Don’t Confuse The Virus and the Disease

Over several decades since 1981 we have learned to distinguish between one virus and the disease it can cause:

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and
AIDS: Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome.

And of course over time scientists have identfied two main virus strains:
HIV-1 is more virulent, easily transmitted and is the cause of the vast majority of HIV infections globally.
HIV-2 is less transmittable and is largely confined to West Africa.

In the rush to inform people during this current pandemic, the terminology for public consumption has glossed over important distinctions between coronavirus, the Wuhan novel virus and the disease fatal to some people.

Some technical terminology from WHO: Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it.


First characterized in the 1960s, these are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold (among other possible causes, predominantly rhinoviruses), and others that can be lethal, such as SARS and MERS.

Novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China.

SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2)

WHO’s International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.

2019 Coronavirus Disease Pandemic

COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease 2019)

WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on 11 February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

A Timeline of Historical Pandemics
(link goes to visualization by Flourish team)

Technical accuracy with these terms is important to understand testing and reports of the pandemic progress. A helpful guide is published in Scientific American today Here’s How Coronavirus Tests Work—and Who Offers Them. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

PCR-based tests are being rolled out in hospitals nationwide, and the Food and Drug Administration is fast-tracking novel approaches as well

Virus Testing

The first step in any coronavirus test is collecting a sample. Doing so involves placing a sterile swab at the back of a patient’s nasal passage, where it connects to the throat via the nasopharynx, for several seconds to absorb secretions. Scott Wesley Long, a clinical microbiologist who directs Houston Methodist Hospital’s diagnostic microbiology lab, says the swab is thin—less than three millimeters in diameter at its tip. “Once you place it in the back of the throat, it’s uncomfortable, but you can still breathe and talk,” he says. “It’s not as bad as it looks.” After a sample is collected, the swab goes into a liquid-filled tube for transport.

To determine whether a nasopharyngeal sample is positive for the coronavirus, biotechnicians use a technique known as reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR. The World Health Organization’s and CDC’s test kits both use this method, as do all of the kits the latter has approved to date. [This detects signs of the virus’s genetic material.]

Stephanie Caccomo, a spokesperson for the FDA, says the positive predictive value, or likelihood a positive test result correctly reflects that a patient has COVID-19, depends on how widespread the disease is—and that situation is changing quickly. “Based on what is known about the pathophysiology of COVID-19, the data provided and our previous experience with respiratory pathogen tests, the false-positive rate for authorized tests is likely to be very low, and the true-positive rate is likely to be high,” Caccomo says.

Person loads a Mesa Biotech cartridge into a dock for testing. Credit: Mesa Biotech

On Saturday Cepheid, a Silicon Valley–based molecular diagnostics company, said the FDA had granted it authorization for a COVID-19 test that can deliver results in about 45 minutes. And on Tuesday Mesa Biotech in San Diego announced it had received the go-ahead for a handheld test kit that Hong Cai, the company’s CEO, says can deliver results at bedside in about half an hour. Cai says the tests will begin shipping this week to “several hospitals” and that her company has tens of thousands of units ready to go, adding that Mesa is planning to triple its production capacity.

Antibody Testing

Another approach relies on identifying antibodies to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in a patient’s bloodstream to determine whether that person previously had COVID-19. Florian Krammer, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, recently developed one of these tests, which is described in a preprint study posted last week on medRxiv. “This is not a test for [ongoing] infections,” he says. “It basically looks for antibodies after the fact, after you had an infection.” Like other serological, or antibody-based, diagnostic assays, it uses an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which employs a portion of the target virus to find antibodies. Although serological tests are not useful for quickly identifying whether a patient currently has COVID-19, Krammer says they can help researchers understand how humans produce antibodies to the virus.

Additionally, serological tests can also help determine if a person has been infected whether or not the individual had symptoms—something an RNA test kit cannot do after the fact, because it only looks for the virus itself. That means serological tests could be used to survey a population to determine how widespread infection rates were. It also could allow public health agencies to figure out who is already immune to COVID-19. “So if you would roll this out on a very wide scale, you could potentially identify everybody who is immune and then ask them to go back to their regular life and go back to work,” Krammer says. This approach could be especially useful for health care providers who are working with COVID-19 patients. “They might feel much more comfortable working with those patients, [knowing] that they can’t get sick anymore, knowing that they can’t pass on the virus to others,” he says.


In common discourse, we talk about “disease” or “illness”, refering to how we feel, that is our awareness of symptoms.  In fact, the entry of a virus (or other pathogen such as bacteria, fungi or parasite) sets up a battle with our immune system even before we know it.  When the virus is defeated quickly, we have mild or no symptoms, and at least in the case of seasonal flus, we can be immune to further infection.  In some cases, people weakened by fighting other pathogens will need hospital help and may not survive.  The subtle point is that presence of the virus and the state of the disease are two different things.

This video is helpful in getting the basics right (published March 9, 2020)

See also: Progress on Covid19 Antibodies

Fight Coronavirus with Global Warming

An important study of our experience with the covid19 pandemic shows that warmer, more humid weather works against transmission of the disease.  The paper is High Temperature and High Humidity Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19 by Jingyuan Wang, Ke Tang, Kai Feng and Weifeng Lv. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Abstract: This paper investigates how air temperature and humidity influence the transmission of COVID-19. After estimating the serial interval of COVID-19 from 105 pairs of the virus carrier and the infected, we calculate the daily effective reproductive number, R, for each of all 100 Chinese cities with more than 40 cases. Using the daily R values from January 21 to 23, 2020 as proxies of non-intervened transmission intensity, we find, under a linear regression framework for 100 Chinese cities, high temperature and high relative humidity significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19, respectively, even after controlling for population density and GDP per capita of cities. One degree Celsius increase in temperature and one percent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0383 and 0.0224, respectively. This result is consistent with the fact that the high temperature and high humidity significantly reduce the transmission of influenza. It indicates that the arrival of summer and rainy season in the northern hemisphere can effectively reduce the transmission of the COVID-19.

Discussion: Rough observations of outbreaks of COVID-19 outside China show a noteworthy phenomenon. In the early dates of the outbreak, countries with relatively lower air temperature and lower humidity (e.g. Korea, Japan and Iran) see severe outbreaks than warmer and more humid countries (e.g. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand) do. Considering the natural log of the average number of cases per day from February 8 to 29 as a rough measure of the severity of the COVID-19 outbreaks3 , in Figure 1, we show that the severity is negatively related to temperature and relative humidity using 14 countries with more than 20 new cases during this period.

Figure 1: Severity of COVID-19 outbreaks v.s. temperature and relative humidity for countries outside China.

Inside China, the COVID-19 has spread widely to many cities, and the intensity of transmission and weather conditions in these cities vary largely (shown in Table SI 1), we can, therefore, analyze the determinants of COVID-19 transmission, especially the weather factors. In order to formally quantify the transmission of COVID-19, we first fit 105 samples of serial intervals with the Weibull distribution (a distribution commonly used to fit the serial interval of influenza[8]), then calculate the effective reproductive number, R, a quantity measuring the severity of infectiousness[9] , for each of all 100 Chinese cities with more than 40 cases.

Figure 3: Effective reproductive number R v.s. temperature and relative humidity for 100 Chinese cities

Figure 2 shows the average R values from January 21 to 23 for different Chinese cities geographically. Compared with the southeast coast of China, cities in the northern area of China show relatively larger R values and lower temperatures and relative humidity. The scatter plots in Figure 3 illustrate two negative relations between the daily air temperature and R value and between the daily relative humidity and R value, respectively.

Our finding is consistent with the evidence that high temperature and high humidity reduce the transmission of influenza[10-14] , which can be explained by two possible reasons: First, the influenza virus is more stable in cold temperature, and respiratory droplets, as containers of viruses, remain airborne longer in dry air[15, 16] . Second, cold and dry weather can also weaken the hosts’ immunity and make them more susceptible to the virus[17, 18] . These mechanisms are also likely to apply to the COVID-19 transmission. Our result is also consistent with the evidence that high temperature and high relative humidity reduce the viability of SARS coronavirus[19,20] .

If omitting control variables, 7 the fixed-effects model of Table 2 provides an estimation of the R value for a certain city given its temperature and relative humidity:Assuming that the same relationship of Equation (1) applies to cities outside China and that the temperature and relative humid of 2020 are the same as those in 2019, we can draw a map of R values for worldwide cities in Figure 4 by plugging the average March and July temperatures and relative humidity of 2019 into Equation (1). This figure cautions people of the risk of COVID-19 outbreak worldwide, in March and July of 2020, respectively. As expected, the R values are larger for temperate countries and smaller for tropical countries in March. In July, the arrival of summer and rainy season in the northern hemisphere can effectively reduce the transmission of the COVID-19; however, risks remain in some countries in the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia and South Africa). If we plug the normal summer temperature and relative humidity of Tokyo (28oC and 85%, respectively) into Equation (1), the transmission of the COVID19 in Tokyo will be seriously reduced between March and the Olympics: the estimated R value decreases from 1.914 to 0.992, a 48% drop!

Postscript:  Some Context on US Situation from Conrad Black

The United States is now outdone only by Germany and Canada, among countries with sophisticated public-health systems that publish believable numbers, in the small proportion of reported cases who die from the coronavirus. This is 674 people out of 51,542 cases reported, as of late afternoon Tuesday, or 1.25 percent of identified cases, and if those who are immune-challenged are removed from that figure, the percentage descends to less than half of 1 percent of the identified cases. Even though most of the people tested appeared to have possible coronavirus symptoms, only a little more than 15 percent of those tested have tested positively. Because the United States is ramping up its treatment capabilities so quickly, it has an inordinate number of the world’s reported cases, 23 percent of the world’s new cases reported on Monday, though it only has about 4 percent of the world’s population, but the world fatality rate is about 4 percent, more than three times the American rate. The disease is still spreading unavoidably, but if care is taken to insulate the elderly and infirm from contact, the mortality rate descends to a point not greatly above seasonal flu fatality numbers.

