Day: 9 September 2021

News Round-Up

In the War Between Authoritarian Public Health and Science, Science Lost

There’s a terrific piece in the Tablet by John P.A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford and among a small group of scientists who’ve been willing to publish research that runs counter to the official Covid narrative, about what has gone wrong in the scientific and public health communities in the past 18 months. In essence, the scientific values of scepticism, disinterestedness and transparency have been thrown aside as the pandemic has become politicised, creating an opening for a new breed of ‘experts’ to influence public health policy while at the same time advancing their commercial and political interests. Here is an extract:

The pandemic led seemingly overnight to a scary new form of scientific universalism. Everyone did COVID-19 science or commented on it. By August 2021, 330,000 scientific papers were published on COVID-19, involving roughly a million different authors. An analysis showed that scientists from every single one of the 174 disciplines that comprise what we know as science has published on COVID-19. By the end of 2020, only automobile engineering didn’t have scientists publishing on COVID-19. By early 2021, the automobile engineers had their say, too.

At first sight, this was an unprecedented mobilization of interdisciplinary talent. However, most of this work was of low quality, often wrong, and sometimes highly misleading. Many people without subject-matter technical expertise became experts overnight, emphatically saving the world. As these spurious experts multiplied, evidence-based approaches—like randomized trials and collection of more accurate, unbiased data—were frequently dismissed as inappropriate, too slow, and harmful. The disdain for reliable study designs was even celebrated.

Many amazing scientists have worked on COVID-19. I admire their work. Their contributions have taught us so much. My gratitude extends to the many extremely talented and well-trained young investigators who rejuvenate our aging scientific workforce. However, alongside thousands of solid scientists came freshly minted experts with questionable, irrelevant, or nonexistent credentials and questionable, irrelevant, or nonexistent data.

Social and mainstream media have helped to manufacture this new breed of experts. Anyone who was not an epidemiologist or health policy specialist could suddenly be cited as an epidemiologist or health policy specialist by reporters who often knew little about those fields but knew immediately which opinions were true. Conversely, some of the best epidemiologists and health policy specialists in America were smeared as clueless and dangerous by people who believed themselves fit to summarily arbitrate differences of scientific opinion without understanding the methodology or data at issue.

Disinterestedness suffered gravely. In the past, conflicted entities mostly tried to hide their agendas. During the pandemic, these same conflicted entities were raised to the status of heroes. For example, Big Pharma companies clearly produced useful drugs, vaccines, and other interventions that saved lives, though it was also known that profit was and is their main motive. Big Tobacco was known to kill many millions of people every year and to continuously mislead when promoting its old and new, equally harmful, products. Yet during the pandemic, requesting better evidence on effectiveness and adverse events was often considered anathema. This dismissive, authoritarian approach “in defense of science” may sadly have enhanced vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vax movement, wasting a unique opportunity that was created by the fantastic rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. Even the tobacco industry upgraded its reputation: Philip Morris donated ventilators to propel a profile of corporate responsibility and saving lives, a tiny fraction of which were put at risk of death from COVID-19 because of background diseases caused by tobacco products.

Other potentially conflicted entities became the new societal regulators, rather than the ones being regulated. Big Tech companies, which gained trillions of dollars in cumulative market value from the virtual transformation of human life during lockdown, developed powerful censorship machineries that skewed the information available to users on their platforms. Consultants who made millions of dollars from corporate and government consultation were given prestigious positions, power, and public praise, while unconflicted scientists who worked pro bono but dared to question dominant narratives were smeared as being conflicted. Organised scepticism was seen as a threat to public health. There was a clash between two schools of thought, authoritarian public health versus science – and science lost.

Worth reading in full.

President Eisenhower Saw it All Coming

We’re publishing an original essay today by Cephas Alain – the pseudonym of a retired lawyer – about President Dwight G. Eisenhower’s extraordinarily prescient Presidential Address when he left office in 1961 in which he warned of the growing power of the military-industrial complex. As the LBC radio host and commentator Maajid Nawaz has pointed out, if you substitute ‘Big Pharma industrial complex’ then many of Eisenhower’s warnings have come to pass.

Just as Eisenhower could say back in 1961: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.” We might say the same of Global Big Pharma. Eisenhower recognised the way in which the military-industrial complex operated: “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.” Lots of businesses, lots of employees, lots of shareholders (both individual and institutional), lots of lobbying and financing and funding makes influence inevitable. Eisenhower warned: “We recognise the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.” We should take careful note of his use of the word “grave”. That is this something that can place a nation in danger of serious harm. More specifically: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Once more we can see how this might easily occur in the context of Big Pharma, especially as the scientific and knowledge community is so clearly interlinked and operates both alongside and indeed within the responsibilities that modern Governments have taken on in the name of maintaining and improving public health – as broadly defined.

