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A law allowing citizens to sue companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for censorship was reinstated in Texas

Industry groups say they will appeal the decision, which a representative described as "constitutionally rotten from top to bottom." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaking at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in May 2018.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo Texans can now sue large social media companies after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated HB20.  Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB20 in September, but a judge blocked the law from going into effect. The constitutionality of the law is still being contested in district courts. A Texas law that prohibits social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from banning users based on political views was reinstated Wednesday in a 2-1 split panel decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB20 in September 2021. The law allows private Texas citizens and the Texas attorney general to sue social media companies with more than 50 million users for issuing bans based on "political viewpoints."The law also requires that social media companies be transparent about how they moderate content.Abbott is one of many voices who claim that social media companies censor conservative voices. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tried to instate a similar bill in Florida, but a judge blocked it, saying it would violate social media companies' first amendment rights.Industry groups NetChoice and CCIA, which include members like Twitter, Google, and Meta, sued the state, citing the law infringed on their "first amendment rights to engage in their own speech and to exercise editorial discretion over the speech published." A judge blocked the law from going into effect in December 2021, but Texas appealed the decision.According to a statement on Twitter from counsel at NetChoice, the decision did not address the constitutionality of the law but simply reinstated the law while the case continues in district court. The counsel also said a written order or opinion was not handed out."HB 20 is an assault on the First Amendment, and it's constitutionally rotten from top to bottom. So of course we're going to appeal today's unprecedented, unexplained, and unfortunate order by a split 2-1 panel," wrote Chris Marchese, counsel at NetChoice.Representatives for Abbott, the Texas Attorney General, NetChoice, or CCIA did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 14th, 2022

Sunday Collum: 2021 Year In Review, Part 3 - From "Insurrection" To Authoritarianism

Sunday Collum: 2021 Year In Review, Part 3 - From 'Insurrection' To Authoritarianism Authored by David B. Collum, Betty R. Miller Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology - Cornell University (Email: dbc6@cornell.edu, Twitter: @DavidBCollum), I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. ~  Carl Sagan, 1995, apparently having invented a time machine Every year, David Collum writes a detailed “Year in Review” synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year’s is no exception. Read Part 1 - Crisis Of Authority & The Age Of Narratives here... Read Part 2 - Heart Of Darkness & The Rise Of Centralized Healthcare here... So, here we are at the third and final part of the 2021 Year in Review and it’s no longer 2021. Sorry about that pfuck-up. Think of it as not in 2021 but from 2021. You may have noticed that the first 200 pages (parts 1 and 2) were laced with a recurring catchphrase, “WTF is happening?” It was a literary device for noting that the events ceased to make sense within a conventional worldview, suggesting it is time to torch the old model and start anew. Our response to a disease that was killing a very small slice of the population was to sequester and vaccinate the entire population with an experimental drug of real but unquantified fatality rate. The apparent scientific illiteracy was not some mass psychosis. Y’all just got suckered by America’s Most Trusted Psychopathic Mass Murderer assisted by an epic media blitz sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry that had a distinct authoritarian quality. Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. ~ Albert Einstein During the brief period after uploading part 2 while grinding on this last portion, the Supreme Court took on the vaccine mandate issue, ruling that the only people forfeiting control of their own healthcare are the healthcare workersref 2 The court also illustrated their profound ignorance of the pandemic and what they were even charged to assess—the Constitutionality of mandates, not the efficacy.ref 3 The CEO of a major insurer reported a 40% spike in fatalities within the 18–65 age bracket that was not from Covid.ref 4 He said 10% would be a 3-sigma, once-every-200-year event: 40% is unheard of. Although he refrained from identifying a cause—deaths of despair, neglected healthcare, or a toxic vaccine—he knows precisely what did them in. They have been studying this stuff for centuries. I suspect his real message was that the insurance industry is about to contribute to inflation with rising premiums. Meanwhile, the pathological liars running the covid grift decided after two years the masks you’ve been wearing served no medical purpose and that the vaccines don’t work either. Wait: who said the masks and vaccines don’t work? We have known for many months that COVID-19 is airborne and therefore, a simple cloth mask is not going to cut it…Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. ~ Leana Wen, MD, CNN medical expert with no admitted ties to the CCPref 5 Two doses of the vaccine offers very limited protection, if any. Three doses with a booster offer reasonable protection against hospitalization and deaths. Less protection against infection. ~ Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEOref 6 Here is my most heartfelt response to them: You psychopathic lying sacks of shit. You had us wear rags across our faces and put rags across the kids’ faces when clinical studies that could be read by people with half your IQs showed they were worthless. Suicide rates and other deaths of despair soared while you petty tyrants played your little games and generated billions of dollars of profits while destroying the middle class. You have maimed or killed an unknown number of gullible victims with your lockdowns, vaccines, remdesivir, and oppression of Ivermectin. You jammed a vaccine that bypassed animal trials into the fetuses of pregnant women, assuring them it was safe. If we spoke up, we got muzzled. If we refused the vaccine, we got fired. You should all hang from your necks until dead. I will piss on your graves. I feel better already. Very refreshing. Meanwhile, many of my friends and colleagues look at the same data and say, “Oh. I guess I better get the booster and a KN95 mask.” You have got to unfuck yourselves. You’ve been duped. It will get worse. The tactics used to oppress us would have made Stalin smirk. Australia was a beta test for what is to come in the rest of the west if we don’t wake up soon. They are gonna keep coming for one simple reason: we accepted it. We got bent over and squealed like pigs. What normalization does is transform the morally extraordinary into the ordinary. It makes us able to tolerate what was once intolerable by making it seem as if this is the way things have always been. ~ Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works A person is considered ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal’ by the community simply because he accepts most of its social standards and behavioral patterns; which means, in fact, that he is susceptible to suggestion and has been persuaded to go with the majority on most ordinary or extraordinary occasions. ~ William Sargant, in Battle of the Mind Meanwhile, the financial world became even more dominated by central bankers who haven’t the slightest understanding of free-market capitalism. These twits or criminals—maybe both—have blown the most colossal bubble in history if you account for both price and breadth across the spectrum of asset classes. For the layperson, that means they have set us up for a colossal failure. Go back and re-read Valuations if you cannot picture the epic financial carnage lying dead ahead. The gap between the Fed funds rate and headline inflation has never been this large. These pinheads believe that if the markets do not coincide with their world views, the markets must be wrong. I am not an economist, but it appears that none of them are either. The notion that a dozen nitwits should set the most important price of them all—the price of capital—rather than letting the markets set it through price discovery is financial authoritarianism or what some call State Capitalism. I am angry in case it doesn’t show. Meanwhile, in 2020–21 the Fed contributed to destroying upwards of a half-million mom ’n’ pop businesses—they gutted the middle class—while giving BlackRock credit at 0.15% interest rates to buy up all their houses. Here is my advice to those day trading criminals: look both ways as you enter crosswalks. What I believe the response of society to a severe downturn given the current political climate will be epic. Big downturns come after euphorias. We have never entered a downturn with society at large this grumpy. We are in the early stages of The Fourth Turning.ref 7 The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded. ~ Charles-Louis De Secondat When a State has mortgaged all of its future revenues the State, by necessity, lapses into tranquility, langor, and impotence. ~ David Hume, 1752 So, WTF is going on here? In this final part, I address geopolitics. It begins with a relatively benign analysis of Biden’s first year in office, culminating with what I think Afghanistan is really about. The second section addresses my view of what may prove to be the most important day in US History—January 6, 2021. Although it is my best shot—Dave’s Narrative—I will not attempt to nor will I inadvertently spread the love to both sides of the political spectrum. It is a right-wing view that most right-wing politicians and pundits are too cowardly to state in polite company. The final section addresses the Rise of Global Authoritarianism. For a topic covered by thousands of treatises to call my knowledge skeletal is a reach. I have merely created an intellectual foundation—a chalk outline—to ponder why authoritarianism is here and what could stop it. (Plot spoiler: I do not believe it can be stopped.) They know where we are, they know our names, they know from our iPhones if we’re on our way to the grocery store or not. But they haven’t acted on that to put people in camps yet. They could do it. We could be East Germany in weeks, in a month. Huge concentration camps and so forth. ~ Daniel Ellsberg (@DanielEllsberg), author of The Pentagon Papers and Secrets Before moving on, let me give a plug for a book.ref 8 I have not even finished it yet, but it will change your worldview. Look at