Day: 16 November 2021

News Round-Up

Vaccine Safety Update

This is the 18th of the round-ups of Covid vaccine safety reports and news compiled by a group of medical doctors who are monitoring developments but prefer to remain anonymous in the current climate (find the 17th one here). By no means is this part of an effort to generate alarm about the vaccines or dissuade anyone from getting inoculated. It should be read in conjunction with the Daily Sceptic‘s other posts on vaccines, which include both encouraging and not so encouraging developments. At the Daily Sceptic we report all the news about the vaccines whether positive or negative and give no one advice about whether they should or should not take them. Unlike with lockdowns, we are neither pro-vaccine nor anti-vaccine; we see our job as reporting the facts, not advocating for or against a particular policy. The vaccine technology is novel and the vaccines have not yet fully completed their trials, which is why they’re in use under temporary and not full market authorisation. This has been done on account of the emergency situation and the trial data was largely encouraging on both efficacy and safety. For a summary of that data, see this preamble to the Government’s page on the Yellow Card reporting system. (Dr Tess Lawrie in June wrote an open letter to Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, arguing that: “The MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans,” a claim that has been ‘fact checked’ here.) Boris Johnson said in October that being double vaccinated “doesn’t protect you against catching the disease, and it doesn’t protect you against passing it on”. We publish information and opinion to inform public debate and help readers reach their own conclusions about what is best for them, based on the available data.

Summary of Adverse Events in the U.K.

According to an updated report published on November 11th, the MHRA Yellow Card reporting system has recorded a total of 1,261,714 events based on 383,644 reports. The total number of fatalities reported is 1,766: 1,118 with AstraZeneca, 597 with Pfizer, 19 with Moderna, 32 unspecified. (Note: updated dose counts were not available in this week’s MHRA report so figures based on dose counts have been omitted in this update. All other data has been updated.)

Climate Change Scepticism in Line For Censorship

Enjoy the Daily Sceptic while you can. A powerful network of climate change activists are working on “stamping out climate change misinformation once and for all”. And by “climate change misinformation” they don’t mean things like claiming that we have 18 months to save the planet. (See this piece by the BBC’s Environment Correspondent.) They mean anything that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy about climate change, however well-evidenced.

A reader received this email today, inviting him to attend a Censors’ Conference organised by the Institute of Government and Public Policy.

Dear XXX,

I wanted to get in touch with you this morning as we have received a small pot of funding for the Tackling Online Misinformation and Disinformation virtual conference which has allowed us to allocate X part-funded tickets to attend on January 18th. Would this be of interest to you or your colleagues?

View the event agenda and keynote speakers here.

Major U.K. brands including Virgin Media O2, Sky, British Gas, Ben & Jerry’s and SSE have signed an open letter calling on Cop26 decision-makers and technology platforms to take immediate action on stamping out climate change misinformation once and for all. Led by the Conscious Advertising Network, a voluntary coalition of organisations on a mission to prevent advertisers from inadvertently funding harmful content online, the letter says climate change has reached a “crisis point”. Recent research from Stop Funding Heat also found 113 ads on Facebook with messages like “climate change is a hoax” between January and October 2021, with an estimated spend of between £42,000 and £55,000.

This timely event will explore the emerging threat landscape of misinformation and disinformation online, and provide actionable insights into tackling this pressing issue.

Hear from Sterling Rippy, Strategic Lead Behavioural Insights, Public Health, London Borough of Hounslow as he discusses addressing vaccine misinformation by using the messenger principle and providing insight on how to best launch information campaigns.

Why attend?

* Discover effective strategies and software which can help to identify and counter disinformation online
* Discuss and debate the impact of the Online Harms Whitepaper with regards to digital disinformation
* Increasing media literacy as a defence against disinformation
* Assess the potential role of AI in the counter-disinformation framework
* Hear the ways in which Ofcom will balance upholding freedom of expression whilst providing a duty of care
* Improving the Social Media Landscape – dismantling incentivisation

We hope to see you at the event.

Sinister, or what?

New Delhi Could Impose Lockdown to Combat Pollution

You’ll have heard various climate change fanatics call for lockdowns to be used to reduce carbon emissions – because they worked so well to curb the spread of COVID-19! Well, it’s starting. India’s Supreme Court is calling for a lockdown in New Delhi because of a “health emergency”. But the “emergency” is not due to COVID-19. It’s due to air pollution. NPR has more.