Eisenhower was clearly extremely concerned: “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Worth reading in full.

Rumours That the Government Is Having Second Thoughts About Its Vaccine Passport Plans

Are ministers having second thoughts about introducing vaccine passports at nightclubs and other ‘large venues’ – or has the rhetoric always been empty, intended only to scare people into getting ‘jabbed’? A report in the i suggests that at least one of these scenarios could be true, especially following recent criticism of the Government’s proposals by Tory MPs, with one former minister saying that vaccine passports are likely to be ditched because Boris Johnson “hates the idea”.

Serious doubts have emerged over the policy, with officials now looking at whether case rates will require such measures.

A Whitehall source said “no decisions have been made yet” on the proposals, despite the Government insisting that the passes will be mandatory from the end of the month.

The source added that the Government was “watching the data and seeing what’s needed”, adding that it was up in the air as to whether the measures will be introduced.

It is understood, however, that infection rates would need to fall significantly for the Government to change its stance.

A Tory former minister told i they also suspected vaccine passports could be ditched, adding that Boris Johnson “hates the idea” and was just threatening their introduction to encourage young people to get jabbed. 

It comes after the Vaccines Minister sparked a furious response from his own backbenchers when he said the Government was pressing on with the policy even though it “goes against everything I believe in”. …

Tory MPs lined up to attack the plans in the Commons, with former Chief Whip Mark Harper demanding the Government drop the proposals. …

A separate cabinet source said the Government’s position remained unchanged, adding: “We are still working through the details and criteria of how it would apply.”

Worth reading in full.

The Story About Overdosing Ivermectin Patients Clogging Up Oklahoma Hospitals Was Too Good to Check

My latest Spectator column is about the fake news that circulated at the beginning of this week claiming that gunshot victims in Oklahoma were unable to get treatment in emergency rooms because ER doctors were too busy dealing with patients who’d overdosed on ivermectin. Incredibly, Jolyon Maughan invoked the story in a tweet urging Ofcom to investigate Calvin Robinson for promoting fake news! To date, the tweet remains undeleted and – who would have thunk it? – Twitter has not suspended him for trafficking in misinformation about COVID-19.

Here are the opening three pars of my column:

Last weekend, Rolling Stone ran a story about an interview an emergency room doctor had given to a local news station in which, according to the TV reporter, he’d said hospitals in his state were so swamped with patients who’d overdosed on ivermectin that gunshot victims were struggling to be seen. For context, ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug used for deworming horses that has been touted by vaccine sceptics as an effective prophylactic against Covid-19. For boosters of the Covid vaccines, this story was manna from heaven. Here were a bunch of hicks so dumb they were stuffing themselves with horse pills rather than getting jabbed, with predictably disastrous results.

There was only one problem — it wasn’t true. A hospital in rural Oklahoma that had worked with the ER doctor issued a statement saying it hadn’t treated any patients with complications arising from taking ivermectin. Two days later, Rolling Stone issued a clarification saying it had been “unable to independently verify any such cases’”. Pity it didn’t try to verify the story before publishing it, but then it probably fell under the heading of ‘too good to check’. That was the attitude of various media organisations that rehashed the story without bothering to confirm it, including the Guardian, Newsweek, the New York Daily News, Business Insider, The Hill and MSNBC. Incredibly, the host of a show on CNN called No Lie repeated it, as did the best-selling author of a book debunking anti-vaccine myths. Perhaps the icing on the cake is that this little nugget of fake news was regurgitated by an academic at the University of Maryland who specialises in ‘mis/disinformation’.

Needless to say, Twitter didn’t suspend any of its users for trafficking in falsehoods and nor did any ‘independent fact-checkers’ on Facebook flag the story as wrong. This is the type of in-accurate anecdote that the self-appointed scourges of ‘mis-information’ are happy to ignore because it confirms their prejudices about vaccine sceptics being ignorant rubes. As a rule, any story that challenges the official narrative about coronavirus is scrutinised by these gatekeepers in forensic detail, while those that support it, like this one, are given a free pass. That explains why journalists at papers like the Guardian were quick to dismiss the lab-leak hypothesis about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, yet lapped up fanciful stories linking the Great Barrington Declaration to unscrupulous businessmen worried about their profits.

Worth reading in full.

England’s NHS Waiting List Hits 5.6 Million

Few will be surprised to read that the number of people in England alone waiting to begin hospital treatment has risen again to a record high. 5.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of July, an increase of almost half a million from the end of April. And the figure will not stop rising yet, with the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimating that the waiting list could reach 14 million by next autumn. The Guardian has more.

A total of 5.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of July, according to figures from NHS England. This is the highest number since records began in August 2007 and includes those waiting for hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery.

