Sunday, May 22, 2022

New York Times issues correction after wrongly reporting 4,000 children have died from COVID-related condition

The New York Times issued a correction Thursday after falsely reporting the number of children who have died from a COVID-related condition in a piece about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending a third dose of the vaccine to kids.

The piece by Times health and science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli initially declared that nearly 4,000 children ages 5-11 died, but in reality that number was diagnosed with a coronavirus-related syndrome.

"But record numbers of children were hospitalized during the Omicron surge this winter. Nearly 4,000 children aged 5 to 11 have been died from a Covid-related condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome during the pandemic," the Times reporter wrote in the original story.

The Gray Lady eventually issued a correction noting the children were diagnosed, not deceased.

"An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the numbers of children aged 5 to 11 with multisystem inflammatory syndrome. About 4,000 have been diagnosed, not died, with the syndrome," the paper wrote beneath the updated report.

The Times was swiftly mocked on social media for the "unbelievable mistake," as one user put it. It was at least the second major correction to a Mandavilli story related to children and COVID in recent memory.

Last year, the Times issued a massive correction after severely misreporting the number of COVID hospitalizations among children in the United States by more than 800,000.

A report headlined "A New Vaccine Strategy for Children: Just One Dose, for Now," also by Mandavilli, was peppered with errors before major changes were made to the story. The Times initially reported "nearly 900,000 children have been hospitalized" with COVID since the pandemic began, when the factual data in eventually-corrected version was that "more than 63,000 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 from August 2020 to October 2021."

Mandavilli also botched actions taken by regulators in Sweden and Denmark and even bungled the timing of a critical FDA meeting.

"An earlier version of this article incorrectly described actions taken by regulators in Sweden and Denmark. They have halted use of the Moderna vaccine in children; they have not begun offering single doses. The article also misstated the number of Covid hospitalizations in U.S. children. It is more than 63,000 from August 2020 to October 2021, not 900,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

In addition, the article misstated the timing of an F.D.A. meeting on authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children. It is later this month, not next week," the lengthy correction stated in full last year.


How Government Created the Baby Formula Shortage

As Christina Szalinski reported in The New York Times, “baby formula is one of the most tightly regulated food products in the U.S.”

As many know, the United States is confronting a shortage in baby formula that has grown quite serious. What started as complaints on Twitter of “out of stock” messages on Amazon purchases has turned into a national panic.

CBS News reports that at retailers across the country, some 40 percent of the top-selling baby formula products were out of stock as of late April, according to an analysis from Datasembly. “This is a shocking number that you don’t see for other categories,” Ben Reich, CEO of Datasembly, told the news network.

The story got enough traction to finally get the attention of the White House. On Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the government is doing its best to address the shortage, noting that manufacturers say they’re producing at full capacity following a product recall by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Ensuring the availability is also a priority for the FDA and they’re working around the clock to address any possible shortage,” Psaki said.

Psaki is not wrong that the product recall has made the baby formula shortage worse.

As Eric Boehm pointed out at Reason, part of the shortage stems from a suspected bacterial outbreak at an Abbott plant in Michigan, which prompted the recall of three major brands of powdered formula. Matters were made worse when the plant was subsequently shut down for FDA inspection.

Still, one could be reasonably suspicious of the idea that a single contamination could upend the entire US baby formula market. And for good reason.

A closer look at US trade and regulatory policies reveals the government itself is primarily responsible for the baby formula shortage.

As Christina Szalinski reported in March 2021, “baby formula is one of the most tightly regulated food products in the US, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dictating the nutrients and vitamins, and setting strict rules about how formula is produced, packaged, and labeled.”

Despite these regulations—more likely, because of them—many American parents buy “unapproved” European formula even though, Szalinski notes, it’s technically against the law.

“There are large Facebook groups devoted to European formulas, where parents share spreadsheets and detailed notes on ingredients and how these formulas compare to their US counterparts,” she notes. “Some caregivers report choosing them because European brands offer certain formula options (like those made from goat’s milk or milk from pasture-raised cows), which are rare or nonexistent in an FDA-regulated form in the US. Others seek out European brands because of the perception that the formulas are of higher quality and that European formula regulations are stricter.”

On this black(ish) market, it turns out Americans are willing to pay big bucks for European formula. Szalinski says that on one website selling EU baby formula, you’ll find German imports that run roughly $26 for a 400-gram box, which is about quadruple the price of the top US baby formulas recommended by the Times.

At times, these nefarious black market imports have resulted in high profile busts, like in April 2021 when US Customs and Border Protection agents in Philadelphia seized 588 cases of baby formula (value: $30,000) that violated the FDA’s “import safety regulations.”

Some may contend that the FDA is simply keeping Americans and their babies safe—which is no doubt what regulators want you to believe—but this overlooks an inconvenient fact: despite the FDA’s efforts, Americans are consuming vast amounts of black market baby formula, and the children are doing just fine.


Once a liberal democracy, Canada is now an authoritarian state

Two decades ago, when I was 4 years old, my parents immigrated to Canada from India in search of greater freedoms, autonomy and economic opportunities. They’re core Canadian values — enshrined in our national anthem, which gloriously heralds “The True North strong and free.”

However, the past two years have seen a near complete erosion of the foundational liberal values that have attracted millions of immigrants like myself to this country.

Under the once-righteous guise of COVID safety and online protections, the Canadian government has taken its power to extreme levels once only imaginable — let alone permissible — in a dissent-stifling authoritarian state.

The control has extended to nearly every element of Canadian society, but nowhere more so than in our everyday personal lives. Take my own case contending with Canada’s COVID bureaucracy a few months back.

I was returning to Canada from the US when multiple Air Canada employees refused to let me on the plane. Although I had a negative COVID test, the government was suddenly requiring even returning citizens to be vaccinated (unvaccinated foreigners were already barred from entering).

Since the most documented adverse effect associated with COVID vaccination — heart inflammation — is concentrated in young men ages 15 – 25, I chose not to get vaccinated. I am 21 years old, have already recovered from COVID and have no co-morbidities. I’m at low risk from serious COVID illness, which is why I remain unvaccinated. But this can make air travel difficult — especially in Canada.

Minutes before my boarding gate was closed, a sympathetic Air Canada staffer “begged” his manager to let me board the plane. “I just gave you a massive favor. No one else would do this,” he said as I finally made my way down the jetway.

In the Canada of Justin Trudeau’s making, you must now go to extreme measures simply to be allowed to return to your own nation. And for what?

COVID is just the beginning of the Canadian madness. The internationally recognized trucker protests earlier this year were the most flagrant display of political control ever witnessed within the ranks of the Canadian government. After trying to dismiss the truckers as a “fringe minority” of “swastika wavers,” Trudeau manufactured a National Emergency in order to justify truly outrageous tactics. Not only did he suspend the insurance of the truckers’ vehicles, he regulated the cryptocurrency transfers and froze the bank accounts of folks simply donating to the trucker cause.

In my own small British Columbia town, Chilliwack (about an hour and a half from Vancouver), a single mother earning minimum wage who donated $50 to the Truckers Convoy allegedly had her bank account frozen.

But the crackdowns on truckers were just the tip of the iceberg.

I know a bank worker in my city who was fired for not getting vaccinated, despite working remotely. A food truck delivery driver in my city met the same fate. If any of this was about “science,” prior infection or regular COVID testing would have been a factor here, but they weren’t. Get the jab or get out.

Trudeau, who once professed to being cognitively unable to do basic math, has plunged the country into over $1 trillion in national debt for the first time in history. Everyday, that number surges by an additional $400 million. Canada is now at risk for stagflation: both economic stagnation and high inflation, as families are unable to meet their bills.

Meanwhile, the government has devoted $600,000 to paying “online influencers” to promote vaccines (as if the most vulnerable, geriatric populations are spending time on TikTok).

As if current measures aren’t authoritarian enough, Trudeau’s government has proposed the “online harms” bill C-36, designed to crack down on hate speech against ethnic and sexual minorities. If passed, the bill would allow citizens to report on others who they fear may post something hateful, leading to possible fines, online surveillance and electronic monitoring.

Unsurprisingly, the bill has sparked criticism — and not just from right-wing activists. Twitter has spoken out, claiming the bill could be used to silence political opposition; meanwhile, in a private letter to the Canadian government, the National Council of Canadian Muslims has warned that these measures could “inadvertently result in one of the most significant assaults on marginalized and racialized communities in years.” They believe requiring social media companies to report “terrorist content” on their platforms to law enforcement could disproportionally target Canadian Muslims.

More than 15 years after arriving in Canada to secure a more open and rewarding life, I must now consider the possibility that my civil rights might have been more secure back in India. Once a vibrant, liberal democracy, Canada is now becoming an authoritarian state.




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