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Musk has means to thwart Twitter’s ‘poison pill’ – reports

Samizdat | April 16, 2022

Billionaire and Twitter habitué Elon Musk is considering bringing in business partners to help him buy out the social media platform, the New York Post reported on Friday, citing sources.

According to the publication, Musk has been in talks with investors who could partner with him on his bid for Twitter. A new plan that draws in partners may be announced within several days, NY Post sources said, noting that there is a chance Musk will team up with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners. He has a history of working with the company, which was planning to co-invest in Musk’s plan to take his electric vehicle company, Tesla, private in 2018. Silver Lake co-CEO Egon Durban is also a member of Twitter’s board of directors.

Both Silver Lake and Musk’s spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

Analysts say that teaming up with private equity firms could help Musk get around Twitter’s ‘poison pill’, a corporate move designed to prevent potential buyers from acquiring more than 15% of a company. It was adopted by Twitter on Friday, as some members of Twitter’s board say Musk’s bid undervalues the company.

Musk is the richest person in the world. His net worth is estimated at over $200 billion, with most of the money tied up in Tesla stock. Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder in late March by acquiring a 9% stake in the company. On Thursday, he offered to buy Twitter at $54.20 a share in cash, valuing Twitter at roughly $43 billion.

Experts say it is unlikely Musk will raise his offer after he said it was his “best and final offer.” However, if all other options fail, he could take his bid directly to other Twitter shareholders and buy their shares through a tender offer.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

Twitter’s Poison Pill and Gab’s Offer to Elon Musk

By Stephen Lendman | April 16, 2022

A previous article discussed Elon Musk’s offer to buy most outstanding Twitter shares he doesn’t already own at a significant premium to its current market value.

In response to prevent his gaining control of the company, Twitter’s board unanimously adopted a limited duration shareholder rights plan, a so-called (hard to swallow) poison pill.

It’ll remain in place until expires on April 14, 2023.

The strategy aims to prevent a firm’s hostile takeover by making it appear less attractive to a potential buyer’s so-called bear hug.

The latter involves offering a much higher price than the target company’s current market value.

As a defense against hostile takeovers, poison pills usually work.

They let current shareholders by additional shares of a targeted company’s stock at a discount.

It’s to dilute the equity value of the stock to make it less attractive to a potential buyer.

Or conversely to get a higher price than was offered from the suitor or potential others.

At the same time, poison pills discourage institutional investors from buying shares in a firm with aggressive defenses.

And by diluting market value, current shareholders are adversely affected.

Still at this time, Twitter is in play.

In after hours trading ahead of Good Friday, Twitter closed at $46.66 a share — up $3.50 after being down nearly 2% at the closing bell.

Musk’s offer may be followed by others, perhaps at a premium to what he proposed, a so-called white knight strategy.

While he called his offer “best and final,” he could raise it to compete with other takeover bids.

Saying if Twitter rejects his offer he has a Plan B in mind, he stopped short of explaining it.

In response to the above, urged Musk to choose an alternative option.

Calling itself “a social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online, it said the following:

“Twitter has legacy problems that Gab doesn’t.”

“They are fully dependent on third-party infrastructure. We are not.”

“We ‘built our own, everything…our own servers, our own email services, our own payment processor, and so much more…”

“Hosting, email services, analytics tools, ecommerce, payment processing, all of it. We built it all.”

“(B)ringing free speech to Twitter isn’t as simple as buying it.”

“Apple and Google do not allow free speech, so if you stop the censorship they will kick Twitter from both app stores.”

“We already solved that problem and overcame it.”

“Twitter operates in countries where mass censorship is required by law.”

“They have no choice but to comply with the censorship demands of those countries or risk being shut down, fines, etc.”

“Gab’s business model is not 100% dependent on advertising” like Twitter’s.

Its poison pill strategy reflects opposition to Musk’s takeover bid.

Gab made Musk a counteroffer.

Building its own “everything” fell short of its own ISP to provide internet connections and services.

According to Gab CEO Andrew Musk by letter to Musk:

“(T)o provide a free speech platform you must also have free speech internet infrastructure.”

“I fear that the next big leap of censorship is at the ISP level, with ISP’s blocking access to”

“You solve that problem with Starlink.”

“Together we can build infrastructure for a free speech internet.”

“I am willing to offer you a Board seat along with equity in the company in exchange for you selling your Twitter position and investing $2B into Gab.”

“My offer is my best and final offer.”

“Gab has extraordinary potential. Let’s unlock it together.”

I don’t know if Musk responded to Torba so far.

It remains to be seen if he’s interested, especially since his attempted takeover of Twitter may not succeed.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | Leave a comment

US Claims Russia to Blame for Yemen Food Shortages, Praises Saudi Role

By Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter | The Libertarian Institute | April 14, 2022

A senior US official has accused Russia of driving food shortages in Yemen and around the world, suggesting Moscow is to blame for rapidly rising prices. The Kremlin rejected the charge, instead citing American sanctions as a leading cause of starvation.

In an address at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield attempted to tie Russia’s attack on Ukraine to Yemen’s dire hunger crisis.

“The World Food Program’s March report identified Yemen as one of the countries most affected by wheat price increases and lack of imports from Ukraine. This is just another grim example of the ripple effect Russia’s unprovoked, unjust, unconscionable war is having on the world’s most vulnerable,” she said.

The diplomat went on to praise Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their humanitarian assistance to Yemen, failing to mention Riyahd’s ongoing bombing campaign that has deliberately targeted food production sites and vital civilian infrastructure for more than seven years.

Though international monitors have pulled out of the country, as of late 2021, nearly 400,000 Yemenis were estimated killed throughout the war from direct and indirect causes, while January “shattered” monthly civilian casualty records, according to the UN.

Russia responded to the charges from Linda Thomas-Greenfield during the UN session, claiming it was American sanctions harming the supply chain and causing global food shortages.

“The main factor for instability and the source of the problem today is not the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, but sanctions measures imposed on our country seeking to cut off any supplies from Russia and the supply chain, apart from those supplies that those countries in the West need, in other words energy,” said Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky.

He added: “If you really want to help the world avoid a food crisis you should lift the sanctions that you yourselves imposed, your sanctions of choice indeed, and poor countries will immediately feel the difference.”

Yemen is widely regarded by aid groups as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 16 million Yemenis estimated to be food insecure in 2022. In addition to consistent military support from Washington, the United States has also helped to enforce Saudi Arabia’s blockade on the country’s ports and helped Riyadh avoid responsibility for alleged war crimes before international bodies like the UN.

Earlier this month, Yemen’s Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition agreed to a two-month ceasefire following major escalations in the war. UN mediators have voiced hopes the truce will be extended further, though after similar efforts in the past it remains to be seen whether the lull in fighting will endure.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 3 Comments

US should pay France for loss of Russian gas – Le Pen

Samizdat | April 16, 2022

The US should compensate France for losses if the EU bans Russian energy carriers, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said in an interview with BFM TV.

“The Americans, who will sell us liquefied gas and get a solid profit from it, could transfer money to France as compensation for anti-Russia sanctions,” Le Pen said, noting that Washington is pressuring the EU to sanction Russian energy carriers. The bloc placed multiple sanctions on Russia after Moscow launched a military operation in neighboring Ukraine. The operation has been widely criticized by many Western nations, but perhaps none have been more outspoken than the US.

According to Le Pen, if Washington succeeds in stopping Russian gas imports to the EU, it will result in unbearably high fuel bills for the French. However, she believes that American fuel magnates care little about ordinary French people and their plight, and are only interested in business, eager to profit from the increase in LNG exports to the bloc.

While the European Union has placed numerous sanctions on Moscow over the past few weeks, member states have so far been unable to reach an agreement on banning Russian energy imports. Many EU countries are heavily dependent on Russian energy, while some have no alternative, being landlocked and therefore unable to receive liquefied gas from the US, for instance.

However, discussions on the issue will continue, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on Monday.

Moscow currently supplies around 40% of the gas used by EU nations and around a third of their oil. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak recently estimated that it would take the EU 5-10 years to completely replace Russian oil and gas, noting that an embargo would inevitably result in record prices.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Corruption, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | 5 Comments

‘British commandos return to Ukraine’

Samizdat | April 16, 2022

British SAS troops have trained Ukrainian forces for the first time since the Russian military offensive began, in February, Ukrainian commanders told The Times on Friday.

Instructors from the UK were previously withdrawn from the country, two months ago, when NATO member states were expecting a Russian assault.

The British have now returned to teach locals how to use NLAWs, UK-supplied shoulder-fired anti-tank missile launchers, the paper explained, citing Captain Yury Mironenko and two other Ukrainian commanders, identified only by their nicknames.

The units which received the training are stationed around the capital, Kiev, the report revealed.

“We have received huge military help from Britain,” Mironenko told the paper. “But the people who knew how to use NLAWs were in other places, so we had to go on YouTube to teach ourselves,” he said, adding that the British officers were in their unit two weeks ago.

The UK Defense Ministry refused to confirm whether British commandos had visited Ukraine. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, however, said this week that a group of Ukrainian soldiers would travel to the UK for training.

London has been one of Kiev’s primary arms suppliers, sending weapons ranging from anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems to armored vehicles. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kiev last week, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised more support.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Biden official admits US refused to address Ukraine and NATO before Russian invasion

By Ben Armbruster | Responsible Statecraft | April 14, 2022

A senior Biden administration official recently admitted that prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States made no effort to address one of Vladimir Putin’s most often stated top security concerns — the possibility of Ukraine’s membership into NATO.

When asked on a podcast published on Wednesday by War on the Rocks — a U.S. foreign and defense policy analysis website — whether NATO expansion into Ukraine “was not on the table in terms of negotiations” before the invasion, Derek Chollet, counselor to Secretary of State Antony Blinken replied that “it wasn’t.”

Chollet’s remarks confirm suspicions by many critics who believe the Biden administration wasn’t doing enough — including offering to deny or delay Ukraine’s NATO membership — to prevent Russia from launching a war against Ukraine.

“We made clear to the Russians that we were willing to talk to them on issues that we thought were genuine concerns they have that were legitimate in some way, I mean arms control type things of that nature,” Chollet said, adding that the administration didn’t think that “the future of Ukraine” was one of those issues and that its potential NATO membership was a “non-issue.”

“This was not about NATO,” said Chollet, who contradicted himself moments later, saying, “In perpetrating this totally unjustified and unprovoked war, [Putin’s] goal was to try to divide the U.S. from Europe and weaken NATO.”

Of course Putin himself stated publicly many times before the invasion that indeed, Ukraine’s potential NATO membership was a key security concern for Russia.

Weeks before Russia launched its war against Ukraine, Putin claimed that Russia’s concerns about NATO enlargement were being ignored. “We need to resolve this question now … [and] we hope very much our concern will be heard by our partners and taken seriously,” he later said.

War on the Rocks’ Ryan Evans told Chollet that he takes Putin’s claims about NATO “seriously,” adding, “I’m a little struck by the refusal to even talk about the issue of NATO expansion.”

“We talked about NATO in saying that NATO is a defensive alliance. NATO is not a threat to Russia,” Chollet said.

Before the Russian invasion, Quincy Institute senior research fellow on Russia and Europe Anatol Lieven wrote that as part of a broader package to stave off war, the United States should propose “the declaration of a moratorium on Ukrainian membership of NATO for a period of 20 years, allowing time for negotiations on a new security architecture for Europe as a whole, including Russia.”

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

Biden’s Ukraine ‘genocide’ claim puzzles US intelligence

Samizdat | April 16, 2022

President Joe Biden’s accusation made earlier this week that Moscow was committing “genocide” in Ukraine has raised concerns among officials in the White House and has not been confirmed by US intelligence agencies, NBC News reported on Friday, citing senior government officials.

The claim of genocide “has so far not been corroborated by information collected by US intelligence agencies,” the report said.

The news outlet quoted two State Department officials as saying that Biden’s remarks “made it harder for the agency to credibly do its job,” since it is up to the department to formally determine genocide and other war crimes.

“Genocide includes a goal of destroying an ethnic group or nation and, so far, that is not what we are seeing,” a US intelligence official was quoted as saying. At the same time, NBC added, the intelligence community is concerned that Russia’s actions “could amount to genocide” in the future.

On Tuesday, during a domestic policy speech in Iowa, Biden accused Moscow of “trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian.” The statement came after Kiev claimed that Russian troops were killing civilians in Bucha and other towns near the Ukrainian capital. Mass graves and bodies with signs of executions were discovered in the area from where the Russian forces retreated in late March.

Moscow denies that its forces were responsible for the deaths of civilians in Bucha, or elsewhere in Ukraine, and accuses Kiev of waging a smear campaign.

Prior to the launch of its offensive, Russia had accused Ukraine of committing “a genocide” against the people of Donbass. This claim was rejected by Ukraine, as well as by the US and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk Agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 3 Comments

Why Biden and Johnson should be treated as War Criminals

By Dr Vernon Coleman | April 16, 2022

1 – On the surface, the sanctions imposed on Russia appear to be part of a new type of warfare – designed to punish innocent Russian people. Putin and his pals aren’t going to be hurt by sanctions but ordinary people will be. Politicians and journalists complain bitterly when civilians are bombed but don’t seem to care about civilians being impoverished or starved to death.

Nor do politicians or journalists care that the sanctions were also designed to bring in a global recession that will result in billions of deaths. The sanctions brought in by leaders around the world such as Johnson and Biden have caused massive price rises for fuel and food. The sanctions will cause most damage to the very poor in Africa and Asia. Huge numbers will die in Africa and Asia as a direct result of these sanctions which were designed by mad, bad, dangerous people. Why aren’t Biden, Johnson et al being treated as war criminals?

2 – Governments have created a perfect storm for travellers. Flights have been cancelled because of the millions of people unable to work because they have colds or think they have a disease called ‘long covid’ (which good research has shown is either malingering or hypochondria). The cost of fuel has risen to the highest price ever known, and motorists are unable or unwilling to buy enough fuel to take them more than a few miles from home.

Even when motorists can afford to buy fuel there may not be any available because refineries have been shut by insane and woefully ignorant and selfish protestors who want to make people as miserable as they are and to bring about economic ruin. (Curiously, the police seem unable to move the protestors very efficiently. I don’t know whether this is because the protestors are too fat to be moved without lifting equipment or because the police have been instructed to move only those protestors who are concerned with telling the truth about the covid fraud.)

Finally, the weather is colder and more miserable than ever. Coincidentally, there have been a good many chemtrails around recently. Oh, and anyone thinking of trying to go abroad needs to have their passport already because the Passport Office is advising travellers to allow ten weeks to get a new passport.

3 – Investment in oil and gas has crashed because banks and governments are too frightened to lend money to oil companies. The result is that discoveries of oil and gas are at the lowest for 75 years. We will run out of oil and gas very quickly. The consequences are described in my book `A Bigger Problem than Climate Change: The End of Oil’.

4 – The UK and Europe are now importing liquefied natural gas from the United States. The imported gas was produced using fracking. This will doubtless delight the cultists who believe that we should all keep warm by shivering.

5 – Sunak, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer has been whingeing about criticisms of his wife’s financial affairs. With astonishing cheek, he’s been turning the story round to make himself and his family the victim! Most of the mainstream media supported his whingeing.

The Times noted that reporting his wife’s tax affairs is a potential criminal offence. With any luck Sunak will quickly disappear from public life. He has been a disastrous Chancellor and will not be missed. Even in the polluted waters of public life he is a disgrace.

6 – The French Government has paid private consultants 2.4 billion euros for advice since 2018. When the French were questioned about this, their defence was that the British Government spent around £100 billion on private consultants in the same period. If the army of highly paid civil servants did some of the work they’re paid to do, the British taxpayers would save £25 billion a year.

7 – Government officials who attended parties during the lockdown included Helen MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary and Whitehall ethics chief (who provided a karaoke machine for a `gathering’) and Kate Josephs, who was the director general of the covid-19 task force and who wrote the regulations that made the gatherings illegal.

We don’t know if either of them had to pay a fine but if they were then the fines would have been no more than £50 (less than a parking fine round our way). Once again we see that the privileged few are treated differently. `Ordinary’ people who attended gatherings during lockdowns, and some who had a snowball fight in a park, were fined maximum amounts of £10,000.

8 – Bitcoin mining (possibly the most useless of all human activities) uses around 0.5% of global energy consumption.

9 – There is much talk among the loony lefties about free speech on social media – specifically Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. The truth, of course, is that there is no free speech on any of these sites. They are all oppressive, faux communist platforms allowing only the fettered to speak. These sites belong to the enemy.

10 – The willingness and ability to break rules is what differentiates free men from slaves. And as many have said in the past, it is the duty of every free man and woman to speak out against bad laws and injustice. In the New World Order we won’t be told what we cannot do, but what we are allowed to do. There’s all the difference in the world.

11 – The global economy has been deliberately turned upside down, inside out and back to front. Investment companies and pension companies bought $18 trillion worth of sub-zero bonds. These are bonds with a negative interest rate – so the investors and pensioners who own them are paying governments and companies for the privilege of lending them money.

12 – A number of bankers at Goldman Sachs (frequently voted one of the world’s most evil companies by me) each received $30 million bonuses this year.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Book Review, Civil Liberties, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | | 5 Comments

Does Covid-19 Contain Genetic Sequences From Snake Venom?

By Guy Hatchard | April 14, 2022

An article in Scientific American back in January 2020 reported:

“Snakes—the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra—may be the original source of the newly discovered coronavirus that has triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China this winter.”

The article originated from a Chinese authored paper published in the Journal of Medical Virology on 22 January 2020 entitled Cross-species transmission of the newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV and said:

“Our findings suggest that 2019-nCoV has most similar genetic information with bat coronavirus and most similar codon usage bias with snake.“

The essence of the article was the supposition that Covid-19 made its way from snakes to bats and then to the Wuhan wet market, expressed as follows:

“An origin-unknown homologous recombination may have occurred within the spike glycoprotein of the 2019-nCoV… The squared euclidean distance indicates that the 2019-nCoV and snakes from China have the highest similarity in synonymous codon usage bias compared to those of bat, bird, Marmota, human, Manis, and hedgehog”

This idea subsequently gained little traction, because of the improbability of such a train of interspecies transfer, and because public discussion of its conclusions was vigorously suppressed by fact checkers.

The suggestion of the authors to do more research disappeared from view. It has been largely forgotten until now.

Were Some of These Recombined Genetic Sequences From Snakes?

Recent discussion of the origin of the Covid-19 spike protein has suggested that it could be the result of recombinant techniques in the laboratory which joined a number of genetic sequences together as part of research to develop deadly pathogens, and then investigate possible cures.

A paper published in F1000Research entitled Toxin-like peptides in plasma, urine, and faecal samples from COVID-19 patients in April 2020 concluded that:

“The presence of toxin-like peptides… suggests a possible association between COVID-19 disease and the release in the body of (oligo-)peptides almost identical to toxic components of venoms from animals…. The presence of these peptides opens new scenarios on the aetiology of the COVID-19 clinical symptoms observed up to now, including neurological manifestations.”

What are Some of the Neurological Effects of Snake Venom?

A study published in 2002 entitled Cardiac Involvement in Snake Bite” reports:

“Myocardial involvement is seen on occasions and may rarely contribute to morbidity and mortality. ECG changes are usually transient but when persistent they are attributed to direct myocardial damage due to the toxin.”

Other reported neurological effects of snake bite include:

  • pro and anticoagulant activity leading to ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke,
  • muscle paralysis through inhibition of neuromuscular transmission leading to respiratory failure.

All of these neurological, thrombotic, and cardiac effects are similar to reported adverse effects of both Covid infection and mRNA vaccination.

Is Covid-19 a Recombination of a Virus and a Toxin?

mRNA vaccines specifically train the human physiology to produce the suspect spike protein. Did this expose vaccine recipients to a toxin? It appears this might be the case.

In which case, the essential design of the mRNA vaccine would have been a grave error. It was training the physiology to produce a toxin.

These discussions are speculative. We now know that early genetic sequences of Covid-19 appear to have been suppressed by NIH on the instructions of the Wuhan Virology Lab.

Was the genetic similarity between snake genetics and Covid-19 too explosive to admit, whether they came from snakes or not? Certainly, this possibility should have been investigated vigorously.

It might have led to an understanding of the origins of Covid, but more importantly, it might have led to more effective treatments for Covid.

It might also have shed light on the source of the wide range of neurotoxic effects of both Covid and mRNA vaccination.

Whatever the eventual conclusion of further investigative research: biotechnology experimentation to research and develop pathogens and toxins must stop now. It amounts to a ticking time bomb.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

US troops injured after base was sabotaged with planted explosives

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos | Responsible Statecraft | April 16, 2022

Why do we still have American troops in Syria and Iraq? That is the million dollar question that the Biden Administration has yet to answer — at least with any satisfaction — for the American people. Meanwhile, our service members continue to be targets of hostile forces for a Washington strategy no one can quite articulate.

On April 7 there were reports of “two rounds of indirect fire” on the Green Village Base in eastern Syria, which is housing U.S. troops as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. U.S. Central Command said four American service members were being evaluated for traumatic brain injury as a result.

On Thursday, however, U.S. Central Command quietly announced that there were no rockets, but “but rather the deliberate placement of explosive charges by an unidentified individual(s) at an ammunition holding area and shower facility.”

The release was brief and with no accompanying details, but the words echoed of the kind of Green-on-Blue attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan during the height of the war there. As of 2017, according to counts, there had been more than 95 such attacks since 2012, killing 152 coalition service members and injuring 200.

There have been numerous rocket attacks against bases on which foreign soldiers, mostly Americans, are serving in Syria and Northern Iraq over the last two years. “Iranian backed militias” have been fingered in the attacks and they don’t seem to be abating, though the administration never uses the incidents to explain or even justify why our presence continues to be useful there. Is it to stave off ISIS? Bashar Assad? Iranian militias?

“The United States has no compelling national security interest in Syria to justify an open-ended ground deployment of forces,” wrote Defense Priorities’ Natalie Armbruster in March, taking on each of the existing arguments for keeping forces in the region. Now that our troops can’t even feel safe taking showers on base, isn’t it time to get a straight answer from Washington?

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , | 3 Comments

The worst of Covid advertising

The Naked Emperor’s Newsletter | April 16, 2022

Advertising / propaganda played a massive part in keeping citizens compliant and afraid. Quite frankly, advertising companies should feel ashamed with the amount of societal manipulation they caused in exchange for government coin.

Early on in the pandemic, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in the UK called for an increase in the perceived threat of Covid by using hard-hitting emotional messages. However, it has since been revealed that government contracts and messages were in place weeks before lockdowns were even suggested.

These adverts were produced in collaboration with behavioural scientists, trying to nudge people to do what they wanted using tactics that operate below the level of awareness.

The UK spent over £240 million on these adverts in 2020 and up to £320 million in 2021. Obscene amounts of money. To put this in context, the government spent £46 million on advertising “Get Ready for Brexit” in 2019, the biggest spend since the second world war.

I have posted some of the worst images from the UK below. They made people feel guilty, ashamed, worried that they would kill people and angry against those who did not precisely follow the rules.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

What defines a good drug?

By Sebastian Rushworth, M.D. | April 14, 2022

Most people will naturally assume that when a doctor prescribes them a drug, it’s because the doctor thinks they will receive a meaningful benefit from it. Most people have never heard the term NNT, which stands for Number Needed to Treat, or to put it another way, the number of people who need to take a drug for one person to see a noticeable benefit. It’s a bit of a counterintuitive concept for people outside medicine, since most people probably assume the NNT for all drugs is 1, right? If I’m getting this drug, it must be because it is going to help me. Well, wrong.

Before we move on, I want you to perform two small thought experiments:

Say you were suffering from depression, and there was a drug that could potentially improve your mood. But it’s not certain that the drug will work for you. And there’s a catch – the drug has side effects, which you are likely to experience regardless of whether you get the benefits of the drug or not. This particular drug causes a reduction in sexual desire and increased difficulty achieving orgasm during sex.

It also causes subtle changes to your personality, making you more prone to take risks, less emotional, and less empathic. It increases your tendency to engage in addictive behaviours, and it’s been known to cause addictions to alcohol and gambling. Additionally, withdrawal is common, so many people have trouble getting off the drug once they’re on it.

How good would the NNT for this drug need to be for you to be willing to take it? Would you want absolute certainty that it would end your depression, considering the harms? or would 50:50 odds be enough? Or even less?

Keep whatever odds you decide on in mind. If you, for example, think one in two odds are good enough, then that gives an NNT of 2 (you need to treat two people to get a noticeable benefit in one of them).

Ok, next scenario. Say you’d had a heart attack, and there was a drug that could decrease your risk of another heart attack. But just as with the previous drug, there are no certainties that you will actually get any benefit from taking this drug. And this drug also has side effects. Many people who take the drug develop chronic aches and pains. The drug also causes noticeable cognitive impairment in a proportion of those taking it, and some even end up being diagnosed with dementia – how big the risk is unfortunately isn’t known, because proper studies haven’t been carried out that could answer that question. Additionally, the drug causes blood sugar levels to rise, resulting in type 2 diabetes in around 2% of those taking the drug – it is in fact one of the most common causes of type 2 diabetes.

How good would the NNT for heart attack prevention need to be for you to take this drug?

Again, keep the number in mind.

As many of you have probably guessed, the first drug I described is an SSRI (examples of this type of drug are sertraline, citalopram, and fluoxetine). Currently, around 15% of adults in western countries take an SSRI every day.

So, what is the actual NNT for SSRI’s when used as a treatment for depression?

It’s seven.

In other words, you need to treat seven people for one to experience a noticeable effect on their depression. The other six just get the side effects but no benefit. And when I say “effect”, I don’t mean that the depression resolved in the one person lucky enough to see a benefit. Far from it. I mean that on a certain numerical rating scale (MADRS, if you must know), they experienced an improvement in mood that was just big enough to be detectable using statistical methods.

What NNT number did you choose? Are 7:1 odds good enough for you to take an SSRI if you get depressed, knowing the harms?

When a doctor prescribes an SSRI to a depressed patient, they (hopefully) know that the odds of the patient benefitting even slightly are only 1/7 (or 14%). Which doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me. Yet SSRI’s are widely considered to be an “effective” drug.

The second drug, as many of you have probably also guessed, is a statin (examples include atorvastatin, simvastatin, and pravastatin). More than a quarter of adults over the age of 40 take a statin every day in western countries.

So, what is the NNT for statins?

Well, if you’ve already had a heart attack, i.e. you’ve already been established to be at high risk for heart attacks, then the NNT over five years of treatment is 40. In other words, 39 of 40 people taking a high dose statin for five years after a heart attack won’t experience any noticeable benefit. But even if they’re not the lucky one in 40 who gets to avoid a heart attack, they’ll still have to contend with the side effects.

What NNT did you decide on personally? Are 40:1 odds good enough for you to decide the benefits of a statin outweigh the harms?

Of course, patients rarely get presented with this type of information, and are thus rarely able to make an informed choice of their own. I once sat in on a conversation between a cardiologist and a patient who’d recently had a heart attack. The patient was skeptical about statins. He said that he’d read on the internet that they had side effects, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to take one.

The cardiologist gave the patient a long, withering stare, and then responded that there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, and that the statin was the number one most important thing he could do if he wanted to not die prematurely.

Which I thought was a bit arrogant. Why?

Because the probability that the statins would prevent a future heart attack, let alone premature death, was in the low single digits, and the patient might quite reasonably have felt that that marginal benefit was outweighed by the various harms (which the cardiologist incidentally hadn’t mentioned at all – and which the patient thus wouldn’t have even known about if he hadn’t read “misinformation” on the internet).

Doctors have been conditioned by the pharmaceutical industry to think that drugs that provide very low probability of benefit are effective. An NNT of 10 is often considered good, and an NNT of 5 is considered excellent. Even an NNT of over 100 is often considered acceptable! Patients are rarely informed that the odds of them getting any benefit from the new drug they’re being prescribed are far less than 50:50. And they’re rarely informed about what the harms are, and how likely they are to experience them.

Just in case you think I’m picking on a few particularly ineffective drugs with my two examples, I’m not. NNT’s of five or worse are typical for many of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

What that means is that the average 70 year old who is on five drugs continuously will probably at best only benefit in any measurable way from one of those drugs. The other four are not providing any benefit, they’re just contributing to side effects (which become increasingly likely, and increasingly deadly, the older you get). Things get even worse when you consider that drugs interact in unpredictable ways to increase the risk of side effects, so the risk of harms increases exponentially with each additional drug added. Which is why it used to be considered bad form to have a patient on more than five drugs simultaneously.

The number of drugs the average person is on has increased massively over the last few decades. Polypharmacy (people taking multiple different drugs continuously) is now one of the top five leading causes of death in the western world – which is a little ironic when you consider that people are taking all those drugs in order to live longer. The best way to avoid becoming another polypharmacy death statistic is to be careful about which drugs you take, and only take those for which it’s clear that the benefits outweigh the harms.

From my perspective, a good drug is a drug for which the benefits clearly outweigh the harms. I’m not saying that all drugs with high NNT’s are inherently useless. A drug with an NNT of 40 might be worth taking, if the risks of harm are sufficiently low and the outcome is sufficiently important. Only the patient can make that decision.

Whether a drug is good for you as an individual is clearly context specific. The decision whether or not to take a certain drug requires a deep understanding of the drug (provided by the physician) and a deep understanding of personal values and wishes (provided by the patient). It requires a holistic perspective and a meeting of two minds that is literally the opposite of what doctors are asked to practice today, where we’re continuously pestered with various treatment guidelines and targets that turn physicians in to unthinking automatons and patients in to featureless blobs.

April 16, 2022 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment