The Washington Post said recently: “The anti-vaccine movement is comparable to domestic terrorism, and must be treated that way”, while the Guardian had this:
“When it comes to shifting attitudes to vaccines, it is crucial to distinguish between public information campaigns that seek to educate the public and those that seek to persuade them,” said Philipp Schmid, a behavioural scientist researching vaccine scepticism at the University of Erfurt. “[..] if you don’t proactively tackle the problem at all, you end up playing catch-up with the anti-vaxxers. In a way, governments have to work on a parallel vaccine rollout – immunising the public against science denial.”
But WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said: “it’s very important for people to understand that at the moment, all we know about the vaccines is that they will very effectively reduce your risk of severe disease. We haven’t seen any evidence yet indicating whether or not they stop transmission.” And Dr. David Martin claimed: It’s Gene Therapy, Not a Vaccine. One might add: It’s not science, it’s a sales job.
Now, I don’t know exactly who the WaPo refers to when they say “the anti-vaccine movement”, or that German guy with “the anti-vaxxers”, but it appears there is a widespread movement going on to promote mRNA vaccines, both by governments and by the press. And we’re not supposed to ask questions. Well, I’m sorry, but I make a living asking questions. And I think asking questions is not just everybody’s right, it’s an obligation. So don’t come at me with “domestic terrorism” or “anti-vaxxers”, a term that has nothing to do with the topic to begin with. Asking questions is not the same as being against something.
In essence the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA substances are a giant experiment, nothing else. If you can tell me what the logic is behind injecting -soon- hundreds of millions of people with something about which the WHO itself says: “we haven’t seen any evidence yet indicating whether or not they stop transmission,” try me. And how you get from there to issuing “vaccine passports” is as puzzling as the entire propaganda campaign. Who’s engaging in “science denial” here? In its core essence, an Emergency Use Authorization is unscientific.
A vaccine used to mean something that relied on -mostly- dead virus material to get your body to produce immunity “material”. What mRNA does -in this case – is force your body to produce an S1 spike protein, which is toxic to your body. Someone compared it to sticking a USB stick in your body, but one you can never take out anymore. Actually, it’s more like sticking such a USB stick into -almost- every single cell of your body. Forever.
Can it be successful? Maybe, but we have no idea. No research. No clue what mRNA does in the long term. There’s a lot of concern about what it might do to our immune systems. So lots of questions. But we’re not allowed to ask those questions, because then we’re domestic terrorists. Or maybe we can ask them, but only after getting inoculated.
There’s an eery similarity here to the banning of Huckleberry Finn, the Odyssey, and Dr. Seuss. We apparently cannot be trusted to form our own opinions anymore. And if we apply the same rules that got Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss banned, how on earth can the Bible remain politically acceptable? I’m sure they’ll get to that yet.
And the press help shape this new world, and Big Tech becomes Big Brother. There’s nothing either journalists or 20-something social media “guardians” like more than to tell you what you can see, hear, read or think, and I bet you never imagined that’s what George Orwell imagined. Or Mark Twain, for that matter. There is no real difference between banning books and burning them.
The way this is broadcast to us, is that the mRNA substances are safe, based on the fact that not too many people have died from being “vaccinated”. But not only are short-term effects not the main worry about them, there are already plenty headlines like this:
• Injuries Reported to CDC After COVID Vaccines Climb by 4,000 in One Week
• 34 Spontaneous Miscarriages, Stillbirths After COVID-19 Vaccination
• Danger of mRNA Vaccines To Elderly: 16 Deaths In Switzerland
• Norway warns of Covid-19 vaccine risk after 23 die
When you see that in Germany, France and Switzerland, half of care home workers don’t want to get vaccinated, perhaps it’s good to ask a question. Or how about this: “About 60% Of Nursing Home Staff Declined Covid Vaccines, Walgreens Exec Says”, about which Whitney Webb tweeted: “Just wondering if people consider the 60% of nursing home staffers and 1/3 of US troops declining the experimental COVID-19 vaccine to all be “crazy anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists”
I apparently have to be afraid of what reading Huck Finn or the Odysseus will do to me, my brain, the brains of my children and neighbors. But I’m not afraid of that at all, I think the books will enrich their brains, as they have mine, and I’m confident they will be able to figure out what is just and right in the words they read, and what is not.
I’m not overly concerned about Covid19, but I do take a cautious approach. Which means taking vit. C&D and zinc, with ivermectin in my near future. But it doesn’t rule my life, certainly not as much as the lockdowns in Athens do. And frankly, I’m more afraid of sticking a genetic USB stick that generates untested genetic material in my body for the rest of my life, than I am of a virus that is unlikely to kill me.
By now we should be asking what being ruled by fear for a prolonged period of time does to the mindset of not just individuals, but of entire societies. Well, for one thing, it makes it much easier to censor people’s thoughts and actions, to shape their lives before they themselves do it. Be very afraid, roll up your sleeve, and don’t ask questions. And if you behave the way we tell you to, you may be able, in a year, or two, three, to return to the “old normal”.
Which unfortunately absolutely certainly will no longer exist once you get there. Your society will instead look like a warzone because its economy has been ravaged by fear. For one thing, if “they” allow stores, bars, restaurants to reopen this summer (doubtful), it may well be because they can no longer afford the emergency support for businesses and workers. The very first thing to happen then is mass lay-offs. Which will snowball into more businesses closing and more lay-offs.
It’s simply all gone on too long. For our economies, our societies and our minds. And if only to help us (re)cover, we should ask questions. It’s a obligation.
The Covid-19 pandemic has warped humanity’s mindset, turning fear into an intellectual value. Panic is now the smart choice, and those who reject it are considered dangerous barbarians. Sociologists, political theorists and other experts credit the ongoing coronavirus pandemic with forging countless changes in global society. Some are practical, some psychological. Some are temporary, while others will remain in evolving forms.
It’s difficult to deduce if the most troubling change we’re seeing really resulted from the viral crisis, or whether it had been waiting under the surface noise of daily life for full exposure by Covid-19. For the first time in human history, fear is now considered a sign of intellectual superiority, while the choice to resist panic is seen as stubborn foolishness.
[..] If you don’t stay locked in your bedroom in favor of going about your life – still masked, scrubbed and distanced – you’re a fool. Even worse, you’re a reckless fool who lacks compassion for the people you might infect. Regardless, the underlying theme is “crisis” and desperation in place of “challenge” and problem solving.
[..] Finally, if we allow a little old-time religion into the fray and check in on the Gospel writers, we’re told Jesus wept in fear the night before defeating its temptations and facing the crucifixion. Halfway around the world, the Buddha stated: “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you.” The current psychological zeitgeist would ridicule all of those figures or those authors and their protagonists as hasty and brainless for not running away and hiding from a threat indefinitely until it did its damage or decided to go away.
Those in the cult of alarm will say all of those references are fiction, and Covid is real life. I would motion over to Joseph Campbell and remind them that myths and their fables indicate cultural values. No one ridiculing their fellows for not wearing a mask while alone in their cars, dining outside of their own kitchens or even longing to get back to their workplaces has any part to play in any stirring touchstone story or in the real world events that inspire them.
Perhaps this new worship of trepidation is another symptom of the coronavirus that will pass. Until then, we live in hope for a vaccine against our 2020 affliction of dull, self-adulatory dread.
Fear is a healthy and useful natural reaction to events. It can save your life. But it’s not healthy for an individual to live in fear for a prolonged period of time, and fear should never take on a mass identity. Entire societies living in fear for a prolonged period of time are highly toxic to their citizens. In war time, societies are saved not by those who fear, but by the individuals who refuse to let fear lead their lives, and turn it into bravery. Because, as the Buddha says: “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”
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Experts say the return to normalcy will happen when “herd immunity” is achieved. For that to happen, they say, 70% of the population must be vaccinated. Then, of course, there are questions of how long the immunity lasts, whether the disease will recur, and so on. According to a team of researchers at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki who have developed a Covid-19 risk evaluation model, the vaccination of 70% of the population, and thus herd immunity, will be achieved in November, provided there are 1 million vaccinations per month.
[..] By the end of May, a “wall of immunity” for the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and those suffering from serious underlying diseases – will have been built, the researchers say. “[The wall] doesn’t mean complete freedom but at least means the likelihood of lockdown becomes remote,” says Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, professor of environmental engineering at Aristotle University.
Now, a year ago, there also was a lot of talk about herd immunity. But that had nothing to do with the “vaccines”, because none of them existed back then. Way back when, “herd immunity” meant that enough people had been infected, and not gotten sick. Some estimates said 20% would be enough, others said 70%. But none talked about vaccines. And now all of a sudden it’s all about vaccines? For which the companies that produce them say there is no evidence that they protect the vaccinated from getting infected, or them from infecting others? Excuse me?
There already is a huge amount of herd immunity. 90-95% of people do not get sick, period. Because they have strong enough immune systems of themselves, or because they’re young, or any combination of factors. It would seem very irresponsible to claim all of these people should be jabbed before there can be herd immunity. It’s just shoddy science, or, rather, shoddy masquerading as science.
I want to return to a topic I covered a month ago in The One Year Emergency, That is, “emergency”, and its legal implications. Much of the world lives under some State of Emergency, at least a Public Health Emergency. There appears to be a State of Emergency that allows for lockdowns and facemasks to be forced on populations, and a second State of Emergency that lets governments force PCR tests, mRNA “vaccines” and tentatively, vaccine passports upon their citizens. Or is it all the same?
The fact is that a PCR test is not going to make or not make a confirmed diagnosis of anything because PCR tests cannot confirm a diagnosis. [..] The only reason we are using PCR tests is that governors and the Department of Health and Human Services are maintaining a state of emergency. The second that that state of emergency is lifted in any state or in the country, the PCR test won’t be allowed to be used.
We’re maintaining a state of emergency so that manufacturers can keep selling a thing that would never be approved if it was subject to a clinical trial. It goes for what’s being called vaccines too. The gene therapy that Moderna and Pfizer are doing, both of those would be suspended immediately if the state of emergency got lifted. People don’t understand that if you lift the state of emergency, the whole house of cards falls.
And remember that the man who got a Nobel Prize for inventing the PCR test, Kary Mullis, repeatedly stated it should never be used for the purpose we are now using it for. Mullis died in 2019, but if he were still alive, he would most likely have been very vocal, and not in a positive sense, about what is going on today.
A few days ago, I asked a question at the Automatic Earth comments section, and received some nice replies from two responders, Doc Robinson and Herr Werner. I thought I’d share some of those. My question:
Q: In most, if not all, states/countries where the vaccines are administered, this goes through some form of Emergency Use Authorization (because they haven’t been properly tested), which is mostly only possible if there is some sort of State of Emergency. If countries now want to open up again, it would appear that they -legally- have to lift their State of Emergency. But then they can no longer allow people to be vaccinated with the vaccines, can they?
Doc Robinson: Q: …If states/countries now want to open up again, it would appear that they -legally- have to lift their State of Emergency. But then they can no longer allow people to be vaccinated with the vaccines, can they?
In the US, a Determination of Public Health Emergency is used to justify the Emergency Use Authorization of some vaccines, but travel restrictions are not necessarily required during the Public Health Emergency.
If there is no Public Health Emergency, then there can be no Emergency Use Authorization, and the Covid vaccines could not be widely distributed until getting FDA approval after years of testing.
Even if there is a Public Health Emergency, the Covid vaccines could not obtain Emergency Use Authorization if an effective treatment is acknowledged to be available.
With a Public Health Emergency in place, the PREP act (Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for Medical Countermeasures Against COVID-19) provides liability immunity to both public and private distribution channels for the vaccines, including those who prescribe, dispense, and administer the vaccines.
“Liability immunity” means that the “covered person is immune from suit and liability under Federal and State law with respect to all claims for loss caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from the administration or use of a covered countermeasure [such as a vaccine].”
In addition, “to the extent that any State law that would otherwise prohibit the employees, contractors, or volunteers who are a “qualified person” from prescribing, dispensing, or administering COVID-19 vaccines or other Covered Countermeasures, such law is preempted.”
Ilargi: Ok, so no travel restrictions in the US. But how about other countries, what do their laws say? Anybody looking at that? Can the government here in Greece, for example, invite tourists back in while still in a Public Health Emergency? Tourists that could bring in the very virus the emergency is meant to fight?
Also, this is of course pivotal: “Even if there is a Public Health Emergency, the Covid vaccines could not obtain Emergency Use Authorization if an effective treatment is acknowledged to be available.”
Pivotal, because no government, at least in the west, has done any widespread application of vitamin D, ivermectin or HCQ programs. Are these substances “effective”? The reason we don’t know is that although there is plenty literature to suggest they might be, they were never tested. So are the current “vaccines” effective (and safe)? We don’t know that either. There’s a big sales job going on about them, but that’s it.
Doc Robinson: In the US, the emergency declaration can be renewed. An EUA is in effect for one year, or shorter if the emergency declaration is no longer in effect. The EUA can be revoked if the criteria are no longer met (such as, the requirement that “there is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to the product for diagnosing, preventing, or treating the disease or condition.”)
Criteria for EUA Authorization—The FDA will issue an EUA if the FDA commissioner finds all of the following:
• The CBRN agent specified in the declaration of emergency can cause a serious or life-threatening disease or condition.
• Based on the scientific evidence available, it is reasonable to believe that the product may be effective in diagnosing, treating, or preventing the disease or condition specified in the declaration of emergency or caused by another medical product to diagnose, treat, or prevent a disease or condition caused by the specified agent.
• The known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the product when used to diagnose, prevent, or treat the serious or life-threatening disease or condition that is the subject of the declaration.
• There is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to the product for diagnosing, preventing, or treating the disease or condition.
The EUA is in effect for one year from the date of issuance or for as long as the HHS secretary’s §564 emergency declaration is in effect, whichever is shorter. The emergency declaration can be renewed. The EUA can be amended and may be revoked earlier if the criteria for issuance are no longer met or revocation is appropriate to protect public health or safety.
Ilargi: A year, and then we add on another year, and before you know it we need to look up the definition of “emergency” in a dictionary.
Then this from commenter “Herr Werner”, which is a bit long, but interesting:
Herr Werner: I have had a very straightforward question to ask about the safety of covid vaccines, in particular the mRNA ones. The question has nagged me for months, and I spent time this week working on it. It was a difficult question to answer. I wrote this up with the idea of talking within my circle of ppl, I thought the TAE community might find it of interest. Kind of long, apologies –
As I write this, over 200MM people have received covid vaccine doses. While there is more than one vaccine out there, the two available in the West currently are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. (The JnJ vaccine – based on a more conventional technology – will likely be available in early March, but going forward if you show up for the shot, you are not likely to know ahead of time which one you’ll get.) Both Pfizer and Moderna’s are based on mRNA, a topic of much study but little widespread deployment. In the US both are released on an Emergency Use Authorization or its equivalent in other nations, and full approval is not expected until early 2023. Nevertheless the media, the CDC, and political and medical “authorities” are unanimous and incessant in the message that it is “safe and effective.”
Dissenting views on safety are relegated to the fringes, and the existence of vaccines other than just the two mRNA ones (with different, more conventional modes of action) is never mentioned in the Western media. There are several promising aspects to mRNA technology, and still more unknowns about it, particularly long-term effects which most likely would manifest as autoimmune disorders. Being a new technology, early animal studies were often plagued with unexpected negative results as the methods and delivery agents were refined. So where are we in our knowledge and expertise as a species with mRNA, now that we are jabbing tens of millions of people with these vaccines?
The straightforward questions I have are, “How do we know how safe mRNA vaccines are? How well-studied are their long-term effects?”
Those two questions do not yield to an interwebs search. Even an in-depth search mostly returns mostly self-referential information, or secondhand info repackaged and parroted by an authority figure whose motives are unclear (or simply dubious.) Specifically for the covid mRNA vaccines, no long-term data exist, as even the earliest human trials began only in late 2020. At best, we can only infer from other studies done using mRNA technology. A strong case for safety of mRNA could be made if there is a large base of data – say 200 studies, ending over 5 or (better yet) 10 years ago, and a total of a few million people involved in the trials. Even with a large database, there are unknown unknowns once you move outside the confines of clinical study and enter the real world with its long (statistical) tails. Still, large studies with years of follow-up would suggest confidence in their safety.
On the other hand, if there turned out to be just a few studies, or they don’t cover much time history, or include only a small sample of people, that would not support a strong case for mRNA safety. If the latter is the case, then – being generous here – it would be “risky” at best to be giving millions of people a vaccine with this new technology. Severity matters too in the risk/reward calculation: if a disease like Ebola or Lhasa takes hold, they are so deadly and the situation so dire that greater risks are worth taking – including a vaccine with side-effects or other measures that cause harm.
My approach was to answer 3 questions that follow from the first ones – 1) HOW LONG have mRNA interventions been tested on humans?
2) HOW MANY people have been tested (thousands? millions, tens of millions?)
3) …and from 1 and 2, do THOSE numbers suggest that vaccinating large numbers of people with an unapproved mRNA product is safe?
For a starting point I used a Forbes article “What Are The Long-Term Safety Risks Of The Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 Vaccines?” It was published in Dec 2020 and, unsurprisingly, concludes that they are safe. (In fact the article leads off with a strawman, perhaps an attempt at humor, the author’s husband asking if these vaccines are going to turn us into zombies.) The author is Ellen Matloff, in her bio a certified genetic counselor, and she also runs a company that “specializes in scalable, updating, digital genetic counseling.” She is coauthor of several papers in genetics, including subjects related to gene therapy and patient advocacy. It is safe to say she knows what she’s talking about on the topic. Like many authorizes it is equally safe to assume she has a vested interest – both financially and as a personal belief system – in promoting genetic technology.
Spoiler alert: If you want to skip the rest, here’s the answer: about 1,675. That’s the number of people enrolled in (completed) mRNA clinical trials (32 of them) that ended before 2017. Keep in mind the number that received the mRNA treatment-under-study is about half that; most of these are blinded studies and half of them got a placebo. Of those, only 8 studies were conducted on an mRNA treatment against an infectious agent (HIV, rabies) a more realistic comparison which brings the number down to 985 persons. So the size of the database (hundreds) relative to the number of people now receiving doses of the technology (tens of millions) is quite small.
Matloff first discusses the Pfizer vaccine trial and its ability to identify short-term effects “Pfizer vaccine clinical trial study explain[s] that their data show a greater than 83% likelihood of finding at least one adverse, or undesirable, event, if the true incidence of that event is 1 in 10,000. However, the study does not include enough participants, nor has it followed them for enough time, to reliably detect adverse events that are rarer than 1 in 10,000.” That refers to the clinical trials conducted and self-reported by the producer of the vaccine. Assuming their studies are honest and well-run, that covers short-term risks. And it seems to be borne out thus far in the frenzy of arm-jabbing between the end of 2020 and now. We seem to be “in the clear” on short-term effects – safety seems to be on par with any other vaccine, if not a bit better. Though it does suck to be one of those few hundred (?) worldwide that reacted severely and died after the first or second jab, or someone close to them.
On long term risks, the article suggests ‘safe and effective’ though both the article and scientific evidence become decidedly hazy. In Forbes she writes “Of course, the only way to know what, if any, long-term side effects result from the use of these mRNA vaccines is to follow the participants of the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials, vaccinate and study many more people, and then follow all of them for several years. That effort is well underway.” By way of supporting the long-term knowledge, she mentions “mRNA vaccines are not as new as you may think. In fact, mRNA vaccines have been studied over the past two decades and have shown great promise for both infectious disease and cancer.” She links to several sources and particularly calls out an mRNA rabies vaccine trial to support her case. No adverse events are noted in the study. This trial involved 101 participants and ended in 2017. It is neither a large study (many participants to extrapolate the lessons out to millions of people) nor an old study (completed just four years ago.)
The rest of this analysis looks only at numbers; the number people enrolled in mRNA studies and when. This research was performed with data from the US gov’t clinical trials database. One unknown about mRNA or any vaccine is the length of time for long-term effects, if any, become evident. Pulling a number out of the air, let’s look at three years of follow up. That should be enough time for side effects, such as exposure to the infectious agent that the vaccine targets. Let’s round that up to four, that allows for lag of ending the study and publishing out results. This is Feb 2021 so I looked at studies ending before Jan 2017.
Searching on mRNA returns 103 studies. This includes all studies most of which (like the 20 Covid-related ones) are ongoing. All of those studies in total have 90,000 participants. Filtering out incomplete or terminated studies, and ones newer than that arbitrary point in time, gives 32 studies and 1,675 persons. As I mentioned above the number that received the mRNA treatment-under-study is about half that; most of these are blinded studies and half of them got a placebo. Of those, only 8 studies were conducted on an mRNA treatment against an infectious agent (HIV, rabies) a more realistic comparison which brings the number down to 985 persons. Quite a small population to draw conclusions of long-term safety from – that entails extrapolating to a population four orders of magnitude larger.
BTW my approach is admittedly coarse. And I want to emphasize, it does *not* suggest that mRNA technology is dangerous. The approach simply looks at how large the database is that supports how “safe and effective” mRNA vaccines are. Questions such as long-term follow-up, adverse events, and other factors from the individual studies are outside my area of expertise, and unlikely to be found in publicly available sources. We are vaccinating large numbers of people (tens of millions) based on an experience of small size (hundreds) and not much history (going back 1-5 years in most cases.) Again, it does not suggest that mRNA technology is dangerous – it suggests that we do not have enough data. I find insufficient evidence to support the assertion that mRNA technology is “safe and effective” – we SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW.
Ilargi: And then Doc Robinson’s reply to that:
Doc Robinson: HerrWerner: “She links to several sources and particularly calls out an mRNA rabies vaccine trial to support her case. No adverse events are noted in the study. This trial involved 101 participants and ended in 2017.”
If that’s what she wrote, then she’s not a trustworthy source of information (for whatever reasons). No adverse events?
Actually, 78% reported systemic adverse events in that trial. And 10% reported “Grade 3 events — which means the reaction is severe enough to cause hospitalization, and/or is disabling (but not immediately life threatening.)
…we enrolled and vaccinated 101 participants... 50 (78%) of 64 intradermally vaccinated participants and 29 (78%) of 37 intramuscularly vaccinated participants reported solicited systemic adverse events, including ten grade 3 events… intradermal or intramuscular needle-syringe injection was ineffective, with only one participant (who received 320 μg intradermally) showing a detectable immune response.
1 year into the pandemic, we are still stuck with facemasks that, according to physics, appear to have very little effect. We’re stuck with lockdowns that already have destroyed millions of businesses and jobs, for not terribly obvious purposes. Does locking down entire countries or cities prevent a virus from spreading? Not that we know. Here in Athens, this has been in effect since early November, and guess what, numbers are rising again…
How can you force these kinds of things on people if you refuse to try and boost their immune systems? If the only things you do is force them to stay indoors, inarguably a riskier environment, and then tell them to take an untested “vaccine”, or else?
It makes less sense all the time, going forward. And I don’t think it’s because of some great evil plan, there are simply too many people having to make too many decisions they are not at all qualified to make. So they follow “the science”. What else do you do when you’re way out of your league? Virus? Ask a virologist, or epidemiologist. But those people cover only a very small part of the issue. They are clueless when it comes to economic apocalypse, and yet they are in charge of decisions that feed it.
Look, if you put an elephant in a circus, you have a traumatized animal. Which will somehow adapt perhaps, since there’s life around him/her, feeders, audience, and nowhere to go, but still a walking trauma. Inmates will bond with fellows to an extent, there’s life around them, but they’re still traumatized.
And now we’ve excluded millions upon millions of people from their social contacts, the life their ancestors always had, and we’re telling them that a jab of some experimental substance will make it good. Even though we all know there is no guarantee of that whatsoever. None.
We lost our way, and our heart, and your brains. We lost what it means to be human. And mRNA vaccines are not human.
Here’s another interview with PCR inventor Kary Mullis, A controversial guy, for sure, but he did invent it. And maybe that merits a listen:
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Eugene Delacroix Greece expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi 1826
A little personal thank you note from the Automatic Earth is in order. 2020 has been an annus horribilis across the world, but we have been blessed with lots of attention and comments, as well as great support from our readers throughout the year, both for the Automatic Earth itself and for the Monastiraki social kitchen in Athens. Problem is, I have so many people to say thank you to.
We started covering the coronavirus early on, in January, and never looked back. Many people got their first exposure to the virus through us (pun very much intended). What developed throughout 2020 was not just a solid reader-base, but also a maturing comments section, that taught me as much as it did readers.
Thank you for that. The comments from medical professionals and others became a strong part of the entire story. And it was by no means a one-sided thing; opinions were always all over the place, as they should be.
