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"Disturbing Gibberish": New Trans Textbook For Psychiatrists Could Harm Millions Of Kids, Critics Say

'Disturbing Gibberish': New Trans Textbook For Psychiatrists Could Harm Millions Of Kids, Critics Say Authored by Darlene McCormick Sanchez via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), A new "cutting-edge" textbook on transgenderism written with the help of activists will be used to train psychiatrists and could harm millions of children in the future, some experts have warned. (Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock) "Gender-Affirming Psychiatric Care," just released on Amazon at $58, is a textbook printed by American Psychiatric Association (APA) Publishing. The textbook signals early on that it's more subjective than objective, quoting a feminist studies professor saying, "Scientific neutrality is a fallacy." The content has prompted some critics to question the textbook's reliance on a mix of transgender-identifying professionals writing about their experiences, limited scientific studies, and neo-Marxist critical theories. "This is a huge issue; millions more kids will be harmed," said Dr. Lauren Schwartz, a psychiatrist in Oklahoma speaking out against the rush to "transition" children. The textbook's introduction says the book is based on an "evidence-informed approach" instead of an evidence-based approach, which is more scientific, she told The Epoch Times. The 26 chapters are written by 56 authors, 50 of whom are in the transgender community, according to the textbook's foreword. Chapters include affirming "two-spirit people," a term used to refer to someone who believes he or she is both sexes, and one about "double queer" people—or people who identify as transgender and have a mental disability. The book's editors are listed as an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and investigator at the National LGBT Health Education Center; and a transgender-identifying psychiatry resident at the University of Pennsylvania, whose work is influenced by her background as a "non-binary/trans, queer, neurodivergent, chronically ill, Jewish person." Dr. Schwartz noted that the authors were chosen by "prioritizing lived experience, diversity of perspectives, and community impact of prior work over academic titles." 'Disturbing Gibberish' The problem is the textbook will be perceived as authoritative because it was printed by the APA's publishing arm, she said. "Anyone wanting to practice gender-affirming care, any attorney wanting to defend it, and any legislator who wants to protect it, now they have a new peer-reviewed textbook, not just 'evidence' in a journal or a study," she said. Alan Hopewell, a prescribing neuropsychologist in Texas who saw transgender-identifying patients decades ago, called the textbook "disturbing." "This is nonsensical gibberish which has no foundation whatsoever in science," he told The Epoch Times. Hospitals could demand doctors go by the textbook because the APA put it out, or it could even be used to remove the license of doctors who don't go along with it, he said. Abigail Martinez (R), the mother of a transgender teen who committed suicide, sheds tears as Erin Friday comforts her and transgender activists block TV cameras from capturing her story in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times) "This reminds me of brain-damaged hippies free-associating at a commune," Mr. Hopewell said. The book foreword says that most of the contributing authors recognize they are "obscenely privileged" as English-speaking doctors with access to elite schools. It asserts that the psychiatric field was built on "the work [and assumptions] of European, white, cisgender men, including their colonial, Anglo-centric, cis-heteropatriarchal worldview and pathologization of experiences that did not fit their own 'norm.'" "For millennia, outside of European colonial influences, gender diversity has flourished to varying degrees among hundreds of indigenous communities around the world," the foreword reads. The idea that Western countries were colonizing land stolen from indigenous people is part of critical race theory (CRT), which critics say is rooted in neo-Marxism. Straight White Bias CRT and gender theories see white people and heterosexuals in Western civilization as "oppressors" of minority identity groups, who are viewed as victims. Activists are encouraged to dismantle oppressive societies in order to right discrimination of the past, according to ideology architects such as Ibram X. Kendi, who wrote "How to Be an Antiracist." Detransition advocates meet outside of the annual Pediatric Endocrine Society conference held in San Diego, Calif., on May 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times) Proponents of CRT and gender theories contend that discrimination against identity groups such as white people and heterosexuals is needed to right the wrongs against racial and sexual minorities. "The entire document is predicated on an uncritical acceptance of queer theory, which is more accurately queer Marxism," conservative author James Lindsay told The Epoch Times. Queer theory is a gender ideology advocating the destruction of traditional sexual norms; some queer theorists support sexual acts such as pedophilia and bestiality that aren't accepted by society. The textbook describes heterosexuals as cisgender people who are part of a "cultural and systemic marginalization" of LGBT people who don't align with societal norms. To prove the point, the authors object to the idea that only women can have babies. "For example, naming an obstetrics and gynecology practice a women's health center is cis-normative because it assumes the practice will only serve patients with one gender," the foreword reads. Mr. Lindsay, author of "The Marxification of Education," said the idea of "treating" gender dysphoria with hormones or surgery is akin to performing lobotomies on the mentally ill decades ago. History teaches that communist theories applied to the real world have deadly results, he said. Mr. Lindsay pointed to the forced application of Trofim Lysenko's Soviet agriculture program based on pseudo-science as an example of a communist idea gone bad. The program caused millions of innocent people in the former Soviet Union to starve by forcing them to plant seeds close together in the belief that plants from the same class never compete with each other. The theory contributed to widespread famine. Read the rest here... Tyler Durden Sat, 12/02/2023 - 18:40.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 2nd, 2023

"Disturbing": Doctors Call For Withdrawal Of Psychiatry Textbook Promoting "Gender-Affirming" Care

"Disturbing": Doctors Call For Withdrawal Of Psychiatry Textbook Promoting 'Gender-Affirming' Care Authored by Darlene McCormick Sanchez via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Nearly 170 health professionals have signed an open letter to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) condemning its new “gender-affirming” care textbook as “unacceptable, unethical and unsafe.” Detransitioners and their supporteres gather outside of the annual conference of the Pediatric Endocrine Society in San Diego, Calif., on May 6, 2023. (John Fredicks/The Epoch Times) Their open letter to the organization appears on the website of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, a free speech and civil liberties watchdog group. The signatories demand that the APA “explain why it glaringly ignored many scientific developments in gender-related care and to consider its responsibility to promote and protect patients’ safety, mental and physical health.” The letter calls for the APA to suspend publication of the textbook, “Gender-Affirming Psychiatric Care,” released on Nov. 8. The textbook is intended to be used as a teaching tool for doctors in training. “We seek an unbiased scientific investigation and discussion of the harms and benefits of all types of care offered to those with gender-related distress,” the letter states. “Until those concerns are addressed and the textbook’s errors corrected, we call on the APA for its withdrawal.” Within 24 hours, more than 700 additional names had been added to the list of signatories. The APA did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times. Study Findings In Question The tome’s foreword declares it to be “the first textbook dedicated to providing affirming, intersectional, and evidence-informed psychiatric care for transgender, non-binary, and/or gender-expansive (TNG) people.” Its 26 chapters are written by 56 authors, 50 of whom either identify as transgender or don’t identify as male or female, according to the foreword. But other health professionals are questioning the wisdom of relying on the authors’ personal experiences, just because of their gender identities. They also object to backing up those testimonies with limited scientific studies, some with heartily disputed results. The textbook also presents neo-Marxist critical theories focused on calling out the so-called oppression of particular identity groups, critics point out. Yet the textbook will be seen as a gold standard of care because it comes with the considerable clout of the APA behind it, concerned doctors told The Epoch Times. That’s despite the fact that the textbook presents as evidence some studies that have come under fire for being flawed. Those include the famous Dutch protocol study that became the basis for recommending puberty suppression, the use of cross-sex hormones, and other “gender-affirmative” procedures for people who identify as the opposite sex. Transgender activists say puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery can save the lives of gender-confused adults and children who may feel suicidal. Others dispute that idea. And new research backs up that way of thinking. A recent Finnish study found that mental health issues for people who medically “transition” continue despite receiving “gender-affirming” care. An analysis of data showed the need for psychiatric care was greater for people with gender dysphoria, both before and after medical transitioning, when compared to a control group. Millions of Children at Risk The signature of Dr. Lauren Schwartz, a psychiatrist in Oklahoma, appears first on the letter. She worries that using the textbook to train doctors could lead to harming millions of children, she told The Epoch Times. She and fellow professionals hope their letter will raise awareness among parents and providers on “how radically the American Psychiatric Association has shifted away from medicine and science in the publication of this book,” she said. “There are so many false, harmful statements—ones rooted not in medicine or science, but in an inconceivable ideological foundation and medical misinformation, both of which will harm patients and their families,” she wrote in a text message. Other professionals who signed the letter include psychiatrists Miriam Grossman and Az Hakeem. Both have written books denouncing transgender ideology. Dr. Grossman, a childhood and adolescent psychiatrist, wrote “Lost in Trans Nation: A Child Psychiatrist’s Guide Out of the Madness.” Her book excoriates gender ideology as a repudiation of reality and a mockery of basic male and female biology. She has been outspoken against transitioning children. Dr. Hakeem, a London psychiatrist, formerly worked at the Tavistock gender clinic. He is the author of “Detrans: When Transition is Not the Solution,” which argues that no one is born in the “wrong body.” He maintains that transitioning becomes a “false solution to a different problem” at a time of increasing pressure to affirm a person’s belief that he or she was born the wrong sex. The idea of affirming gender confusion and medically altering a person’s body to fit a new gender identity is under scrutiny from clinicians and scientists worldwide. Yet, those methods are recommended by the book’s authors. Critics of the textbook argue in their letter that reviews of gender-affirming care in Sweden and England also did not support the idea that transitioning improves the mental health of patients. They point out that the textbook relies on“evidence-informed” information, instead of the scientific standard that typically requires evidence-based information. And they question why the textbook dismisses the idea of scientific neutrality and depends, instead, on the “lived experiences” and “community impact” of authors who identify as transgender. A new textbook published by the American Psychiatric Association. (Courtesy of Dr. Lauren Schwartz) Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, board chairman of the Do No Harm organization, said he signed the letter because his organization is concerned about potential harm to children. New evidence out of Europe indicates that medically “transitioning” children to help them try to resemble the opposite sex is doing more harm than good, he told The Epoch Times. “We don’t have any study that shows that this is long-term beneficial,” he said. And the Dutch studies finding that “gender-affirming” care helped people with gender dysphoria or confusion were not successfully duplicated by researchers in England, Dr. Goldfarb said. The newest studies coming out of Europe suggest that what’s best for children with gender dysphoria is intensive, long-term psychiatric care before any medical intervention, he said. The lack of acknowledgment of the latest scientific research in the textbook is, he said, “quite extraordinary.” Dangerous Decisions While adults can make their own decisions, children lack the maturity to make life-altering changes to their bodies, Dr. Goldfarb said. And the risk of harm for children taking puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones is real and serious. Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, board chairman of Do No Harm. (Courtesy of Do No Harm) Puberty blockers stop the development of the sexual reproductive system, meaning children who don’t go through puberty would never fully develop sexuality. They’re also likely to lose the ability to have children, he said. “It sort of depends on how far into puberty they are before they start blocking its progression,” he said. “It depends on how many hormones they take and for how long they take it.” Dr. Goldfarb and other health professionals objecting to the textbook take issue with the authors’ assertion that puberty blockers for children are “fully reversible.” And the textbook is “disturbingly nonchalant,” the letter states, about the high rate of mental and behavioral health issues simultaneously affecting people with gender dysphoria. Autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suicidal thoughts often coincide with gender dysphoria in youths. The textbook is “disturbing,” said Alan Hopewell, a prescribing neuropsychologist in Texas with experience treating transgender-identifying patients. He told The Epoch Times, “This is nonsensical gibberish which has no foundation whatsoever in science.” Tyler Durden Fri, 01/05/2024 - 05:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 5th, 2024

Drag shows are the latest battleground in the right wing anti-gay disinformation campaign about "grooming"

Hate and harassment targeting drag performers have escalated in recent weeks as events to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month have ramped up. In this September 8, 2018, file photo, a drag performer by the name of Champagne Monroe reads the children's book "Rainbow Fish" to a group of kids and parents at the Mobile Public Library in Mobile, Alabama.AP Photo/Dan Anderson Republicans have targeted drag performers and drag shows during Pride month.  The anti-gay social-media influencer Libs of TikTok has stoked online outrage against performers.  Five alleged Proud Boys extremists targeted a drag event for children at a California library. Five men believed to be affiliated with the far-right extremist Proud Boys entered a library on Saturday in San Lorenzo, California, where local authorities say they shouted homophobic and transphobic slurs at a Drag Queen Story Hour event for children and their parents."The men were described as extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety,'' the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the incident as a hate crime, said in a press release.The same day in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, police arrested and charged 31 people they said were associated with the white-nationalist group Patriot Front with conspiracy to riot after they were seen gathering near a Pride parade. The men arrested came from around the country, and the town's police chief said they brought riot gear, metal poles, and at least one smoke grenade. The incidents occurred less than a week after a crowd of demonstrators showed up outside a Dallas bar holding "Drag the Kids to Pride," a drag show and brunch for families. Around a dozen protesters chanted "Christ is king" outside the bar, and a local news station reported one woman in the crowd held a sign accusing those involved in the show of pedophilia. The bar, called Mr. Misster, in a statement said: "We had a group of protestors outside yelling homophobic threats, transphobic remarks and vile accusations at these children and parents." Hate and harassment targeting drag performers have escalated in recent weeks as events to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month have ramped up, but the harassment is also indicative of a resurgent right-wing campaign to associate gay and trans people with predatory behavior and pedophilia — falsely labeling them as "groomers" intent on coercing children into sex.Much of the campaign has played out in plain sight, with right-wing influencers inciting online outrage against LGBTQ events and performers. Before the wave of far-right protests and harassment in the past week, the anti-gay Libs of TikTok Twitter account repeatedly posted information about family-friendly drag events to its 1.2 million followers. Libs of TikTok specifically posted about the Pride events in Dallas, San Lorenzo, and Coeur D'Alene in the weeks before extremists and far-right protesters targeted those events and rallies.Drag performers and organizers mentioned in Libs of TikTok tweets told Insider they faced vicious, targeted harassment campaigns and attempts to shut down their shows.Drag performers face threats and harassment from conservative outrage campaignNick, a 34-year-old drag performer who has been working in California's Bay Area for seven years, has felt the backlash targeting drag performers. Nick was the focus of intense online harassment after the Libs of TikTok account reshared a video of their Pride Month performance for students during an event at a California charter school.Nick, who asked Insider not to publish their last name to fears of further attacks, said they were one of three drag performers who were asked to perform at a school assembly for students in grades 6 to 12. Nick tweeted a clip of the performance days later and said the video was positively received until "right wing people found it." The 15-second clip showed Nick performing onstage in a long dress for a small crowd of students and staff, who cheered enthusiastically as Nick removed a series of wigs while Whitney Houston's song "I Have Nothing" played over the speakers.  After Libs of TikTok shared the video, which now has over 510,000 views on Twitter, Nick said they received numerous death threats and messages calling them a "groomer." Others claimed Nick was harming or otherwise "corrupting" children. Nick received hate messages on every one of their social-media platforms, leading them to either temporarily set the accounts to private or delete the profiles entirely.  A post shared by Nicki Jizz (@nicki_jizz)  Part of the attacks focused on Nick's performer name, Nicki Jizz, but Nick said that when performing for children or at corporate events, they go by "Nicki J." The performance was also not sexual in nature, Nick said, and they opted to wear a full-length dress despite performing outside on a hot day. None of that deterred the harassment campaign.Nick said their mother recently died, and right-wing trolls began writing comments underneath a post about her death. "That's how far these people are going," Nick said. The renewed hate campaigns against drag queens is "sad and kind of makes you feel a little defeated at times," Nick said. "I feel like people, especially since they're behind a keyboard, feel more empowered. Sadly, even some of them go out in person and express it in very sad and hateful ways in front of children.""Something that was supposed to be really sweet and fun has just gone the opposite," they said.Libs of TikTok posts have targeted drag events across the country, as cancellations and protests followOver the past week, Libs of TikTok has posted dozens of times about specific drag shows or Pride Month events that involve children, claiming without evidence that these events harm kids. The account, which The Washington Post reported is run by a Brooklyn real-estate agent named Chaya Raichik, has targeted libraries, zoos, botanical gardens, and LGBTQ youth organizations for organizing events that involve drag performers.The account claimed in its most recent post to Substack that it had been limited by Twitter three times, though most of the tweets targeting drag performers and venues that host them have been allowed to remain on the platform. Twitter's hateful conduct policy prohibits accounts that exist to "promote violence" or "directly attack" individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Neither Twitter nor Libs of TikTok responded to Insider's request for comment."The left has no idea what they are unleashing," the account said in a now-deleted tweet. "They keep trying to censor and silence me but unbeknownst to them, I actually thrive even more under those circumstances."In Apex, North Carolina, a suburb of Raleigh, a Drag Queen Story Hour event scheduled for June 11 was the subject of a Libs of TikTok tweet. On May 31, shortly after the account tweeted about the event, the town's mayor, Jacques Gilbert, announced the city's festival commission decided to remove it from Pride celebrations due to a "variety of feedback." The move sparked backlash from LGBTQ advocates, who argued that officials caved to a vocal minority who did not represent the interests of the town. The LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC later in the week announced it would take over as the sponsor of Apex Pride, allowing the story hour to resume. Raafe Purnsley, a North Carolina drag artist who performs as Stormie Daie, told Insider that Drag Queen Story Hour events offered an opportunity to hold important conversations with children on topics like LGBTQ history, Black history, body image, and anxiety.  A post shared by Raafe Ahmaad Nathaniel Purnsley (@stormiedaie)  "Those are things that I have done specifically with drag and story hours since I've been here, mostly because I'm pretty adept now at talking to children about a myriad of subjects," Purnsley said. "My background was in environmental science, and I was a science teacher for a little bit of time before I started doing drag." Having conversations with children as drag queens brings elements of fun and joy to difficult subjects, Purnsley said, noting that drag queens have often been at the forefront of bringing conversations about topics like gender identity to the mainstream."I think people need to grow up," Purnsley said. "They also need to recognize that all we are talking about when we are talking to children is accepting people for their differences, teaching them about the fact that there are options and possibilities for their life other than getting married and having a wife or a husband." GOP legislators have increasingly targeted drag shows and LGBTQ rights As right-wing influencers such as Libs of TikTok have fomented online harassment against drag and LGBTQ events, lawmakers in both Texas and Florida have proposed legislation attempting to ban family drag shows.Texas state Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Republican, last week filed legislation that would ban drag performances in the presence of children. In a press release announcing the legislation, Slaton said the bill was the result of a "disturbing trend in which perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children." Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Republican who is also running for Congress, said in a tweet he planned to propose legislation that would make it a felony and terminate the parental rights of "any adult who brings a child to these perverted sex shows." Sabatini called for an emergency session of the Florida legislature to consider his proposal.The proposed anti-drag legislation follows a raft of other bills this year targeting the LGBTQ community.In Texas, Slaton has also said he would work toward passing legislation that would make providing gender-affirming care to minors "child abuse." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in February signed an order that instructed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate and prosecute parents of transgender kids if they give their child gender-affirming care. A judge last week temporarily blocked the state from executing that order.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March signed into a law a bill known as the "Don't Say Gay" law, which aims to limit the teaching of topics like sexuality and gender identity in schools. LGBTQ advocates decried the law, saying it would harm children who identify as gay or trans, or who have LGBTQ parents. DeSantis last week said he was considering directing state officials to investigate parents who take their children to drag shows. "It's just outrageous that this is something that is taking up so much energy," Cathryn Oakley, the state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said. Such efforts by lawmakers to target and misrepresent drag queens and other LGBTQ people are meant to distract from real issues facing people in states like Texas, Oakley told Insider."They're taking their failure to address the real challenges that are facing Texas and then trying to twist that into something that'll get people riled up with moral panic," Oakley said.The number of anti-LGBTQ bills enacted in state legislatures across the country reached a new high last year, according to data from HRC. Much of this legislation targeted trans youth, like laws enacted in Alabama and Louisiana that prevent trans athletes from playing on the sports teams that match their gender identity. Other bills and laws aim to criminalize doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors. "In 2022, we're on the precipice of setting those records yet again," Oakley said.Drag shows are the latest venue for the right's attacks on gender identityThe attacks against drag culture have come as the art form has gone increasingly mainstream. "RuPaul's Drag Race," which premiered on Logo in February 2009, is in its 14th season and now airing on MTV. It's also spawned numerous international franchises across the globe and spinoff series in the US. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has appeared on the program twice, mostly recently in an episode that aired last week.—RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) June 12, 2022 In North Carolina, Apex Pride and the story hour were "very lovely and very well received," Purnsley said. The backlash against drag comes from people's fear of changing ideas around gender constructs and identity, Purnsley said, leading to old panics that the LGBTQ community is somehow "corrupting children.""I just want to read to children, and it is not lost on me how mundane and basic this desire or this mission is," Purnsley said. "I hope that people will stop taking my life and my community's life for granted, that they will see that we want good for the world."Purnsley believes that if critics truly cared about kids, they would focus on issues legislating against gun violence and mental health rather than on drag performances and children's story hours."Children are growing up hurting. They are killing themselves. They are being murdered," Purnsley said. "We could do so much more than protest my padded Black ass."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 14th, 2022

