COVID-19 Update 13, May 29

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“Nearly half of Twitter accounts pushing to reopen America may be bots. There has been a huge upswell of Twitter bot activity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, amplifying medical disinformation and the push to reopen America.” MIT Technology Review, May 21, by Karen Hao

MADDIE MEYER / GETTY

* Kathleen M. Carley and her team at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Informed Democracy & Social Cybersecurity have been tracking bots and influence campaigns for a long time. Across US and foreign elections, natural disasters, and other politicized events, the level of bot involvement is normally between 10 and 20%, she says.

* But in a new study, the researchers have found that bots may account for between 45 and 60% of Twitter accounts discussing covid-19. Many of those accounts were created in February and have since been spreading and amplifying misinformation, including false medical advice, conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, and pushes to end stay-at-home orders and reopen America.


Eighth century Japan – a bloody murder and a rape, the story told by the three people involved – the dead Samurai, his wife and the bandit – their truths, their versions contradictory and self-serving. And then the woodcutter, a neutral observer describes what he saw. The movie “Rashomon” (1950) directed by Akira Kurosawa dramatically illustrates the existence of different truths, different realities.

According to Leon Festinger’s 1957 cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their beliefs and opinions. When there is an inconsistency between attitudes and behaviours, something must change to eliminate the dissonance. It is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behaviour.

The idea arose out of a participant observation study of a cult which believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood, and what happened to its members – particularly the really committed ones who had given up their homes and jobs to work for the cult – when the flood did not happen. While fringe members were more inclined to realize that they had made fools of themselves, committed members were more likely to interpret the evidence as showing that they were right all along and that the earth survived because of their faithfulness.

Daniel Kahneman explained the biases and self deceptions in thought in terms of two kinds of thinking: System 1 – fast, instinctive, emotional, irrational, and System 2 – slow, deliberative, logical, rational.

For the mind, capable of great, even self destructive self deception and bias, social media and the internet – the Global Village is a hall of amplifying mirrors. It is a world where truth is just another virtual reality, where science is just another opinion or worse a plot, where civil society is undermined or destroyed by polarization, fragmentation and deceit. It is a world where a great army of well rewarded mercenary liars and hate merchants conduct their assault against truth, against all of us. They serve short term economic and political interests of the few, those acting against the common good of the many, those willing to destroy the future in the name of greed and power.

“No masks allowed: stores turn customers away in US culture war.”
* Shops around the US make headlines for denying entry to those wearing masks as protesters argue against preventative measures in the name of freedom. …a Kentucky convenience store put up a sign reading: “NO Face Masks allowed in store. Lower your mask or go somewhere else. Stop listening to [Kentucky governor Andy] Beshear, he’s a dumbass.” Another sign was posted by a Californian construction store earlier this month encouraging hugs but not masks.” The Guardian, May 22

Two Missouri hair stylists potentially exposed 140 clients as they worked for up to eight days this month while symptomatic, health officials said.” CNN, May 24.

An Indian doctor who was suspended after raising concerns about a shortage of masks is again in the spotlight after officials committed him to a mental hospital.”

* Dr Sudhakar Rao, an anaesthetist with 20 years of experience, made national headlines over the weekend for the second time in two months. A series of videos that went viral show him and police facing off on a highway in the southern city of Visakhapatnam, where Dr Rao lives and works. … a video shows him him lying on the road with his hands tied behind his back as a constable hits him with a baton. Authorities say he was sent to a mental hospital after.

* The news follows reports of Indian doctors facing a backlash after speaking out about shortages of protective gear or lack of preparation in hospitals. In an earlier video which also went viral, Dr Rao said – We are told to use the same mask for 15 days before asking for a fresh mask. How can we treat patients risking our lives?” BBC, May 21.

Exploitative conditions.
* Germany to reform meat industry after spate of Covid-19 outbreaks. Ban on use of subcontractors and fines of €30,000 for slaughterhouses breaching new labour regulations a ‘historic moment’, say campaigners.

“The outbreaks have not surprised us at all,” said Jonas Bohl, from the German Food, Beverages and Catering Union. ‘Rather the surprise was that they took a while to emerge. The people not only work closely together but more importantly they live together in very cramped conditions where there is no possibility to keep social distance.’ As in Ireland, the UK and the US, meat plants in Germany have been accused of failing to adequately protect workers.” The Guardian, May 22.

Geronticide update. May 27, 23:00: Canada deaths 6877, LTC deaths 5920 (86.1%).

Sweden ‘wrong’ not to shut down, says former state epidemiologist.”
* Annika Linde, who oversaw the response to Sars, says country has failed the vulnerable saying she now believes the authorities should have put in place tougher restrictions in the early stages of the pandemic to bring the virus under control. Per capita death rates in Denmark, Finland and Norway, which all put in place far reaching lockdowns, are now, respectively, four, seven and nine times lower than that of Sweden.” The Guardian, May 24.

“Far from hospitals and often lacking basic infrastructure, Brazil’s indigenous people are dying at an alarming rate from Covid-19 with little help in sight.”
* The mortality rate is double that of the rest of Brazil’s population, according to advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) which tracks the number of cases and deaths among the country’s 900,000 indigenous people.” CNN, May 24.

From vox.com, May 11: “Covid-19 could reverse decades of global progress – the pandemic’s collateral damage.

  1. Routine vaccinations are falling by the wayside.
  2. People are avoiding going to the doctor even for heart attacks and strokes.
  3. “Elective” procedures – including cancer surgeries and organ transplants – are being postponed.
  4.  A “hunger pandemic” and “poverty tsunami” may be coming.
  5. The risk of a bacterial pandemic is growing.
  6. The crisis is taking a very unfortunate toll on research.
  7. Vulnerable populations are being hit even harder than usual.
  8. Millions of animals are getting killed.”

The US states failed very badly to control the spread of the virus among the population. There are 17 other states with more than 5000 cases/M.

On May 29, Moscow’s health department reported that 1,561 people died from the disease – not 639 as initially announced. This confirms that Russia’s reported numbers were, as suspected, more fiction than reality. Russia’s reported mortality rate of COVID-19 patients of 1.09% is statistically impossible given the rates of 4.70% for Germany, 7.77% for Canada, 9.51% for Spain, 14.06% for the UK, and 14.30% for Italy. Russia’s testing rate suspiciously went up a lot a while ago and now is one of the highest.

TAP, Toronto, 9 AM, May 29here are now 14 countries with more cases than China. In descending order: USA, Brazil, Russia, Spain, UK, Italy, France, Germany, India, Turkey, Iran, Peru, Canada, and Chile.

AP, Toronto, 9 AM, May 29


Andrew Pakula is a long time peace activist and has been a member of Science for Peace from the very beginning. He is a retired social research and management consultant with a background in social psychology.

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