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The War on Pubs is Being Waged by Puritans Against Joy

By Sean Walsh | Lockdown Sceptics | April 19, 2021

Hugh Osmond and Sacha Lord are back in court this week to argue that the Government’s refusal to reopen indoor hospitality is inconsistent with the opening up of “non-essential” retail. I wish them luck, I really do. But I fear that they are battling not against SAGE evidence but against the miserable assumptions on which that “evidence” is based.

Why has this Government gone to war on pubs when the hospitality industry was last year responsible for fewer that 3% of Covid infections? It’s tempting to conclude that the SAGE types are not worried that pubs are possible vectors of transmission, but that they are concerned that hospitality venues are potential theatres of dissent. Or, worse, that they are places where people have the temerity to enjoy themselves.

Heaven forfend.

The Lockdown Sanhedrin, the SAGE clerisy, is itself infected with the virus of puritanism. It’s impossible to look at Chris Whitty without concluding that other people’s enjoyment presents itself to him as a sort of personal Kryptonite. Boris’s self-announced “libertarianism” seems to amount to little more than the thesis that he gets to do what he wants and the rest of us can go hang. But I think it goes deeper than that – the Government and in particular its advisers are in thrall to a metaphysics of joylessness.

At the start of this crisis, the Government decided that it was qualified to make a distinction between those activities which are essential and those which are not. The latter were consequently eliminated from the list of what was permitted. To put it another way, it took upon itself the right to decide what counts as work, and what counts as mere “play”.

But it is not clear that any such distinction exists, and if it does then it does not follow that we should prioritise work over play, even in a pandemic. Aristotle claimed that the “first principle of activity is leisure”: that we work in order to play; that play is a more valuable activity than work because it is something that is done for its own sake. The vulgar utilitarianism which has shaped SAGE’s pandemic response is a crude sanitisation of our understanding of the human soul. Not every worthwhile thing that we do as human persons can be reduced to the requirements of a Downing St data slide.

Pubs matter for reasons that go further than the economics of the hospitality sector, important though those are. They matter because they are playgrounds for adults. They are important because they remind us that not everything has to be geared to the puritanical assumption that we work only to get up and repeat the same day.

And they matter because they have their own internal social grammar, one which has been handed down from generation to generation. The pub has its own set of protocols (the “round”) and its own systems of internal conflict resolution (“let’s take this outside”).

It is in the pub that people can whisper conspiracy against a Government narrative. And conspiracies always require that the like-minded are allowed to gather. It is over a drink that the millionaire and the pauper can come together and compare notes.

Johnson is currently offering us a sinister inversion of what a pub is, one in which you are tracked, traced, audited, judged, and humiliated. The “road map”, in this industry at least, is one that leads you not into “normal” but into a “Twin Peaks” version of it.

This Government needs to be careful. I am not persuaded that it has gone to war against us. But it’s starting to give that impression. Why? Because if you were given carte blanche to construct a police state this is how you’d do it: you would stamp on the enjoyment of the great unwashed and confiscate all mechanisms of dissent. The Government’s war on pubs is ticking both those boxes.

Sean Walsh is a writer and former university teacher.

April 20, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Moderna “Vaccine” Wreaks Havoc in BC and Local Doctor Blows Whistle

Sixth Sense | April 17, 2021

@DRutter: INVITE https://odysee.com/$/invite/@DRutter:9

https://odysee.com/@DRutter:9/moderna-vaccine-wreaks-havoc-on-lytton:7

Please listen to and share this powerful front-line testimony. Dr. Charles Hoffe of Lytton, British Columbia tells how the Moderna “vaccine” has decimated the health of his small town, after they had no trouble naturally fending off Covid last year. Now, many residents can’t sleep, their nerves burn with pain, their muscles won’t move properly, and their condition is worsening by the week. He lists his many concerns with these experimental products, and talks about how government officials have already sought to silence him. The interview was uploaded by Laura-Lynn Thompson.

Frontline Workers Testimonies & VAERs Reports 26 MAR 2021 – [PDF DOC]
https://odysee.com/@SixthSense-Truth-Search-Labs:0/informed-consent-matters:7

Polyethylene glycol as a cause of anaphylaxis [ingredient in COVID injections!] – PDF DOC
https://odysee.com/@SixthSense-Truth-Search-Labs:0/s13223-016-0172-7:f

Evidence for a Connection between COVID-19 and Exposure to Radiofrequency Radiation from Wireless Telecommunications [PDF DOC]
https://odysee.com/@SixthSense-Truth-Search-Labs:0/Rubik-Brown-COVID-19-and-RFR-SUBMITTED:f

COVID-19 RNA Based Vaccines and the Risk of Prion Disease – PDF DOC
https://odysee.com/@SixthSense-Truth-Search-Labs:0/covid19-rna-based-vaccines-and-the-risk-of-prion-disease-1503(2):b

April 20, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | 1 Comment

“A Sign Of Progress”: How A Tiny Corporate Media Clique Inverted Reality During Brazil’s 2016 Coup

BRASIL WIRE | APRIL 17, 2021

On the fifth anniversary of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, the role foreign media played in propagandising for it still warrants further investigation.

Little of international media coverage of Brazil’s 2016 coup and its centrepiece, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, has dated well. But one opinion piece in US newspaper the New York Times stands out as emblematic of the inverted reality being presented to the world, as Brazil’s first female president was facing a right-wing plot to remove her and her progressive government from office.

Written by Op-Ed contributor, the Associated Press Rio correspondent, Juliana Barbassa, it was headlined “Why Brazil’s Corruption Scandal Is a Sign of Progress”. It was published on March 15, 2016, one month before the first congressional vote to impeach Dilma Rousseff and with the campaign against her at full tilt.

At this point it was already apparent to any serious analyst that something was very wrong. Anti-Coup protests were occurring in equal frequency and numbers to the yellow and green demonstrations for Dilma’s impeachment, yet the article begins: “Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets over the weekend to protest their government and to send a message to the country’s political class: No one is untouchable. Brazil’s politicians should take that to heart. The Federal Police temporarily detained Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president, for questioning earlier this month in connection with a huge — and expanding — graft investigation. President Dilma Rousseff, Mr. da Silva’s handpicked successor, could be next.”

Media consumers who consider themselves engaged with world affairs would have no doubt seen an article like this one in the paper of record, taken it at face value, and have had no idea how wrong it was, nor how incestuous its conception.

They might consult multiple trusted sources and see this inversion of reality corroborated. They wouldn’t know that the most prominent English language reporters were meeting regularly and sharing notes. For example, on the very same day, the Guardian published an editorial calling for Rousseff to resign.

They could look at news agency Reuters, and see something broadly in line with what they had read in the NYT.

They wouldn’t know that Brian Winter, until recently the Reuters Brazil correspondent, now worked indirectly on behalf of Chevron, one of the principal lobbyists for, and beneficiaries of the coup. They wouldn’t know that both Winter and Brazil bureau chief Todd Benson had recently left Reuters following a scandal in which it was seen to have censored information that was considered favourable to Dilma and the Workers Party.

They wouldn’t know that the Reuters correspondent had got the NYT pieces’ author, Juliana Barbassa, a job at oil, agribusiness, banking and mining industry lobby Council of the Americas‘ in-house magazine Americas Quarterly, from where she became the New York Times’ Latin America and Caribbean desk editor.

They wouldn’t know that the author’s husband Chris Gaffney, was a primary source for Dave Zirin’s character assassination of Lula, Dance with the Devilwho, living in a penthouse apartment on Rio’s Botofogo bay, used the World Cup as a platform to attack the PT from a radical left standpoint.

They wouldn’t know that the Brazil bureau chief at Associated Press, Brad Brooks, was personally forbidding staff from use the word Coup/Golpe to describe what was happening in Brazil, regardless of their belief, and even on their private Facebook pages.

They wouldn’t know that a group of young and influential Brazilian reporters, including those from AP, had been taken on all expenses paid trips to the US, for briefings at the State Department, to learn about “sustainable funding models”.

Finally, they might look for opinions from across the political spectrum.

They wouldn’t know that ostensibly leftist voices they may have followed in Brazil were funded by corporate philanthropy from Ford Foundation, Pierre Omidyar and OSF, nor that they were closer professionally and socially to this same group of corporate reporters than they were the actual Brazilian left. This promiscuity can be confirmed by reading hundreds of friendly bar-setting twitter engagements with AS/COA Americas Quarterly editor and Alvaro Uribe / FHC biographer Brian Winter, by journalists such as New Yorker’s Alex Cuadros and LA Times correspondent Vincent Bevins during Dilma’s impeachment, and in the lead up to Lula’s arrest two years later.

This appearance of consensus fed into foreign television, as US comedy writers used the NYT as their principal source. Brian Mier writes: “Even John Oliver made a joke about Dilma Rousseff and Petrobras corruption. It wasn’t based on facts, but helped his liberal US audience feel comfortable about the illegal impeachment of Brazil’s first woman President and subsequent US corporate oil grab.” Daniel Hunt adds “Don’t ever doubt the cumulative effect foreign media coverage can have on the actual political scenario inside a country like Brazil, which is uniquely fixated with how it is covered abroad. All the liberals were sharing this nonsense at the time of Rousseff’s impeachment.”

It was only after the April 2016 congressional vote, from which Jair Bolsonaro launched his 2018 presidential bid that the hand-wringing began, from a cluster of mostly US media professionals who had shown no critical analysis as the campaign against Dilma raged, from her re-election in October 2014, right through to her impeachment.

Maybe a fascist elected as president wasn’t the outcome they imagined, but with no tanks on the street, the 2016 coup was staged in the media, which late Brazilian journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim labeled, The 4th Power. Brazil is living with the deadly consequences now, and every journalist who endorsed, normalized and enabled a subversion of democracy, who went along with the narratives of right-wing regime change, holds a degree of culpability.

Not only did their often brazen propaganda actually influence opinion within Brazil’s media classes, together they created a screen of editorial cover which stunted international solidarity for Rousseff and her centre-left government in their hour of need. This was no unfortunate accident; it was an ethical and journalistic disgrace, with observers as actors.

There is no “They wouldn’t know” on the reporters’ part, and this is not hindsight. Some people were paid to be wrong.

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Vienna talks reveal Biden team’s attachment to sanctions that would torpedo Iran deal

BY GARETH PORTER · THE GRAYZONE · APRIL 18, 2021

Biden’s foreign policy team refuses to relieve Iran from sanctions illegally imposed by the Trump administration, setting the stage for the collapse of negotiations and a major crisis.

The Biden administration signaled once again at the April 9 Vienna meeting on the Iran nuclear deal that it intends to maintain Trump-era Iran sanctions in an effort to win political and military concessions going well beyond the original deal itself. Team Biden continued to insist during the conference that Iran return to full compliance with the nuclear agreement without any reciprocal US commitment to remove the sanctions President Donald Trump imposed after abandoning the agreement in 2018.

The Biden administration’s stance on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has already provoked a forceful response from Iran. Rather than enriching uranium at the 20 percent level that was used before Washington began making its new demands, Tehran has begun enriching to 60 percent purity.