Though it is hard to be precise about it, less than 1 percent of the adult population of the U.S. have apparently reported coronavirus-like symptoms; of those, about 20 percent have been tested; of those, about a quarter have tested positive; and of those, apart from clearly vulnerable people, fewer than half of 1 percent have died. In epidemiological terms, this is a very serious penetration of the population by a very nasty virus, but it does not justify continuing the extreme restrictions on the economic life of the country, and specifically this lethal threat to the economic well-being of tens of millions of Americans.


Doomsday Deja Vu

Ronald Stein writes at Eurasia Review Greta Preaches Many Of The First Earth Day’s Failed Predictions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. That was more than three decades before the birth of high school dropout Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist on climate change, diagnosed with Asperger’s, high-functioning autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder,

We now look back at quotes from Earth Day, Then and Now,” by Ronald Bailey, May 1, 2000 of the spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions from Earth Day 1970.

Considering the current doomsday predictions scaremonger activists are verbalizing about global warming that will result in the demise of civilization within the next decade, many of those unscientific 1970 predictions are being reincarnated on today’s social and news media outlets.

Many of the same are being regurgitated today, but the best prediction from the first earth day five decades ago, yes 50 years ago, was that the “the pending ice age as earth had been cooling since 1950 and that the temperature would be 11 degrees cooler by the year 2000”.

The 1970’s were a lousy decade. Embarrassing movies and dreadful music reflected the national doomsday mood following an unpopular war, endless political scandals, and a faltering economy.

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970— okay, “celebrated” doesn’t capture the funereal tone of the event. The events (organized in part by then hippie and now convicted murderer Ira Einhorn) predicted death, destruction and disease unless we did exactly as progressives commanded.

Behold the coming apocalypse as predicted on and around Earth Day, 1970:

  1. Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — Harvard biologist George Wald

  2. “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Washington University biologist Barry Commoner

  3. “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial

  4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich

  5. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” — Paul Ehrlich

  6. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day

  7. “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.” — North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter

  8. “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” — Life magazine

  9. “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” — Ecologist Kenneth Watt

  10. Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” — Paul Ehrlich

  11. “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate… that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” — Ecologist Kenneth Watt

  12. “[One] theory assumes that the earth’s cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun’s heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born.” — Newsweek magazine

  13. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” — Kenneth Watt

History seems to repeat itself as there will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future–and the present–never looked so bleak. I guess we’ll need to critique the 2020 doomsday predictions in the year 2050 and see if they were any better than those from the first Earth Day 50 years ago.

Footnote: For a thorough discussion of recent environmental predictions of doom, see Progressively Scaring the World (Lewin book synopsis)

And let’s not leave out the Atomic Clock:

Doomsday was predicted but failed to happen at midnight.

Life on Arctic Seafloor Under the Ice

In some places, life manages to get a toehold in an otherwise barren landscape. (Photo: AWI, OFOBS team)

This is a great science story, untainted by activist agendas or grandstanding.  An article at ScienceNorway describes Here’s what it looks like 4000 meters below the Arctic ice.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Far below the Arctic ice lies a special area with volcanic activity. What lives down there? Scientists have gone on a journey to find out.

Hydrothermal vents were first discovered in 1979. They look like pipes sticking out of the seabed and emit warm “smoke”, which is actually hot fluid loaded with minerals.

In the Atlantic and Pacific, many of these vents, also called chimneys, are surrounded by unique ecosystems with clams, blind shrimp, beard worms and extremophile bacteria.

Life there does not get its energy from the sun, but from the interior of the earth.

Microorganisms use reduced compounds from the vents as an energy source to make organic matter, just as plants and algae use photons from the sun. Larger animals live in symbiosis with these microbes.

However, no one has previously looked at the fauna in this type of area in the Arctic.

What lives in these cold, deep waters, 4,000 metres below the ice?

“We wanted to see if this ecosystem had developed in isolation — whether it is very different from other places with hydrothermal vents, or whether the fields are interconnected,” says Eva Ramirez-Llodra.

“It was hard to plan the days, because you work at the mercy of the ice,” says Ramirez-Llodra.

Arctic sea ice is not quiet. It breaks up, freezes, and varies in thickness. That made it difficult to get to the right place. The researchers towed a camera after the boat to film the seabed.

On October 3, they finally got a good position over what they believed was the field. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the screens in the control room and the tension was high.

The pictures show the typical fauna on the Aurora volcanic field. The first picture shows a large sinkhole. (Photo: AWI, OFOBS team)

It was a huge hydrothermal vent, a black smoker, and later the researchers found two others.

“We could see that we were approaching the vents, because the sediments became coarser, and there were more stones and colours on the sea floor,” Ramirez-Llodra says.

One encounter was a little close. The researchers pulled the camera up over a mound, and suddenly they saw black smoke billowing out of a gaping, underwater crater.

“It’s not actually smoke, but very hot liquid at about 350 degrees C. The camera ran right into it. It went so fast that we couldn’t stop it. Everything went black and we were scared that we had burned everything up,” she says. “Fortunately, we got the picture back after a few minutes. We could continue. This was our first close encounter with a black smoker.”

Scientists saw fields that shone like gold on the otherwise colourless bottom around the chimneys.

The material the researchers saw wasn’t gold but sulphite that is deposited by the black “smoke”, Ramirez-Llodra says, although there are also traces of gold and silver in the fluid that gushes from the vent. Around the vents were clusters of white organisms that glistened as they reflected the light from the camera.

The area around the Aurora field was covered by a thick layer of fine-grained sediments. Where the ground was solid enough for something to stick, there were white, spooky sponges. There were shrimp frolicking in the depths, and sea cucumbers and anemones. The occasional fish also swam around.

But the bulk of the organisms in the depths were glass sponges. They are relatively rare, can grow up to a metre wide, and some of them can live for several centuries, according to an article about the trip written by National Geographic. The sponges are largely made up of silica, and only a little of their mass is organic matter. They can be said to barely be alive.

Glass sponges and shrimp do not depend on the vents but thrive in the cold depths. Researchers aren’t yet certain exactly which species these are. (Photo: AWI, OFOBS team)

The researchers did not find the diversity of life that has been discovered around hydrothermal vents in other ocean areas.

“There wasn’t much life down there,” says Ramirez-Llodra. “But we’re not exactly sure why yet.”

Hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic and Pacific contain colourful communities of beard worms, clams and crabs that have adapted to the special environment around the vents.

“Most of these have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and microorganisms that live by chemosynthesis. The bacteria can be inside their bodies or in special organs,” says Ramirez-Llodra.

“Some organisms don’t even have a mouth or digestive system, but only live from what the microbes inside their body produce.”

Ramirez-Llodra says the researchers don’t know yet if there is a similar relationship between organisms around the vents in the Aurora field.

Additional studies of the videos and samples the researchers took will reveal more about the previously unknown environment on the Gakkel Ridge.

Ramirez-Llodra says they will embark on a new expedition later, to take samples even closer to the vents.

Postscript:  How refreshing to know about scientists following their curiosity to discover something new about life and the universe.  It encourages one about the future in spite of all the crazy talk of climate “crises” or “emergencies”.  Best wishes and hopes for an unalarming 2020!

Global Volcanism Program, East Gakkel Ridge at 85°E

See Also  Overview: Seafloor Eruptions and Ocean Warming

Activist-Legal Complex Perverts Science

This article was published at the American Council on Science and Health Activist-Legal Complex Will Destroy American Science And Industry by Alex Berezow and Josh Bloom. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

American science and industry are under threat by this complex, known to be an unholy alliance of activists and trial lawyers who deploy various pseudoscientific tricks to score multibillion-dollar lawsuits against large companies. No industry is safe from these deceptions.

In his Farewell Address, President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, a partnership between the military and defense industry that was financially incentivized to promote war over peace. Today, we face a different threat – the “activist-legal complex,” which is responsible for scoring multibillion-dollar verdicts against some of America’s biggest companies.

One partner in this unholy alliance are activists who falsely claim that the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the products we use are all secretly killing us. They pervert scientific uncertainty to nefarious ends by magnifying hypothetical risks and downplaying relevant facts, such as level of exposure.

They exploit widespread misunderstanding of science and a general hatred of “corporations” – especially those that manufacture chemicals, drugs, or consumer products – to instill fear into the public.

The other partner is the legal industry, which relies on activist scaremongering to win jackpot verdicts. They identify sympathetic patients, often suffering from cancer or some other debilitating disease, and blame their maladies on a company with deep pockets. They buy television commercials to recruit more “victims” for the inevitable class-action lawsuit.

This formula works nearly every time, and the result is always the same: A giant bag of money. In this way, the activist-legal complex recently won a $4.7 billion lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for causing ovarian cancer and a $2 billion lawsuit (subsequently reduced to merely $87 million) against Monsanto’s glyphosate for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

There is no credible scientific evidence in support of either verdict.

But the absence of genuine scientific evidence is typically irrelevant in trials of this type. With the aid of flawed or cherry-picked toxicological and epidemiological studies – often published by activists in low-quality journals – the activist-legal complex can subvert science using well-established pseudoscientific tricks.

The first involves undermining long-held truths about toxicity. Thanks to Paracelsus, it has been known since the 16th Century that “the dose makes the poison.” Yet, the activist-legal complex promotes an alternate theory, namely that the mere presence of a chemical is an indicator of its potential harm. It is not.

Given advances in analytical instrumentation, it is now possible to detect almost any chemical in your body or in the environment at levels as minute as “one part per trillion,” which is roughly equivalent to a drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. There are very few, if any, chemicals on Earth that pose a health risk at such a low concentration.

But using the activist-legal complex’s doctrine – that we are constantly swimming in a sea of harmful chemicals – it is easy for lawyers to argue that any exposure to a potential carcinogen could be responsible for a cancer that develops decades later. Usually, the chemicals that are blamed have been used for decades and have been present in our bodies in tiny amounts all along without causing health concerns.

The second trick is to play on society’s belief that regulators and activists are righteous, unbiased people with no conflicts of interest. For example, jurors in the Monsanto glyphosate trial heard that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a subsidiary of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. What they did not hear is that one of the key members of the IARC panel received £120,000 from trial lawyers who stood to benefit financially from the classification.

The third trick is to foment conspiracy theories, usually involving a few old, obscure documents or emails taken out of context. The activist-legal complex uses this tactic to convince jurors, already eager to “punish” Big Business, that the company was engaged in malfeasance.

Game, set, match. The only question left is how big the bag of money is going to be.

Where will the activist-legal complex strike next? It could be anywhere. Maybe there will be a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola for obesity in America. Perhaps lawyers will go after Facebook for making its social media platform too addictive. Or maybe Apple’s iPhone will be blamed for causing car accidents due to distracted driving.

As long as a company has a sufficiently large bank account, quite literally anything is possible. No industry is safe from the activist-legal complex.


The article points to jackpot justice in general.  A number of posts here have discussed how the same dynamic is at work in Climate Litigation (link is to posts so tagged)

Nature Mag Favors Diversity Over Merit

Lubos Motl writes at his blog Reference Frame reviewing Nature Mag proclaiming top 10 Scientists for 2019.  His article is Nature’s shocking “top ten” scientists.  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Fer137 has told us about an incredible list published at Nature Nature’s 10.which is supposed to enumerate the most influential people in science of the year. As Alex correctly said, Nature basically became a new brand of toilet paper. How will they compare to Presto!?

Well, there have been numerous indications of this “evolution of purpose” of that journal but now they have jumped the shark, indeed.

As Nature openly admits, Ricardo Galvão was chosen for his being a Latin American “Amazon” activist and for his frictions with Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, whom the leftists at Nature consider politically incorrect. He clearly didn’t do anything revolutionary in the science of forests or in biology in general. In fact, he is a physicist!

Victoria Kaspi was clearly chosen for her failure to be male in a field that is overwhelmingly advanced by males, astrophysics. You should look for “fast radio bursts” at Google Scholar to become sure that she isn’t really a leader of this subfield. Even if you add CHIME, the name of her key experiment, to the query, it doesn’t become better.

Nenad Šestan was chosen for the good old left-wing “atheist” reasons. This guy works on the fuzziness of “brain death” so he can take people from God, thus proving the ill-definedness of the religious concepts including death itself. This would be a preferred scientific topic of the leftists some 20 years ago but these days, it’s no longer too hot. And incidentally, Nature just copied the name from the New York Times, a left-wing daily, that promoted Šestan in the summer. At any rate, he is one of the 3 or so actual star scientists in the list.

Sandra Díaz is a hot Venezulean model. OK, they meant this Sandra Díaz which is somewhat less pretty. She is both female and associated with the “biodiversity” hysteria. Clearly, no important advances in the “science of biodiversity” took place in the recent year or several years and she wasn’t the key in those that took place earlier.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum is Congolese and a racially pure black. At least, he is an actual co-discoverer of Ebola, a disease he still fights against. How important was he in the discovery of Ebola? Well, in 1976 the disease first appeared in Sudan and then in Zaire. In Zaire, Muyembe-Tamfum was just in charge of the doctors who were supposed to respond. Among other obvious things, he sent blood samples to Peter Piot. Clearly Piot was far closer to the actual discoverer of Ebola: Muyembe-Tumfum’s role is similar to that of Rosalind Franklin (or perhaps even to the unknown miner-in-chief in Jáchymov, Bohemia who sent the radium samples to Marie Sklodowska). The situations really are analogous. I am not the only one who sees it in this way. Wikipedia mentions:

In 2012, Piot published a book entitled “No Time to Lose” [see the clickable image] which chronicles his professional work, including the discovery of the Ebolavirus. He mentions Muyembe in passing rather than as a co-discoverer.

But Piot is a white man so, according to the fanatical racists at Nature, he must be censored and destroyed, right? In fact, even Piot’s claim that a passing was a passing was a heresy because the passing was black. Why would someone confuse a true scientist with someone who sent blood samples by the USPS? It’s like Penny’s discovery of a comet.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie found an old skull somewhere – one of many old skulls – but he is Ethiopian so he must automatically make it to the top ten as well, right? At least he has done some real research into the African hominids.

Wendy Rogers is both female and an activist talking about organ transplants in China; I didn’t have enough motivation to see what she says or wants because I don’t believe it’s important. Also, I wasn’t able to add a Wikipedia link because I think that her page doesn’t even exist. You may find a Republican politician and an actress of the name much more easily than this organ transplant activist. One paper with her name and “organ” has 28 citations, others are below 10. In the field focused on “organs” where she was named a member of “top ten”, she’s technically an unknown scientist according to the high energy physics criteria.

Deng Hongkui is arguably a real HIV-focused Chinese immunologist with quite some results.

John Martins leads the Google’s “quantum supremacy” advances in quantum computing. He clearly deserves to be there. Nature probably failed to notice that he is a white supremacist according to another article in Nature.Greta Thunberg… doesn’t really surprise us. She is the role model for everything that is bad about the interactions between science and the general society in 2019. She is a whining spoiled brat who refuses to go to school and who is correspondingly scientifically illiterate because of that and who, with quite some success, persuades other people that her hateful hysterical outbursts may compensate for her laziness and caution. She is the exact opposite of a young person who is close to science. Every teenager who does at least 10% of the things that Greta does should be spanked for several hours so that he cannot sit on his bottom for a week.

Nature also adds a “list whom to watch in science in 2020” that starts with António Guterres, the boss of the United Nations who completely lost his mind and who has become a little puddy of Greta Thunberg’s. Even if he weren’t a Greta’s puddy, it would be shocking to claim that being such a politically appointed bureaucrat makes one a top scientist.

At any rate, it’s terribly disappointing to see that a journal that used to be good – although it has played no role in my interest in science whatsoever – chooses way over 50% of its “best scientists” according to some extremist political or identity politics criteria. The individuals at Nature who are responsible for this outrageous page are harmful agents and should be treated as harmful agents.

Antarctic Treaty 60 Years Old

The Council on Foreign Relations reminds us: The United Nations’ annual climate conference opened in Madrid last week following an important if quiet milestone: the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, one of the most successful yet least known multilateral agreements ever signed. At the height of the Cold War, the treaty froze several countries’ sovereignty claims to the polar South, while designating Antarctica a part of the global commons. Nations would not compete geopolitically over the continent but instead cooperate peacefully there in the name of science and environmental stewardship. Although fraying at the edges, the treaty remains a triumph by any measure.

Unfortunately, for all its success, it cannot protect Antarctica from the accumulating ravages of global warming. Nor is the Madrid conference, known as COP25, likely to alter the dismal trajectory of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The juxtaposition of these two events—the Antarctic Treaty’s birthday and the desultory UN climate conference—underscores the urgency of embracing truly international politics that place as much weight on environmental sustainability as on interstate rivalry.

Previous Post History of Antartica According to Onion

Antarctica, Earth’s southernmost continent, faces numerous threats from climate change, but many people don’t know very much about the isolated area. The Onion looks back at a history of exploration, scientific study, and human activity in Antarctica.

Lost European explorers perplexed by how cold India is.

Discovery of Antarctica sends world ice prices plummeting.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen beats British explorer Robert Falcon Scott in the race to the South Pole after Scott falters during the critical Ross Ice Shelf sprint stage.

Ernest Shackleton completes the first successful mission to get a boat stuck in Antarctic pack ice and be forced to live miserably on a floe for months.

Caroline Mikkelsen becomes the first person to experience sexism on Antarctica.

The Antarctic Treaty is signed in Washington, placing a moratorium on natural resource exploitation and preventing penguins from industrializing the continent and entering the 20th-century global economy.

The ratification of the Madrid Protocol declares Antarctica to be a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” for the remaining 50 years of its existence.

The film March Of The Penguins documents Antarctica’s disturbing descent into fascism.

OK, earthquakes under the Antarctic peninsula have caused it to droop a bit, but erectile dysfunction is common and treatable.

Story comes from the Onion (here) with my improving their final observation.

Impeachers Deaf to Turley’s Voice of Reason

The biased PC media in the US, Canada, and elsewhere took their sound bites from the leftist law professors whose opinion on Trump’s impeachment is: No Problem. High time. Completely unreported were the reasonable words from the fourth expert. Jonathan Turley wrote a 52 page brief providing the factual basis and historical context for assessing this present process. His advice is sound and wise, and still falls upon deaf ears. His written testimony is available in pdf format here

The synopsis below consists of some of his pointed paragraphs in italics with my bolds.

Twenty-one years ago, I sat here before you, Chairman Nadler, and other members of the Judiciary Committee to testify on the history and meaning of the constitutional impeachment standard as part of the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton. I never thought that I would have to appear a second time to address the same question with regard to another sitting president. Yet, here we are. Some elements are strikingly similar. The intense rancor and rage of the public debate is the same. It was an atmosphere that the Framers anticipated. Alexander Hamilton warned that charges of impeachable conduct “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”

As with the Clinton impeachment, the Trump impeachment has again proven Hamilton’s words to be prophetic. The stifling intolerance for opposing views is the same. As was the case two decades ago, it is a perilous environment for a legal scholar who wants to explore the technical and arcane issues normally involved in an academic examination of a legal standard ratified 234 years ago. In truth, the Clinton impeachment hearing proved to be an exception to the tenor of the overall public debate. The testimony from witnesses, ranging from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Laurence Tribe to Cass Sunstein,contained divergent views and disciplines. Yet the hearing remained respectful and substantive as we all grappled with this difficult matter. I appear today in the hope that we can achieve that same objective of civil and meaningful discourse despite our good-faith differences on the impeachment standard and its application to the conduct of President Donald J. Trump.