At a hearing Monday, justices ordered authorities to halt all nonessential travel on roads in the national capital region. They also told them to close offices in the area, shifting tens of millions of people to work from home.

It’s unclear if or when such a lockdown would take effect, or how long it might last. Delhi’s air quality appeared to ease slightly Monday. The AQI is now in the low 400s on a 500-point scale. Last week, it was off the charts in some areas.

Delhi’s Chief Minister has indicated his willingness to impose a pollution-related lockdown but has said it would have minimal effect without similar measures from neighbouring states. Officials from the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh plan to hold meetings Tuesday.

New Delhi’s schools are already closed this week because of air pollution that’s been about four times the safe limit. Construction sites are also on pause, which will ultimately slow the economy.

This is all because of toxic smog across much of northern India. It happens every winter as industrial and vehicular emissions mix with smoke from crop-burning after the harvest.

While farmers have often been blamed for exacerbating the pollution problem, government lawyers told the Supreme Court on Monday that crop-burning amounts to only about 10% of emissions. One justice responded by saying it might be even lower.

Some of the schools forced to shut this week had only just reopened for the first time in nearly 20 months, because of COVID-19.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Luxembourg

We’re publishing a guest post today by Russell Davis, a blogger who has made a point of travelling to all 27 countries in the E.U., completing his quest during lockdown. His final trip – number 27 – was to the tiny principality of Luxembourg. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a nightmare. Here’s an extract:

The Luxembourg trip started off okay. I flew from London City Airport (a place where in one toilet four out of five hand basins are designated unsafe to use), to the tiny country’s tiny capital in a tiny plane provided by Luxair, which was considerably more pleasant than Ryanair last month. I stayed at the somewhat overpriced Novotel Luxembourg Centre.

The country’s tight rules had been tightened up further on November 1st. This followed seven deaths over the month of October where Covid was mentioned in a nation of 633,000 people. A further three people, so fewer than one in 200,000, succumbed to it during my three-night stay; the grand Covid death total for Luxembourg over the last two years is 855. Consequently, my hotel was awash with paranoia: every time you went to the hotel restaurant (called Red Square, ironically) you had to show proof that you’re double-jabbed; masks are mandatory everywhere; the remote control in my room was in a sealed envelope to protect me from harm; hand sanitiser is the most common furniture and there are instruction sheets on how to use it, perhaps in case guests mistakenly apply it to their feet. But this is a hotel where the breakfast baked beans have carrots in them and room service come to tidy your room at 8.40am. Carrots! 8.40am! Not good.

Worth reading in full.

Repeated Lockdowns Have Seen Childhood Obesity Rates Spike to Record Highs

According to the National Child Measurement Programme, obesity rates in reception age children jumped from 9.9% to 14.4% over a single year that consisted of repeated lockdowns and restrictions, meaning that one in seven children begin primary school classified as obese. Meanwhile, for children in their last year of primary school, the obesity rate leapt from 21% to 25.5%. The Telegraph has more.

Experts said the figures were “alarming” and showed Covid lockdowns had a devastating impact on children’s health, because many spent more time snacking and less time exercising as a result of being confined to their homes.

Children as young as two could now get diet coaches as part of a national obesity drive, the head of the NHS said on Tuesday.

For those aged 10 and 11, who are in their last year of primary school, obesity prevalence increased from 21% to 25.5%.

Overall, 27.7% of pupils were overweight or obese by the age of five, compared with 23% the year before. 

The statistics for the 2020/21 academic year showed that by the end of primary school, 41% of children are either overweight or obese, which is up from 35.2% the year before. 

The statistics also show far higher rates of obesity among boys compared with girls by year six, with 29.2% of boys obese compared to 21.7% of girls.

Dr. Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “this sharp increase in obesity levels across childhood is alarming. 

“While lockdown may have been a key factor, we mustn’t assume that this year’s results are an aberration since there may be other factors, including mental health difficulties, which will take time to address.”

Officials said that the volume of data for 2020/21 was more limited than that for 2019/20.

The scheme normally weighs and measures children throughout the school year. But with schools closed for much of the pandemic, officials were only able to restart the programme in March 2021, a year after lockdown. 

Worth reading in full.

