Unfortunately, Ivermectin Is Not a Miracle Cure for COVID-19

“So what do researchers know about the effectiveness of ivermectin, approved for human use but best known as a horse deworming medicine, in treating COVID-19? At the beginning of the pandemic, scientists around the globe began testing thousands of existing medications in test tubes to see if they could be repurposed to fight against the novel coronavirus. In very preliminary research, researchers found that ivermectin significantly inhibited COVID-19 coronaviruses in cell cultures.

Encouraged by these petri dish findings, some desperate clinicians began administering ivermectin to their COVID-19 patients. The result was a number of hopeful observational studies by clinicians reporting that ivermectin appeared to be effective—in some cases, highly effective—in preventing COVID deaths. Observational studies are notoriously subject to researcher biases and confounders that can mislead clinicians into thinking an intervention works when actually a third factor is responsible.

Nevertheless, a prominent group of American physicians calling themselves the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) combined these preliminary observational and epidemiological studies into a November 13, 2020, preprint meta-analysis asserting that ivermectin “has highly potent real-world, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties against SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.” Among other findings, the FLCCC pointed to reports that widespread distribution of ivermectin in Peru had correlated with steep declines in COVID-19 cases and mortality there. According to the group, cases and deaths began to rise dramatically in the same country after the government ceased distributing the drug.”

“research on ivermectin’s efficacy in treating COVID-19 has been ongoing. Has this subsequent research validated Kory’s claim that ivermectin is a miracle drug against COVID-19? It’s complicated, but the answer is largely no.

First: Those dramatic Peruvian results are highly confounded. The steep rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in that country can most likely be blamed on the breakout of the highly infectious lambda variant rather than to a halt in ivermectin distribution. Meanwhile, the newly reported results of a highly anticipated randomized controlled study of ivermectin in next door Brazil finds that the medicine had “no effect whatsoever” on the disease.

A lot of the hope that ivermectin would be a COVID-19 silver bullet arose from the findings of various meta-analyses, including the one conducted by the FLCCC, that combined the results of various observational studies and small randomized controlled trials. One of the more prominent recent ones was posted as a preprint in May by a team of British public health researchers led by the Newcastle University statistician Andrew Bryant. But other scientists have faulted that study for significant methodological failures.

Also, though it’s not the preprint’s researchers fault, one of the most important studies bolstering their conclusion has been withdrawn because its results appear to be fraudulent. Once the data from that study are removed, the Bryant meta-analysis finds essentially no efficacy for treating COVID-19 with ivermectin.

On July 28, 2021, the authors of a more painstaking meta-analysis of ivermectin COVID-19 treatment studies, published by the Cochrane Library, concluded:

“Based on the current very low‐ to low-certainty evidence, we are uncertain about the efficacy and safety of ivermectin used to treat or prevent COVID‐19. The completed studies are small and few are considered high quality. Several studies are underway that may produce clearer answers in review updates. Overall, the reliable evidence available does not support the use of ivermectin for treatment or prevention of COVID‐19 outside of well‐designed randomized trials.”

The FLCCC folks are surely sincere, but the best evidence suggests that they are sincerely wrong. The bottom line is that while ivermectin might have some marginal efficacy, it is certainly not a “miracle drug” when it comes to treating COVID-19.”

Rand Paul’s Criticism of Cloth Masks Was Stronger Than the Evidence Justifies

“his flat, categorical statements about cloth masks are stronger than the scientific literature supports, relying on a couple of cherry-picked studies with known limitations while ignoring countervailing evidence.

In a video responding to his YouTube suspension, Paul reiterates that “most of the masks that you get over the counter don’t work” and “don’t prevent infection.” He argues that “saying cloth masks work when they don’t actually risks lives,” describing it as “potentially deadly misinformation.” While N95 respirators are effective at preventing virus transmission, he says, “the other masks don’t work.”

Paul would have been on firm ground if he had said cloth masks offer less protection than N95 masks. But the claim that cloth masks “don’t work,” meaning they offer no protection at all, is inconsistent with multiple studies suggesting that they reduce the risk of infection, especially when worn by carriers but possibly also when worn by other people in their vicinity.”

Climate change worsens extreme weather. A revolution in attribution science proved it.

“Bolstered with better data and even clearer trends, they’re no longer reluctant to point the finger back at humanity for worsening these calamities. In the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a team of leading researchers convened by the United Nations presented some of the most robust research that connects the dots. It shows how some greater weather extremes can be traced back to rising average temperatures, which in turn stem from emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from countries and corporations burning fossil fuels.