I would like to start, perhaps incongruously, with a statement of three irrelevant facts. First, I am not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Second, I have been highly critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns. Third, I have repeatedly criticized his raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter withthe Ukrainian president. These points are not meant to curry favor or approval. Rather they are meant to drive home a simple point: one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president.

To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump. My personal and political views of President Trump, however, are irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote. Today, my only concern is the integrity and coherence of the constitutional standard and process of impeachment. President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.

That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided. Although I am citing a wide body of my relevant academic work on these questions, I will not repeat that work in this testimony. Instead, I will focus on the history and cases that bear most directly on the questions facing this Committee. My testimony will first address relevant elements of the history and meaning of the impeachment standard. Second, I will discuss the past presidential impeachments and inquiries in the context of this controversy. Finally, I will address some of the specific alleged impeachable offenses raised in this process. In the end, I believe that this process has raised serious and legitimate issues for investigation. Indeed, I have previously stated that a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven. Yet moving forward primarily or exclusively with the Ukraine controversy on this record would be as precarious as it would premature.

We have too many happy warriors in this impeachment on both sides. What we need are more objective noncombatants, members willing to set aside political passion in favor of constitutional circumspection. Despite our differences of opinion, I believe that this esteemed panel can offer a foundation for such reasoned and civil discourse. If we are to impeach a president for only the third time in our history, we will need to rise above this age of rage and genuinely engage in a civil and substantive discussion. It is to that end that my testimony is offered today.


For the purposes of this hearing, it is Article II, Section 4 that is the focus of our attention and, specifically, the meaning of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” It is telling that the actual constitutional standard is contained in Article II (defining executive powers and obligations) rather than Article I (defining legislative powers and obligations). The location of that standard in Article II serves as a critical check on service as a president, qualifying the considerable powers bestowed upon the Chief Executive with the express limitations of that office. It is in this sense an executive, not legislative, standard set by the Framers. For presidents, it is essential that this condition be clear and consistent so that they are not subject to the whim of shifting majorities in Congress. That was a stated concern of the Framers and led to the adoption of the current standard and, equally probative, the express rejection of other standards.

Colonial impeachments did occur with the same dubious standards and procedures that marked the English impeachments. Indeed, impeachments were used in the absence of direct political power. Much like parliamentary impeachments, thecolonial impeachments became a way of contesting Crown governance. . . Given this history, when the Framers met in Philadelphia to craft the Constitution, impeachment was understandably raised, including the Hastings impeachment, which had yet to go to trial in England. However, there was a contingent of Framers that viewed any impeachment of a president as unnecessary and even dangerous. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, and Rufus King of Massachusettsopposed such a provision.

In the end, the Framers would reject various prior standards including “corruption,”“obtaining office by improper means”, betraying his trust to a foreign power,“negligence,” “perfidy,” “peculation,” and “oppression.” Perfidy (or lying) and peculation (self-dealing) are particularly interesting in the current controversy given similar accusations against President Trump in his Ukrainian comments and conduct.

However, the Framers clearly stated they adopted the current standard to avoid a vague and fluid definition of a core impeachable offense. The structure of the critical line cannot be ignored. The Framers cited two criminal offenses—treason and bribery—followed by a reference to“other high crimes and misdemeanors.” This is in contrast to when the Framers included“Treason, Felony, or other Crime” rather than “high crime” in the Extradition Clause ofArticle IV, Section 2. The word “other” reflects an obvious intent to convey that the impeachable acts other than bribery and treason were meant to reach a similar level of gravity and seriousness (even if they are not technically criminal acts). This was clearly adeparture from the English model, which was abused because of the dangerous fluidity of the standard used to accuse officials. Thus, the core of American impeachments was intended to remain more defined and limited. It is a discussion that should weigh heavily on the decision facing members of this House.


As I have stressed, it is possible to establish a case for impeachment based on a non-criminal allegation of abuse of power. However, although criminality is not required in such a case, clarity is necessary. That comes from a complete and comprehensive record that eliminates exculpatory motivations or explanations. The problem is that this is an exceptionally narrow impeachment resting on the thinnest possible evidentiary record. During the House Intelligence Committee proceedings, Democratic leaders indicated that they wanted to proceed exclusively or primarily on the Ukrainian allegations and wanted a vote by the end of December. I previously wrote that the current incomplete record is insufficient to sustain an impeachment case, a view recently voiced by the New York Times and other sources.

The problem is not simply that the record does not contain direct evidence of the President stating a quid pro quo, as Chairman Schiff has suggested. The problem is that the House has not bothered to subpoena the key witnesses who would have such direct knowledge. This alone sets a dangerous precedent. A House in the future could avoid countervailing evidence by simply relying on tailored records with testimony from people who offer damning presumptions or speculation. It is not enough to simply shrug and say this is “close enough for jazz” in an impeachment. The expectation, as shown by dozens of failed English impeachments, was that the lower house must offer a complete and compelling record. That is not to say that the final record must have a confession or incriminating statement from the accused. Rather, it was meant to be a complete record of the key witnesses that establishes the full range of material evidence. Only then could the body reach a conclusion on the true weight of the evidence—a conclusion that carries sufficient legitimacy with the public to justify the remedy of removal.

The history of American presidential impeachment shows the same restraint even when there were substantive complaints against the conduct of presidents. Indeed, some of our greatest presidents could have been impeached for acts in direct violation of their constitutional oaths of office. . . These efforts reflect the long history of impeachment being used as a way to amplify political differences and grievances. Such legislative throat clearing has been stopped by the House by more circumspect members before articles were drafted or passed. This misuse of impeachment has been plain during the Trump Administration.

I have known many of these members and commentators for years on a professional or personal basis. I do not question their sincere beliefs on the grounds for such impeachments, but we have fundamental differences in the meaning and proper use of this rarely used constitutional device. As I have previously written, such misuses of impeachment would convert our process into a type of no-confidence vote of Parliament. Impeachment has become an impulse buy item in our raging political environment. Slate has even featured a running “Impeach-O-Meter.” Despite my disagreement with many of President Trump’s policies and statements, impeachment was never intended to be used as a mid-term corrective option for a divisive or unpopular leader. To its credit, the House has, in all but one case, arrested such impulsive moves before the transmittal of actual articles of impeachment to the Senate. Indeed, only two cases have warranted submission to the Senate and one was a demonstrative failure on the part of the House in adhering to the impeachment standard. Those two impeachments—and the third near-impeachment of Richard Nixon—warrant closer examination and comparison in the current environment.

Comparison with Three Previous Presidential Impeachments

A comparison of the current impeachment inquiry with the three prior presidential inquiries puts a few facts into sharp relief. First, this is a case without a clear criminal act and would be the first such case in history if the House proceeds without further evidence. In all three impeachment inquiries, the commission of criminal acts by Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton were clear and established. With Johnson, the House effectively created a trapdoor crime and Johnson knowingly jumped through it. The problem was that the law—the Tenure in Office Act—was presumptively unconstitutional and the impeachment was narrowly built around that dubious criminal act. With Nixon, there were a host of alleged criminal acts and dozens of officials who would be convicted of felonies. With Clinton, there was an act of perjury that even his supporters acknowledged was a felony, leaving them to argue that some felonies “do not rise to the level” of an impeachment. Despite clear and established allegations of criminal acts committed by the president, narrow impeachments like Johnson and Clinton have fared badly. As will be discussed further below, the recently suggested criminal acts related to the Ukrainian controversy are worse off, being highly questionable from a legal standpoint and far from established from an evidentiary standpoint.

Second, the abbreviated period of investigation into this controversy is both problematic and puzzling. Although the Johnson impeachment progressed quickly after the firing of the Secretary of War, that controversy had been building for over a year and was actually the fourth attempted impeachment. Moreover, Johnson fell into the trap laid a year before in the Tenure of Office Act. The formal termination was the event that triggered the statutory language of the act and thus there was no dispute as to the critical facts. We have never seen a controversy arise for the first time and move to impeachment in such a short period. Nixon and Clinton developed over many months of investigation and a wide array of witness testimony and grand jury proceedings. In the current matter, much remains unknown in terms of key witnesses and underlying documents. There is no explanation why the matter must be completed by December. After two years of endless talk of impeachable and criminal acts, little movement occurred toward an impeachment. Suddenly the House appears adamant that this impeachment must be completed by the end of December. To be blunt, if the schedule is being accelerated by the approach of the Iowa caucuses, it would be both an artificial and inimical element to introduce into the process. This is not the first impeachment occurring during a political season. In the Johnson impeachment, the vote on the articles was interrupted by the need for some Senators to go to the Republican National Convention. The bifurcated vote occurred in May 1868 and the election was held just six months later.

Finally, the difference in the record is striking. Again, Johnson’s impeachment must be set aside as an outlier since it was based on a manufactured trap-door crime. Yet,even with Johnson, there was over a year of investigations and proceedings related to his alleged usurpation and defiance of the federal law. The Ukrainian matter is largely built around a handful of witnesses and a schedule that reportedly set the matter for a vote within weeks of the underlying presidential act. Such a wafer-thin record only magnifies the problems already present in a narrowly constructed impeachment. The question for the House remains whether it is seeking simply to secure an impeachment or actually trying to build a case for removal. If it is the latter, this is not the schedule or the process needed to build a viable case. The House should not assume that the Republican control of the Senate makes any serious effort at impeachment impractical or naïve. All four impeachment inquiries have occurred during rabid political periods. However, politicians can on occasion rise to the moment and chose principle over politics. Indeed, in the Johnson trial, senators knowingly sacrificed their careers to fulfill their constitutional oaths. If the House wants to make a serious effort at impeachment, it should focus on building the record to raise these allegations to the level of impeachable offenses and leave to the Senate the question of whether members will themselves rise to the moment that follows.


While all three acts in the impeachment standard refer to criminal acts in modern parlance, it is clear that “high crimes and misdemeanors” can encompass non-criminal conduct. It is also true that Congress has always looked to the criminal code in the fashioning of articles of impeachment. The reason is obvious. Criminal allegations not only represent the most serious forms of conduct under our laws, but they also offer an objective source for measuring and proving such conduct. We have never had a presidential impeachment proceed solely or primarily on an abuse of power allegation, though such allegations have been raised in the context of violations of federal or criminal law. Perhaps for that reason, there has been a recent shift away from a pure abuse of power allegation toward direct allegations of criminal conduct. That shift, however, has taken the impeachment process far outside of the relevant definitions and case law on these crimes.

It is to those allegations that I would now like to turn. At the outset, however, two threshold issues are worth noting. First, this hearing is being held before any specific articles have been proposed. During the Clinton impeachment hearing, we were given a clear idea of the expected articles of impeachment and far greater time to prepare analysis of those allegations. The House leadership has repeatedly indicated that they are proceeding on the Ukrainian controversy and not the various alleged violations or crimes alleged during the Russian investigation. Recently, however, Chairman Schiff indicated that there might be additional allegations raised while continuing to reference the end of December as the working date for an impeachment vote. Thus, we are being asked to offer a sincere analysis on the grounds for impeachment while being left in the dark. My testimony is based on the public statements regarding the Ukrainian matter, which contain references to four alleged crimes and, most recently, a possible compromise proposal for censure.

Second, the crimes discussed below were recently raised as part of the House Intelligence Committee hearings as alternatives to the initial framework as an abuse of power. There may be a desire to refashion these facts into crimes with higher resonance with voters, such as bribery. In any case, Chairman Schiff and committee members began to specifically ask witnesses about elements that were pulled from criminal cases. When some of us noted that courts have rejected these broader interpretations or that there are missing elements for these crimes, advocates immediately shifted to a position that it really does not matter because “this is an impeachment.” This allows members to claim criminal acts while dismissing the need to actually support such allegations. If that were the case, members could simply claim any crime from treason to genocide. While impeachment does encompass non-crimes, including abuse of power, past impeachments have largely been structured around criminal definitions. The reason is simple and obvious. The impeachment standard was designed to be a high bar and felonies often were treated as inherently grave and serious. Legal definitions and case law also offer an objective and reliable point of reference for judging the conduct of judicial and executive officers. It is unfair to claim there is a clear case of a crime like bribery and simultaneously dismiss any need to substantiate such a claim under the controlling definitions and meaning of that crime. After all, the common mantra that “no one is above the law” is a reference to the law applied to all citizens, even presidents. If the House does not have the evidence to support a claim of a criminal act, it should either develop such evidence or abandon the claim. As noted below, abandoning such claims would still leave abuse of power as a viable ground for impeachment. It just must be proven.

A. Bribery

While the House Intelligence Committee hearings began with references to“abuse of power” in the imposition of a quid pro quo with Ukraine, it ended with repeated references to the elements of bribery. After hearing only two witnesses, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared witnesses offered “devastating” evidence that“corroborated” bribery. This view was developed further by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who repeatedly returned to the definition of bribery while adding the caveat that, even if this did not meet the legal definition of bribery, it might meet a prior definition under an uncharacteristically originalist view: “As the founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader. It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you’re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation’s interest.” The premise of the bribery allegations is that President Trump was soliciting a bribe from Ukraine when he withheld either a visit at the White House or military aid in order to secure investigations into the 2016 election meddling and the Hunter Biden contract by Ukraine. On its face, the bribery theory is undermined by the fact that Trump released the aid without the alleged pre-conditions.

However, the legal flaws in this theory are more significant than such factual conflicts. As I have previously written, this record does not support a bribery charge in either century. Before we address this bribery theory, it is important to note that any criminal allegation in an impeachment must be sufficiently clear and recognized to serve two purposes. First, it must put presidents on notice of where a line exists in the range of permissible comments or conduct in office. Second, it must be sufficiently clear to assure the public that an impeachment is not simply an exercise of partisan creativity in rationalizing a removal of a president. Neither of these purposes was satisfied in the Johnson impeachment where the crime was manufactured by Congress. This is why past impeachments focused on establishing criminal acts with reference to the criminal code and controlling case law. Moreover, when alleging bribery, it is the modern definition that is the most critical since presidents (and voters) expect clarity in the standards applied to presidential conduct. Rather than founding these allegations on clear and recognized definitions, the House has advanced a capacious and novel view of bribery to fit the limited facts. If impeachment is reduced to a test of creative redefinitions of crimes, no president will be confident in theirability to operate without the threat of removal. Finally, as noted earlier, dismissing the need to establish criminal conduct by arguing an act is “close enough for impeachment,”is a transparent and opportunistic spin. This is not improvisational jazz. “Close enough”is not nearly enough for a credible case of impeachment.

Under the common law definition, bribery remains relatively narrow and consistently defined among the states. “The core of the concept of a bribe is an inducement improperly influencing the performance of a public function meant to be gratuitously exercised.”

The definition does not lend itself to the current controversy. President Trump can argue military and other aid is often used to influence other countries in taking domestic or international actions. It might be a vote in the United Nations or an anti-corruption investigation within a nation. Aid is not assumed to be“gratuitously exercised” but rather it is used as part of foreign policy discussions and international relations. Moreover, discussing visits to the White House is hardly the stuff of bribery under any of these common law sources. Ambassador Sondland testified that the President expressly denied there was a quid pro quo and that he was never told of such preconditions. However, he also testified that he came to believe there was a quid pro quo, not for military aid, but rather for the visit to the White House: “Was there a‘quid pro quo? With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” Such visits are routinely used as bargaining chips and not“gratuitously exercised.” As for the military aid, the withholding of the aid is difficult to fit into any common law definition of a bribe, particularly when it was ultimately provided without the satisfaction of the alleged pre-conditions.

Various public corruption and bribery provisions are currently on the books, but the standard provision is found in 18 U.S.C. § 201 which allows for prosecution when “[a] public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or acceptanything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for … beinginfluenced in the performance of any official act.” While seemingly sweeping in its scope, the definition contains narrowing elements on the definition of what constitutes “a thing of value,” an “official act,” and “corrupt intent.” The Supreme Court has repeatedly narrowed the scope of the statutory definition of bribery, including distinctions with direct relevance to the current controversy.

In McDonnell v. United States, the Court overturned the conviction of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell. McDonnell and his wife were prosecuted for bribery under the Hobbs Act, applying the same elements as found in Section 201(a)(3). They were accused of accepting an array of loans, gifts, and other benefits from a businessman in return for McDonnell facilitating key meetings, hosting events, and contacting government officials on behalf of the businessman who ran a company called Star Scientific. The benefits exceeded $175,000 and the alleged official acts were completed. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction. As explained by Chief Justice Roberts:

“[O]ur concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ballgowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless intrepretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute andthe precedent of this Court.”

The opinion is rife with references that have a direct bearing on the current controversy. This includes the dismissal of meetings as insufficient acts. It also included the allegations that “recommending that senior government officials in the [Governor’sOffice] meet with Star Scientific executives to discuss ways that the company’s products could lower health care costs.” While the meeting and contacts discussed by Ambassador Sondland as a quid pro quo are not entirely the same, the Court refused to recognize that “nearly anything a public official does—from arranging a meeting to inviting a guest toan event—counts as a quo.”

Applying McDonnell and other cases to the current controversy undermines the bribery claims being raised. The Court noted that an “official act” is a decision or action on a ‘question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy.’ The ‘question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy’ must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee. It must also be something specific and focused that is ‘pending’ or ‘may by law be brought’ before a public official.”

The discussion of a visit to the White House is facially inadequate for this task, as it is not a formal exercise of governmental power. However, withholding of military aid certainly does smack of a “determination before an agency.” Yet, that “quo” breaks down on closer scrutiny, even before getting to the question of a “corrupt intent.” Consider the specific act in this case. As the Ukrainians knew, Congress appropriated the $391 millionin military aid for Ukraine and the money was in the process of being apportioned. Witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee stated that it was not uncommon to have delays in such apportionment or for an Administration to hold back money for a period longer than the 55 days involved in these circumstances. Acting Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney stated that the White House understood it was required to release the money by a certain date absent a lawful reason barring apportionment. That day was the end of September for the White House. Under the 1974 Impoundment Control Act (ICA),reserving the funds requires notice to Congress. This process has always been marked by administrative and diplomatic delays. As the witnesses indicated, it is not always clear why aid is delayed. Arguably, by the middle of October, the apportionment of the aid was effectively guaranteed. It is not contested that the Administration could delay the apportionment to resolve concerns over how the funds would be effectively used or apportioned.

