James McNeill Whistler Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket 1875
Lab Leak Conspirancy
“..no longer a “socially critical disease.”
• 12 Countries Roll Back COVID Restrictions, Israel Scraps ‘Green Pass’ (CHD)
Europe is accelerating steps to roll back COVID restrictions as efforts to control the spread of the virus have failed and countries downgrade the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2. Sweden and Switzerland joined Denmark, Norway, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Italy, Lithuania, France and the UK in announcing they will lift COVID restrictions and open up their countries. Top Israeli officials also announced this week they are abolishing the country’s “Green Pass” COVID vaccine passport for restaurants, hotels, gyms and theaters. The policy update will take effect Feb. 6, Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government said, pending approval by a parliamentary committee. Israel’s proof-of-vaccination policy will remain in effect for events such as parties or weddings.
“To continue the green pass in the same way can create false assurances,” said Nadav Davidovitch, an epidemiologist and public health physician advising Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government. “It’s not reducing infections in closed spaces like theatres. It needs to be used mainly for high-risk places like hospitals, elderly care homes, or events when you are eating and singing and dancing.” Sweden will lift all COVID restrictions by Feb. 9, the Swedish government said today. According to Politico, the Swedish Public Health Agency said it reassessed COVID as “not being socially critical” due to a better understanding of the Omicron variant, which is milder and associated with fewer hospitalizations.
“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.” The decision to open Sweden came a day after Switzerland, citing high immunity levels and the milder Omicron variant, announced it will abolish mandatory work-from-home and the quarantine rules beginning today. The government also will lift health measures at the borders and tourists will no longer need to receive Swiss COVID certificates. The Swiss government said it planned to phase out other restrictions after consulting with 26 cantons, employers, trade unions and parliamentary committees.
[..] Just days before Sweden and Switzerland’s announcements, Denmark became the first country in the European Union to lift all COVID restrictions, reclassifying COVID as an endemic disease. Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke on Feb. 1 wrote a letter to the parliament’s epidemiology committee stating COVID was no longer a “socially critical disease.” Based on the recommendations of the committee, the government decided to scrap COVID restrictions. [..] Italy, France, Norway, Lithuania, England and Finland also relaxed restrictions, Bloomberg reported. “We should discuss whether it’s time for us to take a different viewpoint and start unwinding restrictions even with a high number of infections,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters. “I hope that we can be rid of restrictions during February.”
“..effectively removing barriers to entry for the unvaccinated..”
• Israel Will Abolish The Vaxx Passport And Most Testing Requirements (Haa.)
Israel’s coronavirus cabinet decided to abolish its so-called green passport program for most places of entertainment, including hotels, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters, effectively removing barriers to entry for the unvaccinated. The new policy will come into effect on Sunday, and will leave the proof of vaccination in place for events “with significantly greater risk of infection,” such as weddings and parties. The cabinet also decided to scrap the requirement to present a PCR test upon exiting the country. Following recommendations of the Health Ministry, the cabinet further scrapped the expiration date on green passports for anyone who has received a third or fourth dose of the vaccine, meaning those passes would be valid indefinitely.
But for people who have only had two doses, or who recovered from the virus but aren’t vaccinated, the pass will be valid for only four months from the date of the second dose or the recovery. Those who are not fully vaccinated and employed in the education, health and welfare sectors will still be required to undergo biweekly tests. The decisions come in the midst of Israel’s omicron wave, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying that he predicts “one-and-a-half to two hard weeks ahead of us.” [..] Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported that the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – further declined on Tuesday to 0.92. Any number under 1 indicates that the pandemic is shrinking. The figure is calculated according to data from the previous 10 days.
“..they are to be allowed access to supermarkets only to buy “goods of primary necessity.”
• Italy’s Covid Despotism Just Got Worse (Salonia)
A couple of weeks ago, a new decree of the Draghi government established yet more rules restricting the lives of people who have not been injected with the latest vaccine booster and who therefore cannot show the latest version of the Green Pass. These second-class citizens, who have already been stripped of their right to move, work, and participate in a great number of social activities, are now forbidden from entering post offices to withdraw their pension, and they are to be allowed access to supermarkets only to buy “goods of primary necessity.” In other words, the Italian government decides what kind of food and what other goods (if any) these people will be able to purchase.
Among Western countries, Italy has been one of those experiencing the most systematic denial of basic civil rights over the past two years. Coalition governments led first by Giuseppe Conte and then by Mario Draghi have empowered an unelected committee of “experts” called the Comitato Tecnico Scientifico, which has in turn empowered the governments by assigning a scientific aura to every decree, every action, and every word coming from the executive. This has resulted in an endless series of lockdown measures that for long periods have erased freedom of movement, the right to work, property rights over businesses and shops, freedom to assemble, freedom to worship, and even the distinction of jurisdictional spheres between church and political authority (with state bureaucrats closing churches and then handing out petty instructions on what rites could be carried out, how liturgies should be curtailed, and how many people if any could be present at masses and funerals).
In the meantime, the legislative branch has been humbled, and government by urgent decrees from the executive has become the norm. The very constitutional structure of the country has been bent, and a new concept called “stato di emergenza” (state of emergency) has been invented out of thin air, even though it is nowhere to be found in Italy’s republican constitution. If we were not living in the age of CNN, fake news, and outrageous subsidies handed out by politicians to newspapers and the media, one could legitimately wonder where the journalists were while all this was going on? In fact, journalists in Italy are among the main culprits of the current dystopian reality, since they have given platforms to “experts” who agreed with lockdowns and other measures that expanded government control over all aspects of life, while at the same time they ferociously mocked and ostracized doctors and scientists who dared to question the logic of outdoor mask mandates and curfews for restaurants.
Anybody who dared to point out the disastrous consequences of a prolonged lockdown on mental health and on people suffering from other pathologies, or the link between the economy and public health, was accused of being a “covid denier.” This is a pattern that surely readers recognize, as they have seen it in the US and many other countries over the past two years. The fact that virtually every opinion labelled by the media as “conspiracy theory” has turned out to be true just three or four months later has done nothing to shake the arrogance of the corrupt mass media, who are entrenched in their monopoly over the news cycle, thanks to their access to state funding and political favors. And this is true in Italy as virtually everywhere else.
Nature Magazine tries hard to find a role for the vaccines. It’s not there.
The vaccines don’t want to help or boost our immune system, they want to take over its role. And that is every bit as bad as it sounds.
• What The Omicron Wave Is Revealing About Human Immunity (Nature)
Immune memory depends on more than just antibodies. Even when antibody levels drop, memory B cells can recognize a return invader, divide, and quickly start churning out antibodies to fight it. And the memory B-cell response improves over time, at least in the short term. Six months after vaccination, the individuals in Wherry’s study6 had elevated numbers of memory B cells that responded not only to the original SARS-CoV-2, but also to three other variants of concern. And then there are T cells, the third pillar of immune memory. On coming into contact with an antigen, these multiply into a pool of effector cells that act to wipe out the infection. Killer T cells quickly divide to assassinate infected cells, and various types of helper T cell secrete chemical signals that stimulate other parts of the immune system, including B cells. After the threat has passed, some of these cells persist as memory T cells.
Some people might carry memory T cells from past coronavirus infections — such as those that cause common colds — that can recognize SARS-CoV-2. These cells could help to fight the infection, or even stop it completely. One study7 found that health-care workers who were exposed to SARS-CoV-2 but never tested positive had subtle signs of a response to infection. The researchers hypothesize that cross-reactive T cells shut the infection down before it could take hold. “These people did have an infection in a sort of loosest sense of the word,” says Mala Maini, an immunologist at University College London who led the study. But “there’s probably not much virus around because it’s being shut down very quickly”. This idea is still controversial, and the phenomenon might be rare. Memory cells typically can’t block infection in the way that neutralizing antibodies can, but they don’t necessarily need to.
With COVID-19, infection happens quickly, but it takes a little while to cause serious illness. That gives memory T cells some time to do their jobs. When re-exposed to a virus or booster, these cells will kick into overdrive, “proliferating like crazy”, Crotty says. “In a 24-hour period, you can get a tenfold increase in the number of your memory T cells.” That’s probably not fast enough to have much of an effect on getting sick, he adds. But it could be fast enough to prevent hospitalization. And it’s much harder for the virus to find a way around the T-cell response. That’s because T cells in one individual recognize different parts of the virus than do T cells in another individual. So a virus could mutate to escape one person’s T-cell response, but not another’s. “Escape is meaningless at the population level,” Crotty says. Also, T cells can see parts of the virus (or the spike protein) that antibodies can’t, including pieces that are less likely to mutate.
More on RNA potential to change DNA, via reverse transcriptase. Don’t be a guinea pig.
• Lethal Mutagenesis As An Antiviral Strategy (Science)
There is a gap in our knowledge in scaling short-term lab-based assays (using bacteria, animal cells, and animal models) for mutagenic activity with long-term risk to human health. Mutagens that are incorporated during cellular DNA synthesis are problematic for a developing fetus (where cells are undergoing rapid division), male germline cells (which continue to divide throughout life), and cancer risk (where the small fraction of human cells that are dividing have the potential to incorporate a mutation that could contribute to cancer development). Humans are exposed to mutagens throughout life—for example, DNA mutations are induced by x-ray imaging or during air travel—so there are levels of DNA damage that are considered to be largely inconsequential.
If the molnupiravir metabolite NHC really is a mutagen in dividing animal cells, how should negative data in an animal model be interpreted? Are such negative data sufficient to ensure long-term safety in humans, or does the lack of knowledge about the link between negative results in animal assays and long-term outcomes in human health need to be acknowledged? Molnupiravir use will come with some restrictions around short-term risks associated with reproductive health, but it may take years before potential long-term risks are understood. The best outcome, which is the assumption from the negative results in animals, is that molnupiravir treatment falls within the background level of exposure to mutagens that humans already experience and tolerate. The half-life of molnupiravir metabolites in human tissue is unknown.
[..] Molnupiravir has the potential to lower the disease burden of SARS-CoV-2 infections and help contain future emerging RNA viruses. However, how can its potential long-term effects as a mutagen be assessed? The following steps are suggested: Treatment should be restricted to those who will benefit the most, such as those who cannot tolerate other available treatments, those who have a preexisting condition that enhances the risk of COVID-19, and those who are more than 50 years of age and would be less affected by a potential long-term risk of cancer or reproductive risks. A registry of a cohort of people who received molnupiravir should be kept to longitudinally monitor the frequency of cancer and other potential outcomes so that the opportunity to understand the risk (or lack thereof) associated with the use of a mutagenic ribonucleoside as an antiviral is not missed.
Strategies to limit metabolism of mutagenic analogs from the ribonucleotide pool into the 2′ -deoxyribonucleotide pool should be explored to limit the potential DNA mutation load in the host. In addition, the viral population diversity should be evaluated after treatment with molnupiravir in those who fail to clear the virus to see whether the treatment accelerates viral evolution. Lethal mutagenesis has the potential to be an important antiviral strategy for RNA viruses, especially in emerging infections when there is an absence of virus-specific antivirals. The potential of this strategy should be exploited, but the possible risks should be acknowledged and addressed.
Hmmm. A bit skeptical. The ONS provides stats in 100,000 person-years instead of 100,000 population, and for good reason, but what do they mean when numbers are very low?
• British Children Up To 52 Times More Likely To Die Following A Covid Shot (LSN)
In December, the ONS published age-standardized data on the mortality rates of individuals in 5-year age sets in Britain, grouped by their “vaccination” status for the COVID-19 shots. The data accounts for the period from January 1 to October 31, 2021. The ONS tabulated “Monthly age-standardised mortality rates by age-group and vaccination status for deaths involving COVID-19, per 100,000 person-years” but presented the data only for ages 18 and over. However, the jabs are available to children as young as 12, and those children are allowed to receive the shot against their parents’ wishes. In limited cases, children as young as 5 have been given a reduced dosage of the shots.
Nevertheless, as noted by The Exposé, a separate table outlining “deaths and person-years by vaccination status” includes 5-year age groups from 10-years-old and up. From the data provided, a calculation of the mortality rate per 100,000 person-years can be made. The rate per 100,000 person-years delineation is used in preference over the simpler 100,000 population calculation to better represent the mortality rates over a specific period of time, as people in one “vaccination” group – such as un-jabbed, single-jabbed, and double-jabbed – soon move into the next group.
[..] the 100,000 person-years calculation can be made, with the younger group coming out at 20.9 un-jabbed per 100,000 person-years and the older group at 15.9. Following this, the mortality rate per 100,000 person-years is worked out by dividing the number of deaths within each group by the 100,000 person-years calculation. The result is that for the 10-14 year group, the un-jabbed mortality per 100,000 person-years is 4.6 while the un-jabbed mortality rate per 100,000 person-years for the 15 19 group is 10.1. Using the same data set and calculation, the mortality rate for 10-14-year-olds who received one dose of the jabs suffered a 45.1 per 100,000 person-years death rate, while 15 19-year-olds with one jab suffered 18.3 deaths per 100,00 person-years.
[..] the 15 per cent recorded when the death rate was at its peak in May 2020.. [..] by Tuesday the CFR had fallen to 0.19 per cent…
• Rejoice! An End To The Dreaded Covid Count… (Hoenderkamp)
The Government last month signalled its intention to scrap the legal requirement for infected people to self-isolate on March 24, and yesterday it was claimed that it will stop releasing daily Covid updates in April. To which I say ‘Rejoice!’ – but why can’t we end both practices today? And, while we’re about it, stop testing too. If you think such a course sounds alarmingly precipitate, allow me to explain why there is no need to delay a moment longer. The truth is that the advent of the highly infectious (although markedly milder) Omicron variant has changed everything. Last week the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) – the proportion of infected people who died of Covid – was hovering at around 0.95 per cent.
That is way below the 15 per cent recorded when the death rate was at its peak in May 2020 when testing was minimal. And since Monday, when the Office For National Statistics included ‘reinfections’ – people who have contracted the virus more than once – on its daily Covid dashboard for the first time, the CFR has plummeted still further. With the addition of hundreds of thousands of cases to the weekly total, by Tuesday the CFR had fallen to 0.19 per cent, a percentage akin to that of flu, an illness which currently has a fatality rate of between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent. The average age of death from Covid, meanwhile, remains at the pre-pandemic 82, with data from the US showing that 75 per cent of people who die with Covid have no fewer than four underlying serious conditions.
Oh c’mon, we need to study that? “We found it remarkable, and striking..” says a doctor. How many lives were lost?
• Study Offers Strongest Proof Yet Of Vitamin D’s Power To Fight Covid (ToI)
Israel scientists say they have gathered the most convincing evidence to date that increased vitamin D levels can help COVID-19 patients reduce the risk of serious illness or death. Researchers from Bar Ilan University and the Galilee Medical Center say that the vitamin has such a strong impact on disease severity that they can predict how people would fare if infected based on nothing more than their ages and vitamin D levels. Lacking vitamin D significantly increases danger levels, they concluded in newly peer-reviewed research published Thursday in the journal PLOS One. The study is based on research conducted during Israel’s first two waves of the virus, before vaccines were widely available, and doctors emphasized that vitamin supplements were not a substitute for vaccines, but rather a way to keep immunity levels from falling.
Vitamin D deficiency is endemic across the Middle East, including in Israel, where nearly four in five people are low on the vitamin, according to one study from 2011. By taking supplements before infection, though, the researchers in the new Israeli study found that patients could avoid the worst effects of the disease. “We found it remarkable, and striking, to see the difference in the chances of becoming a severe patient when you are lacking in vitamin D compared to when you’re not,” said Dr. Amiel Dror, a Galilee Medical Center physician and Bar Ilan researcher who was part of the team behind the study. He noted that his study was conducted pre-Omicron, but said that the coronavirus doesn’t change fundamentally enough between variants to negate vitamin D effectiveness.
“What we’re seeing when vitamin D helps people with COVID infections is a result of its effectiveness in bolstering the immune systems to deal with viral pathogens that attack the respiratory system,” he told The Times of Israel. “This is equally relevant for Omicron as it was for previous variants.” [..] In June, researchers published preliminary findings showing that 26 percent of coronavirus patients died if they were vitamin D deficient soon before hospitalization, compared to 3% who had normal levels of vitamin D. They also determined that hospitalized patients who were vitamin D deficient were 14 times more likely, on average, to end up in severe or critical condition than others.
Attorney’s advice: “Stay out of the hospital, no matter what.”
• Calls for Help From Families of Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 (ET)
Attorney Esther Bodek in Aurora, Colorado, also knows of a patient’s family members who were arrested when communications with a hospital went sour. She says requests from families of COVID-19 patients have flooded in since November. “It’s traumatizing,” Bodek said, “because it is a level of civil rights abuses that I have never encountered in my entire life.” In case after case, she’s seen a pattern of separating COVID-19 patients from their families and restricting visitation. “And during that period of time is usually when the remdesivir is administered.” Some families coming to her for help often strenuously object to treatment with remdesivir. When other treatments have failed, they desperately want to try things the hospital won’t allow, such as ivermectin and vitamins.
Those are part of a popular protocol used by independent doctors around the country and by people treating themselves at home. Bodek has fought many times to obtain those medications as a last-ditch effort to save a patient. She said the resistance she faces when dealing with the hospitals is maddening. “Any question about treatment starts immediate combativeness [by hospital staff], from what I’ve seen in the pattern of our cases,” she said. She’s had clients denied fluids and nutrition to the point of near-starvation. Since taking those cases she works night and day seven days a week. On the weekend, “I’ll be on the phone and talking to somebody in tears,” she said. “The hospital’s telling them they want to pull the plug and they’re trying to make a decision.
The doctor says, ‘We’re going to take him off life support now.’ And I’ve had to say ‘No! That’s not their choice!’” One of her clients works in billing in a hospital and told her that hospitals receive a bonus payment of $17,000 from the federal government for every patient confirmed to have COVID-19, Bodek said. A bonus payment of $37,000 is paid for any patient going on a ventilator, according to that client, Bodek said. [..] Bodek’s advice: “Stay out of the hospital, no matter what. And if it happens that you’re admitted, have a medical power of attorney immediately written up to say no to remdesivir.” She’s looking into filing civil rights violations lawsuits if claims of medical malpractice won’t work. “I’m determined to find a way to stop this abuse,” Bodek said. “This is definitely a fight we’re not giving up.”
Vaccine Insanity Syndrome (VIS).
• Justin Trudeau is a Bungler and Menace to His Nation (Kohlmayer)
At the beginning of January, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, posted a message on Twitter in which he announced that he had just received his Covid vaccine booster and urged others to do likewise. At the end of January, Justin Trudeau posted a message on Twitter in which he announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19. Astoundingly, at the conclusion of his message Trudeau urged everyone to get the shots even though they failed to protect him from the disease. “Everyone, please get vaccinated and get boosted,” he insisted. Trudeau’s message shows the depth of irrationality – bordering on insanity – to which many have fallen victim. We propose to call this phenomenon the Vaccine Insanity Syndrome (VIS).
Those who suffer from VIS have largely lost touch with reality and things like common sense, evidence and logic no longer gain any traction in their thinking. Just to summarize the absurdity of the whole situation: Having been previously vaccinated, Trudeau gets additionally boostered and three weeks later contracts Covid-19. To put it in a different way, shortly after getting his third shot, Canada’s Prime Minister falls ill with the very disease against which these “effective” injections were supposed to protect him. But rather than repenting of his mistake, he goes on Twitter and advises the Canadian people to do the same. Where is any logic in this? Has Covid affected Trudeau’s brain? Or was it the injections that somehow diminished his capacity for thought and reflection?
If anything, Trudeau should be “Exhibit One” for why people should not get vaccinated and boostered, since he is now Canada’s poster boy for vaccine failure. Why, then, is he telling Canadians to do what he did? It cannot be because the vaccines and boosters will protect them against infection. The opposite is, in fact, the case. The data coming from all over the world is showing that the vaccinated are more likely to become infected than the unvaccinated. According to Steve Kirsch, “The numbers in the Denmark study described below are now confirmed by government data from Germany showing that vaccinated people are 8X more likely to develop Omicron than unvaccinated people. This is not surprising since a paper from Germany showed the same thing: the more you vaccinate, the worse it gets.”
Justin Trudeau, however, does not have to go to foreign lands to learn of vaccine failure. Below is a chart from Ontario which gives case numbers according to vaccination status. You will notice that the numbers for the fully vaccinated are more than three times those of the unvaccinated.
“It took Columbus less time to cross the Atlantic..”
• We Were Warned About the Ports (Sammon)
In July 2015, the Federal Maritime Commission, a federal agency with little name recognition and even less influence, released a report sounding the alarm about the state of America’s ports. A congestion crisis had been building for years and was fast becoming untenable; even the country’s relatively tepid economic-growth rate was straining against decades of disinvestment at its most critical trading hubs. Chassis weren’t available, trucks couldn’t get in or out, and terminals stayed perpetually clogged. That crisis had “resulted from events that have developed or emerged over a considerable period of time and from within the system itself, rather than being the result of external shocks, such as unanticipated surges in container volumes or management-labor issues,” the report surmised.
“Many seem to think it is inevitable that embracing ‘business as usual’ will lead to significant further declines in the performance of the U.S. intermodal transportation system.” And then, of course, business went on as usual. Almost five years passed before the coronavirus announced itself on American shores, and another year after that before the disease gave an already fissured supply chain the nudge it needed to fully rupture. And while the circumstances of a global pandemic, its shutdowns and labor shortages, seemed exceptional, it was something as routine as a double-digit import growth, feared specifically by the FMC since at least 2006, that sent shipping container volume skyrocketing and brought the system to a grinding halt. A prophecy that few heard and no one heeded had finally come true.
Before the Biden administration was even sworn in, the ports were already in a state of chaos. It got worse throughout the year, and by the time the administration appointed its ports czar John Porcari and began looking toward emergency intervention, only minor measures were even available to remedy decades of bipartisan mismanagement. Today, congestion at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, collectively the nation’s largest, is “at historic high levels,” as the shipping giant Maersk announced in a customer advisory in late December. Reporting indicated that there were 133 vessels en route to San Pedro Bay, with delays stretching upward of 41 days. One ship in particular had left Busan, South Korea, on November 17 and was not scheduled to dock until January 2, a 47-day duration for a routine voyage that should take, at most, half that time. “It took Columbus less time to cross the Atlantic,” said Sal Mercogliano, an associate professor and maritime historian at Campbell University.
Jemima Kelly’s FT ed. tries to defend Rogan, but what’s this?:
“..when he is wrong, he admits it, as he did recently when his claim that young people were at greater risk of developing myocarditis after the vaccine than they were after contracting Covid was swiftly corrected by a guest on his show..”
• Spotify Spat Shows Why Joe Rogan And His Podcast Matter (FT)
The contrast between the vague virtue-signalling of the Sussexes’ statement and Rogan’s engaged response — which seemed authentic, humble and searching — shows why his show has become Spotify’s most popular podcast. With an estimated 11mn listeners per episode, the 54 year-old comedian and mixed martial arts commentator must be considered one of the most influential media figures in the world. With that power comes moral and intellectual responsibility and Rogan does not always seem totally aware of that. He was perhaps not mindful enough of the potential impact on his mainly young fans when he casually declared that if a fit and healthy 21-year-old asked him whether to get vaccinated, he would tell them not to.
He also gets his facts wrong sometimes, despite asserting them confidently. But when he is wrong, he admits it, as he did recently when his claim that young people were at greater risk of developing myocarditis after the vaccine than they were after contracting Covid was swiftly corrected by a guest on his show. One should not imagine that if Rogan were shut down, we would be rid of anyone wanting to pursue ideas that run against the grain. Nor should we want such a world — as Rogan points out in his video, some things once dismissed as conspiracy theories, such as the lab leak theory of Covid-19’s origins, are now considered plausible. Conspiracy theories did not spring into being with the arrival of podcasts or the internet — Gallup polling suggests that in 1976, 81 per cent of Americans believed there had been a conspiracy to kill John F Kennedy, contrary to the official line.
It is surely healthier, then, to have someone like Rogan willing to discuss controversial opinions with those who hold them than to confine these people to a corner of the internet where they are less visible but also less easy to correct when they are wrong. That’s quite apart from the fact that it would be utterly ineffective for Spotify to oust Rogan. The idea that the company gives him a platform that he would otherwise lack is fanciful. When Spotify reportedly paid more than $100mn for the exclusive rights to Rogan’s podcast in 2020, it was so as to benefit from the platform he already had.
I told a friend that I might write about Rogan in my column this week. The response I got was “Oh, God!” and a grimace, quickly followed by a confession that she had actually never listened to his podcast. The truth is that many of the people castigating Rogan haven’t either. If they had, they would know that the presenter is an open-minded host who seeks out all sorts of opinions rather than blindly following those of a particular tribe, and who seems genuinely keen to pursue the truth. Joe Rogan doesn’t need Spotify, but Spotify needs him; maybe we all do.
“Trust in the media has fallen to just 46 percent and as low as 40 percent in recent polling. Where are people going for information? It seems many have gone to podcasts — and specifically to Joe Rogan, at least 11 million of them.”
• Can Joe Rogan Save Free Speech? (Turley)
[..] social media companies and other corporations now regulate speech in the United States to a degree that an actual state media would struggle to replicate. Faced with a growing cancel culture, companies are scrubbing their platforms of dissenting viewpoints and converting forums into echo chambers. In the use of private companies, the left has achieved an ignoble distinction. While liberal writers and artists were blacklisted and investigated in the 1950s, liberal activists have succeeded in censoring opposing views to a degree that would have made Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) blush. Rather than burn books, they have simply gotten stores to ban them or blacklist the authors.
For these companies, there is no value to protecting the speech rights of dissenting voices with powerful politicians, academics, and even some in the media demanding more censorship. But then they went after Rogan. Rogan’s popularity is precisely due to the fact that he is uncensored in what he says. As many networks and newspapers have become more of an echo chamber, viewers and readers have fled en masse. Trust in the media has fallen to just 46 percent and as low as 40 percent in recent polling. Where are people going for information? It seems many have gone to podcasts — and specifically to Joe Rogan, at least 11 million of them. While Young reportedly relies on Spotify for 60 percent of his royalty income, Spotify does not rely on Young or other rock stars for its primary profits. It is the reverse of market conditions from just a couple years ago.
The problem with controlling speech is that it has to be complete; it doesn’t work if there are alternatives to echo-chambered media. Rogan’s podcast is one of the biggest. With 11 million listeners, he surpassed cable and network audiences as well as the readership of the largest papers. His program allows people across the political spectrum to speak freely, including those who question official positions on vaccines and treatments. While Rogan has promised to be more careful in how information is presented on his show (and Spotify will add “advisories” on podcasts), his podcast survived the celebrity onslaught. As various investors seek to create free speech alternatives to Twitter and YouTube, there may be an emerging market for free speech products.
North Korea doesn’t have much internet. But still funny.
