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The US was named the best equipped country to deal with a pandemic not a year ago — what happened there?

By Peter Andrews | RT | March 31, 2020

Just last year, the US topped a list of the countries best equipped to deal with a pandemic. But the experts have egg on their face as America spirals into Covid-19 catastrophe. What went wrong?

It looks clear now that the US is going to be one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Their stock market has gone into full blown meltdown, and is set for its worst quarter of all time. It seems inevitable that their economy will be plunged into a second Great Depression.

Soon they will overtake China’s number of deaths from Covid-19. Their figures now stand at almost 165,000 people infected, and having doubled in three days, the death toll has surpassed 3,000 people. President Trump has had to quickly recant his rhetoric about the lockdown being lifted and the country being put back to work by Easter. It now appears that the US, and its economy, is in for a long dark summer.

A bad bet

In October of last year, the Global Health Security Index was published. Its website bills it as “the first comprehensive assessment of global health security capabilities in 195 countries.” Developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, in collaboration with The Economist Intelligence Unit, its major funders were the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Philanthropy Project and the Robertson Foundation.

Ever since the West African Ebola epidemic of 2014, which the Global Health Security Index calls “a wake-up call,” projects like this have been created to put better mechanisms in place for future pandemics of all kinds; be they naturally occurring viruses or genetically engineered bioweapons.

The tests the Index was based on concerns whether countries have “functional, tested, proven capabilities for stopping outbreaks at the source” which are then “regularly tested and shown to be functional in exercises or real-world events.” Pretty serious stuff, then.

Countries were assessed based on six criteria: “Prevention, Detection and Reporting, Rapid Response, Health System, Compliance with International Norms, and Risk Environment.” Of those six, the US topped the field in four, even scoring an almost perfect 98.2 in “Early Detection & Reporting.” (So much for that.)

Overall, the US put the rest of the world to shame, scoring 83.5 out of a possible 100. In second place was the United Kingdom, followed by the Netherlands, Australia and Canada. Italy is in 31st place overall, and China is in 51st place. Most of the lowest scoring countries are small islands or African countries, and Equatorial Guinea gets the wooden spoon. The full list and report can be viewed here.

A comedy of errors

Being one of the richest countries in the world at the cutting edge of scientific innovation and medicine should have gone some way towards making America pandemic-proof. So why, then, are they in such big trouble now? The answer lies in their government’s poor decision-making from the very beginning, which has sent them on the most dangerous of all possible paths.

They were too slow to begin testing suspected cases, and when they did, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bungled the rollout. Their cases really began to spike around mid-March, but now that they have taken the lead in confirmed cases outside of China, one feels that they will not look back. Just how bad the situation could deteriorate in the US remains to be seen.

A lot of very clever think tanks and one of the nation’s top universities collaborated on this project, and it turned out to be completely wrong. Their ’About’ page lists no fewer than 21 members of their International Panel of Experts, all with a list of qualifications and job titles as long as their arm.

If the experts could have looked into the future, they would have seen that South Korea, Singapore and China probably should have scored highest on the Index. Perhaps next time their predictions will be more accurate. That is, if the US economy has not been too badly decimated to fund research like this in the future.

Peter Andrews is an Irish science journalist and writer based in London. He has a background in the life sciences, and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in genetics.

March 31, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 4 Comments

Bjorn Lomborg: ‘Stop these silly, undocumented claims of ever-increasing fire’ Claims ‘based on anecdotes, not data’ – Reality is Global & U.S. fires declining

By Bjørn Lomborg · August 6 2018

Could we please stop with the misleading fire stories?

The Economist cover story, like so many other stories these last weeks, claim that forest fires are exceptional and record-breaking: “EARTH is smoldering. From Seattle to Siberia this summer, flames have consumed swathes of the northern hemisphere”

This is based on anecdotes, not data.

As I’ve shown in previous days, the US burnt area was much higher in the early part of last century, and the EU burnt area has declined by half over the past 36 years.

So: No, the US is not smoldering more – it is smoldering much less than it used to in the first part of the 20th century.

And no, the EU is not smoldering more – it is smoldering much less over the past 36 years.

Let’s finally look at the global perspective. While many of these fire scare stories are based on news from the US and the EU, the Economist claim was explicitly global.

Yet, the data does not support the argument that things are burning more and more.

The graph shows the estimated area burnt globally per year from 1900-2010. And it shows a steady decline.

It is from the article “Spatial and temporal patterns of global burned area in response to anthropogenic and environmental factors: Reconstructing global fire history for the 20th and early 21st centuries” One important point is to recognize that there is absolutely not enough data to do this only based on reported burning.