It is certainly fair to question the non-budgetary reasons for the delay in the release of the funds. Yet, the White House was largely locked into the statutory andregulatory process for obligating the funds by the end of September. Even if the President sought to mislead the Ukrainians on his ability to deny the funding, there is no evidence of such a direct statement in the record. Indeed, Ambassador Taylor testified that he believed the Ukrainians first raised their concerns over a pre-condition on August 31 withthe publication of the Politico article on the withholding of the funds. The aid was released roughly ten days later, and no conditions were actually met. The question remains what the “official act” was for this theory given the deadline for aid release. Indeed, had a challenge been filed over the delay before the end of September, it would have most certainly been dismissed by a federal court as premature, if not frivolous.Even if the “official act” were clear, any bribery case would collapse on the current lack of evidence of a corrupt intent.

Finally, the “boundless interpretations of the bribery statutes” rejected in McDonnell pale in comparison to the effort to twist these facts into the elements of that crime. I am not privy to conversations between heads of state, but I expect many prove to be fairly freewheeling and informal at points. I am confident that such leaders often discuss politics and the timing of actions in their respective countries.

If this conversation is a case of bribery, we could have marched every living president off to the penitentiary.

Presidents often use aid as leverage and seek to advance their administrations in the timing or content of actions. The media often discusses how foreign visits are used for political purposes, particularly as elections approach. The common reference to an “October surprise” reflects this suspicion that presidents often use their offices, and foreign policy, to improve their image. If these conversations are now going to be reviewed under sweeping definitions of bribery, the chilling effect on future presidents would be perfectly glacial. The reference to the Hunter Biden deal with Burisma should never have occurred and is worthy of the criticism of President Trump that it has unleashed. However, it is not a case of bribery, whether you are adopting the view of an eighteenth century, or of a twenty-first century prosecutor. As a criminal defense attorney, I would view such an allegation from a prosecutor to be dubious to the point of being meritless.

B. Obstruction of Justice

Another crime that was sporadically mentioned during the House Intelligence hearings was obstruction of justice or obstruction of Congress.

Once again, with only a few days to prepare this testimony and with no public report on the specific allegations, my analysis remains mired in uncertainty as to any plan to bring such a claim to the foundational evidence for the charge. Most of the references to obstruction have been part of a Ukraine-based impeachment plan that does not include any past alleged crimes from the Russian investigation. I will therefore address the possibility of a Ukraine-related obstruction article of impeachment. However, as I have previously written, I believe an obstruction claim based on the Mueller Report would equally at odds with the record and the controlling case law.

The use of an obstruction theory from the Mueller Report would be unsupportable in the House and unsustainable in the Senate. Once again, the lack of information (just weeks before an expected impeachment vote) on the grounds for impeachment is both concerning and challenging. It is akin to being asked to diagnose a patient’s survivability without knowing his specific illness. Obstruction of justice is a more broadly defined crime than bribery and often overlaps with other crimes like witness tampering, subornation, or specific acts designed to obstruct a given proceeding. There are many federal provisions raising forms o fobstruction that reference parallel crimes. Thus, influencing a witness is a standalone crime and also a form of obstruction under 18 U.S.C. 1504. In conventional criminal cases, prosecutions can be relatively straightforward, such as cases of witness intimidation under 18 U.S. 1503.

Of course, this is no conventional case. The obstruction claims leveled against President Trump in the Ukrainian context have centered on two main allegations. First, there was considerable discussion of the moving of the transcript of the call with President Zelensky to a classified server as a possible premeditated effort to hide evidence. Second, there have been repeated references to the “obstruction” of President Trump by invoking executive privileges or immunities to withhold witnesses and documents from congressional committees.

In my view, neither of these general allegations establishes a plausible case of criminal obstruction or a viable impeachable offense. The various obstruction provisions generally share common elements. 18 U.S.C. §1503, for example, broadly defines the crime of “corruptly” endeavoring “to influence, obstruct or impede the due administration of justice.” This “omnibus” provision, however, is most properly used for judicial proceedings such as grand jury investigations,and the Supreme Court has narrowly construed its reach. There is also 18 U.S.C. §1512(c), which contains a “residual clause” in subsection (c)(2), which reads:(c) Whoever corruptly– (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals arecord, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent toimpair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so [is guilty of the crime of obstruction].[emphasis added].

There is no evidence that President Trump acted with the corrupt intent required for obstruction of justice on the record created by the House Intelligence Committee.

Let us start with the transfer of the file. The transfer of the transcript of the file was raised as a possible act of obstruction to hide evidence of a quid pro quo. However, the nefarious allegations behind the transfer were directly contradicted by Tim Morrison, the former Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council. Morrison testified that he was the one who recommended that the transcript be restricted after questions were raised about President Trump’srequest for investigations.

Absent additional testimony or proof that Morrison has perjured himself, the allegation concerning the transfer of the transcript would seem entirely without factual support, let alone legal support, as a criminal obstructive act. Most recently, the members have focused on an obstruction allegation centering on the instructions of the White House to current and former officials not to testify due to the expected assertions of executive privilege and immunity. Notably, the House has elected not to subpoena core witnesses with first-hand evidence on any quid pro quo in the Ukraine controversy. Democratic leaders have explained that they want a vote by the end of December, and they are not willing to wait for a decision from the court system as to the merits of these disputes.

In my view, that position is entirely untenable and abusive in an impeachment. Essentially, these members are suggesting a president can be impeached for seeking a judicial review of a conflict over the testimony of high-ranking advisers to the President over direct communications with the President. The position is tragically ironic. The Democrats have at times legitimately criticized the President for treating Article II as a font of unilateral authority. Yet, they are now doing the very same thing in claiming Congress can demand any testimony or documents and then impeach any president who dares to go to the courts. Magnifying the flaws in this logic is the fact that the House has set out one of the shortest periods in history for this investigation—a virtual rocket docket for impeachment. House leaders are suggesting that they will move from notice of an alleged impeachable act at the beginning of September and adopt articles of impeachment based on controversy roughly 14 weeks later.

On this logic, the House could give a president a week to produce his entire staff for testimony and then impeach him when he seeks review by a federal judge.

With such review, the courts stand with Congress on the issue of disclosure and ultimately obstruction in congressional investigations. Moreover, such cases can be expedited in the courts. In the Nixon litigation, courts moved those cases quickly to the Supreme Court. In contrast, the House leaderships have allowed two months to slip away without using its subpoena authority to secure the testimony of critical witnesses. The decision to adopt an abbreviated schedule for the investigation and not to seek to compel such testimony is a strategic choice of the House leadership. It is not the grounds for an impeachment. If the House moves forward with this impeachment basis, it would be repeating the very same abusive tactics used against President Andrew Johnson.

The obstruction allegation is also undermined by the fact that many officials opted to testify, despite the orders from the President that they should decline. These include core witnesses in the impeachment hearings, like National Security Council Director of European Affairs Alexander Vindman, Ambassador William Taylor, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker, Under Secretary of State David Hale, Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy, and Foreign Service Officer David Holmes. All remain in federal service in good standing. Thus, the President has sought judicial review without taking disciplinary actions against those who defied his instruction not to testify.

C. Extortion.

As noted earlier, extortion and bribery cases share a common law lineage. Under laws like the Hobbs Act, prosecutors can allege different forms of extortion. The classic form of extortion is coercive extortion to secure property “by violence, force, or fear.” Even if one were to claim the loss of military aid could instill fear in a country, that is obviously not a case of coercive extortion as that crime has previously been defined. Instead, it would presumably be alleged as extortion “under color of official right.”

Clearly, both forms of extortion have a coercive element, but the suggestion is that Trump was “trying to extort” the Ukrainians by withholding aid until they agreed to open investigations. The problem is that this allegation is no closer to the actual crime of extortion than it is to its close cousin bribery. The Hobbs Act defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear or under color of official right.” The use of anything “of value” today would be instantly rejected. Extortion cases involve tangible property, not possible political advantage.

In this case, Trump asked for cooperation with the Justice Department in its investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation on the 2016 election. As noted before, that would make a poor basis for any criminal or impeachment theory. The Biden investigation may have tangible political benefits, but it is not a form of property. Indeed, Trump did not know when such an investigation would be completed or what it might find. Thus, the request was for an investigation that might not even benefit Trump.

D. Campaign Finance Violation

Some individuals have claimed that the request for investigations also constitutes a felony violation of the election finance laws. Given the clear language of that law and the controlling case law, there are no good-faith grounds for such an argument. To put it simply, this dog won’t hunt as either a criminal or impeachment matter. U.S.C. section30121 of Title 52 states: “It shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly,to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a federal, state, or local election.”

However, the Justice Department already reviewed the call and correctly concluded it was not a federal election violation.

This determination was made by the prosecutors who make the decisions on whether to bring such cases. The Justice Department concluded that the call did not involve a request for a “thing of value”under the federal law. Congress would be alleging a crime that has been declared not to be a crime by career prosecutors. Such a decision would highlight the danger of claiming criminal acts, while insisting that impeachment does not require actual crimes.

There is also the towering problem of using federal campaign laws to regulate communications between the heads of state. Any conversation between heads of state are inherently political. Every American president facing reelection schedules foreign trips and actions to advance their political standing. Indeed, such trips and signing ceremonies are often discussed as transparently political decisions by incumbents. Under the logic of this theory, any request that could benefit a president is suddenly an unlawful campaign finance violation valued arbitrarily at $25,000 or more. Such a charge would have no chance of surviving a threshold of motion to dismiss.