In a video press conference with journalists after the first round of the “Joint Commission” of the JCPOA in Vienna, an unnamed “senior official” implied that the Biden administration intends to maintain sanctions on Iran, framing them as necessary political leverage. The unnamed US official also griped about “repeated statements by Iranians that all sanctions imposed since 2017 have to be lifted.”

Asserting the Biden administration’s position on the JCPOA, the official stated: “[U]nder the deal the US retains the right to impose sanctions for non-nuclear reasons, whether it’s terrorism or human rights violations or interference with our elections, et cetera.”

The official added, “[A]ll sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA and inconsistent with the benefits that Iran expects from the JCPOA, we are prepared to lift. That does not mean all of them, because there are some that are legitimate.”

However, the official refused to clarify just how the Biden administration distinguishes between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” sanctions. The Biden administration’s deliberate ambiguity on that central point strongly suggests a determination to force Iran into making concessions on issues which happen to be Israeli priorities: lengthening the sunset dates of Iran’s key JCPOA obligations as well as imposing limits on its ballistic missile program and regional alliances.

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, has made it clear that Iran will not bend to the Biden administration’s diplomatic coercion. Just before the Vienna meeting, he said, “The US should remove … all sanctions that were reimposed after Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA or newly imposed or relabeled … and then we [will] verify and return to our commitments.”

Further evidence of the obdurate US strategy came in the form of comments made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a March 3 interview with PBS Newshour. While crediting the JCPOA with having “put Iran’s nuclear program in a box,” Blinken ignored the fact that the agreement had resulted from Tehran’s acceptance of limits on its nuclear program for several years in return for the removal of US and UN sanctions.

Blinken even framed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal as though it were a consensus US policy rather than an extremist policy that Biden himself had attacked.

“When we pulled out of the nuclear agreement,” he said, “Iran then started to break out from that box. And it is now in a position where it is closer to having the ability to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on short order, in a matter of months.”

Blinken emphasized that the Biden administration has “a real interest in trying to put Iran back into that box.” Yet he downplayed the role of sanctions relief in returning to the original JCPOA. “We have been very clear that Iran has to come back into compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement,” he stated. “And if it does, we will do the same thing… that would involve, if they do it, some sanctions relief.”

The Biden strategy of coercion as outlined by both the anonymous senior US official and Blinken is entirely consistent with multiple indications of the Biden team’s intentions signaled well before Biden’s electoral victory.

The Biden administration saw an opportunity to exploit diplomatic coercion on Iran because Trump, responding to pressures from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and major pro-Israel Trump donors, had abandoned the nuclear agreement and embarked on what his administration called a “maximum pressure” campaign. Trump announced the US withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, then declared the reinstatement of all US sanctions on Iran that had been removed under the 2015 deal.

In making that decision public, the Trump administration highlighted the secondary sanctions against countries that had imported Iranian oil — but also gave waivers for six months to eight countries it said had already reduced their imports from Iran significantly.

The Trump administration was merely continuing a technique for attacking the Iranian economy that had been pioneered by Obama-era Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey. The key to his strategy, Levey explained in Congressional testimony in 2010, was to focus on “illicit conduct” by Iran, such as Iran’s missile program or its alleged support for terrorism, in order to “maximize the chances of achieving a truly multinational coalition” for breaking or avoiding economic ties with Iran.

Levey identified UN Security Council Resolution 1929, adopted in 2010, which calls a wide range of actions by member states against Iran over nuclear and missile activity, as crucial to his approach.  He sought to exploit the fear of foreign companies that their investment in Iran could be linked to any Iranian activities labeled as “illicit.”

“The operating presumption,” Levey suggested, “should be that virtually all transactions or financial services involving Iran could contribute to its nuclear or missile programs.” Levey saw the establishment of that “presumption” as the key to frightening potential investors away from Iran.

 

Even though the Treasury sanctions legally apply only to assets and transactions under US jurisdiction, Levey observed, “[W]e have found over the years that many banks and businesses around the world cut off dealings with designated targets…”

By enriching uranium at the 60 percent level of purity, Iran is applying its own strategy of diplomatic leverage, hoping to force an end to economic sanctions ravaging its economy. Tehran employed the same tactic in 2012, pressuring the Obama administration to drop its insistence that Iran essentially give up its enrichment program entirely.

The Obama administration believed it was well positioned to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. To whittle away at US diplomatic pressure, Iran doubled its total number of centrifuges onsite between May and August 2012, but it never actually used the bulk of that capability to enrich uranium. None of the newly installed centrifuges were even connected with pipes; and only one third of those that were connected were actually enriching. In September 2012, Iran offered to end its policy of 20 percent enrichment in return for the lifting of sanctions. An Obama administration official acknowledged that Iran had gained “leverage” by creating a high degree of capacity, but not using it.

The result was the compromise at the heart of the JCPOA: Iran agreed to give up its ability to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon and the US removed its economic sanctions that had blocked Iran from achieving its development goals.

Now, the Biden administration is planning to exploit the crushing sanctions regime it inherited from Trump to extract further concessions from Iran. Those sanctions have brought what the IMF has called “extreme distress” to Iranian economy and society, increasing inflation and unemployment, and sharply reducing popular access to food, healthcare and medicine.

But any notion that US sanctions would result in popular pressure for government concessions on the nuclear deal was contradicted by a survey of Iranian public opinion by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy in late 2019 which found that a solid majority of Iranians now questioned whether Iran should have signed the JCPOA in the first place.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden, Secretary of State Blinken and other top officials in the administration are acutely attuned to Israeli strategic thinking. They appear convinced that their ability to pressure Iran through sanctions has been strengthened –– especially after the April 11 Israeli sabotage attack on the Natanz enrichment facility, which will set back Iranian enrichment plans at the facility for at least nine months.

But the Biden team’s hopes that Iran could be coerced to return to the nuclear deal while the US attempts to economically strangle Iran until it accedes to its demands demonstrates a breathtaking lack of perspective. If this delusional mindset prevails, it is likely to lead to a much more serious crisis in the coming months.

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Persuasion and the Prestige Paradox: Are High Status People More Likely to Lie?

By Rob Henderson | Quillette | April 3, 2021

Many have discovered an argument hack. They don’t need to argue that something is false. They just need to show that it’s associated with low status. The converse is also true: You don’t need to argue that something is true. You just need to show that it’s associated with high status. And when low status people express the truth, it sometimes becomes high status to lie.

In the 1980s, the psychologists Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo developed the “Elaboration Likelihood Model” to describe how persuasion works. “Elaboration” here means the extent to which a person carefully thinks about the information. When people’s motivation and ability to engage in careful thinking is present, the “elaboration likelihood” is high. This means people are likely to pay attention to the relevant information and draw conclusions based on the merits of the arguments or the message. When elaboration likelihood is high, a person is willing to expend their cognitive resources to update their views.

Two paths to persuasion

The idea is that there are two paths, or two “routes,” to persuading others. The first type, termed the “central” route, comes from careful and thoughtful consideration of the messages we hear. When the central route is engaged, we actively evaluate the information presented, and try to discern whether or not it’s true.

When the “peripheral” route is engaged, we pay more attention to cues apart from the actual information or content or the message. For example, we might evaluate someone’s argument based on how attractive they are or where they were educated, without considering the actual merits of their message.

When we accept a message through the peripheral route, we tend to be more passive than when we accept a message through the central route. Unfortunately, the peripheral route is more prevalent because we are exposed to an increasingly large amount of information.

The renowned psychologists Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor have characterized humans as “cognitive misers.” They write, “People are limited in their capacity to process information, so they take shortcuts whenever they can.”

We are lazy creatures who try to expend as little mental energy as possible.

And people are typically less motivated to scrutinize a message if the source is considered to be an expert. We interpret the message through the peripheral route.

This is one reason why media outlets often appoint experts who mirror their political values. These experts lend credibility to the views the outlet espouses. Interestingly, though, expertise appears to influence persuasion only if the individual is identified as an expert before they communicate their message. Research has found that when a person is told the source is an expert after listening to the message, this new information does not increase the person’s likelihood of believing the message.

It works the other way, too. If a person is told that a source is not an expert before the message, the person tends to be more skeptical of the message. If told the source is not an expert after the message, this has no effect on a person’s likelihood of believing the message.

This suggests that knowing a source is an expert reduces our motivation to engage in central processing. We let our guards down.

As motivation and/or ability to process arguments is decreased, peripheral cues become more important for persuasion. Which might not bode well.

However, when we update our beliefs by weighing the actual merits of an argument (central route), our updated beliefs tend to endure and are more robust against counterpersuasion, compared to when we update our beliefs through peripheral processing. If we come to believe something through careful and thoughtful consideration, that belief is more resilient to change.

This means we can be more easily manipulated through the peripheral route. If we are convinced of something via the peripheral route, a manipulator will be more successful at using the peripheral route once again to alter our initial belief.

Social consequences of our beliefs

But why does this matter? Because by understanding how and why we come to hold our beliefs, we can better understand ourselves and guard against manipulation.

The founders of the elaboration likelihood model wrote that, “Ultimately, we suspect that attitudes are seen as correct or proper to the extent that they are viewed as beneficial for the physical or psychological well-being of the person.”

In his book The Social Leap, the evolutionary psychologist William von Hippel writes, “a substantial reason we evolved such large brains is to navigate our social world… A great deal of the value that exists in the social world is created by consensus rather than discovered in an objective sense… our cognitive machinery evolved to be only partially constrained by objective reality.” Our social brains process information not only by examining the facts, but also considering the social consequences of what happens to our reputations if we believe something.

Indeed, in his influential theory of social comparison processes, the eminent psychologist Leon Festinger suggested that people evaluate the “correctness” of their opinions by comparing them to the opinions of others. When we see others hold the same beliefs as us, our own confidence in those beliefs increases. Which is one reason why people are more likely to proselytize beliefs that cannot be verified through empirical means.

In short, people have a mechanism in their minds. It stops them from saying something that could lower their status, even if it’s true. And it propels them to say something that could increase their status, even if it’s false. Sometimes, local norms can push against this tendency. Certain communities (e.g., scientists) can obtain status among their peers for expressing truths. But if the norm is relaxed, people might default to seeking status over truth if status confers the greater reward.

Furthermore, knowing that we could lose status if we don’t believe in something causes us to be more likely to believe in it to guard against that loss. Considerations of what happens to our own reputation guides our beliefs, leading us to adopt a popular view to preserve or enhance our social positions. We implicitly ask ourselves, “What are the social consequences of holding (or not holding) this belief?”

But our reputation isn’t the only thing that matters when considering what to believe. Equally important is the reputation of others. Returning to the peripheral route of persuasion, we decide whether to believe something not only if lots of people believe it, but also if the proponent of the belief is a prestigious person. If lots of people believe something, our likelihood of believing it increases. And if a high-status person believes something, we are more prone to believing it, too.

Prestigious role models

This starts when we are children. In her recent book Cognitive Gadgets, the Oxford psychologist Cecilia Hayes writes, “children show prestige bias; they are more likely to copy a model that adults regard as being higher social status- for example, their head-teacher rather than an equally familiar person of the same age and gender.” Hayes cites a 2013 study by Nicola McGuigan who found that five-year-old children are “selective copiers.” Results showed that kids were more likely to imitate their head-teacher rather than an equally familiar person of the same age and gender. Young children are more likely to imitate a person that adults regard as being higher status.

People in general favor mimicking prestigious people compared to ordinary people. This is why elites have an outsized effect on culture, and why it is important to scrutinize their ideas and opinions. As a descriptive observation, the opinions of my friend who works at McDonald’s have less effect on society than the opinions of my friend who works at McKinsey. If you have any kind of prominence, you unavoidably become a model that others, including children, are more likely to emulate.

Indeed, the Canadian anthropologist Jerome Barkow posits that people across the world view media figures as more prestigious than respected members of their local communities. People on screen appear to be attractive, wealthy, popular, and powerful. Barkow writes, “All over the world, children are learning not from members of their own community but from media figures whom they perceive as prestigious… local prestige is debased.” As this phenomenon continues to grow, the opinions and actions of the globally-prestigious carry even more influence.

Of course, people don’t copy others with high-status solely because they hope that mimicking them will boost their own status. We tend to believe that prestigious people are more competent; prominence is a heuristic for skill.

In a recent paper about prestige-based social learning, researchers Ángel V. Jiménez and Alex Mesoudi wrote that assessing competence directly “may be noisy and costly. Instead, social learners can use short-cuts either by making inferences from the appearance, personality, material possessions, etc. of the models.”

For instance, a military friend of mine used to be a tutor for rich high school students. He himself is not as wealthy as them, and disclosed to me that he paid $200 to replace his old earphones for AirPods. This was so that the kids and their families would believe he is in the same social position as them, and therefore qualified to teach.

Prestige paradox

Which brings us to a question: Who is most susceptible to manipulation via peripheral persuasion? It might seem intuitive to believe that people with less education are more manipulable. But research suggests this may not be true.

High-status people are more preoccupied with how others view them. Which means that educated and/or affluent people may be especially prone to peripheral, as opposed to central, methods of persuasion.

Indeed, the psychology professor Keith Stanovich, discussing his research on “myside bias,” has written, “if you are a person of high intelligence… you will be less likely than the average person to realize you have derived your beliefs from the social groups you belong to and because they fit with your temperament and your innate psychological propensities.”

Students and graduates of top universities are more prone to myside bias. They are more likely to “evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward their own prior beliefs, opinions, and attitudes.”

This is not unique to our own time. William Shirer, the American journalist and author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, described his experiences as a war correspondent in Nazi Germany. Shirer wrote, “Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, beer hall, or café, I would meet with outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious they were parroting nonsense they heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but one was met with such incredulity, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty.”

Likewise, in a fascinating study on the collapse of the Soviet Union, researchers have found that university-educated people were two to three times more likely than high school graduates to say they supported the Communist Party. White-collar professional workers were likewise two to three times more supportive of communist ideology, relative to farm laborers and semi-skilled workers.

Patterns within the US today are consistent with these historical patterns. The Democratic political analyst David Shor has observed that, “Highly educated people tend to have more ideologically coherent and extreme views than working-class ones. We see this in issue polling and ideological self-identification. College-educated voters are way less likely to identify as moderate.”

One possibility for this is that regardless of time or place, affluent members of society are more likely to say the right things to either preserve status or gain more of it. A series of studies by researchers at the University of Queensland found that, “relative to lower-class individuals, upper-class individuals have a greater desire for wealth and status… it is those who have more to start with (i.e., upper-class individuals) who also strive to acquire more wealth and status.”

A more recent set of studies led by Cameron Anderson at the University of Berkeley found that social class, measured in terms of education and income, was positively associated with the desire for social status. People who had more education and money were more likely to agree with statements like “I enjoy having influence over other people’s decision making” and “It would please me to have a position of prestige and social standing.”

Social status loss aversion

Who feels most in danger of losing their reputations, though? Turns out, those same exact people. A survey by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov asked a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Americans various questions about self-censorship.

They found that highly educated people are the most concerned about losing their jobs or missing out on job opportunities because of their political views. Twenty-five percent of those with a high school education or less are afraid of getting fired or hurting their employment prospects because of their political views, compared with 34 percent of college graduates and an astounding 44 percent of people with a postgraduate degree.

Results from a recent paper titled ‘Keeping Your Mouth Shut: Spiraling Self-Censorship in the United States’ by the political scientists James L. Gibson and Joseph L. Sutherland is consistent with the findings from Cato/Yougov. They find that self-censorship has skyrocketed. In the 1950s, at the height of McCarthyism, 13.4 percent of Americans reported that they “felt less free to speak their mind than they used to.” In 1987, the figure had reached 20 percent. By 2019, 40 percent of Americans reported that they did not feel free to speak their minds. This isn’t a partisan issue, either. Gibson and Sutherland report that, “The percentage of Democrats who are worried about speaking their mind is just about identical to the percentage of Republicans who self-censor: 39 and 40 percent, respectively.”

The increase is especially pronounced among the educated class. The researchers report, “It is also noteworthy and perhaps unexpected that those who engage in self-censorship are not those with limited political resources… self-censorship is most common among those with the highest levels of education… This finding suggests a social learning process, with those with more education being more cognizant of social norms that discourage the expression of one’s views.”

Highly-educated people appear to be the most likely to express things they don’t necessarily believe for fear of losing their jobs or their reputation. Within the upper class, the true believers set the pace, and those who are loss-averse about their social positions go along with it.

Interestingly, there is suggestive evidence indicating that education is negatively associated with one’s sense of power. That is, the more education someone has, the more likely they are to agree with statements like, “Even if I voice them, my views have little sway” and “My ideas and opinions are often ignored.” Granted, the correlation is quite small (r = -.15). Still, the finding is significant and in the opposite direction of what most people would expect.

Research by Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff at Carnegie Mellon University found that people with more education, science education, and science literacy are more polarized in their views about scientific issues depending on their political identity. For example, the people who are most concerned about climate change? College-educated Democrats. The people who are least concerned? College-educated Republicans. In contrast, less educated Democrats and Republicans are not so different from one another in their views about climate change.

Likewise, in an article titled “Academic and Political Elitism,” the sociologist Musa Al-Gharbi has summarized related research, writing, “compared to the general public, cognitively sophisticated voters are much more likely to form their positions on issues based on partisan cues of what they are ‘supposed’ to think in virtue of their identity as Democrats, Republicans, etc.”

High education and low opinions

It’s also useful to understand how highly educated people view others and their social relationships. Consider a paper titled ‘Seeing the Best or Worst in Others: A Measure of Generalized Other-Perceptions’ led by Richard Rau at the University of Münster. Rau and his colleagues were interested in how various factors influence people’s perceptions of others.

In the study, participants looked at social network profiles of people they did not know. They also viewed short video sequences of unfamiliar people describing a neutral personal experience like traveling to work. Researchers then asked participants to evaluate the people in the social media profiles and videos. Participants were asked how much they agreed with statements like “I like this person,” and “This person is cold-hearted.” Then participants responded to various demographic and personality questions about themselves.

Some findings weren’t so surprising. The researchers found, for example, that people who scored highly on the personality traits of openness and agreeableness tended to hold more favorable views of others.

More sobering, though, is that higher education was consistently related to less positive views of other people. In their paper they write, “to understand people’s feelings, behaviors, and social relationships, it is of key importance to know which general view they hold about others… the better people are educated, the less positive their other-perceptions are.”

So affluent people care the most about status, believe they have little power, are afraid of losing their jobs and reputation, and have less favorable views of others.

In short, opinions can confer status regardless of their truth value. And the individuals most likely to express certain opinions in order to preserve or enhance their status are also those who are already on the upper rungs of the social ladder.

There may be unpleasant consequences for this misguided use of intellect and time on the part of highly educated and affluent people. If the most fortunate members of society spend more time speaking in hushed tones, or live in fear of expressing themselves, or are more involved in culture wars, that is less time they could spend using their mental and economic resources to solve serious problems.

Aliens and our monkey brain

There’s an idea named after the Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, called the Fermi Paradox. In short, it describes the apparent contradiction between the fact that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old, there are billions of stars and planets, and intelligent life on Earth evolved relatively quickly. This suggests that there are many other Earth-like planets out there that have also evolved intelligent life. So why haven’t we encountered any?

The psychology professor Geoffrey Miller suggested that as intelligent species become technologically advanced, they spend more time entertaining themselves than on interstellar space travel. Rather than actually going to Mars, they spend more time pretending to go to Mars via movies and video games and VR.

Perhaps, though, such technology enables us to get involved in something equally exciting: Tribal warfare. Dunking on social media tells our monkey brain that we are rising in prominence, even though by next week people will have forgotten and moved on to the next round of gossip. Advanced tech exploits the brains of ideologues, who then create a culture where others spend too much time pledging fealty to ideologies rather than developing new ideas and technology for the benefit of humankind.

Rob Henderson is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. He obtained a BS in Psychology from Yale University and is a veteran of the US Air Force. You can follow him on Twitter @robkhenderson.

April 18, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

Is a Coronavirus Vaccine a Ticking Time Bomb?

Science with Dr. Doug | August 1, 2021

Will a vaccine to SARS-CoV-2 actually make the problem worse? Although not a certainty, all of the current data says that this prospect is a real possibility that needs to be paid careful attention to. If you stay with me, I’ll explain why.

First, let’s set aside the debate surrounding the topic of whether vaccines work and the negative health consequences due to the components of the vaccine. No matter where you stand on the vaccine issue, I’m not asking anyone to capitulate on this point. I’m just asking that this issue be set aside, because in this instance this argument is completely irrelevant. Even without bringing any other issue into the vaccine debate, a coronavirus vaccine is a highly dangerous undertaking due to a peculiar trojan horse mechanism known as Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE). Regardless of someone’s conviction about vaccines, this point needs to be acknowledged. In the remaining portion of this article, I’m going to explain how ADE works and the future perils it may bring.

For a vaccine to work, our immune system needs to be stimulated to produce a neutralizing antibody, as opposed to a non-neutralizing antibody. A neutralizing antibody is one that can recognize and bind to some region (‘epitope’) of the virus, and that subsequently results in the virus either not entering or replicating in your cells.

A non-neutralizing antibody is one that can bind to the virus, but for some reason, the antibody fails to neutralize the infectivity of the virus. This can occur, for example, if the antibody doesn’t bind tightly enough to the virus, or the percentage of the surface area of the virus covered by the antibody is too low, or the concentration of the antibody is not high enough. Basically, there is some type of generic binding of the antibody to the virus, but it fails to neutralize the virus.

In some viruses, if a person harbors a non-neutralizing antibody to the virus, a subsequent infection by the virus can cause that person to elicit a more severe reaction to the virus due to the presence of the non-neutralizing antibody. This is not true for all viruses, only particular ones. This is called Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE), and is a common problem with Dengue Virus, Ebola Virus, HIV, RSV, and the family of coronaviruses.  In fact, this problem of ADE is a major reason why many previous vaccine trials for other coronaviruses failed. Major safety concerns were observed in animal models. If ADE occurs in an individual, their response to the virus can be worse than their response if they had never developed an antibody in the first place.

