Oct 242021
 


M. C. Escher Reptiles 1943

 

Bipartisan Letter Demands Answers From Fauci On Cruel Puppy Experiments (Hill)
NIH Admits Funding Risky Virus Research in Wuhan (VF)
The Current Covid-19 Mass Vaccinations Are A Public Health Experiment (Geert)
Infection Rates for Vaccinated Aged 40-79 Double the Rates in Unvaccinated (DS)
Israeli Doctors, Scientists Tell FDA Of Severe Concerns Over Vaccine Data (AFD)
FDA Buries Data on Seriously Injured Child in Pfizer’s Clinical Trial (Siri)
On The Primacy Of The Physician-Patient Relationship (HCR)
Generation Covid-19: Are The Kids Going To Be All Right? (Age)
Lock Him Up (Denninger)
From Economic Fantasy to Ecological Reality on Climate Change (Steve Keen)

 

 

McCullough

 

 

Science

 

 

Is it time to put a price on their heads? Run them out of town at the very least. If Congress won’t get rid of these guys, someone else will. I am sick to my stomach.

Bipartisan Letter Demands Answers From Fauci On Cruel Puppy Experiments (Hill)

A bipartisan letter demands answers from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser. The White Coat Waste Project, the nonprofit organization that first pointed out that U.S. taxpayers were being used to fund the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology, have now turned its sights on Anthony Fauci on another animal-testing-related matter — infecting dozens of beagles with disease-causing parasites to test an experimental drug on them. House members, most of whom are Republicans, want Fauci to explain himself in response to allegations brought on by the White Coat Waste Project that involve drugging puppies. According to the White Coat Waste Project, the Food and Drug Administration does not require drugs to be tested on dogs, so the group is asking why the need for such testing.


White Coat Waste claims that 44 beagle puppies were used in a Tunisia, North Africa, laboratory, and some of the dogs had their vocal cords removed, allegedly so scientists could work without incessant barking. Leading the effort is Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), writing a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) saying the cordectomies are “cruel” and a “reprehensible misuse of taxpayer funds.” “Our investigators show that Fauci’s NIH division shipped part of a $375,800 grant to a lab in Tunisia to drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hungry sand flies so that the insects could eat them alive,” White Coat Waste told Changing America. “They also locked beagles alone in cages in the desert overnight for nine consecutive nights to use them as bait to attract infectious sand flies.”

Read more …

Vanity Fair’s take.

NIH Admits Funding Risky Virus Research in Wuhan (VF)

“I totally resent the lie you are now propagating.” Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared to be channeling the frustration of millions of Americans when he spoke those words during an invective-laden, made-for-Twitter Senate hearing on July 20. You didn’t have to be a Democrat to be fed up with all the xenophobic finger-pointing and outright disinformation, coming mainly from the right, up to and including the claim that COVID-19 was a bioweapon cooked up in a lab. The immediate target of Dr. Fauci’s wrath was Senator Rand Paul, who was pressing the nation’s top doctor to say whether the National Institutes of Health had ever funded risky coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Based on new information disclosed by the National Institutes of Health, however, Paul might have been onto something.

On Wednesday, the NIH sent a letter to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that acknowledged two facts. One was that EcoHealth Alliance, a New York City–based nonprofit that partners with far-flung laboratories to research and prevent the outbreak of emerging diseases, did indeed enhance a bat coronavirus to become potentially more infectious to humans, which the NIH letter described as an “unexpected result” of the research it funded that was carried out in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The second was that EcoHealth Alliance violated the terms of its grant conditions stipulating that it had to report if its research increased the viral growth of a pathogen by tenfold. The NIH based these disclosures on a research progress report that EcoHealth Alliance sent to the agency in August, roughly two years after it was supposed to.

An NIH spokesperson told Vanity Fair that Dr. Fauci was “entirely truthful in his statements to Congress,” and that he did not have the progress report that detailed the controversial research at the time he testified in July. But EcoHealth Alliance appeared to contradict that claim, and said in a statement: “These data were reported as soon as we were made aware, in our year four report in April 2018.” The letter from the NIH, and an accompanying analysis, stipulated that the virus EcoHealth Alliance was researching could not have sparked the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, given the sizable genetic differences between the two. In a statement issued Wednesday, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said that his agency “wants to set the record straight” on EcoHealth Alliance’s research, but added that any claims that it could have caused the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic are “demonstrably false.”

EcoHealth Alliance said in a statement that the science clearly proved that its research could not have led to the pandemic, and that it was “working with the NIH to promptly address what we believe to be a misconception about the grant’s reporting requirements and what the data from our research showed.” But the NIH letter—coming after months of congressional demands for more information—seemed to underscore that America’s premier science institute has been less than forthcoming about risky research it has funded and failed to properly monitor. Instead of helping to lead a search for COVID-19’s origins, with the pandemic now firmly in its 19th month, the NIH has circled the wagons, defending its grant system and scientific judgment against a rising tide of questions. “It’s just another chapter in a sad tale of inadequate oversight, disregard for risk, and insensitivity to the importance of transparency,” said Stanford microbiologist Dr. David Relman. “Given all of the sensitivity about this work, it’s difficult to understand why NIH and EcoHealth have still not explained a number of irregularities with the reporting on this grant.”

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A 3-month trial to direct the rest of your life.

The Current Covid-19 Mass Vaccinations Are A Public Health Experiment (Geert)

First, there is no precedent to the use of non-replicating viral vaccines in mass vaccination campaigns conducted during a pandemic, or even epidemic, of a highly mutable virus. The challenge of such an undertaking becomes even more difficult as more infectious antigenic variants had already been circulating by the time the first mass vaccination campaigns were initiated (i.e., Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants). Their spread was featured by distinct temporal and geographic patterns, the underlying mechanism of which was not understood. Prior to the start of this universal vaccination program no single publication existed that came even close to suggesting that mass vaccinations using vaccines that permit transmission could be successful in extinguishing a pandemic of a highly mutable virus.

No such publication exists to this day, and the idea becomes even more preposterous when considering several infectious variants had already expanded in prevalence by the time the vaccines were rolled out. There is ample evidence from similarly highly mutable RNA viruses like Influenza virus and Enterovirus that expansion in prevalence of antigenic variants is driven by selective immune pressure on viral infectiousness exerted by antibodies, and that antigenic variation diminishes or even abolishes the protective neutralization capacity of Influenza virus or Enterovirus vaccines directed at a specific antigenic lineage (1, 2). Consequently, nonreplicating monovalent enteroviral vaccines, for example, are only used at scale in vaccination campaigns of vulnerable target groups (e.g., children) deployed to fight recurrent epidemics of life-threatening enterovirus infection (e.g., EV-A71) in the Asia Pacific region (3).

Interestingly, the US FDA did not approve these vaccines due to ‘concerns about the effectiveness against different pandemic strains, safety, and quality control of vaccine production’ (3). Mass vaccination programs previously conducted to combat viral epidemics/pandemics (e.g., smallpox, polio, measles, yellow fever) have nothing in common with the ongoing mass vaccination campaigns today as those viruses are very different in terms of their pathogenesis, transmissibility, route of infection, potential reservoirs, predominant effector mechanisms involved in antiviral immunity, susceptibility of population segments, as well as with regard to the vaccines used (all prior vaccination campaigns involved live-attenuated virus). In addition, vaccine efficacy as assessed during clinical trials is different from viral effectiveness, which reflects how well a vaccine performs in the field.

Viral effectiveness, therefore, depends on the level of infectious pressure exerted by the viral population and the level of immune selection pressure exerted by the host population (among other factors). Those can be very different from the ones prevailing during clinical trials. This particularly applies when the vaccine is used in mass vaccination campaigns rolled out in the middle of a pandemic of more infectious variants. Because of large-scale pharmaceutical (e.g., mass vaccination) and nonpharmaceutical (e.g., infection-prevention measures) human interventions, significant changes in viral infectious pressure and population-level immune pressure can suddenly take place and dramatically accelerate or slow down the evolutionary dynamics of a pandemic, especially if more infectious variants are circulating.

Whereas the final target population should have the same profile as the one enrolled in the vaccine trials, current Covid-19 (C-19) vaccines are now administered to several segments of the population that have not been part of the pivotal clinical trials that enabled their authorization for emergency use (e.g., children, elderly, pregnant women, women of childbearing age, individuals who previously recovered from Covid-19 disease). Furthermore, the follow-up of study participants in the clinical trials did not extend beyond 3 months as the WHO had declared the pandemic a health emergency of international concern. Short-term results from clinical vaccine trials that were conducted on a small subset of a specific target population during a short period of a pandemic caused by a specific SARS-CoV-2 lineage (most notably the original Wuhan strain) cannot even be considered informative for vaccine effectiveness of mass vaccination campaigns deployed globally across almost all population segments over a prolonged period of a pandemic trajectory involving several waves of infection caused by several different more infectious viral variants.

