“Taking a charge”(Electric car myths)

Electric vehicle detractors make a number of claims which have a grain of truth and others which lack even this single morsel.

For example, they have pointed out that there is not enough infrastructure to support an explosion in electrical vehicle usage. It is true that if today, magically, the number of such means of conveyance tripled, there would be an insufficient support network. However, when the internal combustion engine was a novelty, there were no auto mechanics, gasoline stations, or AAA. The market adapted and evolved, as would be the case if the number of electric vehicles mushroomed.

The disdain for EVs is comparable to that for veganism. The mythological protestor chiming in with “Meat is Murder” on a beef page is nowhere to be seen. Yet when one posts an animal-free recipe, the majority of replies feature anger, derision, and revulsion. In the same vein, a post about a traditional vehicle will likely merit no negative comments or at least none that condemns the industry in totality. By sharp contrast, information about EVs is met with hostility, mocking, and perhaps even a declaration that they are a plot to conquer and control the population.

One of the least venomous arguments is that they are too expensive. And while EVs do cost more on average than their gasoline counterparts, the price has been steadily declining as they become more common. More importantly, as Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning points out, there is more than retail price at play. When one considers resale, maintenance, fuel costs, and depreciation, EVs come out ahead. Imagine 10 years of no trips to the gas pump and no oil changes, all while having fewer components that can break down, and one can see the long-term benefit.

Next, let’s tackle the notion that charging can take untold hours. Compared to the two minutes it takes to complete a gasoline refueling, this seems like a lot of wasted time. But Dunning noted that most users only charge as much they need to get to their next destination so most don’t spend three hours waiting around for the charge to complete. Dunning reported that he spent a month on an 8,000-mile drive (aided by Tesla’s autopilot), where he averaged about 10 minutes per recharge. While that’s a little longer than one spends pumping gasoline, if you throw in a restroom break and a Snickers purchase that are common on cross-country journeys, it’s the same amount of time. Moreover, an EV can be powered at home, which is where about 75 percent of recharging takes place. There is no gasoline refueling equivalent in most people’s driveway.

Another expense-related criticism is that the batteries need frequent replacement at $40,000 a pop. This is a total myth. Dunning wrote, “EV batteries last just as long as, and are far more reliable than, car engines. You’re no more likely to need to replace an EV battery than you are your V8. And even if you did, federal law in the United States requires EV batteries to be warrantied for eight years or 100,000 miles.”

Moving onto the more fear-based complaints, there is the notion that an EV driver is in a bad way if the battery dies. This is sometimes extrapolated to a dystopian scene where all cars are electric and the duped drivers all remain stuck in a blizzard or backed up traffic, resulting in all the cars transforming into a makeshift coffin. While being stranded is undesirable, poor decision making by a single EV driver is no more a condemnation of the entire concept than a motorist running out of gas is an indictment of the entire oil industry. Dunning wrote that he once was unable to recharge because the power in town went out. Stupid him, right? Well, only if one applies the same distinction to the hundreds of traditional vehicle drivers who were also unable to refuel due to the electrical outage. As to everyone being stuck to die together, this is based partly on the myth that the batteries don’t hold a charge for very long. This is untrue, and would be especially so if the car were idling.

Detractors raise concerns about environmental and humanitarian disasters – isolated concerns from a segment not usually worried about such things. Those who consider the damage that climate change does to Earth and its inhabitants to be mythological now fret over the harm caused by lithium mining. However, we need to do more than to appeal to hypocrisy. We need to look at whether this is a valid worry.

Dunning writes, “Lithium…is more an issue of supply and demand and cost. It creates ugly open-pit mines but is not particularly dirty or destructive. Most lithium mining is in Australia, which complies very well with environmental regulations.”

But that still leaves cobalt, which traditionally has had the worst humanitarian impact. Much of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and mining there has often been done in deplorable conditions, sometimes by children.

This is of utmost concern, but Dunning noted that international pressure and increasing demand has tempered the problem. “The picture has changed dramatically,” he wrote. “Demand has surged to the point where child laborers can no longer meet it. About half of Congolese cobalt mines are owned by well-financed Chinese companies, and the vast majority of Congolese cobalt is now produced in mechanized open-pit mines with heavy equipment and not a child laborer in sight.”

This is not to suggest all is well. According to Dunning, there are still 40,000 Congolese children, and it is therefore necessary is to continue to monitor the companies producing cobalt and to snuff out their use of child labor.

As to EVs impact on planet health, when considering the entire production and use cycle, the average electric car generates half as much greenhouse gas as the average internal combustion vehicle.

Finally, there is the myth that the grid is insufficient to support a significant uptick in EVs. In truth, EVs make a modest impact on the grid. An entire electric fleet would add about 10 percent to overall demand. And since any increase would be gradual, proper planning and management could alleviate any trouble.

“Min at Work” (Australian Outback lights)

It’s hard to imagine a more excellent location than an Australian Outback ghost town. So it is fitting that one such locale, Min Min, is infrequently home to a mystery known as the Min Min Light. It has been sighted off and on (mostly off) for decades, though stories about similar lights are featured in Aboriginal tales that predate those accounts.

A composite report of the light mostly describes a white or color-changing fuzzy disc hovering just above the horizon. The greatest variation in descriptors relates to its luminosity, as it is alternately called dim, bright, or in between.

The first printed account of the phenomenon came from rancher Henry Lamond in 1937. He wrote that he initially that it was an approaching car, but that “it remained in one bulbous ball instead of dividing into two headlights, which it should have done as it came closer.” Additionally, the light, size, and location were inconsistent with a traveling vehicle.

Author Mark Moravec examined some possible explanations for the mystery in his book investigating the subject. Some were pseudoscientific, such as ghosts or alien spacecraft. Others were grounded in known entities, such as natural phenomena like phosphorescence, luminescent insects, light reflection, or ball lighting.

With regard to the bioluminescence hypothesis, scientist Jack Pettigrew argued that the lights may be swarming insects that were contaminated by agents in fungi. Or they might be an owl with a bioluminescence source. However, no bug or bird has been confirmed to have the characteristics, nor is any known bioluminescent source as bright as the Min Min. Similarly, marsh gas has been floated as an answer, but the lights sometimes appear far from any marsh.

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning ruminated on Piezoelectric effects perhaps being responsible. This effect occurs in some crystals that change shape upon receipt of an electrical current. Dunning notes the opposite is also true, that applying mechanical force to the crystal likewise produces an electrical current. But he also noted there are some challenges with this hypothesis. The effect produces weak electrical voltage but not light. Also, the voltage is measurable only on the crystal and is never projected into the air.

We now move to a possible explanation involving optical science. Pettigrew wondered if the Min Min Light were a manifestation of a Fata Morgana. This refers to mirages caused by a wide temperature difference between air layers, and one in which an object appears higher than its actual position. The phenomenon is the result of the atmosphere’s thermal inversion layers.

And indeed, the Min Min Light often appears in a desert with temperature inversions in the atmosphere. The hollows and ravines trap warm air, and on a cool night at the end of a warm day, the situation is ripe for just such a mirage. With these conditions in place, Pettigrew and his cohorts experimented by parking a car with its headlights on, then traveling six miles in another vehicle, past intervening high ground and out of the line of sight. Upon arriving at their destination, they saw that the headlights resembled past descriptions of the Min Min Light.

There was a second discovery that supported this hypothesis. The morning after their experiment, the team took photos of faraway mountains that displayed the aforementioned distortion. The distortion gradually faded as the atmospheric conditions changed. This lends credence to the idea that a refraction of car headlights over the horizon were reflected and being seen to move in a manner consistent with the Min Min Light.

The answer isn’t as exciting or spooky as some would have hoped, but it is a plausible explanation supported by evidence and research.

“No smoking” (Ancient Egyptian tobacco)

There is no evidence of ancient Egyptians having made it to North America, nor any evidence of tobacco in the land and time of the pharaohs. But in 1997, Discovery aired a program which featured German toxicologist Svetlana Balabanova, who had discovered nicotine in an Egyptian mummy. This was touted as proof that there had been trade between Egypt and the Americas thousands of years before historians and archeologists thought those cultures had collided.

Further, a 1978 letter in the Anthropological Journal of Canada claimed mummies sometimes contained tobacco residue and other writings told of found tobacco beetles making their way to the remains of Rameses II. All this seemed to point, rather conclusively, to the idea that Egyptians had access to tobacco.

In her research, Balabanova tested the hair of an obscure priestess named Henut Taui and discovered high nicotine levels in her body, and subsequently co-authored a brief article published in a German scientific publication.

However, Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning writes, “The paper’s rejection by the scientific community was both immediate and nearly universal.” Balabanova had suggested perhaps mourners had burned tobacco to fumigate insects and the mummy had therefore received high doses of nicotine. However, Dunning notes that pharaohs would almost certainly have had no role in the dirtiest part of fumigation efforts, especially with the frequency that would be required for their corpses to be heavily laden with it. Additionally, there was better reason for tobacco’s presence, and for that we look to the work of archaeologist Paul Buckland and Eva Panagiotakopulu, an etymological expert.

Dunning noted that only well into the 20th Century did archaeology place a premium on preservation, having been more interested until that time with exploitation and financial gain. He writes, “Conservation of specimens was rudimentary at best. Records were often nonexistent, mummies and artifacts moved around, each one inviting potential contamination. During all of those moves, many of the people who worked on Rameses II or were in his vicinity smoked like chimneys.”

Moreover, mummies often suffered from insect damage or infestations, and so were often treated with insecticide in the form of powdered tobacco. Since the mummy Balabanova focused on was laden with nicotine, then we can safely conclude it had been treated in this common way. There is no need to insist that the only possible explanation is that ancient Egyptians had trade contact with the New World.

“Emission magician” (Climate change denial)

Conspiracy theories sometimes do exist, just usually not in the way their opponents envision. Consider how executives in the fossil fuel industry have banded together with public relations firms to deny anthropogenic climate change.

Dr. Steven Novella cited a Harvard study which concluded that ExxonMobil “misled the public about basic climate science and its implications. It did so by contributing quietly to climate science, and loudly to promoting doubt about that science.”

Also, the BBC reported on a trio public relations specialists- Don Rheem, Terry Yosie, and Bruce Harrison – who were hired to sow doubt on climate science. They worked for the Global Climate Coalition, an organization intended to sound environmentally friendly and dedicated to solutions, when it was anything but. They were, in fact, comprised of oil, coal, automotive, utilities, steel, and rail executives. All of these industries release significant greenhouse gas. The group rose to prominence after the 1992 presidential election, which saw an oil industry buddy was replaced by an environmentally-conscious one.

Thus began the climate hoax hoax. Harrison employed the methods and strategies he had while resisting auto industry regulations and questioning the dangers of tobacco. His tactics included authoring a string of editorials, background pieces for journalists, and advertising, all of which cast doubt on the consensus of climate scientists.

The tactic worked, as few journalists know much about the hellaciously complex topic. Further, the scientists handpicked for this ruse seemed to present knowledge and balance. I was a print journalist at this time and certainly I would have quoted both sides and lacked the expertise to ask serious questions or throw doubt on any claims.

As to the climate scientists who knew better, what they had in scientific expertise they lacked in media skills and knowledge of how to fend off well-funded disinformation campaigns.

Novella wrote, “Journalists need to learn how to report science in general, controversial science in particular, and how not to become the lap dogs of industry propaganda.” Meanwhile, he continued, those they are reporting on – scientists and professors – should “develop their knowledge and skills in dealing with the public understand of science and other complex topics, and to make it a much higher academic priority.”

Novella and others such as Kevin Folta, Neil Tyson, and Brian Dunning, serve as a mix of skeptics/scientists and journalists, so their contribution help, but more headway is still needed in making more journalists science-literate and more scientists media savvy.

“Rounding up the numbers” (Glysophate fears)

Glyphosate, sold under the brand name Roundup, has been attacked since 2015 when the International Association for Research on Cancer concluded that the weed killer was likely carcinogenic for agricultural workers who used it regularly for years on end.

University of Florida horticulture sciences professor Kevin Folta noted that when it comes to cancer risk, glyphosate resides in the same category as eating processed meat, getting too much sun, and toiling as a barber. The same conclusion that IARC reached mentioned that glyphosate shows no signs of being dangerous in trace amounts in food.

The latest concern over the product centers on a report showing that it shows up in the urine samples of 80 percent of the population. Folta writes that this sounds alarming but a longer look reveals there’s little to worry about.

That’s because four decades of research have shown no epidemiological or/molecular evidence that glyphosate causes cancer. Also, the latest report uses terms such as “tied to cancer” and “linked to cancer,” but those are not scientific designations but rather attempts to tie together disparate items and suggest causality. In truth, they are nothing more than correlation, tenuous connections, and statistical anomalies.

As to the traces in our piss, the CDC assessment never measured how much was there, it merely noted if it was present. There is no reason to think there is any danger here. Researchers are not finding dangerous levels in urine or blood. The reason that any can be detected is that chemists have devised products efficient enough to detect 0.2 nanograms per milliliter of glyphosate in aqueous solutions like urine. That’s 200 parts per trillion. This poses no risk, since as always, toxicity is determined by amount, not substance. Further, glyphosate easily passes through the body, making it a carcinogen even less likely.

“Numb-bers” (COVID vaccine harms)

My children and I like to make an annual trek to the apple orchard each fall. Then there are those who prefer cherry picking. These types misuse numbers by design or by misinterpretation, leading to erroneous conclusions.

Let’s take the case of Dr. Peter Doshi, whom three doctors with Science Based Medicine accuse of beginning with an assumption that vaccines ineffective and harmful. He then crams in any data that seems to support this while dismissing any evidence, no matter how voluminous or persuasive, to the contrary.

His latest effort, “Serious Adverse Events of Special Interest Following mRNA Vaccination in Randomized Trials,” concluded that, “The excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest surpassed the risk reduction for COVID-19 hospitalization relative to the placebo group in both Pfizer and Moderna trials.”

The numbers he used were accurate but egregiously misused. It is similar the possibly Apocryphal story about Pravda reporting that the US and USSR had a two-car auto race won by the Americans – by printing that the Soviets had come in second and the USA next to last.

Doshi’s tactics included double- or triple-counting any harm suffered by those who received a vaccine, while not doing that for the unvaccinated. For example, a vaccinated patient who had gastroenteritis and abdominal pain counted as two adverse reactions, whereas any unvaxxed person hospitalized for COVID counted as one, regardless of how many symptoms they displayed, or how serious the impact was.

An even bigger deficiency was Doshi failing to account for long-term results. How quickly a virus spreads can impact how long it takes a vaccine’s benefits to be seen. By contrast, nearly all vaccine harms occur right after receiving the shot. This means almost all adverse reactions will be seen in a few days, whereas immunity through vaccination cannot be determined for months.

So to accurately ascertain the benefits, a research trial would need to run the course of an entire pandemic. As more were exposed to the virus, the vaccine’s benefits relative to placebo would increase. Had the trials lasted two years, there would be many more cases of severe COVID, especially among the unvaccinated. But these trials were ended well short of a year for ethical reasons.

And there are still more flaws in Doshi’s conclusions. In the two trials he cited, there were 74,000 participants, with 36,930 of them receiving a vaccine and only 366 having COVID. Therefore, the vaccine had many more opportunities than the virus to cause adverse reactions.

Also noteworthy, nearly all of those harmed by the virus received a placebo. Like all subsequent studies, the trials revealed that COVID was dangerous and the vaccine effective at mitigating that. There were 40 cases of severe COVID, all but one in the placebo group. This is substantial because many of those 74,000 participants have since contracted COVID. Once this protection was known, it would have been unethical to continue the trials and allow people to remain unvaccinated.

So when Doshi claims that “results show an excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest greater than the reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations in both Pfizer and Moderna trials”, he doesn’t acknowledge these studies were terminated because the hospitalizations were rising. The trials were designed to stop once a small number of people got COVID, but Doshi deceptively uses numbers to deduce that COVID was no big deal. But the trials didn’t prove COVID wasn’t a threat. Rather they ended so rapidly precisely because COVID was a threat.

Doshi neglected to reference a single trial showing the vaccine’s benefits in his paper even though evidence is overwhelming that COVID vaccines are safe and effective. Only someone who starts with the conclusion that vaccines are ineffective and picks the cherries he likes would arrive at such a conclusion.

“Doctor and the Clerics” (Trans treatment hysteria)

There are some who see 1984 as less a cautionary tale and more an instruction manual. Witness Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this year siccing states on the parents of transgender minors. Meanwhile, a glut of bills, some of which have passed, banned gender-affirming care for trans boys and girls, with 10 years in prison the punishment for prescribing medication.

Proponents of such laws claim that this care is experimental, which they by extension imply harmful. Yet Science Based Medicine cited a systematic literature review of 52 studies, which show improvement in patients following gender-affirming medical intervention. By contrast, those who had not socially transitioned normally experienced depression and anxiety.

As to the notion that this is new, trans individual have taken cross-sex hormones since for more than a century and GnRHa first treated gender dysphoria in 1988. These are safe treatments, for as the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guidelines states, “Pubertal suppression is fully reversible, enabling full pubertal development in the natal gender, after cessation of treatment, if appropriate.”

Experimental treatments are those that serve as an intervention or regimen and have shown curative promise but which are still being evaluated for efficiency and safety. This does not apply to trans care, such as puberty blockers. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has endorsed gender assignment surgery and medical therapy as being effective and even life-saving. These drugs inhibit puberty in order to enable the brain time to mature and to allow for exploration of gender identity. They are not prescribed for prepubescent children and are only given at the onset of secondary sex changes.

There is a wide gulf between medical treatments following careful consultation and foisting it upon the masses, which detractors claim is happening in schools. Also of note, the treatments are reversible and genital surgery for gender reassignment is rarely.

Nearly 30 major professional health organizations have recognized the medical necessity of treatments for gender dysphoria and endorse such treatments. As such, doctors should make these decisions after consultation with families; politicians on a fundamental religious bent should not be the ones dictating medical care.

“Hot doggies” (Cattle deaths)

This month I traveled to my home state of Kansas to visit friends and relatives. The heat and humidity were intense enough that on a couple of days it was hot even after the sun went down. By my discomfort was mild compared to what some cattle in the southwestern portion of the state endured. Beef cattle have short lifespans and are born with a death sentence but at least they normally get to contribute to the economy and be part of the food chain. But not so for the unfortunate 2,000 cows and bulls who died as a result of a specific set of horrific conditions.

Speaking of bull, there was plenty of that being spread in the wake of this natural disaster. Without bothering to interview cattle producers, veterinarians, or meteorologists, conspiracy theorists hastily threw together memes which proclaimed the deaths to be part of an unspecified plot targeting the nation’s food supply. The creator of the one that popped up on my timeline ridiculed anyone who dared contradict these assumptions. This, coming from the throng which favors the mantra, “Question everything.” But they did no such questioning, succumbing instead to the personal incredulity fallacy and deducing there had to be a stealthy evil behind this, since cattle have previously survived extreme heat. Some claimed the method in question was poisoning, despite never specifying what type of poison, outlining how it was obtained or administered, or showing how the cattle lots were breached. No video of the supposed intrusions were offered.

Asking questions is fine if genuinely seeking an answer; it is not OK if the interrogative utterances are disingenuous, thinly-veiled accusations. And on a side note, it’s hard to miss the irony that those who mock COVID concerns since the virus has a 99 percent survival rate turn around and express alarm over .000002 percent of the nation’s cattle collapsing.

Someone creating such a meme, which came complete with the requisite face emoji, has no interest in what happened, but is instead after self-congratulation for arriving at their own truth. It makes them feel good and provides comfort to think they are exposing something, i.e., the slaughter of someone else’s cattle for an undefined benefit. This allows the persons creating the meme and those seeing it to plug the holes in with their preferred villain, be it Bill Gates, Bilderbergers, or Biden henchmen.

The truth, in this and in most cases, is much more mundane. Television station KWCH got to the truth by speaking with subject matter experts. This included Dr. Jess Shearer, a veterinarian with the Hillsboro Animal Clinic.

Shearer explained why the cattle succumbed to the heat and humidity, which are conditions they and their producers are usually able to combat. One factor was the rain which preceded the heat wave. This caused high humidity, a condition which was exacerbated by no breeze and temperatures soaring above 100 degrees. Beef industry expert Corbitt Wall told KWCH reporters that this set of circumstances caused feed lots to be much hotter than what cattle are accustomed to. In addition to these factors, most of the cattle were ready for market, and as such, weighed well over half a ton. Finally, up until the heatwave, 2022 had been cooler than usual, which meant the cattle were still shedding their winter coats.

These are reasons behind the cow-pocalypse. There was no need to fabricate a malevolent plot anymore than there would be if the cattle had perished during an unexpectedly early and brutal snowstorm.

“There’s no conspiracy,” Shearer said. “When all those things come together, that sometimes happens. Recently, we’ve seen very high temperatures throughout the day, and the temperatures at night aren’t getting very low. When the animals can’t cool off at night, the stress really catches up with them.”

KWCH also interviewed Dr. Nels Lindberg, a veterinarian who consults with Kansas feed lots. He told reporters, “Sometimes the conditions get so extreme, it doesn’t matter how hard producers prepare the environment, the operation, or the animals. This was the perfect storm. We had several days of rain, which created some high humidity in a typically very arid environment.”

I recall nighttime temperatures being over 70 that week, which is great for people, less so for beef cattle that need cooling off. “That’s when cattle are able to dissipate that thermal load and when they can’t, it just continues to build,” Lindberg said.

So going straight from unseasonably cool temperatures to unrelenting heat permitted no acclimation. Lindberg said he has seen this specific type of situation twice before, which torpedoes claims that this occurrence was unprecedented.

Another source that bothered to check facts was the aptly-named Fact Check. It spoke with Sam Capoun, spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association, who described how heat, humidity, and a lack of wind created the circumstances that caused these deaths. According to Capoun, cattle normally accumulate heat during the day, then lose it at night. This time, they were unable to shed that heat because the nights failed to cool.

Moreover, AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda reported that drought conditions began appearing in southwest Kansas in September 2021, adding that localized pockets of exceptional drought appeared seven months later. He added, ”Since then, occasional thunderstorms have helped to keep the drought from continuing to worsen, but this activity has been localized and infrequent, so drought improvement has also been isolated as well.”

That drought, combined with triple-digit temperatures, created dangerous conditions for cattle. Even four inches underground, it was 91 degrees.

Again, asking questions is fine. In fact, that’s what the media outlets referenced in this post did. But if a person’s response to these answers is to declare that cattle producers, veterinarians, meteorologists, and skeptic bloggers are conspirators in a food supply disruption plot, that person has no genuine interest in getting to what happened and has literally missed the bullseye.

“There’s no needle” (Nightclub mass panic)

For a group that professes to refuse to live in fear, the anti-mask, anti-social distancing throng seems mighty scared of a needle.

There is, however, a different circumstance for which such a fright would seemingly be justified. In Skeptical Inquirer, Benjamin Radford writes of a terror last year in the UK focusing on supposed attacks by needle-wielders in bars and nightclubs. These reports were reminiscent of a 1980s urban legend centering on gay men injecting AIDS-infected needles on random victims.

Today’s putative assaults are reported to involve a stealthy injection of young women, followed by a blackout of that night and a sharp pain in the morning. Radford outlined why this scenario was improbable.

“Needles have to be inserted with a level of care, and that’s when you’ve got the patient sitting in front of you with skin and no clothes,” he explained. “The idea these things can be randomly given through clothes in a club is just not that likely. Normally you’d have to inject several milliliters — that’s half a teaspoon full of drug — into somebody. That hurts, and people notice.” Additionally, the New York Times spoke with criminology professor Fiona Measham, who called the putative attacks “really unlikely.”

Meanwhile, journalists took a deeper look at the supposed happenings. A BBC newscast quoted professor Adam Winstock of the Global Drugs Survey, who expressed skepticism about the reports.

On another issue, Radford wrote about the unlikelihood of a sufficient amount of drugs being delivered via this method: “Any drug capable of the effects attributed to the attacks would need to be administered in large enough quantities to be effective and therefore would be detectable in subsequent blood tests. Yet in all the many dozens of reports, not a single one was confirmed by blood analysis. There was…evidence of other psychotropic drugs…which can induce the symptoms reported in the needle attacks, but no unintentionally ingested drugs were found.”

As to the pin prick sensation, professor Chris French of Goldsmiths College, wrote, “The reports of feeling a sharp pain are more likely to be due to, say, insect bites or other mundane causes than to surreptitious injection. There are equally mundane explanations for the discovery of marks on the body, such as bruising. When we have no reason to examine our bodies for evidence of anything out of the ordinary, we fail to notice everyday bumps, bruises, and grazes; when we have motivation to look, we are less likely to overlook such mundane marks.”

“Claim to flame” (Food factory fires)

This month’s moral panic centers on a supposed swarm of arsons targeting food processing plants. This, even though the National Fire Protection Association has stated that the blazes are not occurring at an unusual rate, nor do they seem to have been intentionally set.

For believers, the reasons such blazes have been roaring are that President Biden is trying to distract from his failures or that a malevolent shadowy group is disrupting the food supply. The usual target here is Bill Gates, who is the descendant of the Rothschild-Bohemian Grove-Illuminati-Free Mason line of catch-all villainy.

While it might be scary to think that the food supply is being intentionally interrupted, or at least exciting and ego-stroking to think that you are exposing it, the numbers point to far more mundane matters.

Saranac Hale Spencer of FactCheck interviewed NFPA spokeswoman Susan McKelvey, who told her that the roughly 20 fires in U.S. food processing facilities this year “is not extreme at all and does not signal anything out of the ordinary. The recent inquiries around these fires appears to be a case of people suddenly paying attention to them and being surprised about how often they do occur.”

Still, the crowd which mocks COVID concerns since the virus has a 99 percent survival rate are much more antsy about the food processing fires, which have taken place in .0005 percent of such facilities nationwide. And this microscopic number is typical of most years.

Both fires and food processing plants are more common than most people might think and if adding a bit on conspiracy theory-think to the equation, one can end up concluding that something sinister has to be going one when there is a fire hitting such a target every week on average.

For example, Headline USA told of FBI warnings about a series of suspicious fires. However, the associated article referenced ransomware attacks, not flames. Moving from the mistaken connection to the just plain loony, Arizona state senator/nutcase Wendy Rogers insists that Gates is behind it – even though there’s nothing to be behind.

Along those lines, there are accurate reports that Gates has plenty of farmland – in fact, he is the country’s largest owner of such property. But the follow-on assumption that he is plotting to control the US food supply is unable to bear the weight of the facts. His 242,000 acres owned represents .0003 of the county’s agrarian space. So .0003 percent of the farmland and blazes at .0005 percent of food processing facilities are neither literally or figuratively alarming.