"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." — John Adams (1770)

When politicians, the mainstream news media, and the social media platforms say “follow the science,” it is best to ask: what science, what scientists, and what are the underlying motivations for the science they are touting.

So it comes as somewhat of a shock that a student publication of a prestigious educational institution like Johns Hopkins would actually admit to intellectual dishonesty as a “good thing.”

Remember, they are disappearing their reporter’s work – not the actual cited author’s work.


A closer look at U.S. deaths due to COVID-19

Editor’s Note: After The News-Letter published this article on Nov. 22, it was brought to our attention that our coverage of Genevieve Briand’s presentation “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data” has been used to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact of the pandemic.

[OCS: First and foremost, have the enlightened editors of this student newsletter noticed that the work being withdrawn is a piece written by Yanni Gu and not the author of the research being cited or referred to by the misleading headline. If anything, the headline should be “Reporter’s work withdrawn because of social media outcry.”

Second, this is not a scientific article as one might find in a peer-reviewed journal, but a report on an opinion as expressed in the cited subject’s work. Hence, it is more a publicity puff piece than an authoritative article. That being said, consider the journalistic behavior in handling this matter.

There have always been “unfashionable or disputed” articles in both the scientific literature and the lay media to expose divergent and differing points of view. It was left up to the intelligent reader to select how the information was interpreted and to what use the information was put. The entire phenomena of the scientific method is one of controlled skepticism whereby a hypothesis could be tested, the findings and conclusions published, and the findings replicated, validated, or falsified.

While peer-review is a publishing process, as is editorial control over the selection of content to be published, it is quite extraordinary to find a published work withdrawn because of its social impact on the fashionable one-sided science of the day.]

We decided on Nov. 26 to retract this article to stop the spread of misinformation, as we noted on social media. However, it is our responsibility as journalists to provide a historical record. We have chosen to take down the article from our website, but it is available here as a PDF.

[OCS: You will notice that they did not actually retract or repudiate the underlying work itself, but their reporter's story to which they provided a link. What they did is to self-censor and semi-disappear their own article from mainstream news media and social media platforms.

I find the PDF-overlay “Retracted by the News-Letter” to be offensive and an insult to the reporter who is expressing an opinion and reporting on the research of a third-party having nothing to do with the publication. You can retract material containing material misstatements of fact but cannot make the same argument when dealing with opinions.]

In accordance with our standards for transparency, we are sharing with our readers how we came to this decision. The News-Letter is an editorially and financially independent, student-run publication. Our articles and content are not endorsed by the University or the School of Medicine, and our decision to retract this article was made independently.

[OCS: I wonder if, as publishers, they appreciate the irony of claiming to have a “standard for transparency” and then disappear an article? However, they do a nice job of providing plausible deniability to the University and its School of Medicine, both of which are the recipient of multi-million dollar government grants as well as private donations.]

Briand’s study should not be used exclusively in understanding the impact of COVID-19, but should be taken in context with the countless other data published by Hopkins, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

[OCS: There is that magic word “context.” As if the reader were too stupid to be able to read, interpret, and assign some weight to the content based on one’s education and experience without someone needing to supply “context,” – in this case, references to the politically-correct and fashionable science of the day. Much of which is used as an excuse to drive public policy. And, certainly, public policies that are political with little or no legitimate basis in science.

Want context? Consider the psychological and physiological effects of the economic trauma driven by a need to “flatten the curve.”  Not to eradicate or control the spread of the COVID-19 disease – but to ensure that the medical system has the physical capacity to serve the sick. Common sense will inform the average reader that simply locking down a portion of the population will shift the disease curve to a later date. And, if one is intellectually honest, most of the reporting based on testing-dependent cases is meaningless as a metric – but is useful as a political scare tactic to ensure public compliance with freedom-denying policies promulgated by self-serving and power-hungry politicians and their special interests.]

As assistant director for the Master’s in Applied Economics program at Hopkins, Briand is neither a medical professional nor a disease researcher. At her talk, she herself stated that more research and data are needed to understand the effects of COVID-19 in the U.S.

[OCS: Another display of intellectual dishonesty. The truth is that one does not have to be a medical professional or a disease researcher to statistically analyze data presented in a public forum. One needs a background in statistics and economics. Or necessarily a journalist with scientific credentials to highlight the work of a credentialed researcher.

The author of the work cited is a Ph.D. and “has taught for the Applied Economics Program since summer 2015 and currently teaches Microeconomic Theory, Statistics, and Econometrics. She has many years of experience teaching numerous and varied economics and statistics courses. Her fields of interest are microeconomics and econometrics.” <Source> Certainly well qualified to analyze the data.]

Briand was quoted in the article as saying, “All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers.” This claim is incorrect and does not take into account the spike in raw death count from all causes compared to previous years. According to the CDC, there have been almost 300,000 excess deaths due to COVID-19. Additionally, Briand presented data of total U.S. deaths in comparison to COVID-19-related deaths as a proportion percentage, which trivializes the repercussions of the pandemic. This evidence does not disprove the severity of COVID-19; an increase in excess deaths is not represented in these proportionalities because they are offered as percentages, not raw numbers.

[OCS: I must be blind. I do not see the above statements about an incorrect claim as being attributable to anybody, credentialed or otherwise. It is just like someone standing up and shouting out an opinion.]

Briand also claimed in her analysis that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may be incorrectly categorized as COVID-19-related deaths. However, COVID-19 disproportionately affects those with preexisting conditions, so those with those underlying conditions are statistically more likely to be severely affected and die from the virus.

[OCS: The national COVID-19 statistics contain significant errors, especially given the lack of uniform standards for reporting deaths, the government’s incentivization of increased reimbursement for COVID-19-related diseases, and the government’s own allowance of opinion versus confirmation of Covid-19's presence is suspect. As is the correct categorization of those who were near the end of their natural life when stricken or those afflicted with physiologically-significant comorbidities.]

Because of these inaccuracies and our failure to provide additional information about the effects of COVID-19, The News-Letter decided to retract this article. It is our duty as a publication to combat the spread of misinformation and to enhance our fact-checking process. We apologize to our readers. <Source>

[OCS: The inaccuracies are built into the system and can be correctly acknowledged by citing the bounds of statistical error. Your duty as a publisher is to present timely and interesting information to your readers, not to provide “context” or uninformed or unattributed editorial comment.

As for “fact-checking,” this is an editorial process that should have taken place before the article was published – and not in response to how it may have been received by the public. If you haven’t noticed, your publication is not a peer-reviewed journal of scientific repute.

It is your right to publish what you want, but if you want to publish a refutation – by all means, publish a refutation by a credible author willing to make their argument with at least the same scientific rigor as the argument being refuted.

And, yes, you should apologize to your readers. Not for publishing the author’s work CITING THE WORK OF ANOTHER, but for infantilizing your audience and suggesting they may need your guidance and context to understand, appreciate, and apply what they are reading. There is little doubt in my mind that some students are smarter than their professors, and continually dumbing-down content for public consumption weakens our entire educational system and collective national wisdom.]

Why is all the COVID-19 News bad?

Precisely the very question asked by three professors; Bruce Sacerdote and Ranjan Sehgal from Dartmouth, and Molly Cook Brown, who have produced a research paper (Working Paper 2810 dated November 2020) for the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, “Why Is All COVID-19 News Bad News?


We analyze the tone of COVID-19 related English-language news articles written since January 1, 2020.

Ninety one percent of stories by U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone versus fifty- four percent for non-U.S. major sources and sixty five percent for scientific journals. '

The negativity of the U.S. major media is notable even in areas with positive scientific developments including school re-openings and vaccine trials. Media negativity is unresponsive to changing trends in new COVID-19 cases or the political leanings of the audience.

U.S. major media readers strongly prefer negative stories about COVID-19 and negative stories in general. Stories of increasing COVID-19 cases outnumber stories of decreasing cases by a factor of 5.5 even during periods when new cases are declining.

Among U.S. major media outlets, stories discussing President Donald Trump and hydroxychloroquine are more numerous than all stories combined that cover companies and individual researchers working on COVID-19 vaccines.

Of course, the short answer is the extreme influence of progressive socialist democrats in the mainstream media and on the social media platforms where, unfortunately, elite academics and political and corporate poohbahs mistake random musings of ill-informed individuals as representative of real life in the United States. It is almost amusing to see how the powerful react when they find a 16-year-old and a few bots driving their marketing decisions in an echo chamber.

Bottom line...

Editorial pressure on authors writing about subjects involving public policy and fashionable science is growing more severe each day in this politically-correct atmosphere controlled by media moguls and tech tyrants.

To condemn an author for reporting on a researcher's work by retracting their article is disingenuous. 

We are so screwed.

-- steve


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS