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BRICS Leaders Vow to Enhance & Expand New Development Bank

Samizdat – 23.06.2022

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa held their 14th annual summit on Thursday virtually. This year, the summit was chaired by China.

BRICS members vowed to widen the Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB) on Thursday, following the successful admission of Bangladesh, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uruguay in September 2021.

“We look forward to further membership expansion in a gradual and balanced manner in terms of geographic representation and comprising of both developed and developing countries, to enhance the NDB’s international influence as well as the representation and voice of Emerging Market and Developing Countries (EMDCs) in global governance,” the 75-point joint declaration released after the summit read.

BRICS has supported the NDB’s goals of attaining the highest possible credit rating and institutional development. The BRICS member nations have also stressed that they have a similar approach to the global economic governance, and their mutual cooperation can make a valuable contribution to the post-Covid economic recovery.

Geopolitical Concerns

Leaders also discussed the ongoing crisis in Eastern Europe, recalling their national positions at different global forums, including the United Nations’ Security Council and General Assembly.

“We support talks between Russia and Ukraine. We have also discussed our concerns over the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine,” the joint declaration said.

Amid border tensions between India and China, the leaders committed to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States,” stressing the peaceful resolution of differences and disputes through dialogue and consultation.

The BRICS countries – which represent 24 percent of the global GDP and 16 percent of worldwide trade – further reiterated the need to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through peaceful and diplomatic means as per international law. They stressed the importance of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a deal reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in 2015. The stand-off between Iran and western nations continues following the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.

June 23, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Have Lockdown Sceptics Won the Argument?

By Edward Chancellor | The Daily Sceptic | January 25, 2022

Now that Covid restrictions are being rolled back, various commentators are declaring victory over the miserable virus. Lockdowns, we are told, worked. Only a fool could argue otherwise.

Devi Sridhar, the Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, who was formerly an exponent of the Zero Covid strategy of completely eradicating the virus, has recently announced in the Guardian that “delaying and preventing infection as much as possible through this pandemic was a worthwhile strategy. In early 2020, there were few treatments, limited testing and no vaccines. The costs of those lockdowns were big, but the effort to buy time paid off”.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Tom Harwood of GB News says much the same. Lockdown sceptics, he writes in CapX, are “bizarrely claiming victory now that restrictions are coming to an end”. The sceptics, Harwood asserts, ignore the success of vaccines. “There is a blindingly obvious distinction between the need for non-pharmaceutical interventions amongst a non-immune population, verses [sic] one with incredibly high levels of immunity.” He points to a lower death toll from the Omicron variant which appeared after the “stupendously successful vaccine rollout”. In conclusion, Harwood writes that to “deny lockdowns worked to reduce spread is to deny logic”.

Let’s examine the logic. If lockdowns bought time for the rollout of vaccines, then we would expect fewer Covid deaths in places that locked down early and fast. That is the case in Australia and New Zealand, which early in the pandemic sealed their borders against the virus. But the trouble with this policy, as our Antipodean friends are discovering, is the difficulty of exiting. Their policy of national self-isolation has lasted nearly two years, and continues in large measure even after most of their population has been vaccinated.

By contrast, in Europe there is no evidence that lockdowns significantly reduced Covid deaths. Sweden, which never locked down, has the same number of deaths per million as Austria, which did (see chart below). It’s true that Swedish deaths ran higher somewhat earlier than Austria, but this ‘bought-time’ doesn’t appear to have changed the final tally.


The evidence from the United States points to a similar conclusion: the Covid death rate (as a share of the population) in Florida, which largely avoided lockdowns, is slightly below the U.S. national average and far below that of New York, which had (and continues to impose) relatively tough restrictions.

It’s true that mass vaccination has reduced the risk of hospitalisation and death from Covid. But lockdown exponents imply that vaccines alone are responsible for the decline in the infection fatality rate. The evidence from South Africa, whose vaccination rate is around a quarter of the European average (49 doses per 100 people versus 180, or 27%), suggests otherwise.

It appears that either Covid has evolved to become less virulent, as the South African doctors suggested back in December, or South Africa’s population has built up strong natural immunity from prior infection – a possibility overlooked by most commentators. It seems likely that both factors have played a role in reducing the virulence of the disease. Even if lockdowns had succeeded in reducing Covid deaths until the vaccine rollout that wouldn’t necessarily justify their imposition. From the start, lockdown sceptics were concerned about the collateral damage caused by closing down the economy, shuttering schools, neglecting conventional health care and forcing people to isolate in their homes for months on end. They railed in vain against the cruelty of lockdowns: mothers giving birth alone, old people dying alone or left for months without visitors in nursing homes, the damage to children’s education, funerals unattended, small businesses crushed and so forth. Finally, the public appears to be waking up to these cruelties. Hence, the fury at the hypocrisy of Downing Street officials who imposed harsh rules for the nation which they didn’t scrupulously follow themselves.

Then there are lockdown’s immense financial costs. At the time, these could be ignored since governments financed them with interest-free loans from central banks. But all that money-printing is now fuelling inflation that will lead to further immiseration in the coming years. The sceptics argued that lockdowns were never subject to a proper cost-benefit analysis which took social and economic costs into account. That remains the case. Thus, not only has there been no ‘victory’ in the war on Covid – on the contrary, the highly contagious Omicron variant appears to be overcoming all attempts to constrain it  – but the argument over lockdowns has yet to be decisively won by either side, so that lockdowns are either accepted as a tool of sound public health policy or roundly condemned as a colossal mistake. The sceptics’ work continues.

Edward Chancellor is a financial journalist and the author of Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation (1998).

January 25, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are We Overreacting to Omicron?