• North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet (Wired)
For the past two weeks, observers of North Korea’s strange and tightly restricted corner of the internet began to notice that the country seemed to be dealing with some serious connectivity problems. On several different days, practically all of its websites—the notoriously isolated nation only has a few dozen—intermittently dropped offline en masse, from the booking site for its Air Koryo airline to Naenara, a page that serves as the official portal for dictator Kim Jong-un’s government. At least one of the central routers that allow access to the country’s networks appeared at one point to be paralyzed, crippling the Hermit Kingdom’s digital connections to the outside world.
Some North Korea watchers pointed out that the country had just carried out a series of missile tests, implying that a foreign government’s hackers might have launched a cyberattack against the rogue state to tell it to stop saber-rattling. But responsibility for North Korea’s ongoing internet outages doesn’t lie with US Cyber Command or any other state-sponsored hacking agency. In fact, it was the work of one American man in a T-shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks—and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.
Just over a year ago, an independent hacker who goes by the handle P4x was himself hacked by North Korean spies. P4x was just one victim of a hacking campaign that targeted Western security researchers with the apparent aim of stealing their hacking tools and details about software vulnerabilities. He says he managed to prevent those hackers from swiping anything of value from him. But he nonetheless felt deeply unnerved by state-sponsored hackers targeting him personally—and by the lack of any visible response from the US government. So after a year of letting his resentment simmer, P4x has taken matters into his own hands. “It felt like the right thing to do here. If they don’t see we have teeth, it’s just going to keep coming,” says the hacker. [..] “I want them to understand that if you come at us, it means some of your infrastructure is going down for a while.”
You’re inclined to say: EPIC! But it’s really just what every reporter should do every single time.
• Reporter Shreds Admin Spox Over ‘Russian False Flag’ Claims (ZH)
Earlier on Thursday the Biden administration and US intelligence came out with some explosive and outlandish claims, saying Russia is planning to release a video depicting graphic scenes of a “staged false explosion with corpses, actors depicting mourners, and images of destroyed locations and military equipment,” as CNN described it. This in order to justify a military invasion of Ukraine, given the false flag operation would feature Russian-backed separatists under attack by Ukrainian forces. Given such a narrative has been advanced in public, grabbing global headlines, but without so much as a shred of evidence – even mainstream media pundits are scratching their heads. Watch Associated Press writer Matt Lee demolish the State Department’s Ned Price, who refuses to provide any level of proof backing the bizarre and surprising claims. “This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now!” Lee points out…
[..] “Lee challenged Price, saying the State Department had presented “no evidence” that Russia has actually created a “crisis actor” video and insisting that he wouldn’t be satisfied with the administration’s claims alone. “If you doubt the credibility of the U.S. government, of the British government, of other governments and want to, you know, find solace in information that the Russians are putting out, that is for you to do,” Price responded.” Lee then pointed that given the extraordinary claims, some level of evidence is demanded given the mounting numbers of whopping government lies over the past two decades, including ‘Iraq WMDs’.
Price hid behind the “that’s classified” classic line often used whenever government officials want to shut down legitimate skepticism of their claims… “Like, ‘crisis actors’? This is Alex Jones territory you’re getting into,” he said. “Where is the declassified information?,” he repeated multiple times.In pressing for evidence to justify the administration’s claims, the veteran reporter referenced numerous U.S. intelligence failures that led to catastrophe in recent decades, including the “weapons of mass destruction” speculation that served as a pretext for America’s 2003 military intervention in Iraq as well as the U.S. timeline for Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban that was totally upended in August.
“We’re declassifying evidence Government X may try to misinform you”
“What’s the evidence you’re declassifying?”
“I just gave you the evidence”
“Uhhh, you just made a statement, that’s not evidence”
“If you don’t trust my bizarre claims, something is wrong with you”
When criminality of the financial system has be normalised to the point the general population accept it as the done thing, there is a disconnect between fact and fiction. #steroidbanking pic.twitter.com/HIDJX8vypW
— Ben Rickert (@Ben__Rickert) February 3, 2022
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