Covid-19 driven by racism, say major journals

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

All of the world’s major science and medical journals published articles this week on the link between systemic racism and Covid-19. Their observations were remarkably similar: racism is a principal driver of the pandemic, white scientists must acknowledge their own implicit and explicit bias, and we must present a united front against racism.

Below we present excerpts from their editorials:

The Lancet:

“’I can't breathe’. These were the last words of George Floyd. They stand as an indictment of the pervasive oppression he and his community have faced and continue… MORE

Eugenics president expunged from USC campus

The past week has seen statues and monuments whose subjects were linked to racism defaced or destroyed in the UK, UK and Australia. The cleansing movement also reached the University of Southern California (USC), with a slightly different twist.

The USC President, Carol Folt, swiftly removed the name and bust of her one of her predecessors, Rufus Von KleinSmid, from a prominent historic building on the campus. She was responding to years of agitation to expunge memorials to Von KleinSmid.

Von KleinSmid was president of USC for 25 years, from 1921 to 1947, and oversaw a huge expansion program. He… MORE

Ukraine begins to open borders for babies of surrogate mothers

The Biotexcom nursery / Reuters 

Foreign couples who waited two months because of Covid-19 border closures are finally collecting their babies from surrogate mothers in Ukraine.

According to Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmila Denisova, 31 couples were united with their infant children.

After much lobbying, the Foreign Ministry allowed the commissioning couples to enter, conditional on a two-week quarantine and negative Covid-19 test. Currently, a total of 125 babies born to surrogates across Ukraine are awaiting parents from abroad.

The issue received wide attention when Biotexcom, the country's largest surrogacy operation, posted a video showing… MORE

Big Tech hits pause button on facial recognition technology

Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon have all hit a “stop” or “pause” button on their facial recognition technology because of fears that it could prejudice people of colour.

IBM will no longer offer the technology. “IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values,” said CEO Arvind Krishna in a letter to Congress this week.

Similarly, Microsoft CEO Brad Smith said that his company "will not sell facial-recognition… MORE

An unexpected medicine for the pandemic: humility

street art in Warsaw / Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

2020 has been a year of surprises. No one predicted that lives and economies would be turned upside down by the coronavirus on New Year’s Eve 2019 – but here we are 400,000 deaths later at the hands of a virus which scientists still do not understand.

One of its most fascinating features is cultural: the politicisation of the pandemic. Instead of presenting a united front against a common enemy, liberals and conservatives staked out positions on epidemiology, a field of medicine so arcane that most them could… MORE

The twin pandemics: Covid-19 and racism

After the brutal killing of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis by police on May 25, demonstrations with tens of thousands of people have erupted across the United States and around the world, from Berlin to Sydney. A common sentiment reported in the American media is that “black people are dying in twin epidemics of coronavirus and racism”.

Even before the tragedy in Minneapolis, it was constantly noted that the death rates amongst blacks were far higher than amongst whites, partly because of poorer living conditions and partly because of pre-existing ailments like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Add to… MORE

Leading journals forced to retract hydroxychloroquine studies

Two of the world’s leading medical journals have been forced to retract studies on the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19, in what has been dubbed one of the biggest retraction scandals in modern history

Last month both the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine published studies on the effectiveness of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been touted by some -- including US president Donald Trump -- as a prophylactic and treatment for coronavirus. 

The studies purported to draw on huge data sets of patients… MORE

Trump pulls the plug on the WHO

The United States will withdraw from the World Health Organization, President Donald Trump has declared after months of criticising the agency and its head for collaborating with China.

On May 29 Trump said WHO had not implemented reforms and that he would be “terminating” the relationship and redirecting funds to other “urgent global public health needs.”

The US halted funding in April while it carried out an investigation of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The US is the largest donor to WHO, providing around 15% of its 2018-19 budget (about US$400 million), although its contributions are reportedly $200 million in arrears.


Francis Collins awarded Templeton Prize for reconciling faith and reason

Geneticist and physician Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, who led the Human Genome Project to its successful completion in 2003, has been awarded the US$1.4 million 2020 Templeton Prize for integrating faith and reason.

In his scientific leadership, public speaking, and popular writing, including his bestselling 2006 book, The Language of God, Collins has supported a Christian worldview. “This book argues that belief in God can be an entirely rational choice,” he writes in the introduction, “and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science.” He also endeavors to encourage… MORE

Does ‘believe scientists!’ include ‘believe the epidemiologists!’?

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

“Believe the science!” has been the desperate rallying cry of people opposing the “denialism” of the Trump Administration. They were (and are) exasperated that Republicans appeared to ignore the “settled science” of climate change.

But in the Covid-19 pandemic – about which doctors and scientists acknowledge their bafflement – should we still believe the science? It’s hardly settled. How should policy-makers decide when they fear that they must choose between lives and livelihoods?

Neil Levy and Julian Savulescu, both of Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, have set down some criteria in the MORE

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