This is one of the reasons I started off with the US (where we have solid (if likely under-reported) data from 1926) and the EU. But clearly, the evidence for the global trend is unmistakable.

We see a similar pattern from the 2018 Nature article “Reduction in global area burned and wildfire emissions since 1930s enhances carbon uptake by land” which (as the title suggests, finds a strong decline in area burnt since 1930 (figure 2).

We also see declining area burnt from 1900-2000 from the article “Human impacts on 20th century fire dynamics and implications for global carbon and water trajectories”, figure 4b.

In a very recommendable (and freely available) overview article “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world” they clearly write that people (like the journalist at the Economist ) who believe there is more fire now, that is worse and have higher impact, are likely wrong:

“Many consider wildfire as an accelerating problem, with widely held perceptions both in the media and scientific papers of increasing fire occurrence, severity and resulting losses. However, important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends. Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago.”

Beyond better fire prevention an important reason might be that more people and higher population densities perhaps surprisingly means *less* fire. The paper “Impact of human population density on fire frequency at the global scale” shows that “at the global scale, the impact of increasing population density is mainly to reduce fire frequency.”

So: Stop these silly, undocumented claims of ever-increasing fire, please.

Sources:

Graph from “Spatial and temporal patterns of global burned area in response to anthropogenic and environmental factors: Reconstructing global fire history for the 20th and early 21st centuries” https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…/10.1…/2013JG002532.

“Reduction in global area burned and wildfire emissions since 1930s enhances carbon uptake by land” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-03838-0

“Human impacts on 20th century fire dynamics and implications for global carbon and water trajectories” https://www.sciencedirect.com/…/artic…/pii/S0921818117303910

“Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world” http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/cont…/…/1696/20150345 (not embargoed)

“Impact of human population density on fire frequency at the global scale.” https://www.biogeosciences.net/11/1085/2014/

US fire data: https://www.facebook.com/…/a.2217582089…/10157044699208968/… and additional data set here: https://www.facebook.com/bjornlomb…/posts/10157044718363968…

EU fire data: https://www.facebook.com/…/a.2217582089…/10157047962983968/…

August 8, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

The Economist Peddles Extreme Weather Lies

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | September 11, 2017

image

https://twitter.com/TheEconomist/status/906739904788430848

The Economist has been running this video on Twitter, with the usual fraudulent claims.

The film uses two examples:

  • Hurricane Harvey
  • Bangladesh flooding.

They forget to mention that Texas has had even more intensive storms in the past, notably 1978 and 1979, and that Bangladesh regularly floods.

But the headline claim is based on this graph:

image

The first thing to highlight about this, which should really give the whole thing away as an giant fraud, is that there were apparently virtually no extreme weather events in the early 20thC. Nobody with half a brain could seriously believe this, but apparently Economist readers do.

There appears to be no provenance given for this graph, which in itself is utterly damning for a supposedly serious journal. But it seems to be based on a similarly fraudulent claim from the insurance company, Munich Re, which was doing the rounds a year or two ago, again publicised by the Economist :

20150627_stc765

https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21656133-climate-change

As I explained a few months ago, these “disasters” are classified in terms of monetary value. Munich Re only count the most expensive events, albeit adjusted for inflation. (Note – the only other obvious classification is the death toll – but as the video reveals, this is massively reduced).

But, of course, as has been thoroughly explained many times, as the world’s GDP increases, so do economic losses.

No serious organisation would attempt to blame these increased losses on climate change, or any other extraneous causes. But Munich Re has a vested interest in blaming increased premiums on the climate.

It is a sad fact of life that, to get to the truth, we have to rely on independent analysts with no vested interests.

For instance, Roger Pielke Jr:

image_thumb33_thumb

https://twitter.com/RogerPielkeJr/status/684740869707071488

It is self evident that weather related disaster losses are actually reducing as a proportion of global GDP.

But don’t let simple facts get in the way of propaganda.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Video | , | Leave a comment

Economist can’t handle the facts (about RT)

RT | January 21, 2017

Most economists are good with numbers. It is, after all, a prerequisite skill for the profession. Thus, it’s somewhat ironic that a publication called The Economist would be so inept with figures.

However, it’s likely the numerical errors in their latest RT demolition piece are more the result of a determination to prove a desired point rather than it being down to an actual mathematical deficiency amongst staff.

To bring you up to speed, just a few days ago, a reporter from the Economist reached out to the RT press office with a few questions. This of course is very much in line with basic journalistic practices of fact-checking and due diligence. Answers were readily provided, in good faith.

However, of all the – independently verifiable – facts and figures provided by RT to the journalist, not a single one, nor even a fragment of a comment, was actually included in the article that appeared in today’s issue of the magazine.

Instead, the Economist writes that “RT has a clever way with numbers. Its ““audience” of 550m refers to the number of people who can access its channel, not those who actually watch it. RT has never released the latter figure…”

First of all, can we please pause and reflect for a minute on the sheer inanity of passing off a 5-year-old report as something reflecting the current state of affairs, including audience? Particularly in the world of media, where revolutionary changes take place in a much shorter time span.

Anyhow, while we’d love to take credit for our cunning practices in this regard, we don’t need to, because we have facts on our side. And the fact is, very clearly stated on RT’s “About” page, in plain English, the network’s TV channels are “available to 700 million people.”“AVAILABLE.” It’s been up there for years.

Also, contrary to the Economist’s claim, RT has repeatedly provided exact figures for its actual TV audience. According to a November 2015 report from Ipsos – a leading audience research firm – which conducted a survey of TV news consumption in 38 countries, 70 million people watch RT TV channels every week.

Of that number, 36 million people watch RT weekly in 10 European countries, and is among the top 5 pan-regional news channels. RT is also among the top-5 most watched international TV news channels in the US, with a viewership of 8 million per week. These aren’t numbers that RT dreamed up, but the results of an independent study by a top-3 global market research company. Contact information for verification is also readily available.

As a matter of fact, RT provided this exact data to the Economist ! Not that the Economist would bother admitting this, because they wouldn’t want the facts to get in a way of their RT story. It’s much easier to lie about RT “never releasing the latter figure.”

Perhaps they’re really are ignorant about the world of audience research and ratings, because they follow up the aforementioned fake with the following: “a 2015 survey of the top 94 cable channels in America by Nielsen, a research firm, found that RT did not even make it into the rankings.” Here’s Nielsen 101: you have to pay to play. Or rather, you have to pay to be measured and included in the Nielsen rankings. RT chooses not to. So using the above statement to make a point about RT’s US audience makes as much sense as walking into a vegetarian shop, not finding any beefsteaks, and concluding that all the cows have gone extinct.

What about RT’s success on YouTube? Well, the Economist says not to worry about RT’s 4+ BILLION views (#1 among TV news networks) on YouTube because on the platform, RT “inflates its viewership with YouTube disaster videos.”

If the Economist had been paying attention to the Washington Post this past week, they might have noted that things aren’t quite as they wish them to be: for example, RT’s YouTube video of Trump’s victory speech received 3.7 million views, it’s live election coverage attracted 1.3 million views in on RT and RT America, and Putin’s statement on Trump’s victory got 2.4 million. And this is just a sliver of RT’s political video hits.

Since the Economist has a thing for ‘numbers’, let’s draw a small comparison. Trump’s victory speech on CNN’s YouTube Channel received about 495,000 views, BBC’s – a mere 33,500, and CBC News’ –about 1.3 million. So maybe the Economist can tell us if 3.7 million is a larger number?

What about RT’s website, what kind of scheme would the Economist try to deploy to minimize RT success there? Here, the magazine simply ignores the publicly available (and provided in an email to the publication) stats about RT’s website visits, which, at 119 million monthly (SimilarWeb, December 2016) places it well ahead of the likes of Al Jazeera, DW, Euronews, France24 and BBG (VOA + RFE/RL and other platforms).

Overall, the Economist article gives the impression that its journalists didn’t bother to read the answers to their own questions, or sacrificed the facts in a maniacal commitment to its anti-RT diatribe. Facts really can be inconvenient that way.

Influence is a rather subjective concept that can be difficult to measure. Schizophrenic coverage of Russia, which has been plaguing the mainstream media for the last year, tries to position RT simultaneously as weak and as a threat to all humanity. Media-political establishments urge their stakeholders and audiences to not overestimate RT’s influence (hello, Economist ), while emphasizing the need to spend ever more millions to counter it.

The Economist is of course entitled to its own opinion about RT’s influence. But when that opinion is built entirely around the size of RT’s audience, the Economist isn’t entitled to its own facts.

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

A normal week in the British press

Irrusianality | October 22, 2016

Probably the most influential weekly political magazines in the United Kingdom are The Economist, The Spectator, and The New Statesman. All have published their latest editions in the last couple of days. Here are the results. Putin’s ‘winning in propaganda’ it says at the bottom of The Spectator’s cover. I think not.

economistputin

spectator-putin

newstatesmanputin

October 23, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment