Monthly Archives: November 2020

Covid Virus: “Tests” vs. “Cases”

Covid virus “tests” vs. “cases,” by Peter Burrows 11/30/20 elburropete@gmail.com – Note to readers: The following is a summary of: www.americanthinker.com/articles/2020/11/the_covid_case_con_continues.html 

The COVID Case Con Continues By Brian C. Joondeph, M.D. 11/30/20 American Thinker                                                                                                                                          As many Americans recover from their “virtual Thanksgiving,” the media is pushing the narrative that COVID cases are once again surging. The Washington Post claims that cases are “skyrocketing” while the New York Times wails that “It has hit us with a vengeance.” Yet the media is oblivious, either ignorantly or deliberately, to the reality that positive tests are not the same thing as cases.                                          

The CDC provides a specific “case definition.”  A case is NOT just a positive test.  What is needed is “presumptive laboratory evidence AND either clinical criteria OR epidemiologic evidence.”  Notice the AND, meaning not simply a positive test. The current COVID surges are positive tests, and even those are suspect, without regard to whether those who test positive are actually sick or not.  

Given the sensitivity of the COVID PCR test, it is likely that some of those being tested, without any symptoms or exposure, will be reported as test positive and added to the case tickers running constantly on Fox News and CNN. Saying someone with a positive COVID test is a “case” is fraudulent.  

COVID is tested using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) which amplifies any viral fragments found in the nose repeatedly until the test is positive. This is called the amplification cycle and the higher that number the more likely a positive test, even if it is clinically insignificant. From the New York Times

“The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus. Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time.” 

The amplification cycle is the problem:  

The PCR test amplifies genetic matter from the virus in cycles; the fewer cycles required, the greater the amount of virus, or viral load, in the sample. The greater the viral load, the more likely the patient is to be contagious.” 

With too high an amplification cycle, the PCR test is hyper-sensitive. Most commercial tests set this threshold at 40 cycles, whereas it would be more clinical meaningful if much lower, say at 30. Otherwise as the NY Times notes:  

Tests with thresholds so high may detect not just live virus but also genetic fragments, leftovers from infection that pose no particular risk — akin to finding a hair in a room long after a person has left.” 

The CDC admits the test is too sensitive:  

The CDC’s own calculations suggest that it is extremely difficult to detect any live virus in a sample above a threshold of 33 cycles. In Massachusetts, from 85 to 90 percent of people who tested positive in July with a cycle threshold of 40 would have been deemed negative if the threshold were 30 cycles.”                 

With an overly sensitive test, almost 90 percent of the so-called surge is fake news. This is easily understandable basic science. If the CDC and NY Times can figure it out, other “journalists” can as well and should be providing caveats to their surge reporting rather than their typical hair on fire reactions. 

When we look at deaths, we see the same 3-card monte. Death counts are back in vogue.  Johns Hopkins University recently published a study which found: “In contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.” (Not surprisingly John Hopkins deleted the study from their website.) 

Case numbers are simply positive tests, perpetuating the con that things are far worse than they really are.  

Great Barrington Declaration Summary

A Sensible and Compassionate Anti-COVID Strategy 10/9/20 by Jay Bhattacharya, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. The following is a summarized version of an article that appeared in the October issue of Imprimus, a publication of Hillsdale College. The full article can be found at hillsdale.edu. 

The COVID-19 Fatality Rate – In early March, the fatality rate was estimated at roughly three percent—I.e., three out of every hundred people who were identified as “cases” of COVID died from it. Today, we know the fatality rate is closer to 0.2 or 0.3 percent. The reason for the inaccurate early estimates is simple: in early March, we were not identifying most of the people who had been infected by COVID. The majority who are infected have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. These people weren’t identified in the early days, which resulted in a highly misleading fatality rate that continues to drive public policy. 

Last April, I ran a series of studies to see how many people in California’s Santa Clara County, where I live, had been infected. About 1,000 COVID cases had been identified, but our antibody tests found that 50,000 people had been infected—i.e., there were 50 times more infections than identified cases. This was enormously important, because it meant that the fatality rate was not three percent, but closer to 0.2 percent; not 30 in 1,000, but 2 in 1,000. —there are now 82 similar studies from around the world, and the median result of these 82 studies is a fatality rate of about 0.2 percent—exactly what we found. 

