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Daily Archives: April 24, 2022

Humour: News in Cartoons

Europe Saw Warmest Summer on Record in 2021

Scientists say last summer was the hottest summer on record in Europe, with temperatures a full 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average for the previous three decades.

A report released Friday by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found that while spring 2021 was cooler than average, the summer months were marked by “severe and long-lasting heatwaves” that saw numerous new temperature records, including an unprecedented 48.8°C (119.8°F) measured in Sicily last August.

The prolonged high temperatures contributed to wildfires such as those seen in Siberia, Greece and Turkey last year, and experts say it increased the likelihood of heavy rainfall of the kind that led to deadly flooding in Belgium and Germany last July more likely.

Sea surface temperatures last year were higher than at any time since at least 1992 in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and parts of the Baltic Sea, where the mercury rose more than 5°C (9°F) above average during the summer months.

Annual wind speeds in parts of western and central Europe were among the lowest since at least 1979, the Copernicus Climate Change Service said. This led to a reduction in the estimated potential for wind power — one of the main sources of renewable energy that European countries are banking on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.

The agency’s findings are based on ground-based weather stations and satellite observations dating back to 1950.

Globally, the report showed that 2021 was ranked between the 7th and 5th warmest year on record, depending on the dataset used.


Source : AP

Big Tech’s ‘Cancel Culture’ Love Affair

Pepe Escobar wrote . . . . . . . . .

This month, several of us – Scott Ritter, myself, ASB Military News, among others – were canceled from Twitter. The – unstated – reason: we were debunking the officially approved narrative of the Russia/NATO/Ukraine war.

As with all things Big Tech, that was predictable. I lasted only seven months on Twitter. And that was long enough. Contacts in California had told me I was on their radar because the account grew too fast, and had enormous reach, especially after the start of Operation Z.

I celebrated the cancelation by experiencing an aesthetic illumination in front of the Aegean Sea, at the home of Herodotus, the Father of History. Additionally, it was heart-warming to be recognized by the great George Galloway in his moving tribute to targets of the new McCarthyism.

In parallel, comic relief of the “Mars Attacks” variety was provided by expectations of free speech on Twitter being saved by the benign intervention of Elon Musk.

Techno-feudalism is one of the overarching themes of my latest book, Raging Twenties – published in early 2021 and reviewed here in a very thoughtful and meticulous manner.

Cancel culture is inbuilt in the techno-feudalist project: conform to the hegemonic narrative, or else. In my own case regarding Twitter and Facebook – two of the guardians of the internet, alongside Google — I knew a day of reckoning was inevitable, because like other countless users I had previously been dispatched to those notorious “jails”.

On one Facebook occasion, I sent a sharp message highlighting that I was a columnist/analyst for an established Hong Kong-based media company. Some human, not an algorithm, must have read it, because the account was restored in less than 24 hours.

But then the account was simply disabled – with no warning. I requested the proverbial “review”. The response was a demand for proof of ID. Less than 24 hours later, came the verdict: “Your account has been disabled” because it had not followed those notoriously hazy “community standards.” The decision was “reviewed” and “it can’t be reversed”.

I celebrated with a Buddhist mini-requiem on Instagram.

My hit-by-a-Hellfire missile Facebook page clearly identified for the general public who I was, at the time: “Geopolitical analyst at Asia Times”. The fact of the matter is Facebook algorithms canceled a top columnist from Asia Times – with a proven record and a global profile. The algos would never have had the – digital – guts to do the same with a top columnist from The New York Times or the Financial Times.

Asia Times lawyers in Hong Kong sent a letter to Facebook management. Predictably, there was no response.

Of course becoming a target of cancel culture – twice – does not even remotely compare to the fate of Julian Assange, imprisoned for over three years in Belmarsh under the most appalling circumstances, and about to be dispatched for “judgment” in the American gulag for the crime of committing journalism. Yet the same “logic” applies: journalism that does not conform to the hegemonic narrative must be taken down.

Conform, or Else

At the time, I discussed the matter with several Western analysts. As one of them succinctly put it, “You were ridiculing the U.S. president while pointing out the positives of Russia, China and Iran. That’s a deadly combination”.

Others were simply stunned: “I wonder why you were restricted as you work for a reputable publication.” Or made the obvious connections: “Facebook is a censorship machine. I did not know that they do not give reasons for what they do but then they are part of the Deep State.”