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It’s the 40-49 group that comes out worst in all of the stats these days.

Infection Rates for Vaccinated Aged 40-79 Double the Rates in Unvaccinated (DS)

Another week, another Vaccine Surveillance report (now published by the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the successor to Public Health England), and with it more worrying news on the vaccine front. Infection rates in the double-vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated continue to rise, meaning unadjusted vaccine effectiveness continues to decline. Infection rates are now higher in the double-vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated by 124% in those in their 40s, 103% in those in their 50s and 60s and 101% in those in their 70s, corresponding to unadjusted vaccine effectiveness estimates of minus-124%, minus-103% and minus-101% respectively. For those over 80 the unadjusted vaccine effectiveness is minus-34% while for those in their 30s it is minus-27%. For 18-29 year-olds it is 25%, so still positive but low, while for under-18s it is 90%, the only age group showing high efficacy.

Vaccine effectiveness against emergency hospital admission and death continues to hold up, though with some indication of gradual slide, particularly in older age groups. The UKHSA has continued to receive criticism for publishing this data, with claims that the figures used for the unvaccinated population are unreliable and likely too high, artificially suppressing the infection rate and vaccine effectiveness. Cambridge statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter put out a scathing tweet on these lines on Friday, but he didn’t elaborate on his claim or link to an article explaining it further. Professors Norman Fenton and Martin Neil have argued that in fact the PHE/UKHSA data may underestimate the number of unvaccinated rather than overestimate them, which would have the reverse effect.


Either way though, what wouldn’t change is the fact of the large and fast decline in effectiveness against infection. This is now generally acknowledged among many scientists (likely caused by waning over time or new variants or both), though has not had the logical impact on Government policy one might have expected and hoped for of eliminating the rationale for vaccine passports and mandates. A further point revealed for the first time in this week’s surveillance report is that the vaccines may actually hobble the body’s ability to develop the strongest immunity once infected. As noted by Alex Berenson, the report mentions (in passing) that “recent observations from U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) surveillance data” show that “N antibody levels appear to be lower in individuals who acquire infection following two doses of vaccination”.

Read more …

“In the Book of Leviticus, it is said ‘Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.’”

Israeli Doctors, Scientists Tell FDA Of Severe Concerns Over Vaccine Data (AFD)

An independent Israeli group of physicians, lawyers, scientists, and researchers called the Professional Ethics Front today advised the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the upcoming FDA discussion on administering COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5-11, expressing “severe concerns” regarding the reliability and legality of official Israeli COVID vaccine data. “We are aware that the state of Israel is perceived as ‘the world laboratory’ regarding the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as reflected by statements made by Dr. Albert Bourla, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other senior figures in leading health authorities throughout the world,” the letter reads. “It is therefore our understanding that the data and information coming from Israel play a crucial role in critical decision-making processes in regards to COVID-19 vaccination policies.

“We thus see it of utmost importance to convey a message of warning and raise our major concerns regarding potential flaws in the reliability of the Israeli data with respect to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as well as many significant legal and ethical violations that accompany the data collection processes.” The letter elaborates: “We believe that the significant failures underlying the Israeli database, which have been brought to our attention by numerous testimonies, impair its reliability and legality to such an extent that it should not be used for making any critical decisions regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.” “This document briefly outlines the main failures that lead to this unfortunate, albeit inevitable, conclusion,” the notice reads. “We emphasize that we can expand and clarify further, as well as provide references, in relation to each of the failures described below.

[..] The Israeli Professional Ethics Front concludes its notice to the FDA: “In accordance with the accepted perception established after World War II, the findings of experiments obtained in illegal and immoral ways should not be relied upon. We believe that the same rules should apply to the findings of the current experiment in Israel, since these findings were obtained through significant legal and ethical infringements. Our conclusion is further reinforced by the significant doubts about the reliability of the data reported by Israel, as detailed above, and the consequent major concern that their use might be misleading and thus disrupt the decision-making processes pertaining to the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines.

“In the Book of Leviticus, it is said ‘Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.’ In the spirit of those words, we implore the committee to take into consideration our urgent warnings and adopt utmost precaution when referring to the Israeli data concerning the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines.”

Read more …

Fire everyone at the FDA too. Seriously, get rid of these people.

