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Eric Boehm of Reason reports on the Biden administration’s stubborn opposition to a Congressional effort to end the requirement that foreigners who fly to visit the United States be vaccinated against covid. A slice:

And whatever logic may have dictated the placement of extra burdens on foreign travelers at the beginning of the pandemic—when countries were trying and failing to slow the spread of the virus—certainly no longer applies. Once COVID became a global disease, any restriction on international travel made no more sense than imposing the same rules on people crossing from Virginia into Washington, D.C., every day.

Reason‘s Robby Soave writes about the Cochrane Library’s recent review of the effectiveness of masks. A slice:

The wearing of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses had almost no effect at the societal level, according to a rigorous new review of the available research.

“Interestingly, 12 trials in the review, ten in the community and two among healthcare workers, found that wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to influenza-like or COVID-19-like illness transmission,” writes Tom Jefferson, a British epidemiologist and co-author of the Cochrane Library’s new report on masking trials. “Equally, the review found that masks had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza or SARS-CoV-2 outcomes. Five other trials showed no difference between one type of mask over another.”

That finding is significant, given how comprehensive Cochrane’s review was. The randomized control trials had hundreds of thousands of participants, and made useful comparisons: people who received masks—and, according to self-reporting, actually wore them—versus people who did not. Other studies that have tried to uncover the efficacy of mask requirements have tended to compare one municipality with another, without taking into account relevant differences between the groups. This was true of an infamous study of masking in Arizona schools conducted at the county level; the findings were cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as reason to keep mask mandates in place.

Also writing about the recent study that finds masking to be largely ineffective at reducing the spread of covid is Reason‘s Jacob Sullum. Two slices:

After questioning the value of general mask wearing early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided the practice was so demonstrably effective that it should be legally mandated even for 2-year-olds. A new review of the evidence suggests the CDC had it right the first time.

That review, published by the Cochrane Library, an authoritative collection of scientific databases, analyzed 18 randomized controlled trials that aimed to measure the impact of surgical masks or N95 respirators on the transmission of respiratory viruses. It found that wearing a mask in public places “probably makes little or no difference” in the number of infections.

These findings go to the heart of the case for mask mandates, a policy that generated much resentment and acrimony during the pandemic. They also show that the CDC, which has repeatedly exaggerated the evidence in favor of masks, cannot be trusted as a source of public-health information.


But one thing is clear: Instead of following the science on masks, the CDC distorted it to support a predetermined conclusion.

Jenny Holland is rightly appalled by Leonard Downie’s Orwellian call for the news media to attempt to regain public trust by abandoning objectivity. A slice:

According to the Washington Post, journalists should contort a story so it affirms every pre-conceived notion your reader has. Telling your readers how something really is, even if it risks disabusing the reader of those notions, is no longer necessary.

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley is correct: Black students need better schools, not lower standards. A slice:

Some of the best public schools in the country are charter schools full of low-income black students who regularly outperform wealthier white peers on standardized tests. Yet these charter schools, which purposely locate in poor minority neighborhoods, have been criticized by civil-rights organizations for their racial imbalance. School choice has polled off the charts among black parents for decades, but opponents continue the fight to deny these families better education options.

Similarly, gifted and talented programs have come under attack for their elitism. There have been calls to eliminate them outright or at least broaden the definition of “gifted” to get a more desirable racial mix. Because the programs often enroll more whites and Asians than blacks and Hispanics, they’ve been accused of driving school segregation, but a new study published in Harvard’s Education Next magazine concludes that there is little merit to that claim.

“I find essentially no impact from gifted and talented programs on a Black or Hispanic student’s likelihood of having white or Asian students as classmates,” writes Owen Thompson, a professor of economics at Williams College. Nor does starting or ending a gifted and talented program affect a school’s racial composition, as critics allege. “I do not find any consistent evidence that gifted and talented programs have a causal effect on schools’ race-specific enrollments.” Nevertheless, efforts to oust or water down enrichment programs continue. Racial parity has been deemed more important than maintaining high standards.

You don’t help underperforming groups by pandering to them or by holding them to lower standards. And you don’t help black children by insisting that they must be seated next to white children in order to learn. It’s not only insulting and condescending but contradicted by decades of evidence. Low-income black students need quality schools, not white classmates, and the focus on racial balance at any cost will only ensure that another generation of black youth receives an inferior education.

I’m honored to have been a recent guest of Ed Kless and Ron Baker.

Philip Klein identifies a truly grotesque bipartisan moment during Biden’s State of the Union address. A slice:

There were plenty of things to dislike in President Biden’s State of the Union speech, but the most grotesque moment actually was one of the most bipartisan: when both Republicans and Democrats stood with Biden to applaud the idea of not touching Social Security and Medicare, which both desperately need to be pared if there is any hope of the United States escaping a fiscal crisis.

An e-mail correspondent, David, generously sent to me this text of a speech given in 2003 in California by the late Michael Crichton on environmentalism as religion. (I heard Chrichton give this same speech, also circa 2003, in NYC.) I’m delighted to be able to share here the text of this speech.