That’s the big problem in my view that we face these days: our media have become one-dimensional, the exact opposite of what they should be. This became clear through the Trump era, and the incessant hammering of one actor vs the deafening silence about all others in the same theater and on the same stage.
And we see that again today: try, if you can, to find in the MSM a critical opinion about lockdowns, or facemasks, or about the newly-fangled vaccines. It’s very hard if not impossible. This one-dimensionality hides behind “the science”. Which is something that doesn’t really exist, as we know because scientists in different countries contradict each other, as do those in the same country, and scientists even often contradict themselves.
If you want people to “follow the science”, you need to convince them that this is the right thing to do. You can’t just force them to do it. Or, rather, you can try that for a short period of time, and then they will come after you. People don’t live their lives in one dimension; they can’t.
Are facemasks useful? Sure, in crowded indoor spaces. But outdoors? I have yet to see the first evidence of that, and I do read an awful lot. Let’s inject some nuance here: if there is a risk of 1 in 100,000 that someone gets infected outdoors, it that worth forcing 99,999 people to put facemasks on? Or would you rather ask them to wear those where it demonstrably matters?
Are lockdowns useful? Sure, but they can only ever be emergency measures, short and “sweet”. Because they risk destroying entire economies and societies. Lockdowns should only be used when there are no other measures available anymore.
But we haven’t exhausted the scope of all other measures, not at all. There are no governments promoting the large scale use of vitamin D, or the proper use of hydroxychloroquine, and Chris Martenson even sees his videos about ivermectin banned from YouTube. As all three substances show great promise in preventing infections, and/or limiting the consequences of being infected.
We’ve been reduced to one-dimensional lives. By now, politicians and “scientists” would rather see everyone be infected, and then “cured” by a vaccine, then not get infected in the first place. In one dimension, the world easily gets turned upside down. You just wouldn’t be able to see it, because you need three dimensions to recognize what “upside down” looks like.
The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines may work very well, but we don’t know, because we haven’t researched that. Which, if you want to “follow the science”, is a very strange thing to do. Of course we would all like the virus to be gone, but ignoring the science doesn’t look like the way to achieve that. And that’s what we’re doing: we’re not following the science, we’re ignoring it where that fits our purposes.
We don’t know if the Pfizer vaccine protects you from being infected, we don’t know if it keeps you from infecting others, but we do know governments and airlines are talking about requiring evidence that you’ve received a dose. But for what purpose, then, exactly? Just to let all the MPs and CEOs people claim they did what they could?
-Too- many people have lost their jobs and their businesses without any country seriously having tried to stop people from becoming infected through the use of vit. D, HCQ, ivermectin. Many of these jobs and businesses will never come back. Is this worth it? Maybe if we could say we tried everything we could, but we obviously haven’t.
We sold our souls to the “science” and then to the vaccine. Which are two very very different things.
If there’s ever been a time to ask questions, it must be now. About lockdowns, facemasks and viruses, about people, communities, societies, economies. That we are being pressured into not asking those questions, makes them even more necessary.
Anyway, those are all issues and questions that will need to be addressed in 2021, we’ve run out of 2020 time. It’s just that it wouldn’t have been necessary; we could easily have done much if not most of it this year. But we have become information-poor, and by design to boot. Which is the opposite of what the Automatic Earth wants to be and do. We want to present all the information, and that without paywalls or things like that.
There are too many of those already, and their main effect is to restrict information at a time when people arguably need more of it. Our model of increasingly relying on donations has worked out alright in 2020, and we hope the same will be true in the new year. Thank you again so kindly for making that possible.
A last word, again, about the Monastiraki kitchen: when you see things get harder for yourself, as so many have, it should be a natural reflex to wonder how they are for those less fortunate, because it’s a safe bet they will be hit even harder. It took me way too long to learn that. The team at the kitchen have that down: give, give, and never take. Enormous thanks to all of them.
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One day when you’re old, and you ask yourself what has been the most important thing you did in your life, the answer will have to be what you did for other people. That is both the only possible outcome, and it’s also at the same time the very thing that is threatened most by the incessant lockdowns and facemask mandates. People need people.
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When politicians across the globe tell you they listen to “the science” when defining their COVID measures, they don’t really, they are lying. What they listen to is a shred of science as formulated by their local virologists and epidemiologists, which is inevitably questioned by other scientists.
If this were not the case, the entire world would now be taking the same measures, and there would not be any discussions in the scientific community. Still, when measures are imposed in various countries, they are imposed as some kind of law. Lockdowns are popular among failed and failing politicians, because they see it as a failsafe measure (there’s nothing more extreme). But that is only because they have never moved beyond the “COVID is the only problem we have” mindframe.
Still, even then, it would be wise to recognize these measures as arbitrary. That’s why they differ from one place to another; they make it up as they go along, guided by their limited understanding of the issue. What US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch opined on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decree on closing churches, as the court struck down the decree, is a fine example of why they are arbitrary:
Things tend to be better defined when courts of law rule on them. Thta’s what courts are for. Which is why we should pay attention when a Portuguese court states that PCR tests are 97% unreliable. We don’t pay attention, because our media ignore that ruling. And we continue to use the PCR test on a massive scale, even if its own inventor says it shouldn’t be used for this purpose. And so says the box that it comes in. “The science”? No, it’s not.
And for all those countries that close their stores and schools, this from Canada should perhaps, no, definitely, open eyes:
If only 1.5% of COVID deaths happen outside of long term care homes, the “science” doesn’t say close your schools and stores and make everyone wear a mask 24 hours a day, the science says pump massive amounts of resources into those care homes in order to stop the misery there. Closing stores will not do that. It will have other, very negative, effects though, while you’re not taking care of the care homes.
This is from Peter Andrews, a geneticist and science journalist:
Four German holidaymakers who were illegally quarantined in Portugal after one was judged to be positive for Covid-19 have won their case, in a verdict that condemns the widely-used PCR test as being up to 97% unreliable. Earlier this month, Portuguese judges upheld a decision from a lower court that found the forced quarantine of four holidaymakers to be unlawful. The case centred on the reliability (or lack thereof) of Covid-19 PCR tests. The verdict, delivered on November 11, followed an appeal against a writ of habeas corpus filed by four Germans against the Azores Regional Health Authority. This body had been appealing a ruling from a lower court which had found in favour of the tourists, who claimed that they were illegally confined to a hotel without their consent.
The tourists were ordered to stay in the hotel over the summer after one of them tested positive for coronavirus in a PCR test – the other three were labelled close contacts and therefore made to quarantine as well. The deliberation of the Lisbon Appeal Court is comprehensive and fascinating. It ruled that the Azores Regional Health Authority had violated both Portuguese and international law by confining the Germans to the hotel. The judges also said that only a doctor can “diagnose” someone with a disease, and were critical of the fact that they were apparently never assessed by one. They were also scathing about the reliability of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, the most commonly used check for Covid.
The conclusion of their 34-page ruling included the following: “In view of current scientific evidence, this test shows itself to be unable to determine beyond reasonable doubt that such positivity corresponds, in fact, to the infection of a person by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” In the eyes of this court, then, a positive test does not correspond to a Covid case. The two most important reasons for this, said the judges, are that, “the test’s reliability depends on the number of cycles used’’ and that “the test’s reliability depends on the viral load present.’’ In other words, there are simply too many unknowns surrounding PCR testing.
This is not the first challenge to the credibility of PCR tests. Many people will be aware that their results have a lot to do with the number of amplifications that are performed, or the ‘cycle threshold.’ This number in most American and European labs is 35–40 cycles, but experts have claimed that even 35 cycles is far too many, and that a more reasonable protocol would call for 25–30 cycles. (Each cycle exponentially increases the amount of viral DNA in the sample). [..] The Portuguese judges cited a study conducted by “some of the leading European and world specialists,” which was published by Oxford Academic at the end of September. It showed that if someone tested positive for Covid at a cycle threshold of 35 or higher, the chances of that person actually being infected is less than three percent, and that “the probability of… receiving a false positive is 97% or higher.”
Then there are the vaccines that everyone’s so hyped up about. Gilbert Berdine, MD, writing for the Mises Institute, has some questions about the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines (anything to do with why Twitter suspended the institute’s account)?
What exactly is a “case” of COVID? It can’t be a positive PCR test, not if those are only 3% reliable. So “the science” must be doing something wrong, and with them just about any government on the planet.
And yes, Pfizer and Moderna have dollar signs in their eyes. There are many questions about the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, and I can’t help thinking they are linked to the fact that it’s not-for-profit. Likewise, the complete silence about Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is also curious. We want to solve the problem only if our own scientists and the Big Pharma they work for can do it?
Both trials have a treatment group that received the vaccine and a control group that did not. All the trial subjects were covid negative prior to the start of the trial. The analysis for both trials was performed when a target number of “cases” were reached. “Cases” were defined by positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. There was no information about the cycle number for the PCR tests. There was no information about whether the “cases” had symptoms or not. There was no information about hospitalizations or deaths. The Pfizer study had 43,538 participants and was analyzed after 164 cases. So, roughly 150 out 21,750 participants (less than 0.7%) became PCR positive in the control group and about one-tenth that number in the vaccine group became PCR positive.
The Moderna trial had 30,000 participants. There were 95 “cases” in the 15,000 control participants (about 0.6%) and 5 “cases” in the 15,000 vaccine participants (about one-twentieth of 0.6%). The “efficacy” figures quoted in these announcements are odds ratios. There is no evidence, yet, that the vaccine prevented any hospitalizations or any deaths. The Moderna announcement claimed that eleven cases in the control group were “severe” disease, but “severe” was not defined. If there were any hospitalizations or deaths in either group, the public has not been told.
When the risks of an event are small, odds ratios can be misleading about absolute risk. A more meaningful measure of efficacy would be the number to vaccinate to prevent one hospitalization or one death. Those numbers are not available. An estimate of the number to treat from the Moderna trial to prevent a single “case” would be fifteen thousand vaccinations to prevent ninety “cases” or 167 vaccinations per “case” prevented which does not sound nearly as good as 94.5% effective.
The publicists working for pharmaceutical companies are very smart people. If there were a reduction in mortality from these vaccines, that information would be in the first paragraph of the announcement.
There is no information about how long any protective benefit from the vaccine would persist. Antibody response following covid-19 appears to be short lived. Based on what we know, the covid vaccine may require two shots every three to six months to be protective. The more shots required, the greater the risk of side effects from sensitization to the vaccine. There is no information about safety. None. Government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) appear to have two completely different standards for attributing deaths to covid-19 and attributing side effects to covid vaccines.
If these vaccines are approved, as they likely will be, the first group to be vaccinated will be the beta testers. I am employed by a university-based medical center that is a referral center for the West Texas region. My colleagues include resident physicians and faculty physicians who work with covid patients on a daily basis. I have asked a number of my colleagues whether they will be first in line for the new vaccine. I have yet to hear any of my colleagues respond affirmatively.
The reasons for hesitancy are that the uncertainties about safety exceed what they perceive to be a small benefit. In other words, my colleagues would prefer to take their chances with covid rather than beta test the vaccine. Many of my colleagues want to see the safety data after a year of use before getting vaccinated; these colleagues are concerned about possible autoimmune side effects that may not appear for months after vaccination.
Next, we get a look, through the American Institute for Economic Research, at a report that Johns Hopkins University somewhat mysteriously pulled from its website:
It is already well established that Covid-19 is a disease that is most dangerous to those over the age of 65 and who have preexisting conditions. In the United States, there has been an observed 2.1% mortality rate, with elderly individuals making up over half that number. Young and healthy people are not by any significant capacity threatened by Covid-19. One of the most important factors when it comes to Covid-19 is preventing excess death. According to the CDC, “Estimates of excess deaths can provide information about the burden of mortality potentially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including deaths that are directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19. Excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.”
Essentially, there is an average number of deaths every year due to a variety of causes that for the most part have remained constant through the years. This includes morbidities such as heart disease, which has long been the leading cause of death, and cancer, which has long plagued our existence. For Covid-19 to be a serious cause of alarm, it would need to significantly increase the number of average deaths. However, according to the study, “These data analyses suggest that in contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.” Total deaths in the United States show no significant change and even mirror past trends of seasonal illness.