An antibody can be rendered a non-neutralizing antibody simply because it doesn’t bind to the right portion of the virus to neutralize it, or the antibody binds too weakly to the virus. This can also occur if a neutralizing antibody’s concentration falls over time and is now no longer of sufficient concentration to cause neutralization of the virus. In addition, a neutralizing antibody can subsequently transition to non-neutralizing antibody when encountering a different strain of the virus.

What does ADE entail? The exact mechanism of ADE in SARS is not known, but the leading theory is described as follows: In certain viruses, the binding of a non-neutralizing antibody to the virus can direct the virus to enter and infect your immune cells. This occurs through a receptor called FcγRII. FcγRII is expressed on the outside of many tissues of our body, and in particular, in monocyte derived macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell. In other words, the presence of the non-neutralizing antibody now directs the virus to infect cells of your immune system, and these viruses are then able to replicate in these cells and wreak havoc on your immune response. One end of the antibody grabs onto the virus, and the other end of the antibody grabs onto an immune cell. Essentially, the non-neutralizing antibody enables the virus to hitch a ride to infect immune cells. You can see this in the picture above.

This can cause a hyperinflammatory response, a cytokine storm, and a general dysregulation of the immune system that allows the virus to cause more damage to our lungs and other organs of our body. In addition, new cell types throughout our body are now susceptible to viral infection due to the additional viral entry pathway facilitated by the FcγRII receptor, which is expressed on many different cell types.

What this means is that you can be given a vaccine, which causes your immune system to produce an antibody to the vaccine, and then when your body is actually challenged with the real pathogen, the infection is much worse than if you had not been vaccinated.

Again, this is not seen in all viruses, or even in all strains of a given virus, and there is a great deal that scientists don’t understand about the complete set of factors that dictate when and if ADE may occur. It’s quite likely that genetic factors as well as the health status of the individual may play a role on modulating this response. That being said, there are many studies (in the reference section below) that demonstrate that ADE is a persistent problem with coronaviruses in general, and in particular, with SARS-related viruses. Less is known, of course, with respect to SARS-CoV-2, but the genetic and structural similarities between the SARS-CoV-2 and the other coronaviruses strongly suggests that this risk is real.

ADE has proven to be a serious challenge with coronavirus vaccines, and this is the primary reason many have failed in early in-vitro or animal trials. For example, rhesus macaques who were vaccinated with the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV virus demonstrated severe acute lung injury when challenged with SARS-CoV, while monkeys who were not vaccinated did not. Similarly, mice who were immunized with one of four different SARS-CoV vaccines showed histopathological changes in the lungs with eosinophil infiltration after being challenged with SARS-CoV virus. This did not occur in the controls that had not been vaccinated. A similar problem occurred in the development of a vaccine for FIPV, which is a feline coronavirus.

For a vaccine to work, vaccine developers will need to find a way to circumvent the ADE problem. This will require a very novel solution, and it may not be achievable, or at the very least, predictable. In addition, the vaccine must not induce ADE in subsequent strains of SARS-CoV-2 that emerge over time, or to other endemic coronaviruses that circulate every year and cause the common cold.

A major trigger for ADE is viral mutation. Changes to the amino acid sequence of the Spike Protein (which is the protein on the virus that facilitates entry into our cells via the ACE2 receptor) can cause antigenic drift. What this means is that an antibody that was once neutralizing can become a non-neutralizing antibody because the antigen has slightly changed. Therefore, mutations in the Spike protein that naturally occur with coronaviruses could presumably result in ADE. Since these future strains are not predictable, it is impossible to predict if ADE will become a problem at a future date.

This inherent unpredictability problem is highlighted in the following scenario: A coronavirus vaccine may not be dangerous initially. If the initial testing looks positive, mass vaccination efforts would presumably be administered to a large portion of the population. In the first year or two, it may appear that there is no real safety issue, and over time, a greater percentage of the world population will be vaccinated due to this perceived “safety”. During this interim period, the virus is busy mutating. Eventually, the antibodies that vaccinated individuals have floating around in their bloodstream are now rendered non-neutralizing because they fail to bind to the virus with the same affinity due to the structural change resulting from the mutation. Declining concentrations of the antibody over time would also contribute to this shift towards non-neutralization. When these previously vaccinated people are infected with this different strain of SARS-CoV-2, they could experience a much more severe reaction to the virus.

Ironically, in this scenario, this vaccine made the virus more pathogenic rather than less pathogenic. This is not something that vaccine producers would be able predict or test for with any level of real confidence at the outset, and it would only become evident at a later time.

If and when this does occur, who will be liable?

Does this vaccine industry know about this problem? The answer is yes, they do.

Quoting a Nature Biotechnology news article published on June 5th, 2020:

““It’s important to talk about it [ADE],” says Gregory Glenn, president of R&D at Novavax, which launched its COVID-19 vaccine trial in May. But “we can’t be overly cautious. People are dying. So we need to be aggressive here.””

And from the same article:

“ADE “is a genuine concern,” says virologist Kevin Gilligan, a senior consultant with Biologics Consulting, who advises thorough safety studies. “Because if the gun is jumped, and a vaccine is widely distributed that is disease enhancing, that would be worse than actually not doing any vaccination at all.””

The vaccine industry is aware of this problem. The degree to which they are taking it seriously, is another question.

While many vaccine developers are aware of the problem, some of them are approaching the problem with more Laissez-faire attitude. They see this problem as “theoretical,” and not guaranteed, with the idea that animal trials should rule out the potential of ADE in humans.

As a side note, it is not ethical to conduct “challenge” studies in humans. However, challenge studies are conducted in animals. In other words, a clinical trial for a vaccine does not include administering the vaccine to a person, and then exposing this person to the virus post-vaccination to monitor their reaction. In clinical trials, humans are only given the vaccine, they are not “challenged” with the virus afterward. In animal studies, they do conduct a challenge test to observe how the animals respond to being infected with the actual virus after being vaccinated.

Will conducting animal studies solve the issue and remove the risk?

Not at all.

Anne De Groot, CEO of EpiVax argues that testing for vaccine safety in primates does not guarantee safety in humans, mainly because primates express different major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, which alters epitope presentation and the immune response. Animals and humans are similar, but they are also very different. In addition, as pointed out above, the development of different viral strains in subsequent years could present a major problem not noticeable during the initial safety trials in either humans or animals.

What about unvaccinated people who are naturally infected with the virus and develop antibodies? Could these people experience ADE to a future strain of SARS-CoV-2?

The ADE response is actually much more complicated than the picture I outlined above. There are other competing and non-competing factors in our immune system that contribute to the ADE response, many of which are not fully understood. Part of that equation is a variety of different types of T-cells that modulate this response, and these T-Cells respond to other portions (epitopes) of the virus. In a vaccine, our body is normally presented with a small part of the virus (like the Spike protein), or a modified (attenuated or dead) virus which is more benign. A vaccine does not expose the entirety of our immune system to the actual virus.

These types of vaccines will only elicit antibodies that recognize the portion of the virus which is present in the vaccine. The other portions of the virus are not represented in the antibody pool. In this scenario, it is much more likely that the vaccine-induced antibodies can be rendered as non-neutralizing antibodies, because the entire virus is not coated in antibodies, only the portion that was used to develop the vaccine.

In a real infection, our immune system is exposed to every nook and cranny of the entire virus, and as such, our immune system develops a panacea of antibodies that recognize different portions of the virus and, therefore, coat more of the virus and neutralize it. In addition, our immune system develops T-Cell responses to hundreds of different peptide epitopes across the virus; whereas in the vaccine the plethora of these T-Cell responses are absent. Researchers are already aware that the T-Cell response plays a cooperative role in either the development of, or absence of, the ADE response.

Based on these differences and the skewed immunological response which is inherent with vaccines, I believe that the risk of ADE is an order of magnitude greater in a vaccine-primed immune system rather than a virus-primed immune system. This will certainly become more apparent as COVID-19 progresses over the years, but the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the vaccine industry to demonstrate that ADE will not rear its ugly head in the near term or the far term. Once a vaccine is administered and people develop antibodies to some misrepresentation of the virus, it cannot be reversed. Again, this is a problem that could manifest itself at a later date.

Although this article focused on the problem of ADE, it is not the only pathway or mechanism that could present a problem for people being infected after vaccination. Another pathway is governed by Th2 immunopathology, in which a defective T-cell response initiates an allergic inflammation reaction. A second pathway is based on the development of faulty antibodies that form immune complexes, which then activate the complement system a consequently damage the airways. These pathways are also potential risks for SARS-CoV-2.

Right now, the fatality rate of the virus is estimated to be approximately 0.26%, and this number seems to be dropping as the virus is naturally attenuating itself through the population. It would be a great shame to vaccinate the entire population against a virus with this low of a fatality rate, especially considering the considerable risk presented by ADE. I believe this risk of developing ADE in a vaccinated individual will be much greater than 0.26%, and, therefore, the vaccine stands to make the problem worse, not better. It would be the biggest blunder of the century to see the fatality rate of this virus increase in the years to come because of our sloppy, haphazard, rushed efforts to develop a vaccine with such a low threshold of safety testing and the prospect of ADE lurking in the shadows. I would hope (and this is a big hope), that this vaccine WILL NOT BE MANDATORY.

Hopefully, you now know a little more about the topic of Antibody Dependent Enhancement, and the real, unpredictable dangers of a coronavirus vaccine. In the end, your health should be your decision, not some bureaucrat’s that doesn’t know the first thing about molecular biology.

REFERENCES

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Wan, Yushun, et al. “Molecular mechanism for antibody-dependent enhancement of coronavirus entry.” Journal of virology 94.5 (2020)

Yang, Zhi-yong, et al. “Evasion of antibody neutralization in emerging severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102.3 (2005): 797-801.

Ulrich, Henning, Micheli M. Pillat, and Attila Tárnok. “Dengue Fever, COVID‐19 (SARS‐CoV‐2), and Antibody‐Dependent Enhancement (ADE): A Perspective.” Cytometry Part A (2020).

Wang, Sheng-Fan, et al. “Antibody-dependent SARS coronavirus infection is mediated by antibodies against spike proteins.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 451.2 (2014): 208-214.

Tseng C Te, Sbrana E, Iwata-Yoshikawa N, Newman PC, Garron T, Atmar RL, et al. Immunization with SARS coronavirus vaccines leads to pulmonary immunopathology on challenge with the SARS virus. PLoS ONE. (2012) 7:35421.

Tetro, Jason A. “Is COVID-19 receiving ADE from other coronaviruses?.” Microbes and infection 22.2 (2020): 72-73

Hohdatsu, Tsutomu, et al. “Antibody-dependent enhancement of feline infectious peritonitis virus infection in feline alveolar macrophages and human monocyte cell line U937 by serum of cats experimentally or naturally infected with feline coronavirus.” Journal of veterinary medical science 60.1 (1998): 49-55.

Leung, Hiu-lan, Nancy. Mechanism of antibody-dependent enhancement in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection (Thesis). The University of Hong Kong Libraries.

Yip, M. S., et al. “Antibody-dependent enhancement of SARS coronavirus infection and its role in the pathogenesis of SARS.” Hong Kong Med J 22.3 Suppl 4 (2016): 25-31.

Yip, Ming Shum, et al. “Antibody-dependent infection of human macrophages by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.” Virology journal 11.1 (2014): 1-11.

Corapi, WAYNE V., C. W. Olsen, and FREDRIC W. Scott. “Monoclonal antibody analysis of neutralization and antibody-dependent enhancement of feline infectious peritonitis virus.” Journal of virology 66.11 (1992): 6695-6705.

Takano, Tomomi, et al. “Antibody-dependent enhancement of serotype II feline enteric coronavirus infection in primary feline monocytes.” Archives of virology 162.11 (2017): 3339-3345.

Yip, Ming S., et al. “Investigation of Antibody-Dependent Enhancement (ADE) of SARS coronavirus infection and its role in pathogenesis of SARS.” BMC Proceedings. Vol. 5. No. S1. BioMed Central, 2011.

Fierz, Walter, and Brigitte Walz. “Antibody dependent enhancement due to original antigenic sin and the development of SARS.” Frontiers in immunology 11 (2020).

Ricke, Darrell, and Robert W. Malone. “Medical countermeasures analysis of 2019-nCoV and vaccine risks for antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE).” Available at SSRN 3546070 (2020).

Jaume, Martial, et al. “Anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus spike antibodies trigger infection of human immune cells via a pH-and cysteine protease-independent FcγR pathway.” Journal of virology 85.20 (2011): 10582-10597.

Peron, Jean Pierre Schatzmann, and Helder Nakaya. “Susceptibility of the Elderly to SARS-CoV-2 Infection: ACE-2 Overexpression, Shedding, and Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE).” Clinics 75 (2020).

Yong, Chean Yeah, et al. “Recent advances in the vaccine development against Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus.” Frontiers in microbiology 10 (2019): 1781.

Wang, Qidi, et al. “Immunodominant SARS coronavirus epitopes in humans elicited both enhancing and neutralizing effects on infection in non-human primates.” ACS infectious diseases 2.5 (2016): 361-376.

Olsen, CHRISTOPHER W., et al. “Monoclonal antibodies to the spike protein of feline infectious peritonitis virus mediate antibody-dependent enhancement of infection of feline macrophages.” Journal of virology 66.2 (1992): 956-965.

Hotez, Peter J., Maria Elena Bottazzi, and David B. Corry. “The potential role of TH17 immune responses in coronavirus immunopathology and vaccine-induced immune enhancement.” (2020).

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April 18, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Journalists, Learning They Spread a CIA Fraud About Russia, Instantly Embrace a New One

By Glenn Greenwald | April 16, 2021

That Russia placed “bounties” on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan was one of the most-discussed and consequential news stories of 2020. It was also, as it turns out, one of the most baseless — as the intelligence agencies who spread it through their media spokespeople now admit, largely because the tale has fulfilled and outlived its purpose.

The saga began on June 26, 2020, when The New York Times announced that unnamed “American intelligence officials” have concluded that “a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops.” The paper called it “a significant and provocative escalation” by Russia. Though no evidence was ever presented to support the CIA’s claims — neither in that original story nor in any reporting since — most U.S. media outlets blindly believed it and spent weeks if not longer treating it as proven, highly significant truth. Leading politicians from both parties similarly used this emotional storyline to advance multiple agendas.

The story appeared — coincidentally or otherwise — just weeks after President Trump announced his plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2020. Pro-war members of Congress from both parties and liberal hawks in corporate media spent weeks weaponizing this story to accuse Trump of appeasing Putin by leaving Afghanistan and being too scared to punish the Kremlin. Cable outlets and the op-ed pages of The New York Times and Washington Post endlessly discussed the grave implications of this Russian treachery and debated which severe retaliation was needed. “This is as bad as it gets,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Then-candidate Joe Biden said Trump’s refusal to punish Russia and his casting doubt on the truth of the story was more proof that Trump’s “entire presidency has been a gift to Putin,” while Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) demanded that, in response, the U.S. put Russians and Afghans “in body bags.”

What was missing from this media orgy of indignation and militaristic demands for retaliation was an iota of questioning of whether the story was, in fact, true. All they had was an anonymous leak from “intelligence officials” — which The New York Times on Thursday admitted came from the CIA — but that was all they needed. That is because the vast majority of the corporate sector of the press lives under one overarching rule:

When the CIA or related security state agencies tell American journalists to believe something, we obey unquestioningly, and as a result, whatever assertions are spread by these agencies, no matter how bereft of evidence or shielded by accountability-free anonymity, they instantly transform, in our government-worshipping worldview, into a proven fact — gospel — never to be questioned but only affirmed and then repeated and spread as far and wide as possible.

That has been the dynamic driving the relationship between the corporate press and the CIA for decades, throughout the Cold War and then into the post-9/11 War on Terror and invasion of Iraq. But it has become so much more extreme in the Trump era. As the CIA became one of the leading anti-Trump #Resistance factions — a key player in domestic politics to subvert the presidency of the 45th President regarded by media figures as a Hitler-type menace — the bond between the corporate press and the intelligence community deepened more than ever. It is not an exaggeration to call it a merger: so much so that a parade of former security state officials from the CIA, NSA, FBI, DHS and others was hired by these news outlets to deliver the news. The partnership was no longer clandestine but official, out in the open, and proud.

In case anyone needs reminding, here’s a partial list of the ex-spooks who served as media figures in the Trump years:

John Brennan, James Clapper, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Hayden, Frank Figliuzzi, Fran Townsend, Stephen Hall, Samantha Vinograd, Andrew McCabe, Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, Phil Mudd, James Gagliano, Jeremy Bash, Susan Hennessey, Ned Price, Rick Francona…

Also Michael Morell, John McLaughlin, John Sipher, Thomas Bossert, Clint Watts, James Baker, Mike Baker, Daniel Hoffman, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, David Preiss, Evelyn Farkas, Tony Blinken, Mike Rogers, “Alex Finley,” Malcolm Nance…

The first goal this story served was to weaponize it in the battle waged by pro-war House Democrats and their neocon GOP allies to stop Trump’s withdrawal plan from Afghanistan. How, they began demanding upon publication of the CIA/NYT story, can we possibly leave Afghanistan when the Russians are trying to kill our troops? Would that not be a reckless abdication to the Kremlin of this country that we own, and would withdrawal not be a reward to Putin after we learned he was engaged in such dastardly plotting to kill our sons and daughters?

In late June, this alliance of pro-war House Democrats — funded overwhelmingly by military contractors — and the Liz-Cheney-led neocon wing announced amendments to the military budget authorization process that would defund Trump’s efforts to withdraw troops from either Afghanistan or Germany (where they had been stationed for decades to defend Western Europe against a country, the Soviet Union, that ceased to exist decades ago). They instantly weaponized the NYT/CIA story as their primary argument.

The record-breaking $740 billion military budget was scheduled to be approved by the House Armed Services Committee in early July. In a joint statement with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) on June 29 — the day the NYT story appeared — Liz Cheney proclaimed that “we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces.” One of the Democrats’ most pro-war House members, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), announced on July 1 (three days after the NYT story) his own amendment to block any troop withdrawal from Germany, citing “increasing Russian aggression.”

On July 1 and 2, the House Armed Services Committee held its hearings and votes — I watched all fourteen hours and reported on it in a series of articles and a 90-minute video report — and it not only approved this massive military budget but also both amendments to bar troop withdrawal. Over and over, the union of pro-war Democrats and Cheney-led neocon Republicans steamrolled the anti-war faction of left-wing and right-wing war opponents (led by Congressmembers Ro Khanna (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL)), and repeatedly used the Russia bounty story to justify continuation of the longest war in America’s history. This little speech from Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) was illustrative of how this CIA story was used all day:

The U.S. media was somehow more militaristic and blindly trusting about this CIA story than even this pro-war union of lawmakers. That the CIA’s leaked claim to The New York Times should even be questioned at all — given that it was leaked anonymously and was accompanied by exactly zero evidence — is not something that even crossed their journalistic minds.

These people who call themselves “journalists” do not view pronouncements from the U.S. security state as something that prompts skepticism let alone requires evidence before believing. The officials who run those agencies are their friends, partners and colleagues — those they most revere — and their every utterance is treated as Gospel. If — after watching them behave this way the last five years without pause — you think that is an exaggeration, watch this short video compilation produced by The Daily Caller to see for yourself how they instantly converted this CIA “Russia bounty” leak into proven fact that nobody, least of all them, should question:

As usual, the media figure most loudly and dramatically enshrining the CIA leak about Russia as Proven Truth was the undisputed Queen of demented conspiracy theories, jingoistic rhetoric, and CIA propaganda: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Over and over, she devoted melodramatic segments to denouncing the unparalleled evil of Russian treachery in Afghanistan (because the U.S. would never pay bounties to kill Russian soldiers in Afghanistan), at no point pausing her histrionics for even a second or two to wonder whether evidence ought to be presented before telling the millions of #Resistance liberals who watch her show that she is vouching for the truth of this story.

Predictably, now that this CIA tale has served its purpose (namely, preventing Trump from leaving Afghanistan), and now that its enduring effects are impeding the Biden administration (which wants to leave Afghanistan and so needs to get rid of this story), the U.S. Government is now admitting that — surprise! — they had no convincing evidence for this story all along.

The Daily Beast on Thursday was the first to notice that “the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had ‘low to moderate’ confidence in the story after all.” The outlet added: “that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.” The Guardian also reported that “US intelligence agencies have only ‘low to moderate confidence’ in reports last year that Russian spies were offering Taliban militants in Afghanistan bounties for killing US soldiers.” NBC News went even further, citing Biden’s campaign attacks on Trump for failing to punish Putin for these bounties, and noting: “Such a definitive statement was questionable even then…. They still have not found any evidence, a senior defense official said Thursday.”

What made this admission particularly bizarre — aside from rendering weeks of decrees from media figures and politicians humiliatingly reckless and baseless — is that the Biden administration continued to assert this claim as truth as recently as Thursday. When announcing new sanctions aimed at Moscow and diplomatic expulsions of Russian diplomats — primarily in response to allegations of Russian hacking — the White House said “it was responding to reports that Russia encouraged Taliban fighters to injure or kill coalition forces in Afghanistan.” The official White House announcement of the retaliation said explicitly that “the Administration is responding to the reports that Russia encouraged Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan based on the best assessments from the Intelligence Community (IC)” — a claim for which the IC itself admits it has only “low to moderate confidence” is even true.

When asked about this glaring contradiction yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave an answer that barely rose to the level of cogency, yet she clearly admitted the lack of evidentiary basis for this long-standing CIA/media tale:

That there is no evidence for this media-laundered CIA story is not something we learned only yesterday. It has been obvious for many months. In September, NBC News — as Maddow was in the midst of her performative sadness and indignation over the story on its cable network — noted:

Two months after top Pentagon officials vowed to get to the bottom of whether the Russian government bribed the Taliban to kill American service members, the commander of troops in the region says a detailed review of all available intelligence has not been able to corroborate the existence of such a program.