This Hidden Voting Bloc Could Swing The 2024 Election

This Hidden Voting Bloc Could Swing The 2024 Election Authored by Janice Hisle via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Tina DeMedeiros, 53, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is a typical “Trump-or-bust” voter. After casting her first presidential election ballot for Democrat Bill Clinton in her early 20s, Ms. DeMedeiros had been disconnected from anything related to politics. Donald Trump became a notable exception. (Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock) Ms. DeMedeiros voted for him in 2016 and again in 2020. But she didn’t cast a ballot in 2018, nor in 2022; she said that most of the people she knows don’t vote regularly, either. “I don’t really like politicians. But I like Donald Trump,” she told The Epoch Times. “I don’t look at him like a politician.” Pollster Rich Baris calls these people Trump-or-bust voters—less-likely voters who tend to cast ballots only when they know the name “Donald J. Trump” will appear. They now form a critical constituency that other analysts are beginning to acknowledge. “Republicans cannot win without them,” Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times. “The math just isn’t there if they do not show up.” Pro-Trump voters include many who had never voted before or rarely voted in the past, Mr. Baris said. Many pollsters might label these people “unlikely” or “less-likely” voters and may discount their responses or weed them out, based on the assumption that they won’t cast ballots. But Mr. Baris said that in the case of President Trump’s voters, that premise is flawed. He sees a pattern: These previously unmotivated, sporadic voters now seem to behave rather predictably. Supporters listen to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Geneva, Ohio, on Oct. 27, 2016. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images) The Trump-or-Bust phenomenon is evident among interviewees whom Mr. Baris’s Big Data Poll (BDP) surveyed this fall. Mr. Baris produced one of the few polls that correctly showed that then-candidate Donald Trump was poised to win in 2016. BDP has conducted polling in the past for The Epoch Times. For example, BDP’s map shows a 38-year-old man from rural Shelby County, Ohio. He described himself as unmarried, childless, not religious, and working full-time for an annual salary of at least $50,000. This man, Mr. Baris says, is a typical Trump-or-bust voter, like Ms. DeMedeiros. She started following Donald Trump when she was 15. That’s when she made her first trip to New York and visited Trump Tower, piquing her curiosity about the real estate tycoon’s success. She started watching Mr. Trump on TV talk shows, such as Oprah Winfrey; she became a fan of his reality TV series “The Apprentice.” Yet Ms. DeMedeiros was so politically unaware that she was stunned to learn Mr. Trump was seeking the presidency. He declared his candidacy in June 2015, but she knew nothing about it until her husband mentioned Mr. Trump was going to debate Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton in September 2016. “I said, ‘Oh my God, he’s running for president?’” she recalled. By then, Ms. Clinton had already declared that Donald Trump’s supporters could be lumped into “a basket of deplorables.” She said these people were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” Her comment ignited a backlash. And when Ms. DeMedeiros heard about it, she predicted, “He’s going to win.” “Everyone thought I was crazy,” she said. But she saw signs that waves of support were building for Mr. Trump, partly out of resentment toward Ms. Clinton. “People had signs out in front of their houses saying, ‘A Deplorable Lives Here,’” Ms. DeMedeiros said. Intrigued, she started learning about the future president’s proposed policies; to her, they seemed to be based on “common sense.” She supports his tough-on-illegal immigration policies, his defense of Constitutional rights, and his plans to cut government bureaucracy. Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stand in line for a rally in Hershey, Pa., on Nov. 4, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) She said President Trump has her support. Although she conceded that he may engage in too much name-calling, she said, “I like it when he goes after people who come after him.” She said she’s used to that brash personality as a New Englander: “I like people who have fire inside of them.” “And I think he’s done a lot for this country,” she said. “If I had his money, I don’t know that I'd keep going on while being under constant attack.” Ms. DeMedeiros said that some wealthy Democrats in Cape Cod who were once anti-Trump now instead bad-mouth President Joe Biden’s economic policies. They want President Trump back in office, she said. To them, she says, “Welcome aboard!'” Although Ms. DeMedeiros said she senses that President Trump is headed for a 2024 election win, she also said she remains concerned that Democrats will try to sabotage it. Days after Ms. DeMedeiros expressed that worry to The Epoch Times, the left-leaning Colorado Supreme Court ruled President Trump ineligible for that state’s primary election ballot. The Colorado GOP has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Making Politics Relevant McKayla Rose, 36, of Dallas, exemplifies another category of President Trump’s supporters: Those who were once disinterested in politics but became uber-engaged because of him. (To avoid reprisals, the married mother of two asked The Epoch Times to use her online pseudonym for this article.) Concern for her children motivated her to “start paying attention” to politics, she said. That happened after Ms. Rose learned that schools “were trying to teach kids about homosexuality and ’trans’ this, ’trans’ that,” she said, referring to transgenderism. Ms. Rose started to see the vital role that the U.S. president plays in guiding the nation’s policies and setting the tone for trends in American society. That realization motivated her to delve deeper. She began listening directly to President Trump’s speeches and became convinced that many mainstream media reports mischaracterized him. Rich Baris, the "People's Pundit" and director of Big Data Poll, speaks at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Naples, Fla., on Feb. 24, 2022. (Courtesy of Rich Baris) So, for the first time in her life, Ms. Rose, who was then in her early 30s, voted—for President Trump in the 2020 election. She said she agrees with his contention that the election was rigged or stolen and that she intends to vote for him again in 2024. But unlike the Trump-or-bust voters, Ms. Rose said she did cast a ballot during the 2022 midterm elections. She now considers herself an informed, active member of the electorate. Jeff Bloodworth, a professor of U.S. political history at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, said Ms. Rose and the Trump-or-bust voters strike him as “a very typical kind of person who has been brought into the political system by Donald Trump.” Although President Trump’s critics say the drama surrounding him is exhausting, it has captured the attention of citizens who used to find politics painfully dull and irrelevant to their lives. The former president seems to have a knack for reaching those people, showing them how politics matter, and inspiring them to get involved, Mr. Bloodworth told The Epoch Times. “He makes politics kind of understandable. And, oddly, some people believe he’s more relatable, even though he’s a billionaire from New York,” he said. “Trump has found a way to make politics interesting to a wider swath of the electorate.” Mr. Bloodworth said he thinks many pollsters still need to figure out how to ferret out and fully gauge President Trump’s supporters. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in front of a capacity crowd at a rally for his campaign in Rochester, N.Y., on April 10, 2016. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) The Pennsylvania Picture Recent poll numbers for both President Trump and President Biden fit Mr. Bloodworth’s observations about the political climate in Pennsylvania. Polls show that President Biden, who hails from Pennsylvania, is in danger of losing the state if current trends hold. Mr. Baris’s BDP shows President Trump 3.5 percentage points ahead of the incumbent in the Keystone State. Asked to comment on BDP’s Pennsylvania findings, Mr. Bloodworth said, “I guess I was most surprised by the urban numbers, especially in Philadelphia.” In 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden won Philadelphia County by about 63 percentage points. That support level has dropped by 16 percentage points, according to BDP. The poll detected a similar decline among President Biden’s supporters in Pittsburgh, where he won by about 20 percentage points in 2020. Now his Pittsburgh lead has shrunk to about 4 points, BDP found. These findings mesh with other polls showing that nonwhite people’s support of the current president has been dropping; some Democrat strategists have acknowledged that these polling numbers constitute warning signals about President Biden’s reelection bid. Simply put, the numbers show that “Biden is vulnerable,” Mr. Bloodworth said. “And I think even Joe Biden understands that.” However, some of the incumbent president’s allies are discounting the importance of polling at this stage of the game. President Joe Biden talks about his proposed fiscal 2024 federal budget during an event at the Finishing Trades Institute in Philadelphia on March 9, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Democrats, Others Urge Caution Asked to comment on the recent downward trends in President Biden’s poll numbers, Washington-based Democrat strategist Matt Angle told The Epoch Times last month: “Horse race polls a year out are not predictive, and treating them like they are is dumb on the part of individuals and irresponsible on the part of journalists.” Similarly, Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times: “People should remain skeptical of polling, educate themselves about it.” They also need to remember that polling “was never intended to identify margins with pinpoint accuracy.” Instead, polling is intended to identify trends and record voter sentiments at a given moment in time; they’re snapshots recording the present, not crystal balls glimpsing the future. Most polls contain “sampling errors” that can skew results, typically plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points. Thus, a lead within those margins is not a comfortable one. And so far, most Biden-Trump poll results fall within that margin of error. Mr. Angle said President Biden’s poll rankings are probably suffering in the face of “virulent opposition” from President Trump’s “ideologues” in right-wing news media. Many recent reports are critical of President Biden’s handling of the economy, immigration issues, and foreign affairs, including the Israel–Hamas War. In addition, President Biden faces an impeachment inquiry over millions of dollars that allegedly flowed from foreigners into his relatives’ bank accounts. He has denied wrongdoing. President Biden’s supporters say the influence-peddling scandal is small potatoes compared with the 91 criminal indictments lodged against President Trump. The allegations stem from his challenge of the 2020 election results along with his handling of business records and government records. The former president has repeatedly stated that he did nothing wrong. He says he is the target of an unprecedented political witch hunt designed to damage his candidacy and interfere with the 2024 election. He also has repeatedly touted his polling performance as an indicator that the American people see the criminal cases as “political persecution” and that they appreciated the work he did in the White House. President Donald Trump (R) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 22, 2020. (Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images) Assuming a Biden–Trump rematch, voters face a choice between two candidates who are both old, Mr. Angle said. President Trump is 77 and President Biden 81. But of course, there are significant differences between the two men. Mr. Angle said he considers President Trump “dangerously destructive,” dishonest, and a threat to American democracy. President Trump and his supporters dismiss that characterization as a Democrat talking point. They retort that President Biden has stumbled over his words and his feet, signs that his age is affecting him and making him appear weak on the world stage. But President Trump, they say, remains quick-witted and seems resilient despite a demanding schedule of court appearances and campaign events. Mr. Angle called President Biden “capable, accomplished, [and] patriotic,” even if he is “less than exciting.” President Biden’s critics accuse him of failing to “put America first.” Under his watch, record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants have flooded across the U.S.–Mexico border. Read the rest here... Tyler Durden Sun, 12/31/2023 - 17:50.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 31st, 2023

Mark Zuckerberg can kiss "Hot Zuck Summer" goodbye. Instagram is now in full crisis mode.

Mark Zuckerberg might have enjoyed a "Hot Zuck Summer," but the latest disturbing crisis at Meta means we're now in "Instagram Nightmare Fall." Mark Zuckerberg might have enjoyed a "Hot Zuck Summer." But an "Instagram Nightmare Fall" could now be in the making after a disturbing report on the app serving adults inappropriate images of children — along with a big lawsuit from 33 state attorneys general.Getty ImagesInstagram Reels is connecting some adults to inappropriate images of children, the WSJ reports.Instagram is now dealing with a public scandal similar to Facebook's election interference scandal.Instagram also faces a suit from 33 states that says it ignored warnings on teen mental health.For a few weeks in July, an uncanny phrase permeated the air that mildly pained some who typed it: "Hot Zuck Summer."There was that photo of Mark Zuckerberg shirtless and eerily ripped. The successful launch of Threads. The whole embarrassing business where Elon Musk challenged Zuckerberg to a physical fight.In comparison to Musk, who was busy destroying both Twitter and his reputation, the Meta CEO seemed to be a reasonable adult and measured executive.For one brief summer, things finally seemed rosy for Zuckerberg and Meta: The distance of the 2016 election and all the mess that came from it was far enough away in the rear-view mirror. The explosive revelations in 2021 from Frances Haugen and the "Facebook Papers" weren't at the forefront of everyone's minds. Twitter, FTX, and AI occupied the headlines.It was almost as if Meta had a moment when it actually got to add a few numbers to a big sign that read "Days without a major scandal."Today, that counter just got set back to "0." And although "Hot Zuck Summer" might have been a lighthearted take on Zuckerberg, the latest scandal is anything but.On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported the disturbing way that sexualized content of children was served to adults through Instagram's Reels.In the WSJ's test, it created new accounts that followed only teen and tween gymnastics and cheerleading influencers. Those accounts were then recommended Reels for adult sexual content and sexualized child content, the Journal reported. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection ran a similar test with similar results, the Journal reported.From the WSJ:Instagram's system served jarring doses of salacious content to those test accounts, including risqué footage of children as well as overtly sexual adult videos — and ads for some of the biggest U.S. brands.The Journal set up the test accounts after observing that the thousands of followers of such young people's accounts often include large numbers of adult men, and that many of the accounts who followed those children also had demonstrated interest in sex content related to both children and adults.Alarmingly, sexually suggestive content also was shown between ads for big companies.From the report:The tests showed that following only the young girls triggered Instagram to begin serving videos from accounts promoting adult sex content alongside ads for major consumer brands, such as one for Walmart that ran after a video of a woman exposing her crotch.And perhaps most depressing of all:An ad for Lean In Girls, the young women's empowerment nonprofit run by former Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, ran directly before a promotion for an adult sex-content creator who often appears in schoolgirl attire. Sandberg declined to comment. A Meta spokesperson told the WSJ that the company is working on new brand-safety tools and has a task force for detecting suspicious users. Sandberg declined to comment to the Journal, as did Walmart. In a statement to Business Insider, Meta said: "We don't want this kind of content on our platforms and brands don't want their ads to appear next to it. We continue to invest aggressively to stop it — and report every quarter on the prevalence of such content, which remains very low." It also said that the WSJ's test was a "manufactured experience" that didn't represent what real users see each day.Earlier this fall, 33 states filed a lawsuit against Meta, accusing it of ignoring warnings about potential harm to young girls. It also claims that Meta knew about millions of accounts that were opened by kids under 13, but didn't shut then down.A Massachusetts lawsuit claims Meta ignored efforts to improve teen wellbeing on its apps.And a recently unsealed complaint as part of the 33 states that are suing appears to show that Instagram executives were well aware of a phenomenon that seems fairly intuitive to anyone who has used Instagram: If you see all your friends having fun living their best lives and tons pictures of extremely hot people, that can make you feel bad.From the complaint, emphasis mine:Meta's senior leadership admits that social comparison is a critical issue with serious consequences for its users, particularly for Instagram. [Adam] Mosseri wrote in an internal email, "I see social comparison as the existential question Instagram faces within the broader question of whether or not social media is good or bad for people." Because of Instagram's "focus on young people and visual communication," its emphasis on beauty and fashion content, and a "marketing look and feel often biasing too polished," Mosseri reasoned that "social comparison is to Instagram [what] election interference is to Facebook."I think Mosseri was spot on. This is the existential question that is now being debated about Instagram.(The interpretation of Mosseri's line about election interference isn't totally clear to me. I think a lot of Meta employees believe that the 2016 election interference narrative was overblown. Perhaps what he means is that this will be Instagram's moment to have a massive scandal where public opinion is rapidly turned against it, cable news people yell about it, people delete their accounts, and someone gets hauled in front of Congress to be grilled about it.)Either way — Mosseri is right. This is a big public scandal. Enough shoes have dropped. Big advertisers like Match and Bumble are canceling ads over the WSJ report, the publication said."Hot Zuck Summer" has turned into "Instagram Nightmare Fall."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 27th, 2023

American Pandemic "Samizdat": Bhattacharya

American Pandemic 'Samizdat': Bhattacharya Authored by Jay Bhattacharya via RealClear Wire, On May 15, 1970, the New York Times published an article by esteemed Russia scholar Albert Parry detailing how Soviet dissident intellectuals were covertly passing forbidden ideas around to each other on handcrafted, typewritten documents called samizdat. Here is the beginning of that seminal story: Censorship existed even before literature, say the Russians. And, we may add, censorship being older, literature has to be craftier. Hence, the new and remarkably viable underground press in the Soviet Union called samizdat. Samizdat – translates as: “We publish ourselves” – that is, not the state, but we, the people. Unlike the underground of Czarist times, today’s samizdat has no printing presses (with rare exceptions): The K.G.B., the secret police, is too efficient. It is the typewriter, each page produced with four to eight carbon copies, that does the job. By the thousands and tens of thousands of frail, smudged onionskin sheets, samizdat spreads across the land a mass of protests and petitions, secret court minutes, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s banned novels, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984,” Nicholas Berdyayev’s philosophical essays, all sorts of sharp political discourses and angry poetry. Though it is hard to hear, the sad fact is that we are living in a time and in a society where there is once again a need for scientists to pass around their ideas secretly to one another so as to avoid censorship, smearing, and defamation by government authorities in the name of science. I say this from first-hand experience. During the pandemic, the U.S. government violated my free speech rights and those of my scientist colleagues for questioning the federal government’s COVID policies. American government officials, working in concert with big tech companies, defamed and suppressed me and my colleagues for criticizing official pandemic policies – criticism that has been proven prescient. While this may sound like a conspiracy theory, it is a documented fact, and one recently confirmed by a federal circuit court. In August 2022, the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general asked me to join as a plaintiff in a lawsuit, represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, against the Biden administration. The suit aims to end the government’s role in this censorship and restore the free speech rights of all Americans in the digital town square. Lawyers in the Missouri v. Biden case took sworn depositions from many federal officials involved in the censorship efforts, including Anthony Fauci. During the hours-long deposition, Fauci showed a striking inability to answer basic questions about his pandemic management, replying “I don’t recall” over 170 times. Legal discovery unearthed email exchanges between the government and social media companies showing an administration willing to threaten the use of its regulatory power to harm social media companies that did not comply with censorship demands. The case revealed that a dozen federal agencies pressured social media companies Google, Facebook, and Twitter to censor and suppress speech contradicting federal pandemic priorities. In the name of slowing the spread of harmful misinformation, the administration forced the censorship of scientific facts that didn’t fit its narrative de jour. This included facts relating to the evidence for immunity after COVID recovery, the inefficacy of mask mandates, and the inability of the vaccine to stop disease transmission. True or false, if speech interfered with the government’s priorities, it had to go. On July 4, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction in the case, ordering the government to immediately stop coercing social media companies to censor protected free speech. In his decision, Doughty called the administration’s censorship infrastructure an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.” In my November 2021 testimony in the House of Representatives, I used this exact phrase to describe the government’s censorship efforts. For this heresy, I faced slanderous accusations by Rep. Jamie Raskin, who accused me of wanting to let the virus “rip.” Raskin was joined by fellow Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who tried to smear my reputation on the grounds that I spoke with a Chinese journalist in April 2020. Judge Doughty’s ruling decried the vast federal censorship enterprise dictating to social media companies who and what to censor, and ordered it to end. But the Biden administration immediately appealed the decision, claiming that they needed to be able to censor scientists or else public health would be endangered and people would die. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted them an administrative stay that lasted until mid-September, permitting the Biden administration to continue violating the First Amendment. After a long month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that that pandemic policy critics were not imagining these violations. The Biden administration did indeed strong-arm social media companies into doing its bidding. The court found that the Biden White House, the CDC, the U.S. surgeon general’s office, and the FBI have “engaged in a years-long pressure campaign [on social media outlets] designed to ensure that the censorship aligned with the government’s preferred viewpoints.” The appellate judges described a pattern of government officials making “threats of ‘fundamental reforms’ like regulatory changes and increased enforcement actions that would ensure the platforms were ‘held accountable.’” But, beyond express threats, there was always an “unspoken ‘or else.’” The implication was clear. If social media companies did not comply, the administration would work to harm the economic interests of the companies. Paraphrasing Al Capone, “Well that’s a nice company you have there. Shame if something were to happen to it,” the government insinuated. “The officials’ campaign succeeded. The platforms, in capitulation to state-sponsored pressure, changed their moderation policies,” the 5th Circuit judges wrote, and they renewed the injunction against the government’s violation of free speech rights. Here is the full order, filled with many glorious adverbs: Defendants, and their employees and agents, shall take no actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech. That includes, but is not limited to, compelling the platforms to act, such as by intimating that some form of punishment will follow a failure to comply with any request, or supervising, directing, or otherwise meaningfully controlling the social media companies’ decision-making processes. The federal government can no longer threaten social media companies with destruction if they don’t censor scientists on behalf of the government. The ruling is a victory for every American since it is a victory for free speech rights. Although I am thrilled by it, the decision isn’t perfect. Some entities at the heart of the government’s censorship enterprise can still organize to suppress speech. For instance, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security can still work with academics to develop a hit list for government censorship. And the National Institutes of Health, Tony Fauci’s old organization, can still coordinate devastating takedowns of outside scientists critical of government policy. So, what did the government want censored? The trouble began on Oct. 4, 2020, when my colleagues and I – Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, and Dr. Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford – published the Great Barrington Declaration. It called for an end to economic lockdowns, school shutdowns, and similar restrictive policies because they disproportionately harm the young and economically disadvantaged while conferring limited benefits. The Declaration endorsed a “focused protection” approach that called for strong measures to protect high-risk populations while allowing lower-risk individuals to return to normal life with reasonable precautions. Tens of thousands of doctors and public health scientists signed on to our statement. With hindsight, it is clear that this strategy was the right one. Sweden, which in large part eschewed lockdown and, after early problems, embraced focused protection of older populations, had among the lowest age-adjusted all-cause excess deaths of nearly every other country in Europe and suffered none of the learning loss for its elementary school children. Similarly, Florida has lower cumulative age-adjusted all-cause excess deaths than lockdown-crazy California since the start of the pandemic. In the poorest parts of the world, the lockdowns were an even greater disaster. By spring 2020, the United Nations was already warning that the economic disruptions caused by the lockdowns would lead to 130 million or more people starving. The World Bank warned the lockdowns would throw 100 million people into dire poverty. Some version of those predictions came true – millions of the world’s poorest suffered from the West’s lockdowns. Over the past 40 years, the world’s economies globalized, becoming more interdependent. At a stroke, the lockdowns broke the promise the world’s rich nations had implicitly made to poor nations. The rich nations had told the poor: Reorganize your economies, connect yourself to the world, and you will become more prosperous. This worked, with 1 billion people lifted out of dire poverty over the last half-century. But the lockdowns violated that promise. The supply chain disruptions that predictably followed them meant millions of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, and elsewhere lost their jobs and could no longer feed their families. In California, where I live, the government closed public schools and disrupted our children’s education for two straight academic years. The educational disruption was very unevenly distributed, with the poorest students and minority students suffering the greatest educational losses. By contrast, Sweden kept its schools open for students under 16 throughout the pandemic. The Swedes let their children live near-normal lives with no masks, no social distancing, and no forced isolation. As a result, Swedish kids suffered no educational loss. The lockdowns, then, were a form of trickle-down epidemiology. The idea seemed to be that we should protect the well-to-do from the virus and that protection would somehow trickle down to protect the poor and the vulnerable. The strategy failed, as a large fraction of the deaths attributable to COVID hit the vulnerable elderly. The government wanted to suppress the fact that there were prominent scientists who opposed the lockdowns and had alternate ideas – like the Great Barrington Declaration – that might have worked better. They wanted to maintain an illusion of total consensus in favor of Tony Fauci’s ideas, as if he were indeed the high pope of science. When he told an interviewer, “Everyone knows I represent science. If you criticize me, you are not simply criticizing a man, you are criticizing science itself,” he meant it unironically. Federal officials immediately targeted the Great Barrington Declaration for suppression. Four days after the declaration’s publication, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins emailed Fauci to organize a “devastating takedown” of the document. Almost immediately, social media companies such as Google/YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook censored mentions of the declaration. In 2021, Twitter blacklisted me for posting a link to the Great Barrington Declaration. YouTube censored a video of a public policy roundtable of me with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the “crime” of telling him the scientific evidence for masking children is weak.  At the height of the pandemic, I found myself smeared for my supposed political views, and my views about COVID policy and epidemiology were removed from the public square on all manner of social networks. It is impossible for me not to speculate about what might have happened had our proposal been met with a more typical scientific spirit rather than censorship and vitriol. For anyone with an open mind, the GBD represented a return to the old pandemic management strategy that had served the world well for a century – identify and protect the vulnerable, develop treatments and countermeasures as rapidly as possible, and disrupt the lives of the rest of society as little as possible since such disruption is likely to cause more harm than good. Without censorship, we might have won that debate, and if so, the world could have moved along a different and better path in the last three and a half years, with less death and less suffering. Since I started with a story about how dissidents skirted the Soviet censorship regime, I will close with a story about Trofim Lysenko, the famous Russian biologist. Stalin’s favorite scientist was a biologist who did not believe in Mendelian genetics – one of the most important ideas in biology. He thought it was all hokum, inconsistent with communist ideology, which emphasized the importance of nurture over nature. Lysenko developed a theory that if you expose seeds to cold before you plant them, they will be more resistant to cold, and thereby, crop output could be increased dramatically. I hope it is not a surprise to readers to learn that Lysenko was wrong about the science. Nevertheless, Lysenko convinced Stalin that his ideas were right, and Stalin rewarded him by making him the director of the USSR’s Institute for Genetics for more than 20 years. Stalin gave him the Order of Lenin eight times. Lysenko used his power to destroy any biologist who disagreed with him. He smeared and demoted the reputations of rival scientists who thought Mendelian genetics was true. Stalin sent some of these disfavored scientists to Siberia, where they died. Lysenko censored the scientific discussion in the Soviet Union so no one dared question his theories. The result was mass starvation. Soviet agriculture stalled, and millions died in famines caused by Lysenko’s ideas put into practice. Some sources say that Ukraine and China under Mao Tse-tung also followed Lysenko’s ideas, causing millions more to starve there. Censorship is the death of science and inevitably leads to the death of people. America should be a bulwark against it, but it was not during the pandemic. Though the tide is turning with the Missouri v. Biden case, we must reform our scientific institutions so what happened during the pandemic never happens again. Dr. Bhattacharya is the inaugural recipient of RealClear’s Samizdat Prize. This article was adapted from the speech he delivered at the award ceremony on September 12 in Palo Alto, California. Tyler Durden Sat, 09/23/2023 - 10:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 23rd, 2023

Elon Musk spent the last 24 hours spreading increasingly unhinged anti-trans content

After getting criticized by conservative pundits when a video was blocked on Twitter, Musk went all-in sharing right-wing content. Elon Musk said he would start "actively lobbying" against some health-care options for transgender kids.Scott Olson/Getty Images One of the world's richest men spent the last 24 hours sharing anti-trans content. Elon Musk promoted increasingly radical takes after right-wingers criticized him on Twitter. Musk even vowed he'd start "actively lobbying to criminalize" some healthcare for transgender children. Elon Musk went all-in on sharing anti-transgender talking points after conservative pundits criticized him online on Thursday.Right-wingers were furious at the billionaire Twitter CEO after "What is a Woman?", a 2022 online film by The Daily Wire's Matt Walsh that urges intolerance of trans people and opposes medical intervention for trans children, had its visibility slashed on the platform for violating rules on hateful conduct.Musk chimed in amid the blowback, saying the throttling was "a mistake by many people at Twitter" and that he was stepping in to make sure it would be changed.He later said that the movie was available for those who followed The Daily Wire, but that "sensitive content just won't be pushed to people unless they ask for it or a friend sends it to them."That promise didn't last long.In a tweet hours later to his millions of followers, Musk himself shared the video and declared "Every parent should watch this." As of Friday afternoon, Musk had pinned the tweet sharing the video to the top of his profile."Consenting adults should do whatever makes them happy, provided it does not harm others, but a child is not capable of consent, which is why we have laws protecting minors," Musk added.Musk said the video wouldn't be "pushed" to people that didn't follow the Daily Wire, and within hours had tweeted several times promoting the video and pinned one of the tweets to the top of his profile.TwitterRepublicans and conservative commentators have been pushing laws to limit the rights of transgender people, including restricting which bathroom they can use and threatening parents and doctors if they provide gender-affirming care to kids.Prominent doctors and medical practitioners agree that options like puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy can be medically appropriate for trans youth.During his latest tweetstorm, Musk vowed to start "actively lobbying to criminalize" healthcare options for transgender children that he called "severe, irreversible changes." He also backed throwing advocates in jail without parole.Musk didn't immediately respond to questions about his tweets or whether he was addressing the decision at Twitter to limit the video with staff.Musk has a teenage daughter who is trans; she successfully petitioned a court last year to change her name from Musk, telling a judge that she no longer wished to be related to her father "in any way, shape or form." It's the latest rightward turn for one of the world's richest men.Musk first explicitly announced a shift toward the Republican Party just over a year ago after Insider contacted him for comment about a former SpaceX worker's allegations of sexual harassment against him. Since taking over Twitter and vowing he is a "free-speech absolutist," Musk has reinstated banned right-wing accounts while cutting staff at the social media company.He's flirted with conspiracy theorists and helped launch the presidential campaign of GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a glitchy announcement on Twitter.Top Twitter executives have fled en masse, with the platform's head of safety quitting on Thursday. The brand safety team also lost its head and possibly other staff, according to the Wall Street Journal and Ryan Mac of the New York Times.The Journal reported that the departing A.J. Brown was one of the key executives responsible for making advertisers comfortable spending money to promote their brand on the website, an increasingly difficult job during Musk's tenure as the company has reportedly lost significant advertising revenue since he took over.Mac reported that multiple members of Twitter's remaining staff have made their accounts private over harassment from Twitter users stemming from Musk's reversal and other comments on the "What is a Woman?" controversy. Musk himself appeared to confirm Friday morning in an interaction with Walsh and another user that the recent departures were connected to the controversy.Zoe Schiffer of Platformer reported Friday that Brown's resignation may have been due to changes in Twitter's ad policy, adding that the trust and safety team has been told only to enforce the company's policies on ads that are scams or illegal. The directive has reportedly caused some confusion as policies are changed, and some staff are questioning what to do with ads that include hate speech, according to Schiffer.A screenshot of Musk appearing to confirm Friday morning that recent executive departures took place because of controversy over Walsh's film "What is a Woman?"TwitterRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJun 2nd, 2023

Biden Blasts "Science Defying" Supreme Court Ruling Against EPA Overreach

Biden Blasts 'Science Defying' Supreme Court Ruling Against EPA Overreach Update: As one might expect, the Biden administration is very upset at the nazi-fied Supreme Court for daring to reduce its power somewhat, claiming the decision "defies the science"... Statement from President Joe Biden on Supreme Court Decision in Sackett v.EPA The Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in Sackett v. EPA will take our country backwards. It puts our Nation’s wetlands - and the rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds connected to them - at risk of pollution and destruction, jeopardizing the sources of clean water that millions of American families, farmers, and businesses rely on. Since the Clean Water Act was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress in 1972, it has been used by Republican and Democratic administrations alike to help ensure Americans in every state have clean water. It is the reason why today America’s lakes arc swimmable, why we can fish in our streams and rivers, and why clean water comes out of our taps. Today’s decision upends the legal framework that has protected America’s waters for decades. It also defies the science that confirms the critical role of wetlands in safeguarding our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes from chemicals and pollutants that harm the health and wellbeing of children, families, and communities. I am committed to protecting clean air and water for our kids for generations to come. My team will work with the Department of Justice and relevant agencies to carefully review this decision and use every legal authority we have to protect our Nation’s waters for the people and communities that depend on them. We will wrork with states, cities, and Tribal communities to pass and uphold critical protections for their residents. Through my Investing in America agenda, we’re already deploying historic resources in communities all across America to remove lead pipes, improve water quality, and rebuild the Nation’s drinking water infrastructure. Our fight for clean water for all must go on, and it will. *  *  * As The Epoch Times' Matthew Vadum detailed earlier, the Supreme Court voted to rein in the power of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate wetlands in a complex decision issued on May 25, the second time in a year that the court has curbed federal environmental authority. All three liberal justices and one conservative justice expressed their opposition to the court’s decision to adopt a new definition for wetlands. The nation’s high court ruled in favor of an Idaho couple who have been battling federal officials for years over the right to develop their own property. The ruling involved the controversial “waters of the United States” rule that critics say has led to excessive, and at times, overzealous regulation of private lands by the EPA. The couple’s lawyer, Damien Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), said the ruling “returns the scope of the Clean Water Act to its original and proper limits.” “Courts now have a clear measuring stick for fairness and consistency by federal regulators. Today’s ruling is a profound win for property rights and the constitutional separation of powers,” Schiff said in a statement. EPA Administrator Michael Regan promptly denounced the ruling, saying it “erodes longstanding clean water protections.” “As a public health agency, EPA is committed to ensuring that all people, regardless of race, the money in their pocket, or community they live in, have access to clean, safe water. We will never waver from that responsibility,” he said in a statement. The case, Sackett v. EPA (court file 21-454), was argued on Oct. 3, 2022. The court’s majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Agencies Ordered Work to Stop Chantell and Mike Sackett had started building a new home in Priest Lake, Idaho, when the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers suddenly ordered them to stop all work. The government agencies stated that the couple needed a federal permit and threatened them with more than $30,000 in daily fines. The EPA had determined years before that their parcel of land contained wetlands. The Sacketts say their lot lacks a surface water connection to any stream, creek, lake, or other water body, and it shouldn’t be subject to federal regulation and permitting. Even though water isn’t usually visible on their land, the government claims that, based on aerial photography, the lot is home to a fen wetland. Fens are “peat-forming wetlands that rely on groundwater input and require thousands of years to develop and cannot easily be restored once destroyed,” according to a USDA Forest Service report. They are “hotspots of biodiversity” and “figure prominently in nearly all scenarios of CO2-induced global change because they are a major sink for atmospheric carbon.” The Sacketts had asked the Supreme Court to revisit its 2006 ruling in Rapanos v. United States, which was a fractured plurality decision that created uncertainty about the applicable legal standard. Led by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, four of the nine justices found that the Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates a wetland only if it has a continuous surface connection to another waterway. Then-Justice Anthony Kennedy devised his own legal test, finding that the law covers wetlands that have a “significant nexus” to a larger body of water. The Biden administration argued for the nexus standard. In the Supreme Court’s new opinion, all nine justices agreed that the Sackett’s property didn’t fall under the CWA, but only five agreed on a new test to be used to determine when the statute applies to wetlands. The majority rejected the nexus standard and endorsed the Rapanos standard that previously failed to garner majority support on the court. The court’s majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito. That opinion was joined by four other conservative justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and John Roberts, the chief justice. In the opinion, Alito described the CWA, the principal federal law regulating water pollution in the United States, as “a great success.” “Before its enactment in 1972, many of the nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams were severely polluted, and existing federal legislation had proved to be inadequate. Today, many formerly fetid bodies of water are safe for the use and enjoyment of the people of this country. “There is, however, an unfortunate footnote to this success story: the outer boundaries of the Act’s geographical reach have been uncertain from the start. “The Act applies to ‘the waters of the United States,’ but what does that phrase mean? Does the term encompass any backyard that is soggy enough for some minimum period of time? Does it reach ‘mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, [or] playa lakes?’ How about ditches, swimming pools, and puddles?” ‘Bumpy and Costly’ Voyage The Sacketts, Alito noted, “have spent well over a decade navigating the CWA, and their voyage has been bumpy and costly.” The EPA found that the so-called wetlands on their land were “adjacent to” an “unnamed tributary” on the other side of a 30-foot road. The tributary feeds into Priest Lake, a body of water the EPA has determined is traditionally navigable. To establish “a significant nexus,” the EPA lumped the Sacketts’ lot together with the Kalispell Bay Fen, a large nearby wetland complex that the agency regarded as “similarly situated.” “According to the EPA, these properties, taken together, ‘significantly affect’ the ecology of Priest Lake. Therefore, the EPA concluded, the Sacketts had illegally dumped soil and gravel onto ‘the waters of the United States.’” A federal district court dismissed the Sacketts’ lawsuit under the Administrative Procedure Act that claimed the EPA lacked jurisdiction because any wetlands on their land were not “waters of the United States,” Alito wrote. The U.S. Court of Appeals for 9th Circuit affirmed finding the CWA “covers adjacent wetlands with a significant nexus to traditional navigable waters and that the Sacketts’ lot satisfied that standard.” But the Supreme Court determined that the EPA overreached, finding that the CWA “extends to only those ‘wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are waters of the United States in their own right,’ so that they are ‘indistinguishable’ from those waters.” “The wetlands on the Sacketts’ property are distinguishable from any possibly covered waters,” Alito wrote. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the 9th Circuit “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” But the three liberal justices, along with conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, accused the majority of rewriting the Clean Water Act. “Today’s pop-up clear-statement rule is explicable only as a reflexive response to Congress’ enactment of an ambitious scheme of environmental regulation,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a statement. “It is an effort to cabin the anti-pollution actions Congress thought appropriate,” Kagan wrote, a reference to the court’s 6–3 ruling in June last year in West Virginia v. EPA. In that case, the court held that the Clean Air Act doesn’t give the EPA widespread power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions that a popular theory says contribute to global warming. In the West Virginia ruling, “the majority’s non-textualism barred the EPA from addressing climate change by curbing power plant emissions in the most effective way.” In the current ruling, the same reasoning “prevents the EPA from keeping our country’s waters clean by regulating adjacent wetlands.” In both, the court appointed “itself as the national decision-maker on environmental policy,” Kagan wrote. Her statement was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a statement that he agreed with the majority that the nexus test should not be adopted, but said he disagreed with the test the majority actually adopted. “In my view, the Court’s ‘continuous surface connection’ test departs from the statutory text, from 45 years of consistent agency practice, and from this Court’s precedents.” The Court’s “new and overly narrow test may leave long-regulated and long-accepted-to-be-regulable wetlands suddenly beyond the scope of the agencies’ regulatory  authority, with negative consequences for waters of the United States.” Kavanaugh specifically expressed concern that the new test could weaken CWA-based protection of the Mississippi River and Chesapeake Bay. Kagan, Sotomayor, and Jackson joined Kavanaugh’s statement. The new ruling may have an effect on ongoing litigation over wetlands regulations that the Biden administration unveiled late last year. Two federal judges have reportedly issued injunctions temporarily preventing the regulations from taking effect in 26 states. Tyler Durden Thu, 05/25/2023 - 17:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 25th, 2023

I"ve been a drag queen in Tennessee for 10 years and scared the "drag ban" will destroy my career

A new law could criminalize staging adult cabaret performances on public property or in any place where they could be seen by a minor. Bella DuBalle is a drag queen based in Memphis, Tennessee.courtesy of DuBalle A new law makes staging "cabaret" performances in Tennessee a criminal offense.  Bella DuBalle, a Memphis-based drag queen, said this law will hurt both her and small businesses. DuBalle also fears the law will dehumanize drag performers.  Bella DuBalle grew up in rural Tennessee and always felt a disconnect from the southern masculinity she was taught to project. When she moved to Memphis in her 20s, and a friend asked her to dress in drag for an upcoming fundraiser, she didn't know it would change her life. "The first time I put on drag was the first moment in my life that I allowed all of this feminine stuff that I had hidden away and been taught to be very ashamed of to come to the surface," DuBalle told Insider. "It was so euphoric."DuBalle has been doing drag for a decade and working as a full-time drag queen in nightclubs and other venues for three years. However, a new law in Tennessee threatens her business and that of fellow drag performers in the community. A new law, passed in early March, makes staging adult cabaret performances on public property or that could be viewed by a minor a criminal offense. It defines adult cabaret performances as any "that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest." While the bill does not explicitly state "drag," the vagueness of the language creates uncertainty as to how drag performers, transgender, and gender nonconforming people could be affected, critics and politicians say.A federal judge in Tennessee temporarily blocked the implementation of the law hours before it was set to effect on April 1. DuBalle believes that were the law to take effect in the future, it would harm the income and livelihoods of both drag performances and the local businesses that feature them. This is an as-told-to story based on an interview that has been edited for length and clarity."Momma, thank you for always embracing my gentle spirit," DuBalle wrote on Instagram.@belladuballe, InstagramWe need to remember drag performers are peopleFor a city in the middle of the Bible Belt, I've always felt relatively safe in Memphis —it's a safe blue pocket in the state. That being said, I've always felt a strong pushback about drag and queerness from more conservative Tennessee communities. They're not as accepting. As these laws came to the forefront, more people have been emboldened to say how much they hate us and it's very dehumanizing. It's fundamentally important, especially now in this discussion, to rehumanize drag entertainers and trans people. Because dehumanizing a group of people is a really slippery slope.As a drag queen, it's always been part of my brand to remind people that it's all an illusion, that there is someone behind the makeup and hair. And with these laws being set in place, there's a real person who's deeply affected. Building a full-time career took perseveranceBella DuBalle has been a full-time drag queen for three years.courtesy of DuBalleIt took years of hard work to turn this passion into a career. While it's definitely a fun form of art, I always saw it as a job even before I was getting paid. That meant being punctual, respectful, and prepared for my performance.Because I treated every opportunity like a job, venues and show directors would refer me to each other knowing I would give a high-quality, professional show.There are only a handful of jobs out there, so you have to create your own opportunities. And that's what I did: I approached the Memphis Riverboats to create the city's first drag show on the water and worked with local churches and libraries for events like drag queen storytime. I'm also the full-time host at the nightclub Atomic Rose, where I emcee drag brunch on Sundays and drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights. I launched War of the Roses there, which turned into a six-season drag show. I don't know if all of those opportunities will still exist after the ban goes into effect starting April 1.  View this post on Instagram A post shared by Atomic Rose (@atomicrosememphis)  People and businesses will be detrimentally affected by anti-drag billsMy fear is that not what the law can actually do, because in a recent meeting with the Memphis District Attorney Steven J. Mulroy, he ensured me that nothing we do is of the "prurient" or explicit sexual nature, and therefore not prosecutable.I am nervous about what people perceive the law can do. It's already happened. Business owners see the headlines and automatically assume they can't continue, and that's leaving many people jobless. People don't realize that drag is how many performers pay their bills and feed their kids. In some cases, like my drag kid, or mentee, who is a Black trans woman, it's the only career where they're accepted. We might be up here looking glamorous, but we are hustling. This is hard work and it's important work.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 3rd, 2023

I"m a drag queen in Tennessee and scared the new law banning cabaret performances will hurt the drag community and leave me without a steady income

"People don't realize this is how people pay their bills and feed their kids." A Tennessee drag queen shares the importance of the drag community. Bella DuBalle is a drag queen based in Memphis, Tennessee.courtesy of DuBalle A new law makes staging "cabaret" performances in Tennessee a criminal offense.  Bella DuBalle, a Memphis-based drag queen, said this law will hurt both her and small businesses. DuBalle also fears the law will dehumanize drag performers.  Bella DuBalle grew up in rural Tennessee and always felt a disconnect from the southern masculinity she was taught to project. When she moved to Memphis in her 20s, and a friend asked her to dress in drag for an upcoming fundraiser, she didn't know it would change her life. "The first time I put on drag was the first moment in my life that I allowed all of this feminine stuff that I had hidden away and been taught to be very ashamed of to come to the surface," DuBalle told Insider. "It was so euphoric."DuBalle has been doing drag for a decade and working as a full-time drag queen in nightclubs and other venues for three years. However, a new law in Tennessee that takes effect on April 1 threatens her business and that of fellow drag performers in the community. A new law, passed in early March, makes staging adult cabaret performances on public property or that could be viewed by a minor a criminal offense. It defines adult cabaret performances as any "that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest." While the bill does not explicitly state "drag," the vagueness of the language creates uncertainty as to how drag performers, transgender, and gender nonconforming people could be affected, critics and politicians say.DuBalle believes the law will harm the income and livelihoods of both drag performances and the local businesses that feature them. This is an as-told-to story based on an interview that has been edited for length and clarity."Momma, thank you for always embracing my gentle spirit," DuBalle wrote on Instagram.@belladuballe, InstagramWe need to remember drag performers are peopleFor a city in the middle of the Bible Belt, I've always felt relatively safe in Memphis —it's a safe blue pocket in the state. That being said, I've always felt a strong pushback about drag and queerness from more conservative Tennessee communities. They're not as accepting. As these laws came to the forefront, more people have been emboldened to say how much they hate us and it's very dehumanizing. It's fundamentally important, especially now in this discussion, to rehumanize drag entertainers and trans people. Because dehumanizing a group of people is a really slippery slope.As a drag queen, it's always been part of my brand to remind people that it's all an illusion, that there is someone behind the makeup and hair. And with these laws being set in place, there's a real person who's deeply affected. Building a full-time career took perseveranceBella DuBalle has been a full-time drag queen for three years.courtesy of DuBalleIt took years of hard work to turn this passion into a career. While it's definitely a fun form of art, I always saw it as a job even before I was getting paid. That meant being punctual, respectful, and prepared for my performance.Because I treated every opportunity like a job, venues and show directors would refer me to each other knowing I would give a high-quality, professional show.There are only a handful of jobs out there, so you have to create your own opportunities. And that's what I did: I approached the Memphis Riverboats to create the city's first drag show on the water and worked with local churches and libraries for events like drag queen storytime. I'm also the full-time host at the nightclub Atomic Rose, where I emcee drag brunch on Sundays and drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights. I launched War of the Roses there, which turned into a six-season drag show. I don't know if all of those opportunities will still exist after the ban goes into effect starting April 1.  View this post on Instagram A post shared by Atomic Rose (@atomicrosememphis)  People and businesses will be detrimentally affected by anti-drag billsMy fear is that not what the law can actually do, because in a recent meeting with the Memphis District Attorney Steven J. Mulroy, he ensured me that nothing we do is of the "prurient" or explicit sexual nature, and therefore not prosecutable.I am nervous about what people perceive the law can do. It's already happened. Business owners see the headlines and automatically assume they can't continue, and that's leaving many people jobless. People don't realize that drag is how many performers pay their bills and feed their kids. In some cases, like my drag kid, or mentee, who is a Black trans woman, it's the only career where they're accepted. We might be up here looking glamorous, but we are hustling. This is hard work and it's important work.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 1st, 2023

Noom sells psychology-driven weight loss — but former employees say they were unprepared for and overwhelmed by users" eating disorders, depression, and trauma

Diet app Noom says it using psychology to address the root causes of weight gain. Users suffering from psychological problems seemed to expect therapy Tara Anand for InsiderOver one weekend last year, as the holidays approached, a user of the popular weight loss app Noom sent a series of alarming messages through the service's chat feature. The user, in his mid-50s, described himself as a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and a father of three daughters, according to the Noom "goal specialist," or coach, assigned to him. He was expressing suicidal thoughts, which seemed to coincide with the coming holidays and pandemic-related isolation and stress. In one message, he wrote about "wanting to step off this ride."The coach – whose job was to answer users' questions about Noom's program and send upbeat missives like "Stick with It!" – didn't see the messages until they logged in on Monday."When I didn't respond over the weekend, he asked why I had forsaken him," the coach, who has since left the company, told Insider. "I felt so awful that I couldn't do more, but I wasn't qualified to do anything but send a suicide hotline resource and encourage him to reach out to a therapist."According to Noom's protocols, the case was passed on to a team that reviews whether users should be kicked off the platform, and the coach was told to direct the user to a suicide hotline and encourage him to talk to his psychiatrist. He replied that he was feeling more stable.The man was allowed to remain on the app, though, and eventually, he stopped responding to messages. The coach never found out what happened to him and says the experience was intense and emotionally challenging. The coach did not have access to the chat logs and Insider has no way of reaching the user or verifying the coach's account. But 13 former Noom coaches and coaching managers who spoke with Insider say the coach's story is consistent with their experiences working for the service. They described at least seven incidents where they or their colleagues flagged users threatening suicide. (The identities of coaches interviewed are known to Insider, but most of them asked to remain anonymous to protect their careers.) 'Easy access to a healthier life'With its tagline, "Stop dieting. Get lifelong results," Noom frames itself as using psychology to address the root causes of weight gain, helping users lose weight, long-term, by reframing their thinking around food and eating habits. "When it comes to losing weight, it's psychological," Noom says in one ad, which features a man who scrapes every morsel from his plate. The man is then transported back to the dining table of his childhood, across from a stern father figure, so he can connect the dots: "I've been conditioned to clean my plate since childhood!" But it's not clear how Noom helps its users achieve breakthroughs, like linking a current behavior to childhood trauma, or how users can distinguish between unhealthy habits and, say, metabolic reasons for their appetites. What is clear, according to interviews with more than 30 people, including former coaches, as well as other former employees, users and experts, is that Noom attracted users who appeared to be suffering from depression, eating disorders, and other acute mental health conditions, and understood Noom's "psychology-based" offerings to be something like therapy. While Noom doesn't advertise therapeutic services or eating disorder treatment, its emphasis on psychology and mental wellness can make it hard to tell the difference. Noom's coaches, who lacked the qualifications, preparation, and training to be psychological counselors, often found themselves working with clients who exhibited complex and sometimes frightening behaviors. As the company's growth accelerated amid the COVID lockdowns of early 2020, a huge uptick in users put enormous pressure on Noom's coaching staff.  "Coaches may as well be therapists without licensure," one former coach and project manager told Insider. "It was like crowdsourced therapy."Shoppers at a San Francisco Costco are seen in 2020, stocking up on toilet paper and non-perishable foods.Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty ImagesIn response to a detailed list of questions from Insider about Noom's marketing, safety protocols, and training, a Noom spokesperson provided this statement:  "Noom has helped millions achieve their personal health and wellness goals using behavioral science techniques. It is incredibly important to us that every Noom user has a safe and rewarding experience as we continually evolve and improve our platform by incorporating user feedback and input from credentialed experts," the statement said. "We have robust processes and safeguards in place to protect the safety of our users, such as preventing at-risk people from joining the program and employing a team of clinical experts who are consulted upon signs of unhealthy behavior."Noom was co-founded in 2008 by Saeju Jeong, an entrepreneur who studied electrical engineering, and Artem Petakov, a former Google software engineer. They spent a decade searching for a hit. A stationary bike digital interface (that might today bring the success of Peloton to mind) never caught on. A digital fitness tracker that included a step counter and food journal couldn't retain users and folded. But the Noom Weight Loss app was a winner. In 2017, it became the first virtual program to be recognized by the CDC as an evidence-based program to help prevent diabetes, based on data that up to 64% of Noom users lost at least 5% of their body weight. By 2018, it was one of the most-searched diets, according to Google, after the low-carb keto diet and the celebrity Dubrow diet, and retained its top-10 spot through 2020. In September 2019, Noom announced that tennis great Serena Williams had invested in the app. "I'm a true believer that everyone should have easy access to a healthier life," she said in Noom's press release. In an era of growing disillusionment with juice cleanses and low-fat everything, Noom's success seemed counterintuitive. By pitching itself as something different from a diet and promising that long-term weight loss and mental wellness could be within reach, Noom managed to benefit both from the backlash against diet culture and growing awareness about the benefits of therapy, which can cost hundreds of dollars an hour. For $60 a month — the price varies based on the length of a subscription —  Noom promised breakthroughs at a relatively affordable price. 'How would you like to feel this month?'Before joining Noom, users fill out a questionnaire asking about what diet programs or mental health apps they've used in the past. "What feelings are you hoping to achieve during your journey with Noom?", the app wants to know.Noom's marketing suggests a customized program, but all users are given a standard set of tools. For the first 16 weeks, they're encouraged to follow Noom's curriculum and watch a brief video lesson every day. These range from goal setting to short explainers on thought distortions, patterns of exaggerated thinking that exacerbate stress and anxiety, and emotional eating. The app also includes a step counter and food tracker, which categorizes foods based on caloric density. In the sign-up process, prospective users are asked if they have an "active diagnosis of an eating disorder." Answering "yes" brings up a box that reads, "Noom is not currently designed to support those with an active eating disorder." However, "yes" does not close users out of the signup process, and it's possible to change the answer to "no" and continue. Noom's signature offering has been its goal specialists, or coaches — real people with expertise in fitness, nutrition, wellness, or psychology, who offer regular encouragement. Coaches said they were given client rosters that fluctuated in size depending on the time of year, and they were expected to send a certain number of messages per hour via Noom's chat feature. At Noom's peak, coaches were juggling 300-400 users at a time, and 600 or more during the January high season.    Coaches would reach out to users to ask, "How would you like to feel this month?" or encouraging them to "Remember your big picture!" They also responded to messages from users that appeared in the chat. Noom gave coaches prompts for "motivational interviewing" — a series of questions to help guide a user toward the best course of action. Many of the queries were simple, like questions about Noom's curriculum, former coaches said. But other messages could be deeply personal. Some users described the minutiae of their daily lives and shared intimate details about themselves. Often, users treated the chat feature like instant messenger and seemed to expect immediate engagement and empathetic responses. There's no limit to the number of messages a user can send and messages could add up to pages of text. When users' free-flowing messaging styles were met with the robotic cadence of motivational interviewing, or didn't get a quick response, users would grow frustrated and lash out.The parameters of client and coach interactions are laid out on Noom's FAQ page. But getting there requires users to click through to "Support" and then "My program." It says that coaches are there to help with accountability and to support users' specific needs. It also says that coaches will check in weekly, during standard business hours, and that it can take up to two business days to respond to a user. "Together, you can discuss the highs and lows of your week and adjust your goals if needed," the page reads. Based on the number of Noom users who went on social media to complain about their interactions with coaches, the often generic tone and the wait time of responses came as a surprise to many users. "I'm like being legit vulnerable to my coach, only to be met with some Disney Channel type of energy. Very overly optimistic and happy, doesn't acknowledge what I'm really saying," one Noom user wrote on Reddit. "What I wanted was some sort of validation, most of what I message is ignored."Noom coaches said they struggled to set ground rules and expectations when they interacted with users — a process in therapy that's known as "setting scope." Some faulted the app's marketing and interface and felt it distorted users' expectations, making it unclear what the service entailed. Noom's directive that employees express an "unconditional positive regard" for its users made it difficult to be direct or set appropriate boundaries with users, former coaches said. "You're fat and you're ugly, how can you help me?", one coach was told by a user, according to that coach's former manager. (Coaches' pictures appeared on Noom's chat feature.)"One of the growing pains was that they didn't standardize support," said the former manager, who worked at Noom from 2019 to May 2022. "It was a fast-paced environment. And, as it scaled up, instead of just dealing with one jerk, maybe you're dealing with 30 jerks." A display of weight loss products at a Walgreens pharmacy in Miami Beach, Florida.Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesIn its job ads for coaches, Noom said candidates must be willing to "pilot experimental coaching protocols" and help "prevent or manage chronic conditions by facilitating healthful lifestyle modifications." The ads called for a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree with relevant experience. Along with recent bachelor-of-science graduates in nutrition and exercise science, the coaching staff included counselors and dietitians with years of professional experience. According to interviews with former coaches and a salary sharing document compiled by employees and viewed by Insider, Noom coaches' pay started at $37,500 and varied widely, up to about $46,000. The experience that coaches brought to the job could vary widely. That diversity of experience was sometimes seen as a strength, and former coaches said counted on co-workers to help them work through solutions for their clients. But the downside was inconsistency. A Noom user might be assigned to a veteran psychologist who was adept at working through unhealthy habits, or a green 20-something with far less work experience.Coaches got some training at the start and supplemental training was offered on an ongoing basis. Some of the coaches Insider interviewed said they were interacting with Noom users within two weeks of starting. Within a month, they were mostly on their own with clients. Depending on when a coach started — for example, pre-COVID or after — the substance of the training varied widely, as did the experience of the trainers, former coaches said. The consistent part of the training focused on Noom as a product. But coaches said their training left them ill-prepared to deal with the unpredictable sides of coaching, like signs of an eating disorder or serious depression. Noom employs, in addition to coaches, experts with mental health credentials, including a chief of psychology. But coaches who spoke to Insider said it wasn't always clear how they could access those resources.A former coach with a masters degree in counseling and clinical psychology experience said that her experience of the training was that it was "terribly orchestrated and terribly done." "It still feels like the beginning stages of an idea and not super based in science," the former coach said. Emotional bandwidthRachel Clair was hired as a Noom coach in 2018, at a time when the coaching staff grew from 60 to about 200. She had a PhD in health psychology. And, for a while, she said it was a great place to work. The job allowed Clair to work remotely — a relative rarity prior to COVID — and she could choose her own hours. (Clair said she underwent treatment for cancer while working for Noom, and was able to get ample time off for her medical care without losing pay.) Like other coaches Insider talked to, she became concerned that Noom users were hyper-focused "on the scale and calories" while Noom wasn't equipped to treat disordered eating. Then came March 2020, and the COVID lockdowns. Suddenly, everything from work to school to therapy went online. For some, the lockdowns were an excuse to become a digital nomad, or a master sourdough baker. For others, the combination of isolation, anxiety, and being cooped up with a stockpile of packaged foods made the pandemic uniquely triggering for disordered eating, according to experts. Anxiety and depression increased by 25% worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Eating disorder diagnoses spiked by an alarming rate, and hospitalizations for eating disorders rose at nearly 10 times the pace of the previous two years among young adults, a recent study found.Noom became a ubiquitous advertiser on a dizzying array of new podcasts (more than 300, according to Noom's website), offering simple solutions to the stress-eating and pandemic weight gain from the convenience of a single app. Along with companies like Peloton and TalkSpace, Noom garnered media buzz as a pandemic success story.Shoppers stocking up on staples like toilet paper and canned goods at a Massachusetts Costco on March 13, 2020, in the early days of the COVID pandemic.John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesNoom nearly doubled its revenue from $237 million to $400 million in 2020, according to Inc. It announced a $540 million investment from Silver Lake the following spring. According to TechCrunch, it had an estimated 45 million downloads across 100 countries. (Noom declined to disclose its user numbers.) Valued at more than $3 billion, the company was looking ahead to a hotly-anticipated IPO. But while the pandemic accelerated Noom's growth, coaches said they were inundated with huge caseloads, forcing them to juggle hundreds of users, some of whose messages were increasingly weighted with grief, stress, and anxiety. "We had users who had loved ones dying during COVID, users have gotten cancer diagnoses,"  the former coach with a counseling degree said. Meanwhile, they said they were under pressure to hit performance targets that included how many messages they sent per hour, how many users they interacted with daily, and their response times. By January 2021, Clair had become a coaching manager, and she said that the coaches she supervised had "less than five minutes" a day to focus on each client. During that time, she was a supervisor on two cases involving suicidal ideation. Noom's growth had both dramatically increased what coaches were asked to do, and stretched whatever support was available to help them. "They seemed to stop caring about the coaches and started caring about the numbers, and that trickled down to the users," Clair said. "Coaches put their heart and soul into it but when they can't take care of themselves, they don't have the emotional bandwidth to help users."Clair left the company in June 2021 and now works as a freelance ghostwriter. "I was burning out too. I couldn't do my job and I couldn't take the stress anymore," she said.A Gold's Gym in East Northport, New York, during COVID-19 shutdown in August 2020.J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday via Getty ImagesAnother coach, a recent college graduate with a degree in community health, described a similar trajectory. When she started, in 2018, she appreciated Noom's energetic and flexible work culture, and felt she could do some good.  But soon her coaching job felt more akin to a therapist, trauma counselor, or nutritionist. She worried she might be doing more harm than good. "A majority of my conversations would be with people clearly in a very unhealthy relationship with food and their bodies," she said. Three years after starting at Noom, she took another job and left. She and several former coaches told Insider they pursued a career in nutrition counseling because they had previously dealt with disordered eating themselves. In addition to feeling like she was falling short as a coach, she said she was increasingly triggered by her own issues with food and dieting. STING: A safety net with holes In a typical therapy or counseling scenario, a clinician meets with a client to determine their needs prior to enrolling them in a program. The clinician might determine that the client is not a good fit and refer to more specialized or intensive care. But Noom does minimal screening, and asks just one question during sign-up to flag for eating disorders. Instead, according to former employees and some critics, Noom largely puts the onus on its coaches. According to company training documents seen by Insider, coaches who encountered high-risk users were told to refer those cases to STING — "Support for Those In Need of Guidance" — and there would be a follow-up via Zoom within 24 hours.STING was designed to determine whether users should stay within the app, or should be removed for issues  beyond the scope of what Noom is designed to handle, such as eating disorders, serious mental or physical health issues or what Noom documents call "off label" use of the app as a substitute for therapy. Removal was a "last resort," the documents said. STING teams were made up of coaches who volunteered for the roles and weren't paid extra for the time, as well as a supervisor. Multiple ex-employees told Insider that their understanding was that taking on additional assignments like this was important if they wanted to get a raise or promotion. Users who reported self-harm or domestic abuse were immediately referred to STING, and suspected disordered eating behaviors, substance abuse, or medical issues could also lead to STING involvement.Once a case is flagged, the STING team would work with the coach to assess or de-escalating the situation. If it's determined that the user needs outside resources, like a suicide or eating disorder hotline, that can be provided. In most cases, though, the goal is to bring the user "back into scope."As one former employee who worked with STING explained it, the coach would copy and paste the relevant messages into a chat, and the STING team would offer help to redirect the conversation back to Noom's curriculum. If this was successful, the Noom user was generally allowed to stay on the app. That former employee recalled working on several cases where users had told their coaches about experiences with sexual violence, which they believed had led to dysfunctional eating habits. Even in those cases, STING's goal would be to get the user back within the scope of Noom's program. A typical response might be: "It can be difficult to parse emotions, past events, and the present. Would it be helpful if I provided resources on emotional eating?"Coaches confronting disturbing messages from users might spend a tense period waiting on a response from STING.  If something came up after normal working hours or over the weekend, the wait could stretch to three days. According to Noom's training documents, if certain risky behaviors were observed after 5 pm Eastern time, coaches should wait until the next business day to report them. "Active purging... and bulimia does require escalation but does not need to be escalated after hours," the document says, without further explanation. A woman with a smartphone holds a K95 protective face mask.Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesOne coach, a registered dietitian, said that users could sometimes avoid being kicked off the app by going along with STING's prompts and walking back, or denying, whatever statements had been flagged. The former employee who worked with STING said one reason she left Noom was concern that users the coach believed should have been kicked off the app had been allowed to stay. The coach recalled, for example, one user who seemed to present signs of dissociative personality disorder, and responded to messages with a childlike persona. "It was an ethical issue," they said. "They decided to move forward with coaching and I didn't feel it was clinically appropriate." Heather Clark, clinical director of eating disorder treatment at the nonprofit Rock Recovery, said that in her estimation Noom's processes don't measure up to established standards of care for counseling and eating disorder recovery, which she said is concerning even if Noom doesn't claim to provide those services."It's a murky space that they've put themselves in, where they're saying that they're psychology-based, not a diet," she said. "It's tricky because dieting is a risk factor for eating disorders. It doesn't matter if you call it a diet or not.""Part of our responsibility [as counselors] is that if someone needs more help than we can provide, we need to be honest about our limitations," she said.Instead, Clark says it appears that Noom "falsely advertises safety" and then leans on its coaches to "pick up the pieces."Counting caloriesMeanwhile, critics have also cataloged concerns about Noom's methods. Reports that Noom was recommending 1,200 calories a day for many users prompted criticism from dietitians and led Noom to raise the range in November 2021.Former Noom coaches said they routinely had users log daily calories below a safe limit. One coach told Insider they had a client who refused to eat more than 1,000 calories a day, and often ate significantly less — a level of under-eating which could have dangerous side effects, according to dietitians. The coach said they were advised to "coach around" the issue. Coaches said users who logged too few calories in a day should have received warnings from the app, but Noom didn't have a mechanism for that. Other weight-loss apps, such as MyFitnessPal, generate an automatic message if a user logs too few calories. In a blog post updated July 2022, Noom discussed a new feature that prevents users from setting a calorie goal below a certain limit. The app's sign-up process was also updated to generate a suggested weight range, based on BMI, and prevent users from setting a goal weight that would categorize them as underweight. Former coaches said they previously had to manually calculate a user's body mass index (BMI) to prevent them from setting a goal that would be medically underweight, a process confirmed in a training document seen by Insider. Noom cites an array of peer-reviewed studies on its research page in support of its methods based on a time frame from 16 weeks up to 18 months. A majority of those studies are co-authored by Noom employees or advisory board members. While a healthy diet and vigorous physical activity is known to promote good health and relieve stress, those who lose weight through dieting often regain the weight over time. In addition, dieting is known to raise the risk of disordered eating, says Melainie Rogers, founder of BALANCE eating disorder treatment center. "Repairing people's relationship with food and body image is about pushing away that thin ideal and working with people to become healthier where they are, Rogers said. Noom "really hit it out of the ballpark with the marketing," Rogers said. "But are they selling something they can't provide?" Downsizing By mid-2022, Noom's fortunes had shifted. The company was facing "cash burn," including a $56 million settlement after users alleged they had been billed for subscriptions long after they'd tried to cancel them. Along with other pandemic-era success stories like Peloton, which laid off hundreds of employees in 2022, it appeared that Noom had grown too fast.  Noom staff are referred to as the "Noomily" (Noom Family) in emails and work messages. But former employees described Noom's culture as one of "toxic positivity," where they were expected to be unflappably upbeat and enthusiastic about the company, and said it had led to serious burnout.A company representative, listed online as an external coach communications project coordinator, told employees in Slack to refrain from criticizing the company in a work environment survey for a third party, emphasizing that feedback should be kept internal, according to screenshots seen by Insider. Another company representative then walked it back by saying they wanted people to be honest on external surveys, according to the screenshots.In late April, Noom laid off 495 coaches — 25% of its coaching staff.  According to a document produced a month earlier by Noom management, the goal of the layoffs was to quickly trim $40 million from the company's costs and lose lower-performing coaches. "Costs are high," Noom management said in the document, which was seen by Insider. "Because we were not as rigorous as an organization, we have not allowed things to be performance managed. This is our preferred method of controlling costs." A teenager stands on a bathroom scale.Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty ImagesIn October, 500 more Noom coaches were abruptly called into a virtual meeting and laid off. The move was explained as part of a pivot away from the coaching model, former employees familiar with the company's internal strategy told Insider."Our model is not sustainable," Dr. Andreas Michaelides, Noom's chief of psychology, said in a company meeting, a transcript of which was seen by Insider. "We are focused on experiments that are more premium coaching." Many users were also shaken by the layoffs. The lively Noom community on Reddit was filled with posts from users expressing frustration with the abrupt loss of coaches with whom they'd built a strong connection. "My coach was the only reason I used the app. She was so kind and compassionate," wrote one user.Former employees said they were told that coaching would ultimately become an add-on service. One former product team member said that most users didn't engage with coaches and "don't like coaching." It's not clear how the coaching model will change, or whether Noom will address some of the underlying issues that critics have raised, including Noom's screening process, the confusing points of its marketing, who it hires, and how it trains coaches. "Working there truly hurt my mental and physical health, even though that's what the company preaches," said the former coach who joined the company right out of college."I felt like I could never relax, even when my work day was done, because all I could think about is the messages from people who desperately need support piling up." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 1st, 2022

The COVID/Crypto Connection: The Grim Saga Of FTX & Sam Bankman-Fried

The COVID/Crypto Connection: The Grim Saga Of FTX & Sam Bankman-Fried Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute, A series of revealing texts and tweets by Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced CEO of FTX, the once high-flying but now belly-up crypto exchange, had the following to say about his image as a do-gooder: it is a “dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”  Very interesting. He had the whole game going: a vegan worried about climate change, supports every manner of justice (racial, social, environmental) except that which is coming for him, and shells out millions to worthy charities associated with the left. He also bought plenty of access and protection in D.C., enough to make his shady company the toast of the town.  As part of the mix, there is this thing called pandemic planning. We should know what that is by now: it means you can’t be in charge of your life because there are bad viruses out there. As bizarre as it seems, and for reasons that are still not entirely clear, favoring lockdowns, masks, and vaccine passports became part of the woke ideological stew.  This is particularly strange because covid restrictions have been proven, over and over, to harm all the groups about whom woke ideology claims to care so deeply. That includes even animal rights: who can forget the Danish mink slaughter of 2020? Regardless, it’s just true. Masking became a symbol of being a good person, same as vaccinating, veganism, and flying into fits at the drop of a hat over climate change. None of this has much if anything to do with science or reality. It’s all tribal symbolism in the name of group political solidarity. And FTX was pretty good at it, throwing around hundreds of millions to prove the company’s loyalty to all the right causes.  Among them included the pandemic-planning racket. That’s right: there were deep connections between FTX and Covid that have been cultivated for two years. Let’s have a look.  Earlier this year, the New York Times trumpeted a study that showed no benefit at all to the use of Ivermectin. It was supposed to be definitive. The study was funded by FTX. Why? Why was a crypto exchange so interested in the debunking of repurposed drugs in order to drive governments and people into the use of patented pharmaceuticals, even those like Ramdesivir that didn’t actually work? Inquiring minds would like to know.  Regardless, the study and especially the conclusions turned out to be bogus. David Henderson and Charles Hooper further point out an interesting fact: “Some of the researchers involved in the TOGETHER trial had performed paid services for Pfizer, Merck, Regeneron, and AstraZeneca, all companies involved in developing COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines that nominally compete with ivermectin.” For some reason, SBF just knew that he was supposed to oppose repurposed drugs, though he knew nothing about the subject at all. He was glad to fund a poor study to make it true and the New York Times played its assigned role in the whole performance.  It was just the start. A soft-peddling Washington Post investigation found that Sam and his brother Gabe, who ran a hastily founded Covid nonprofit, “have spent at least $70 million since October 2021 on research projects, campaign donations and other initiatives intended to improve biosecurity and prevent the next pandemic.” I can do no better than to quote the Washington Post: The shock waves from FTX’s free fall have rippled across the public health world, where numerous leaders in pandemic-preparedness had received funds from FTX funders or were seeking donations. In other words, the “public health world” wanted more chances to say: “Give me money so I can keep advocating to lock more people down!” Alas, the collapse of the exchange, which reportedly holds a mere 0.001% of the assets it once claimed to have, makes that impossible.  Among the organizations most affected is Guarding Against Pandemics, the advocacy group headed by Gabe that took out millions in ads to back the Biden administration’s push for $30 billion in funding. As Influence Watch notes: “Guarding Against Pandemics is a left-leaning advocacy group created in 2020 to support legislation that increases government investment in pandemic prevention plans.” Truly it gets worse: FTX-backed projects ranged from $12 million to champion a California ballot initiative to strengthen public health programs and detect emerging virus threats (amid lackluster support, the measure was punted to 2024), to investing more than $11 million on the unsuccessful congressional primary campaign of an Oregon biosecurity expert, and even a $150,000 grant to help Moncef Slaoui, scientific adviser for the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine accelerator, write his memoir. Leaders of the FTX Future Fund, a spinoff foundation that committed more than $25 million to preventing bio-risks, resigned in an open letter last Thursday, acknowledging that some donations from the organization are on hold. And worse: The FTX Future Fund’s commitments included $10 million to HelixNano, a biotech start-up seeking to develop a next-generation coronavirus vaccine; $250,000 to a University of Ottawa scientist researching how to eradicate viruses from plastic surfaces; and $175,000 to support a recent law school graduate’s job at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Overall, the Future Fund was a force for good,” said Tom Inglesby, who leads the Johns Hopkins center, lamenting the fund’s collapse. “The work they were doing was really trying to get people to think long-term … to build pandemic preparedness, to diminish the risks of biological threats.” More: Guarding Against Pandemics spent more than $1 million on lobbying Capitol Hill and the White House over the past year, hired at least 26 lobbyists to advocate for a still-pending bipartisan pandemic plan in Congress and other issues, and ran advertisements backing legislation that included pandemic-preparedness funding. Protect Our Future, a political action committee backed by the Bankman-Fried brothers, spent about $28 million this congressional cycle on Democratic candidates “who will be champions for pandemic prevention,” according to the group’s webpage. I think you get the idea. This is all a racket. FTX, founded in 2019 following Biden’s announcement of his bid for the presidency, by the son of the co-founder of a major Democrat Party political action committee called Mind the Gap, was nothing but a magic-bean Ponzi scheme. It seized on the lockdowns for political, media, and academic cover. Its economic rationale was as nonexistent as its books. The first auditor to have a look has written:  “Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here. From compromised systems integrity and faulty regulatory oversight abroad, to the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals, this situation is unprecedented.” It was the worst example of a phony perpetual-motion machine: a token to back a company that itself was backed by the token, which in turn was backed by nothing but political fashion and woke ideology that roped in Larry David, Tom Brady,  Katy Perry, Tony Blair, and Bill Clinton to provide a cloak of legitimacy.  Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and Sam Bankman-Fried in the Bahamas April 2022 And you can’t make this stuff up anymore: FTX had a close relationship with the World Economic Forum and was the favored crypto exchange of the Ukrainian government. It looks for all the world like the money-laundering operation of the Democratic National Committee and the entire lockdown lobby.  I will tell you what infuriates me about these billions in fake money and deep corruptions of politics and science. For years now, my anti-lockdown friends have been hounded for being funded by supposed dark money that simply doesn’t exist. Many brave scientists, journalists, attorneys, and others gave up great careers to stand for principle, exposing the damage caused by the lockdowns, and this is how they have been treated: smeared and displaced.  Brownstone has adopted as many in this diaspora as possible for fellowships as far as the resources (real ones, contributed by caring individuals) can go. But we cannot come anywhere near what is necessary for justice, much less complete with the 8-digit funding regime of the other side.  The Great Barrington Declaration was signed at the offices of the American Institute for Economic Research, which, apparently, six years prior had received a long-spent $60,000 grant from the Koch Foundation, and thus became a “Koch-funded libertarian think tank” which supposedly discredited the GBD, even though none of the authors received a dime.  This gibberish and slander has gone on for years – at the urging of government officials! – and Brownstone itself faces much of the same nonsense, with every manner of fantasy about our supposed power, money, and influence swarming the darker realms of the social-media dudgeons. In fact, the actual Koch Foundation (probably unbeknownst to its founder) was funding the pro-lockdown work of Neil Ferguson, whose ridiculous modeling terrified the world into denying human rights to billions of people the world over.  All this time – while every type of vicious propaganda was unleashed on the world – the pro-lockdown and pro-mandate lobby, including fake scientists and fake studies, were benefiting from millions and billions thrown around by operators of a Ponzi scheme based on cheating, fraud, and $15 billion in leveraged funds that didn’t exist while its principle actors were languishing in a drug-infested $40 million villa in the Bahamas even as they preened about the virtues of “effective altruism” and their pandemic-planning machinery that has now fallen apart.  Then the New York Times, instead of decrying this criminal conspiracy for what it is, writes puff pieces on the founder and how he let his quick-growing company grow too far, too fast, and now needs mainly rest, bless his heart.  The rest of us are left with the bill for this obvious scam that implausibly links crypto and Covid. But just as the money was based on nothing but puffed air, the damage they have wrought on the world is all too real: a lost generation of kids, declined lifespans, millions missing from the workforce, a calamitous fall in public health, millions of kids in poverty due to supply-chain breakages, 19 straight months of falling real incomes, historically high increases in debt, and a dramatic fall in human morale the world over.  So yes, we should all be furious and demand full accountability at the very least. Whatever the final truth, it is likely to be far worse than even the egregious facts listed above. It’s bad enough that lockdowns wrecked life and liberty. To discover that vast support for them was funded by fraud and fakery is a deeper level of corruption that not even the most cynical among us could have imagined.  Tyler Durden Fri, 11/18/2022 - 19:40.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 18th, 2022

Can A Republican Become California’s Top Cop?

Can A Republican Become California’s Top Cop? Authored by Susan Crabtree via RealClear Wire, In an attack ad blasting California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a woman named Rachel describes her deep frustration over the five-month probation sentence for the juvenile driver who slammed into her and her 8-month-old child in Los Angeles last year. The disturbing incident was caught on tape and quickly went viral on social media, cited by countless critics as yet more evidence of a spike in brazen and violent crime across the state. Rachel, a Democrat, says she will vote for Nathan Hochman, the GOP candidate for attorney general. Even though she and Bonta share other political beliefs, she said the Democratic attorney general isn't doing enough to stop the surge in violent crime across the state. She's particularly angry that Bonta has declined to take over her case from embattled Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón. “The kid tried to murder me and my child, and the state couldn’t have cared less, and they proved that by only giving him five months of probation,” she says. “California Attorney General Rob Bonta has the ability to step in and take over from district attorneys like George Gascón, but Bonta chooses not to. It’s about voting for the right candidate, and the right candidate is Nathan Hochman.” The ad is part of a soft-on-crime barrage Republicans are deploying across the country to skewer Democrats’ public safety records. Too many Democratic officials have pushed liberal policies that emboldened criminals, critics argue. Top policy targets include cashless bail, early release for tens of thousands of prisoners, and reduced punishment for many convicted of theft and other nonviolent offenses. Over the last three months, worries about rising crime have helped power New York Rep. Lee Zeldin to within striking distance of incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul. And growing anxiety over public safety ranks among the top three to five issues in many urban areas across the country. In California, rising violent crime has been a flash-point all year, before and after San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was accused of coddling criminals and neglecting rampant drug use on city streets, was recalled in early June. In Los Angeles, critics of Gascón, who is known as the “godfather of progressive prosecutors” and preceded Boudin as San Francisco DA, claimed to have collected 715,000 signatures to launch a recall of him. County officials, however, invalidated 200,000 of the signatures, preventing a recall but prompting an ongoing legal fight. A Harvard/Harris poll released Oct. 14 found that 68% of respondents considered crime to be “very important” and are more likely to vote Republican than Democratic in the upcoming midterm election because of that concern. Earlier this year, two-thirds of registered voters in California said crime had risen in their neighborhoods, according to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. Just more than half of voters surveyed said California Gov. Gavin Newsom was doing a poor job on crime and public safety, up 16 percentage points from 2020. Hochman, a federal prosecutor with 30 years of experience, is running to replace Bonta, a former state assemblyman for Oakland who previously served as the deputy city attorney for San Francisco. Newsom appointed Bonta to replace Xavier Becerra when he stepped down to become President Biden’s secretary of Health and Human Services.  Hochman says he’s running because Bonta has failed to intervene in counties where crime has risen sharply, and policies he’s championed, including cashless bail, have placed the interests of criminals above victims. Bonta has countered that he’s “strong, effective, and smart on crime” and can make the criminal justice system fairer without compromising public safety. Over the last week, Hochman has been touring the state on a bus emblazoned with his promise to “stop the spiral of lawlessness.” Along the way, he's touted his endorsements from across the political spectrum – from Death Row Records founder Michael “Harry-O” Harris and Hollywood A-lister Gwyneth Paltrow to former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Two dozen district attorneys from across the state and Female Business Leaders, a Democratic-leaning group in Los Angeles have also endorsed him. In late September, Hochman received the backing of the San Diego Union-Tribune, which said both candidates are strong, but Hochman has a “better plan for responding to growing crime.” In numerous interviews and a recent ad, Hochman has hammered Bonta as “missing in action” when it comes to the state’s fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl is responsible for 5,722 California deaths in 2021, including 224 between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the California Department of Public Health. In mid-October, Bonta appeared to respond, arguing that the state is “all-in when it comes to protecting California families from the dangers of fentanyl” and issuing an update to the state Department of Justice’s work to address the crisis.   Both MSNBC and Fox News in recent days have dubbed the race one of the most competitive in the country. RealClearPolitics talked to Hochman about his chances on Election Day and the current political mood in California. Here are excerpts from that interview: Q: The district of attorney recall efforts in several cities, including San Francisco, shows that many California voters, including Democrats and independents, are looking for new leadership. Still, no Republican has won statewide in California since 2006. How can you overcome that big hurdle? Hochman: I would classify myself as a moderate Republican and [someone] who has the best chance in a generation to win this office. Here's why: The first is a change in conditions on the ground. 2014 was considered one of California's safest years in the last 30. [This year] public safety has risen to a top-three issue in polling for the first time in a generation. When people are afraid to send themselves, their kids, their parents out at night in their neighborhoods … when you have what I’ve described as a ‘spiral of lawlessness’ that starts with one or two people going into a small business and stealing just under $950 and not being prosecuted because it's now a misdemeanor and the prosecutors aren’t doing their jobs … and that turns into three people running out of Walgreens and people running out of Nordstroms in smash-and-grab robberies, home robberies, train robberies and a double-digit rise in homicides … That's a wake-up call for not just Republicans, but Democrats and independents. I believe California voters are going to look to the one statewide position that's identified with safety and security, and that's the attorney general position. The kind of conditions on the ground are ripe for change – people are crying out for change. The Boudin recall and the issues that arose there show that a Republican can win. Chesa Boudin was recalled 55% to 45%. Republicans make up only 8% of the vote in the city of San Francisco, and roughly three-quarters of the votes to recall Boudin came from Democrats and independents. Secondly, in the last 20 years, you had Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, and Javier Becerra serving as attorney general. Those are fairly unbeatable candidates with great statewide name recognition and some level of law enforcement background. They were also presiding over a time when safety and security was much more under control. Rob Bonta was appointed by Gov. Newsom, and shockingly, he had zero law enforcement experience before he took the job. Gavin Newsom appointed an Oakland assemblymember –basically a politician – to be your chief law enforcement officer, someone who's never argued a criminal case or conducted a criminal investigation, dealt with victims or [handled] criminal sentencing and dealt with judges. He is absolutely inexperienced and unqualified to hold that position. Coupled with that, he also has brought along a criminal justice agenda that I believe is too far to the left. I believe it's very pro-criminal. Q: But aren’t the laws that California voters approved a few years ago the problem, and your job would be enforcing them? Proposition 47 was passed by voters. It reclassified felony drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors and raised from $400 to $950 the amount for which theft can be prosecuted as a felony. Two years later, voters approved another proposition that allowed prisoners to be released earlier. Hochman: They call [the attorney general] the top cop in the state for good reason, because under the California constitution, the chief law enforcement officer has the power to go into any one of the 58 counties and take over any case, if you believe it's not being properly prosecuted. It's an enormous power that’s somewhat unique to California, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it. [Bonta’s] opened up the middle ground. That’s where I exist. In contrast to his zero years of criminal-justice experience, I was a judge's clerk. I was then an assistant U.S. attorney, a federal prosecutor for seven years in Los Angeles where I went after narcotics traffickers, gang members, international money launderers, tax evaders, public corruption cases, dirty sheriffs. I ran the environmental crimes unit. Then [I served as] assistant attorney general running the U.S. Department of Justice's tax division. We had 350 lawyers and a $100 million budget to go after tax cheats across country. I've also been a defense attorney. Thirty years of experience gives me the perspective to figure out the true public safety threats to our society – who should and shouldn’t be in jail. It requires an individualized analysis of three things: the level of crime that’s committed, the defendant’s criminal history, which is often overlooked, as well as the impact on the victim. Q: What specifically can a state attorney general do to stop fentanyl overdoses? Fentanyl is coming across the border, and most Republicans argue it’s a border security issue that the Biden administration needs to fix. Hochman: The fact that Rob Bonta since he took over the position has not been a central figure, front-and-center, leading the task force to go after all the fentanyl dealers that are bringing millions of counterfeit tablets in, spiking marijuana, cocaine and other drugs with fentanyl, is a dereliction of duty. We’re talking about people who are poisoning Californians. It would be like if there were a sniper killing 17 people a day in San Francisco or Los Angeles with a high-powered rifle, and it’s not front-page news in California. As attorney general, you have the power to educate. You can hold press conferences, you can go into high-school communities … you can do your own PR campaign in connection with all the other state and federal government agencies. By leading an enforcement and an education effort, you could really make a difference. You could save lives tomorrow. Q: After the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade earlier this summer, Newsom pledged to make California an abortion sanctuary state and signed several new laws strengthening abortion access. What is your position on abortion, and how would you carry out these news laws? Hochman: I am pro-choice and will fully enforce all the laws on the books in protecting a woman’s reproductive rights. Full stop. Q: What do you think of Brooke Jenkins, the interim district attorney appointed following the recall of Chesa Boudin – her effort so far to reverse Boudin’s record? She has decided to try some juveniles who committed heinous crimes as adults and has overturned some of Boudin’s plea deals. Hochman: Anyone from any part of the political spectrum that has safety and security as one of their top goals, and actually enacts policies to do that – I think that’s great. Safety and security and justice should not be political issues. If Jenkins is reversing policies and doing her best to bring safety and security back to San Francisco, I applaud that. Tyler Durden Mon, 10/31/2022 - 22:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 31st, 2022

Why All The Attacks On Dissent?

Why All The Attacks On Dissent? Authored by Marie Hawthorne via The Organic Prepper blog, Attacks on dissent have ramped up. The Organic Prepper was just downgraded, as Daisy wrote about recently. We’re not alone.   It’s not just alternative media sites like ZeroHedge or Mercola. Mainstream media turns on their own people the second they ask the wrong questions. For example, in 2020 and 2021, British nursing educator and YouTuber Dr. John Campbell spouted the official Covid narrative, assuring everyone that the shots were safe and effective. He was considered a trusted purveyor of health information. However, in 2021, he discussed data surrounding ivermectin usage and thought it showed promise. His Wikipedia page was immediately changed to label him a purveyor of misinformation. Downgrading websites and professional humiliation have not been the only methods used to crush dissent.  Tucker Carlson just did a segment outlining the FBI’s attacks on Joe Biden’s political opponents. Watch for yourself. Someone filmed Trump advisor John Eastman getting his phone confiscated by the FBI. He repeatedly asks them for a warrant, which they don’t give him until after taking his phone. He’s never been charged with anything. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.  But our current crop of politicians seems to find the Constitution outdated. Right now, First Amendment rights are being violated on a massive scale. It’s getting more and more difficult to communicate online unless you adhere to specific narratives. As far as this site is concerned, most of our facts come from blue-checked sources or personal experiences. We just ask people to think about what’s being presented and how it may affect their day-to-day lives.   There should be nothing wrong with asking people to do their own research and think for themselves, but unfortunately, that’s been labeled “malinformation.” The Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council says, “Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.”  Well, who decides the official context? The entire definition is predicated on the notion that one context exists. Anything outside of that lumps you in with malicious actors. So, what’s behind the current push to bury alternative news?   Maybe it’s because things are finally crashing. I think mainstream media wants us to stay mad at each other over abortion rights, gay rights, or whatever current thing will distract us. They don’t want us to pay attention to the real issues. Notice how NewsGuard tried to get Daisy to declare a side?  They want us to divide ourselves into camps. They do not want us sitting back, watching, thinking, and supporting each other in our various prepping endeavors.   Sure, there are plenty of people that still laugh at prepping. But time keeps proving the conspiracy theorists right. In November 2020, the OP published an article about so-called conspiracy theories that had come true that year. A lot of people are seeing that the narrative pressed by our government administration and major news outlets simply doesn’t match up with what they encounter in their day-to-day lives. The public is gradually becoming more open to alternative explanations, but the people currently holding power cling to it more and more tightly. They know they can’t win via reasoned debate, so they kick anyone they dislike off social media platforms or make it impossible for small, independent sites to make enough money to stay operational.    The public is becoming more open to alternative news because disaster signals are all around us. The OP has run multiple articles about food and energy crises, but honestly, they just get worse every minute. It’s not just American policies either. Politicians throughout the Western world, on the one hand, decry inflation and “price gouging,” but on the other, implement policies that throw fuel on the fire.   For example, on June 10, the Dutch government issued a plan to curb nitrogen emissions by between 12 and 70 percent. The government freely admitted that “There is not a future for all [Dutch] farmers within [this] approach.” This defies reason. The Netherlands is the world’s fifth-largest food exporter, and they’re forcing farmers out of business for the sake of “climate change” as people in Third World countries starve. Meanwhile, in the U.S., our own government continues to make life harder and harder for farmers to do business. The Securities and Exchange Commission wants companies to disclose their carbon emissions throughout their entire supply chain.  The kind of legal and technical expertise that this kind of reporting requires will push small, independent companies, including farms, out of business. The SEC is still finalizing plans regarding the implementation of its reporting requirements. Issues such as this greatly influence what food is available and how much we pay for it. But are we hearing about this from politicians? No, they’re too busy blaming Russia, and the above-referenced article is not front-page news.   The energy situation warrants our attention as well. President Biden has been blaming everyone from Russians to gas station owners for high prices, but what has he done this week?   On July 1, the Department of the Interior invited comments for its Proposed Five-Year Program for Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing. Without getting overly technical, when we were energy independent during the Trump administration, the Draft Proposed Program proposed 47 lease sales for future oil and gas projects. The current administration is asking people to weigh in on whether we should have eleven or zero. What this means is that we will definitely be producing less energy. The only question is, how much less.   Our administration does not try to hide its agenda. Secretary Deb Haaland said, “From Day One, President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy. Today, we put forward an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing. The time for the public to weigh in on our future is now.” Well, with Biden’s historically low approval ratings, I’m pretty sure the public is weighing in.  The administration is just not listening. And Europe keeps going from bad to worse. Protests over fuel prices have erupted. Spanish farmers are blocking highways, and Dutch fishermen are blocking ports. Dutch farmers have also been spraying their government buildings with manure to protest the climate regulations. The S is literally HTF in the Netherlands right now. Norwegian oil workers are striking because their pay has not increased at a rate commensurate with inflation. This will hit the rest of Europe particularly hard because, after Russia, Norway is Europe’s biggest energy provider.   My 25-year-old idealistic self might have thought people are being greedy and that we should all band together for the sake of Ukraine, climate change, or whatever. But lower- and middle-income people worldwide are being asked to make huge sacrifices at the same time that the wealth of billionaires has exploded like never before. By 2020, the wealth of the world’s ten richest men increased from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, the rest of us are supposed to eat less meat and take fewer showers. Oh, and hundreds of millions of people in the Global South are at risk of starvation.   (It’s probably a good time to check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to how to starve the beast.) The stable world in which most of us grew up is falling apart, and we have a right to know why.  We have a right to know what policies have led to such dramatic wealth transfers; why we were energy independent  only three years ago and now are begging the Saudis for more oil; why young parents can’t find formula; why much of the U.S. no longer feels like a First World nation. And we have the right to question the mainstream narrative. Whether you’re a trucker coping with $6/gal diesel or a medical technician short on laboratory supplies, problems surround us all. And yet we’re just being told to point fingers at Russia and corporate greed. The ability to discuss problems publicly facilitates understanding and, hopefully, solutions.  The lockdowns during Covid had some unexpected effects. Look at remote schooling. On the one hand, it was miserable, particularly for lower-income children. However, it gave parents a chance to see what children are actually being taught in schools, which has led to parental pushback against divisive education programs  Parents became more informed and took action. In my area, the already-stark divisions between urban and rural became more so. Driving downtown in the city for much of 2020, it was a ghost town; in the town where I get my animals processed, the only change was that I saw more children out and about. I saw kids riding shotgun as their parents hauled cattle trailers because the schools were closed and, well, you can’t process cattle remotely.   Many people holed up dutifully as we were all told to quarantine. For those of us that couldn’t, for one reason or another, we started talking a lot more.   (Want uninterrupted access to The Organic Prepper? Check out our paid-subscription newsletter.) Klaus Schwab saw Covid as an opportunity to “reimagine” society. You know what? I see it as a chance to reimagine things too. I see it as a chance for people in all parts of the economy to openly discuss what’s going on. If enough people from enough different walks of life can listen to each other, we may find some common solutions. The real division is not so much red vs. blue. It is people that just want to work, raise their kids, and leave everyone else alone vs. autocrats and those willing to game the system.   Authoritarian control and regulatory overreach are behind most of our current problems. We may get most emotional over Roe vs. Wade, or trans rights, or whatever, but the reasons why so many people cannot pay bills and are using their credit cards to buy gas are not “culture war”-type issues.   Our problems right now stem from decades of letting local control slip through our fingers. At this stage of the game, I’m not sure I see a way to fix our problems without a great deal of economic stress and uncertainty.  But, as preppers, we hope for the best and plan for the worst, and right now, increasing numbers of people want to plan for the worst. Sites like the OP are here for people that want to start planning. Americans have a long history of making do. Whether you want to become more self-sufficient by producing your own food, energy or even homeschooling your kids, we all have options to exercise a little more control over our own lives.   The Founding Fathers never envisioned the U.S. as a globe-spanning empire where everyone lives in a cushy suburb and has access to every possible convenience. The U.S. was simply supposed to be a country where, if you worked hard and were honest, you could keep the fruits of your labor. I would love it if, after the current upheavals, we could go back to that, but we have to make it through what our president has called this “incredible transition” first.  There are still a lot of resourceful, hardworking, independent people out there, people who can survive a lot. But we will all function better if we can communicate with each other, both for practical advice and emotional support. Collectively, we have a lot to share if we can avoid being divided and distracted.    Tyler Durden Tue, 07/12/2022 - 23:45.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJul 13th, 2022

Sen. Marco Rubio"s new bill wouldn"t let employers deduct travel expenses that pay for abortion or trans care for minors

The No Tax Breaks for Radical Corporate Activism Act comes as companies such as Disney and Amazon have spoken out on social issues. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference at The Rosen Shingle Creek on February 25, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a leaked draft. In response, some large corporations said they'd pay for workers' abortion travel costs. Rubio has introduced a bill to prevent companies from deducting the travel in their taxes.  Employers wouldn't be allowed to deduct travel expenses for their workers' abortions under a bill Sen. Marco Rubio introduced Wednesday. The Florida Republican's bill, the No Tax Breaks for Radical Corporate Activism Act, comes as several major corporations including Citi, Apple, Yelp, Lyft, Levi's, and Amazon announced they'd reimburse travel costs for employees to access abortion if they live in a state where it becomes illegal.The bill would also extend to transgender care for minors as Disney is considering ways to help employees and their children receive coverage. "Our tax code should be pro-family and promote a culture of life," Rubio said in a statement announcing his legislation. "Instead, too often our corporations find loopholes to subsidize the murder of unborn babies or horrific 'medical' treatments on kids. My bill would make sure this does not happen."Under current tax law, businesses can deduct benefits from an employee compensation package, including for healthcare plans or medical expenses.Other companies are likely to follow in offering coverage for abortion or transgender care travel, Rubio wrote in an editorial he published in Newsweek. "These corporations may be able to help their employees kill their unborn children or transition their son into a daughter tax-free," he wrote, adding later in the piece, "If executive elites think they can force the rest of the country to support their insane policies, they have another thing coming."The legislation contains exceptions for workers who receive care because they would otherwise face serious health problems or death.Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican of Florida, is introducing the House version of the bill. In a statement, Mast said corporations "should not be allowed to use taxpayer funds to support dangerous procedures that harm our kids and kill innocent babies."GOP and Big Business clashThe new bill represents an escalation by Rubio against Big Business.The two-term senator introduced another bill in September that would require corporate directors to prove that certain social initiatives he calls "woke" are in the best interest of shareholders.Rubio has also called for other Republicans to break against big businesses who are pushing for "woke policies" that will lead to "Marxism." Rubio is the son of Cuban parents who immigrated to the US just ahead of Fidel Castro's rise, and has often invoked his personal story in explaining his position against large businesses' policies. Rubio ran for the GOP nomination for president in 2016 but lost to Trump. If he wins reelection in November — when he's likely to face off against Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Orlando — he is expected to be in the mix for the 2024 presidential nomination.Clashes between Republicans and corporations have become more common. For decades, the GOP was aligned with American corporations and delivered them millions of dollars worth of federal tax breaks. But former President Donald Trump frequently attacked large companies and their CEOs, shaking up the GOP playbook and ushering in an era of populist ideology.Businesses, too, have evolved as younger employees are demanding that their bosses take stronger stances on social and political causes, from Black Lives Matter to the climate crisis and even abortion. The calculus over how far to wade into such topics is risky for businesses, who risk losing employees or customers, or drawing the ire of lawmakers.Last month, top CEOs paid attention when Disney spoke out against Florida's controversial sex education bill. In response, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a bill into law to terminate the theme park and entertainment company's special tax district. The latest corporate push for abortion access in particular comes after a leaked draft opinion Politico obtained from the Supreme Court showed the justices were poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. In response, the Senate is preparing to vote on a bill that would codify Roe into law and undo all state restrictions on abortion. Rubio opposes abortion and voted against the legislation when it came to the floor in February.  Rubio told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that he hadn't read the Supreme Court's draft opinion. "I'm not going to read a leaked document," he said. "It's not the final opinion of the court."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 4th, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via Medium.com, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, www.instagram.com/upgradeur_life Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Fox News inks contributor deal with Caitlyn Jenner, touting her as a "trailblazer" and "inspiration to us all" amid backlash over Florida"s anti-LGBT parental rights bill

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott described Jenner as "a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community" and "an inspiration to us all." Caitlyn Jenner.Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images Former Olympian and one-time GOP candidate Caitlyn Jenner signed a contributor deal with Fox News. In the announcement, CEO Suzanne Scott called Jenner "a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community." Fox News has also spotlighted Florida's anti-LGBT parental choice law and Disney's opposition to it. Fox News announced on Thursday that Caitlyn Jenner signed a deal to join the network as a contributor.Jenner, a former Olympian and 2021 GOP gubernatorial recall candidate in California, said in the network's press release that she's "humbled by this unique opportunity to speak directly to FOX News Media's millions of viewers about a range of issues that are important to the American people." Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott issued a statement, heralding Jenner, who is transgender, as a "trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community" and "the most famous transgender woman in the world.""Caitlyn's story is an inspiration to us all," Scott said as part of the announcement. "She is a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community and her illustrious career spans a variety of fields that will be a tremendous asset for our audience."The network release also touted Jenner's eponymous foundation for its work "providing grants to organizations that improve the lives of transgender people, including youth, as well as anti-bullying, suicide prevention, healthcare, housing, employment, and related programs." Jenner has appeared regularly on Fox News since her defeat in the 2021 California recall election, where she received about 1% of the vote among those who supported removing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office.While paid contributor agreements such as Jenner's usually take weeks or months to finalize, Thursday's announcement comes amid an intense focus from Fox News on Florida's anti-LGBT "parental choice" law, and particularly on one of its most prominent opponents, The Walt Disney Company.Dubbed by critics as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' "Don't Say Gay" law — officially named the Parental Rights in Education bill — the legislation will take effect in July and ban any discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity for teachers of students in kindergarten through third grade. It also includes ambiguous language banning instruction that's carried out "in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate."Across Fox News programming, gender identity and sexual orientation are often lumped together as "sexuality." Fox News has often covered transgender Americans through the lens of women's sports and schools, depicting women who have transitioned in particular as posing a risk those around them.This pattern of coverage brought criticism from GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who called unchallenged claims made by guests on the network as "roundly rejected by the American Psychological Association." Fox News also focused on University of Pennsylvania women's swimmer Lia Thomas, who first competed on the men's swimming team and then took a year off from school as she transitioned.Jenner has previously weighed in on the recurring Fox News debates about Thomas, saying the NCAA should update its hormone regulations, which Thomas complied with in order to compete. Jenner has a mixed record in criticizing some measures, such as former President Donald Trump's executive order rescinding protections for trans kids to use the bathroom of their choice, while remaining against transgender women playing sports with cis-gender women."It's an issue of fairness," she said in May 2021, "and we need to protect girls' sports in our schools."Fox News host Jesse Watters began Wednesday's edition of "The Five" by describing Disney as "yet another big American company going woke" and "caving to the liberal mob" following the company's statement calling for the bill to be repealed or "struck down by the courts."—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 30, 2022DeSantis appeared on Tucker Carlson's primetime show on Tuesday night, where he decried the company's opposition to the bill. "You've gotta wonder, like, why is the hill to die on to have transgenderism injected into kindergarten classrooms, or woke gender ideology injected into second grade classrooms? Why is that the hill to die on?" DeSantis said.He also joined Carlson in crying foul over a leaked all-hands meeting where a Disney producer mentions having a "not-at-all-secret gay agenda" in a lighthearted comment about her feeling of inclusion at the company."Why not just rename the rollercoaster, you know, sex mountain?" primetime host Laura Ingraham said on her Wednesday night show in response to Disney's opposition. "C'mon kids, it'll be a blast."—Wittgenstein (@backtolife_2022) March 31, 2022Meanwhile, in Fox News Media's 2021 corporate responsibility report, the company touts itself as receiving "a 100% score in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) – our third year earning top marks. The score gives FOX the distinction of 'Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.'" In 2017, the year following network founder and CEO Roger Ailes' resignation over sexual harassment allegations, Fox's then-parent company, 21st Century Fox — which later spun off Fox News and was acquired by Disney — received a rating of just 10 out of 100 in the same index.In response to a request for comment, Fox News referred Insider to the company's official announcement.Jenner will appear for the first time in her new role as a contributor on Sean Hannity's show on Thursday night, according to the network.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 31st, 2022

My Kids Want Plastic Toys. I Want to Go Green. Here’s the Middle Ground

Waiting in a check-out line a few days ago, my children started begging for toys and trinkets hanging on the impulse-buy racks. Rather than replying with the usual “Not today” euphemism, I found myself saying, “Maybe for Christmas.” Alas, it’s that time of year again when I cave because I want my kids’ faces to… Waiting in a check-out line a few days ago, my children started begging for toys and trinkets hanging on the impulse-buy racks. Rather than replying with the usual “Not today” euphemism, I found myself saying, “Maybe for Christmas.” Alas, it’s that time of year again when I cave because I want my kids’ faces to light up when they unwrap their gifts. Their joy brings me joy—and lessens the guilt of indulging in eco-terrible plastic junk. Parents don’t want to add to the global environmental mess that the next generation will inherit. But, especially around the holidays, they are caught between one world where Avengers action figures, LOL Surprise! dolls and LEGO sets are highly desirable play things, and another where they are plastic, plastic, and plastic (packaged in more plastic). [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Plastics come in all shades of bad. Many of them are derived from fossil fuels, and the process causes significant greenhouse gas emissions. By some estimates, the emissions from the plastics industry could overtake those from coal by as soon as 2030. Plastics are also the scourge of the trash management system. They are notorious for ending up in waterways and other ecosystems, where they contaminate habitats, leach chemicals and become part of the food chain. So what’s the solution? “I don’t think there is a magic, silver bullet for the toy plastics issue,” says Katie Senft, a researcher with the U.C. Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. “There’s a lot of toys that aren’t going to make it a decade from now,” she says. “And our kids still want them.” Senft is one of several plastics experts I spoke with who is also a parent. It’s hard to know whether to feel reassured or terrified that people with deep knowledge of both polymers and Polly Pockets are dealing with the same challenges as the rest of us. When my children were younger, it was easier to curate their toy chest with timeless—and more environmentally friendly—wooden blocks and trains. Year by year, though, the share of those toys in our house is being eclipsed by AA-battery suckers. As children become little consumers of their own, they become more aware—and more tantalized—by the hot toys displayed in stores, advertised, and chatted up at school. It’s infuriating that companies market plastic objects to kids who don’t fully comprehend the long-term implications of those objects. It’s like walking the cereal aisle where all the chocolate and marshmallow options are at kids’ eye level and the onus is on the adult to explain why we’re opting for plain oatmeal instead. Worse, the world’s plastic problem is way more removed, insurmountable and uncontrollable than what’s for breakfast. Without interventions, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean is on track to triple by 2040 to 32 million tons per year, or the same weight as 600 Titanics, according to a 2020 study funded by Pew Charitable Trusts. Some toymakers are reducing plastic, with much of the progress to date in their packaging. Mattel is shrinking the plastic windows on boxes, or eliminating them entirely, and the company is aiming for its blister containers and cartons to be at least 30% recycled plastic in 2022. Hasbro started phasing out its plastic packaging in 2020 with the goal of being plastic-free for all new products by the end of next year. LEGO has started packaging its bricks in tree-based recycled paper pouches and will complete the transition by 2025. Courtesy HasbroHasbro’s line of Potato Head toys is one example of how some large toy companies are transitioning away from plastic packaging. These efforts shouldn’t be overlooked. Packaging is the dominant source of plastic waste, accounting for nearly half of the global total, since it gets thrown out immediately. The food and beverage industry is the worst offender in this regard. However, the toy industry uses more plastic in its actual products on a revenue basis than any other sector, according to a 2014 United Nations Environment Programme report. And at some point, plastic toys themselves will enter the waste stream as well, reuniting with the plastic containers they came in. “If we can build a circular economy of our packaging, that seems really transformative,” says Dana Gulley, a business consultant who focuses on sustainability and climate justice. “But I’m going to argue they’re still incremental changes and they’re not going to…move us from an extractive to a regenerative economy, which is what we need.” A non-cyclical life cycle During a recent cleanout of my kids’ outdoor toys, I fished out a half dozen that had broken beyond use or repair. Upon inspection, only a plastic watering can (with more holes in its bottom than its spout) featured a recycling symbol. I’d like to think that it became a pipe or a park bench or another watering can for another child to abuse to their heart’s content, unlike the broken pieces of trucks, backhoes, and water wheels that I reluctantly consigned to a landfill for the next 400 years. Municipal waste services don’t recycle toys because it is cost prohibitive to break down all the different pieces and process them individually. “Imagine that you’re cooking something, you’re taking all these materials and you’re only thinking about what’s going to make the best meal,” says Tom Szaky, the CEO and founder of TerraCycle, a company that recycles objects that can’t go in a curbside bin. “Recycling is, you’ve got to take that meal apart into its components, and then once they’re in their components, then you can melt them and reprocess them back into a usable form.” Read More: Holiday Gifts That Actually Fight Climate Change TerraCycle makes this process profitable by charging a steep price. Depending on the quantity and type of material, consumers can pay between around $100 and $500 to send the company a box of stuff. Or they can leverage a corporate program, where companies like Hasbro and VTech, which owns LeapFrog, will subsidize the bill. But even these efforts aren’t going to fix the plastic crisis, Szaky says, as the focus needs to be on lessening our reliance on plastic in the first place. That responsibility falls to both toy companies that fuel consumer demand, and the consumers who effectively vote for products whenever they open their wallets. “Whatever we buy, two more will appear tomorrow—one to replace the one we bought and one to signify the trend. And everything we didn’t buy, one less will appear,” he says. “What would you like the shelf to look like tomorrow?” On the face of it, that idea seems simple: If consumers support only the companies that are environmental superstars, we’ll get to where we want to be much faster. But it’s not easy to evaluate a company’s true waste stream, carbon emissions and social impact—particularly large companies with global supply chains—nor distinguish real environmental progress from “greenwashing,” or overselling of sustainability efforts. Even TerraCycle’s corporate partnerships programs have come under scrutiny, as critics say the recycling process isn’t transparent and consumers often have long waits or other challenges to participate, resulting in very small amounts of material that actually get accepted. A lawsuit against Terracycle and a number of its large corporate partners arose from these concerns, and, as part of a November settlement, qualifying products must not be labeled as “100% recyclable” and must include disclaimers such as “limited availability” when that is the case. Szaky says the company is happy to make this change. “It is becoming increasingly a license-to-operate to make sure that you are talking about [environmental issues] in some way,” says Gulley. “While that seems really positive, if a company is only inadvertently treating that like checkboxes, then the change won’t be enough. And I think that’s what’s at risk right now.” For companies to really make a difference, Gulley argues, corporations need to fully evaluate how their business models rely on peoples’ sacrifices, and they need to commit to repairing that harm. Playing the long(er) game Sadly, the current reality leaves adult consumers to make some tough decisions. They can, of course, spring only for toys that are featured on eco-friendly gift guides that pop up this time of year. Kids, however, don’t write their wish lists based on those guides. Some 90% of toys are made from plastic, according to an oft-cited 2011 estimate from a European plastics trade publication. It’s a dated number and hard to corroborate, but having spent a decent amount of time perusing toy departments and hopscotching landmines scattered around my house, it seems plausible. Manufacturers gravitate to plastic because it’s cheap, versatile and dependable. Those are critical qualities when making products at scale that have to meet safety standards. “One of the great things about plastic is it’s durable, but once it ends up in the environment we don’t want it to be so durable,” says Senft, the U.C. Davis researcher, who studies the growing impact of teeny tiny plastic fragments in aquatic habitats. These so-called microplastics can result from running synthetic textiles like nylon and polyester through the laundry, as well as from plastic trash that has broken apart over time into smaller and smaller bits that don’t decompose. Indeed, plastic is everywhere. As we figure out how to wean ourselves off of it, companies and consumers must work to keep that plastic out of the waste stream for as long as possible, experts say. Where toys are concerned, there are a number of efforts underway to do that. In June, LEGO announced it had developed prototype bricks from recycled PET (a type of plastic typically used for soft-drink bottles) as part of a $400 million effort to be more sustainable. It took years and hundreds of tries to produce the gray bricks—LEGO is still working out how to color them—that are durable, compatible with legacy pieces and hurt just as much underfoot. For the more flexible pieces like plants and trees, LEGO recently moved to a renewable bioplastic derived from sugarcane that has a 20% lower carbon footprint per piece. Courtesy LEGO GroupLEGO recently debuted a prototype brick made from recycled plastic Another company called Green Toys, based in San Leandro, Calif., makes products using only post-consumer HDPE (the type of plastic used in milk jugs). The process isn’t easy. The recycled plastic has to be collected, sorted, processed and tested to be sure it’s not contaminated with banned materials, making it a more expensive material than virgin plastic. To give the toys the best chance of being recycled again, the company uses no other materials, meaning that even the trucks, helicopters and vehicles with moving parts work without screws. “We face limitations that others don’t have, like we don’t do paint or external coatings,” says Green Toys president Charlie Friend. “We don’t do electronics, or any sort of additives of any kind. There are a lot of things that the design team would love to do but are not sustainable.” A major reason companies like Green Toys and LEGO can harness post-consumer materials is because their products have uniformity: their toys are molded plastic without bells or whistles (or hair fibers or polyester fill). There’s an advantage to that on the back end, too, as items made of homogenous plastic have the best chance of getting recycled additional times. But recycling shouldn’t be the go-to solution, argues Tim Brooks, LEGO’s vice president of environmental sustainability—the goal should be a product durable enough to last generations. LEGO has a program that donates used bricks to children in underprivileged communities. The process of cleaning, processing and shipping the pieces is about 80% less carbon intensive than the process to make a new brick. “We only need to recycle if it’s had millions of hours of play,” says Brooks. “The ultimate goal is we want the brick to be reused as long as possible and then have brick-to-brick recycling. But don’t miss the step of reuse.” Read More: I Tried Buying Only Used Holiday Gifts. It Changed How I Think About Shopping Charities and consignment shops often accept toys that are in working order. There are many benefits of buying used items, including cost savings and a feel-good factor. But there are challenges, too. It may mean forgoing the most desired toys of each season that just debuted and haven’t yet made it to the second-hand market (think: the Baby Yoda craze). And unlike many household objects, used toys come with certain risks, including ickiness—well-loved toys can be super gross—and potential safety issues. The responsibility is on the buyer to make sure the toy hasn’t been recalled and doesn’t contain unsafe chemicals. Eventually, though, plastic toys will start to look like the characters in Toy Story 4, straddling the line of play thing and trash thing. Dagoma, a 3D printer manufacturer in France, is aiming to give dismembered action figures a second chance through its Toy Rescue program, which helps people print spare parts to commonly broken toys if they own a 3D printer, or connect with people who have one. But beyond that, there aren’t a ton of good options for toys that are really, truly kaput. I could tell you that my kids are getting a plastic-free Christmas. But I’d be lying. The top toys on their wish lists are plastic, and, whether used condition or new, I’m going to buy them. However, in this season of overindulgence, I’m adopting other ways to stem the plastic flow, like resisting the cheap plastic stocking stuffers that my kids ask for on the checkout line. Both high-quality toys and cheaply made ones “are going to end up in the environment potentially, and they’re both going to last for a long time,” says Senft. “So I say you might as well purchase the piece of plastic that’s actually going to have a longer life cycle with its intended use, versus something from a dollar store that’s going to break after 10 seconds.” Will this little act of resistance suddenly change corporate behavior? No. Miraculously save the planet? No. Make Christmas more meaningful? Most definitely......»»

Category: topSource: timeDec 10th, 2021

Joy Reid Posts Crazed Rant About Alabama IVF Case - Suggests The State Wants Slaves

Joy Reid Posts Crazed Rant About Alabama IVF Case - Suggests The State Wants Slaves Alabama's Supreme Court has recently ruled on the designation of fertilized embryos held by vitro clinics in the state, giving the embryos legal status as living children.  The decision was made in response to lawsuits brought by three couples who were clients of one such clinic, where apparent negligence led to the destruction of embryos which the parents paid to have frozen in preparation for a future pregnancy. One of the couples asserted that the destruction of their fertilized embryos should include charges of wrongful death of a minor, and the Alabama Supreme Court agreed.  Alabama issued a ban on the majority of abortions in 2019 and the US Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v Wade has solidified the standing that states have the right to decide the legality of abortion outside of federal interference.  Keep in mind, the Alabama case was not brought by the state, it was brought by private citizens in a dispute with an IVF clinic, but the decision has sweeping implications.     The root legal argument made by abortion advocates is that the Constitution protects life, liberty and property, but it does not specify exactly what the definition of "life" is or when legal personhood begins.  The Alabama decision is terrifying to abortion activists because this is one of the first instances since the Dobbs case in which fertilized embryos are being defined as living human beings.  Such a trend would give constitutional rights to unborn children. Conservatives in Alabama including Senator Tommy Tuberville have applauded the court ruling, but leftists are in an uproar.  The fear is palpable in the rantings of MSNBC host Joy Reid, who makes some classic anti-child's rights arguments along with some new and bizarre assertions about slavery in response to Senator Tuberville's suggestion that Alabama needs more children. "The U.S. has a population of 327 million people… why do we need more kids??" Watch the entire clip. MSNBC's Joy Reid is clinically insane. This might be the most deranged rant I've ever seen. pic.twitter.com/mjd7bU2VCW — End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) February 26, 2024 Three primary points need to be addressed here: 1)  Reid applies the old population control argument in a disturbing tangent - "If conservatives are going to stand against illegal immigration, then they must also support abortion."   In other words, she thinks that opposing illegal immigration is the same as opposing higher population in the US and therefore, if conservatives oppose higher population, they should be pro-abortion.  But, this is not the conservative position.  First and foremost, pro-life advocates are against what they see as the murder of children.  It's a moral argument, not an economic debate related to population rates.  The moral argument, not surprisingly, completely escapes Joy Reid's radar. Second, her position is actually backwards.  If Democrats are going to promote and support mass illegal immigration into the US because they think America needs more workers, then why not simply stop abortions and increase the population organically instead?  Why continue subsidizing and incentivizing illegals when children can be born here legally?  Wouldn't it be preferable to raise a population with American principles and values rather than inviting in millions of unvetted foreigners who immediately take welfare, eat up housing and cause more crime? 2)  Reid then pursues an unhinged hypothesis, suggesting that Republicans in Alabama might want more children (in place of illegal immigrants) because those children will be "destitute" and easier to "enslave."  She then compares the notion once again to "The Handmaids Tale," a poorly written book for mentally deficient readers often cited by the political left as if it's as valid as Orwell's 1984. Is Reid suggesting that illegal immigrants are used as "slaves" in the US?  And does she think this is preferable to making abortion illegal?  This seems to be her argument. If she actually believes that illegals are being used as slaves, then she should make a stand against open borders and illegal immigration. It's hard to find any example in history of slaves being paid for their work while also receiving government subsidies and welfare as incentives to stay and continue being slaves.  That doesn't sound so "slavery-ish," as Reid so eloquently describes it.    3)  Finally, Reid insinuates that the Alabama decision might be a ploy to increase the population of white people in the state (and leftists always treat more white people as a bad thing).  But according to her previous argument any children born under the new rules would be destitute and thus used as slaves.  Does this go for the white kids also?  Or, is it only victimization if the children are not white? Some people might say that Joy Reid is an irrelevant person and there's no need to counter her blatherings with any seriousness.  However, her claims represent the thinking of a majority of activists within the woke movement.  It's important to show how disjointed and irrational this thinking is whenever it arises, otherwise it will continue to spread like a cancer across the country.           Tyler Durden Wed, 02/28/2024 - 22:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nyt12 hr. 54 min. ago

NYC has the highest concentration of millionaires worldwide. 25% of its children live in poverty, report says.

Poverty in New York City surged by half a million between 2021 and 2022, bringing the total number of New Yorkers living in poverty to 2 million. A homeless person sits on the ground in a subway station in Manhattan on February 20, 2024.CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/Getty ImagesPoverty in New York City surged by half a million between 2021 and 2022, totalling 2 million people.Over half of NYC residents are living in poverty or with low income, including 25% of kids.The surge contrasts with NYC's status as the city with most millionaires globally.In the city so nice they named it twice, more than half of the population is living in poverty or close to it — including 25% of kids.A new report from Robin Hood, an anti-poverty philanthropy, and Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy found that poverty in New York City surged by half a million between 2021 and 2022, bringing the total number of New Yorkers living in poverty to 2 million.Some 56% of the city's total population, which surpasses 8 million, is living in poverty or with low incomes. The Supplemental Poverty Measure (which includes tax credits and noncash benefits as income) for a family of four in the city was $43,890 in 2022, per the report. By borough, the poverty rates were highest in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.What's more, child poverty surged from 2021 to 2022, rising to 25% of children living in poverty, the report found.The findings conjure a stark contrast with the ultrawealthy in New York City, which, as of 2023, had the highest concentration of millionaires worldwide, with 340,000 millionaires, according to the London-based firm Henley & Partners."Our city is in the midst of an affordability crisis. Alarmingly, this year's annual Poverty Tracker report observes the sharpest one-year increase in poverty we've found since launching the study in 2012. This would be deeply troubling at any point, but it is particularly disturbing given the steady progress New York City has made to reduce poverty in years prior," Robin Hood CEO Richard R. Buery Jr. said in a press release with the report.Buery cited the expired pandemic-era financial supports, such as the expanded child tax credit, as examples of the city's progress in the past. Across the nation, some 5 million children slipped into poverty in 2022 after those expanded credits and monthly payments expired. The US House passed a bill for a boosted child tax credit in January; it's now awaiting action in the Senate, where it is likely to pass."We know that fully refundable tax credits, housing vouchers, and childcare subsidies can move millions out of poverty and hardship. But we have lacked the will to keep these policies in force," Buery said in the press release.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytFeb 25th, 2024

19 Coolest Cars Released in the 1980s

The “yuppie” decade of the 1980s gave way to some incredible car releases to match the flashiness of the times. There is no doubt the 1980s gave way to dreams of fast cars with kids making lists of cars they one day hoped to own. Most notable about cars from the 1980s is that these […] The post 19 Coolest Cars Released in the 1980s appeared first on 24/7 Wall St.. The “yuppie” decade of the 1980s gave way to some incredible car releases to match the flashiness of the times. There is no doubt the 1980s gave way to dreams of fast cars with kids making lists of cars they one day hoped to own. Most notable about cars from the 1980s is that these are cars people still remember today. This list is full of cool cars from the 1980s that people desperately wanted to own. It’s the latter that is the focus here as you look back at the coolest cars released in the 1980s.  Introduction  The Ferrari Testarossa was undoubtedly on lots of wall posters during the 1980s. As you look at a list of the coolest cars released in the 1980s, there are not too many surprises. Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, and Porsche all unsurprisingly have a place here. What’s more surprising is that some of the coolest cars are also the most understated. The Saab 900 Turbo could handle weather Ferrari could never dream of while the AMG Hammer took sedans to new heights.  AMG Hammer The AMG Mercedes gained instant fame during the 1980s the fastest sedan on the road. In the 1980s, the most recognizable performance sedan was undoubtedly the AMG Hammer. First released in 1986, the Hammer was a modified version of the Mercedes W124 E-Class. Adding a 5.6L V8 engine to the vehicle, AMG was able to create a vehicle faster than the Lamborghini Countach from 60-120 MPH and 0-60 in 4.9 seconds. AMG would up the ante with even faster modern cars in the 1990s where it would finally become an official part of the Mercedes family.  Audi Quattro The Audi Quattro wasn’t a supercar, but it sure gave off sports car vibes behind the wheel. While the Audi Quattro looked nothing like the supercars of the 1980s, it sure performed like one. In its S1 trim level, the Quattro packed a whopping 591 horsepower. A total of five turbochargers were in place to push this all-wheel monster toward super-fast speeds. Originally designed as a rally car, Audi brought it to market and produced right around 11,500 units.  Bentley Turbo R Defining luxury through the 1980s, the Bentley Turbo R remains a beautiful vehicle inside and out. No car better stood for the opulence of the 1980s than the Bentley Turbo R. Grey Poupon anyone? This production car hit the road in 1985 where it had a price tag beginning at $195,000. The opposite of sporty, the Bentley Turbo R featured a beautifully wood-trimmed dashboard and a mobile phone antenna as standard. This was the car for the business executive who wanted the world to know they were the Gorden Gecko of their industry.  BMW E28 M5 The BMW M5 E28 offered pure driving pleasure without the supercar price tag. When you look up understated in the dictionary, you get a picture of the 1984 BMW E38 M5. This was one of the most understated vehicles of the decade as it produced 282 horsepower. A total production run of 2,241 vehicles was built over the next few years making this one of the rarest cars BMW has ever produced. Although it didn’t look like it wanted speed, the BMW E28 M5 could easily run 0-60 in 5.7 seconds outrunning just about every other sedan of the 1980s.  Buick Grand National GNX Buick’s surprise Grand National GNX release helped keep muscle cars alive in the 1980s. Released in 1987, the Buick Grand National GNX was an opportunity to keep muscle cars alive in the 1980s. Released 5 years after the initial Grand National release, the GNX model was limited to only 500 units. What’s notable about this vehicle is that the idea for it came during the 1985 Indianapolis 500 when Buick and McLaren met to discuss automobile performance. The result was close to 300 horsepower and an engine sound that is still memorable to this day.  Chevrolet Corvette C4 After disappointing sales years prior, the Chevrolet Corvette C4 reinvigorated the beloved muscle car. Chevrolet needed a home run with the Corvette lineup after some bumps in the road with the third-generation C3. With the release of the Chevrolet Corvette C4 in 1984, the most recognized American muscle car found itself back on stable ground. The C4 model was so successful that Chevy wouldn’t make any dramatic changes to its styling until 1996. Even the release of the popular ZR-1 edition didn’t force Chevy to make any big styling updates. The modern look was an absolute hit with customers who longed for an improved Corvette model.  DeLorean DMC-12 Made famous with its role in the Back to the Future movie, the DeLorean remains instantly recognizable. Arguably the most recognizable 1980s car, the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 was never close to being a commercial success. However, its unique design caught the attention of Hollywood and it would soon become a part of movie history. Made famous in the Back to the Future movies, the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 has both a fascinating backstory and pretty disappointing performance. There were few owners of this car in the 1980s who gave it a ton of praise, but it’s a pop culture icon all the same.  Ford Country Squire  No car was more comfortable on your way to Wally Word than the Ford Country Squire. You can’t do any list of 1980s cars without talking about the age of the station wagon. Millions of families owned these vehicles and for many 1980s children, this was the first experience anyone had with cars. In fact, for many kids, the wood-paneled Ford Country Squire station wagon would be their first car as a hand-me-down from parents. It was slow and long but it sure was comfortable to sit in during all of those family road trips.  Ford Mustang GT 5.0 The Ford Mustang 5.0 GT was a ton of fun to drive and one of the best Mustangs ever. There were plenty of memorable Ford Mustangs over the years but the Ford Mustang GT 5.0 is one of the most fondly remembered. The two-tone design was instantly recognizable and Ford sold this Mustang model as fast as it came off the production line. A 4.9L V8 engine got 225 horsepower in both the hatchback and convertible trim levels. Capable of hitting 0-60 in 6.3 seconds, the Ford Mustang GT 5.0 topped out at 137 MPH which made it perfect for police adoption on highways around the country.  Ferrari F40 The Ferrari F40 was the last vehicle Enzo Ferrari personally approved. How can you look back at the coolest cars from the 1980s and not think of the Ferrari F40? Arguably one of the most popular supercars of the decade, the Ferrari F40 is still worth owning. The F40 more than earned its position as the fastest car Ferrari released throughout the entire 1980s. Personally approved by Enzo Ferrari, it was originally released in 1987. Only 1,311 models rolled out to customers with a retail price of around $400,000.  Ferrari Testarossa The Ferrari Testarossa was famously used in the Miami Vice TV show driving plenty of sales. If the Ferrari F40 was the premiere supercar of the Italian automaker, the Ferrari Testarossa was its everyday driver. First released in 1984, the Testarossa is undoubtedly one of the most memorable models from Ferrari. A two-door coupe, the Testarossa is a cultural icon thanks to a lengthy role in the popular 1980’s show Miami Vice. Sega even put the Testarossa into its OutRun video game which sold millions of copies worldwide.  Jeep Cherokee The Jeep Cherokee’s release in the 1980s helped ignite the SUV era. When it comes to style, the Jeep Cherokee may be the least attractive vehicle on this list. However, its importance as an off-road plaything in the 1980s made it one cool car to own. Introduced in 1984, the Jeep Cherokee was jumped on by car buyers who wanted something more than just the typical family sedan. The 4×4 capability provided opportunities for camping, family trips, and every kind of event where extra storage was a must. Jeep helped define the SUV genre and for that, you can be extra grateful.  Lamborghini Countach  The Lamborghini Countach remains one of the manufacturer’s most beautiful designs. Not to be outdone by Porsche or Ferrari, Lamborghini released the 25th anniversary edition of the Countach in 1988. Remembered as the fastest Countach ever made, the Lamborghini could hit 0-60 in 4.7 seconds while pushing upward of 183 MPH. Unfortunately, the Lamborghini Countach never officially supported U.S. emissions standards so customers who purchased this model had to pay extra to modify the car to meet the appropriate regulations.  Lotus Esprit Turbo While the Lotus Esprit never achieved Lamborghini popularity, it’s just as fun to drive. Hiding in the shadows of Ferrari and Lamborghini, the Lotus Esprit Turbo started hitting roads in 1981. This special edition of the Lotus Esprit could hit 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 150 MPH. The aerodynamic body of the car was similar enough to Lamborghini that the two cars were easily mistaken. Even so, the Lotus Esprit Turbo had to be specialized for the U.S. where it was the first fuel-injected engine from Lotus.  Porsche 959 The Porsche 959 lives in infamy thanks to its status as the fastest street-legal car in the 1980s. The biggest competitor to the Ferrari F40 was undoubtedly the Porsche 959. Manufactured between 1986 and 1993, the Porsche 959 was at the time the fastest street-legal car ever. A top speed of 197 MPH offered race-car performance with traditional Porsche luxury. Guinness World Records noted the Porsche 959 was the fastest road-tested vehicle with a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds. There is no question the Porsche 959 is the textbook definition of excess that defined the 1980’s decade.  Porsche 944 The Porsche 944 appealed to the upper middle class that wanted to say they drove a Porsche. With the launch of the Porsche 944, perhaps a little bit of fate intervened for Porsche. Originally designed as a joint Porsche/Volkswagen production, VW backed out of manufacturing. This led Porsche to move into production with the 944 alone. The result was a total of 163,000 models produced as the Porsche 944 became the best-selling Porsche until the release of the Boxster in the 1990s. Something of an everyday driver, the Porsche 944 hit 0-60 in just under 9 seconds.  Toyota Celica Supra The Toyota Celica Supra never offered supercar speed, but it was far more reliable. There’s just something about the 1980s Toyota Celica Supra that still stands out to this day. It wasn’t cool like a Ferrari or as fast as one, but it was a whole lot more reliable. With its 1982 release, the Celica Supra engine was upgraded to give it a 0-60 time of 9.8 seconds, which was plenty fast for the price tag. This model year also included standard power windows, power door locks, and power mirrors for the first time in the Toyota Supra’s history.  Toyota MR2 The Toyota MR2 proved that fast car looks don’t have to cost you hundreds of thousands. When it was released in 1985, the Toyota MR2 gave the Japanese automaker something to be excited about. The MR2 was instantly praised for its performance compared to its biggest rival, the Pontiac Fiero. The MR2 was a two-seat roadster that didn’t require a significant financial investment. Instead, the MR2 was designed to be one of the first truly economical sports cars that everyone could own.  Saab 900 Turbo The Saab 900 Turbo was old faithful as a vehicle that lasted forever in all weather conditions. Most people never looked at a Saab 900 Turbo twice but looking back on the 1980s, it was a very sweet ride. Unfortunately, Saab is gone as a brand but it lives on with memories of the 900 Turbo. Saab emphasized safety above all else while still managing to add a bit of power. Running 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, the Saab 900 Turbo was able to go an impressive 135 MPH. Saab also lives on as one of the first brands to add a turbocharger to a family sedan.  Conclusion Ultimately, the 1980s were one of the best decades for cars in modern history. Technology advancements in both performance and safety really started to show throughout this decade. You saw glimpses of the future with the likes of AMG and Mercedes as well as Ferrari’s quest to become the best supercar ever. There is no doubt the 1980s will continue to be fondly remembered for all of the many cool cars released.   Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now. The post 19 Coolest Cars Released in the 1980s appeared first on 24/7 Wall St.......»»

Category: blogSource: 247wallstFeb 24th, 2024