those ratings! I can guarantee none of those readers enjoyed it. Kennedy will curdle your bone marrow describing 35 years of atrocities commited by America’s Most Trusted Madman. It is emblematic of a much larger problem. Evil is powerless if good men are unafraid – Americans don’t realize what they have to lose. ~ Ronald Reagan The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. ~ H. L. Mencken Biden – Freshman Year Scorecard Let’s go, Brandon! ~ Cheers across America Most presidents begin their reign with a calling. Reagan raised our national self-esteem after a period of economic and political malaise. Bush Sr. took on the Gulf War, for better or worse. Clinton oversaw the economic boom and bank deregulation, again for better or worse. Bush Jr. was handed 9/11 and, in my opinion, boned it badly. Obama had to wrestle with the Great Financial Crisis. Trump was charged with disturbing the peace—drain the swamp if you will. Biden undeniably needed to begin healing the social discord that, regardless of its source, left the country wounded and divided. Maybe that was not Biden’s calling, but I wanted to see him become the president of all the people. This is not revisionist history of my failing memory: Biden’s the last of the Old Guard, which is probably why he was slipped into the office by the DNC old guard. I am guessing there will be no Supreme Court stacking; that was just rhetoric (I hope). There will be wars just like every president (except Trump, who brought troops home.) Congress is more balanced again and, at the time of this writing, the Senate is still in Republican hands. Hopefully, the gridlock will usher in some garden-variety dysfunction. I have subtle concerns about a Harris presidency. Admittedly, my opinion is based on precious few facts, but Harris displays a concerning shallowness of character, a lack of a moral compass, and the potential to slide to the left of Bernie. (I sometimes reflect on what it must have been like raising the teenaged Kamala.) I am trying to reserve judgment because first impressions scavenged from the digital world are sketchy if not worthless. ~ 2020 Year in Review By this description, Biden tanked his GPA. He ushered in a Crusade to erase the Trump era and its supporters. The weaponizing of social media and censorship against one’s opponents was probably unavoidable, but the downside will be revealed when the wind changes. Team Biden took banishing of political opponents on social media to new levels by, as noted by Jen Psaki, flagging “problematic posts” and the “spread of disinformation” for censorship. NY Timeslapdog Kevin Roose called for a “reality Czar,” not noticing the Russian metaphor problem. The War on Domestic Terror may prove to be a turning point in American history, one that risks extinguishing the flame of the Great American Experiment. Significant erosions of Constitutionally granted civil liberties discussed throughout the rest of this document may not have been Biden’s fault, but they occurred on his watch. If you see an injustice and remain silent, you own it. I can’t remain silent. Biden is the epitome of the empty, amoral creature produced by our system of legalized bribery. His long political career in Congress was defined by representing the interests of big business, especially the credit card companies based in Delaware. He was nicknamed Senator Credit Card. He has always glibly told the public what it wants to hear and then sold them out. ~ Chris Hedges, right-wing hatchet man Team Biden. Books have been written about Trump’s fumbles in the first months (or four years) of his presidency. See Josh Rogin’s Chaos Under Heaven in Books or Michael Lewis’ less balanced The Fifth Risk reviewed in last year’s YIR. The Cracker Jack team assembled for Joe reveals a glob of feisty alt-left activists and omnipresent neocons. According to Rickards, two dozen players on Biden’s roster were recruited from the consulting firm WestExec Advisors (including Psaki and Blinken.)ref 1 That’s power and groupthink. David Axelrod: You must ask yourself, ‘Why are we allowing him to roll around in the hallways doing impromptu interviews?’ Jen Psaki: That is not something we recommend. In fact, a lot of times we say ‘don’t take questions.’ Young black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding given the chance as white entrepreneurs are, but they don’t have lawyers; they don’t have accountants. ~ Joe Biden Joe Biden, President – Joe is the Big Guy. In an odd sense, he is immunized from criticism because he is visibly losing his marbles. His cognitive decline is on full display; this 52 seconds of gibberish about inflation is emblematic.ref 2 He’s 80 years old, for Cripes sake. I read a book this year entitled, When the Air Hits Your Brain, which derives from a neurosurgical aphorism that finishes with “you ain’t never the same.” Wanna guess who had two brain aneurysms (one rupturing) years ago leading to a miraculous recovery?ref 3 You’re the most famous African-American baseball player. ~ Joe Biden to the Pope, context unknown (possibly even a deep fake)ref 4 I am neither reveling in Joe’s problems nor do I believe he is calling the shots. Claims that the puppet master is Harris are, no offense, on the low side of clueless. Obama seems like a better guess but Barrack was a front man too. Having an impaired leader of a superpower, however, is disquieting and potentially destabilizing, especially with Taiwan in play. Biden’s energy policy that clamped down on fossil fuel production only to ask OPEC to open the spigots is one for the ages. The covid policies bridging both administrations were catastrophic, but throwing workers out of jobs into the teeth of unprecedented labor shortages makes zero sense. The nouveau inflation—Bidenflation—may stick to him like it stuck to Jimmy Carter, but that is unfair to both presidents. Look to the Fed in both cases for blame. Troubles at the southern border and the Afghanistan pullout are a couple of serious logs for a raging inferno that represents Biden’s first year in office. As discussed in a later section, demonizing “white supremacists”—not just political opponents but opponents labeled by their race—will not be viewed well by historians unless history is at a serious fork and Joe is ultimately protrayed as the founder of some new Fatherland. Kamala Harris, Vice President – Whenever situations heat up, Harris is off like a prom dress. During the crisis at the border that she was charged with overseeing, she took off to Europe, cackling about never even visiting the border. Kamala endorsed and claimed credit for the Kabul evacuation.ref 5,6 Realizing she had pulled yet another boner she pulled out before they renamed it Kamalabad. (Hey: At least I had the decency to pass on the Kamalatoe joke.) In a moment of surreal comedy, Harris hosted a public chat with Bill Clinton on “empowering women.”ref 7 She can even serve up semi-reasonable ideas with dollops of cringe. If the Democrats nominate her in 2024, may God have mercy on their souls—she is unelectable—or maybe on our souls—I could be wrong. Jen Psaki, Press Secretary – The role of any press secretary is to calm the press down with nuggets of insight—to feed the birds. When that fails, lie your ass off, all with a cold, calculating sociopathy. I would say she did the best job imaginable given the hand she was dealt. Disagree? I’ll just have to circle back with you on that. Ron Klain, Whitehouse Chief of Staff – This guy might be the rainmaker, but I haven’t quite figured him out. He has the durability of Andrei Gromyko, maintaining a central role through three democratic administrations. Keep an eye on him. Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury – We have yet to find out Yellen’s role because she has not been pressed into service by a crisis. To resolve the minor “meme stock” bruhaha, which did not call for a resolution, she needed an ethics waiver owing to the soft corruption of her bank-sponsored million-dollar speaking tour. My expectations of her are quite low, and I imagine she will meet them. Antony Blinken, Secretary of State – He has a good resume. Like Psaki, he is forced to play a weak hand. He lacks Psaki’s skills. Jennifer Mulhern Granholm, US Energy Secretary – In a press conference she was asked how many barrels of oil a day the US consumes and said, “I do not have those numbers in front of me.” ‘Nuff said. Get her out of there. Merrick Garland, Attorney General – The press will tear anybody a new one so snippets with bad optics are always dangerous. I would say, however, ordering the FBI to investigate parents who get irate at school boards—even those who seem rather threatening—is over the top. Leave that to the local and state police. His role in the January 6th event and push into domestic terrorism is potentially sinister and moves him onto my shitlist. Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency – This one blows my circuits. She is what in the vernacular is called “a commie” straight from Kazakhstan with a thesis on Marxism—a devout believer that the State should run the show. She also hails from Cornell Law School. (Yeah. I know. STFU.) Matthew Continetti of the National Review noted she is, “an activist intellectual who is—and I say this in the kindest way possible—a nut.”ref 8 There will be no more private bank deposit accounts and all of the deposit accounts will be held directly at the Fed. ~ Saule Omarova, Cornell Law Professor   We want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change. ~ Saule Omarova, on oil and gas companies For those who have seen the horror movie The Ring, Cornell tried to exorcise the demon by sending “the VHS tape” to Washington, D.C., but it came back stamped “Return to Sender.” She withdrew. Hey Team Biden: you could want to snatch up MIT’s Venezuelan-derived president who is already on the board of the World Economic Forum and was instrumental in pushing Aaron Swartz to off himself.ref 9 John Kerry, Climate Czar – Don’t we have enough Czars? John is charged with flying around the world in his private jet, setting the stage for a 30-year $150 trillion push to make many bank accounts much My disdain for the climate movement catches Kerry in the splash zone. Pete Buttegieg, Transportation Secretary – I must confess to liking Mayor Pete and would have been happier if he had gotten the crash course in the oval office rather than Joe. The one criticism I would make is that taking two months of paternity leave during the nation’s greatest transportation crisis seemed odd. I think when you are in such an important position you find a way. Get a nanny. Bring the twins to your office. Leave them with your spouse. For Pete’s sake (sorry), stay at your post. For the record, after my youngest son was born my wife had health problems. I used to bring him to work and lecture with him in a Snugly and changed a shitload of diapers. You could have done it too, Pete. Samantha Power, Head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – Sam is a garden-variety neocon, having served as ambassador to the UN and on the National Security Council, both under Obama. She was central to the planning behind destabilizing Libya,ref 10 which sure looks like a bad idea unless destabilizing the Middle East is our foreign policy. Please just don’t fuck up too much. Cass Sunstein, Homeland Security employee. This is not really an appointment, per se. Cass is the Harvard-employed husband of neocon Samantha Powers. In his 2008 book, Conspiracy Theories, Cass declared “the existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories” to be our greatest threat, outlining five possible solutions, and I quote, “(1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might engage in counter-speech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counter-speech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help.” Guys like Cass who come out of Harvard’s CIA training camps are menaces to society. Marvelous hire, Joe. Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary for Political Affairs – She is famous for her hot mic “Fuck the EU” comment and for engineering the coup in Ukraine—a Wonder Bread neocon. William J. Burns, Head of the CIA – I’ve got nothing on Bill, not even a fingerprint. It would be difficult for me to grade him poorly on a curve with the likes of John Brennan, William Casey, and Alan Dulles. (I once had dinner with a former CIA head John Deutch. What a dick.) Christopher Wray, Head of the FBI – As the FBI increasingly looks like the Praetorian Guard for the power elite (both in and out of public office), Wray has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors like J. Edgar Hoover and James Comie to be both top cop and dubious scoundrel. Wray’s fate might be dictated by the ongoing Durham investigation, but I have not seen any heads roll inside the Beltway since Watergate a half-century ago. Tony Fauci, Director of NIAID – That bipartisan, power-hungry authoritarian—The Most Trusted Madman in America—is a recurring theme. He doesn’t know any science. He is a political hack—a chameleon—who survived 35 years multiple administrations by being able slither out of anybody’s claws and regrow his tail. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC – She got serious attention in part 2. I am horrified by her sociopathy. I think she is evil. Amy Gutmann, Ambassador to Germany – Guttman was given the job after giving the Big Guy more than $900,000 in speaking fees and an honorary degree from UPenn when she was the University’s president. I am sure every ambassador pays market rates for the job.  Cathy Russell, Biden’s Director of Presidential Personnel–She is married to Tom Donlin, Chairman of the gargantuan multinational investment firm, BlackRock. Their daughter made it into the Whitehouse National Security Council. A talented family enjoying the political respect accorded to billionaires. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Head of the Office of Science – Despite scientific chops as a climate-change-supporting agronomist, she has no administrative experience and is inexperienced in the scientific programs that she is overseeing. Of course, everything is now about the $150 trillion climate grift, so she’s our girl. Jared Bernstein, Whitehouse Economic Advisor – He is highly educated, with a bachelor’s degree in music, master’s degrees in social work and philosophy, and a Ph.D. in social welfare. His greatest strength may be his complete lack of training in economics. Shalanda Baker, Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Department of Energy – Is that a salaried position? ‘Nuff said. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Mark transitioned from the Trump administration. It caused a stir when he went more “woke” than Chelsea Manning. We will no longer defeat our enemy but assign them pronouns and include them. This was followed by a scandal outlined in Bob Woodward’s book in which he instructed military leaders in a secret meeting to bypass Trump on important military decisions.ref 11 He then unilaterally told his peer in the Chinese military that he would drop a dime if there was an impending military conflict. He tried to hang it on the Secretary of Defense, but the Secretary spit the bit fast.ref 12 My theory is that the sudden wokeness was to commandeer allies on the far left knowing that scandal was coming. It worked. He looks like he is right out of Dr. Strangelove without the lip gloss and eye shadow. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services. He refuses to acknowledge the merits of natural Covid-19 immunity. That puts him near the top of my shitlist. Becerra has no medical or scientific training. He’s a lawyer, but at least he is from an underrepresented group. Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services – I know little about her. She might be the most qualified candidate, certainly more so than her boss Becerra. Call me skeptical of a purely merit-based appointment. Hunter Biden. I was going to place Hunter in the bullets and call him Head of the DEA and National Association of the Arts, but I had reservations. There are sad, heartwarming, and troubling roles played by Hunter Biden. His addiction is a highly personal problem that is difficult for the first family to deal with, especially given other tragedies in their lives. Joe Rogan succinctly explained Hunter’s remarkably odd behavior: “he is a crackhead.” They are part and parcel of being dopesick. Leaked emails from the laptop show Dad to be a compassionate and loving father struggling to save his son. Ironically, old footage surfaced of Joe ranting about how we have to deal with crackheads severely no matter whom they know.ref 13 It did not age well. It is clear that Hunter Biden was selling access and influence. It appears that Joe Biden was aware of that effort. That is very serious. If these emails are false, this is a major story. If they are true, this is a major scandal. ~ Jonathan Turley Before you start blubbering, however, recall that Hunter’s laptop revealed that he was playing critical roles in Russian and Chinese dealings for the Biden family. The Kleenex gets tossed and the gloves now come off. Hunter’s business partner stepped forward admitting nefarious deals were made with Joe involved. Joe denied knowing the clown, but a then photo of the two surfaced.ref 14 This year Hunter also began selling his artwork for up to $500,000 a pop behind a “Chinese Wall”—a veil that ensures we cannot find out who bought the art.ref 15,16,17 The money might literally be from behind a Chinese wall. That buys a lot of crack even after the Big Guy’s 10% cut. Figure 1 shows two paintings, one by a Hunter and the other by two elephants. (No joke, elephants have been painting brilliant pictures free-trunk for decades.) Figure 1. Biden art (left) brought $500,000. The elephant painting (shown being painted) brought $39,000. We are a democracy…there are things you can’t do by executive order unless you are a dictator. ~ Joe Biden, several years ago Executive Orders. Before the first week of his presidency was over, Biden had signed 37 of those beauties. Some, such as the order extending rent moratoria, were overtly unconstitutional. Some merely unwound Trump’s orders that had unwound Obama’s orders. This is dodge ball. While Yale was battling a civil rights case for discriminatory admissions practices, the Biden DOJ dismissed it without comment.ref 18 Yale is said to have promptly destroyed the evidence, which shows they have good lawyers. Transgender athletes were reinstated in women’s sports, ensuring that longstanding records will be shattered.ref 19 It got surreal when UPenn’s transgender swimmer was beaten by Yale’s transgender swimmer.ref 19a An executive order giving the IRS direct access to our bank accounts seems both sinister and inevitable…death and taxes as they say.ref 20 There are a lot of Republicans out there giving speeches about how outraged they are about the situation at the border. Not many who are putting forward solutions. ~ Jen Psaki, forgetting about the wall idea Crisis at the Border. The mainstream press covered this one exhaustively. There are parallels here with the North Africans crossing into Europe several years back. It looks intentional, but why? Don’t tell me about building a democratic base. That is too far in the future and too simplistic. It is far easier to control the elections at the server level. Baffling details include the administration’s suggestion that border agents should be empowered to authorize the immigration of “climate migrants.”ref 21 That could boost a few agents salaries. Rumors of US military planes transporting illegals into the US suggests somebody could punk the elite: load up a boat and drop a couple hundred on Martha’s Vineyard. On further thought, rather than offering Vineyardians more gardeners, drop off some Afghans.ref 22Whoever is calling the shots, this is neither about civil rights nor climate change. Attorney General Merrick Garland clarified the immigration challenge: Today marks a step forward in our effort to make the asylum process fairer and more expeditious. This rule will both reduce the caseload in our immigration courts and protect the rights of those fleeing persecution and violence. If you do that, that will set off a mass migration that’s like nothing that we have ever seen in this country because the entire world will then come on through to get their asylum, essentially legalizing illegal immigration, in a very clever way. ~ Attorney General Merrick Garland WTF did Garland just say? Both his meaning and intent are unclear. The immigrants, of course, were all unvaccinated, which would have been OK by me had the administration not gone Third Reich to vaccinate US citizens. The administration also wanted to offer $450,000 to every immigrant family separated from their loved ones: why?ref 23They seemed to walk that third-trimester idea back and then walked it forward again. A half-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to manage the immigrants went to friends of the administration.ref 24 Your tax dollars at work. At least we are back to business as usual. By the way, where is Border Czar Kamala Harris while all this is going on? Making creepy videos.ref 25,26 People who like quotes love meaningless generalizations. ~ Graham Greene Miscellaneous issues surfaced that either went away or are still festering quietly. On the positive side, stacking the Supreme Court—increasing the number of justices to get a left-leaning majority—seems to have been only a political football. Granting Washington DC statehood, while to a plebe like me doesn’t seem nuts, has the trappings of a massive powershift to the left in national elections. Joe invaded the legal process by declaring Chauvin guilty and Kyle Rittenhouse a white supremacist. Would Obama have done this? I don’t think so. Rittenhouse may get his “10% for the Young Guy” in defamation suits against Joe and every media outlet on the planet. Joe checking his watch five times at the funeral of dead marines didn’t play well,ref 27 but if you put a camera on me I wouldn’t make it to lunchtime without serving up Jim Acosta fresh meat. The main drama of Biden’s first year, however, played out in a distant land.   Afghanistan—where empires go to die. ~ Mike Malloy Afghanistan. I’ve been groping for nomenclature — Afghazi, Afghazistan, Benghanistan, Benghazistan, Saigonistan, Clusterfuckistan, and Bidenistan—to describe this odd moment in history. That 20-year skirmish cost an estimated $2.3 trillion.ref 28 The idea that it was only a few thousand troops with no fatalities in the last year or two makes me question my wisdom, but I can’t start revising history. Whether for right or wrong, I was glad we were getting out. The ensuing Crisis in Kabul looked like the graveyard of a presidency—a combination of the Bay of Pigs and the Iran Hostage Crisis that would dog us for years. They are chanting “Death to America”, but they seemed friendly at the same time. ~ CNN reporter wearing a burka looking for a husband Even before the evacuation started we were hearing about huge caches of weapons that would be abandoned.ref 29 In an eat-and-dash that would make an IHOP waiter wince, we bugged out at 2:00 AM without telling anybody.ref 30Jalalabad Joe had assured us repeatedly the 300,000-strong Afghan army would hang tough. They were defeated in time to chow down on some goat stew for dinner. Images of desperate Afghan’s clinging to transport planes brought up images of the Saigon Embassy rooftop. We left service dogs in cages.ref 31 Marines would never do that. Stranded Americans and Afghan collaborators were begging for help to get to the airport and even to get into the airport.ref 32The administration used a drone to strike on some kids and their dads loading water into a truck to change the news cycle briefly.ref 33 The Afghan who is credited with saving Joe Biden and John Kerry in a disastrous excursion to Afghanistan years earlier got left behind pleading for help:ref 34 Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family. Don’t forget me here. Mercenaries like Blackwater’s Erik Prince tried to prevent Americans from taking The Final Exit,ref 35 only to get stonewalled by the Whitehouse. Meanwhile, the top commander and four-star Wokie, Mark Milley, was too mired in scandal.ref 36 Retired generals were calling for the active-duty generals to resign.ref 37 The withdrawal could not be botched worse if you tried. The populace are now facing a winter of profound famine.ref 38 Rural Afghanistan has been rocked by climate change. The past three decades have brought floods and drought that have destroyed crops and left people hungry. And the Taliban — likely without knowing climate change was the cause — has taken advantage of that pain. ~ CBS News, sticking it like a Russian gymnast This vexing story was from the Theater of the Absurd. Starting with the caches of military equipment left behind, I have two simple solutions that a group of teenagers could have concocted: Announce Blow Shit Up Friday (BSUF). Provide the military personnel with some grenade launchers and a few kegs of beer, grill up some goat burgers, and start blowing shit up. That would be a blast. If that is too unprofessional, you gather all armaments and anything of else of value into an open space. Once the wheels go up on the last troop transport, drop a MOAB—Mother of All Bombs.ref 39 Tough luck for those who were trying to hotwire the stuff when the MOAB arrives. It will take a year to get them out…If you use those billions of dollars of weapons behind I promise they’ll be using them against your grandchildren and mine someday. ~ Joe Biden, Presidential Candidate, 2007ref 40 The collapse of the Afghan Army also couldn’t have come as a surprise. The military and CIA certainly knew that those troops wouldn’t withstand a West Side Story-level brawl.ref 41 The soldiers were paid by the US for their service COD, and there was no C left. Shockingly, most of the payroll booty had long-since been snarfed up by the politicians and top military brass from the only swamp in Afghanistan.ref 42 Whocouldanode? Taliban can murder as many people as they want. But if they keep trolling Biden like this they’re gonna get kicked off of social media. ~ Jesse Kelley, noting the Taliban has an active Twitter feed Here is a script playing out in my noggin. The Crisis in Kabul was an arms deal—Fast and Furious 2.0. One of our top diplomats called the Taliban and said, “We are pulling out in a month. We’ll leave the keys in the ignition and pallets of $100 billsref 43 to help pay for upkeep. If you guys let us sneak out unmolested, you can party like it’s 999—an authentic Taliban-themed fraternity party. We will leave you guns, money, nice facilities, and even a few wives. If you fuck this up, however, we will be right back here.” The Whitehouse also lent a legitimizing tone to the regime when speaking about “working with the Taliban” as part of the deal. In return, the State Department called on the Taliban to form an “inclusive and representative government,”ref 44 so there’s that bit of risible nonsense. Neville Chamberlain couldn’t have done any better. The bottom line: 90% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to leave Afghanistan. ~ Jalalabad Joe Biden That might be a great poll number or inflated final exam grade at a college Joe erroneously claimed to attend, but I am not sure “90%” is impressive in this context. The actual evacuation was ineptly executed from the get-go. Mr. Rogers, with the help of his viewing audience of toddlers, could have Kabuled together a better plan based on the simple precept, “pull out the civilians then the military.” Baffling claims the Whitehouse was obstructing evacuations of charter flights containing Americans was not right-wing propaganda: Where are they going to land? A number of these planes have a handful of Americans, but they may have several hundred individuals who do not have proper documentation of identity….we don’t have manifests for them, we don’t know what the security protocols are for them, we don’t know what their documentation is…hard choices you face in government. ~ Jen Psaki, press conference WTF actually happened? When nothing makes sense your model is wrong. Glenn Greenwald got the scent that withdrawal was intentionally mishandled, suggesting this is “fully within the character of the deep-state operatives.”ref 45We also forgot to destroy our sophisticated FBI-derived software and a complete database containing the biometrics of Friends of the USA,ref 46,47,48 enabling the Taliban to find potential detractors for an attitude correction. Think of it as Afghanistan’s high-tech War on Domestic Terror. The stonewalling of help from other countries also makes no sense using a conventional model.ref 49 Biden’s CIA Director met with Taliban leadership covertly—so covertly we all knew about it—to concoct a “deal”, but what kind of deal?ref 50 During the evacuation, we gave the Taliban names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies supposedly to let them pass through the militant-controlled perimeter of the city’s airport.ref 51 They would never abuse this list, right? A large number of Afghan refugees—possibly as many as 100,000 according to Tucker Carlson—entering the US are consistent with our open border policy along the Mexican border, but what is that all about? Afghans, by the way, are reputed to be always recalcitrant to assimilate in Europe just in case you’re thinking of renting out your basement as an Airbnb.ref 52 What happened in Afghanistan is not incompetence. We are not that incompetent. ~ General George Flynn The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war. ~ Julian Assange, 2011ref y I have no doubt that blood was shed after we left. More than a few US sympathizers surely lost their heads. As to the stranded Americans, why were they still there? China had evacuated their citizens months earlier.ref 53(Hmmm…Chinese citizens were there?) Two dozen students from the Cajon Valley Union School District and 16 parents there for an enriching summer trip were stranded.ref 54 How did they get visas? That field trip will generate a few college essays that will beat any written about dead grandparents, although Kabul State College may be their only option. This is now on-track, Peter, to be the largest airlift in U.S. history. I would not say that is anything but a success. ~ Jen Psaki to Peter Doucy The media can create, steer, or smother narratives at will. I have a question: Where are all the dead Americans—thousands of them—said to be left behind? Horror stories should be surfacing daily, but they’re not. We shit a mudbrick when One Dead Kashoggi (ODK) got fed to the camels in Saudi Arabia. Three thousand fatalities on 9/11 got us into Afghanistan in the first place. We supposedly left behind “thousands of Americans” but without generating a single headline? So much for that Bay of Pigs­–Iran Hostage Crisis analogy. So here are my next questions and I am deadly serious: Did we get duped? Was the whole thing more sham than farce? There is no such thing as a true account of anything. ~ Gore Vidal Here is Dave’s Narrative. We installed the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan as the best of many bad options. The winners are the Taliban and China. The two are inking deals for mineral rights as I type. The chaos was intentional. But why accept such a profound humiliation and dashed hopes of future alliances in global hotspots? I think that the Taliban winning the war in Afghanistan, and then the way our exit happened, has absolutely inspired jihadists all over the world. The Taliban is saying, we just didn’t defeat the United States, we defeated NATO. We defeated the world’s greatest military power, ever. I think, not only will the jihadists be inspired, but a lot of them are going to come to Afghanistan to be part of the celebration, to be part of jihadist central. We are more at risk, without a doubt. ~ Michael Morell, former CIA Director under Obama Maybe China has way more than just Hunter’s laptop to blackmail us and is about to take possession of Taiwan soon. While we await the next Kyle Rittenhouse trial to preoccupy ourselves, take a peek at this video. Skip over the election stuff since we all have rock-hard opinions on that and go to minute 55:30. Xi Jinping’s right-hand man, Di Dongsheng, publicly explained the extent Beijing controls US politics:ref 55 There is nothing in the world that money can’t fix, right? If one wad of cash can’t handle it, then I’ll have two wads. (laughter) Of course this is how I do things. In fact, to be a bit blunt, in the past 30 years or past 40 years, we manipulated the core power circle in the United States, right? I mentioned earlier that Wall Street started to have a very strong influence on U.S. domestic and foreign affairs in the 1970s. So we figured out our path and those we could be dependent on. But the problem is that Wall Street’s status has declined after 2008. More importantly, starting in 2016 Wall Street has no influence on Trump. Why? It is awkward. Trump had a soft breach of contract on Wall Street once, so the two sides had conflicts. They tried to help during the Sino-US trade war. As far as I know, friends from the U.S. told me that they tried to help, but they were too weak. But now we see that Biden has come to power. (crowd laughs) The traditional elites, political elites, and the establishment have a very close relationship with Wall Street. You all see it: Trump talked about Biden’s son, “You have investment funds around the world.” Who helped him build the funds? You understand? There are transactions involved. (laughter) So at this point in time, we use an appropriate way to express a certain kind of goodwill. (applause) ~Di Dongsheng, Vice Director and Secretary of the Center for Foreign Strategic Studies of Chinaref 55 January 6th Capitol Insurrection Alec Baldwin killed more people in 2021 than did the January 6th insurrectionists. Anybody reading this far knows that the January 6th riots stemmed from the right-wing voters who doubted the veracity of the 2020 election. Twitter polls show that view is not as partisan or as rare as the media would lead you to believe. I happen to doubt U.S. election integrity but have for quite a few election cycles. ref 1 Hacked Stratfor emails show the democrats rigged the vote in ’08 ref 2 and Republicans rigged it in ’04.ref 3 It is bipartisan Capture the Flag with red and blue pinnies.ref 4 In any event, Trump’s Green Goblin strategy was to beckon the MAGA faithful to the Capitol to protest the Electoral College signing off on the results. It was not so different than the mobs outside the courthouses trying to subvert the Rittenhouse and Chauvin trials, but the scale of January 6th was much larger and the optics were Biblical. It got out of hand and, at times, even a little Helter Skelter. Mob psychology elicits dramatic changes in brain chemistry and has been the topic of many laboratory studies.”ref 5 Temporary insanity is not a crazy defense. My Tweet got some hysterically hateful responses from the Right who missed the sarcasm and the Left who did not. I think I squandered more of my valuable time left on this planet burrowing through the January 6th story than on the Covid-Vaccine combo platter. I should preface this section by noting that I was praised by a thoughtful long-time reader for being “balanced and measured and carefully worded, even on edgy topics.” I may be on the cusp of disappointing him. It’s impossible to peer at the The Great Insurrection through a non-partisan lens. Both sides may find common ground in the belief that January 6th is a profound fork in the road of the American Experiment. The sock-starching Left will celebrate it as a national holiday every year while the bed-wetting Right will try to ignore it. Both are wrong. Look at that photo and pause to ponder its implications. Put a funny caption to it. Let’s hear from some Republicans first: We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack. ~ Liz Cheney I think Lizard nailed it. We’re on the same page. Let’s keep going… January 6 was worse than 9/11, because it’s continued to rip our country apart and get permission for people to pursue autocratic means, and so I think we’re in a much worse place than we’ve been. I think we’re in the most perilous point in time since 1861 in the advent of the Civil War. ~ Michael Dowd, former Bush strategist I would like to see January 6th burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11 because it was that scale of a shock to the system. ~ George Will, syndicated columnist Mike and George are as unhinged as I am but on different hinges. I think they are delusional and offensive. Edging forward… The 1/6 attack for the future of the country was a profoundly more dangerous event than the 9/11 attacks. And in the end, the 1/6 attacks are likely to kill a lot more Americans than were killed in the 9/11 attacks, which will include the casualties of the wars that lasted 20 years following. ~ Steve Smith, Lincoln Project co-founder Now I’m getting the heebie-jeebies if for no other reason than the Lincoln Project is filled with Democratic operatives (or at least neocons) pretending to be Republicans—as authentic as the Indians at the Boston Tea Party or stepmoms on PornHub. We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within…There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home… But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. ~ George W. Bush, a thinly veiled allusion to January 6 George got some serious guff from more than a few of the 80 million Fox-watching extremists including the Grand Wizard: So interesting to watch former President Bush, who is responsible for getting us into the quicksand of the Middle East (and then not winning!), as he lectures us that terrorists on the ‘right’ are a bigger problem than those from foreign countries that hate America. ~ Donald Trump He nailed it. I have stated previously that Bush committed war crimes. Of course, the National Security Machine chimed in… The No. 1 national security threat I’ve ever seen in my life to this country’s democracy is the party that I’m in — the Republican Party. It is the No. 1 national security threat to the United States of America. ~ Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official Dude! You just tarred about 80 million asses with that brushstroke. Let’s move further left to find some middle ground: They swooned for him on 9/11 because he gave them what they most crave: the view that Al Qaeda is comparable to those who protested at the Capitol on 1/6. ~ Glenn Greenwald, on George Bush’s comments Glenn is part of a growing cadre of liberals including Matt Taibbi, Tim Pool, Bill Maher, The Weinstein Brothers, and Joe Rogan who are unafraid to extend olive branches across The Great Partisan Divide at risk of being labled white supremacists and Nazis, but they are hardly emblematic of the Left. From the elite Left… I think we also had very real security concerns. We still don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress.  ~ AOC AOC’s comment prompted one pundit to tell her to “get a therapist”, which seems correct given her moment of maximum drama was when a security guard was screaming outside her door, “Are you OK, Ma’am?” #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett began trending on social media when it was disclosed that she was not even in the building when Ragnar and his buddies showed up.ref 6 They will have to decide if Donald J. Trump incited the erection…the insurrection. ~ Chuck Schumerref 7 What ya thinking about Chuckie? We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on Jan. 6. ~ Joe Biden Joe may be on the A-Team, but he hasn’t found his way out of the locker room. The blue-check-marked liberals did not mince words… The 9/11 terrorists and Osama bin Laden never threatened the heart of the American experiment. The 1/6 terrorists and Donald Trump absolutely did exactly that. Trump continues that effort today. ~ S.V. Dáte, Huffington Post’s senior White House correspondent The only effective way for the government to respond to an act of war by domestic terrorists is to be prepared to meet them with machine guns and flamethrowers and mow them down. Not one of those terrorists who broke through police lines should have escaped alive. ~ a Washington Post commenter Moving as far left as you can by tuning into the most cunning commie who can outfox any Western leader… Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? They came there with political demands. ~ Vladimir Putin The Cast of this Drama. This Kafkaesque narrative will be scrutinized by historians and democratic operatives for years to come. The Left will cast this event as a truly unique moment in US history, but it was precedented. I see parallels with the 1920’s Bonus Army in which World War I veterans were pissed off about unpaid post-war benefits.ref 8 In the saddest of ironies, many were killed by Army regulars. Some authorities, including a young Dwight Eisenhower, thought it was a benign protest while others thought it was an assault on America. Grumpy crowds appear at the Capitol only on days of the week that end in “y.” Recently, f.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 6th, 2022

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead One year ago, when looking at the 20 most popular stories of 2020, we said that the year would be a very tough act to follow as there "could not have been more regime shifts, volatility moments, and memes than 2020." And yet despite the exceedingly high bar for 2021, the year did not disappoint and proved to be a successful contender, and if judging by the sheer breadth of narratives, stories, surprises, plot twists and unexpected developments, 2021 was even more memorable and event-filled than 2020. Where does one start? While covid was the story of 2020, the pandemic that emerged out of a (Fauci-funded) genetic lab team in Wuhan, China dominated newsflow, politics and capital markets for the second year in a row. And while the biggest plot twist of 2020 was Biden's victory over Trump in the presidential election (it took the pandemic lockdowns and mail-in ballots to hand the outcome to Biden), largely thanks to Covid, Biden failed to hold to his biggest presidential promise of defeating covid, and not only did he admit in late 2021 that there is "no Federal solution" to covid waving a white flag of surrender less than a year into his presidency, but following the recent emergence of the Xi, pardon Omicron variant, the number of covid cases in the US has just shattered all records. The silver lining is not only that deaths and hospitalizations have failed to follow the number of cases, but that the scaremongering narrative itself is starting to melt in response to growing grassroots discontent with vaccine after vaccine and booster after booster, which by now it is clear, do nothing to contain the pandemic. And now that it is clear that omicron is about as mild as a moderate case of the flu, the hope has finally emerged that this latest strain will finally kill off the pandemic as it becomes the dominant, rapidly-spreading variant, leading to worldwide herd immunity thanks to the immune system's natural response. Yes, it may mean billions less in revenue for Pfizer and Moderna, but it will be a colossal victory for the entire world. The second biggest story of 2021 was undoubtedly the scourge of soaring inflation, which contrary to macrotourist predictions that it would prove "transitory", refused to do so and kept rising, and rising, and rising, until it hit levels not seen since the Volcker galloping inflation days of the 1980s. The only difference of course is that back then, the Fed Funds rate hit 20%. Now it is at 0%, and any attempts to hike aggressively will lead to a horrific market crash, something the Fed knows very well. Whether this was due to supply-chain blockages and a lack of goods and services pushing prices higher, or due to massive stimulus pushing demand for goods - and also prices - higher, or simply the result of a record injection of central bank liquidity into the system, is irrelevant but what does matter is that it got so bad that even Biden, facing a mauling for his Democratic party in next year's midterm elections, freaked out about soaring prices and pushed hard to lower the price of gasoline, ordering releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and vowing to punish energy companies