FDA Buries Data on Seriously Injured Child in Pfizer’s Clinical Trial (Siri)

When Stephanie and Patrick de Garay enrolled their 12-year-old child Maddie and her two brothers in Pfizer’s Covid-19 clinical trial, they believed they were doing the right thing. That decision has turned into a nightmare. Maddie, a previously healthy, energetic, full of life child, was within 24 hours of her second dose reduced to crippling, scream-inducing pain that landed her in the emergency room where she described feeling like someone was “ripping [her] heart out though [her] neck.” Over the next several months the nightmare continued, during which Maddie was hospitalized several times and suffered numerous systemic injuries, requires a tube through her nose that carries her food and medicine, and a wheelchair for assistance.

Ms. de Garay documented every detail of Maddie’s injury and reported it to the principal investigator for the Pfizer trial at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where the vaccine clinical trial was occurring and where Maddie was treated and admitted. They first tried to treat Maddie as “a mental patient,” telling the family it was psychological and in Maddie’s imagination. Then they claimed it was unrelated to the vaccine (copy of recording with hospital below), and when that argument failed, Pfizer listed this traumatic adverse event as “functional abdominal pain” when reporting to the FDA. Ms. de Garay reported what occurred to the CDC and FDA through VAERS in June 2021 but nobody from these agencies sought additional information or followed-up with the de Garays.

Ms. de Garay also reached out to Dr. Nath, a Chief in the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, responded by stating he was “Sorry to hear of your daughter’s illness” and that “We have certainly heard of a lot of cases of neurological complications form [sic] the vaccine and will be glad to share our experience with them.” Unfortunately, other than a call arranged by Maddie’s neurologist, there was no follow-up or response from NIH or any other federal health agency. Even after Ms. de Garay did a press event on June 28, 2021 with Senator Ron Johnson, neither Pfizer nor any health agency reached out in any manner to address Maddie’s injury or obtain any additional information.

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I saw the doc from the Nebraska AG when it came out, but it was a PDF made up entirely of images of the text. Not very user friendly for me.

On The Primacy Of The Physician-Patient Relationship (HCR)

I have not written much at this site, or any site, in recent years due to being kept busy supporting litigation regarding bad healthcare information technology as an expert witness. A recent letter, however, so caught my eye regarding both current events and my past writing about bad health IT, that I decided to write about it. It is perhaps a poignant reminder of the craziness of the times in which we physicians find ourselves that a well researched letter on the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and the non-interference with that relationship by outside forces based on opinions of non-clinicians, half-baked ideas, overzealous government, media hysteria to garner audience share, etc. comes not from the hallowed halls of academia or a prestigious medical journal – but from a state Attorney General, namely, of Nebraska.

The letter, dated Oct. 14, 2021 and entitled “Prescription of Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine as Off-Label Medicines for the Prevention or Treatment of Covid-19”, is located at this link: https://ago.nebraska.gov/sites/ago.nebraska.gov/files/docs/opinions/21-017_0.pdf, It was requested by Dannette R. Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. I recommend reading it in its entirety. In this 48-page letter, arguments regarding sanctioning of Nebraska physicians for their decisions on how to treat their patients with FDA-approved drugs for off-label purposes are discussed in significant detail and with significant literature references. The letter reaches the conclusion that:

“… Based on the available data, we do not find clear and convincing evidence that a physician who first obtains informed consent and then utilizes ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 violates the UCA (Nebraska Uniform Credentialing Act). This conclusion is subject to the limits noted throughout this opinion. Foremost among them are that if physicians who prescribe ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine neglect to obtain informed consent, deceive their patients, prescribe excessively high doses, fail to check for contraindications, or engage in other misconduct, they might be subject to discipline, no less than they would be in any other context … Allowing physicians to consider these early treatments will free them to evaluate additional tools that could save lives, keep patients out of the hospital, and provide relief for our already strained healthcare system.”

No matter one’s opinion on the specifics of this particular controversy, the primacy of the physician-patient relationship – absent extreme circumstances of malfeasance/malpractice – is a principle that should not now, and should never need a 48 page letter for its justification.

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No.

Generation Covid-19: Are The Kids Going To Be All Right? (Age)

To be a young adult in late 2021 is to have come of age while COVID-19 put your life on hold. Gone were the dreams of big 18th birthday bashes and a bustling university life. Career ambitions were deferred, exotic holidays abroad with friends a distant dream. Jobs evaporated and social lives shrivelled. For this generation, unemployment reached 10.8 per cent last month, while participation rates – the number of 15 to 24-year-olds either working or looking for work – slumped to just 51.3 per cent, from 55 per cent in March last year. As Melbourne awakens from its sixth lockdown, a generation of the city’s youth are coming to terms with the loss of almost two years of their early adult lives. No other group of young people across the country has suffered quite like those in Melbourne.

Whether it be school-leavers whose gap-year plans have been scuttled, or uni students struggling to stay afloat in remote university classes, COVID-19 has irreparably changed the course of these young people’s personal and professional lives. Now taking their first steps forward in a post-lockdown city, parents and peers alike are wondering: will the kids be all right? “I’ve just turned 21, and there’s only a few more weeks left of my degree,” says Thomas, who does not want his surname published. “I’ve made an application for a postgrad in law – which was my original plan – but if I get accepted, I think I’m going to defer and take the year off. “As a student who was already struggling with chronic mental illness, these last two years have been hell. I feel like what should’ve been some of the most freeing years of my life have been robbed from me. “I need a break.”

He’s far from alone. A longitudinal study of Australia’s young people conducted by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment showed 23 per cent of 20-year-olds lived with a serious mental health illness in 2020, up from just 7 per cent in 2014. It showed young people are in insecure work at higher rates than six years ago (39 per cent were in permanent work in 2020, compared with 43 per cent in 2014) and were underemployed at higher rates (42 per cent would prefer to work more hours, compared with 32 per cent in 2014). Unsurprisingly, given these numbers, 70 per cent of surveyed 20-year-olds were living with their parents, and of those who had moved out by 19, almost a third had been forced to move back in.

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“Whether Baldwin believed the weapon was loaded or not only goes to the issue of whether this is murder rather than manslaughter..”

Lock Him Up (Denninger)

Reality is that Alec Baldwin intentionally pointed a firearm at a person and pulled the trigger. Exactly why he did so remains in question, as the slaughter did not occur during the “action” portion of filming — that is, he was not pointing it at one of the other actors in the film at the time. In fact he pointed it at cinematographer, killing her and and wounding the director behind her who the round also struck. This is, at best, voluntary manslaughter. I do not care if you’re on a movie set or otherwise; a firearm is handed to you with the action open and thus unable to discharge — always. A firearm is always loaded, even if you’re told it is not. You never point a firearm at anything you’re unwilling to destroy, even momentarily. And you never pull the trigger of a firearm until and unless you are pointing it at whatever you are willing to destroy.

That it is occasionally necessary in film production to violate one or more of these rules doesn’t change the rules. It simply means that you had damn well better make certain you’re not going to shoot someone as a result of doing so. In this particular case there is zero evidence Alec Baldwin had any valid reason within the context of the film to point that weapon, believed loaded or not, at a cinematographer. She was not an actor in the film. There is no claim that the weapon malfunctioned (e.g. was dropped) either; older guns, which would be rather common in a western, might not have the safety features of a modern firearm that prohibit them from firing if dropped or otherwise mishandled so that is not at issue in this instance. The evidence and presumption to this point is that the weapon was pointed at the cinematographer and the trigger depressed, both intentional acts.

Whether Baldwin believed the weapon was loaded or not only goes to the issue of whether this is murder rather than manslaughter; he had a duty to inspect what he was allegedly told was a “cold” weapon and verifying it was incapable of discharge if his part in the film required him to point it at, or where in the potential path of a projectile, a human is or could be. It is clear he did not do so and that, at minimum is killing by negligence, commonly known as voluntary manslaughter. If, as appears evident, he intentionally pointed the weapon at the cinematographer and pulled the trigger outside of a requirement to “shoot” at someone while filming was being rehearsed or was actually taking place (e.g. he was pissed off for some reason and that’s why he pointed the alleged “cold gun” at her and pulled the trigger) then I argue depravity is arguably present as well and that’s Murder 2. Baldwin must be arrested now. There is no reasonable means to claim this is an “accident”; Halyna was first the victim of felony assault with a deadly weapon when a firearm was pointed at her without lawful purpose and then was killed when, through an intentional act, it was discharged. I don’t give a crap how rich or famous Baldwin is

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Steve has been doing a lot of climate work, and is running for office in Sydney.

From Economic Fantasy to Ecological Reality on Climate Change (Steve Keen)

This was an invited talk to the Oxford Department of International Development “Climate Change and the Challenges of Development Lecture Series”, on my criticisms of the application of neoclassical economics to climate change. I focused on the new paper by Dietz et al. that allegedly calculates the economic costs of tipping points: Dietz, S., J. Rising, T. Stoerk and G. Wagner (2021). “Economic impacts of tipping points in the climate system.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118(34): e2103081118. Upon closer examination, this papers fails to consider tipping points in any credible way, and this is obvious in its incredible claim (in the original sense of the “not credible”), that: “Tipping points reduce global consumption per capita by around 1% upon 3°C warming and by around 1.4% upon 6°C warming. This is ridiculous: the tipping points they consider are:

• Arctic summer sea ice,
• The Greenland Ice Sheet,
• The West Antarctic Ice Sheet,
• The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (“Gulf Stream”),
• The Amazon Rainforest,
• The Indian Monsoon,
• Permafrost, and
• Ocean methane hydrates.

If all 8 of these tripped–especially with a temperature 3-6°C above pre-industrial levels–we would be experiencing a climate utterly unlike anything Earth has seen for tens of millions of years. The thought that this would just reduce global consumption by just 1.4%–compared to what it would be if none of these tipping points were triggered–doesn’t pass what Nobel Laureate Robert Solow once called “the smell test”: “every proposition has to pass a smell test: Does it really make sense?”. I show why this paper stinks in Solow’s sense.

Read more …

 

 

 

Dads on Duty

 

 

Swiss

 

 

Milan

 

 

Udine
https://twitter.com/i/status/1452004619459104773

 

 

 

 

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Dec 252016
 
 December 25, 2016  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


William-Adolphe Bouguereau La naissance de Vénus 1879

Alec Baldwin Offers To Play Inauguration: ‘I Wanna Sing Highway To Hell’ (G.)
Terminally Ill Dutch Boy Raises £2 Million With Nail-Painting Challenge (G.)
Syrian Chef Serves Up Slice Of Home In Greek Camp (AFP)
An Illegal Hub For Paywalled Science Papers (Nature)
The Radical Jesus (Whitehead)

 

 

I was going to do a good news only Debt Rattle, but I’m afraid I’ve come up a tad short. Not a lot of good news around. I’m sure if I’d go looking for it, I’d find more, but I always want stories to come to me. I thought of just skipping the whole thing, but now that we’ve come this far….. Merry Christmas.

Baldwin’s offer is funnier than the impersonations.

Alec Baldwin Offers To Play Inauguration: ‘I Wanna Sing Highway To Hell’ (G.)

Alec Baldwin has made President-elect Donald Trump an offer to play at his inauguration on 20 January. His song of choice? AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. The actor who did a recurring impression of Trump on Saturday Night Live throughout 2016, made the tongue-in-cheek offer on Twitter, after a string of high profile names refused the gig. Elton John, Andrea Bocelli and Gene Simmons are among the performers who have reportedly turned Trump down. The only confirmed acts so far are the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, America’s Got Talent contestant Jackie Evancho, and the Rockettes, although the Beach Boys are rumoured to be considering playing.

Baldwin and Trump have clashed on social media after the actor began impersonating him on SNL. In November, Trump wrote: “I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?” Baldwin’s withering response, reminded Trump that after the election there is no equal time rule. “There is no more equal time. Now u try 2 b Pres + ppl respond. That’s pretty much it.”

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Heartbreaker.

Terminally Ill Dutch Boy Raises £2 Million With Nail-Painting Challenge (G.)

A terminally ill six-year-old Dutch boy, who hoped to raise a few hundred euros by daring people to paint their nails, has raised more than €2.5m. Tijn Kolsteren, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in May, launched the appeal just three days ago, but it fired the imagination of the Dutch public. The charity drive ended on Saturday. “With his nail-painting dare he wanted to help children suffering from pneumonia,” the Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported. “It was an enormous success – from DJ Armin van Buuren to prime minister Mark Rutte, and many other famous celebrities had their nails painted.” The donation page urged people: “Paint your nails, make a donation and then challenge three of your friends to do the same.” It invited participants to share their pictures on social media using the hashtag #lakaan (meaning “the polish is on”).

The appeal is part of a traditional event in the Netherlands where radio DJs lock themselves away for without food or drink to raise money. This year, proceeds are going to the Red Cross. Rutte joined the DJs late on Friday and opted for a deep blue for his own nails. Tijn’s family learned only last week that a course of chemotherapy had failed to reduce the size of his cancer. “Despite this bad news, we wanted to do something for children who won’t maybe even make it to six,” his father, Gerrit, told NOS. “We came up with the idea together: Tijn had already painted his nails with a friend and liked it. I wanted to do something similar to the ice bucket challenge and men painting their nails is a bit taboo,” he added, referring to the internet craze that raised money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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A woman after my heart. Obviously. Konstantinos always tries, when possible, to give refugees the ingredients and let them cook their own food. They love that.

Syrian Chef Serves Up Slice Of Home In Greek Camp (AFP)

Before braving a ‘trip of death’ to escape Syria, Talal Rankoussi was a chef in a Damascus restaurant considered the largest in the world. Bawabet Al Dimashq – Damascus Gate – still holds that distinction in the Guinness Book of Records as it can seat over 6,000 people. So when 41-year-old Talal was asked by a US benefactor to spice up the meals for several hundred fellow Syrians at the Ritsona camp near Athens, the two-decade culinary veteran did not hesitate. The father of three, who crossed the Aegean in February in “a trip of death, riding a plastic tyre in an ocean under the rain”, says the food handed out in the camp “is undercooked…with no regard to improving the quality.”

Like most refugee camps in Greece, Ritsona receives daily meals from catering companies commissioned by the army. But in terms of quality and nutritional value, it “just covers survival needs,” says a camp operator who declined to be named. “It’s been a challenge just to get the caterers to send pitta bread instead of white bread,” the operator says, adding that “sometimes we have 200 meals left over that nobody wants to eat.” Then came Carolynn Rockafellow, an American former investment banker who moved to Greece last year after a 30-year career, including two decades at Credit Suisse. Rockafellow, originally from New York, has taken a personal interest in the well-being of Ritsona’s 700 refugees, nearly half of them children.

With personal funds and donations from friends, Rockafellow has created Cafe Rits, offering alternative cuisine out of one of the camp’s few brick-and-mortar buildings. “I feel this story is as much about helping the Greeks as it is about helping the refugees,” Rockafellow says over the sound of Talal furiously chopping vegetables. “This is a very tough situation for Greece and I think they’re doing a great job,” says the woman whose nickname around the camp is Madame Sharba, or Mrs Soup.

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Curious.

An Illegal Hub For Paywalled Science Papers (Nature)

It took Alexandra Elbakyan just a few years to go from information-technology student to famous fugitive. In 2009, when she was a graduate student working on her final-year research project in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Elbakyan became frustrated at being unable to read many scholarly papers because she couldn’t afford them. So she learnt how to circumvent publishers’ paywalls. Her skills were soon in demand. Elbakyan saw scientists on web forums asking for papers they couldn’t access – and she was happy to oblige. “I got thanked many times for sending paywalled papers,” she says. In 2011, she decided to automate the process and founded Sci-Hub, a pirate website that grabs copies of research papers from behind paywalls and serves them up to anyone who asks. This year, interest in Sci-Hub exploded as mainstream media cottoned on to it and usage soared.

According to Elbakyan’s figures, the site now hosts around 60 million papers and is likely to serve up more than 75 million downloads in 2016 – up from 42 million last year and, by one estimate, encompassing around 3% of all downloads from science publishers worldwide. It is copyright-breaking on a grand scale — and has brought Elbakyan praise, criticism and a lawsuit. Few people support the fact that she acted illegally, but many see Sci-Hub as advancing the cause of the open-access movement, which holds that papers should be made (legally) free to read and reuse. “What she did is nothing short of awesome,” says Michael Eisen, a biologist and open-access supporter at the University of California, Berkeley. “Lack of access to the scientific literature is a massive injustice, and she fixed it with one fell swoop.”

For the first few years of its existence, the site flew under the radar — but eventually it grew too big for subscription publishers to ignore. In 2015, the Dutch company Elsevier, supported by the wider publishing industry, brought a US lawsuit against Elbakyan on the basis of copyright infringement and hacking. If Elbakyan loses, she risks having to pay many millions of dollars in damages, and potentially spending time in jail. (For that reason, Elbakyan does not disclose her current location and she was interviewed for this article by encrypted e-mail and messaging.) In 2015, a US judge ordered Sci-Hub to be shut down, but the site popped up on other domains. It’s most popular in China, India and Iran, she says, but a good 5% or so of its users come from the United States. Elbakyan has found her name splashed across newspapers, and says she typically gets a hundred supportive messages a week, some with financial donations.

