Data is beautiful, conspiracy theorists are not

Just a quickie today, but it’s a goodie too.

Rate of occupancy of AirBnb establishments in the USA today (red is high, blue is lower):

Path of solar eclipse across the USA tomorrow:

One of those times where correlation is probably entirely equal to causation.

Of course, there are those who think the solar eclipse is a Masonic/Jewish/Government plot to… do… something:

On Telegram, one well-known conspiracy influencer known as the Health Ranger, who has 75,000 subscribers, wrote that the eclipse “sure would be the perfect cover story if our terrorist government wanted to take down the power grid and cause mass chaos while blocking all citizen communications. Kinda convenient if you want to declare martial law and unleash a dictatorship before Trump can win in November.”

Yeah, we’ve met the Health Ranger before on 6000 miles… He’s a twat.

Sovereign-citizen guru David Straight has also posited a wild conspiracy called Operation Balloon, claiming that the government, using the eclipse blackout as cover, will deploy balloons filled with poisonous gas. Straight didn’t, however, explain why the government wouldn’t just do this at night, when it’s also dark and people are typically not staring at the sky.

You almost lost me at “Sovereign-citizen”, but I’m actually glad that I carried on reading.
David Straight: what an absolute Health Ranger, hey?

As we’ve discussed before (here and here, for example), because a lot of people are pretty stupid, these conspiracy theorists can be quite dangerous. And I wish we could do something about that. But, given that there’s not a huge amount we can do about their access to the internet (and with that, their access to those stupid people), we might as well just laugh at the bullshit, as the world crumbles around us.

H5N1 – coming soon

With a world suffering with pandemic fatigue, knobhead anti-vaxxers rife everywhere you look, and a general deep distrust of Government-instituted Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), an outbreak of something really serious right now couldn’t come at a worse time.

Jimmy Carr: “Do you think we overreacted to Covid-19?”
Audience: “Yes!”
JC: “Yeah, a lot of the survivors think so.”

Jimmy Carr – His Dark Material (2021)

And yet, the warning signs are very much there that Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI) (H5N1) has had its fun with the birds and is moving onto mammals. In the US, there have been almost 200 “spillover” infections of mammals with the virus:

On March 29, the USDA first published its data on cases of HPAI infections in mammals from 2022 to late March 2023. The H5N1 virus subtype was detected in numerous species: bobcat, black and brown bears, bottlenose dolphin, harbor and grey seals, mountain lion, red fox, raccoon, striped skunk, and more.

While on the Pacific Coast of South America it’s looking even more serious:


Senapesca made a balance on Monday on the progress of avian influenza in Chile, detailing that a total of 11,471 specimens have died as a result of this influenza.
The authorities confirmed the deaths of 9,853 sea lions, 1,555 Humboldt penguins, 27 chungungos, 21 spiny porpoises, 14 Chilean dolphins and one huillín.

Senapesca is the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Chile.
Chungungos and huillíns are two different sorts of otter. You live*, you learn.

And sure, the penguins are very much avian, but the rest of them… well… it’s not good news.

It’s important to understand that at the moment, there have been very few human cases of H5N1, and no reports of human to human transmission. So no need to panic. But there are a couple of provisos: firstly, that this is a very nasty virus with a very high mortality rate in the cases we have seen (far, far (far!) higher than SARS-CoV-2), and secondly, we’re potentially only ever one mutation away from that human to human transmission becoming a thing, and the more mammalian infections that we see, the more likely that is to happen.

On the plus side, we have a very good handle on this Influenza virus already. It’s been around for a while and we’ve got a lot of information on its genomics and how it works. That should mean that any vaccine production should be able to be rapidly achieved, and that the product should be very effective.

But then there are all the politics and logistics to slow things down.

It then remains to be seen – in the event of it all going pear-shaped – how many people will actually go and get vaccinated, given the problems detailed in the first paragraph above. But in this case, I can’t see choosing not to as being any more than an accelerated form of natural selection.

Anyway, definitely one to watch out for.
Enjoy your day.

* not if you’re an otter, obviously

Oh look out

I’m mostly going racehorsing today, so here’s one from earlier. And it’s a proper ATTENTION! PASSOP! ACHTUNG BABY! of a warning.

Oh noes! Please save us all!

Presumably, this threatened intervention requires the both of the remaining members of the Zimbabwean Armed Forces to source enough petrol to get them to Harare Airport.

But if they manage that – and manage to work out where Iran is – then look out, Donald!

This Is Now America

South Africa might be falling apart at the seams and the UK might be collapsing under the pressures of Brexit, but at least America is leading the way in… what?… oh cock.

The situation over there is why even the usually apolitical Magne Furuholmen has chosen to release a song, sharing his thoughts on the US right now. This are it:

He popped it on his personal Instagram to begin with, but it was more popular than he thought:

wowaweewah…thank you for an overwhelmingly kind response, people!
i woke up yesterday to a record-label in a panic over my insta(nt)-release.
they’re now scrambling to get the track out on other platforms, so stand by for more info as and when i get it – in the meantime, enjoy the exclusivity!

That’s why it’s out all over the place now. It’s upset a few people – mainly all of them Americans – but that is the nature of free speech and incisive political comment.

And I know it’s about the current state of America, but:

“No bridge across divides; a drunken joyride,
With a monkey at the wheel…”

…really does seem to sum up a lot of the planet at the moment.

Happy days.