[..] What is even more interesting if not more alarming is that the spike in recorded Covid-19 deaths seen in 2020 has coincided with a proportional decrease in death from other diseases. Yanni Gu writes “This suggests, according to Briand, that the COVID-19 death toll is misleading. Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.” Deaths have remained relatively constant, yet reported deaths due to deadly conditions such as heart disease have fallen while reported Covid deaths have risen. This suggests that the current Covid death count is in some capacity relabeled deaths due to other ailments. According to the graph, reported Covid deaths even overtook heart disease as the main cause of death at one point, which should raise suspicion.
And when you see the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal report that some 53 million American may already have been infected, you must ask what the use is of all the COVID measures at this point in time. If this is true in the US, chances are it is true in virtually any other location.
Looks like everybody has it and only people in care homes die from it, and on top of that many of those people didn’t actually die from COVID but from some other affliction. And for that we are closing down our entire societies, force massive amounts of businesses into bankruptcy, force millions upon millions into unemployment. All while relying on a test method that is 97% unreliable.
The actual number of Covid-19 infections in the U.S. could be about eight times as much as the total reported cases, a model created by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated. The model published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests that nearly 53 million people in the U.S. had been infected with Covid-19 by the end of September. The estimate is around eight times higher than the 7.1 million confirmed cases that had been reported back then. The model tries to account for the fact that most cases of Covid-19 are mild and therefore go unreported. The scientists, however, warned that by the end of September, 84% of the U.S. population had not been infected and was still at risk of catching the disease.
If the trend of unreported cases still holds true as of Thursday, the U.S. — which has 12.5 million confirmed cases — could be approaching 100 million total infections across the country. In October, the World Health Organisation had said that nearly 10% of the world population or nearly 760 million people may have already been infected with Covid-19, despite the fact that only 35 million confirmed cases had been recorded as of that time.
“When you count anything, you can’t count it perfectly,” Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, had said back then adding, “But I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of Covid.” Scientists have also suggested that deaths due to the pandemic have also been severely undercounted, with the CDC stating that the U.S. had recorded nearly 300,000 excess deaths during the pandemic as of October 3. This number was nearly 100,000 deaths more than what had been officially recorded by the states.
What we need is actual science. Not “a science” or “some science”, but undisputed science. Einstein’s E=MC2 is science, that’s the level we need. Not disputable pseudo-science. Yes, there’s panic among politicians and scientists alike, yes, there is Long-COVID, yes there are people with multiple organ failure, but you will still have to do risk-assessment, you must look at how many people are involved.
And if you’re talking 0.01% of people, you need to wonder if it’s worthwhile to close down your entire society in a Great Reset kind of fashion. Likewise, forcing everyone to wear facemasks outside is something that must be evaluated as per risk factors. What is the risk of infecting anyone while just passing them in the street? It’s never zero, but no risk is ever zero. And if it’s 0.001%, does that justify turning your streets into a zombified society that puts everyone on edge?
“The science” needs to evolve, and it doesn’t appear to have done that. We’re back to square one all the time. COVID equals Groundhog Day. “Well, that didn’t help, so let’s do more of the same”. By now, the science, to remain believable, should have developed, moved on. It hasn’t. The hope for vaccines has taken on desperate levels, and the reliance on Big Pharma doesn’t help. Nor does the outright rejection of Russian, Chinese, Cuban vaccines. All nations with excellent medical resources, but ignored for political reasons. This is not the time to play politics. It’s a time for science to step up to the plate.
Are things much worse in countries that leave their stores open? Are they in places that don’t make people wear facemasks 24/7? The “science” should answer those questions by now. What else are they doing? But it’s not happening. COVID vs “The Science”: 1-0.
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Official data is ‘exaggerating’ the risk of Covid-19 and talk of a second wave is ‘misleading’, nearly 500 academics told Boris Johnson in open letter attacking lockdown. The doctors and scientists said the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has become ‘disproportionate’ and that mass testing has distorted the risk of the virus. They said tests are likely to be producing high numbers of ‘false positive’ results and the Government must do more to put infection and death rates within the context of normal seasonal rates. The letter criticised the Government’s handling of coronavirus for ‘causing more harm than good’. It comes after the UK yesterday confirmed a further 24,957 positive Covid tests, up just 13.9 per cent on last week’s total.
Top scientists suggested the UK’s second wave of coronavirus has already peaked. Professor Tim Spector, who leads the Covid Symptom Study app aiming to track the spread of Covid-19 in the UK, confirmed that there were ‘positive signs’ the country has ‘passed the peak of the second wave’. The open letter to the Prime Minister was signed by 469 medics and is titled First Do No Harm – the medical principle that a cure must never be worse than the disease itself. It is signed by immunologist Dr Charlotte R Bell, paediatrician Dr Rosamond Jones, consultant surgeon and Keith Willison, Professor of Chemical Biology at Imperial College.
The letter reads: ‘The management of the crisis has become disproportionate and is now causing more harm than good. ‘We urge policy-makers to remember that this pandemic, like all pandemics, will eventually pass but the social and psychological damage that it is causing risks becoming permanent. ‘After the initial justifiable response to Covid-19, the evidence base now shows a different picture.
One of Joe Biden’s first priorities as president-elect will be implementing mask mandates nationwide by working with governors. The future 46th president, however, says if they refuse than he will go to mayors and county executives and get local masking requirements in place. Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel believes that while masks are “the icing on the physical distancing cake” and should be worn properly both indoors and outdoors, especially when people are too close together, a more punitive approach to mask wearing may have the opposite impact of what the administration intends.
“I think masks are quite useful, but they have a place and they’re not the be all and end all,” Siegel said. “I’m worried that mandating this with fines and such may actually lead to more of a rebellion against it.” He noted that the use of masks should be determined based on how much of the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is in a specific area rather than mandating it everywhere. As for social distancing, Biden’s plan says it will be used as more of a “dial” approach that will determine the risk of spread using evidence-based guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a move Siegel says is a mistake.
“I don’t think social distancing is dial. I think masks are a dial,” Siegel said. “Social distancing is something we should just be doing right now. You never know how much virus was in the community.” He believes physical distancing is actually more important to curbing the spread than masks are. “I think physical distancing is more important than masks,” Siegel argued. “If you’re 10 feet away from someone, you’re not going to get the virus. If you’re one foot away with a mask, you might.”
The pandemic has put back attitudes to driving versus public transport by two decades, with almost two-thirds of UK car owners now considering their vehicle essential, research has found. A clear majority would now refuse to switch to a greener alternative even if better trains or buses were available, according to the RAC. The research for its annual Report on Motoring found reluctance to use public transport was now at its highest for 18 years. Compared with 2019, significantly more young drivers, and those living in the capital – around 65% of each – regard their vehicle as essential.
Although 50% reported actually using their car less overall this year, with 33% of the 3,000 respondents currently working from home, more than half, some 57%, perceived access to a car as more important now than before the coronavirus pandemic. While 54% said safety was a consideration, an increasing number now deemed a car necessary to shop or visit friends. Meanwhile, only 43% agreed they would use their cars less if there was better public transport, a sharp fall from 57% in 2019, and the lowest figure since 2002. The findings will further concern transport campaigners, with optimism dwindling that lower traffic volumes and increased cycling and walking could be maintained as a positive side-effect after the pandemic.
Cycling trips fell significantly below pre-pandemic levels in October, and people largely continued to avoid public transport. Passenger numbers were around 30% of normal demand on rail, and 60% on buses, while car use had risen to around 90% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest government figures up to last Monday. Other sources showed road traffic leapt in the following days before new lockdown restrictions, with data from satnav providers showing some of the worst congestion in two years on Wednesday.
“Numerous media outlets that in 2015 were sputtering if not collapsing, and numerous television personalities about to be fired because nobody was watching them, were first rescued and then propelled into the stratosphere by The Trump Show.”
That the liberal belief in and fear of a Trump-led fascist dictatorship and violent coup is actually a fantasy — a longing, a desire, a craving — has long been obvious. The Democrats’ own actions proved that they never believed their own melodramatic and self-glorifying rhetoric about Trump as The New Hitler — from their leaders joining with the GOP to increase The Fascist Dictator’s domestic spying powers and military spending to their (correct) belief that the way to oust The Neo-Nazi Tyrant was through a peaceful and lawfully conducted democratic election in which vote totals and, if necessary, duly constituted courts would determine the next president. The motives for concocting this Wagnerian fantasy about coups, dictatorship, concentration camps and civil war are numerous.
Politics is boring, and your life unspectacular, if it’s dedicated to a goal as banal and uninspiring as empowering a septuagenarian career-politician — the centrist-authoritarian author of the 1994 Crime Bill, the credit card industry’s most loyal servant, and key Iraq War advocate — along with his tough-on-crime prosecutor-running-mate who always seems as if she just left a meeting of the Aetna Board of Directors where massive hikes in deductibles were approved. Glory is available only if one can convincingly herald oneself as a front-line warrior risking it all to courageously battle unprecedented evil and a Nazi-like menace. But working to do nothing more than elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the rest of the painfully ordinary and mediocre corporatist and imperialist Democratic Party politicians through a standard American election?
There’s no glory residing in that, no courage needed for it, to put it mildly. Posturing as a courageous soldier in an existential battle for freedom, democracy and the survival of the marginalized against Nazi despotism is far more exciting and psychologically satisfying (and financially profitable) than being an obedient liberal drone marching in perfect tune to the dreary, McKinsey-scripted musical theater produced by Tom Perez and the DNC. That is therefore the delusional storyline adopted by many. Then there’s the multi-pronged profit that the Trump-as-Hitler motif has generated for virtually every institution of American authority. Numerous media outlets that in 2015 were sputtering if not collapsing, and numerous television personalities about to be fired because nobody was watching them, were first rescued and then propelled into the stratosphere by The Trump Show.
“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” said the network’s then-CEO Les Moonves in 2016 about Trump TV. Of course media outlets don’t want to declare the 2020 election over: they will milk the abundant Trumpian cash cow until the very last drop has been monetized. The frightening spectre of a Dictatorial Menace also led liberal advocacy groups such as the ACLU to drown in previously unimaginable quantities of #Resistance cash, frenetically donated in the name of stopping Trump’s incomparable evil. Rotted and discredited institutions like the CIA, NSA and FBI re-branded themselves as patriotic guardians of liberal democracy and stalwart protectors of a besieged population.
President Trump plans to brandish obituaries of people who supposedly voted but are dead — plus hold campaign-style rallies — in an effort to prolong his fight against apparent insurmountable election results, four Trump advisers told me during a conference call this afternoon. Obits for those who cast ballots are part of the “specific pieces of evidence” aimed at bolstering the Trump team’s so-far unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud and corruption that they say led to Joe Biden’s victory. Fueling the effort is the expected completion of vote counting this week, allowing Republicans to file for more recounts Team Trump is ready to announce specific recount teams in key states, and it plans to hold a series of Trump rallies focused on the litigation.
In Georgia: Doug Collins, the outgoing congressman who lost to Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a special election to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat, will be leading the campaign’s recount efforts. The team has also redeployed 92 staffers from Florida to Georgia, doubling its group on the ground In Arizona: Kory Langhofer, former counsel for Trump’s 2016 transition, will serve as lead attorney. In Pennsylvania: Porter Wright’s Ron Hicks is heading up the legal effort. Nationwide: They’re assembling additional surrogates and lawyers. “We want to make sure we have an adequate supply of manpower on the ground for man-to-man combat,” one adviser said. The group is also staffing a campaign-style media operation.
The team led by Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh is now a surrogate messaging center. It will pump out “regular press briefings, releases on legal action and obviously things like talking points and booking people strategically on television,” one adviser said. They’ll also make a big play to raise money for their legal defense fund. Trump’s formal legal team includes 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, lawyer Justin Clark, and senior advisers Jason Miller and David Bossie. Reps. Jim Jordan and Scott Perry, as well as former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, are also advising.
While Trump is still far from conceding the election, whose outcome is called not by the media, but by the Electoral College on Dec 14… … Joe Biden is already busy forming his cabinet, where he need to draw a fine line between the hard-left progressive in the Democratic party (AOC has already been quite vocal in her criticism of how the Squad has been ignored) and centrist elements. Also, in addition to rolling out such new policies as fighting climate change and aggressively promoting women and minorities, Biden will focus on an economic team that will confront the surging unemployment and business slowdown touched off by the coronavirus pandemic. In total, as he builds out his economic team Biden will need to fill out the nearly two dozen cabinet-level positions in his administration.
Starting at the very top, Bloomberg reports that Biden will look for a Treasury secretary and other key officials “to negotiate with Congress on more stimulus, roll back some of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and mend relations with U.S. trading partners.” Among the contenders that have emerged to fill the top economic-policy job are Fed Governor Lael Brainard for Treasury and economist Heather Boushey as director of the National Economic Council. Other crucial jobs include naming the secretaries of Defense, State and Homeland Security, together responsible for carrying out administration policy and overseeing a federal bureaucracy with more than 2 million civilian employees.
While Biden will be mindful of the possibility that a Republican-controlled Senate would almost certainly scuttle nominees for top posts who belong to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, liberal groups will be policing Biden’s choices closely, fearful that he won’t reach into their ranks for top positions but will instead choose “moderate” Democrats in his own mold. Biden may try to tamp down that sentiment by putting a liberals in jobs that don’t require Senate confirmation. Most importantly, this means that “the swamp” which Trump vowed to fight – and lost – is back, because in forming his cabinet, Biden will rely on an inner circle of longtime veterans from the Obama administration as well as Wall Streeters. Finally, while Biden could make history by naming the first women to lead the Defense and Treasury departments, his key White House advisers are likely to be White men.
Amid all of the election ramifications and discussions, Donald Trump Jr. outlined a thought today that has likely been on the mind of many, myself included. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this since the media began their insufferable onslaught and “president-elect Biden” narrative. The time has long past for President Trump to fully demand his executive cabinet members declassify the evidence outlining intrusive government surveillance upon not only himself, but all Americans. CTH has a rather unique perspective on the declassification angle. This conversation has traveled with me for over two years as I have talked to people inside the machinery.
Ultimately the discussion ends around something like this: Is the DC political surveillance state, and all of the ramifications within that reality, so fundamentally corrupt and against our nation’s interests, that no entity dare expose the scope and depth of it? And ultimately… is it the preservation of institutions that is causing so many disconnected outcomes from evidence intentionally downplayed? If we assume the scale of unconstitutional conduct has become systemic, that likely answers the questions. Personally, I believe this is the most likely scenario. “Likely” meaning the entire apparatus, DOJ, FBI, Legislative Oversight and the Intelligence Community (IC), is now so enmeshed within this corrupt out-of-control state that no-one, even the good guys, is willing to expose it because the institutional collapse would be devastating.
This is what I would call the Biggest of the Big Ugly. This catastrophic outcome, in combination with DC having made the system the primary source of their income, is what unites the Republicans and Democrats to stop anyone from exposing it. Once any elected official goes inside this system, they end up serving it. All of that said, I have previously outlined a pre-election process for President Trump to declassify information that would lay the system naked to We The People. However, I don’t think post-election this will work, because the executive branch cabinet officers will refuse to support it. The enemies inside the gate will protect DC.
Election software that incorrectly awarded thousands of votes to Joe Biden in Michigan is used in a majority of U.S. states, including statewide in Georgia where it has reportedly been implicated in several voting-related “glitches” there. The Michigan Secretary of State confirmed on Friday that a software error in Antrim County, Michigan, in which Joe Biden was incorrectly awarded thousands of votes that led him to be declared the county winner, was caused by an error in which the county clerk “did not update the software used to collect voting machine data and report unofficial results.” The software is administered by the company Dominion Voting Systems. Following the correction of the error, the county flipped back to Trump, who walked away with 2,500 more votes than Biden.
Beyond Michigan, Dominion Voting System is also used in a majority of U.S. states, with the company boasting on its website of having “customers in 28 states,” including “9 of the top 20 counties” and “4 of the top 10 counties” throughout the county. The system was used for a presidential election in Georgia for the first time this year, after the state announced in July of 2019 that Dominion would be given a statewide contract to provide systems and software to the state’s 159 counties. Multiple election-related “glitches” have been reported in the state since Tuesday. In one instance, voting in two Georgia counties ground to a halt for several hours after an unknown update was applied to voting machines there.
In another county, a “software glitch” caused a delay in counting thousands of absentee ballots. Dominion reportedly received a $107 million contract last year to install 30,000 voting machines throughout the state. Georgia was moving away from its earlier election equipment provider, Election Systems & Software, after complaints following the 2018 midterm elections. Joe Biden currently leads in Georgia by about 7,000 votes.
The 2020 US Presidential election far exceeded 2 standard deviations of historical voter turnout over the past ~100 years.
A statistically improbable outcome.
For comparison, both the 2012 and 2016 elections with Obama were well within a single standard deviation. pic.twitter.com/mcivSZ4qYW
I recently published in Middle East Eye a detailed analysis of last week’s report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the question of whether the UK Labour party had an especial antisemitism problem. (You can read a slightly fuller version of that article on my website.) In the piece, I reached two main conclusions. First, the commission’s headline verdict – though you would never know it from reading the media’s coverage – was that no case was found that Labour suffered from “institutional antisemitism”. That, however, was precisely the claim that had been made by groups like the Jewish Labour Movement, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Board of Deputies and prominent rabbis such as Ephraim Mirvis.
Their claims were amplified by Jewish media outlets such as the Jewish Chronicle and individual journalists such as Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian. All are now shown to have been wrong, to have maligned the Labour party and to have irresponsibly inflamed the concerns of Britain’s wider Jewish community. Not that any of these organisations or individuals will have to apologise. The corporate media – from the Mail to the Guardian – are continuing to mislead and misdirect on this issue, as they have been doing for the best part of five years. Neither Jewish leadership groups such as the Board of Deputies nor the corporate media have an interest in highlighting the embarrassing fact that the commission’s findings exposed their campaign against Corbyn as misinformation.
What the report found instead were mainly breaches of party protocol and procedure: that complaints about antisemitism were not handled promptly and transparently. But even here the issue was not really about antisemitism, as the report indicates, even if obliquely. Delays in resolving complaints were chiefly the responsibility not of Corbyn and his staff but of a party bureaucracy that he inherited and was deeply and explicitly hostile to him. Senior officials stalled antisemitism complaints not because they were especially antisemitic but because they knew the delays would embarrass Corbyn and weaken him inside the party, as the leaked report of an Labour internal inquiry revealed in the spring.
After Joe Biden declared victory in the US presidential election on Saturday, there are fears that tensions between Russia and the West could escalate under his leadership. Congratulating the Democratic candidate on his projected win, which incumbent President Donald Trump continues to allege is the result of electoral fraud, the secretary general of NATO singled out Moscow as a priority for the incoming American leader. In a statement on the US-led military bloc’s website, Jens Stoltenberg wrote, “I warmly welcome the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. I know Mr. Biden as a strong supporter of NATO and the transatlantic relationship.”
He continued: “We need this collective strength to deal with the many challenges we face, including a more assertive Russia, international terrorism, cyber and missile threats, and a shift in the global balance of power with the rise of China.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has argued that NATO is increasingly succumbing to anti-Russian rhetoric. Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters last month in a discussion about tensions with Sweden that the bloc was the source of “invented anti-Russian phobias” and “fanning tensions and the escalation of military activities in Northern Europe, one of the most stable regions in the world until recently.”
The past record of Biden, a stalwart of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, has concerned many Moscow lawmakers. The presumptive winner is unlikely to oversee an easing of tensions between the two countries, cautioned Leonid Slutsky, who heads the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is the Russian equivalent to the body which Biden chaired, adding that he didn’t “expect essential changes for the better.” “Biden, together with President [Barack] Obama, launched the flywheel of new deterrents against Russia, with a series of sanctions at various levels,” Slutsky said.He also pointed to comments that Biden made in the past in which the Democratic candidate positioned Russia as America’s “main enemy” in his pre-election rhetoric.
What happened to following the science? In the spring, when Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers were proceeding in lockstep, there was no disagreement about the necessity of shutting the country down. Now the government is coming to its own conclusions about what is needed, and the scientists on the Sage advisory group have started distancing themselves from No 10’s decisions. Critics complain that the politicians are chancing it rather than being led by the evidence. But as the German sociologist Max Weber argued a century ago, politics can never really follow the science. Pretending that it can is where the trouble starts. Weber believed that politics and science do not mix. In the end, political decision-making has to rest on personal judgment – there is no scientific manual to tell leaders what to do.
More to the point, scientists are not well suited to making those decisions. They want the facts to speak for themselves. That is wishful thinking: facts alone cannot tell us what to do. In politics, expecting the evidence to point the way does not reduce the arbitrariness of the outcome. All political choices are arbitrary to a degree. Using statistics to justify difficult decisions just makes them appear more arbitrary for anyone who happens to disagree. The widespread consensus in March that a national lockdown was needed – shared not just by national politicians and their expert advisers, but by the public too – was not primarily driven by the science. It came from a joint conviction that things were getting out of control. Something had to be done. Most people began social distancing well before the government mandated it, and many stopped before the government told them it was safe.
In the spring, Johnson could plausibly claim to speak for the country as a whole when he took drastic action. Now he speaks for almost no one. He is making his own decisions, which is what we pay him to do. His problem is that he can’t admit it. He has to pretend that nakedly political judgments – about who gets what, and who pays the price – are being calibrated to a more nuanced understanding of the evidence. He is weighing up a virus whose health impacts are concentrated locally against economic consequences where the effects are national. Manchester v London is not a problem that can be solved by an algorithm or better stats.
A saliva PCR test kit alone costs $129.99, but the kit with a video observation costs $139.99 It turns out, you really can get everything at Costco. The wholesale retailer is now selling at-home coronavirus test kits on its website. The saliva PCR tests are administered by telemedicine platform AZOVA and cost $129.99 for just the test kit or $139.99 for the test kit with a “video observation,” according to the product descriptions. People who buy the $129.99 test kit are expected to get their results within 24-72 hours after the lab receives their kit. Those who buy the more expensive test can expect their results within 24-48 hours from when the kit gets to the lab.
A PCR test, according to the AZOVA website, is “a type of ‘molecular diagnostic test’” that is “much more sensitive than most antigen tests.” On the Costco website, the PCR tests are described as “the gold standard testing method with the most accurate sensitivity and specificity currently on the market.” And unlike many other coronavirus tests, the AZOVA saliva test doesn’t involve “a painful nasal swab,” the product description says. According to the product pages, the tests are FSA eligible and have been authorized by the FDA under the Emergency Use Act. The tests are “highly accurate, with a sensitivity of 98% (meaning 98% of positive tests are correct) and a specificity of 99% (meaning 99% of negative tests are correct),” the description says.
In response to [our 2018 book]“Secret Empires,” one of Joe Biden’s aides said “we aren’t going to engage on a politically motivated hit pieces …” Team Biden did not bother to respond to specific allegations that the Biden family vacuumed up millions, in the exact locales where Biden was Obama’s policy “point man.” When the issue reemerged during the campaign, Team Biden continued to call it a “conspiracy theory” but this time, Joe Biden firmly put himself on record. “I have never discussed with my son or my brother or anyone else anything having to do with their businesses — period,” he told reporters in August 2019. “I never talk with my son or my brother or anyone else in the distant family about their business interests, period.” He repeated similar blanket denials on numerous occasions. These denials all proved to be untruthful. Period.
We now know that Joe Biden met directly with his son’s Chinese business partner, Jonathan Li, in a Chinese hotel lobby on a fateful trip in 2013 (a trip that allowed Hunter to spend hours with his father, the vice president, on a transoceanic flight to Beijing aboard Air Force Two). Ten days later, Hunter landed an unprecedented $1 billion private equity deal, bankrolled by the Chinese government. But this was not the only meeting Joe Biden had with Biden family business partners. As the New York Post reported, e-mails on Hunter Biden’s hard drive reveal that on April 16, 2015, Joe Biden met with a high-level official of a controversial Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, which had put Hunter on its board. And a recently unearthed photo shows that Vice President Biden met with Hunter’s Kazakh business associate in Washington D.C.
After first dismissing the gathering scandal as a “conspiracy theory,” the Biden team shifted to the position that Joe had never talked with his family about their business dealings, then shifted again to the position that he’d never met with his family’s business partners. Now, with the latest document revelations, Joe Biden unveiled his latest defense in the recent debate: “I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever, ever.” Team Biden points to Joe and Jill Biden’s tax returns as evidence that Joe did nothing improper. It is worth noting that the family members upon whom foreign entities showered money are not required to disclose their finances.
We now know the Biden paydays were anything but conspiracy theories. Hunter was getting roughly $1 million per year from Burisma. Treasury Department alerts reveal that Russian oligarch Elena Baturina wired $3.5 million to Biden’s interests. New text messages reveal that China Energy Company Ltd (CEFC) apparently paid $5 million to the Biden family. Another e-mail indicates Hunter demanded a $10 million per year “fee” from one of his Chinese business partners. There is no more doubt.
The Chinese billionaire behind the website where explicit photographs and videos of Hunter Biden were leaked on Saturday night has warned that “there will be more than 10,000 pictures” and “more and more videos.” Lude (Wang DingGang), founder of Lude Media and part of the Whistle-Blower Movement that is aimed at exposing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was banned on Twitter soon after the leaks started. Undeterred, Lude began posting about the leaks on Parler, a freer speech alternative to Twitter, where he quickly gained thousands of followers. “There will more and more than 10000 pictures coming,” Lude wrote on the social network. “There will be more and more videos coming!” The explicit leaks are riddled with drugs and what appear to be prostitutes. They have called into question whether or not a Biden presidency would be a national security threat with the amount of blackmail material on his son.
CNN commentator Van Jones on Friday gave unexpected praise of President Trump during a roundtable, arguing that the president should be recognized more for what Jones said are the beneficial things his administration has done for black Americans. “… I get beat up by liberals every time I say it but I keep saying it, he has done good stuff for the Black community,” Jones, who is black himself, said during the panel discussion. “Opportunity Zone stuff, black college stuff, I worked with him on criminal stuff, I saw Donald Trump have African-American people, [formerly] incarcerated, in the White House, embraced them, treated them well.”
“There is a side to Donald Trump that I think he does not get enough credit for,” added Jones, who once served as an adviser for Barack Obama. The commentator during his remarks did express disappointment at Trump’s recent comparison of himself to Abraham Lincoln. He also said that Trump’s alleged “playing footsie on Twitter with … white nationalists organizations” turns off many black voters to Trump’s overall message. “[T]hat’s the tragedy of these mixed messages from the Trump White House,” he argued.
The whole planet has every reason to be terminally puzzled at how all those lofty Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson embedded in the 1776 Declaration of Independence ended up with… Trump vs. Biden. Jefferson borrowed freely from Locke, Rousseau, Hume to come up with an eminently quotable Greatest Hits, featuring “self-evident” truths such as “all men are created equal”, “unalienable rights”, and that searing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Well, Baudrillard would have dubbed the exercise a mere simulacrum, because in real life none of this uplifting rhetoric applied to Native Americans and enslaved Africans. Still, there’s something endlessly fascinating about these “self-evident truths”.
They actually radiated like Spinoza axioms, spawning abstract truths that can be extrapolated at will. Jefferson’s “self-evident truths” ended up creating the whole, massive structure of what we define as “Western liberal democracy”. So it’s no wonder that America – perennially self-described as “leader of the free world” – consider these “self-evident truths” as the basis of an ideal society. And it’s this messianic river of fervent truth flowing out of a Himalaya of Morality that leads Americans to dismiss as “malign actors” every nation or society that is judged to be “deviating” from such obvious evidence. Cut to a mini-remix of the last Trump-Biden presidential debate. In foreign policy terms, it went something like this.
The moderator is desperate to move on as she’s very much aware of time constraints and looming, incandescent clashes: “Now I want to move on to Defense. It’s established Russia and China are interfering in our election process…” Here’s classic “self-evident truth” material, delivered according to strict Council on Foreign Relations guidelines. Cut to Biden: any country that interferes with the American elections “will pay a price”. Russia’s “been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and Iran’s been involved.” They are interfering with “American sovereignty”. Rudy Giuliani was used “as a Russian pawn”. Trump is “unwilling” to confront Putin. Russia has “destabilized NATO” and is “paying bounties to kill Americans in Afghanistan.” And China “has to play by the rules” – or else.
Cut to Trump: “You mean the laptop from hell is another Russia, Russia, Russia hoax?” For the record: Joe Biden did blame the contents of son Hunter’s laptop from hell on Russia. And discussing North Korea, when Trump said he got along fine with Kim Jong-Un, Biden stated, “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe.” Incidentally, Germany is and remains in Europe. And it’s quite something to see Biden acknowledging in public proven US industrial and political support to Nazism. So, inevitably, the laptop from hell had to show up. The FBI had Hunter Biden’s laptop since December 2019 – as it had issued a subpoena for it in the first place. And yet the FBI sat on the laptop for 11 months doing nothing.
That must have given plenty of time for those pesky Russians to steal the laptop and plant incriminating evidence. Well, not really. The FBI was busy mulling how to conduct an investigation on “money laundering”. And not on child porn – which, according to Giuliani, is the piece de resistance in the laptop. No one knows if these alleged “investigations” are ongoing. Now, the FBI and the Department of Justice have finally “concurred”: Hunter Biden’s laptop and emails were not part of a Russian disinformation campaign – directly contradicting what Joe Biden said in the debate. But then, right before the debate, a bombshell presser – including the FBI and Homeland Security – had announced those pesky Russians and Iranians were in fact “trying to influence opinion” on the US elections. “Self-evident truths” were back with a bang. One can’t make this stuff up.
Virginia juries have been allowed to decide punishments for criminals for more than 200 years, but a new state bill could put that sentencing power in the hands of judges. Defense attorneys call it ‘the jury penalty’ – a centuries-old sentencing system in Virginia that calls for juries to decide punishment for criminal defendants, which often leads to stiffer sentences than what judges give or prosecutors offer in plea deals. This sentencing structure has been in place for 224 years, but under a bill recently approved by the state legislature, Virginia is expected to turn sentencing over to judges, joining the vast majority of states around the country. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a strong supporter of criminal justice reform, is expected to sign the bill into law.
The proposal sparked fierce debate during a special legislative session focused on criminal justice and police reform. Supporters of the change said giving judges the sentencing responsibility will result in fairer sentences, but prosecutors predicted it will result in more jury trials and therefore require additional judges, court clerks and public defenders. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Joe Morrissey from Richmond, said that under the current system, many people charged with crimes in Virginia are so fearful of getting a severe sentence from a jury that they often accept a plea deal from prosecutors that includes a longer sentence than they would typically get from a judge. Unlike judges, juries in Virginia are not given state sentencing guidelines that would tell them what a typical sentence would be for a particular crime, and they tend to hand out stiffer sentences.
In fiscal year 2019, sentences handed down by juries went above sentencing guidelines 37 per cent of the time, and in 2018, juries exceeded sentencing guidelines nearly 50 per cent of the time, according to annual reports by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission. ‘Jurors have no idea what a normal sentence is,’ Morrissey said. ‘That’s why it is important to have a judge sentencing who has the guidelines and can put it into context.’
Despite the pandemic plunging economies worldwide into their deepest slumps on record and tens of millions being made unemployed, global wealth has risen to its highest level ever. Since the start of the year, total household wealth has grown by $1 trillion, or 0.25%, to top $400 trillion for the first time, according to Credit Suisse’s annual global wealth report. Most of this increase has been due to the rapid rebound of stock markets from their March lows. This was driven by governments pumping billions into their economies to stave off collapse as the pandemic gathered pace. On the face of it, the average global household’s wealth is little changed in 2020, despite the economic turmoil. But drilling deeper into the numbers reveals huge disparities, with the headline figures masking a vast gulf between the economic winners and losers this year.
Average household wealth rose by 0.25% between the start of the year and the end of June. However, average wealth per adult actually fell slightly, by 0.4% to $76,984 because the number of adults rose quicker during the six months. Anthony Shorrocks, Credit Suisse’s economist and the report author, said: “Given the damage inflicted by Covid-19 on the global economy, it seems remarkable that household wealth has emerged relatively unscathed.”The volatility this year has been a marked contrast to the upward trajectory of wealth growth seen in 2019. Last year, total global wealth rose by $36.3 trillion, or 8.5%, a record pace as global stock markets surged. In the first three months of this year, $17.5 trillion was wiped off household wealth worldwide as the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a savage equity crash. The subsequent recovery meant that total household wealth is slightly up on the year.
Here is a word that risks deterring you from reading on much further, even though it may hold the key to understanding why we are in such a terrible political, economic and social mess. That word is “externalities”. It sounds like a piece of economic jargon. It is a piece of economic jargon. But it is also the foundation stone on which the west’s current economic and ideological system has been built. Focusing on how externalities work and how they have come to dominate every sphere of our lives is to understand how we are destroying our planet – and offer at the same time the waypost to a better future. In economics, “externalities” are usually defined indifferently as the effects of a commercial or industrial process on a third party that are not costed into that process.
Here is what should be a familiar example. For decades, cigarette manufacturers made enormous profits by concealing scientific evidence that over time their product could prove lethal to customers. The firms profited by externalising the costs associated with cigarettes – of death and disease – on to those buying their cigarettes and wider society. People gave Philip Morris and British American Tobacco their money as these companies made those smoking Marlboros and Lucky Strikes progressively unhealthier. The externalised cost was paid – is still paid – by the customers themselves, by grieving families, by local and national health services, and by the taxpayer. Had the firms been required to pick up these various tabs, it would have proved entirely unprofitable to manufacture cigarettes.
Externalities are not incidental to the way capitalist economies run. They are integral to them. After all, it is a legal obligation on private companies to maximise profits for their shareholders – in addition, of course, to the personal incentive bosses have to enrich themselves, and each company’s need to avoid making themselves vulnerable to more profitable and predatory competitors in the marketplace. Companies are therefore motivated to offload as many costs as possible on to others. As we shall see, externalities mean someone other than the company itself pays the true cost behind its profits, either because those others are too weak or ignorant to fight back or because the bill comes due further down the line. And for that reason, externalities – and capitalism – are inherently violent.
France has recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insulted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. He said Mr Macron needed a mental health check for pledging to defend secular values and fight radical Islam. Mr Macron has spoken out forcefully on these issues after a French teacher was murdered for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class. France “will not give up our cartoons”, he said earlier this week. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims because Islamic tradition explicitly forbids images of Muhammad and Allah (God). But state secularism – or laïcité – is central to France’s national identity.
Curbing freedom of expression to protect the feelings of one particular community, the state says, undermines the country’s unity. Responding to Mr Macron’s campaign to defend such values – which began before the teacher was murdered – Mr Erdogan asked in a speech: “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?” He added: “Macron needs treatment on a mental level. “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” In the wake of the remarks, a French presidential official told AFP news agency that France’s ambassador to Turkey was being recalled for consultations, and would be meeting Mr Macron.
The BBC is preparing an attack against journalists, former diplomats, academics and scientists who challenge the dominant pro-war narratives against Syria underpinned by the pseudo-humanitarian White Helmets. The British public broadcaster has sent out requests for comments to those who have dared to expose the role the UK government and its intelligence agencies have played in the destabilization of Syria, which look more like neo-McCarthyist charge sheets. The producer of an upcoming Radio 4 documentary series had been in email and telephone conversation with the author of this article, as well as Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, and members of the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda (WGSMP) since June 2020. The result of those conversations, during which the evidence emanating from serious scientific research and on-the-ground testimony was presented to the producer, was a familiar list of accusations of “conspiracy theorism” and suggestions of “incentivized” Russian or Syrian bias.
Fellow independent journalist Eva Bartlett has spent long periods of time inside Syria, reporting from many of the most high-risk areas during the Syrian Arab Army allied campaigns to liberate swathes of Syrian territory from the US coalition-proxy occupation. She had this to say about the email she received a few days ago: “The questions emailed to me by the BBC evidence a predetermined intent to character assassination. This approach shows an utter lack of journalistic integrity on the part of the BBC. The BBC’s hostile insinuations against me arrogantly infer that neither I nor the Syrians I interview think for ourselves, but are puppets of the Syrian and Russian governments. My journalism dates back to 2007 and is quite extensive, with 13 years of on the ground experience, from Palestine and Syria, to Venezuela and eastern Ukraine, and elsewhere.
[..] The former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, also received the BBC bill of indictment and he issued this statement in response: “The BBC have systematically tried to suppress views on Syria which run counter to the standard one-sided narrative. This programme’s efforts to smear dissenters takes BBC conduct to a new low. By alleging conspiracy theorising where there is only evidence-based reporting and analysis, the BBC is showing its frustration at being unable to stifle truth-telling. The only conspiracy here is whatever coordination has taken place between the BBC and British authorities responsible for failing to achieve regime change in Syria despite throwing many millions of taxpayer money at the effort. Why is the BBC not drawing attention to the biggest failure of British foreign policy since Suez, as judged by its self-proclaimed objective of removing Assad, rather than busying itself with trying to take down unsupported individual dissenters who have ranged against them the vast wealth and resources of the establishment?
According to sources, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has adopted her 8th child, a troubled local youngster named Hunter. In a touching story of love triumphing over all odds, the Barrett family fought for custody of Hunter and welcomed him into their family for the first time this week. “This family has love to spare,” said Judge Barrett. “We just knew we had another child out there somewhere. We were told by the agency that young Hunter had his fair share of issues, but we knew we would be up to the challenge.” According to friends of the family, Hunter is slowly adjusting to his new home and family. He has kicked an old drug habit and is now attending church with the rest of the family.
He has also renounced his old ways and paid back a Ukrainian gas company fourfold. “We love having Hunter with us!” said the leader of the small church group Hunter attends every week. “Whenever we share testimonies, he puts our testimonies to shame with stories of drugs, corruption, and horrific scandal, unlike anything we’ve heard. Awesome!” Judge Barrett is still struggling to teach Hunter the value of hard work. He is being paid a few dollars to do chores around the house when he’s used to being paid $50,000 per month for nothing. “We’re still working on it,” she said.
There are numerous ways to define the Precautionary Principle. It’s something we can all intuitively understand, but which many parties seek ways to confuse since it has the potential to stand in the way of profits. Still, in the end it should all be about proof, not profits. That is exactly what the Principle addresses. Because if you first need to deliver scientific proof that some action or product can be harmful to mankind and/or the natural world, you run the risk of inflicting irreversible damage before that proof can be delivered.
In one of many definitions, the 1998 Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle says: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
Needless to say, that doesn’t easily fly in our age of science and money. Cigarette makers, car manufacturers and oil companies, just to name a few among a huge number of industries, are all literally making a killing while the Precautionary Principle is being ignored. Even as it is being cited in many international treaties. Lip service “R” us. Are these industries to blame when they sell us our products, or are we for buying them? That’s where governments must come in to educate us about risks. Which they obviously do not.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb -of Black Swan and Antifragile fame- has made the case, in his usual strong fashion, for applying the Precautionary Principle when it comes to GMOs. His argument is that allowing genetically modified organisms in our eco- and foodsystems carries unknown risks that we have no way of overseeing, and that these risks may cause irreversible damage to the very systems mankind relies on for survival.
Taleb is not popular among GMO producers. Who all insist there is no evidence that their products cause harm. But that is not the point. The Precautionary Principle, if it is to be applied, must turn the burden of proof on its head. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Monsanto et al must prove that their products do no harm. They can not. Which is why they have, and need, huge lobbying, PR and legal departments.
But I didn’t want to talk about GMOs today, and not about Precautionary Principle alone. I wanted to talk about this: Paragraph 2 of article 191 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty (2009) states that:
“Union policy on the environment shall aim at a high level of protection taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Union. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.”
In other words, the EU has committed itself to the Precautionary Principle. Well, on paper, that is. However, then we get to a whole series of reports on wildlife in Europe, and they indicate all sorts of things, but not that Brussels cares even one bit about adhering to the Precautionary Principle, either for its people or its living environment. One voice below calls it a “state of denial”, but I would use some other choice words. Let’s start with the Guardian this morning, because they have an interesting perspective:
Most Britons remain blithely unaware that since the Beatles broke up, we have wiped out half our wildlife…
…since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the number of flying insects on nature reserves in Germany had dropped by at least 76% – more than three-quarters…
Things like ‘since you were born’, ‘since man landed on the moon’, ‘since the wall came down’ or ‘since 9/11’ may be a bit clearer than 100 years, or 25 years. Moreover, I read somewhere that since Columbus landed in 1492, America has lost on third of all its biodiversity, but that doesn’t yet explain the rate of acceleration that is taking place.
The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years , according to a new study that has shocked scientists. Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.
The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said. The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.
“The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at Radboud University in the Netherlands and who led the new research. “Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life , and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”
[..] When the total weight of the insects in each sample was measured a startling decline was revealed. The annual average fell by 76% over the 27 year period, but the fall was even higher – 82% – in summer, when insect numbers reach their peak. Previous reports of insect declines have been limited to particular insects, such European grassland butterflies, which have fallen by 50% in recent decades. But the new research captured all flying insects, including wasps and flies which are rarely studied, making it a much stronger indicator of decline.
Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said. Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies – one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France. “The situation is catastrophic,” said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies. “Our countryside is in the process of becoming a veritable desert,” he said in a communique released by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which also contributed to the findings.
The common white throat, the ortolan bunting, the Eurasian skylark and other once-ubiquitous species have all fallen off by at least a third, according a detailed, annual census initiated at the start of the century. A migratory song bird, the meadow pipit, has declined by nearly 70%. The museum described the pace and extent of the wipe-out as “a level approaching an ecological catastrophe”. The primary culprit, researchers speculate, is the intensive use of pesticides on vast tracts of monoculture crops, especially wheat and corn. The problem is not that birds are being poisoned, but that the insects on which they depend for food have disappeared.
“There are hardly any insects left, that’s the number one problem,” said Vincent Bretagnolle, a CNRS ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize. Recent research, he noted, has uncovered similar trends across Europe, estimating that flying insects have declined by 80%, and bird populations has dropped by more than 400m in 30 years. Despite a government plan to cut pesticide use in half by 2020, sales in France have climbed steadily, reaching more than 75,000 tonnes of active ingredient in 2014, according to EU figures. “What is really alarming, is that all the birds in an agricultural setting are declining at the same speed, even ’generalist’ birds,” which also thrive in other settings such as wooded areas, said Bretagnolle.
Not that it’s just Europe, mind you. Still ‘ove’ this one from Gretchen Vogel in ScienceMag, about a year ago, on a phenomenon most of you stateside will have noticed too:
Entomologists call it the windshield phenomenon. “If you talk to people, they have a gut feeling. They remember how insects used to smash on your windscreen,” says Wolfgang Wägele, director of the Leibniz Institute for Animal Biodiversity in Bonn, Germany. Today, drivers spend less time scraping and scrubbing. “I’m a very data-driven person,” says Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Oregon. “But it is a visceral reaction when you realize you don’t see that mess anymore.”
Some people argue that cars today are more aerodynamic and therefore less deadly to insects. But Black says his pride and joy as a teenager in Nebraska was his 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1—with some pretty sleek lines. “I used to have to wash my car all the time. It was always covered with insects.” Lately, Martin Sorg, an entomologist here, has seen the opposite: “I drive a Land Rover, with the aerodynamics of a refrigerator, and these days it stays clean.”
Though observations about splattered bugs aren’t scientific, few reliable data exist on the fate of important insect species. Scientists have tracked alarming declines in domesticated honey bees, monarch butterflies, and lightning bugs. But few have paid attention to the moths, hover flies, beetles, and countless other insects that buzz and flitter through the warm months. “We have a pretty good track record of ignoring most noncharismatic species,” which most insects are, says Joe Nocera, an ecologist at the University of New Brunswick in Canada.
After all those numbers, and before they get worse -which they will, it’s already baked in the cake-, you would expect the EU to remember the Precautionary Principle all its member nations signed on to for the Lisbon Treaty. You would expect wrong. Instead Brussels vows to continue with the exact same policies that have led to its mind-boggling biodiversity losses.
Europe’s crisis of collapsing bird and insect numbers will worsen further over the next decade because the EU is in a “state of denial” over destructive farming practices, environmental groups are warning. European agriculture ministers are pushing for a new common agriculture policy (CAP) from 2021 to 2028 which maintains generous subsidies for big farmers and ineffectual or even “fake” environmental or “greening” measures, they say. In a week when two new studies revealed drastic declines in French farmland birds – a pattern repeated across Europe – the EU presidency claimed that the CAP continued to provide safe food while defending farmers and “protecting the environment”.
“The whole system is in a state of denial,” said Ariel Brunner, head of policy at Birdlife Europe. “Most agriculture ministers across Europe are just pushing for business as usual. The message is, keep the subsidies flowing.” Farm subsidies devour 38% of the EU budget and 80% of the subsidies go to just 20% of farmers , via “basic payments” which hand European landowners £39bn each year.
Because these payments are simply related to land area, big farmers receive more, can invest in more efficient food production – removing hedgerows to enlarge fields for instance – and put smaller, less intensive farmers out of business. France lost a quarter of its farm labourers in the first decade of the 21st century, while its average farm size continues to rise.
A smaller portion – £14.22bn annually – of EU farm subsidies support “greening” measures but basic payment rules work against wildlife-friendly farming: in Britain, farmers can’t receive basic payments for land featuring ponds, wide hedges, salt marsh or regenerating woodland. Signals from within the EU suggest that the next decade’s CAP [..] will continue to pay farmers a no-strings subsidy, while cash for “greening”, or wildlife-friendly farming, may even be cut. Birdlife Europe said the “greening” was mostly “fake environmental spending” and wildlife-friendly measures had been “shredded” by “loophole upon loophole” introduced by member states.
[..] This week studies revealed that the abundance of farmland birds in France had fallen by a third in 15 years – with population falls intensifying in the last two years. It’s a pattern repeated across Europe: farmland bird abundance in 28 European countries has fallen by 55% over three decades, according to the European Bird Census Council. Conservationists say it’s indicative of a wider crisis – particularly the decimation of insect life linked to neonicotinoid pesticides.
20% of farmers work 80% of the land in Europe. That is used as an argument to single them out to pay them billions in subsidies. But it simply means these 20% use the most detrimental farming methods, most pesticides, most chemicals. The subsidies policy guarantees further deterioration of an already disastrous situation. The polluter doesn’t pay, as the Lisbon Treaty demands, but the polluter gets paid.
And even that is apparently still not enough for the fast growing bureaucracy. In a move perhaps more characteristic of the EU than anything else, it approved something last week that a million people had vehemently protested: the Bayer-Monsanto merger. The European parliament may have thrown out all Monsanto lobbyists recently, and voted to ban Roundup, but the die has been cast.
A million citizens can protest in writing, many millions in France and Germany and elsewhere may do the same on the street, none of it matters. The people who brought you WWII nerve gases and Agent Orange can now come together to take over your food supply.
German conglomerate Bayer won EU antitrust approval on Wednesday for its $62.5bn (£44.5bn) buy of US peer Monsanto, the latest in a trio of mega mergers that will reshape the agrochemicals industry. The tie-up is set to create a company with control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market. Driven by shifting weather patterns, competition in grain exports and a faltering global farm economy, Dow and Dupont, and ChemChina and Syngenta had earlier led a wave of consolidation in the sector. Both deals secured EU approval only after the companies offered substantial asset sales to boost rivals.
Environmental and farming groups have opposed all three deals, worried about their power and their advantage in digital farming data, which can tell farmers how and when to till, sow, spray, fertilise and pick crops based on algorithms. The European Commission said Bayer addressed its concerns with its offer to sell a swathe of assets to boost rival BASF [..] “Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “In particular, we have made sure that the number of global players actively competing in these markets stays the same.”
[..] Vestager said the Commission, which received more than a million petitions concerning the deal, had been thorough by examining more than 2,000 different product markets and 2.7 million internal documents to produce a 1,285-page ruling. [..] Online campaigns group Avaaz criticised the EU approval. “This is a marriage made in hell. The Commission ignored a million people who called on them to block this deal, and caved in to lobbying to create a mega-corporation which will dominate our food supply,” Avaaz legal director Nick Flynn said.
Dow-Dupont, ChemChina and Bayer Monsanto have a lot more political influence than a million Europeans, or ten million Americans. They have even convinced numerous, if not most, people that without their products the world would starve. That their chemicals are needed to feed a growing human population. Farming based on algorythms.
They are not ‘seed companies’. They are ‘seeds-that-need-our-chemicals-to-grow’ companies. And they are out to conquer the entire world. A 100-times worse version of Facebook. And our governments subsidize the use of their products. As we not-so-slowly see our living world be massacred by those products.
We don’t know how bad GMOs will turn out to be. Which is in itself a very good reason to ban them. Since once they spread, they can’t be stopped anymore. Then the chemical boys will own all of our food. But we do know how bad the pesticides and other chemicals they produce are. And we’re not even banning those. We just eat all that sh*t and shut up.
It’s a failure to understand what science is: that you must proof harm first before banning stuff. The only real science is the one that has adopted the Precautionary Principle. Because science is supposed to be smart, and there’s nothing smart about destroying your own world. Because science should never be used to hurt people or nature. Science can only be good if it benefits us. Not our wallets, but our heads and hearts and forests, and our children. Do no harm.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Ben Shahn Daughter of Virgil Thaxton, farmer, near Mechanicsburg, Ohio 1938
Recently, I posted a two-tear old article on facebook.com/TheAutomaticEarth that was shared so many times it seems to make sense to use it for an Automatic Earth article as well. The article asks how toxic the wheat we eat is – or Americans, more specifically-, and why that is.
But first I would like to touch on a closely connected issue, which is Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘war’ on GMOs. Taleb, of Black Swans fame, has been at it for a while, but he’s stepped up his efforts off late.
The precautionary principle (PP) states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing severe harm to the public domain (affecting general health or the environment globally), the action should not be taken in the absence of scientific near-certainty about its safety. Under these conditions, the burden of proof about absence of harm falls on those proposing an action, not those opposing it. PP is intended to deal with uncertainty and risk in cases where the absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge carries profound implications and in the presence of risks of “black swans”, unforeseen and unforeseable events of extreme consequence.
[..] We believe that the PP should be evoked only in extreme situations: when the potential harm is systemic (rather than localized) and the consequences can involve total irreversible ruin, such as the extinction of human beings or all life on the planet. The aim of this paper is to place the concept of precaution within a formal statistical and risk-analysis structure, grounding it in probability theory and the properties of complex systems. Our aim is to allow decision makers to discern which circumstances require the use of the PP and in which cases evoking the PP is inappropriate.
This puts into perspective the claims made by Monsanto et al that since no harm has ever been proven to arise from the use of GMOs, they should therefore be considered safe. Which is the approach largely taken over by American politics, and increasingly also in Europe and other parts of the world. In their paper, Taleb et al say the approach does not meet proper scientific standards.
This is very close to my personal opinion, expressed in many articles in the past, that GMOs pose such risks on such a wide scale to the food supply of every human being on earth -as well as a much wider selection of organisms- that they should not be legalized before perhaps 100 years of tests have been done by large and independent teams of specialists.
Note that if you, as an individual farmer, as a community or even as a nation, want to ban GMOs but your neighbors do not, you will in the case of many crops not stand a chance of keeping your plants GMO free. For which you can subsequently be sued by the ‘owner’ of the genetically altered plants and seeds.
Also, I think it is irresponsibly dangerous to give a handful of companies (Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont, Syngenta), who all happen to be chemical giants dating back to the 20th century interbellum, and all with questionable pasts, a quasi-monopoly over the -future of- world’s food. Because that is where things will go unless proper principles are applied, both scientific and legal.
One of the main arguments proponents of GMOs use is that through thousand of years mankind has altered crops through selection ‘anyway’, so talking about anything ‘pure’ or ‘natural’ in this regard is not relevant. Taleb put the difference between altering a staple through this ‘generational’ selection on the one hand and the modifying of genes in a lab into a sketch:
The sketch was later annotated by Rahul Goswami, approved and shared by Taleb:
I think it is obvious that ‘generational’ selection through breeding is localized, can be rejected by nature. Genetic modification is something completely different, it takes a much bigger step (a giant leap) and forces itself -as a more or less alien body- onto a much larger eco-system.
It’s not about trying to figure out what works, but about forcing itself upon the world and its inhabitants regardless of the consequences. The precautionary principle is missing where it is most needed.
A few examples of Taleb’s tweets on the topic in the past few days make his stance abundantly clear.
“GMO issue is ignorance of the properties of complex systems/fattails (Monsanto’s 107 Nobels, 80 y.o. are 50 y behind)”
“Anyone pro-GMOs on “scientific” grounds is 50 years behind, ignorant of complexity, or just stupid”
“Monsanto pulled no stop trying to discredit me: 1000 mails to Univ (!),>1000 shill posts. Nada. F***you money works.”
Then, on to the article I started talking about above. As I said, it was written some two years ago by Sarah at the Healthy Home Economist. From the reactions to my posting it on Facebook -a huge number of shares- I surmise that many people A) had no idea that what Sarah describes is common practice, and B) have a profound interest in the topic.
Note: while a fair number of people said they had never heard of this, and/or doubted it was true at all, quite a few confirmed it as common where they live, and not just stateside, but in Scotland, Argentina etc.
Let’s see how we get through this. I don’t want to just post the whole thing, but I’ll need large portions of it.
The stories became far too frequent to ignore. Emails from folks with allergic or digestive issues to wheat in the United States experienced no symptoms whatsoever when they tried eating pasta on vacation in Italy. Confused parents wondering why wheat consumption sometimes triggered autoimmune reactions in their children but not at other times.
In my own home, I’ve long pondered why my husband can eat the wheat I prepare at home, but he experiences negative digestive effects eating even a single roll in a restaurant. There is clearly something going on with wheat that is not well known by the general public. It goes far and beyond organic versus nonorganic, gluten or hybridization because even conventional wheat triggers no symptoms for some who eat wheat in other parts of the world.
What indeed is going on with wheat? For quite some time, I secretly harbored the notion that wheat in the United States must, in fact, be genetically modified. GMO wheat secretly invading the North American food supply seemed the only thing that made sense and could account for the varied experiences I was hearing about. I reasoned that it couldn’t be the gluten or wheat hybridization. Gluten and wheat hybrids have been consumed for thousands of years.
It just didn’t make sense that this could be the reason for so many people suddenly having problems with wheat and gluten in general in the past 5-10 years.
Finally, the answer came over dinner a couple of months ago with a friend who was well versed in the wheat production process. I started researching the issue for myself, and was, quite frankly, horrified at what I discovered. The good news is that the reason wheat has become so toxic in the United States is not because it is secretly GMO as I had feared (thank goodness!).
The bad news is that the problem lies with the manner in which wheat is grown and harvested by conventional wheat farmers. You’re going to want to sit down for this one. I’ve had some folks burst into tears in horror when I passed along this information before.
Common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest
Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.USDA pesticides applied to wheat.
According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT who has studied the issue in depth and who I recently saw present on the subject at a nutritional Conference in Indianapolis, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came into vogue late in the 1990’s with the result that most of the non-organic wheat in the United States is now contaminated with it.
Seneff explains that when you expose wheat to a toxic chemical like glyphosate, it actually releases more seeds resulting in a slightly greater yield: “It ‘goes to seed’ as it dies. At its last gasp, it releases the seed” says Dr. Seneff. According to the US Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat, and 61% of winter wheat has been treated with herbicides. This is an increase from 88% for durum wheat, 91% for spring wheat and 47% for winter wheat since 1998.
Wheat farmer Keith Lewis: “I have been a wheat farmer for 50 yrs and one wheat production practice that is very common is applying the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) just prior to harvest. Roundup is licensed for preharvest weed control. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture result in roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. Farmers like this practice because Roundup kills the wheat plant allowing an earlier harvest.
A wheat field often ripens unevenly, thus applying Roundup preharvest evens up the greener parts of the field with the more mature. The result is on the less mature areas Roundup is translocated into the kernels and eventually harvested as such. This practice is not licensed. Farmers mistakenly call it “dessication.”
Consumers eating products made from wheat flour are undoubtedly consuming minute amounts of Roundup. An interesting aside, malt barley which is made into beer is not acceptable in the marketplace if it has been sprayed with preharvest Roundup. Lentils and peas are not accepted in the market place if it was sprayed with preharvest roundup….. but wheat is ok.. This farming practice greatly concerns me and it should further concern consumers of wheat products.”
This practice is not just widespread in the United States either. The Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom reports that use of Roundup as a wheat desiccant results in glyphosate residues regularly showing up in bread samples. Other European countries are waking up to to the danger, however. In the Netherlands, use of Roundup is completely banned with France likely soon to follow.
Using Roundup on wheat crops throughout the entire growing season and even as a desiccant just prior to harvest may save the farmer money and increase profits, but it is devastating to the health of the consumer who ultimately consumes the glyphosate residue laden wheat kernels.
The chart below of skyrocketing applications of glyphosate to US wheat crops since 1990 and the incidence of celiac disease is from a December 2013 study published in the Journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology examining glyphosate pathways to autoimmune disease. Remember that wheat is not currently GMO or “Roundup Ready” meaning it is not resistant to its withering effects like GMO corn or GMO soy, so application of glyphosate to wheat would actually kill it.
While the herbicide industry maintains that glyphosate is minimally toxic to humans, research published in the Journal Entropy strongly argues otherwise by shedding light on exactly how glyphosate disrupts mammalian physiology. Authored by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff of MIT, the paper investigates glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, an overlooked component of lethal toxicity to mammals.
The currently accepted view is that glyphosate is not harmful to humans or any mammals. This flawed view is so pervasive in the conventional farming community that Roundup salesmen have been known to foolishly drink it during presentations! However, just because Roundup doesn’t kill you immediately doesn’t make it nontoxic. In fact, the active ingredient in Roundup lethally disrupts the all important shikimate pathway found in beneficial gut microbes which is responsible for synthesis of critical amino acids.
Friendly gut bacteria, also called probiotics, play a critical role in human health. Gut bacteria aid digestion, prevent permeability of the gastrointestinal tract (which discourages the development of autoimmune disease), synthesize vitamins and provide the foundation for robust immunity. In essence:
Roundup significantly disrupts the functioning of beneficial bacteria in the gut and contributes to permeability of the intestinal wall and consequent expression of autoimmune disease symptoms
In synergy with disruption of the biosynthesis of important amino acids via the shikimate pathway, glyphosate inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes produced by the gut microbiome. CYP enzymes are critical to human biology because they detoxify the multitude of foreign chemical compounds, xenobiotics, that we are exposed to in our modern environment today.
As a result, humans exposed to glyphosate through use of Roundup in their community or through ingestion of its residues on industrialized food products become even more vulnerable to the damaging effects of other chemicals and environmental toxins they encounter! What’s worse is that the negative impact of glyphosate exposure is slow and insidious over months and years as inflammation gradually gains a foothold in the cellular systems of the body.
The consequences of this systemic inflammation are most of the diseases and conditions associated with the Western lifestyle: Gastrointestinal disorders, Obesity ,Diabetes, Heart Disease, Depression, Autism, Infertility, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, etc.
In a nutshell, Dr. Seneff’s study of Roundup’s ghastly glyphosate which the wheat crop in the United States is doused with uncovers the manner in which this lethal toxin harms the human body by decimating beneficial gut microbes with the tragic end result of disease, degeneration, and widespread suffering
[..] The bottom line is that avoidance of conventional wheat in the United States is absolutely imperative even if you don’t currently have a gluten allergy or wheat sensitivity. The increase in the amount of glyphosate applied to wheat closely correlates with the rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Dr. Seneff points out that the increases in these diseases are not just genetic in nature, but also have an environmental cause as not all patient symptoms are alleviated by eliminating gluten from the diet. The effects of deadly glyphosate on your biology are so insidious that lack of symptoms today means literally nothing. If you don’t have problems with wheat now, you will in the future if you keep eating conventionally produced, toxic wheat!
I guess we can leave it at that for now. Do go to the original article for more. Whether you look at it from a scientific viewpoint, as Taleb et al do, or from a common sense one, as Sarah does, the common thread seems obvious: Monsanto and other rich chemical giants seek to be the sole providers -even owners- of the world’s food, handed to us for free by nature and generations of our ancestors.
And to achieve that magnitude of power -and riches- they are more than willing to literally drive over sick and dead bodies. Once again, Taleb:
The precautionary principle (PP) states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing severe harm to the public domain (affecting general health or the environment globally), the action should not be taken in the absence of scientific near-certainty about its safety. Under these conditions, the burden of proof about absence of harm falls on those proposing an action, not those opposing it.
That is not what’s happening, and there’s not much time left to start applying it before it’s too late. Because GMOs, once they’ve been introduced in a large enough environment, are near impossible to get rid of.
To end on a somewhat happier note, Taleb thinks that Monsanto is doing quite poorly these days, financially. Then again, that’s why Bayer wants to buy them, and that would only mean a continuation or even increase of the present practices.
What we need is decision makers who understand the science of complex systems, probability and the precautionary principle. And I don’t know about you, but when I look at who’s vying to be the leaders of the US, UK and many other nations, I think we’re a long way away from that.
Only Putin seems to get it. His stated goal is to make Russia the largest producer of organic food in the world. So maybe there is still hope.