BY PAUL ELIAS ALEXANDER | BROWNSTONE INSTITUTE | NOVEMBER 26, 2021

With natural exposure immunity and early outpatient treatment and when combined with no reports of increased lethality, the WHO’s reaction of generating panic toward “Omicron” is causing needless fear and panic. So too with the Biden administration’s newly imposed travel restrictions, which will achieve nothing and will once again disrupt trade and violate human rights.

The WHO has said that the Omicron variant can spread more quickly than other variants. Likely true. The virus is behaving just like how viruses behave. They are mutable and mutate and via Muller’s ratchet, we expect this to be milder and milder mutations and not more lethal ones given the pathogen seeks to infect the host and not arrive at an evolutionary dead-end.

The virus will mutate downward so that it can use the host (us) to propagate itself via our cellular metabolic machinery. The Delta has shown us this: it is very infectious and mostly non-lethal. Especially for children and healthy people. So is the WHO panicking the globe needlessly? Is this Covid-19 February 2020 once again?

The problem with South Africa as is with Australia and New Zealand and even island nations like Trinidad is that it has low natural immunity to SAR-Cov-2. This is because, as we witnessed over the last year and more, if you lock down your society too long and too hard, you deny the nation and population from inching closer to population-level herd immunity. And you have no economy or society from which to  reemerge. You devastate your society for a pathogen that is largely harmless to the vast majority of people especially children.

Moreover, governments asked us for two weeks to flatten the curve to help prepare hospitals so that they can tend to surges and other non-Covid illnesses. We as societies gave our governments 2 weeks, not 21 months. They failed to tend to the non-Covid illnesses and we locked down the healthy and well (children and young and middle aged healthy persons) while failing to properly protect the vulnerable and high-risk persons such as the elderly. We failed and it was like killing fields in our nursing homes.

This failure rests on public health messaging and government. Additionally, what did our governments in the US, Canada, UK, Australia etc. do with the tax money for the hospitals and PPE etc.? Hospitals must be prepared by now. Governments have failed! Not the people. The Task Forces have failed, not the people.

These nations thought that they could stay locked down and wait for a vaccine. This is a reasonable view though I was against lockdowns as they would and did cause crushing harms on especially poor persons and children. The problem is there was an opportunity cost because the vaccine we were waiting on was suboptimally developed without the proper safety testing or assessment of effectiveness.

We have data that the Pfizer vaccine loses 40% of antibodies per month, meaning in 3 months post-shot, you have low effective vaccinal immunity. We see it clearly playing out now whereby you got to tamp down spread with the draconian lockdowns, but you did it at the cost of natural immunity. That is the opportunity cost. So we spent on getting the vaccine and it cost us natural immunity and thus herd immunity.

For example, the vaccine has failed to stop infection and spread against Delta. We have research findings by Singanayagam et al. (fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts), by Chau et al. (viral loads of breakthrough Delta variant infection cases in vaccinated nurses were 251 times higher than those of cases infected with prior strains early 2020), and by Riemersma et al. (no difference in viral loads when comparing unvaccinated individuals to those who have vaccine “breakthrough” infections and if vaccinated individuals become infected with the delta variant, they may be sources of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to others) that reveal the vaccines have very suboptimal efficacy.

This situation of the vaccinated being infectious and transmitting the virus has also emerged in seminal nosocomial outbreak papers by Chau et al. (HCWs in Vietnam), the Finland hospital outbreak (spread among HCWs and patients), and the Israel hospital outbreak (spread among HCWs and patients). These studies have also revealed that the PPE and masking were essentially ineffective within the healthcare setting. All of the HCWs were double-vaccinated yet there was extensive spread to themselves and their patients.

In addition, Nordström et al. (vaccine effectiveness of Pfizer against infection waned progressively from 92% day 15-30 to 47% day 121-180, and from day 211 and onwards no effectiveness), Suthar et al. (a substantial waning of antibody responses and T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, at 6 months following the second immunization), Yahi et al. (with Delta variant, neutralizing antibodies have a decreased affinity for the spike protein, whereas facilitating antibodies display a strikingly increased affinity), Juthani et al. (higher numbers of patients with severe or critical illness in those who received the Pfizer vaccine), Gazit et al. (SARS-CoV-2-naïve vaccinees had a 13-fold increased risk for breakthrough infection with the Delta variant, and substantially elevated risk of symptomatic Covid and hospitalization), and Acharya et al. (no significant difference in cycle threshold values between vaccinated and unvaccinated, asymptomatic and symptomatic groups infected with Delta) collectively reveal the poor efficacy and even negative efficacy of the Covid vaccines. Levine-Tiefenbrun et al. reports that the viral load reduction effectiveness declines with time after vaccination, “significantly decreasing at 3 months after vaccination and effectively vanishing after about 6 months.”

As an example, the Swedish study (retrospective with 842,974 pairs (N=1,684,958) is particularly alarming for it shows that while the vaccine provides temporary protection against infection, the efficacy declines below zero and then to negative efficacy territory at approximately 7 months, underscoring that the vaccinated are highly susceptible to infection and eventually become highly infected (more so than the unvaccinated). A further example emerges from Ireland whereby reporting suggests that the Waterford city district has the State’s highest rate of Covid-19 infections, while the county also boasts the highest rate of vaccination in the Republic (99.7% vaccinated). Reports are that the U.S. Covid-19 deaths for 2021 surpassed the deaths from 2020, leading some to state that “more people have died from COVID-19 in 2021, with most adults vaccinated and nearly all seniors), than in 2020 when nobody was vaccinated.”

Thus these nations that locked down and stayed that way are in a quandary for they do not know what to do now. If you open you will get surges in infection. Where is the money that was to go to hospital preparation? Did governments embezzle and steal and misappropriate the money for the hospitals remain still not prepared?

