breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 9
October 2021

Why I trust Lateral Flow Tests

When I had Covid, they were remarkably accurate

The latest Covid conundrum is why so many people seem to be currently testing positive on their instant Lateral Flow Test and then test negative when they take their PCR. Tom Chivers unpacked the maths on these pages earlier this week, and Dr Oliver Johnson has confirmed in an excellent Twitter thread that the disparity between the testing methods seems to be widening recently.

I’ll leave the probability calculations to superior brains, but I wanted to throw in one piece of anecdotal evidence that I don’t feel gets talked about enough. (To repeat: I am aware this is anecdotal!)

I had Covid back at the start of August — for the first time as far as I know, and after two Pfizer vaccinations. It was hardly the worst week of my life (I watched the entirety of Call my Agent, which was a saving grace) but I was ill enough to feel somewhat shortchanged by Messrs Pfizer and BioNtech. I had all the classic symptoms — loss of taste and smell, high fever, fatigue etc — and it felt pretty much how I would expect it to feel in an otherwise healthy 39 year old. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 30
September 2021

BBC News reports a non-existent religious revival

A poll suggested a boom in religiosity among young people — but it's not true

An opinion poll result written up prominently on the BBC News website this week caused quite a stir.

Young people more likely to pray than over 55s – survey” ran the headline, with data and commentary provided by the respected international polling company Savanta ComRes. The astonishing results suggest that 51% of British 18-34 year olds pray at least once a month, compared to 24% of over 55 year olds; and that fully 49% of the youngest age group attend a place of worship every month, compared to just 16% of over 55 year olds.

How surprising! There was I thinking that we were in a rapidly secularising society, with most people (52%) now claiming they have no religion whatsoever, and only 1% of the youngest age group describing themselves as Anglican, according to the most recent British Social Attitudes survey...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 28
September 2021

The Left’s case against vaccine passports

A group of senior Labour figures offers an animated defence of civil liberties

“Before the pandemic,”wrote Nate Silver the US political analyst, “I would have guessed that conservatives were COVID hawks and liberals were COVID doves.” It is an intriguing thought: perhaps, if a few key figures had made different decisions, the political argument of the past 18 months could have flipped entirely between Left and Right?

Yesterday I chaired a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference in which we were given a glimpse of that parallel universe: a group of senior Labour figures, mainly from the Left of the party, brought together by the campaign group Big Brother Watch to discuss “the Left case against Covid passes.” Blur your eyes and you could just make out how it would have looked — a Left that was still animated by a defence of civil liberties. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 20
September 2021

Will Fauci bypass the FDA ruling on booster jabs?

In both the US and UK, leaders are sidelining their expert committees

After seven hours of evidence-sharing and discussion last Friday, acting chair of the American FDA Advisory Committee on Vaccines Dr Arnold Monto finally put the main question to a vote. Does the available safety and effectiveness data support a third booster dose of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine being offered to all individuals aged 16 and over?

Within two minutes, the results were in: of 18 votes, all from senior doctors with a specialism in vaccines, only 2 were in favour and 16 were against. The committee had resoundingly rejected the plan. In doing so, it was in line with the views of the UK’s Professor Sarah Gilbert and in fact the WHO...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 4
September 2021

Denmark overtakes Sweden as the restriction-free Nordic nation

The government no longer considers Covid-19 a critical threat to society

Denmark, a country whose approach earlier in the Covid pandemic was thought of as the opposite of Sweden, with early border restrictions and school closures, has now overtaken its neighbour as the most restriction-free country in Scandinavia.

An article in today’s Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish broadsheet, observes:

It seems like an upside-down world all of a sudden: that the Danes, who at the start of the pandemic gave Swedish travellers the cold shoulder on the Öresund bridge and told them to turn back because Swedish Covid restrictions were too mild, are now letting go of the reins altogether.
- Svenska Dagbladet

Nightclubs in Denmark have been open since last week, and as of September 10th, guests will no longer need to show their “Coronapass” which serves as proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. Despite having higher case numbers than Sweden, all the remaining restrictions will be lifted — the Danish government no longer considers Covid-19 a ‘critical threat to society.’ ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 23
August 2021

Why Facebook hid its ‘Transparency Report’

The company is embarrassed by the most popular shared content on its site

“Transparency is an important part of everything we do at Facebook.” So begins the company’s first ever ‘Transparency Report’, covering Q1 2021, which details the most viewed posts, pages and shared links on the network.

Except when Facebook executives saw that the most shared link was a Chicago Tribune story about a doctor dying of a mysterious internal bleeding condition two weeks after his Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, they panicked. It was a credible mainstream source, but the article asserted that it was “possibly the nation’s first death linked to the vaccine”. Clearly, the reason for its popularity was as useful evidence for the anti-vax movement. Would Facebook be accused of spreading “misinformation”? ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 18
August 2021

Clarissa Ward in Kabul: what the Taliban are really like

CNN's international correspondent talks exclusively to UnHerd from Afghanistan

Clarissa Ward is the Chief International Correspondent at CNN – used to reporting from the front lines of conflict zones and global events. But in the past few days she found herself, more unusually, at the centre of a culture war. In a clip from one of her broadcasts, some Taliban fighters on a Kabul street were chanting ‘Death to America’ but she observed that “they seemed friendly enough at the same time. It’s utterly bizarre.”

Politicians right up to Senator Ted Cruz jumped on to social media to condemn her remarks as another example of CNN being unpatriotic and out of touch. “Is there an enemy of America for whom @CNN WON’T cheerlead?” he asked. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 29
July 2021

Have I been unfair to Neil Ferguson?

The professor is treated with leniency, even when he gets it wrong

Something Professor Neil Ferguson said to Politico yesterday jumped out at me. Defending his prediction that Covid cases in this wave would reach 100,000 and possibly 200,000 (they seem to have peaked at less than 50,000), he mused, “I’m quite happy to be wrong if it’s wrong in the right direction.”

It seemed quite a significant reveal, that he openly considered overly pessimistic forecasts to be “wrong in the right direction,” and so I put it on Twitter. Perhaps predictably, it was widely shared — this single tweet has currently been read by 850,000 people.

Prof Neil Ferguson tells Politico: ...  Continue reading