A banking source that usually places my columns on the desks of selected Masters of the Universe put it New York-style: “You severely p****d the Atlantic Council”. No question: the specimen who oversaw the canceling of my account was a former Atlantic Council hack.

Ron Unz in California had the account of his extremely popular website Unz Review purged by Facebook on April 2020. Subsequently, readers who tried to post their articles met with an “error” message describing the content as “abusive”.

When Unz mentioned my case to renowned economist James Galbraith, “he really was quite shocked, and thought it might signal a very negative censorship trend on the Internet.”

The “censorship trend” is a fact – for quite a while now. Take this U.S. State Department 2020 report identifying “pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”

State Dept. Directive

The late Pompeo-era report demonizes “fringe or conspiracy-minded” websites who happen to be extremely critical of U.S. foreign policy. They include Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation – where I’m a columnist – and Canada-based Global Research, which republishes most of my columns (but so does Consortium News, ZeroHedge and many other U.S. websites). I’m cited in the report by name, along with quite a few top columnists.

The report’s “research” states that Strategic Culture – which is blocked by Facebook and Twitter – is directed by the SVR, Russian foreign intel. This is ridiculous. I met the previous editors in Moscow – young, energetic, with enquiring minds. They had to quit their jobs because after the report they started to be severely threatened online.

So the directive comes straight from the State Department – and that has not changed under Biden-Harris: any analysis of U.S. foreign policy that deviates from the norm is a “conspiracy theory” – a terminology that was invented and perfected by the C.I.A.

Couple it with the partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council – which is a de facto NATO think tank – and now we have a real powerful ecosystem.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Every silicon fragment in the valley connects Facebook as a direct extension of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s LifeLog project, a Pentagon attempt to “build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.” Facebook launched its website exactly on the same day – Feb. 4, 2004 – that DARPA and the Pentagon shuttered LifeLog.

No explanation by DARPA was ever provided. The MIT’s David Karger, at the time, remarked, “I am sure that such research will continue to be funded under some other title. I can’t imagine DARPA ‘dropping out’ of such a key research area.”

Of course a smokin’ gun directly connecting Facebook to DARPA will never be allowed to surface. But occasionally some key players speak out, such as Douglas Gage, none other than LifeLog’s conceptualizer: “Facebook is the real face of pseudo-LifeLog at this point (…) We have ended up providing the same kind of detailed personal information to advertisers and data brokers and without arousing the kind of opposition that LifeLog provoked.”

So Facebook has absolutely nothing to do with journalism. Not to mention pontificating over a journalist’s work, or assuming it’s entitled to cancel him or her. Facebook is an “ecosystem” built to sell private data at a huge profit, offering a public service as a private enterprise, but most of all sharing the accumulated data of its billions of users with the U.S. national security state.

The resulting algorithmic stupidity, also shared by Twitter – incapable of recognizing nuance, metaphor, irony, critical thinking – is perfectly integrated into what former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern brilliantly coined as the MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex).

In the U.S., at least the odd expert on monopoly power identified this neo-Orwellian push as accelerating “the collapse of journalism and democracy.”

Facebook “fact-checking professional journalists” does not even qualify as pathetic. Otherwise Facebook – and not analysts like McGovern – would have debunked Russiagate. It would not routinely cancel Palestinian journalists and analysts. It would not disable the account of University of Tehran professor Mohammad Marandi – who was actually born in the U.S.

I received quite a few messages stating that being canceled by Facebook – and now by Twitter – is a badge of honor. Well, everything is impermanent (Buddhism) and everything flows (Daoism). So being deleted – twice – by an algorithm qualifies at best as a cosmic joke.


Source : Consortium News

Have People Been Given the Wrong Vaccine?

Martin Kulldorff wrote . . . . . . . . .

Randomized controlled trials show all-cause mortality reduction from the Covid adenovirus-vector vaccines (RR=0.37, 95%CI: 0.19-0.70) but not from the mRNA vaccines (RR=1.03, 95%CI 0.63-1.71).

That is the verdict from a new Danish study by Dr. Christine Benn and colleagues. Have people been given vaccines that don’t work (Pfizer/Moderna) instead of vaccines that do work (AstraZeneca/Johnson & Johnson)? Let’s put this study into context and then delve into the numbers.

In medicine, the gold standard for evidence is randomized controlled trials (RCT), as they avoid study bias for or against the vaccine. Moreover, the key outcome is death. Do these vaccines save lives? Hence, the Danish study answers the right question with the right data.

It is the first study to do so.

When the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that decision was based on RCTs. The RCTs submitted to the FDA showed that the vaccines reduce symptomatic Covid infections. By recruiting mostly younger and middle-aged adults, who are unlikely to die from Covid no matter what, the studies were not designed to determine whether the vaccines also reduce mortality.

That was assumed as a corollary, although it may or may not be true. Neither were the RCTs designed to determine whether the vaccines reduce transmission, but that is a different story for another time.

The vaccines were developed for Covid, but to properly evaluate a vaccine, we must look at non-Covid deaths as well. Are there unintended adverse reactions leading to death? We do not want a vaccine that saves the lives of some people but kills an equal number of other people. There may also be unintended benefits, such as incidental protection against other infections. For a fair comparison, that should also be part of the equation.

While each individual RCT was unable to determine whether the Covid vaccine reduced mortality, the RCTs recorded all deaths, and to increase sample size, the Danish study pooled multiple RCTs. There are two different types of Covid vaccines, adenovirus-vector vaccines (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik) and mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), and they did one pooled analysis for each type. Here are the results:

There is clear evidence that the adenovirus-vector vaccines reduced mortality. For every 100 deaths in the unvaccinated, there are only 37 deaths among the vaccinated, with a 95% confidence interval of 19 to 70 deaths. This result comes from five different RCTs for three different vaccines, but it is primarily driven by the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

For the mRNA vaccines, on the other hand, there was no evidence of a mortality reduction. For every 100 deaths among the unvaccinated, there are 103 deaths among the vaccinated, with a 95% confidence interval of 63 to 171 deaths. That is, the mRNA vaccines may reduce mortality a little bit, or they may increase it; we do not know. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contributed equally to this result, so there is no evidence that one is better or worse than the other.

While all-cause mortality is what matters for public health, there is scientific interest in knowing how the different vaccines affect different types of mortality. The Danish scientists contacted RCT investigators to get information on whether each death was due to Covid, cardiovascular disease, accidents, or other causes.

For the mRNA vaccines, there was a reduction in Covid deaths but an increase in cardiovascular deaths, but neither was statistically significant. So, either result could be due to random chance. Alternatively, the vaccines may reduce the risk for Covid deaths while increasing the risk for cardiovascular deaths. We do not know, and Pfizer and Moderna did not design the RCTs to let us know.

For the adenovirus-vector vaccines, there were statistically significant decreases in both Covid and cardiovascular deaths, unlikely to be due to chance. There was a slight decrease in other deaths, which may be due to chance.

The strength of the Danish study is that it is based on randomized controlled trials. The primary weakness is that the follow-up time is short. This is because the manufacturers ended the clinical trials prematurely, after the vaccines received emergency use authorization.

Another weakness is that the data does not allow us to determine how these results may differ by age. While anyone can get infected, there is more than a thousand-fold difference in the risk of dying from Covid between the old and the young.

Are the vaccines primarily reducing deaths in older people? That is a reasonable guess. What about younger people? We don’t know. This is not the fault of the Danish investigators. They have done a brilliant job extracting as much information as possible from the industry-sponsored RCTs.

Some may criticize the Danish study for not yet being peer-reviewed, but it has been. It was peer-reviewed by me and several colleagues, and all of us have decades of experience with these types of studies. That it has not yet been peer-reviewed by anonymous journal reviewers is inconsequential.

The mRNA vaccines were approved based on a reduction in symptomatic infections instead of mortality. That Pfizer and Moderna did not design their RCTs to determine whether the vaccines reduced mortality is inexcusable, as they could easily have done so.

That the FDA still approved them for emergency use is understandable. Many older Americans were dying from Covid, and they had to base the decision on whatever information was available at the time.

Now we know more. If Pfizer and Moderna want to continue to sell these vaccines, we should demand that they conduct a proper randomized clinical trial that proves that the vaccines reduce mortality.

Equally important, the government, corporations and universities should stop mandating vaccines when randomized controlled trials show a null result for mortality.


Source : Brownstone Institute

Infographic: Nature Timespiral – The Evolution of Earth from the Big Bang

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist