Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Nu is old news, now it’s Omicron

Kai Kupferschmidt/Twitter:

This pandemic has been all about communicating uncertainty and it doesn’t get more uncertain than early data on new variants.

So a few things to keep in mind the next few days and weeks as the picture around B.1.1.529 becomes clearer and why it’s right to be concerned 

Most importantly: We will learn a lot in the coming days but getting good answers takes time, science takes time.

For instance, researchers in SA are growing the virus now for experiments but that can take a week or two (and different variants differ in how well they grow) 

Interpreting real world data is difficult. An increase in one variant in one place can have a lot of reasons and they don’t all have to do with the variant. A superspreading event – or a series of them – can also lead to a rapid increase for instance. 



COVID: Germany calls in air force to transfer ICU patients

“Transporting 80 or 100 patients within Germany is possible once, or perhaps twice, but not indefinitely,” [Health Minister] Spahn said. “We must stop this wave now, otherwise we’ll experience exactly what we always wanted to avoid, namely an overburdening of our health care system.”


All those “Delta is one the wane, so why are people taking precautions still?” media takes from a few days ago look pretty dumb today. So will today’s “panic panic” takes. Why do they have so  much trouble hitting the sweet spot?

My read:

US experts:  we are of course aware and carefully monitoring

UK experts: a major concern and we are banning South Africans from the country,but too soon to be sure

SA experts: this is bad, we are doing our best and we need funding


Timothy Caulfield/Globe and Mail:

Supplements are being touted as the best way to fight COVID-19. Don’t believe it

During the pandemic we’ve heard supplement endorsements from many prominent individuals, including podcaster Joe Rogan (IV vitamins infusions, no less, for his COVID), Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop brand vitamins, of course, for her long COVID), NFL star Aaron Rodgers (part of his Joe Rogan-inspired COVID recovery regime), and far-right radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (for, well, everything).

There are also those within the health care community pushing supplements as a COVID cure. One controversial Texas doctor went so far as to suggest that vitamins are better than vaccines. (Bollocks to infinity.)

Of course, the multibillion-dollar supplement industry has long (always?) been completely disconnected from a science-based approach to health. Unless you have a clinically identified need or deficiency – and by that I mean a recommendation from a science-informed provider who uses validated testing approaches – there is little evidence of clear health benefits from most supplements. To be fair, legitimate debate and research continues around the value of some, such as vitamin D supplementation. We should keep an open mind and follow the results from good clinical studies.

David Frum/Atlantic:

People with scant illusions about Trump are volunteering to help him execute one of his Big Lies.

The usual suspects in the pro-Trump media ecosystem will of course endorse and repeat everything Trump says, no matter how outlandish. But it’s not pro-Trumpers who are leading the latest round of Trump-Russia denialism. This newest round of excuse-making is being sounded from more respectable quarters, in many cases by people distinguished as Trump critics. With Trump out of office—at least for the time being—they now feel free to subordinate their past concerns about him to other private quarrels with the FBI or mainstream media institutions. On high-subscription Substacks, on popular podcasts, even from within prestige media institutions, people with scant illusions about Trump the man and president are nonetheless volunteering to help him execute one of his Big Lies.

Dan Kennedy/WGBH:

It’s too simple to say the ‘mainstream media’ got it wrong on the Steele dossier

This is ostensibly a column about the Steele dossier. But it’s really a column about the media — or, rather, what we mean when we talk about “the media.”

But there’s a huge problem with the narrative that the Steele dossier drove the story that Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with the Russians, and that the media pushed it in order to destroy Trump’s presidency: that’s not what happened. Or, to be more precise, a few media outlets pushed it, but more didn’t. And most serious people understood from the beginning that the dossier comprised raw intelligence, some of which might be true, some of which almost certainly wasn’t, and some of which probably consisted of outright disinformation.

CNN, the first outlet to report that Trump and Obama had been briefed, left out any details in its initial story even though it had the 35-page dossier in hand. BuzzFeed News, which remains the only major news organization to publish the full dossier (a mistake, as I said at the time), called it “unverified” and noted that it included “some clear errors.” The New York Times reported that the dossier was “unsubstantiated” and “generated by political operatives seeking to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy.” The Washington Post: “unconfirmed” and “unsubstantiated.”

To be fair, these articles also said that the allegations contained therein might be true, and that the intelligence officials who briefed the two presidents were taking them seriously. But that’s just accurate reporting.


Three Years Late, Israelis Finally Hear the Truth About Trump

Netanyahu’s former Mossad chief, defense minister and IDF commander are speaking out on Trump’s departure from the Iran deal, years after the then-prime minister celebrated it

For many Israelis, these statements could come as a surprise. They contradict a years-long narrative crafted and promoted by a man who until recently was the most powerful politician in the country. Netanyahu presented Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal as his own personal achievement, and a mostly shallow, compliant Israeli media adopted the story with very little questioning. Commentators and analysts described it in their studios as a geopolitical victory. The man who fought against Obama’s terrible Iran deal, the story went, finally got what he always wanted – to kill the bad agreement.

Bill Scher/Washington Monthly:

Vice Presidents Get No Respect. Kamala Harris Is No Exception.

Cut the history-making No. 2 a break. The job is the problem, not her.

Does she deserve the critiques? Is she held to a different standard than her white male predecessors?

To answer this question, we should appreciate the historical nature of the Harris vice presidency. By that, I’m not just referring to Harris’s race and gender—though, of course, those are highly relevant factors. I’m referring to her lack of Washington experience relative to the president.

There are two kinds of vice presidents: the kind with more Washington experience than the president, and the kind with less. Typically, an outsider presidential candidate picks an insider for veep to reassure voters that the presidency won’t be amateur hour and to help build bridges inside the Beltway and abroad. But a presidential candidate who already has deep Washington experience tends to go for a fresher—sometimes more ideological—running mate who can generate voter enthusiasm and be a plausible successor.

Of the 20 vice presidents we’ve had over the past 100 years, before Harris, only four entered the office with thin Washington résumés or markedly less Washington experience than their presidents.

And here is your palate cleanser:

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