We have a lot of natural immunity in the US, e.g. near 65-70% of the population. The open states (those that did not lock down too long and too hard and opened quickly) will likely do very well with this Omicron or any new variant. This also is the power of natural immunity.

And we need not forget the potency of the overlooked ‘innate’ immunity with the innate antibodies and innate natural killer cellular compartment. This innate response is particularly potent in children (our first line of defense against pathogens) and is what has spared children from Covid and how children typically stave off pathogens, especially young children still laying down immunological memory.

Moreover, there is no reporting of increased virulence/lethality of this new Omicron variant. As yet this will remain the case based on Delta and prior variants. There are no guarantees but we operate based on risk and all things point to the same for this new variant.

Just because there is a wave in SA does not mean that there will be waves in the US or Israel or other places with greater natural immunity. This was the prize of letting people enjoy day-to-day living. The nations that have ended lockdowns are likely to move past this new variant scare, and be fine. This is more of an overreaction by the WHO and governments and much ado about nothing.

Dr Alexander holds a PhD. He has experience in epidemiology and in the teaching clinical epidemiology, evidence-based medicine, and research methodology. Dr Alexander is a former Assistant Professor at McMaster University in evidence-based medicine and research methods; former COVID Pandemic evidence-synthesis consultant advisor to WHO-PAHO Washington, DC (2020) and former senior advisor to COVID Pandemic policy in Health and Human Services (HHS) Washington, DC (A Secretary), US government; worked/appointed in 2008 at WHO as a regional specialist/epidemiologist in Europe’s Regional office Denmark, worked for the government of Canada as an epidemiologist for 12 years, appointed as the Canadian in-field epidemiologist (2002-2004) as part of an international CIDA funded, Health Canada executed project on TB/HIV co-infection and MDR-TB control (involving India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, posted to Kathmandu); employed from 2017 to 2019 at Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Virginia USA as the evidence synthesis meta-analysis systematic review guideline development trainer; currently a COVID-19 consultant researcher in the US-C19 research group

November 26, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Update on ivermectin for covid-19

By Sebastian Rushworth, M.D. | May 9, 2021

Back in January I wrote an article about four randomized controlled trials of ivermectin as a treatment for covid-19 that had at that time released their results to the public. Each of those four trials had promising results, but each was also too small individually to show any meaningful impact on the hard outcomes we really care about, like death. When I meta-analyzed them together however, the results suddenly appeared very impressive. Here’s what that meta-analysis looked like:

It showed a massive 78% reduction in mortality in patients treated with covid-19. Mortality is the hardest of hard end points, which means it’s the hardest for researchers to manipulate and therefore the least open to bias. Either someone’s dead, or they’re alive. End of story.

You would have thought that this strong overall signal of benefit in the midst of a pandemic would have mobilized the powers that be to arrange multiple large randomized trials to confirm these results as quickly as possible, and that the major medical journals would be falling over each other to be the first to publish these studies.

That hasn’t happened.

Rather the opposite, in fact. South Africa has even gone so far as to ban doctors from using ivermectin on covid-19 patients. And as far as I can tell, most of the discussion about ivermectin in mainstream media (and in the medical press) has centred not around its relative merits, but more around how its proponents are clearly deluded tin foil hat wearing crazies who are using social media to manipulate the masses.

In spite of this, trial results have continued to appear. That means we should now be able to conclude with even greater certainty whether or not ivermectin is effective against covid-19. Since there are so many of these trials popping up now, I’ve decided to limit the discussion here only to the ones I’ve been able to find that had at least 150 participants, and that compared ivermectin to placebo (although I’ll add even the smaller trials I’ve found in to the updated meta-analysis at the end).

As before, it appears that rich western countries have very little interest in studying ivermectin as a treatment for covid. The three new trials that had at least 150 participants and compared ivermectin with placebo were conducted in Colombia, Iran, and Argentina. We’ll go through each in turn.

The Colombian trial (Lopez-Medina et al.) was published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) in March. There is one thing that is rather odd with this study, and that is that the study authors were receiving payments from Sanofi-Pasteur, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Janssen, Merck, and Gilead while conducting the study. Gilead makes remdesivir. Merck is developing two expensive new drugs to treat covid-19. Janssen, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, and Sanofi-Pasteur are all developers of covid vaccines. In other words, the authors of the study were receiving funding from companies that own drugs that are direct competitors to ivermectin. One might call this a conflict of interest, and wonder whether the goal of the study was to show a lack of benefit. It’s definitely a little bit suspicious.

Anyway, let’s get to what the researchers actually did. This was a double-blind randomized controlled trial that recruited patients with mildly symptomatic covid-19 who had experienced symptom onset less than 7 days earlier. Potential participants were identified through a statewide database of people with positive PCR-tests. By “mildly symptomatic” the researchers meant people who had at least one symptom but who did not require high-flow oxygen at the time of recruitment in to the trial.

Participants in the treatment group received 300 ug/kg body weight of ivermectin every day for five days, while participants in the placebo group received an identical placebo. 300 ug/kg works out to 21 mg for an average 70 kg adult, which is quite high, especially when you consider that the dose was given daily for five days. For an average person, this would work out to a total dose of 105 mg. The other ivermectin trials have mostly given around 12 mg per day for one or two days, for a total dose of 12 to 24 mg (which has been considered enough because ivermectin has a long half-life in the body). Why this study gave such a high dose is unclear. However, it shouldn’t be a problem. Ivermectin is a very safe drug, and studies have been done where people have been given ten times the recommended dose without any noticeable increase in adverse events.

The stated goal of the study was to see if ivermectin resulted in more rapid symptom resolution than placebo. So participants were contacted by telephone every three days after inclusion in the study, up to day 21, and asked about what symptoms they were experiencing.

398 patients were included in the study. The median age of the participants was 37 years, and they were overall very healthy. 79% had no known co-morbidities. This is a shame. It means that this study is yet another one of those many studies that will not be able to show a meaningful effect on hard end points like hospitalization and death. It is a bit strange that studies keep being done on young healthy people who are at virtually zero risk from covid-19, rather than on the multi-morbid elderly, who are the ones we actually need an effective treatment for.

Anyway, let’s get to the results.

In the group treated with ivermectin, the average time from inclusion in the study to becoming completely symptom free was 10 days. In the placebo group that number was 12 days. So, the ivermectin treated patients recovered on average two days faster. However, the difference was not statistically significant, so the result could easily be due to chance. At 21 days after inclusion in the study, 82% had recovered fully in the ivermectin group, as compared to 79% in the placebo group. Again, the small difference was not statistically significant.

In terms of the hard end points that matter more, there were zero deaths in the ivermectin group and there was one death in the placebo group. 2% of participants in the ivermectin group required “escalation of care” (hospitalization if they were outside the hospital at the start of the study, or oxygen therapy if they were in hospital at the start of the study) as compared with 5% in the placebo group. None of these differences was statistically significant. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t real. Like I wrote earlier, the fact that this was a study of healthy young people meant that, even if a meaningful difference does exist in risk of dying of covid, or of ending up in hospital, this study was never going to find it.

So, what can we conclude?

Ivermectin does not meaningfully shorten duration of symptoms in healthy young people. That’s about all we can say from this study. Considering the conflicts of interest of the authors, my guess is that this was the goal of the study all along: Gather together a number of young healthy people that is too small for there to be any chance of a statistically significant benefit, and then get the result you want. The media will sell the result as “study shows ivermectin doesn’t work” (which they dutifully did).

It is interesting that there were signals of benefit for all the parameters the researchers looked at (resolution of symptoms, escalation of care, death), but that the relatively small number and good health status of the participants meant that there was little chance of any of the results reaching statistical significance.

Let’s move on to the next study, which is currently available as a pre-print on Research Square (Niaee et al.). It was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled, and carried out at five different hospitals in Iran. It was funded by an Iranian university.

In order to be included in the trial, participants had to be over the age of 18 and admitted to hospital because of a covid-19 infection (which was defined as symptoms suggestive of covid plus either a CT scan typical of covid infection or a positive PCR test).

150 participants were randomized to either placebo (30 people) or varying doses of ivermectin (120 people). The fact that they chose to make the placebo group so small is a problem, because it makes it very hard to detect any differences even if they do exist, by making the statistical certainty of the results in the placebo group very low.

The participants were on average 56 years old and the average oxygen saturation before initiation of treatment was 89% (normal is more than 95%), so this was a pretty sick group. Unfortunately no information is provided on how far along people were in the disease course when they started receiving ivermectin. It stands to reason that the drug is more likely to work if given ten days after symptom onset than when given twenty days after symptom onset, since death usually happens around day 21. If you, for example, wanted to design a trial to fail, you could start treating people at a time point when there is no time for the drug you’re testing to have a chance work, so it would have been nice to know at what time point treatment started in this trial.

So, what were the results?

20% of the participants in the placebo group died (6 out of 30 people). 3% of the participants in the various ivermectin groups died (4 out of 120 people). That is an 85% reduction in the relative risk of death, which is huge.

So, in spite of the fact that the placebo group was so small, it was still possible to see a big difference in mortality. Admittedly, this is a pre-print (i.e. it hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet), and the absolute numbers of deaths are small, so there is some scope for random chance to have created these results (maybe people in the placebo group were just very unlucky!). However, the study appears to have followed all the steps expected for a high quality trial. It was carried out at multiple different hospitals, it used randomization and a control group that received a placebo, and it was double-blinded. And death is a very hard end point that is not particularly open to bias. So unless the researchers have falsified their data, then this study constitutes reasonably good evidence that ivermectin is highly effective when given to patients hospitalized with covid-19. That’s great, because it would mean that the drug can be given quite late in the disease course and still show benefit.

Let’s move on to the third trial (Chahla et al.), which is currently available as a pre-print on MedRxiv. It was carried out in Argentina, and funded by the Argentinean government. Like the first trial we discussed, this was a study of people with mild disease. It literally boggles my mind that so many researchers choose to study people with mild disease instead of studying those with more severe disease. Especially when you consider that these studies are all so small. A study of people with mild disease needs to be very large to find a statistically significant effect, since most people with covid do well regardless. The risk of false negative results is thus enormous. If you’re going to do a small-ish study, and you want to have a reasonable chance of producing results that reach statistical significance, it would make much more sense to do it on sick hospitalized patients.

The study was randomized, but it wasn’t blinded, and there was no placebo. In other words, the intervention group received ivermectin (24 mg per day), while the control group didn’t receive anything. This is a bad bad thing. It means that any non-hard outcomes produced by the study are really quite worthless, since there is so much scope for the placebo effect and other confounding factors to mess up the results. For hard outcomes, in particular death, it should be less of a problem (although we wouldn’t expect any deaths in such a small study of mostly healthy people with mild disease anyway).

The study included people over the age of 18 with symptoms suggestive of covid-19 and a positive PCR test. The average age of the participants was 40 years, and most had no underlying health issues. A total of 172 people were recruited in to the study.

The researchers chose to look at how quickly people became free of symptoms as their primary endpoint. This is enormously problematic, since the study, as already mentioned, wasn’t blinded and there was no placebo. Any difference between the groups could easily be explained by the placebo effect and by biases towards treatment benefit among the researchers.

Anyway, the study found that 49% in the treatment group were free of symptoms at five to nine days after the beginning of treatment, compared with 81% in the control group. However, the lack of blinding means that this result is worthless. The methodology is just too flawed.

No data is provided on the number of people who died in each group. Since it isn’t reported, I think it’s safe to assume that there were no deaths in either group. Nor is any data provided on the number of hospitalizations in each group.

So, what does this study tell us?

Absolutely nothing at all. What a waste of time and money.

Let’s move on and update our meta-analysis. The reason we need to do a meta-analysis here is that none of the trials of ivermectin is large enough on its own to provide a definitive answer as to whether it is a useful treatment for covid-19 or not. For those who haven’t heard of meta-analyses before, basically what you do is just take the results from all different studies in existence that fulfill your pre-selected criteria, and then put them together, so as a to create a single large “meta”-study. This allows you to produce results that have a much higher level of statistical significance. It is particularly useful in a situation where all the individual trials you have to work with are statistically underpowered (have too few participants), as is the case here.

In this new meta-analysis, I’ve included every double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial I could find of ivermectin as a treatment for covid. Using only double-blind placebo-controlled trials means that only the highest quality studies are included in this meta-analysis, which minimizes the risk of biases messing up the results as far as possible. In order to be included, a study also had to provide mortality data, since the goal of the meta-analysis is to see if there is any difference in mortality.

I was able to identify seven trials that fulfilled these criteria, with a total of 1,327 participants. Here’s what the meta-analysis shows:

What we see is a 62% reduction in the relative risk of dying among covid patients treated with ivermectin. That would mean that ivermectin prevents roughly three out of five covid deaths. The reduction is statistically significant (p-value 0,004). In other words, the weight of evidence supporting ivermectin continues to pile up. It is now far stronger than the evidence that led to widespred use of remdesivir earlier in the pandemic, and the effect is much larger and more important (remdesivir was only ever shown to marginally decrease length of hospital stay, it was never shown to have any effect on risk of dying).

I understand why pharmaceutical companies don’t like ivermectin. It’s a cheap generic drug. Even Merck, the company that invented ivermectin, is doing it’s best to destroy the drug’s reputation at the moment. This can only be explained by the fact that Merck is currently developing two expensive new covid drugs, and doesn’t want an off-patent drug, which it can no longer make any profit from, competing with them.

The only reason I can think to understand why the broader medical establishment, however, is still so anti-ivermectin is that these studies have all been done outside the rich west. Apparently doctors and scientists outside North America and Western Europe can’t be trusted, unless they’re saying things that are in line with our pre-conceived notions.

Researchers at McMaster university are currently organizing a large trial of ivermectin as a treatment for covid-19, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. That trial is expected to enroll over 3,000 people, so it should be definitive. It’s going to be very interesting to see what it shows when the results finally get published.

May 9, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment

‘A matter of life & death’: 15,000 white South African farmers seek refuge in Russia – report

RT | July 9, 2018

A delegation of 30 South African farming families has arrived in Russia’s farmbelt Stavropol region, Rossiya 1 TV channel reports. The group says it is facing violent attacks and death threats at home.

Up to 15,000 Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, are planning to move to Russia amid rising violence stemming from government plans to expropriate their land, according to the delegation.

“It’s a matter of life and death — there are attacks on us. It’s got to the point where the politicians are stirring up a wave of violence,” Adi Slebus told the media. “The climate here [in the Stavropol region] is temperate, and this land is created by God for farming. All this is very attractive.”

The new South African government lead by President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to return the lands owned by white farmers since the 1600s to the black citizens of the country. The government said it is planning to put an end to what it calls the legacy of apartheid, where most of South Africa’s land is still in the hands of its minority white population.

Rights groups have said the initiative incites violence. There were 74 farm murders and 638 attacks, primarily against white farmers, in 2016-17 in South Africa, according to data by minority rights group AfriForum.

The farmers are ready to make a contribution to Russia’s booming agricultural sector, according to Rossiya 1. Each family is ready to bring up to $100,000 for leasing the land.

Russia has 43 million hectares of unused farmland. The country has recently begun giving out free land to Russian citizens to cultivate farming. The land giveaway program, which began in 2014, has been a huge success.

July 9, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 2 Comments

Renowned South African university cuts ties with Israel

Palestine Information Center – December 13, 2017

PRETORIA – “The Council of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has resolved that TUT will not forge any ties with the State of Israel or any of its organizations and institutions,” TUT spokesman on the issue Professor Rasigan Maharajh told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview on Wednesday.

A December 7 press release from TUT stated: “As a progressive university in a democratic South Africa, we want to affirm that TUT will not sign any agreements or enter into scientific partnerships until such time that Israel ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

“The university will not stand back and accept the violations of the Israeli government when it confines the movement of Palestinian children and youth on their own land and restricts their ability to access education through destroying their schools,” added the statement.

South African criticism of Israel is growing, the ANA pointed out.

One of the controversial issues to be discussed at the ANC’s forthcoming 54th National Conference in Gauteng, from December 16 to 20, is the possible downgrading, or even closure, of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv.

“As a constitutional democracy premised on the recognition of human rights, the Republic of South Africa must urgently discuss downgrading the status of its relationship with Israel,” said Maharajh.

TUT’s decision to cut all ties with the Jewish state also comes in the wake of strong condemnation from the South African government, and various political and human rights organizations across the country, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while stating that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.

Under international law East Jerusalem is occupied territory and all international embassies have based themselves in Tel Aviv until the final status of Jerusalem is negotiated through talks.

“The announcement by the Trump regime of its intentions to establish its embassy in Jerusalem further escalates tensions,” said Maharajh.

“As guided by the founding President of the post-apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who declared that: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’, the Republic of South Africa must also condemn the actions of the Trump regime and work harder at fostering solidarity and cooperation with the people of Palestine.”

December 13, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘We need negotiations, not declarations’: Russia stays away from Trump’s UN reform plan

RT | September 18, 2017

As US President Donald Trump officially launched his 10-point reform program for the United Nations, Russian officials say they share many of the concerns it raises, but not the methods Washington is using to advance its solutions.

On Monday morning in New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Trump delivered speeches in support of the reform declaration, which has been endorsed by 128 states.

According to the published text of the plan, it would give Guterres greater executive powers “encouraging him to lead organizational reform,” which would “provide greater transparency and predictability” and “promote gender parity and geographic diversity,” while combating “mandate duplication, redundancy, and overlap” and other forms of inefficiency at the international body.

“In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement. While the United Nations on a regular budget has increased by 140 percent, and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, we are not seeing the results in line with this investment,” said Trump, who previously emphasized that the US is the biggest contributor to United Nations funds.

“To serve the people we support and the people who support us, we must be nimble and effective, flexible and efficient,” declared Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, who assumed his current post this year.

Countries that were hesitant or unwilling to sign the document – which include Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa – were not invited to the launch.

“There was no consultation either prior or following the publication of the declaration,” said Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s envoy to the UN, in an interview with TASS news agency, published Monday. “We are all for increasing the role of the UN on the international arena, and raising its efficiency. The organization needs reform, even if not a fundamental overhaul. But the reform itself should not come through a declaration, but through inter-governmental negotiations between members.”

State-owned daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta cited officials in the Russian delegation in New York, who criticized the US for hijacking the ongoing UN General Assembly for its own purposes, noting that the declaration “had nothing to do with the United Nations” and that Washington “has developed a bad habit of using the UN building during General Assemblies to push its own foreign policy agenda.”

Some were altogether suspicious of Trump’s motives, considering his previously dismissive attitude to the UN.

“Trump’s reform is a landmark move towards a unipolar world, and the reduction of the role of the UN in the international architecture that is forming in the 21st century. We are not ready to support or participate in this process,” Leonid Slutsky, the Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs in the Russian parliament, told RIA news agency.

“The US should start not with behind-the-scenes coalition-forming,” wrote Konstantin Kosachev, who heads in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, on his Facebook page. “Instead, it should begin by acknowledging its mistakes, when it bypassed the UN in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria.”

September 18, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Arms Race Fears Roused in Sweden by Saab’s Indiscriminate Campaigning

Sputnik – 27.03.2017

As the Swedish manufacturer Saab experiences growing problems trying to market its Gripen fighter jet, the company is forced to try and woo previously unbeknown markets. This, however, has attracted criticism from peace researchers, who claim the move contradicts Sweden’s long-lasting foreign policy goals.

A group of peace researchers from Uppsala University condemned Saab’s campaigning in Botswana, saying the move was in direct conflict with Sweden’s foreign policy goals. These are peace, human rights and poverty reduction, according to an opinion piece published by the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

In 2016, a high-ranking Swedish delegation, led by Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, toured Botswana. The subsequent scandal involving ballooning costs diverted Swedes’ attention from more pressing issues, such as Sweden’s plans to market JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets to the African nation. According to peace researchers Johan Brosché, Kristine Höglund and Sebastian van Baalen, the deal is highly controversial, especially given the bribery scandals that followed a similar deal with South Africa.

Firstly, in Botswana, which has long been touted as an African success story in terms of equality, human rights and economic development, democracy has gradually eroded. The country’s government is hardly an eligible partner for Sweden, which is trying to emerge as a champion of human rights on the international arena. Botswana, according to Uppsala University researchers, is clearly heading in an authoritarian direction, with growing surveillance, reduced opportunities for freedom of expression and reprisals against anti-government views.

Secondly, a Saab deal would contradict Sweden’s goal of combating poverty, as Botswana is facing major economic problems. Over a fifth of its population of two million live in absolute poverty and subsist on less than two dollars a day, despite the country’s large diamond resources. The billions to be invested in fighter jets would undermine efforts to curb unemployment, and fight drought and corruption.

Third, the idea of Botswana acquiring a fleet of advanced fighter aircraft may trigger a regional arms race, with Namibia and other neighboring countries to follow suit, with detrimental consequences for everyone but the arms dealers. At present, Botswana is not faced with any direct external threat and it is unclear why huge sums must be invested in the acquisition of advanced fighter jets. Whereas the need to protect the country’s tourism industry, combat poaching and monitor the flow of refugees previously were indicated as reasons, none of these problems can be solved with advanced fighter jets.

The Swedish researchers concluded that the arms deal with Botswana would worsen the economic and democratic development in the country, undermine regional security and mar Sweden’s reputation in Southern Africa.

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft in the same class as Airbus’ Eurofighter Typhoon, the Rafale by Dassault and Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter.

Despite Saab’s ambitious hopes for the Gripen to “dominate the market,” the company’s bids were consequently rejected by Norway, Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands. The Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon are also regarded as favorites in Malaysia, where the government will decide on an aircraft fleet upgrade.

So far, Sweden remains the largest consumer of the Gripen, with an order of 60 new-generation Gripens placed by the Defense Ministry. Saab’s agreement with Brazil on 36 planes worth 40 billion SEK ($4.5bln) remains the company’s largest overseas success. Other Gripen consumers include South Africa and Thailand, while the Czech Republic continues to rent Gripens from Sweden.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria

By Ron Jacobs | CounterPunch | December 2, 2016

The movement against South African apartheid was perhaps the most universal and popular movement in the western world in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands protested in a multitude of ways—from letter-writing campaigns to shantytown occupations of city squares and college campus greens. Institutions of all types, from churches to universities, from corporations and banks to city halls, were forced to remove their investments from companies doing business with the racist South African regime, ultimately forcing that regime to end its racist legal system. Even the right wing Reagan and Thatcher regimes were ultimately forced to end their support for Pretoria’s racist system and grudgingly go along with the popular will.

However, as Ron Nixon’s new book, titled Selling Apartheid, makes clear, the South African regime was not going to go down without a fight. In addition to police and military actions of varying brutality, the regime hired advertising men to sell their brand of repression to people and governments around the world. The campaign he describes involved a cynical manipulation of emotions about race, implied white supremacist chauvinism, and outright lies. Advertising campaigns presented South Africa as a tourist destination full of beauty and the perfect climate (which it had) with absolutely no mention of the racial discrimination built into its social and political systems. Glossy photo spreads were bought in newspaper and magazines and television programs were made and sold to television networks in the United States and Britain. These shows were then shown to the unsuspecting viewer as if they were made by agencies independent of the apartheid government and their only agenda was tourism.

In a particularly cynical move, the South African government was able to buy off a few African-Americans over the years in what was ultimately a vain attempt to convince Black Americans that apartheid was okay. The first of these individuals was a former supporter of the Black resistance movement in South Africa, Max Yergan. In what can only be described as a complete sell out, Yergan went from working with early members of what would become the primary resistance organization against apartheid—the African National Congress(ANC)—to giving speeches in the United States and Africa aimed at convincing his audiences that apartheid helped Blacks. Once a committed left-winger, Yergan came under pressure during the McCarthy era in the United States, became an informer for the FBI, and turned against his friends in South Africa; friends that included freedom fighters Nelson Mandela and Joseph Tambo. Yergan was but the first of a few such individuals who would follow in his treacherous footsteps.

The bottom line for the white South African regime and the United States was money. Several US companies had millions invested in South African industry. These companies took advantage of the cheap labor (and maximized profits resulting from that labor) and minimal regulations offered by the Pretoria regime. In turn, they either supported or at the least, tacitly accepted the racism and brutality that defined the apartheid system. Consequently, it was these corporations and financial institutions that were targeted by the anti-apartheid movement’s divestment campaign. Churches, universities, and other institutions that had investments in such companies were ultimately convinced to drop those investments. Sometimes that convincing was purely of a moral plea, other times it required a concerted effort that combined direct action, monetary boycotts, and legislative pressure.

As an advocate of the current campaign against Israeli apartheid, it was more than interesting to compare the similarities in the campaign waged against the movement against South Africa’s apartheid and that currently waged against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement of today. Residents of western nations are constantly barraged with imagery that attempts to portray the Tel Aviv government as a beacon of fairness and democracy in the Middle East. Furthermore, one is constantly told that the Palestinians who resist the occupation of their lands and the ever-present system of discrimination are nothing but terrorists. This latter phenomenon was also the case in South Africa. Indeed, the ANC was not removed from the US list of “terrorist” organizations until 2008, more than fifteen years after apartheid met its well-deserved end. Of course, there are specific differences between the two systems of separation referred to here, but the essential fact apartheid is true for the historic South African regime and the current Israeli one.

Ron Nixon’s text is an essential addition to the volume of work on South Africa’s apartheid regime. Rich in detail, it provides the reader with an extended look at the nature of propaganda in modern society. A one-time journalist for the New York Times, Nixon makes his argument with facts and writing that is both accessible and engaging. In doing so, he exposes the moral vacuousness of those who propagandized for the racists of South Africa not because they necessarily believed in apartheid, but because they made money from doing so.  Furthermore, in his telling Nixon doesn’t just rake the white South African regime over the coals, he also points his pen at the equally deserving US and British governments, especially those of Reagan and Thatcher. In terms of how the world seems to work, Selling Apartheid is a tawdry yet familiar tale.

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December 2, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

ICC: Africa Obsessed and Ineffective

By Khavheni Shope | teleSUR | November 2, 2016

To date, the ICC has investigated about 39 cases and 38 of them are on the African continent.

The International Criminal Court was initially viewed as the world’s haven from atrocities and a tribunal that would protect the rights of those whose freedoms had been taken away and whose voices had been silenced. The court was established by the 1998 Rome Statute with 139 signatories and 123 ratifications.

Fast forward about 14 years from the year the statute entered into effect in 2016, when three ratifying countries—South Africa, Burundi and Gambia—have announced their withdrawal from the entity. Although the decisions have proven to be controversial both within and outside of nations’ borders, the question is why?

One of the biggest criticisms facing the international body is that it is biased against African states. The African Union has long pointed this out and in 2013 it called for immunity for sitting leaders indicted by the court. It was denied in 2015 in the pursuit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir along with the subsequent prosecution against the South African government for failure to detain him.

To see why these accusations persist is to understand the context: to date, the ICC has investigated about 39 cases and 38 of them are on the African continent. This fact undoubtedly places the court’s supposed impartiality under scrutiny when it appears to cast a blind eye on the doings of Western leaders. The court’s legitimacy is further questioned by the fact that super powers such as the U.S., China and Russia have yet to be subjected to its authority.

The legal body shrugged off the claims by reiterating that the ICC is comprised of some African officials and therefore cannot be biased against the continent. The ICC flaunted its double-standards when it announced that it would not investigate former British prime minister Tony Blair for sending U.K. troops into Iraq under false pretenses. However, British soldiers may still face prosecution.

According to an article published by Forbes in 2014, the ICC had only convicted two out of all the people it had indicted with an expenditure of about US$1 billion. Earlier in 2016, the court pursued its third prosecution against former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo who was sentenced to 18 years for rape and pillage committed by his troops in the Central African Republic.