“It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told NBC News. McKenzie oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. continues to hunt for new information on the matter, he said.

“We continue to look for that evidence,” the general said. “I just haven’t seen it yet.

That was what made the refusal to question this story all along so maddening. Not only was no evidence presented to support the CIA’s assertions — something that, by itself, should have prevented every real journalist from endorsing its truth — but commanders in Afghanistan were saying months ago they could not find convincing evidence for it. That is what The Daily Beast meant in Thursday’s report when it said “there were reasons to doubt the story from the start” — not just the lack of evidence but also that “the initial stories emphasize[d] its basis on detainee reporting” and “the bounties represented a qualitative shift in recent Russian engagements with Afghan insurgents.” NBC News on Thursday also said that “such a definitive statement was questionable even then.”

But these doubts were virtually non-existent in most media reports. Indeed, one of the New York Times reporters who broke the story publicly attacked me as a conspiracy theorist back in September when I cited that NBC News story about the lack of evidence while pointing out what a crucial role this uncorroborated story played in stopping troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and claiming Trump was beholden to Putin. And while The Daily Beast on Thursday said there were reasons to doubt the story from the start, that same outlet was one of the most vocal and aggressive in pushing the story as true:

Even worse, other media outlets — led by The Washington Post — purported to have “independently confirmed” the NYT/CIA tale of Russian bounties. Twice in the last year, I have written about this bizarre practice where media outlets purport to “independently confirm” one another’s false stories by doing nothing more than going to the same anonymous sources who whisper to them the same things while providing no evidence. Yet they use this phrase “independent confirmation” to purposely imply that they obtained separate evidence corroborating the truth of the original story:

For months, pro-war members of both parties and leading members of the NYT/CNN/MSNBC media axis pushed a story — an inflammatory, dangerous one — based on nothing more than the say-so of anonymous CIA operatives. How can anyone do this who knows even the bare minimum about what this agency does and what its function is: to spread disinformation not just to foreign countries but the domestic population as well? It is both mystifying and toxic. But for people who call themselves “journalists” to repeat, over and over, evidence-free CIA claims, telling those who trust them to believe it, is nothing short of repulsive.

If you think that, upon learning yesterday’s news, there was any self-reflection on the part of the media figures who spread this, or that they felt chastened about it in any way, you would be very, very wrong. In fact, not only did few if any admit error, but they did exactly the same thing on Thursday about a brand new evidence-free assertion from the U.S. Government concerning Russia: they mindlessly assumed it true and then stated it to millions of people as fact. They are not embarrassed to get caught spreading false CIA propaganda. They see their role, correctly, as doing exactly that.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, run by Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, issued a short Press Release about its targeting of Russian-Ukrainian political consultant, Konstantin Kilimnik, with new sanctions. One sentence of this press release asserted a claim that the Mueller investigation, after searching for eighteen months, never found: namely, that “Kilimnik provided the Russia intelligence services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” that he received from then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Is it true that Kilimnik passed this polling data to the Kremlin? Maybe. But there is no way for a rational person — let alone someone calling themselves a “journalist” — to conclude that it is true. Why? Because, like the CIA tale about Russian bounties — a claim they learned yesterday had no evidence — this is nothing more than a U.S. Government assertion that lacks any evidence.

Do you think journalists learned the lesson that they just had rubbed in their faces hours before about the foolishness of assuming official statements to be true with no evidence? Of course that is a rhetorical question: too many to count instantly proclaimed that this story was true without spending an ounce of mental energy to question if it was or apply any skepticism. Here’s Maddow’s MSNBC comrade showing how this is done:

Do you see what Hayes just did there? It is vital not to lose sight of how irresponsible and destructive this behavior is just because it is now so common. He saw a Press Release from a U.S. Government agency, read an assertion that it contained in one sentence, had no evidence that this assertion was true, but nonetheless “reported” it as if it were proven fact to millions of people in a predictably viral tweet.

Hayes was far from alone. I cannot count how many employees of corporate media outlets did the same: read the Treasury Department’s Press Release and, without pausing for a second, proclaimed it to be true. Indeed, the two MSNBC hosts who follow Hayes’s nightly news program explicitly described this evidence-free Press Release as “confirmation”— confirmation!

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell celebrating an evidence-free Treasury Department Press Release as “confirmation,” Apr. 15, 2021

Let’s set aside the absurdity of treating this as some shocking revelation even if it were true. Just like the oozing historical ignorance of pretending that there would be something astonishing about Russians paying for the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan when the CIA just last week explicitly boasted of having done the same to Russian soldiers in Afghanistan, what is this Treasury Press Release supposed to prove that is so breathtaking and scandalous: that the Kremlin could not possibly have obtained polling data about the U.S. electorate had Manafort not provided it to them? That they never would have known that Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were swing states without an elaborate plot of collusion to learn this from the Trump campaign?

But the far more important point is the U.S. media’s willingness — their subservient eagerness — to obediently treat U.S. government pronouncements as Truth. Just like with the Russia bounty story, where there were ample reasons to doubt it from the start, the same is true of this Treasury Press Release. To begin with, if this were such a smoking gun “confirming” collusion, why did the Mueller investigation after eighteen months of highly aggressive subpoena-driven investigative activity not discover it?

Let’s express this as clearly as it can be expressed. Any journalist who treats unverified stories from the CIA or other government agencies as true, without needing any evidence or applying any skepticism, is worthless. Actually, they are worse than worthless: they are toxic influences who deserve pure contempt. Every journalist knows that governments lie constantly and that it is a betrayal of their profession to serve as mindless mouthpieces for these security agencies: that is why they will vehemently deny they do this if you confront them with this accusation. They know it is a shameful thing to do.

But just look at what they are doing: exactly this. These are not journalists. They are obsequious spokespeople for the CIA and other official authorities. Even when they learn that they deceived millions of people by uncritically repeating a story that the CIA told them was true, they will — on the very same day that they learn they did this — do exactly the same thing, this time with a one-paragraph Treasury Department Press Release. These are agents of disinformation: state media. And when they speak, you should listen to them with the knowledge of what they really are, and treat them accordingly.

April 17, 2021 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli settlers attack Palestinians, steal land with impunity. Imagine outrage & calls for sanctions if any other state did it.

By Eva Bartlett | RT | April 16, 2021

Every aspect of their existence on occupied Palestinian land is illegal. Still, the violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against civilians continues, propped up by Israel’s legal system and the world’s blind eyes.

Periodically, we will hear in the news something about the illegal colonies (settlements), but increasingly rarely over the years, and generally without a human face: just numbers and false promises to end the expansion of these colonies choking Palestinians from their land.

Recently, UN Special Rapporteurs and experts shed light on the uptick of brutality and land theft by Israeli colonists. In a new UN report, they noted:

“In 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 771 incidents of settler violence causing injury to 133 Palestinians and damaging 9,646 trees and 184 vehicles mostly in the areas of Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah. Already, during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violent incidents were recorded, with one Palestinian fatality.”

Stop for a moment and imagine this was a report on violent incidents by Russia, Syria, Venezuela, or any of the nations in NATO’s crosshairs. Media would be howling with outrage and faked tears, with demands for heads to roll, or at least for perpetrators to face justice.

But this is occupied Palestine, where the Israeli legal system serves continued colonist expansion and terrorism against Palestinians. And, let’s be clear, what the colonists do to Palestinians is indeed terrorism.

Colonists have burned alive a Palestinian youth, shot and killed Palestinian civilians, have run people over, including children, leaving them to die. They routinely attack farmers trying to work their land or harvest their olives.

They hail stones, large rocks, sewage and waste onto Palestinians walking or living below their illegally occupied homes, steal Palestinians’ flocks of sheep (or poison them), even uproot and thieve their olive trees.

This has been going on for decades, and the so-called international community allows it, in spite of overwhelming documentation of these crimes.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem has been reporting on such attacks since 1989. A 2017 B’Tselem article noted:

“Thousands of testimonies, videos and reports, as well as many years of close monitoring by B’Tselem and other organizations, reveal that Israeli security forces not only allow settlers to harm Palestinians and their property as a matter of course – they often provide the perpetrators escort and back-up. In some cases, they even join in on the attack.

After more than 25 years of this work, there is no escaping the conclusion that the authorities merely make a show of law enforcement in this context and that, with few exceptions, they have no interest in seriously investigating settler violence against Palestinians.”

Disturbing memories of colonist brutality

In 2007, I witnessed and heard of colonist violence and land theft when I spent eight months in the West Bank as an activist documenting the crimes against Palestinian civilians by both the Israeli military and the illegal colonists.

The city of Hebron has some of the most violent squatters, who, like colonists all over the West Bank, walk with guns slung over their back and routinely attack and abuse the Palestinian residents, including children.

In fact, during my two-week stay in Hebron in mid 2007, one of the things I and other activists did was simply to stand on shara Shuhada, the once vibrant main street, now a shuttered ghost town.

We stood, or sat, on that street for hours, in the heat of the day, to deter colonists from attacking children going to or from school, or adults going to market, work or mosque. It seemed a colossal waste of time, but there had been many precedents of Israeli colonists stoning or beating Palestinians.

South of Hebron, in a desert-like hamlet called Susiya, over the course of many months I stayed in the makeshift tent and metal structures of the Palestinians living there. Prior to their shantytown, they, and generations before them, had lived in stone houses and even cave dwellings. But, they were evicted in the 1980s, when Israel declared the area an archaeological site.

As I wrote, “We stayed with them in hopes of preventing the inevitable attacks by the nearby colonists. Hajj Khalil, an elder in his eighties, had been brutally beaten by colonists the year before I met him.”

The recent UN report also noted:

“Settler violence was predominantly ideologically motivated and primarily designed to take over land but also to intimidate and terrorize Palestinians. The violence and intimidation often prevents Palestinians from accessing and cultivating their land, and creates a coercive environment pressuring Palestinians to stay away from certain areas or even move.”

Indeed, in the Susiya region, I witnessed land being stolen and quickly annexed by the illegal Jewish colonists.

As I wrote, “The elderly Palestinian landowners have been harassed and threatened, and physically abused. They have been moved off of the land by menacing of the illegal colonists. The owners of the land very much want to use it for agricultural purposes and have tried–mostly unsuccessfully–to file complaints at the nearest police station, Kiryat Arba, nearly two hours away. These illegal tactics have been largely successful in the region, with many Susiya residents and landowners leaving their land for nearby cities and towns.”

During the olive harvest that year, I accompanied Palestinian farmers to their orchards in a northern West Bank region. Not long after they had begun collecting olives, six masked colonists descended a hill, slinging hefty stones at us, for forty minutes stoning and then physically hitting people in our group.

I wrote about that at the time, noting, “One of the six attackers slung a large rock at me. Hitting my camera hand, the rock missed my temple. One of the farmers, on the other hand, was not so fortunate, with severe gashes on his head from multiple stone strikes.”