She says she feels a moral responsibility to keep her website afloat because of the users who need it to continue their work. “Is there anything wrong or shameful in running a research-access website such as Sci-Hub? I think no, therefore I can be open about my activities,” she says. Critics and supporters alike think that the site will have a lasting impact, even if it does not last. “The future is universal open access,” says Heather Piwowar, a co-founder of Impactstory, a non-profit firm incorporated in Carrboro, North Carolina, which helps scientists track the impact of their online output. “But we suspect and hope that Sci-Hub is currently filling toll-access publishers with roaring, existential panic. Because in many cases that’s the only thing that’s going to make them actually do the right thing and move to open-access models.”

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As funny as it is sad.

The Radical Jesus (Whitehead)

However, had Jesus been born in the year 2016… Rather than traveling to Bethlehem for a census, Jesus’ parents would have been mailed a 28-page American Community Survey, a mandatory government questionnaire documenting their habits, household inhabitants, work schedule, how many toilets are in your home, etc. The penalty for not responding to this invasive survey can go as high as $5,000. Instead of being born in a manger, Jesus might have been born at home. Rather than wise men and shepherds bringing gifts, however, the baby’s parents might have been forced to ward off visits from state social workers intent on prosecuting them for the home birth. One couple in Washington had all three of their children removed after social services objected to the two youngest being birthed in an unassisted home delivery.

Had Jesus been born in a hospital, his blood and DNA would have been taken without his parents’ knowledge or consent and entered into a government biobank. While most states require newborn screening, a growing number are holding onto that genetic material long-term for research, analysis and purposes yet to be disclosed. Then again, had his parents been undocumented immigrants, they and the newborn baby might have been shuffled to a profit-driven, private prison for illegals where they would have been turned into cheap, forced laborers for corporations such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret. There’s quite a lot of money to be made from imprisoning immigrants, especially when taxpayers are footing the bill.

From the time he was old enough to attend school, Jesus would have been drilled in lessons of compliance and obedience to government authorities, while learning little about his own rights. Had he been daring enough to speak out against injustice while still in school, he might have found himself tasered or beaten by a school resource officer, or at the very least suspended under a school zero tolerance policy that punishes minor infractions as harshly as more serious offenses. Had Jesus disappeared for a few hours let alone days as a 12-year-old, his parents would have been handcuffed, arrested and jailed for parental negligence. Parents across the country have been arrested for far less “offenses” such as allowing their children to walk to the park unaccompanied and play in their front yard alone.

Rather than disappearing from the history books from his early teenaged years to adulthood, Jesus’ movements and personal data—including his biometrics—would have been documented, tracked, monitored and filed by governmental agencies and corporations such as Google and Microsoft. Incredibly, 95% of school districts share their student records with outside companies that are contracted to manage data, which they then use to market products to us. From the moment Jesus made contact with an “extremist” such as John the Baptist, he would have been flagged for surveillance because of his association with a prominent activist, peaceful or otherwise. Since 9/11, the FBI has actively carried out surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations on a broad range of activist groups, from animal rights groups to poverty relief, anti-war groups and other such “extremist” organizations.

Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist. Law enforcement agencies are being trained to recognize signs of anti-government extremism during interactions with potential extremists who share a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.” While traveling from community to community, Jesus might have been reported to government officials as “suspicious” under the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” programs. Many states, including New York, are providing individuals with phone apps that allow them to take photos of suspicious activity and report them to their state Intelligence Center, where they are reviewed and forwarded to law-enforcement agencies.

Rather than being permitted to live as an itinerant preacher, Jesus might have found himself threatened with arrest for daring to live off the grid or sleeping outside. In fact, the number of cities that have resorted to criminalizing homelessness by enacting bans on camping, sleeping in vehicles, loitering and begging in public has doubled. Viewed by the government as a dissident and potential threat to its power, Jesus might have had government spies planted among his followers to monitor his activities, report on his movements, and entrap him into breaking the law. Such Judases today—called informants—often receive hefty paychecks from the government for their treachery.

Had Jesus used the internet to spread his radical message of peace and love, he might have found his blog posts infiltrated by government spies attempting to undermine his integrity, discredit him or plant incriminating information online about him. At the very least, he would have had his website hacked and his email monitored. Had Jesus attempted to feed large crowds of people, he would have been threatened with arrest for violating various ordinances prohibiting the distribution of food without a permit. Florida officials arrested a 90-year-old man for feeding the homeless on a public beach.

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