JP Morgan Executive Avoids Hong Kong Quarantine Rules Because He Runs “a Very Huge Bank”

The Chief Executive of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, entered Hong Kong without following the territory’s mandatory 21-day hotel quarantine law. Carrie Lam, the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong, mentioned that the reason for Dimon’s lenient treatment was because he manages “a very huge bank” with “key business in Hong Kong”. The Guardian has the story.

Dimon flew into Hong Kong on Monday on JP Morgan’s private jet, becoming the first Wall Street bank boss to visit the territory or mainland China since the pandemic began.

Questioned about why Dimon was allowed to enter the territory without complying with Covid rules, Lam said: “The justification is related to the economy, as this is a very huge bank with key business in Hong Kong. He needed to come and work for about a day in Hong Kong. But there are restrictions, including restrictions over his itinerary, so the risk is completely manageable.”

Hong Kong is pursuing a zero-Covid strategy alongside China, and has imposed some of the world’s strictest travel rules to keep the virus out. Measures include mandatory hotel quarantines of three weeks for any resident returning from the U.K. or U.S., regardless of vaccination status, followed by seven days of self-monitoring. Tourists and most non-resident visitors are banned from boarding flights to the city.

During his visit, Dimon told Bloomberg that the strict quarantine policy “does make it harder” to attract and retain talent in the territory. The local American Chamber of Commerce said in May that 40% of its members were considering leaving the territory because of the restrictions.

JP Morgan said Dimon would spend only 32 hours in Hong Kong, and the visit was to thank staff for their hard work during the pandemic and hold meetings with regulators.

Worth reading in full.

Beijing Has Brought Western Environmental Activism Under Its Control

At COP26 China refused to promise to phase out coal and last week the nation broke its own daily record for coal production at 12.05 million tonnes. Bizarrely, China is not perceived as a villain by many of the West’s environmental activists, who instead put the blame for global warming on nations closer to home. The reason for this is likely because Beijing has infiltrated and seized control of much of the West’s environmental institutions, creating an army of ‘useful idiots’ who turn a blind eye to the sins of the Communist regime. The Daily Mail has the story.

Yesterday, green campaigners hailed some modest successes, such as pledges to reduce methane. But back in the real world, China, whose President, Xi Jinping, did not even turn up, is still building coal-fired power stations at a rate of knots and the ‘agreement’ it reached with America to ‘co-operate’ on global warming lacked any substance.

Yet the campaigners in Glasgow barely mentioned, let alone criticised, China. A spokesman for Insulate Britain told me: “We mustn’t use China as a scapegoat.”

Some campaigners even heap praise on China. So why is there such an apparent lack of concern? One answer lies in a book called Hidden Hand: Exposing How The Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping The World, by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg. Serialised in the Mail last year, it argues that China has extended its influence over certain institutions in Britain and other democracies in order to blind them to Beijing’s drive for supremacy.

China, the book says, seduces politicians, business people, academics and campaigners into supporting its aims. It regards them as ‘useful idiots’, unwitting instruments of its goal of becoming the world’s only superpower.

Evidence unearthed by this newspaper, working with researchers fluent in Mandarin, shows Western environmentalists have indeed become a target. Documents suggest they are enmeshed with bodies subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and staffed by figures from its most ruthless departments.

They include Xie Zhenhua, China’s Chief Climate Envoy. Until 2012, he was a member of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which enforces state orthodoxy. According to Human Rights Watch, it has been responsible for illegal detention, torture and forced confessions.

“I’m dismayed that some leading Western environmentalists are talking up the CCP as the saviour of the world,” Hamilton says. Take, for example, Professor Lord Stern, Chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, who advises the Government.

Having taught in China since 1998, in 2009 he told a Chinese magazine he had “close contacts” with CCP officials. In 2014, he wrote a paper for the World Economic Forum claiming China was “emerging as a global leader in climate policy”. In 2016 he claimed China’s emissions “may already have peaked”. They hadn’t. The following year, he insisted there was “compelling evidence” China’s coal use had also peaked.

Stern even praised President Jinping’s “personal commitment to driving climate action”, concluding: “The world is looking for a climate champion. In China, it has one.” But in March he sounded less optimistic, saying it is “crucial” China stops building new coal-fired power plants and stops increasing its emissions by 2025.

Nevertheless, Bob Ward, Stern’s Spokesman, told me China was taking “significant action” and the rate of increase in its emissions had slowed enormously. He said China was “keen to learn from the UK’s example of world-leading action on climate change”.

Worth reading in full.

Record Number of People Waiting for Vital Heart Scans Due to NHS Backlog

According to the British Heart Foundation, nearly 65,000 people were waiting six weeks or more for a heart scan in September, with the charity warning that delaying this check means that patients do not receive the treatment they need soon enough, putting lives at risk. In addition, the British Lung Foundation estimates that roughly 46,000 people have undiagnosed lung disease largely because diagnostic tests were suspended due to the fear it would spread Covid. The Telegraph has the story.

An echo scan is used after a heart attack or heart failure to look at the structure of a patient’s heart and determine what treatment or surgery is needed.

Delays to the scans, resulting in delays to treatment, are putting patients’ lives at risk, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said, as analysis showed that 44% are now waiting six weeks or more, the highest percentage on record since the data was compiled.

Reduced access to healthcare during the Covid crisis has created a “hidden backlog” of people with heart disease who have yet to be added to waiting lists, the charity said, with around 10,000 fewer scans being carried out each month on average. It comes as NHS waiting lists to start treatment reached 5.8 million.

Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, the Associate Medical Director of the BHF, said: “Waiting lists for heart treatments were too long even before the pandemic began, and they are now rising to record levels.”

She said the delays are “all the more tragic when effective heart treatments exist” and called for an urgent plan to address cardiovascular recovery.

Separately, almost 50,000 people in England are living with undiagnosed lung disease, with a lack of access to GPs and the suspension of tests in the pandemic contributing to a 51% drop in diagnoses.

The British Lung Foundation said diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a serious lung disease, halved in the last year, with an estimated 46,000 people unknowingly living with the condition.

It said a combination of factors had led to the fall, including the suspension of essential diagnostic breathing tests during Covid due to concerns over the spread of the virus, long waits to see specialists and difficulties getting a GP appointment. More than 1.3 million people in the U.K. have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sarah Woolnough, the Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the growing number of undiagnosed patients was a “ticking timebomb” for the NHS.

Worth reading in full.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Try Climate Journalism

We’re publishing a guest post by journalist Chris Morrison on this year’s recipient of the Biophilia Award for Environmental Communication, a prize worth €100,000. And the winner is… Marlowe Hood, environment correspondent of Agence France-Presse.

It’s that time of the year when Spain’s second largest financial company uses it charitable foundation to give Euro 100,000 (yes, six figures, not a typo) to the tamest climate journalist in an already well trained pack. The award is given on an annual basis by the Foundation of the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), a company that made profits in the first nine months of the year of €3.1 billion and is heavily involved in funding decarbonisation and renewable energy projects. Past recipients of the money include Matt McGrath of the BBC and the Guardian newspaper.

This year it is presented to Marlowe Hood who runs climate activism at Agence France-Presse. On his twitter feed, Mr Hood describes himself as the “Herald of the Anthropocene”, the latter being a political renaming of the Holocene Epoch, designed to emphasis human involvement in so far unobserved runaway global warming. Mr. Hood is fully signed up to Thermogeddon of course. In a recent tweet he noted, “65 countries will see GDP drop by 20% by 2050 even if global warming is limited to 1.5C.” The source for this fanciful statement – suggesting massive economic devastation from a small increase in air temperature – was a Christian Aid report written by a young researcher at Humboldt University who has a BA in finance management and a doctorate in philosophy.

Reporting on the guesses produced by inaccurate climate models is a speciality of activist journalists. In his BBVA commendation, Mr. Hood is praised for his ability to “synthesise complex scientific models and studies and explain them in simple terms”. Presumably not so simple that readers might come away with the idea that climate models results are little more than gigantic guesses and are often produced and publicised for political reasons.

The political agenda, which tolerates no argument, is that the world should divest itself of 85% of its entire energy supply within less than 30 years and replace cheap, reliable fossil fuels with unreliable, uneconomic renewable power. Of course, this project is only possible if drastic reductions in living standards are mandated and almost unimaginable sums of money are diverted via taxes and savings to bankroll new, untested, subsidy-hungry systems and technologies. Under global net zero, the suffering will be widespread across the world, but is unlikely to unduly inconvenience those in charge of state and private diversions of capital.