On another occasion, the Palestinians had the needed paperwork to be on their land (that’s right, they have to ask their occupiers for permission to access their land for limited amounts of time, to harvest their olives), and had only just begun to harvest when gun-toting colonists dressed in white descended the hill and began menacing the Palestinians.

What did the Israeli army do? Point their guns at the farmers and tell them to take a hike. Get off their land. The setters have spoken…

There are far worse examples. My encounters and documentation at the time was more on the crimes of the Israeli army against Palestinians. But, B’Tselem has pages of reports and videos of Israeli colonists’ attacks on Palestinians.

In 2015, Haaretz reported colonists had “firebombed” a West Bank house, the ensuing fire burning to death an infant.

The youth I mentioned earlier, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was indeed burned alive by Israelis, in mid-2014. As I wrote some years ago, “Khdeir went missing while going to mosque for morning prayers in occupied Jerusalem. His slight body was found a few hours later charred and beaten. The autopsy report “showed soot in the victim’s lungs and respiratory tract, indicating he was alive and breathing while he was being burnt.”

In a rare instance of justice, the colonist was sent to prison for life for his crime.

But as Israeli rights group Yeshe Din in December 2019 reported, most attacks go unpunished.

According to their research, “Israeli Police failed in the investigation of 82% of the files opened between 2005 and 2019. 91% of all investigation files were closed without an indictment. After 15 years of monitoring Israeli law enforcement authorities in their handling of complaints filed by Palestinian victims of ideological crimes committed by Israelis, the picture that emerges demonstrates that the State of Israel is failing in its duty to protect Palestinians in the occupied territories from those who would harm them and, in fact, leaves them defenseless as they face assault and harassment.”

In their 2017 report, B’Tselem further noted, “Violent actions of settlers against Palestinians are not exceptions to a rule. Rather, they form part of a broader strategy in which the state colludes, as it stands to benefit from the result. Over time, this unchecked violence is gradually driving Palestinians from more and more locations in the West Bank, making it easier for the state to take over land and resources.”

That is the essence: the crimes of Israel’s colonists actually benefit Israel in occupying more and more Palestinian land. So there is incentive to look away, close investigations, let the attacks and murders continue.

In researching for this article I came across yet another account of colonists beating a Susiya resident I knew. The article described an attack in December 2020 on 78 year-old Khalil Haraini. In which, “about 10 settlers rushed out from behind a hill, armed with pistols, rifles, clubs, axes and iron chains. One of them assaulted the elderly farmer, knocking him to the ground. Settlers then beat him with their clubs.”

Although I’m not naive enough to believe anything will change after a UN report here or there, I feel the need to write about it still, 13 years after meeting people like Khalil Haraini or the farmers I accompanied.

Their hell continues and, tragically, no one is going to rein in the terrorists known as Israeli settlers.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

April 17, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

Is the Astra-Zeneca vaccine killing people?

By Sebastian Rushworth, M.D. | April 17, 2021

Poor Astra-Zeneca. The covid-19 vaccine that they had hoped would generate an endless tide of goodwill is instead turning in to one long public relations disaster. First it was the case of transverse myelitis that caused them to have to halt their vaccine trial temporarily. Then it turned out that they had given the wrong dose of vaccine to a bunch of participants in the trial. Then, when the preliminary trial data was published, the vaccine only appeared to be 70% effective at preventing covid-19, while vaccines by competitors Pfizer and Moderna were more than 90% effective. And now, perhaps worst of all, it appears that their vaccine has killed several previously healthy young healthcare workers. Poor poor Astra-Zeneca.

I am, of course, being facetious.

Let’s get in to the weeds of what’s actually happened with the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. But first, we need to discuss two rare diseases.

Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is a condition in which a blood clot has formed in one of the veins that drain blood from the brain. Since the blood is not able to move forward through the vein, it gets stuck. This often results in a stroke (the death of part of the brain due to a lack of oxygen). Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is very rare, occuring in roughly one in 300,000 people per year.

Heparin induced thrombocytopenia is an auto-immune disorder that sometimes occurs in people who are being treated with an anti-coagulant drug called heparin. Thrombocytopenia literally means “lack of platelets” (platelets are cells in the blood that form blood clots, in order to prevent bleeding, when a blood vessel is damaged). What happens is that the body starts to produce antibodies against platelets, which causes the platelets to bind to each other, forming blood clots. Since most of the platelets end up bound to each other, you no longer see very many free floating platelets in the blood stream, which is the cause of the thrombocytopenia.

And having lots of blood clots in the circulation is a very bad thing. If they get stuck and block off the flow of blood somewhere, then some part of the body starts to die. If they block off flow to part of the brain, the person has a stroke. If they block off flow to the heart, the person has a heart attack.

Thankfully, heparin induced thrombocytopenia is rare, which is why the drug is still used in clinical practice. And the condition doesn’t occur spontaneously in people who haven’t recently received heparin. You need to receive heparin in order to develop it.

Although people with heparin induced thrombocytopenia often develop clots in their blood stream, it is unusual for those clots to form in the cerebral venous sinus. So it is extremely uncommon for a patient to develop heparin induced thrombocytopenia in combination with a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. In fact, it’s so uncommon that only a handful of cases have been reported in the entire medical literature. Up to now, that is.

And like I said, heparin induced thrombocytopenia only develops in people who have received heparin. In people who haven’t received the drug, the odds of developing the condition are precisely zero.

Two case series were published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week. A case series is basically just a collection of case reports, that have been gathered together in to one article because they are similar in some important way. The first case series comes from Norway. It concerns five patients who became acutely ill between seven and ten days after receiving the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. The patients were health care workers aged from 32 to 54 years old. All were fundamentally healthy before receiving the vaccine. One had mild asthma, and another had high blood pressure.

All five developed thrombocytopenia. Four out of the five developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (the fifth had clotting in veins at the base of the skull and in the abdomen instead). Three out of the five died. By the time these cases reached the Norwegian authorities and the dots were put together that this might have something to do with the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, 132,000 people in Norway had received the Astra-Zeneca vaccine.

So four people out of 132,000 who received the Astra-Zeneca vaccine developed the normally exceedingly rare combination of thrombocytopenia with cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. All had received the Astra-Zeneca vaccine seven to ten days earlier.

Yes, I agree, that is quite suspicious.

The second case series comes from Germany. It concerns eleven patients, aged from 22 to 49 years, who became ill between five and 16 days after receiving the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Like in the Norwegian case series, all of the patients had thrombocytopenia, and at least nine of the eleven had cerebral venous thrombosis. Six of the patients died.

Blood from both the Norwegian patients and the German patients was subsequently tested for the type of antibodies that are typically seen in heparin induced thrombocytopenia. Every single test came back positive. Note that none of these people had been treated with heparin before the onset of symptoms, and several didn’t receive any heparin at any time point during their hospital stay.

Case series are considered to be one of the lowest tiers in the hierarchy of scientific evidence. Normally I wouldn’t bother to write an article about a case series. But here we have a constellation of signs and symptoms that is so uncommon that it’s previously only been described a handful of times in the medical literature, occurring again and again after a very specific exposure. Therefore, even with just two case series to back the claim up, we can be pretty certain that the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is the cause.

So, to conclude: yes, several young, otherwise healthy people have been killed by the Astra-Zeneca vaccine.

The incidence of this condition appears to be quite low. As mentioned, 132,000 people had received the Astra-Zeneca vaccine in Norway when this was discovered. And at least five of those people developed this new disease state, which the authors of the case series are calling VITT (vaccine induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia). If we assume (generously) that every case of vaccine side effects gets reported, that would mean an incidence of around one in 26,000.

However, the system for reporting of vaccine side effects is entirely dependent on three separate steps, and the system can easily fall down at any of the three steps. First, the treating clinician has to know that the patient has recently received a certain vaccine. Second, the clinician has to consider that the patient’s condition might have been caused by exposure to that vaccine. Third, the clinician has to take the time to contact the relevant authorities.

It is well known that most side effects never get reported. So what we are witnessing here could easily just be the tip of the iceberg. As societies, we’ve rushed headlong in to mass vaccination campaigns based on scant evidence. Most people seem unaware that the covid-19 vaccines have been approved based on only two months of preliminary trial data, and that the vaccine trials are still ongoing, and won’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest.

These case series show that a number of previously healthy young people have so far been killed by the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Considering their age and underlying health status, the risk to them from covid-19 itself was infinitesimal. For healthy young people it is not at all clear that the potential benefits from the covid-19 vaccines outweigh the potential harms.

That doesn’t just go for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. It goes for all the vaccines. It is quite possible that new revelations will arrive over the coming months concerning the other vaccines too. Now would be a good time for governments to change vaccination strategies, halt all plans to vaccinate healthy young people, and instead only vaccinate those who are at substantial risk of serious outcomes from covid-19.

It is unethical to vaccinate healthy young people until it is clear that the benefits to them outweigh the harms. At the present point in time, that is not at all clear.

April 17, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Medical Mal-Practice Saying Covid Vaccine Is Safe | Dr. Roger Hodkinson

April 11, 2021

Dr. Roger Hodkinson, the Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

He received his general medical degrees from Cambridge University in the UK (M.A., M.B., B. Chir.) where he was a scholar at Corpus Christi College. Following a residency at the University of British Columbia he became a Royal College certified general pathologist (FRCPC) and also a Fellow of the College of American Pathologists (FCAP).

He is in good Standing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, and has been recognized by the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta as an expert in pathology.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | | 2 Comments

Bipartisan Murder

By Richard Medhurst | April 11, 2021

Syria is the key to the Middle East. Bordering Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and with access to the Mediterranean Sea, for millennia Syria has held unique geopolitical and strategic importance in the region. The war taking place there since 2011 has been sold by virtually every news outlet in the West as being strictly a civil war, part of the popular uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’. The reality couldn’t be more different.

As General Wesley Clarke points out in 2007 there had been an agenda to take out “seven countries in five years” among them Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran; to replace their governments with ones favorable to Washington DC.

Five years already before the “Arab Spring”, a 2006 cable from the United States embassy in Damascus published by WikiLeaks shows how the US was looking at various threats, both real and exaggerated, that it could exploit in order to destabilize the Syrian government.

The US and its allies Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar began funding and arming various militias inside Syria, funneling weapons and supplies to them in order to overthrow the Syrian government. Efraim Halevy, former head of israel’s intelligence service the Mossad, even admitted in an interview that Israel had provided aid to Al Qaeda fighters just because it was advantageous for Israel to see the Syrian government fall.

PBS recently did an interview with Abu Mohammad al Jolani, a terrorist leader in Syria’s north-western Idlib during which he expressed no intent to fight with the US, despite having a $10 million bounty on his head. The article goes on to mention how former Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US’ former Special Envoy to Syria, confirms that al Jolani’s organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a rebrand of Al Qaeda, was a “an asset” to America’s strategy in Idlib.

To cover up the undeniable role played by foreign governments, to this day the mainstream media portrays the war on Syria as a grassroots uprising by “moderate rebels”— the overwhelming majority of whom just so happen to be rebrands or affiliated with Al Qaeda and other jihadist elements.