E. Abuse of Power

The Ukraine controversy was originally characterized not as one of these forced criminal allegations, but as a simple abuse of power. As I stated from the outset of this controversy, a president can be impeached for abuses of power. In Federalist #65,Alexander Hamilton referred to impeachable offenses as “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

The problem is that we have never impeached a president solely or even largely on the basis of a non-criminal abuse of power allegation. There is good reason for that unbroken record. Abuses of power tend to be even less defined and more debatable as a basis for impeachment than some of the crimes already mentioned. Again, while a crime is not required to impeach, clarity is necessary. In this case, there needs to be clear and unequivocal proof of a quid pro quo. That is why I have been critical of how this impeachment has unfolded. I am particularly concerned about the abbreviated schedule and thin record that will be submitted to the full house. Unlike the other dubious criminal allegations, the problem with the abuse of power allegation is its lack of foundation. As I have previously discussed, there remain core witnesses and documents that have not been sought through the courts. The failure to seek this foundation seems to stem from an arbitrary deadline at the end of December. Meeting that deadline appears more important than building a viable case for impeachment. Two months have been wasted that should have been put toward litigating access to this missing evidence.

The choice remains with the House. It must decide if it wants a real or recreational impeachment. 

Moreover, presidents often discuss political issues with their counterparts and make comments that are troubling or inappropriate. However,contemptible is not synonymous with impeachable. Impeachment is not a vehicle to monitor presidential communications for such transgressions. That is why making the case of a quid pro quo is so important – a case made on proof, not presumptions. While critics have insisted that there is no alternative explanation, it is willful blindness to ignore the obvious defense. Trump can argue that he believed the Obama Administration failed to investigate a corrupt contract between Burisma and Hunter Biden. He publicly called for the investigation into the Ukraine matters. Requesting an investigation is not illegal any more than a leader asking for actions from their counterparts during election years.

It is certainly true that both criminal and impeachment cases can be based on circumstantial evidence, but that is less common when direct evidence is available but unsecured in the investigation. Proceeding to a vote on this incomplete record is a dangerous precedent to set for this country. Removing a sitting President is not supposed to be easy or fast. It is meant to be thorough and complete. This is neither.

F.The Censure Option

Finally, there is one recurring option that was also raised during the Clinton impeachment: censure. I have been a long critic of censure as a part of impeachment inquiries and I will not attempt to hide my disdain for this option. It is not a creature of impeachment and indeed is often used by members as an impeachment-lite alternative for those who do not want the full constitutional caloric load of an actual impeachment. Censure has no constitutional foundation or significance. Noting the use of censure in a couple of prior cases does not make it precedent any more than Senator Arlen Specter’s invocation of the Scottish “Not Proven” in the Clinton trial means that we now have a third option in Senate voting. If the question is whether Congress can pass a resolution with censure in its title, the answer is clearly yes. However, having half of Congress express their condemnation for this president with the other half opposing such a condemnation will hardly be news to most voters. I am agnostic about such extra-constitutional options except to caution that members should be honest and not call such resolutions part of the impeachment process.


Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks. I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . .and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad. We are all mad and where has it taken us?

Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?

That is why this is wrong. It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense. It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for an impeachment, but this process concerns the constitutional right to hold office in this term,not the next.

No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached. For two years, members of this Committee have declared that criminal and impeachable acts were established for everything from treason to conspiracy to obstruction. However, no action was taken to impeach. Suddenly, just a few weeks ago, the House announced it would begin an impeachment inquiry and push for a final vote in just a matter of weeks. To do so, the House Intelligence Committee declared that it would not subpoena a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo. Instead, it will proceed on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position. The only three direct conversations with President Trump do not contain a statement of a quid pro quo and two expressly deny such a pre-condition. The House has offered compelling arguments why those two calls can be discounted by the fact that President Trump had knowledge of the underlying whistleblower complaint.

However, this does not change the fact that it is moving forward based on conjecture, assuming what the evidence would show if there existed the time or inclination to establish it. 

This is not a case of the unknowable. It is a case of the peripheral. The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information. To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment. Principle often takes us to a place where we would prefer not to be. That was the place the “Republican Recusants” found themselves in 1868 when sitting in judgment of a president they loathed and despised. However, they took an oath not to Andrew Johnson, but to the Constitution. One of the greatest among them, Lyman Trumbull (R-Ill.) explained his fateful decision to vote against Johnson’s impeachment charges even at the cost of his own career: “Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes … no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate …I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection,till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me…”

Trumbull acted in the same type of age of rage that we have today. He knew that raising a question about the underlying crime or the supporting evidence would instantly be condemned as approving of the underlying conduct of a president. In an age of rage, there seems to be no room for nuance or reservation. Yet, that is what the Constitution expects of us. Expects of you. For generations, the seven Republicans who defected to save President Johnson from removal have been heralded as profiles of courage. In recalling the moment he was called to vote, Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas said he “almost literally looked downinto my open grave.” He jumped because the price was too great not to.

Such moments are easy to celebrate from a distance of time and circumstance. However, that is precisely the moment in which you now find yourself. “When the excitement of the hour [has] subsided” and “calmer times” prevail, I do not believe that this impeachment will be viewed as bringing credit upon this body. It is possible that a case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record. To return to Wordsworth, the Constitution is not a call to arms for the “Happy Warriors.” The Constitution calls for circumspection, not celebration, at the prospect of the removal of an American president. It is easy to allow one’s “judgment [to be] affected by your moral approval of the lines” in an impeachment narrative. But your oath demands more, even personal and political sacrifice, in deciding whether to impeach a president for only the third time in the history of this Republic.

In this age of rage, many are appealing for us to simply put the law aside and “just do it” like this is some impulse-buy Nike sneaker. You can certainly do that. You can declare the definitions of crimes alleged are immaterial and this is an exercise of politics, not law. However, the legal definitions and standards that I have addressed in my testimony are the very thing dividing rage from reason. . .Both sides in this controversy have demonized the other to justify any measure in defense. Perhaps that is the saddest part of all of this. We have forgotten the common article of faith that binds each of us to each other in our Constitution. However, before we cut down the trees so carefully planted by the Framers, I hope you consider what you will do when the wind blows again . . . perhaps for a Democratic president. Where will you stand then “the laws all being flat?”

Thank you again for the honor of testifying before you today. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Postscript: Turley’s balanced and reasonable advice has also been met with condemnation and distortion. He responds with an article at The Hill Democrats offering passion over proof in Trump impeachment. Excerpt.

In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense “rancor and rage” and “stifling intolerance” that blinds people to opposing views. My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record.

In my testimony Wednesday, I stated repeatedly, as I did 21 years ago, that a president can be impeached for noncriminal acts, including abuse of power. I made that point no fewer that a dozen times in analyzing the case against Trump and, from the first day of the Ukraine scandal, I have made that argument both on air and in print. Yet various news publications still excitedly reported that, in an opinion piece I wrote for the Washington Post five years ago, I said, “While there is a high bar for what constitutes grounds for impeachment, an offense does not have to be indictable,” and it could include “serious misconduct or a violation of public trust.”

That is precisely what I have said regarding Trump. You just need to prove abuse of power. My objection is not that you cannot impeach Trump for abuse of power but that this record is comparably thin compared to past impeachments and contains conflicts, contradictions, and gaps including various witnesses not subpoenaed. I suggested that Democrats drop the arbitrary schedule of a vote by the end of December and complete their case and this record before voting on any articles of impeachment. In my view, they have not proven abuse of power in this incomplete record.

As I said 21 years ago, a president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. These “agitated passions” will not be a substitute for proof in an impeachment. We currently have too much of the former and too little of the latter.

Finding Lost Continents, Like Zealandia

What Are Lost Continents, and Why Are We Discovering So Many? Is published at The Conversation by By Simon Williams, Joanne Whittaker & Maria Seton.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

For most people, continents are Earth’s seven main large landmasses.

But geoscientists have a different take on this. They look at the type of rock a feature is made of, rather than how much of its surface is above sea level.

In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the discovery of lost continents. Most of these have been plateaus or mountains made of continental crust hidden from our view, below sea level.

One example is Zealandia, the world’s eighth continent that extends underwater from New Zealand.
Several smaller lost continents, called microcontinents, have also recently been discovered submerged in the eastern and western Indian Ocean.

But why, with so much geographical knowledge at our fingertips, are we still discovering lost continents in the 21st century?

Down to the details
There are many mountains and plateaus below sea level scattered across the oceans, and these have been mapped from space. They are the lighter blue areas you can see on Google Maps.

However, not all submerged features qualify as lost continents. Most are made of materials quite distinct from what we traditionally think of as continental rock, and are instead formed by massive outpourings of magma.

A good example is Iceland which, despite being roughly the size of New Zealand’s North Island, is not considered continental in geological terms. It’s made up mainly of volcanic rocks deposited over the past 18 million years, meaning it’s relatively young in geological terms.

The only foolproof way to tell the difference between massive submarine volcanoes and lost continents is to collect rock samples from the deep ocean.

Finding the right samples is challenging, to say the least. Much of the seafloor is covered in soft, gloopy sediment that obscures the solid rock beneath.

We use a sophisticated mapping system to search for steep slopes on the seafloor, that are more likely to be free of sediment. We then send a metal rock-collecting bucket to grab samples.

The more we explore and sample the depths of the oceans, the more likely we’ll be to discover more lost continents.

The ultimate lost continent
Perhaps the best known example of a lost continent is Zealandia. While the geology of New Zealand and New Caledonia have been known for some time, it’s only recently their common heritage as part of a much larger continent (which is 95% underwater) has been accepted.

This acceptance has been the culmination of years of painstaking research, and exploration of the geology of deep oceans through sample collection and geophysical surveys.

New discoveries continue to be made.

During a 2011 expedition, we discovered two lost continental fragments more than 1,000km west of Perth.

The granite lying in the middle of the deep ocean there looked similar to what you would find around Cape Leeuwin, in Western Australia.

Other lost continents
However, not all lost continents are found hidden beneath the oceans.

Some existed only in the geological past, millions to billions of years ago, and later collided with other continents as a result of plate tectonic motions.