“On a case-by-case basis, scientists can now quantify the contribution of human influences to the magnitude and probability of many extreme events,” according to the report.”

The devastating new UN report on climate change, explained

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations’ climate science research group, concluded in a major report that it is “unequivocal” that humans have warmed the skies, waters, and lands, and that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred in every inhabited region across the globe. Many of these changes are irreversible within our lifetimes.

This is the first report of its kind in eight years, and a lot has changed. Scientists have backed away from many of the best-case scenarios. They’re more confident than ever that human-caused climate change is already worsening deadly weather events, from flooding to heat waves. And they’re investigating culprits of climate change that warm the planet even more than carbon dioxide.”

“The goal of these reports is to compile the best available science and create a solid foundation for decision-makers to act, whether that’s to invest in clean energy, relocate people from high-risk areas, or help the most vulnerable places cope with unavoidable impacts.”

“While researchers have better answers now on some fronts, they are also blunt about the things they still don’t know, which could have huge effects on the livability of the planet. Certain tipping points, feedbacks, and currently unappreciated mechanisms could further tilt the climate out of balance in ways that are hard to predict.”

“in the eight years since the last comprehensive IPCC report and the six years since the Paris accords, humanity’s output of heat-trapping gases has only grown. Even with a dip in emissions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reached a record high this year, topping 419 parts per million, a level the planet has not seen for at least 2 million years.

This rise in emissions has given scientists unprecedented opportunities to study climate change in real time. Alongside improvements in computer simulations, measurement technology, laboratory experiments, and historical records, scientists have gained far more insight to, and confidence in, humanity’s role in cranking up the planet’s thermostat.”

“According to the report, it now seems impossible that the world will get lucky and warming will somehow stay within the Paris agreement targets without massive action to limit emissions, starting right away.”

Skeptics question if Biden’s new science agency is a breakthrough or more bureaucracy

“The proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency would deliver breakthrough treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other diseases and reshape the government’s medical research efforts, by adding a nimble new agency modeled on the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which laid the groundwork for the internet.

But the way Biden would make “ARPA-H” and its $6.5 billion budget part of the sprawling National Institutes of Health is raising concern within the research community and in Congress about whether it will bring a new approach to old problems or become a duplicative bureaucracy with a lofty mandate.

“Most of us did not support putting this in NIH, for the simple reason that if NIH were capable of doing this, it would have done it,” said one person outside the government familiar with the planning who’s worried NIH’s staid culture and leadership will bog down the effort.

A half dozen individuals both inside and outside the administration who were involved in discussions about the plan told POLITICO there are alternative approaches being discussed, like putting ARPA-H well outside of Washington, to escape some of the Beltway’s inertia and turf battles. More autonomy could, in theory, speed up the way scientific discoveries are turned into drugs and diagnostic tests.

But the prevailing view is that making the new agency part of NIH’s infrastructure will give it a foundation to spring off — and foster communication to head off unnecessary duplication. As Congress prepares for hearings on the first budget proposal, administration officials are expressing confidence ARPA-H can carve out a distinct identity, wherever it is.”

California mandated masks. Florida opened its restaurants. Did any of it matter?

“the science on masks is clear: They work. Even experts I spoke with who think harsh lockdowns may have been counterproductive say indoor mask mandates were clearly effective.

“Indoor masking guidance was proven to be effective,” Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. “When you look at it all, I think that is probably going to be the one that shows the most effect. … Most things can be done safely if people socially distance and wear a mask indoors in an unvaccinated setting.”

The available research supports that conclusion. In a study published in March 2021, CDC researchers examined case and death rates at the county level after mask mandates were put into place and found the mandates were associated with slower transmission.”

“An earlier study, published in June 2020 in Health Affairs, had reached the same conclusion. Its authors estimated that mask mandates had averted some 200,000 Covid-19 cases by mid-May; at the time, the US had counted less than 2 million cases, indicating that the mask mandates had a meaningful effect in slowing the virus down early in the pandemic.

Some commentators have questioned why dire warnings about what would happen when Texas lifted its mask mandate for good in March 2021 never materialized. But the mandate’s rollback took place in a very different context from the spring of 2020.

For one, many more people now have protection from the virus, between vaccinations and prior infections. More widespread immunity was already an obstacle for the virus.

But on top of that, because the pandemic has become so politicized, people have already sorted themselves into their different camps, experts indicated — and so a state mandate might not have changed behavior. By now, you are already either a mask-wearer or you’re not. A government mandate probably isn’t going to affect someone’s behavior in June 2021 as much as it would have a year ago, especially after enforcement has been nonexistent.”