Despite the efforts of the entire Western propaganda machine and a dozen nations ganging up against Syria, their gamble for regime change has failed thus far: Syria has taken back most of its territory from ISIS and other foreign-backed terrorists, and now boasts even stronger ties with its allies than before. Take for example Russia’s naval port in Tartus, established in Syria in 1971 as part of an accord with the Syrian government, providing it access to the Mediterranean Sea. A decade ago, at the start of the war, the port was practically crumbling, Ten years later in 2021, it’s been completely renovated, upgraded and fitted with state of the art ships.

While some argue the main goal behind the war in Syria was to build the Qatar-Turkey pipeline which would deliver gas through Syria to Europe, undercutting Russia’s market share, I think the larger objective for the United States has mostly been regime change and to remove the “thorn” in israel’s side. Syria refuses to recognize israel and has no official ties with the Zionist occupation. The two have been at odds with each other for the last 73 years; not just since the start of the occupation of Palestine in 1948, but also the capture of the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and consequent illegal annexation. Syria is also allied with Russia, Iran and supports the various liberation movements of its neighbors including the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, collectively dubbed the “Axis of Resistance”– a twist on George Bush’s “Axis of Evil“.

Seeing how the regime change strategy through various terrorist and armed groups has failed in Syria, the United States is now occupying Syria’s vital breadbasket region, where most of its crops are grown, as well as the oil fields in Deir Ezzor and Hassakeh provinces in East and North-Eastern Syria.

After Trump openly admitted “we’re keeping the oil”, we also saw in August, 2020 then Secretary of State Pompeo admit to Senator Lindsay Graham during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that a US firm would be “modernizing Syria’s oil fields”, which is a nice way to say “plundering”.

Graham can be heard gloating about the brutal Caesar Act sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Indeed, in addition to stealing Syria’s resources, the United States is also starving the Syrian population with siege warfare. These Caesar sanctions announced by Trump and kept by Biden serve no purpose other than to tighten the noose on the Syria’s population. Syria’s economy has collapsed, its currency in free-fall and nearly 60 percent of the population is now food insecure in a country which used to be self-sufficient and a net exporter of wheat. The US shamelessly states that its goal is to deprive the Syrian government, and by extension the Syrian people, of one of their most valuable resources (oil accounts for around 25% of government revenue) desperately needed to fund public infrastructure and social programs, with 90% of Syrians now living in poverty. They pretend that sanctions only affect the politicians but it’s the civilians who are suffering.

The West doesn’t care if Syrians die. This scorched-earth policy is advantageous to US and Western interests because it keeps Syria in a constant state of chaos and helps israel create a buffer beyond just the occupied Golan Heights, but also more generally as Syria is now unable to defend itself, defend its neighbors, and subject to regular airstrikes which the world lets israel carry out with impunity.

While Secretary of State Blinken uses his own kids in some deranged comparison to pretend he cares about Syrian children he and Biden are completely fine keeping Donald Trump’s “Maximum Pressure Campaign” of sanctions going. According to Syria’s oil minister around 90% of Syria’s crude is now under control of the US. Syrians wait in massive queues as they experience fuel shortages and are lining up for bread. Sanctions are a modern adaptation of siege warfare, just as ruthless and deadly.

Both Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to imperialism and their fealty to corporations. There is no difference among them in that regard except in decorum. After Trump bombed Syria in April 2018, over an alleged chemical gas attack in Douma later revealed to have been staged, then Senator Kamala Harris questioned the “legal rationale” behind the strikes. Some Democrats criticized Trump saying it was a breach of constitutional powers– but none of them fundamentally questioned whether these alleged chemical attacks had even taken place to begin with. The team of scientists sent by the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons hadn’t even arrived in Syria yet to determine what had happened. Democrats only issued mild statements of rebuke while simultaneously cheering on Assad was being “punished”– which goes to show their objectives fundamentally remain the same, no matter who is in power.

Biden’s bombing of Syria

After Joe Biden became president his first military action was to bomb Syria. Naturally, bombings takes priority over campaign promises like the $15 minimum wage or $2,000 checks he lied about. Biden’s supposed “justification” for bombing Syria on February 25th, 2021 was that he was acting in self-defense to protect the United States. This is of course an absurdity; Syria is not a threat to the United States nor has it attacked the United States– if anything it’s the other way around. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter that Biden blatantly lies in his letter to Congress, everyone knows this is merely a cover story in order to comply with the War Powers Resolution (notifying Congress of military action and citing defensive measures if no prior Authorization for Use of Military Force exists).

When Biden bombed Syria he claimed to have targeted “Iranian backed militias”- the same excuse that Israel gives when illegally bombing Syria almost on a weekly basis. When I spoke to Professor Max Abrahms on my television The Communiqué he said the bombing was likely more about sending a message to Israel rather than Iran; a show of support from Biden that the Zionist occupation could still count on the new administration’s support.

When corporate media and Western politicians say “Iranian backed militias” they’re referring to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF / PMU) or Hashed al Shaabi in Arabic. The PMU is made up mostly of various Iraqi brigades, consisting of different religious and ethnic groups, despite claims that they’re exclusively Shiah– although even then I struggle to understand how that would give the US or Israel the right to kill them. The popular forces are united under one banner to fight terrorism and occupation. Of course the United States can’t have you realizing they’re a resistance movement because then people would rightfully ask “resisting what?” and that’s of course the United States, illegally occupying Iraq since 2003. The PMU also celebrated major victories in defeated ISIS and Al Qaeda, taking back the major city of Mosul in 2016. Although the US and its illegal occupation like to take credit for that (so they can justify their presence) that victory is not theirs. As a matter of fact, the United States not only helped create Al Qaeda and ISIS but Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani and PMU commander Abu Mahdi was celebrated by the very terrorists who had come to fear them. While the US claims to fight terrorism it’s actively helping terrorists by killing their biggest enemies. And now of course Biden follows in Trump’s footsteps, proceeding to bomb the PMU. I wonder how many will break the situation down like that for you on the evening nows? Let’s be clear on something: I don’t care if the target was an empty barn in Syria – he has no right to bomb anything there nor in any other country.

Shortly after Biden’s bombing of Syria, Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced legislation calling for the repeal of the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. Note that the 2001 AUMF is missing – unsurprising as it’s the template Congress has used for two decades to invade, bomb and ransack the planet in the name of “the War on Terror”. Of course they wouldn’t repeal that AUMF. Biden is now on track to violate the Afghanistan peace deal signed under Trump, after drawing down the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, with a complete withdrawal set for a deadline of May 1st. Right on cue, the US claims that the Taliban aren’t holding up their end of the deal- hence why the US can’t leave just yet, continuing to impose conditions on their departure as if Afghanistan belongs to them. Naturally, the media provides cover for the longest war in US history, repeating without question or scrutiny Biden’s claims that a withdrawal “can’t be rushed” after occupying Afghanistan for almost 20 years. CNN also made the case that this is now about women’s rights– as if the United States cared about women when it displaced millions of them in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria. We’re now made to believe that occupation is emancipation. The poor white man’s burden, freeing the world through bombs, sanctions and occupation.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats have largely chosen to side with him on the issue while others, including so called “progressives” like Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez have remained completely silent despite criticizing Trump for bombing Syria in 2018, calling him a ‘mad king’. This really shows you where their allegiances lie and how far their “progressivism” extends. The so called “left-wing” of the Democratic Party is about as “progressive” as you can get when you stay silent about Biden bombing Syria, ballooning the war machine to an outrageous $753 billion, and violating the Afghan peace deal in order to maintain a 20-year occupation. War pigs. All of them.

A template for war

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 and 2002 passed by Congress formed the legal basis with which Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, the AUMF of 2001 broadly authorizes force against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”. This ambiguous language essentially gives the president a blank check to conduct military strikes anywhere and has been distorted and manipulated by every president since in order to expand the “War on Terror” into 19 countries. Trump in his usual absurdity even cited the 2002 AUMF to try and justify his assassination of General Soleimani in January, 2020. Of course, Congress won’t ever go after him for that, despite all this talk of how Trump posed a unique danger to US democracy, let alone any other sitting or former president. Never forget, Nancy Pelosi refused to impeach George W. Bush and admits as late as 2019 that she knew George Bush had lied about weapons of mass destruction and still chose to ignore calls to impeach him over a war that displaced and killed millions of Iraqis.

The constitution clearly says that the president is the commander-in-chief of the United States’ Armed Forces, however, that the power to declare war resides with Congress. Although the president can respond to imminent threats, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 stipulates that the president must notify Congress in absence of a declaration of war or prior statutory authorization. Consultation and follow ups with the Legislative branch are a must and the entire point of the resolution is to limit the Executive’s reach in matters of war.

If Congress has already issued an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), presidents will operate within that framework and cite it to justify any action they take. What presidents have often done is to abuse this and distort its legal interpretation e.g. Bush’s crimes in Iraq, Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan, Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani. On the other hand, if Congress hasn’t issued an AUMF, like in the case of Biden’s bombing of Syria, then the president will simply cite self-defense as the justification– which is exactly what Biden did– even if it isn’t true. In either case, whether an AUMF has been issued or not, it seems Congress allows presidents to proceed unchecked– because Congress agrees with their imperialist agenda.

One mustn’t forget that even in the case when Congress issues an AUMF and agrees with the president’s military action: US law does not supersede international law. For example, just because the US Congress voted to invade Iraq does not mean that this invasion was morally or legally justifiable.

While Biden cites Article 51 under the United Nations as the United States’ right to self-defense, one has to wonder how Article 51 would even begin to apply in this context. Syria has not attacked the United States, nor are the two nations (at least officially) at war. Moreover, if the targets were so called “Iranian-backed militias”, the same rationale still applies. These bombings also violate Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter which asserts Syria’s sovereignty and prohibits use of force against other member states. Some legal scholars might go on to argue that self-defense under Article 51 only applies against other states, not “militias”. Some might also question how the United States can argue self-defense when its very presence in Iraq is illegal to begin with; the result of an illegal invasion in 2003? At best Biden’s pretext for bombing Syria is dubious, and at worst downright illegal and outrageous. I think most rational people can clearly see it’s the latter.

Indeed, no matter who is in charge, the warmongering remains the same. Obama, Trump, Biden have all maintained George Bush’s neoconservative wars, his creation and expansion of the electronic surveillance start, his Department of Homeland Security and the post-9/11 world crafted by the Bush-Cheney regime. You won’t see many Democrats or Republicans voicing support to repeal the AUMF anytime soon. War is a racket, and the United States excels at it. It’s no accident you have a revolving door between Washington D.C. and the private sector, and that the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is a former board member of the weapons manufacturer Raytheon. At least there’s diversity right? Now that the Treasury and Office of Foreign Assets Control, whose sanctions kill millions, is being run by Janet Yellen, its first woman ever, everything is fine. That’s what counts, right? Or that Alejandro Mayaorkas, the first Latino man to head the Department of Homeland Security, continuing to separate children, placing them in the same camps and appalling conditions as Trump and maintaining construction on Trump’s racist border wall (which all of a sudden Democrats have no issue with). What a diverse brand of imperialism: Uncle Joe’s Rainbow Coalition Death Cult®.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment