The Daily Dose: FDA being actively knee-capped by White House; Pentagon looking to replace generals with AI

It’s been a very dark time for the scientific community in the United States. From having expert advice dismissed by politicians and the general public to having once-revered institutions like the Centers Disease Control and Prevention effectively knee-capped, the bad news seems roll in fierce and frequent. According to STAT, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t been shielded from the onslaught. According to their reporting, “President Trump has instigated an all-out crusade against the Food and Drug Administration at a critical point in the federal government’s fight against Covid-19. Three senior FDA officials and several outside experts told STAT that Trump’s attacks threaten to permanently damage the agency’s credibility — especially when combined with a disastrous series of public misstatements on Sunday from Stephen Hahn, the cancer doctor who became FDA commissioner in December.” Wonder who’s the next victim…

In a perfect world, the response to a global pandemic should be… global. It would also include the two most powerful countries in the world. Unfortunately, so far, ensuring fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, assuming they are developed, has been discouraging. Per SCMP, “Some 156 nations have joined a global scheme for fair distribution of future vaccines against Covid-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, but superpowers China and the United States did not sign up.” Is anyone in the world surprised at all by this?

Speaking of surprises, one welcome bit of news popping up all over the world is that the onset of flu season has been muted. Japan is the latest country to report the trend. Per the Japan Times, “The number of influenza patients in Japan this year remains at an unusually low level, which health ministry officials attribute to actions taken to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus, such as hand-washing and wearing face masks… According to the ministry, only seven influenza cases were reported in the two weeks to Sept. 13. The figure is less than a thousandth of the year-before total and about a hundredth of the average-year level.” Unfortunately, this feels like the calm before the storm because, to borrow a Game of Thrones line, winter is coming.

A recent poll done in Australia indicates that climate scientists are being muzzled by the government and industry. Per Nature, “The results show that government and industry scientists experienced greater constraints from their employers than did university staff. Among government employees, about half were prohibited from speaking publicly about their research, compared with 38% employed in industry and 9% of university staff. Three-quarters of those surveyed also reported self-censoring their work (see ‘Scientists silenced’).” More of the same, but not in a good way.

Finally, it appears that our algorithm overlords have not only inserted themselves into our homes and pockets, they’ve also made inroads in the military. It’s not just on the battlefield. It looks like even the decion making process at the highest levels are set to be handed over to non-human intelligence. According to an article in Salon, “Every component of a modern general staff — including battle planning, intelligence-gathering, logistics, communications, and decision-making — is, according to the Pentagon’s latest plans, to be turned over to complex arrangements of sensors, computers, and software. All these will then be integrated into a ‘system of systems,’ now dubbed the Joint All-Domain Command-and-Control, or JADC2 (since acronyms remain the essence of military life). Eventually, that amalgam of systems may indeed assume most of the functions currently performed by American generals and their senior staff officers.” Has nobody seen Wargames?

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