Teen Cigarette Smoking Went Up Following Flavored Tobacco Ban

“In newly published research, she looked at youth smoking rates in San Francisco, which banned flavored tobacco products—including flavored cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids—in June 2018. Previous research suggested the ban actually increased cigarette smoking in 18- to 24-year-olds while decreasing overall tobacco product use in 18- to 34-year-olds. Friedman wanted to measure the ban’s effect on high school students under 18.

Using data from the 2011-2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), Friedman was able to look at under-18 cigarette smoking rates in Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Florida’s Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties. This allowed her to compare youth smoking in San Francisco with districts that did not ban flavored cigarettes and vaping products.

“Comparing recent smoking rates by wave revealed similar trends in San Francisco vs other districts prior to 2018 but subsequent divergence,” writes Friedman of her findings. “San Francisco’s flavor ban was associated with more than doubled odds of recent smoking among underage high school students relative to concurrent changes in other districts.”

“While the policy applied to all tobacco products, its outcome was likely greater for youths who vaped than those who smoked due to higher rates of flavored tobacco use among those who vaped,” she adds. “This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking. Indeed, analyses of how minimum legal sales ages for electronic nicotine delivery systems are associated with youth smoking also suggest such substitution.””

How Congress wrecked its own science bill, explained in 600 words

“Earlier this year, it looked like Congress would do the unthinkable: pass a truly big, bipartisan bill. The legislation, known as the Endless Frontier Act, would provide a huge funding boost to American science research — framed as a way to compete with China. In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) led the charge, and it looked like the bill would pass with support from both parties.
But in the past few months, two things happened: As the legislation worked through the Senate process, it was watered down, reducing how much new funding would go to research. Then last week, a vote on the bill was delayed, as Republicans threatened to kill the legislation altogether.

To put it another way: A bill meant to show the US could own China instead proved how dysfunctional the American political system is.”

The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die

“While the “acting white” theory used to be pretty popular to bring up in debates about black academic achievement there’s a catch: It’s not true.
At best, it’s a very creative interpretation of inadequate research and anecdotal evidence. At worst, it’s a messy attempt to transform the near-universal stigma attached to adolescent nerdiness into an indictment of black culture, while often ignoring the systemic inequality that contributes to the country’s racial achievement gap.
Yet McWhorter — despite being a scholar of linguistics, not sociology — has become one of the primary defenders of the “acting white” theory and has dismissed those who debunk it as “pundits” who are “uncomfortable with the possibility that a black problem could not be due to racism.” But the people who challenge it are not pundits — they’re academics who’ve dedicated significant time and scientific scrutiny to this theory. Here’s why they say it’s a myth.”

“The “acting white” theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s. John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California Berkeley, introduced it in an ethnographic study of one Washington, DC, high school. He found what he dubbed an “oppositional culture” in which, he said, students saw academic achievement as “white.”
The acting white theory has since become a go-to explanation for the achievement gap between African-American students and their white peers, and is repeated in public conversations as if it’s a fact of life.
Authors such as Ron Christie in Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur and Stuart Buck in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation have written entire books (heavy on personal observations, anecdotes, and theories) dedicated to the phenomenon.
Even President Barack Obama said in 2004, when he was running for US Senate, “Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

“Despite abundant personal anecdotes by African Americans who say they were good students in school and were accused of acting white, there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about “acting white,” social stigma, and academic outcomes.
Even those who claim to have found evidence of the theory, Toldson explained, failed to connect the dots between what students deem “white” and the effect of this belief on academic achievement.
“Observing and/or recording African-American students labeling a high-achieving African-American student as acting white does not warrant a characterization of African-American academic underperformance as a response to the fear of acting white,” he said.”

“A prime example of a shaky study on this topic, according to Toldson, was Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer’s 2006 research paper “Acting White: The Social Price Paid by the Best and the Brightest Minority Students.” Published by Education Next, the paper purported to affirm Ogbu’s findings by using Add Health data to demonstrate that the highest-achieving black students in the schools Fryer studied had few friends. “My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools,” he wrote.
But the numbers didn’t actually add up to support the “acting white” theory, Toldson said. To start, the most popular black students in his study were the ones with 3.5 GPAs, and students with 4.0s had about as many friends as those with 3.0s. The least popular students? Those with less than a 2.5 GPA.”

“Plus, Toldson pointed out, even if the results had shown that the highest-achieving students at all schools had the fewest friends, that would have indicated a connection between grades and popularity, but wouldn’t have supported the core of the “acting white” theory itself. “Methodologically, the study has to make the ostensible leap that the number of friends a black student has is a direct measure and a consequence of acting white,” he explained.”

“In 2009, the authors of an American Sociological Review article, “The Search For Oppositional Culture Among Black Students,” concluded that high-achieving black students were in fact especially popular among their peers, and that being a good student increased popularity among black students even more so than for white students.
McWhorter has dismissed this study as one that “encourages us to pretend,” because he says that black kids may be dishonest when asked if they value school. It’s unclear why the suspicion of dishonesty only applies to black students and not the white students who were also studied. He’s also written the self-reports can’t be trusted because, according to reasoning he attributes to Fryer, “[a]sking teenagers whether they’re popular is like asking them if they’re having sex.” That may be fair, but it doesn’t explain the stronger link between being a good student and self-reports about popularity for black teens than for white teens.
In 2011, Smith College’s Tina Wildhagen, in the Journal of Negro Education, tested the “entire causal process tested by the ‘acting white’ theory,” using the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, and found that “the results lend no support to the process predicted by the acting white hypothesis for African-American students.”

“in a study published in the American Sociological Review in 1998, James Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas Downey, using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, found that black students offered more optimistic responses than their white counterparts to questions about the following: 1) the kind of occupation they expected to have at age 30, 2) the importance of education to success, 3) whether they felt teachers treated them well, 4) whether the teachers were good, 5) whether it was okay to break rules, 6) whether it was okay to cheat, 7) whether other students viewed them as a “good student,” 8) whether other students viewed them as a “troublemaker,” and 9) whether they tried as hard as they could in class.
Findings like these fly in the face of the idea that black students think academic achievement is “white” or negative, or that it’s something they must actively shun for acceptance and popularity.
When Toldson analyzed raw data from a 2005 CBS News monthly poll of 1,000 high school students who were asked their opinions on being smart and other smart students, he saw this reflected again.
Students were asked, “Thinking about the kids who get good grades in your school, which one of these best describes how you see them: 1) cool, 2) normal, 3) weird, 4) boring, or 5) admired?” The responses of black boys, black girls, white boys, and white girls were around the same. But black boys were the most likely (17 percent) to consider such students “cool.”
Students also answered this question: “In general, if you really did well in school, is that something you would be proud of and tell all your friends about, or something you would be embarrassed about and keep to yourself?” Eighty-nine percent of all students said they would be “proud and tell all.” Black girls were top among this group, with 95 percent saying they’d be proud. Meanwhile, white boys, at 17 percent, were the most likely to say they would be “embarrassed or keep to self” or report that they “did not know” how they would handle the news that they were doing very well academically.
As recently as 2009, researchers have revisited the theory and confirmed the findings of pro-school attitudes among black students.”

“Fryer’s research found that the very highest-achieving black kids were the least popular — but this likely had much less to do with beliefs about acting white and more to do with the fact that the very smartest kids of any race tend to suffer social stigma.
“In my own research, I have noticed a ‘nerd bend’ among all races, whereby high — but not the highest — achievers receive the most social rewards,” Toldson said. “For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.”
In a 2003 study titled “It’s not a black thing: Understanding the Burden of Acting White and Other Dilemmas of High Achievement,” published in the American Sociological Review, researchers concluded that the smartest black and white students actually had similar experiences and that the stigma was similar across cultures”

“Jamelle Bouie gave his take on the distinction between these two experiences in a 2010 piece for the American Prospect:
“As a nerdy black kid who was accused of “acting white” on a fairly regular basis, I feel confident saying that the charge had everything to do with cultural capital, and little to do with academics. If you dressed like other black kids, had the same interests as other black kids, and lived in the same neighborhoods as the other black kids, then you were accepted into the tribe. If you didn’t, you weren’t. In my experience, the “acting white” charge was reserved for black kids, academically successful or otherwise, who didn’t fit in with the main crowd. In other words, this wasn’t some unique black pathology against academic achievement; it was your standard bullying and exclusion, but with a racial tinge.””

“(McWhorter has vigorously defended the “acting white” theory against academic critics primarily by citing 125 letters he says he received from people describing their experiences that reflect the theory. While he argues that accounts in these letters should be accepted without question, he disregards data such as the scientific study responses indicating pro-school attitudes among black kids because of his view that “personal feelings are not reachable by direct questioning.”)”

“some high-achieving black kids — like kids of all races — experience social stigma. These individual facts are painful, and they resonate with people in a way that makes it easy to blur what’s missing from the “acting white” equation: an actual, causal connection between the accusations of acting white, social stigma, and lower academic outcomes. There isn’t one.”