body cam footage about the April 19th killing. Gonzalez leaves behind a four year-old son; he was also the caretaker for his 22 year-old autistic brother.

    • Tom says:

      I find it very difficult to imagine police officers responding to a situation like this and not briefly pausing to plan and consult among themselves beforehand and agree that, whatever happens they’re not going to kill this guy who, after all, only seems to be intoxicated in a public space and only in need of time and a safe place to sober up. Instead, the officers seem to feel the need to take charge, to take action of some kind, with tragic results. But then, I’ve never been a policeman.

  16. Valley girl says:

    This is OT to the extent that it does not address specifics that Rayne was addressing. But…

    ‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe.
    ~It’s hard to convey the full depth and range of the trauma, the chaos and the indignity that people are being subjected to. Meanwhile, Modi and his allies are telling us not to complain by Arundhati Roy~

  17. Wm. Boyce says:

    I heard a most unfortunate medical statistician interviewed on the radio today. She is Indian (sub-continent) and has lots of family there. She estimates that the daily infection rate (360,000 per day was the last I heard) could be as much as 15 (!) times higher. Her father has a fever and no tests are available and she was up all night trying to get him one. He will get one in three days, having to had wait for six days from symptoms having begun.

    Mr. Modi, like Mr. Trump, is a mass murderer.

  18. Eureka says:

    If you will excuse me, Rayne, for leaving this bit for the morning trash —

    Nice article about Kyle Pitts, which I share so that hometown-team-Eagles fans, Gators, appreciators alike can (*ack*) bid him adieu to … (*GACK*, something caught in my throat) Arlington. [His father wants to move somewhere warm, and is convinced that Jerruh has something up his sleeve.]

    Saving my DeVonta Smith tears for tomorrow eve.

    The secret to the success of Archbishop Wood’s Kyle Pitts, the best player in the NFL draft | Mike Sielski
    He starred at Wood and for the Florida Gators. But it was the foresight of his dad and a single decision that changed the arc of Kyle Pitts’ life and career.

    • bmaz says:

      Fear not, couple time issues aside, I’ll do a Trash for the draft and Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend. Will say this, Pitts looks like an amazing player.

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