Folded marine sediments on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula north of Auckland, New Zealand, reflecting the formation of a convergent plate boundary in northern New Zealand in the beginning of the Miocene Period, around 23 million years ago. Adriana Dutkiewicz, Author provided

Their only modern-day remnants are small slivers of rock, usually squished up in mountain chains such as the Himalayas. One example is Greater Adria, an ancient continent now embedded in the mountain ranges across Europe.

Due to the perpetual motion of tectonic plates, it’s the fate of all continents to ultimately reconnect with another, and form a supercontinent.

But the fascinating life and death cycle of continents is the topic of another story.


Update: Global Warming is a matter of opinion in Canada

Canada Survey Mostly Human

The map above shows the results of a survey in 2015 to measure the distribution of public opinion regarding global warming.  A previous post is reprinted below explaining the methods.  An additional post below discusses the media ruckus due to Elections Canada reminding environmental activists that climate advocacy during the recent Parlimentary campaign could be partisan politicking. This post is about a fresh PR campaign to proclaim that Canadians are on board with alarmist dogma. There is not new data, only a revised spinning of the previous survey results.

Global News published today this sneaky report: New map shows which parts of Canada lag on believing in climate change. The purpose is to cast climate change unbelievers as a minority, when in fact they are the majority.  Excerpts with my bolds

While most Canadians accept climate science, those in Alberta — and to some extent Saskatchewan — are less likely to believe that the planet is warming due to human activity.

That’s according to public opinion research published by a group of scholars that sheds new light on Canadians’ attitudes toward climate change — and the measures they support to tackle it.

[This is actually a recycling of previous surveys with a trick to distort the actual public opinion. The website utility to search for survey results excludes the result unacceptable to alarmists.]

The sleight of hand lies in presenting only this image regarding warming and human responsibility for it.

With warmists, you have always to watch the pea under the shell.  In this case they are conflating believers in man-made warming with people who are unsure or who don’t really know.  That is what they are hiding in the “partly” category.  In order to get the desired result, the trick is to add into “partly” people who waffled on the question: “Was the warming mostly human or mostly natural?”

At the national level, 79% of Canadians believe warming is happening but only 44% think it is caused mostly by human activities.

So the 79% who said there’s solid evidence of warming the last 40 years got a followup question: mostly caused by human activity or mostly natural? Slightly more than half said mostly human, thus a result of 44% believing both that it is warming and that humans are mostly to blame.

Now some people were unwilling to decide between mostly human and mostly natural, and volunteered that it was a combination. This fraction of respondents was recorded as partially human caused, and they added 17% to bring the number up to 61%. The remaining 39% combines people who don’t accept evidence on warming and those who think warming is mostly natural or are uncertain about both issues.

From having done opinion surveys in the past, I suspect that many who were uncertain between human or natural causes didn’t want to say “don’t know”, and instead said it was a “combination”. Thus the group counted as “partially human-caused” is a soft number.

My suspicions are reinforced by a question that was asked and not included in this report: “How much do you feel you know about global warming?” Typically about 25% say they know a lot, 60% say they know a little, and the rest less than a little. As we know from other researchers more climate knowledge increases skepticism for many, so it is likely the soft number includes many who feel they really don’t know.


This process does determine a survey result about the size of the population who believes warming is happening and mostly caused by humans.  Everything else is subject to interpretation, including how much is due to land use, urbanization or fossil fuel emissions.  The solid finding is displayed in the diagram at the top of this page.  The new spin is to distribute the 17% uncertain responses across the provinces, thereby hiding from public view the actual % of true believers being in the minority.

Previous Post on the Election Issue.  From the Star:

Ghislain Desjardins, a spokesman for Elections Canada, confirmed in an interview with me on Monday that yes, environmental groups were warned in a recent webinar that what they see as a fact — climate change — could become seen as a matter of mere belief in the heat of an election campaign. That’s a real possibility, since Bernier has used social media to muse along those lines in the past.

Elections Canada stresses that no one is gagging the environmentalists from stating the facts on climate change before or during the campaign. But if the existence of climate change becomes an election issue, some charities will have to be very careful about what they say in any advertising. Otherwise, they may be forced to register as “third parties” in the campaign, which could put their charitable status at risk.

Beliefs, however, aren’t the same as facts. That distinction is going to be important, if not crucial in this fall’s campaign — on climate change, but also on potentially hot topics such as immigration or refugee policy.

Thanks to Elections Canada and a warning it recently delivered to environmental activists, we’re seeing just how shaky the ground may get between facts and beliefs when the official campaign gets under way in a few weeks.

As the map above shows, it is a minority in most of Canada thinking that the earth is warming due mostly to human activity.  Below is a post explaining how this finding was obtained.

Update August 20, 2019

See also Lorrie Goldstein writing in Toronto Sun For climate alarmists ‘free speech’ exists only for them
Ironically, in 2015 the environmental charity, Ecojustice, urged Canada’s Competition Bureau, on behalf of six “prominent” Canadians, including former Ontario NDP leader and UN ambassador Stephen Lewis, to investigate Friends of Science, the International Climate Science Coalition and the Heartland Institute for climate denial.

A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 near Paris. A new study asked 5,000 Canadians their opinions on the cause of climate change. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

As a Canadian living near Montreal, I was of course curious about this survey:
The distribution of climate change public opinion in Canada
Mildenberger et al. 2015 (here)

CBC created some controversy by switching headlines on its report of the findings.
First the title was:
Climate change: Majority of Canadians don’t believe it’s caused by humans
Then it changed to:
Canadians divided over human role in climate change, study suggests

I’m wondering what really was learned from this survey.

What Was Asked and Answered

With any survey, it is important to look at the actual questions asked and answered. While we do not have access to specific responses, the script for the telephone interviews is available. The first two questions asked about global warming (not climate change).

Survey Questionnaire

1. “From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past four decades?”
Don’t Know (volunteered)

2. [If yes, solid evidence] “Is the earth getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels or mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment?”

Human Activity
Natural Patterns
Combination (volunteered)
Not sure / Refused (volunteered)

The finding reported in the Study:

Our results reveal, for the first time, the enormous diversity of Canadian climate and energy opinions at the local level.

At the national level, 79% of Canadians believe climate change is happening but only 44% think climate change is caused mostly by human activities.

So the 79% who said there’s solid evidence of warming the last 40 years got a followup question: mostly caused by human activity or mostly natural? Slightly more than half said mostly human, thus a result of 44% believing both that it is warming and that humans are mostly to blame.

Now some people were unwilling to decide between mostly human and mostly natural, and volunteered that it was a combination. This fraction of respondents was recorded as partially human caused, and they added 17% to bring the number up to 61%. The remaining 39% combines people who don’t accept evidence on warming and those who think warming is mostly natural or are uncertain about both issues.

From having done opinion surveys in the past, I suspect that many who were uncertain between human or natural causes didn’t want to say “don’t know”, and instead said it was a “combination”. Thus the group counted as “partially human-caused” is a soft number.

My suspicions are reinforced by a question that was asked and not included in this report: “How much do you feel you know about global warming?” Typically about 25% say they know a lot, 60% say they know a little, and the rest less than a little. As we know from other researchers more climate knowledge increases skepticism for many, so it is likely the soft number includes many who feel they really don’t know.

This process does determine a survey result about the size of the population who believes warming is happening and mostly caused by humans.  Everything else is subject to interpretation, including how much is due to land use, urbanization or fossil fuel emissions.  The solid finding is displayed in the diagram below:

Canada Survey Mostly HumanYes, the map shows I am living in a hotbed of global warming believers around Montreal; well, it is 55%, as high as it gets in Canada.

Responses on Carbon Pricing
Now consider the script for the last two questions on policy options

3. “There is a proposed system called cap and trade where the government issues permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. If a company exceeds their limit, they will have to buy more permits. If they don’t use all of their permits, they will be able to sell or trade them to others who exceed their cap. The idea is that companies will find ways to put out less greenhouse gases because that would be cheaper than buying permits.

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this type of system for your province?”

Strongly support
Somewhat support
Somewhat oppose
Strongly oppose
Not sure / Refused (volunteered)

4. “Another way to lower greenhouse gas emissions is to increase taxes on carbon based fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline and natural gas. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this type of system?”

Strongly support
Somewhat support
Somewhat oppose
Strongly oppose
Not sure / Refused (volunteered)

And the finding is (from the report):
Despite this variation in core beliefs about climate change, we find widespread public support for climate policies. Support is greatest and most consistent for emissions trading. . . The overall pattern is clear: there is majority support for emissions trading in every Canadian district.

We find larger variation in support for a carbon tax across the country. At the national level, support for carbon taxation at 49% is just below a majority, with opposition at 44%.

Now here is the underlying motivation for the survey: to determine the level of support in the Canadian population for government action to increase the price of carbon-based energy. Not surprisingly, people who mostly know only a little about this like the sound of companies footing the bill for policies, more than the government raising my taxes. With a little more knowledge they will understand that cap and trade increases the cost of energy within all of the products and services they use, and therefore raises the price of pretty much everything. It is a hidden tax completely without accountability.

I described in some detail how this is already at work in Quebec by virtue of the province joining California’s carbon market:


No one should be surprised that those conducting this survey think they know the correct answers and want the population to agree with them. The sponsors include numerous organizations advocating for carbon pricing:

Thanks to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Société et Culture, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Energy Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment for financial support. Funding for individual survey waves was provided by the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie, the Public Policy Forum, Sustainable Prosperity, Canada 2020, l’Institut de l’énergie Trottier and la Chaire d’études politiques et économiques américaines.

And as we have seen with virtually all marketing-type surveys, opinion-makers know that conducting surveys is itself an intervention to raise awareness and concern about the issue.


Partiicipants were asked in 2015: “From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past four decades?”


Looks to me that the evidence for warming in the first 20 years was solid, but the evidence since 1995 is not.