The irony of this conviction lies in the countless incidents of child abuse committed by European troops deployed in peace-keeping missions in that very nation. The U.N. rid itself of responsibility, stating that the onus is on each country to prosecute its own troops.

So another criticism of the legal body is that it has so far been ineffective and expensive, that in all of its 14 years, only perpetrators from two parts of the whole world have been indicted while everyday there are crimes ravaging humanity in all corners of the globe, many at the hands of the same members of the institutions who dominate the world.

It is not to say that such crimes should not be addressed, however if humanitarianism is going to continue to be used as a cloak that serves both as a hero’s cape during the day and a blanket to cover the truth at night, then the court’s mandate is skewed. Justice should not only be a privilege for the 1 percent.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

South Africa announces decision to quit International Criminal Court

Press TV – October 21, 2016

South Africa has joined Burundi in officially announcing its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying its laws are incompatible with obligations under the ICC.

The South African government gave a formal notice of its intention to pull out of the ICC on Friday.

South Africa “found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court,” the document, signed by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, read.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Michael Masutha told a media conference in the administrative capital, Pretoria, that the ICC’s obligations are inconsistent with laws giving sitting leaders diplomatic immunity.

“The Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act, 2002, is in conflict and inconsistent with the provisions of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001,” Masutha said.

South Africa says a bill over the matter, i.e. the withdrawal from ICC, will soon go to the country’s parliament.

The decision comes amid a dispute over last year’s visit by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to attend an African Union summit in Johannesburg. Bashir is wanted by the ICC over alleged war crimes. South Africa, however, said he had immunity as the head of a member state.

Nevertheless, the ICC criticized the South African government for its failure to arrest Bashir.

The announcement of the decision by South Africa to withdraw from the ICC sparked rapid criticism from the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

South Africa’s proposed withdrawal “shows startling disregard for justice from a country long seen as a global leader on accountability for victims of the gravest crimes,” HRW said in a statement. “It’s important both for South Africa and the region that this runaway train be slowed down and South Africa’s hard-won legacy of standing with victims of mass atrocities be restored.”

South Africa is the second African country to declare its withdrawal from the ICC. Earlier this week, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree to quit the court’s jurisdiction.

Namibia and Kenya have also raised the possibility of withdrawal from the ICC.

Some African governments say the ICC has shown a post-colonial bias against the continent’s leaders.

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Entrapment on terror charges

By Dr Firoz Osman | MEMO | August 5, 2016

The sensational headlines following the arrests of Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie, as well as Ebrahim and Fatima Patel, in Johannesburg and the West Rand, have dominated the South African media over the past few weeks. The #TerrorArrests, as they have been dubbed on social media, came a month after the US embassy issued its umpteenth terror alert warning of imminent Daesh attacks in the country. Even though there are still questions around the legality of the Thulsie arrests, the word “terror” has been used freely. The South African Jewish Report claims that it dubbed the Thulsies the “Terror Twins” and the “name has stuck like glue in all media reports on the case,” gloated journalist Ant Katz.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the court of public opinion has already found the accused – all of whom are Muslims – guilty of being Daesh recruits. They were, it is claimed widely, planning attacks on American sites and Jewish cultural institutions.

There has been much speculation about Daesh recruitment in South Africa — indeed, around the world — but I would argue that the extremist group has no need to make any real effort to recruit anyone; the West does a good enough job in that respect. It is the West’s support for tyrannical Arab and Israeli regimes that draws people to extremism. Daesh’s use of terminology such as “Caliphate” and “jihad”, and its Hollywood-style video clips purportedly confronting the imperial invaders, also attract marginal support from the naive.

In 2003, the South African government introduced US-inspired anti-terrorism legislation, despite warnings from civil society on the impact that this would have on the Muslim community. Since then, there has been a slew of clandestine arrests and detentions of South African Muslims, in collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies like the FBI.

Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute reports that the FBI treats Muslims like “terrorists-in-waiting”, encouraging, pressurising and sometimes paying them to commit crimes that they would not ordinarily have committed. Informants trawl through Muslim communities, mosques and community centres, monitor and engage social media, and talk of radical Islam in order to identify possible targets sympathetic to such ideas. If suitable suspects are identified, FBI agents then run a sting, often creating a fake terror plot in which it helps supply weapons and targets. Then, dramatic arrests are made, press conferences held, terror “experts” paraded and lengthy convictions secured.

Are the authorities in South Africa headed in the same direction? It seems that we might well be seeing such a scenario. The investigating officer for the Thulsie case, Wynand Olivier, admitted in court that foreign intelligence agents prompted the Hawks — SA’s elite anti-terror police squad — to arrest the Thulsie and Patel siblings. So desperate were the authorities to effect an arrest that even paintball guns have been presented as “evidence” of an arms cache. More disturbing still is Olivier’s understanding of the word “jihad”, a term that has become central to the case against the Thulsies. The legal official has admitted that no Islamic or Arabic language experts were consulted to guide the authorities on the use of the word.

The word “jihad” is actually used widely by all Muslims, and refers to both individual and social struggles. In fact, if the Hawks were to monitor the use of “jihad” thoroughly, then every South African Muslim would qualify as a “terror” suspect. That is a day we must ensure never comes. The Muslim community is woven firmly within the fabric of South African society, a fact recognised by the government.

However, if we are to retain this social harmony, then the authorities must revisit the anti-terror laws we were coerced into adopting. Furthermore, an independent, enlightened and prudent foreign policy must be followed; it would be the best way to protect us all by ensuring that we do not give Daesh the metaphoric ammunition to entice gullible people to join the movement. Such a policy will be infinitely more effective at countering extremist ideology than a witch-hunt based on myths, stereotypes and misinformation.

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia | , , | 1 Comment