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 293,102 in July 2021, down from 304,803 in the previous month, but more than three times the number waiting a year earlier, in July 2020, which was 83,203. …

The data shows the total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England in July 2021 was 259,642, up 82% from a year earlier (142,818), although this reflects lower-than-usual figures for July 2020, which were affected by the first wave of the Covid pandemic. The equivalent figure for July 2019, before the pandemic, was 314,280.

NHS England said many more tests and treatments had been delivered this summer compared with last, while hospitals cared for thousands more patients with Covid. It said there were 3.9 million diagnostic tests and 2.6 million patients started consultant-led treatment in June and July, compared with 2.7 million tests and 1.6 million treatments over the same time last year. …

NHS England also pointed to data showing that almost half a million people were checked for cancer in June and July, among the highest numbers on record. …

The new data showed that more than 325,000 patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in July. A total of 325,229 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.

The equivalent number waiting for more than six weeks in July 2020 was 489,797, while pre-pandemic in July 2019 there were 37,206.

Tim Mitchell, the Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said the overall data showed 7,980 patients waiting more than two years for treatment. The longest waits were for trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as hip and knee replacements, followed by general surgery such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations.

Worth reading in full.

Why Lionel Shriver Isn’t a White Nationalist

Observer columnist Kenan Malik has taken Spectator columnist Lionel Shriver to task for her recent column arguing that “white Britons” should be making more fuss about the prospect of becoming a minority in the U.K. in the next few decades. “In the big picture,” Shriver writes, “along with the native populations of other western countries, white Britons needn’t submissively accept the drastic ethnic and religious transformation of their country as an inevitable fate they’re morally required to embrace without a peep of protest”.

Malik is not impressed: “Shriver’s,” he writes, “is but the latest in a series of arguments by prominent conservatives bemoaning the decline of the white population or defending the legitimacy of white ‘racial self-interest’”. Boiling Shriver’s argument down to the claim: “To be truly British, the country needs to stay largely white”, Malik retorts that what the identity politics of both left and right get wrong is they fail to recognise that ‘whiteness’ does not matter:

For both right and left, whiteness has come to acquire an almost magical quality. On the one side, whiteness is something to be protected, something too little of which transforms British communities, and mysteriously makes them less British. On the other, whiteness has become an embodiment of privilege or wickedness and racism seen not in social or structural terms but in the inherent qualities of being white.

It’s an obsession that replaces political argument with magical thinking and gives new legitimacy to bigotry. Racism matters. Whiteness does not.

It’s worth noting that the facts of demographic change are not in doubt. Shriver succinctly summarises them in her piece, and Malik does not question them.

In the past 20 years, foreign-born residents of the U.K. have doubled to nine million, going from 8% to 14% of the population. In tandem, the white British proportion of the population has fallen from 89% to 79%, while ethnic minorities have grown from 10% to 21%. Since 2001, 84% of U.K. population growth has been due to immigrants and their children, rising to 90% since 2017 – the majority non-E.U.

More than a third of U.K. births now involve at least one foreign-born parent; in parts of London, 80% of births are to foreign-born mothers. Indeed, non-U.K. nationals are disproportionately concentrated in British cities. The majorities of London, Slough, Leicester and Luton have an ethnic minority background. About half the births in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cambridge are to foreign mothers.

Unsurprisingly, then, a third of British school children are already from ethnic minorities; in 20 years, ethnic-minority children will constitute more than half the students in state schools. As of 2018, 90% of immigrants were under 45. That means the ethnic transformation of the U.K., whose white population is far older, is destined rapidly to accelerate.

Covid Risk on Flights Between New York and London ‘Less Than One in a Million’

The risk of exposure to COVID-19 when flying between New York and London after all the passengers have obtained a negative PRC test result 72 hours in advance is less than a one in a million, a study of transatlantic service by Delta Air Lines has shown. Travel Weekly has more.

The research examined data from almost 10,000 passengers on Delta’s Covid-tested flights between New York-JFK and Atlanta to Rome.

It found that a single COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours of departure could decrease the rate of people actively infected on board to a level that is significantly below active community infection rates.

For example, when the average community infection rate was at 1.1% – or about one in 100 people – infection rates on Covid tested flights were 0.05% or five in 10,000 passengers.

The U.S. carrier’s chief health officer Dr Henry Ting said: “When you couple the extremely low infection rate on board a Covid-19-tested flight with the layers of protection on board including mandatory masking and hospital-grade air filtration, the risk of transmission is less than one in one million between the United States and the United Kingdom, for example.

“These numbers will improve further as vaccination rates increase and new cases decrease worldwide.”

He added: “We are going to live with COVID-19 variants for some time. This real-world data – not simulation models – is what governments around the world can use as a blueprint for requiring vaccinations and testing instead of quarantines to re-open borders for international travel.”

Using real world data to assess the risk posed by COVID-19? That’ll never catch on.

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated NHS Workers to Be Barred from Seeing Patients

The Government is due to publish a consultation today on mandatory Covid vaccination for NHS staff, with the Times reporting that workers will be legally obliged to get ‘jabbed’ in order to see patients – or face getting sacked.

The Government will publish a consultation today on plans to make vaccination a condition of employment for 1.2 million frontline NHS workers. Those who refuse will be barred from working with patients, meaning that they will need to be redeployed or could even lose their jobs.

Official figures show that 8% of NHS workers, equivalent to 116,717, have not received their first dose. In London 14% of NHS workers have not received their first jab.

The Government has already announced that from November 11th vaccination will be compulsory for all care workers, prompting warnings that tens of thousands of care workers could leave the profession.

The NHS confederation, which represents organisations in the health service, has argued that compulsory vaccination is unnecessary because NHS staff are “overwhelmingly doing the right thing”. However, Boris Johnson is said to be concerned about the role of unvaccinated staff in the spread of the virus in hospitals. …

Johnson spoke about people who were unvaccinated during a hospital visit yesterday. He told the BBC: “What I’m particularly concerned about is that in great hospitals like this, 75% of the people who are succumbing to Covid are not vaccinated. What I would really say to everybody is come on now. It’s a great thing to get a vaccination.”

A study by The BMJ in February found that inoculation rates among ethnic minority doctors and healthcare staff were significantly lower than among white staff. Health and care workers were in the first and second priority groups for vaccination.

A Government source said that the Prime Minister personally backed the plan for mandatory vaccination, adding: “It’s only right that those who are caring for people who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus should be vaccinated. This will save lives.”

The move could face legal challenges. Lawyers have said that employment contracts would have to be redrafted and that a blanket policy that all employees must be vaccinated would run the risk of being ruled unlawful discrimination.

Worth reading in full.

Feudalism’s Revenge

We’re publishing an original essay by longtime contributor Freddie Attenborough today – and this one is a humdinger. Possibly his best yet. Anyone who struggles to digest a piece of this length can go to his Substack where he’s divided it into two parts: one and two. It’s a variation on the “It’s not a conspiracy, but…” theme, suggesting that even though Boris and his Government couldn’t organise a washing up rota, let alone The Great Reset, they’ve revealed their unconscious agenda via their endless cock-ups. And that agenda is essentially to turn the masses back into forelock-tugging serfs by destroying their health and their livelihoods and making them completely dependent on the state. It’s a fantastic read, with some first-class phrasing – more like a stream-of-consciousness novel by Martin Amis crossed with John Kennedy Toole than a polemic. Here are the opening two paragraphs:

The U.K. Government’s latest attempt to satiate Boris Johnson’s multiple, complex and apparently chronic penetrative insemination paraphilias will involve the private sector in bribing young people with discounted takeaway food and free taxi rides. Food delivery and taxi-hailing firms including Uber, Bolt, Deliveroo and Pizza Pilgrims have all been enrolled in this latest psychiatric intervention and are now offering incentives for young people to arouse the Prime Minister’s husband by receiving what he’s taken to referring to during Cabinet meetings as “the pharmaceutical boys’ ejaculate”. “How many disease vectors have the pharmaceutical boys ejaculated into this week?” he’ll ask excitedly, often several times a minute, the words oozing up and out of that capricious little slit in his head like smarmy treacle, mellifluous and full of privilege.

As you might imagine, the BBC got themselves pretty hot and horny about this, the policy’s underlying mix of messianic, full-throttle welfarism and Old Testament-style retributive psychopathy touching a sweet spot for the munificent totalitarians over at New Broadcasting House. Not that they were able to get off as many superlatives as they’d have liked. True, manipulation of the young is as essential to the BBC as it is to every other elite western institution currently waging war on that dangerous, socially harmful pathogen known as “cognitive diversity” – sorry, I mean “Covid misinformation”. But unlike, say, the Guardian, Independent SAGE or Emily Maitlis, the BBC’s efforts to save the povvy proles from wrongthink are forever getting ensnared in all sorts of tiresome, fuddy-duddy, neo-Victorian priggery: here, a Royal Charter blathering on about fairness and due impartiality; there, a Parliamentary Select Committee stuffed to the gills with white men all bloviating away about discredited colonial-era shibboleths like objectivity and truth, and everywhere you look hardworking reporters barely able to take a rhetorical step without some ghastly white supremacist popping out from behind a copy of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and demanding they stop acting like the public relations arm of the global pharmaceutical industry.

Go and make yourself a cup of coffee, then come back to your device and read it in full.