Who Is at Risk? The single most important fact about COVID-19 is that it is not equally dangerous for everybody. There is a thousand-fold difference between the mortality rate in older people, 70 and up, and the mortality rate in children– for young children, this disease is less dangerous than the seasonal flu. This year, in the United States, more children have died from the seasonal flu than from COVID by a factor of two or three. 

Whereas COVID is not deadly for children, for older people it is much more deadly than the seasonal flu. If you look at studies worldwide, the COVID fatality rate for people 70 and up is about four percent: 40 in 1,000 vs. 2 in 1,000 in the overall population — this huge difference in the danger of COVID to the young vs. the old is the most important fact about the virus. Yet it has not been sufficiently emphasized in public health policies. 

Lockdowns and Where to Go from Here – Last week I met with two other epidemiologists—Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford and Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard – in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The three of us come from very different parts of the political spectrum, yet we arrived at the same view: the widespread lockdown policy has been a devastating public health mistake. In response, we wrote and issued the Great Barrington Declaration, which can be viewed online at www.gbdeclaration.org. The Declaration includes the following points: 

 1) As public health scientists we have grave concerns that lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health —e.g., lower childhood vaccinations, fewer cancer screenings, etc., etc.                        

2) Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice. For children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than influenza.    

3) Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable elderly should be the central aim, e.g., nursing homes should perform frequent testing of staff and visitors, retired people living at home should have groceries delivered, etc.    

4) Everybody else should immediately resume life as normal with some additional hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick. Schools and universities should be opened and extracurricular activities should be resumed, low-risk adults should go back to work and restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sports, and other cultural activities should resume. 

To date, the Great Barrington Declaration has been signed by over 43,000 medical and public health scientists and medical practitioners. It does not represent a “fringe” view within the scientific community.  

(A three-minute news show covering the above can be found at: /www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8CbDCjYsxE&t=83s ) 

Islam and Judaism: A Tragic Irony

Islam and Judaism: A tragic Irony by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com – 11/14/20 

Muslims believe the Koran is the literal word of God, and in the Koran God commands Muslims to hate just about everybody, especially Jews. There are a number of verses, a.k.a., revelations, that make this hatred of Jews VERY clear. Two verses even say that Allah turned Jews into apes and pigs when they broke their sabbath. (2:65 and 5:60) 

Muslims believe this is the literal truth, that it actually happened and could happen again. Therefore, if you’re Jewish you’d better get your affairs in order. Any second now you could be rooting around out in the garbage or swinging around town on utility poles.   

You have to be a religious fanatic to actually believe something as ridiculous as that, and it doesn’t make you an “Islamophobe” or a “racist” to point that out.  I note that it’s only the Jews who are honored with this “apes and pigs” stuff; not Christians, pagans, agnostics, atheists or anybody else. Damn. I was hoping to wake up someday and REALLY surprise my wife. Oh, well — 

What I find ironic is that the Jews themselves may have been responsible for this Jew-hatred, this special enmity that goes back to the start of Islam, some 1,400 years ago. Let me explain: 

Muhammad spent the first 12 years of his “calling” preaching his message of monotheism and prophethood in Mecca, which was both a commercial hub and a center of pagan worship. He proved to be very good at alienating just about everybody; not so good at gathering converts.  He aroused such hostility with his in-your-face message of monotheism or damnation that the Meccans finally decided they would kill him. 

He and his followers wisely fled to Medina, some 300 miles away, where he was welcomed as just who he said he was: A Prophet sent by God.  The reason he was accepted in Medina is because the people of Medina WANTED TO BELIEVE HIM. Why? Because he was an ARAB prophet. This, in turn, needs a little explaining. 

Some of the Arab leaders in Medina, who were mostly illiterate and pagan, had heard of Muhammad, this person in Mecca who said he was a prophet sent by God, and they made an effort to meet him when they travelled there for commercial and religious events.  They had been told for years to expect the coming of such a prophet.  

And from whom did they hear this? The Jews of Medina.  The Jews? Aye, there’s the rub, Hamlet. The Jews claimed this future prophet was going to be a JEW who would lead the JEWS in a mighty kick-ass war against the oppressor du jour, and anybody else the Jews didn’t like. 

I think this was a typical belief of the times:  An Almighty God was going to send a savior to earth who would grab a sword, mount a steed and lead his people to victory over the Romans — or the Egyptians, or the Persians, etc., etc. Jesus? He didn’t count. “Turn the other cheek?” How silly. That wasn’t going to kill anybody.   

Furthermore, the Arabs in Medina had been told that they would not escape the wrath of this future Jewish savior. In Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad, a Medina Arab made this telling observation: 

“What induced us to accept Islam, apart from God’s mercy and guidance, was what we used to hear the Jews say. We were polytheists worshipping idols, while they were people of the scriptures with knowledge which we did not possess. There was continual enmity between us, and when we got the better of them and excited their hate, they said, ‘The time of a prophet who is to be sent has now come. We will kill you with his aid —.’ We often used to hear them say this. When God sent His apostle (i.e. Muhammad) we accepted him when he called us to God and we realized what their threat meant and joined him before them.  We believed in him but they denied him.” (Ibn Ishaq pg. 93, my emphasis.)  

This turned the tables on the Jews. Now the Arabs had a prophet and the Jews didn’t. Any hostility the Jews showed toward Muhammad was thus easily explained: “About this time the Jewish rabbis showed hostility to the apostle in envy, hatred and malice because God had chosen His apostle from the Arabs. — It was the Jewish rabbis who used to annoy the apostle with questions and introduce confusions so as to confound the truth with falsity.”  (Ibn Ishaq pg. 239, my emphasis.) 

In the Mawdudi translation of the Quran, there is a footnote to verse 2:108 that refers to those annoying questions: “The Jews, who were addicted to hair-splitting arguments, instigated the Muslims to ask the Prophet (peace be on him) a great many questions. God, therefore, cautioned the Muslims against following the example of the Jews in this matter and admonished them against unnecessary inquisitiveness.” 

God also saved Muhammad from his own contradictions with the abrogation verse, 2:106, but that’s another topic. For our purposes, the Jews earned Muhammad’s undying hatred because they questioned his revelations and disputed his self-proclaimed prophecy, something I think Muhammad truly believed in. Once he achieved the military prowess to avenge his “annoyance,” he proceeded to destroy the three Jewish tribes of Medina.    

It didn’t stop there. The very first verse of the Quran is a little prayer for Muslims to say many times a day. It has Muslims praying not to be like those who earned Allah’s anger, who are, according to Muhammad, “The Jews.”  

Muhammad also said about The Day of Judgement: “The hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say: ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’”  (Sahih al-Bukhari book 52 Hadith 177.) 

That’s hatred on steroids. In retrospect, it all sounds a little childish; the Jews taunting the Arabs, who, when the chance arose, were happy to return the favor: “My prophet is bigger and badder than yours,” or something like that. Unfortunately, since both the Quran and what Muhammad said are eternal verities, Muhammad’s hatred of Jews 1400 years ago became a part of Islam, where it remains today and forever. 

It’s a fruitless speculation, but if the Jews of Medina had not threatened their polytheist Arab neighbors with talk of an imminent Jewish warrior-prophet who was going to kill them, maybe the Arabs wouldn’t have been so receptive to Muhammad. Maybe they would have also tired of this fanatic who kept telling them they were going to Hell unless they changed their ways. Maybe they would have finished the job the Meccans wanted to do. We’ll never know.    

So you want to learn about Islam —

So, you want to learn about Islam — by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 11/5/20 

The study of Islam can be a daunting task. There is so much canonical literature that it would take a LONG lifetime to read it all. To complicate things, the two major branches of Islam, Sunni and Shi’a, each have their own libraries, full of holy interpretations of the Koran and Muhammad’s guidance, and they are often in disagreement.  

Since the Sunnis are 85 percent of all Muslims, and since Sunni literature is widely available and Shi’a literature isn’t, we’ll stick to “just” the Sunnis’.  

While both branches use the same Koran, Islam’s holiest book, even there I would strongly recommend two different translations, detailed below, each of which has extensive explanatory and complementary explanations of various verses.  

The problem with a “straight,” unannotated Koran is that in spite of describing itself as a book in which “there is no doubt” (Verse 2:2), and which offers “a clear proof” (Verse 6:157) of its divinity, it’s full of contradictions and verses that are difficult, if not impossible, to understand.  

Over the centuries, this has motivated many of Islam’s devoted scholars to write extensive Tafsirs, a tafsir being a Koranic exegesis. (An exegesis is “critical explanation or analysis of a text.” My apologies to those of you who knew its meaning. El Dummy had to look it up.) 

Of the 30 or so tafsirs, the most respected is the Tafsir al-Tabari, written by an Islamic scholar named al-Tabari in the Ninth Century. A 30-volume edition was published in Cairo in 1903. If you find it inconvenient to travel to Cairo’s Al Azar University to enjoy all 30 volumes, you can buy a 13-volume set on Amazon, 8,000 pages, $300.   

Next would be the Tafsir Ibn Kathir, written in the 14th Century. Ibn Kathir relied on al-Tubari, added other sources and, I am told, is relatively easy to read. Ibn Kathir’s is probably the most relied upon tafsir.  Amazon has a 10-volme set, 6,600 pages, $208. 

Rivaling Ibn Kathir in popularity, is the Tafsir al-Jalalya. The work of two scholars who shared ‘Jalal’ in their names, it was published in 1505 and, wonder of wonders, is only one volume, a mere 675 pages; $40 at Amazon, paperback. 

Tafsirs are important because they embody scholarly consensus, which over the years has solidified into unassailable dogma, from which there can be NO disagreement. Any credible Islamic scholar should have all three of the above tafsirs. They total over 15,000 pages. 

You think that about does it? Oh, no-no-no, mon ami. We’re just getting started.  

The other problem with the Koran is that it specifically deifies the sayings and doings of Muhammad, Allah’s “Messenger.” Since the Koran does not, ostensibly, have anything in it that was said or done by Muhammad, we need to refer to the biographies of Muhammad, called the “sira”, and recollections of what Muhammad said and did, called the “hadith.” 

Unsurprisingly, there is some overlap between the two. Combined, the sira and hadith are called the “sunnah,” the way of Muhammad.   

The most important biography of Muhammad, and the only one I’ve ever seen referenced, is “The Life of Muhammad,” a translation by Alfred Guillaume, an Oxford professor, of Ibn Ishaq’s biography written in the Eighth Century, some of which has not survived. Guillaume supplemented his translation with numerous additions from other early sources, and the result is an 800-page scholastic tour de force.  

I hesitate to call an 800-page book “trivial,” but compared to the thousands of pages of hadith, stories about Muhammad, this biography/sira is trivial.   

Since the Koran says that Muhammad spoke for Allah, it is understandable that after his death, some Muslims fabricated self-serving stories about Muhammad. To sort the wheat from the chaff, a number of Islamic scholars set about determining which stories were true.  

The most respected scholar of hadith narrations was Muhammad al-Bukhari (810 AD – 870 AD). He spent 16 years traveling throughout lands ruled by Islam, and collected almost 600,000 hadiths. That’s right, 600,000! (For you pedants, the plural of hadith is ahadith, not hadiths.) 

Bukhari condensed these down to 7,500 in total, or about 2,600 if we take out repetitions and different versions of the same story. Amazon has a 10-volume set, 4,050 pages, for $220. The next most authentic hadith collection was by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, also known as Imam Muslim (822 – 875).  You can buy a seven-volume set, 4,000 pages, for $134 on Amazon.   

Those two collections of hadith are called “Sahih,” meaning, roughly, most authenticated, and have a status almost equal to the Koran. There are four other collections of hadith that are considered canonical by Sunni Muslims, and these are called “Sunan,” short for sunnah, the way of Muhamad.  From Wikipedia:  

The Six Canonical Books of Hadith: 

  1. Sahih al-Bukhari 
  2. Sahih Muslim 
  3. Sunan Abu Dawood 
  4. Sunan al-Tirmidhi 
  5. Sunan al-Nasa’i 
  6. Sunan ibn Majah 

You can find all of them on Amazon. I tried to get a total page count but Amazon was out of the four-volume set of al-Nasa’i and didn’t offer any details, e.g., number of pages. Abu Dawood’s three-volume set was “only” 1,200 pages; ibn Majah’s 5-volume set was 2,678 pages; al-Tirmidhi’s one-volume was 936 pages, and was probably an abridged version. 

As a rough guess, the above six total at least 15,000 pages and represent the principal “Gospels” of Sunni Islam. To these we must add some lesser but still important collections. Wikipedia lists 34 of these, which we’ll save for another lifetime. 

At this point, we’re somewhere over 30,000 pages of tafsir, sira and hadith. Before you shop for more bookshelves, you should check the Internet, where all of the above mentioned tafsirs and collections of hadith are available. I have Googled up “Tafsir Ibn Kathir” for specific verses on numerous occasions, and you can find all six of the above hadith collections at https://sunnah.com.  

The Koran, sunnah and tafsirs form the basis for Islamic law, sharia. The Sunnis have four schools of Sharia jurisprudence: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali, named after the jurists associated with each. The Shafi’i book of law is The Reliance of the Traveller (sic), over 1,200 pages and available on Amazon for $55. I believe it is the best-known and most quoted book of Sharia law in Western nations. 

The Hanafi book of jurisprudence is the Al-Hidayah (The Guidance) and is available on Amazon, two volumes, for $65; about 1,000 pages.  The Maliki book is Al-Muwatta of Iman Maliki; 1,164 pages, $46. The best I could find on Hanbali was “The Mainstay – A Handbook of Hanbali Fiqh (law) for 456, only 347 pages. (I couldn’t find any of these posted on the Internet.)  

It is my understanding that these schools of jurisprudence are in total agreement on the basics of sharia law but differ on details. For example, zakat, charitable giving, is a basic requirement for Muslims, and there are eight groups of designated recipients, all Muslim, by the way. The Hanafi school allows the donor to designate amounts to each, the other schools require equal amounts to each, i.e., one-eighth.    

So, we must add at least 3,000 pages of “law book” to our total, which now stands at roughly 33,000 pages. (15k tafsirs + 15k hadith + 3k law.) That’s about as many pages as are in The Encyclopedia Britannica, and I’ve left out the most important text of all: The Koran.  

The shortest translation I have is by Yusif Ali and is 423 pages, first verse to last, no commentary. My favorite translation is by the renowned Pakistani Islamic scholar Sayyid Mawdudi and is 1,006 pages, Introduction to last verse. The Introduction and Forward are very important reads, so I’ve included those pages. Also, the text is extensively footnoted, with very clear interpretations.  

This translation is frequently given away to mosque visitors in England, which is how the Islamic expert Robert Spencer received his. I even have a photo of an imam presenting one to a visitor in a mosque in London. 

In very close second-place on my favorites list is “Interpretations of the Meanings of The Noble Qur’an In the English Language” by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali. It’s almost 900 pages and is also extensively footnoted. Adding to its length is an accompanying Arabic text.   

Which reminds me: before you undertake all of the above, if you really want to do it right, you should take the time to read and understand Arabic. If you take care of that little detail, then you will be able to say to someone who disagrees with you, “You can’t read Arabic, so you don’t know what you’re talking about.” That’s what the Muslims do. 

By now, most of you are thinking, “Enough, Burro, enough! What’s your damn point?” 

My point is that all of the above is unnecessary. Understanding Islam does not require much effort at all. A couple of bites is all you need to get the essential flavor. A different metaphor, one I bury at the end of long blogs because it might provoke devout Muslims to kill me, is that Islam is like a septic tank: once you pop the lid, you don’t need to dive in to know what it’s full of.  

My recommended “lid-popper” is my “How To Read The Koran (and understand Islam.)” It’s only 40 pages, but the gist is in the first 22 pages, through Appendix Two. For $5.00 I’ll send you a copy. I’d do it gratis but the Post Office charges me $4.00 because they say it is a “package.” Or, you can go to my blog site, silvercityburro.com, where it is a 23-page CRT read. Here’s a direct link: 

https://silvercityburro.com/2020/10/26/how-to-read-the-koran-and-understand-islam/(opens in a new tab)