Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology’

Insurance Companies and alarmism

February 24, 2012

Insurance companies are in the business of making perceived risks seem much larger than actual risk. Their profits are directly impacted by increasing the risk perceptions of  the party seeking insurance. It is not surprising that they exaggerate the dangers of whatever is being insured against. To be “alarmist” for an insurance company is just good marketing. However much of their marketing and publicity is presented under the cloak of “scientific research”. Any report from an insurance company about future risks and purporting to be an “objective” or “scientific” study needs to be discounted and taken with a very large shovel of salt. Yet, the media often swallow such publicity and merely reproduce their reports with little effort to see through the conflicts of interest.

I have posted earlier about Munich Re and their attempts to suggest that global warming will increase the frequency of natural disasters.  Anything to increase the perceptions of risk.

Now JunkScience reports on the case of Kerry Emanuel and his alarmist positions and his connections to Insurance companies:

 Based on a request for investigation from JunkScience.com, Nature has forced MIT’s Kerry Emanuel to disclose his employment with insurance companies as a conflict of interest.

In the Feb. 14 Nature Climate Change study “Physically based assessment of hurricane surge threat under climate change,” of which Emanuel is a co-author, the “Additional Interests” section disclosed:

The authors declare no competing financial interests. However, in the interests of transparency we confirm that one of us, Kerry Emanuel, is on the boards of two property and casualty companies: Homesite and Bunker Hill, and also on the board of the AlphaCat Fund, an investment fund dealing with re-insurance transactions. In all three cases, Dr Emanuel receives fixed fees but owns no stocks or shares. Dr Emanuel does not stand to make any personal financial gain through these directorships as a consequence of the reported findings.

There was obvious reluctance in the disclosure from the wording (“no competing financial interests” even though insurance companies are gaming global warming alarmism) to the fact that, despite our asking, we had to find out about the disclosure on our own initiative — i.e., after our initial exchange with Nature, the journal editors stopped communicating with us.

JunkScience also reported that the Consumer Federation of America says in a new report:

…. Although insurers have become adept at shifting the cost of catastrophe losses to others, they still use catastrophic weather events to advocate for measures that would shift risk even more, such as higher rates, or putting more policyholders in pools or created taxpayer-supported entities. Thus, many consumers exposed to catastrophe weather risk are also vulnerable to insurer attempts to unjustifiably increase rates or hollow out coverage…

If you can’t kill the virus, kill the cells that contain the virus

August 11, 2011

An ingenious way of getting around the problem of attacking viruses. An MIT press release desribes a development that could transform how viral infections are treated. A team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

Rider TH, Zook CE, Boettcher TL, Wick ST, Pancoast JS, et al. (2011) Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22572. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022572

Todd Rider invented the PANACEA and DRACO antiviral therapeutics, and previously invented the CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) sensor for rapid pathogen detection and identification: Image MIT

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them — including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses,” says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.

Other members of the research team are Lincoln Lab staff members Scott Wick, Christina Zook, Tara Boettcher, Jennifer Pancoast and Benjamin Zusman.


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