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Articles written after 2021
World War IV is not over
Ten (Politically Incorrect) Things you can do about your Carbon Footprint
Covid: vaccines don't work (the way we expected) and the way forward
Articles written before 2021

  • (december 2021) World War IV is not over
    I called "World War IV" the worldwide war against Islamic fanatics trying to impose their religion over the entire world (See World War IV). The West woke up to the threat only when Al Qaeda successfully attacked the USA on its soul in September 2001, but the war had started earlier in India, in the Philippines and in Russia, places where the West either didn't care or was even secretly pleased. The victories against the Islamists have been mostly Pyrrhic: the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan (and exert influence in Pakistan), ISIS has lost control of Iraq and Syria but has simply reverted to low-level insurgency (a United Nations report estimates that it still has 10,000 fighters in the two countries), it controls the Idlib region in Syria, in 2021 it killed an average of 149 people per month in Iraq (incuding high-profile terrorist attacks like the January 21 double-suicide bombing in central Baghdad and the July 19 suicide bombing in Sadr city, each of which killed more than 30), it even staged terrorist attacks in Taliban-controlled territories (notably the May 8 school bombing in Kabul and the August 26 Kabul airport attack), and Africa has become a front line in the war against jihadists because ISIS affiliates are now active in Libya, Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Congo, Uganda and Mozambique (the two deadliest terrorist attacks of 2021 took place in Mozambique and Burkina Faso) while Boko Haram is still terrorizing northern Nigeria and Al Shahab is still terrorizing Somalia.

    There is only one thing that Europe, the USA, China and Russia (despite their wildly different strategic objectives) have in common: they all fought Islamic movements, and have largely restored order at home. The USA and Europe have suffered no major terrorist attacks in 2021. The last major terrorist attack in Russia was the bombing of the St Petersburg metro in April 2017. And China has successfully curbed violence in its Turkestan province (Xinjiang) through its infamous "re-education" camps for Uyghurs.

    The age of international Islamic terrorism (not just the domestic one in places like India and the Philippines) started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The USA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan helped in various ways the Muslims willing to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union (one was Osama bin Laden) and indirectly motivated, financed, armed and trained the Islamic terrorism that has spread all over the world. Before 1979 the members of Islamist movements were mostly local people fighting the local government (for example in Kashmir and Palestine). Since 1979, globalized Islamic terrorism has killed more than 200 thousand people, mostly Muslims (Fondapol report).

    The objectives of Islamic terrorists have shifted over the years. One big objective was to expel "infidels" from Islamic lands. They have largely won that war. The Soviet Union was expelled from Afghanistan, and the USA has been expelled from Iraq and Syria.

    Another objective was to regain "occupied" territories. They have failed in Israel (Palestine is still "occupied" by Jews), the Philippines (Mindanao is still "occupied" by Catholics) and India (Kashmir is still "occupied" by Hindus).

    A third goal of jihadists was to collapse central control of the state in Muslim-majority countries, where Islamists view the government as not Muslim enough. ISIS succeeded briefly in Iraq and Syria, and the Taliban have succeeded in Afghanistan. The outcome is uncertain in Somalia, northern Nigeria, northern Mozambique, at the border between Mali and Burkina Faso, and at the four-corner border of Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.

    World War IV has spiked every time the jihadists staged a significant victory over a European power or over a Western-backed regional power: the Iranian revolution of 1978 that overthrew the Western-backed Pahlavi dynasty, the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and the 2014 establishment of the ISIS Caliphate in Raqqa.

    One wonders what effect the US surrender in Afghanistan (signed by Donald Trump in February 2020 and carried out by Joe Biden in August 2021) will have on jihadists worldwide.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (august 2021) Covid: vaccines don't work (the way we expected) and the way forward
    Many people are disappointed that "vaccines don't work." That's not quite the case, but they "don't work" the way people expected them. Expectations are a big part of a success story: if the result does not meet the expectations, no matter what the result is, the perception will be of a failure. Currently in the USA, people who are not vaccinated are responsible for around 99.5% of covid deaths and 97% of hospitalizations; but that's because in the USA relatively few people are vaccinated. In Britain, which has a higher rate of vaccinations, the majority of covid deaths are among vaccinated people. Israel is another country where the majority of adults has been vaccinated, but in July 2021 it experienced a spike in both cases and deaths.
    Expectations were unrealistic. The expectation was created by the scientific world and by the authorities, and it was something along the lines of "If you're vaccinated, you won't get covid and won't spread it... when we have vaccinated enough people, covid will disappear".
    It turns out that vaccinated people are getting covid, are spreading it and a few are even dying of it. And many regions are registering record-high numbers of infections, which means that covid could soon be spreading again like one year ago, and in places like Japan and Australia (and possibly China itself) even faster than in 2020.
    The good news is that the relative mortality level is low, much lower than in 2020. Vaccines have dramatically reduced our overall risk of dying of covid. A little bit of math tells me that my chance of dying of covid after being vaccinated has been reduced by almost 90%. It was definitely worth the shot. Most likely, if i catch covid, it will be "mild", i.e. comparable with the seasonal flu.
    There is, however, precious little information about the long-term effects of "mild" covid. Millions of people around the world report having "long covid", i.e. long-term effects from covid, but the scientific world still doesn't have a definition for it, an explanation for it, and remedy hypotheses. As things stand, better not to catch covid, mild or otherwise.
    The bad news is that vaccines don't seem to be effective at stopping transmission, not as much as we hoped and expected. Note that no vaccine was tested in clinical trials against transmission, so we have no reliable scientific study on the effectiveness of vaccines to slow transmission. Scientists were simply "guessing" that vaccines would slow transmission precisely because they reduce the severity of the infection, but that's just a guess. Small studies (to be taken with a grain of salt) show that vaccinated people still transmit covid: this one from Provincetown (70% of new cases were of vaccinated people); this one from Israel (vaccine efficacy in slowing down transmission declines to 19% in six months); and, most damning, this one by the CDC (viral loads are almost identical in the vaccinated and the unvaccinated).
    Put it bluntly, vaccines don't prevent transmission, vaccines will not eliminate covid.
    The really bad news is that covid is likely to mutate again if it keeps spreading through millions of people, so a new variant may have been born by the time i finish this article. The existing vaccines may or may not protect us from future variants. If they don't, then we'll be back where we were in 2020, in the world of lockdowns and remote learning.
    One wonders if it's really necessary that so many people are returning to work in their offices and that so many students return to learning full-time in classrooms and that so many people attend religious functions (that have been known to be top super-spreaders): the one thing that no scientist disputes is that covid spreads much faster in closed environments. Wouldn't it be better to wait another year before encouraging people to work, study and pray outside their homes?
    They keep telling us that covid does not respect nationalities or borders or religions or political parties. It sounds like every government in the world agrees. So... why nobody at the United Nations is proposing a universal strategy to fight covid? What is the point of having national strategies in the USA, Britain, European Union, China, Japan, etc if covid does not respect borders?
    For most of 2020 i blamed politicians/clowns like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson for the way the virus spread all over the West; but i now must admit that it would have been difficult to stop it even when more competent and honest politicians (however, competent and honest politicians would have probably saved a lot of the lives that were lost in the early months). Covid have spread to every corner of the globe, and the Asian and Pacific countries that were success stories are now experiencing their worst outbreaks. It may be time to accept that covid cannot be stopped. It wasn't "stoppable" from the beginning.
    Is it time to accept that we will have to live with covid for at least a century and just start planning life around covid? Is it time to accept that we were optimistic when we assumed that the age of infectious diseases was over? There was a brief period of time when most infectious diseases were becoming rare. Maybe we have to accept that infectious diseases have not disappeared. In fact, maybe we have to accept that the increased number of people on this planet, their rapid urbanization and their frequent and fast long-distance travels, whether for tourism or business, have created the conditions for infectious diseases to become more (not less) prevalent? (even without taking into account climate change, whose impact on viruses is still not well studied).
    Can we just accept that crowds are no longer "cool"? Can we just accept that life in a city may sound glamorous but it's actually more dangerous than life in the countryside? Can we accept that the distance between spectators at a stadium has to be double what it used to be, that trains and buses should run at half capacity, that shops and restaurants should be limited to half what they used to, and that people should work from home as much as possible? The hostility towards all of this comes from businesses. We keep hearing the stories of restaurants and gyms who are about to fail. But is it really so important to keep living the same way we lived in the last half century? Can business adapt to a different lifestyle? If "crowding" becomes unpopular and even forbidden, several kinds of business will become extinct but new kinds of business will be created. Which other businesses can be created than Amazon, Netflix, Zoom, food delivery and social media, all of them currently thriving in the middle of a pandemic? In some cases society may even benefit: who is opposed to reducing traffic?
    Even the strongest believers in human-made climate change seem to have forgotten that the covid pandemic comes in the middle of another crisis, that of climate change, which could be even worse. Is it possible that by adapting to the covid crisis we can remedy, at least in part, the climate crisis?
    I cannot claim to know how the world can function properly without "crowding" (particularly schools), but i feel that, from the beginning, we have refused to contemplate "worst-case scenarios", and we only considered the best-case scenario that at some point life will return to what it was before (and, from the beginning of covid, most people assumed that the return to normal life was just around the corner, the super-best-case scenario). What if the exact opposite happens: what if variants keep popping up? what if another infectious disease starts spreading, unrelated to covid but equally deadly?
    If we only plan for the best-case scenario, we're betting that Nature is on our side. Given what we have done to Nature over the centuries, i don't see why Nature should be so kind to us.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.