Hopeful covid-19 statistics

Despite the sombre milestone of 500,000 deaths being passed, the numbers in the US continue to move in a good direction. The average number of daily deaths and the number currently hospitalized have now dropped to about the values that they had at their peak in April of last year. We still have some way to go before we reach the lowest values that were arrived at around July. I just hope people will not relax but continue to be vigilant and follow the guidelines for safety.

Seeking justifications for war

Unless one is a pacifist who opposes all wars on principle and is willing to live with the consequences, one is faced with the difficult problem of deciding when wars are justified and when they are not. The search for criteria for ‘just wars’ has evolved over time but while much of that effort has focused on finding legal rules, modern warfare has exposed the need for moral rules that go deeper. In a review of a new book Asymmetric Killing: Risk Avoidance, Just War, and the Warrior Ethos by Neil Remic, Anand Gopal writes about the criteria that had been in place.

We have been conditioned to judge the merit of today’s wars by their conduct. The United Nations upholds norms of warfare that, among other things, prohibit such acts as torture, rape, and hostage-taking. Human-rights groups and international lawyers tend to designate a war “humane” when belligerents have avoided harming civilians as much as possible.

But now modern remote controlled warfare that leaves one side immune from any casualties has changed the calculus. Gopal starts out by looking at what happened to the city of Raqqa as a result of sustained aerial bombardment by the US .
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The use of elite media as agents of propaganda

Some media outlets are better than others when it comes to providing news but we should be alert that because of their reputations they are sometimes co-opted to promote propaganda. Max Blumenthal writes about recently leaked documents that claim that Reuters and the BBC seemed to be willing to work covertly with the British government in advancing its propaganda goals.

The new leaks illustrate in alarming detail how Reuters and the BBC – two of the largest and most distinguished news organizations in the world – attempted to answer the British foreign ministry’s call for help in improving its “ability to respond and to promote our message across Russia,” and to “counter the Russian government’s narrative.” Among the UK FCO’s stated goals, according to the director of the CDMD, was to “weaken the Russian State’s influence on its near neighbours.”
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John Oliver on the Texas freeze fiasco

He roundly criticizes all those responsible for what was a foreseen and avoidable disaster.

Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shames Ted Cruz by raising $5 million to help Texans while he was gallivanting off to Cancun.

We should also recall that Cruz was one of those people who objected to aiding people in other states who got hit with natural disasters. I am sure that he is opposing all federal aid to Texas now because he is a person who stands on principle, right?

The grubby world of social media influencers

It is fascinating to read about cultures that one is ignorant of and with the arrival of the internet and social media, one hears of many such micro-cultures. I have been vaguely curious about the phenomenon of so-called ‘influencers’ who are, as far as I can see, people who promote themselves via social media and as a result others take their opinions on things seriously, even if they have no credentials whatsoever other than their social media popularity. It seems pretty weird to me but then I am not of the social media world.

This article examines a new documentary that looks into the creation of three such people.
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Falsification and neoliberalism

Karl Popper’s idea that science evolves by means of falsification and that it can also serve as a demarcation criterion to distinguish science from nonscience was quickly attacked by other philosophers of science who showed that not only was the idea unworkable in practice, it did not even correspond to actual scientific practice. My own book The Great Paradox of Science discusses the problems with falsification in some depth and argues that there are much better ways to understand the evolution of scientific theories.

Charlotte Sleigh extends the criticisms of falsification even wider, arguing a cadre of prominent economists and scientists used the concept to advance the cause of neoliberalism.
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Depressing milestones in coronavirus deaths

The number of pandemic-related deaths worldwide is now close to 2.5 million.

The US has now around 500,000 deaths due to covid-19. I remember when the figure reached around 200,000 and experts warned us that it would go over 300,000 and I thought, “Wow, that’a lot. Surely it won’t reach such a high figure?” Then it was repeated when the toll reached 300,000 and then 400,000, and now here we are.

Even though infection, hospitalization, and death rates are falling and people are getting vaccinated, it seems likely that the ultimate toll will reach over 600,000 and maybe even 700,000. And that is assuming that there are no fresh outbreaks due to a combination of new, more contagious variants taking hold and careless behavior on the part of people not taking basic precautions.

We are a far cry from the beginning of the pandemic when Trump predicted back in February of last year that we would have 15 deaths, tops, and that the virus would disappear when spring arrived.