that dare to make a profit, while ordering Powell to contain the surge in prices even if means the market is hit. Unfortunately for Biden, the market will be hit even as inflation still remain red hot for much of the coming year. And speaking of markets, while 2022 may be a year when the piper finally gets paid, 2021 was yet another blockbuster year for risk assets, largely on the back of the continued global response to the 2020 covid pandemic, when as we wrote last year, we saw "the official arrival of global Helicopter Money, tens of trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, an overhaul of the global economy punctuated by an unprecedented explosion in world debt, an Orwellian crackdown on civil liberties by governments everywhere, and ultimately set the scene for what even the World Economic Forum called simply "The Great Reset." Yes, the staggering liquidity injections that started in 2020, continued throughout 2021 and the final tally is that after $3 trillion in emergency liquidity injections in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic to stabilize the world, the Fed injected almost $2 trillion in the subsequent period, of which $1.5 trillion in 2021, a year where economists were "puzzled" why inflation was soaring. This, of course, excludes the tens of trillions of monetary stimulus injected by other central banks as well as the boundless fiscal stimulus that was greenlighted with the launch of helicopter money (i.e., MMT) in 2020. It's also why with inflation running red hot and real rates the lowest they have ever been, everyone was forced to rush into the "safety" of stocks (or stonks as they came to be known among GenZ), and why after last year's torrid stock market returns, the S&P rose another 27% in 2021 and up a staggering 114% from the March 2020 lows, in the process trouncing all previous mega-rallies (including those in 1929, 1938, 1974 and 2009)... ... making this the third consecutive year of double-digit returns. This reminds us of something we said last year: "it's almost as if the world's richest asset owners requested the covid pandemic." A year later, we got confirmation for this rhetorical statement, when we calculated that in the 18 months since the covid pandemic, the richest 1% of US society have seen their net worth increase by over $30 trillion. As a result, the US is now officially a banana republic where the middle 60% of US households by income - a measure economists use as a definition of the middle class - saw their combined assets drop from 26.7% to 26.6% of national wealth as of June, the lowest in Federal Reserve data, while for the first time the super rich had a bigger share, at 27%. Yes, the 1% now own more wealth than the entire US middle class, a definition traditionally reserve for kleptocracies and despotic African banana republics. It wasn't just the rich, however: politicians the world over would benefit from the transition from QE to outright helicopter money and MMT which made the over monetization of deficits widely accepted in the blink of an eye. The common theme here is simple: no matter what happens, capital markets can never again be allowed to drop, regardless of the cost or how much more debt has to be incurred. Indeed, as we look back at the news barrage over the past year, and past decade for that matter, the one thing that becomes especially clear amid the constant din of markets, of politics, of social upheaval and geopolitical strife - and now pandemics -  in fact a world that is so flooded with constant conflicting newsflow and changing storylines that many now say it has become virtually impossible to even try to predict the future, is that despite the people's desire for change, for something original and untried, the world's established forces will not allow it and will fight to preserve the broken status quo at any price - even global coordinated shutdowns - which is perhaps why it always boils down to one thing - capital markets, that bedrock of Western capitalism and the "modern way of life", where control, even if it means central planning the likes of which have not been seen since the days of the USSR, and an upward trajectory must be preserved at all costs, as the alternative is a global, socio-economic collapse. And since it is the daily gyrations of stocks that sway popular moods the interplay between capital markets and politics has never been more profound or more consequential. The more powerful message here is the implicit realization and admission by politicians, not just Trump who had a penchant of tweeting about the S&P every time it rose, but also his peers on both sides of the aisle, that the stock market is now seen as the consummate barometer of one's political achievements and approval. Which is also why capital markets are now, more than ever, a political tool whose purpose is no longer to distribute capital efficiently and discount the future, but to manipulate voter sentiments far more efficiently than any fake Russian election interference attempt ever could. Which brings us back to 2021 and the past decade, which was best summarized by a recent Bill Blain article who said that "the last 10-years has been a story of massive central banking distortion to address the 2008 crisis. Now central banks face the consequences and are trapped. The distortion can’t go uncorrected indefinitely." He is right: the distortion will eventually collapse especially if the Fed follows through with its attempt rate hikes some time in mid-2020, but so far the establishment and the "top 1%" have been successful - perhaps the correct word is lucky - in preserving the value of risk assets: on the back of the Fed's firehose of liquidity the S&P500 returned an impressive 27% in 2021, following a 15.5% return in 2020 and 28.50% in 2019. It did so by staging the greatest rally off all time from the March lows, surpassing all of the 4 greatest rallies off the lows of the past century (1929,1938, 1974, and 2009). Yet this continued can-kicking by the establishment - all of which was made possible by the covid pandemic and lockdowns which served as an all too convenient scapegoat for the unprecedented response that served to propel risk assets (and fiat alternatives such as gold and bitcoin) to all time highs - has come with a price... and an increasingly higher price in fact. As even Bank of America CIO Michael Hartnett admits, Fed's response to the the pandemic "worsened inequality" as the value of financial assets - Wall Street -  relative to economy - Main Street - hit all-time high of 6.3x. And while the Fed was the dynamo that has propelled markets higher ever since the Lehman collapse, last year certainly had its share of breakout moments. Here is a sampling. Gamestop and the emergence of meme stonks and the daytrading apes: In January markets were hypnotized by the massive trading volumes, rolling short squeezes and surging share prices of unremarkable established companies such as consoles retailer GameStop and cinema chain AMC and various other micro and midcap names. What began as a discussion on untapped value at GameStop on Reddit months earlier by Keith Gill, better known as Roaring Kitty, morphed into a hedge fund-orchestrated, crowdsourced effort to squeeze out the short position held by a hedge fund, Melvin Capital. The momentum flooded through the retail market, where daytraders shunned stocks and bought massive out of the money calls, sparking rampant "gamma squeezes" in the process forcing some brokers to curb trading. Robinhood, a popular broker for day traders and Citadel's most lucrative "subsidiary", required a cash injection to withstand the demands placed on it by its clearing house. The company IPOed later in the year only to see its shares collapse as it emerged its business model was disappointing hollow absent constant retail euphoria. Ultimately, the market received a crash course in the power of retail investors on a mission. Ultimately, "retail favorite" stocks ended the year on a subdued note as the trading frenzy from earlier in the year petered out, but despite underperforming the S&P500, retail traders still outperformed hedge funds by more than 100%. Failed seven-year Treasury auction:  Whereas auctions of seven-year US government debt generally spark interest only among specialists, on on February 25 2021, one such typically boring event sparked shockwaves across financial markets, as the weakest demand on record hit prices across the whole spectrum of Treasury bonds. The five-, seven- and 10-year notes all fell sharply in price. Researchers at the Federal Reserve called it a “flash event”; we called it a "catastrophic, tailing" auction, the closest thing the US has had to a failed Trasury auction. The flare-up, as the FT put it, reflects one of the most pressing investor concerns of the year: inflation. At the time, fund managers were just starting to realize that consumer price rises were back with a vengeance — a huge threat to the bond market which still remembers the dire days of the Volcker Fed when inflation was about as high as it is today but the 30Y was trading around 15%. The February auaction also illustrated that the world’s most important market was far less liquid and not as structurally robust as investors had hoped. It was an extreme example of a long-running issue: since the financial crisis the traditional providers of liquidity, a group of 24 Wall Street banks, have pulled back because of higher costs associated with post-2008 capital requirements, while leaving liquidity provision to the Fed. Those banks, in their reduced role, as well as the hedge funds and high-frequency traders that have stepped into their place, have tended to withdraw in moments of market volatility. Needless to say, with the Fed now tapering its record QE, we expect many more such "flash" episodes in the bond market in the year ahead. The arch ego of Archegos: In March 2021 several banks received a brutal reminder that some of family offices, which manage some $6 trillion in wealth of successful billionaires and entrepreneurs and which have minimal reporting requirements, take risks that would make the most serrated hedge fund manager wince, when Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management imploded in spectacular style. As we learned in late March when several high-flying stocks suddenly collapsed, Hwang - a former protege of fabled hedge fund group Tiger Management - had built up a vast pile of leverage using opaque Total Return Swaps with a handful of banks to boost bets on a small number of stocks (the same banks were quite happy to help despite Hwang’s having been barred from US markets in 2013 over allegations of an insider-trading scheme, as he paid generously for the privilege of borrowing the banks' balance sheet). When one of Archegos more recent bets, ViacomCBS, suddenly tumbled it set off a liquidation cascade that left banks including Credit Suisse and Nomura with billions of dollars in losses. Conveniently, as the FT noted, the damage was contained to the banks rather than leaking across financial markets, but the episode sparked a rethink among banks over how to treat these clients and how much leverage to extend. The second coming of cryptos: After hitting an all time high in late 2017 and subsequently slumping into a "crypto winter", cryptocurrencies enjoyed a huge rebound in early 2021 which sent their prices soaring amid fears of galloping inflation (as shown below, and contrary to some financial speculation, the crypto space has traditionally been a hedge either to too much liquidity or a hedge to too much inflation). As a result, Bitcoin rose to a series of new record highs that culminated at just below $62,000, nearly three times higher than their previous all time high. But the smooth ride came to a halt in May when China’s crackdown on the cryptocurrency and its production, or “mining”, sparked the first serious crash of 2021. The price of bitcoin then collapsed as much as 30% on May 19, hitting a low of $30,000 amid a liquidation of levered positions in chaotic trading conditions following a warning from Chinese authorities of tighter curbs ahead. A public acceptance by Tesla chief and crypto cheerleader Elon Musk of the industry’s environmental impact added to the declines. However, as with all previous crypto crashes, this one too proved transitory, and prices resumed their upward trajectory in late September when investors started to price in the launch of futures-based bitcoin exchange traded funds in the US. The launch of these contracts subsequently pushed bitcoin to a new all-time high in early November before prices stumbled again in early December, this time due to a rise in institutional ownership when an overall drop in the market dragged down cryptos as well. That demonstrated the growing linkage between Wall Street and cryptocurrencies, due to the growing sway of large investors in digital markets. China's common prosperity crash: China’s education and tech sectors were one of the perennial Wall Street darlings. Companies such as New Oriental, TAL Education as well as Alibaba and Didi had come to be worth billions of dollars after highly publicized US stock market flotations. So when Beijing effectively outlawed swaths of the country’s for-profit education industry in July 2021, followed by draconian anti-trust regulations on the country's fintech names (where Xi Jinping also meant to teach the country's billionaire class a lesson who is truly in charge), the short-term market impact was brutal. Beijing’s initial measures emerged as part of a wider effort to make education more affordable as part of president Xi Jinping’s drive for "common prosperity" but that quickly raised questions over whether growth prospects across corporate China are countered by the capacity of the government to overhaul entire business models overnight. Sure enough, volatility stemming from the education sector was soon overshadowed by another set of government reforms related to common prosperity, a crackdown on leverage across the real estate sector where the biggest casualty was Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer. The company, whose boss was not long ago China's 2nd richest man, was engulfed by a liquidity crisis in the summer that eventually resulted in a default in early December. Still, as the FT notes, China continues to draw in huge amounts of foreign capital, pushing the Chinese yuan to end 2021 at the strongest level since May 2018, a major hurdle to China's attempts to kickstart its slowing economy, and surely a precursor to even more monetary easing. Natgas hyperinflation: Natural gas supplanted crude oil as the world’s most important commodity in October and December as prices exploded to unprecedented levels and the world scrambled for scarce supplies amid the developed world's catastrophic transition to "green" energy. The crunch was particularly acute in Europe, which has become increasingly reliant on imports. Futures linked to TTF, the region’s wholesale gas price, hit a record €137 per megawatt hour in early October, rising more than 75%. In Asia, spot liquefied natural gas prices briefly passed the equivalent of more than $320 a barrel of oil in October. (At the time, Brent crude was trading at $80). A number of factors contributed, including rising demand as pandemic restrictions eased, supply disruptions in the LNG market and weather-induced shortfalls in renewable energy. In Europe, this was aggravated by plunging export volumes from Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed monopoly pipeline supplier, amid a bitter political fight over the launch of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. And with delays to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, analysts say the European gas market - where storage is only 66% full - a cold snap or supply disruption away from another price spike Turkey's (latest) currency crisis:  As the FT's Jonathan Wheatley writes, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once a source of strength for the Turkish lira, and in his first five years in power from 2003, the currency rallied from TL1.6 per US dollar to near parity at TL1.2. But those days are long gone, as Erdogan's bizarre fascination with unorthodox economics, namely the theory that lower rates lead to lower inflation also known as "Erdoganomics", has sparked a historic collapse in the: having traded at about TL7 to the dollar in February, it has since fallen beyond TL17, making it the worst performing currency of 2021. The lira’s defining moment in 2021 came on November 18 when the central bank, in spite of soaring inflation, cut its policy rate for the third time since September, at Erdogan’s behest (any central banker in Turkey who disagrees with "Erdoganomics" is promptly fired and replaced with an ideological puppet). The lira recovered some of its losses in late December when Erdogan came up with the "brilliant" idea of erecting the infamous "doom loop" which ties Turkey's balance sheet to its currency. It has worked for now (the lira surged from TL18 against the dollar to TL12, but this particular band aid solution will only last so long). The lira’s problems are not only Erdogan’s doing. A strengthening dollar, rising oil prices, the relentless covid pandemic and weak growth in developing economies have been bad for other emerging market currencies, too, but as long as Erdogan is in charge, shorting the lira remains the best trade entering 2022. While these, and many more, stories provided a diversion from the boring existence of centrally-planned markets, we are confident that the trends observed in recent years will continue: coming years will be marked by even bigger government (because only more government can "fix" problems created by government), higher stock prices and dollar debasement (because only more Fed intervention can "fix" the problems created by the Fed), and a policy flip from monetary and QE to fiscal & MMT, all of which will keep inflation at scorching levels, much to the persistent confusion of economists everywhere. Of course, we said much of this last year as well, but while we got most trends right, we were wrong about one thing: we were confident that China's aggressive roll out of the digital yuan would be a bang - or as we put it "it is very likely that while 2020 was an insane year, it may prove to be just an appetizer to the shockwaves that will be unleashed in 2021 when we see the first stage of the most historic overhaul of the fiat payment system in history" - however it turned out to be a whimper. A big reason for that was that the initial reception of the "revolutionary" currency was nothing short of disastrous, with Chinese admitting they were "not at all excited" about the prospect of yet one more surveillance mechanism for Beijing, because that's really what digital currencies are: a way for central banks everywhere to micromanage and scrutinize every single transaction, allowing the powers that be to demonetize any one person - or whole groups - with the flick of a switch. Then again, while digital money may not have made its triumphant arrival in 2021, we are confident that the launch date has merely been pushed back to 2022 when the rollout of the next monetary revolution is expected to begin in earnest. Here we should again note one thing: in a world undergoing historic transformations, any free press must be throttled and controlled, and over the past year we have seen unprecedented efforts by legacy media and its corporate owners, as well as the new "social media" overlords do everything in their power to stifle independent thought. For us it had been especially "personal" on more than one occasions. Last January, Twitter suspended our account because we dared to challenge the conventional narrative about the source of the Wuhan virus. It was only six months later that Twitter apologized, and set us free, admitting it had made a mistake. Yet barely had twitter readmitted us, when something even more unprecedented happened: for the first time ever (to our knowledge) Google - the world's largest online ad provider and monopoly - demonetized our website not because of any complaints about our writing but because of the contents of our comment section. It then held us hostage until we agreed to implement some prerequisite screening and moderation of the comments section. Google's action was followed by the likes of PayPal, Amazon, and many other financial and ad platforms, who rushed to demonetize and suspend us simply because they disagreed with what we had to say. This was a stark lesson in how quickly an ad-funded business can disintegrate in this world which resembles the dystopia of 1984 more and more each day, and we have since taken measures. One year ago, for the first time in our 13 year history, we launched a paid version of our website, which is entirely ad and moderation free, and offers readers a variety of premium content. It wasn't our intention to make this transformation but unfortunately we know which way the wind is blowing and it is only a matter of time before the gatekeepers of online ad spending block us again. As such, if we are to have any hope in continuing it will come directly from you, our readers. We will keep the free website running for as long as possible, but we are certain that it is only a matter of time before the hammer falls as the censorship bandwagon rolls out much more aggressively in the coming year. That said, whether the story of 2022, and the next decade for that matter, is one of helicopter or digital money, of (hyper)inflation or deflation: what is key, and what we learned in the past decade, is that the status quo will throw anything at the problem to kick the can, it will certainly not let any crisis go to waste... even the deadliest pandemic in over a century. And while many already knew that, the events of 2021 made it clear to a fault that not even a modest market correction can be tolerated going forward. After all, if central banks aim to punish all selling, then the logical outcome is to buy everything, and investors, traders and speculators did just that armed with the clearest backstop guarantee from the Fed, which in the deapths of the covid crash crossed the Rubicon when it formally nationalized the bond market as it started buying both investment grade bonds and junk bond ETFs in the open market. As such it is no longer even a debatable issue if the Fed will buy stocks after the next crash - the only question is when. Meanwhile, for all those lamenting the relentless coverage of politics in a financial blog, why finance appears to have taken a secondary role, and why the political "narrative" has taken a dominant role for financial analysts, the past year showed vividly why that is the case: in a world where markets gyrated, and "rotated" from value stocks to growth and vice versa, purely on speculation of how big the next stimulus out of Washington will be, the narrative over Biden's trillions proved to be one of the biggest market moving events for much of the year. And with the Biden stimulus plan off the table for now, the Fed will find it very difficult to tighten financial conditions, especially if it does so just as the economy is slowing. Here we like to remind readers of one of our favorite charts: every financial crisis is the result of Fed tightening. As for predictions about the future, as the past two years so vividly showed, when it comes to actual surprises and all true "black swans", it won't be what anyone had expected. And so while many themes, both in the political and financial realm, did get some accelerated closure courtesy of China's covid pandemic, dramatic changes in 2021 persisted, and will continue to manifest themselves in often violent and unexpected ways - from the ongoing record polarization in the US political arena, to "populist" upheavals around the developed world, to the gradual transition to a global Universal Basic (i.e., socialized) Income regime, to China's ongoing fight with preserving stability in its gargantuan financial system which is now two and a half times the size of the US. As always, we thank all of our readers for making this website - which has never seen one dollar of outside funding (and despite amusing recurring allegations, has certainly never seen a ruble from the KGB either, although now that the entire Russian hysteria episode is over, those allegations have finally quieted down), and has never spent one dollar on marketing - a small (or not so small) part of your daily routine. Which also brings us to another critical topic: that of fake news, and something we - and others who do not comply with the established narrative - have been accused of. While we find the narrative of fake news laughable, after all every single article in this website is backed by facts and links to outside sources, it is clearly a dangerous development, and a very slippery slope that the entire developed world is pushing for what is, when stripped of fancy jargon, internet censorship under the guise of protecting the average person from "dangerous, fake information." It's also why we are preparing for the next onslaught against independent thought and why we had no choice but to roll out a premium version of this website. In addition to the other themes noted above, we expect the crackdown on free speech to accelerate in the coming year when key midterm elections will be held, especially as the following list of Top 20 articles for 2021 reveals, many of the most popular articles in the past year were precisely those which the conventional media would not touch out of fear of repercussions, which in turn allowed the alternative media to continue to flourish in an orchestrated information vacuum and take significant market share from the established outlets by covering topics which the public relations arm of established media outlets refused to do, in the process earning itself the derogatory "fake news" condemnation. We are grateful that our readers - who hit a new record high in 2021 - have realized it is incumbent upon them to decide what is, and isn't "fake news." * * * And so, before we get into the details of what has now become an annual tradition for the last day of the year, those who wish to jog down memory lane, can refresh our most popular articles for every year during our no longer that brief, almost 11-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. So without further ado, here are the articles that you, our readers, found to be the most engaging, interesting and popular based on the number of hits, during the past year. In 20th spot with 600,000 reads, was an article that touched on one of the most defining features of the market: the reflation theme the sparked a massive rally at the start of the year courtesy of the surprise outcome in the Georgia Senate race, where Democrats ended up wining both seats up for grabs, effectively giving the Dems a majority in both the House and the Senate, where despite the even, 50-seat split, Kamala Harris would cast the winning tie-breaker vote to pursue a historic fiscal stimulus. And sure enough, as we described in "Bitcoin Surges To Record High, Stocks & Bonds Battered As Dems Look Set To Take Both Georgia Senate Seats", with trillions in "stimmies" flooding both the economy and the market, not only did retail traders enjoy unprecedented returns when trading meme "stonks" and forcing short squeezes that crippled numerous hedge funds, but expectations of sharply higher inflation also helped push bitcoin and the entire crypto sector to new all time highs, which in turn legitimized the product across institutional investors and helped it reach a market cap north of $3 trillion.  In 19th spot, over 613,000 readers were thrilled to read at the start of September that "Biden Unveils Most Severe COVID Actions Yet: Mandates Vax For All Federal Workers, Contractors, & Large Private Companies." Of course, just a few weeks later much of Biden's mandate would be struck down in courts, where it is now headed to a decision by SCOTUS, while the constantly shifting "scientific" goal posts mean that just a few months later the latest set of CDC regulations have seen regulators and officials reverse the constant drone of fearmongering and are now even seeking to cut back on the duration of quarantine and other lockdown measures amid a public mood that is growing increasingly hostile to the government response. One of the defining political events of 2021 was the so-called "Jan 6 Insurrection", which the for America's conservatives was blown wildly out of proportion yet which the leftist media and Democrats in Congress have been periodically trying to push to the front pages in hopes of distracting from the growing list of failures of the Obama admin. Yet as we asked back in January, "Why Was Founder Of Far-Left BLM Group Filming Inside Capitol As Police Shot Protester?" No less than 614,000 readers found this question worthy of a response. Since then many more questions have emerged surrounding this event, many of which focus on what role the FBI had in organizing and encouraging this event, including the use of various informants and instigators. For now, a response will have to wait at least until the mid-term elections of 2022 when Republicans are expected to sweep one if not both chambers. Linked to the above, the 17th most read article of 2021 with 617,000 views, was an article we published on the very same day, which detailed that "Armed Protesters Begin To Arrive At State Capitols Around The Nation." At the end of the day, it was much ado about nothing and all protests concluded peacefully and without incident: perhaps the FBI was simply spread too thin? 2021 was a year defined by various waves of the covid pandemic which hammered poor Americans forced to hunker down at home and missing on pay, and crippled countless small mom and pop businesses. And yet, it was also a bonanza for a handful of pharma companies such as Pfizer and Moderna which made billions from the sale of "vaccines" which we now know do little if anything to halt the spread of the virus, and are instead now being pitched as palliatives, preventing a far worse clinical outcome. The same pharma companies also benefited from an unconditional indemnity, which surely would come in useful when the full side-effects of their mRNA-based therapies became apparent. One such condition to emerge was myocarditis among a subset of the vaxxed. And while the vaccines continue to be broadly rolled out across most developed nations, one place that said enough was Sweden. As over 620,000 readers found out in "Sweden Suspends Moderna Shot Indefinitely After Vaxxed Patients Develop Crippling Heart Condition", not every country was willing to use its citizens as experimental guniea pigs. This was enough to make the article the 16th most read on these pages, but perhaps in light of the (lack of) debate over the pros and cons of the covid vaccines, this should have been the most read article this year? Moving on to the 15th most popular article, 628,000 readers were shocked to learn that "Chase Bank Cancels General Mike Flynn's Credit Cards." The action, which was taken by the largest US bank due to "reputational risk" echoed a broad push by tech giants to deplatform and silence dissenting voices by literally freezing them out of the financial system. In the end, following widespread blowback from millions of Americans, JPMorgan reversed, and reactivated Flynn's cards saying the action was made in error, but unfortunately this is just one example of how those in power can lock out any dissenters with the flick of a switch. And while democrats cheer such deplatforming today, the political winds are fickle, and we doubt they will be as excited once they find themselves on the receiving end of such actions. And speaking of censorship and media blackouts, few terms sparked greater response from those in power than the term Ivermectin. Viewed by millions as a cheap, effective alternative to offerings from the pharmaceutical complex, social networks did everything in their power to silence any mention of a drug which the Journal of Antibiotics said in 2017 was an "enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug which continues to surprise and exceed expectations." Nowhere was this more obvious than in the discussion of how widespread use of Ivermectin beat Covid in India, the topic of the 14th most popular article of 2021 "India's Ivermectin Blackout" which was read by over 653,000 readers. Unfortunately, while vaccines continue to fail upward and now some countries are now pushing with a 4th, 5th and even 6th vaccine, Ivermectin remains a dirty word. There was more covid coverage in the 13th most popular article of 2021, "Surprise Surprise - Fauci Lied Again": Rand Paul Reacts To Wuhan Bombshell" which was viewed no less than 725,000 times. Paul's reaction came following a report which revealed that Anthony Fauci's NIAID and its parent, the NIH, funded Gain-of-Function research in Wuhan, China, strongly hinting that the emergence of covid was the result of illicit US funding. Not that long ago, Fauci had called Paul a 'liar' for accusing him of funding the risky research, in which viruses are genetically modified or otherwise altered to make them more transmissible to humans. And while we could say that Paul got the last laugh, Fauci still remains Biden's top covid advisor, which may explain why one year after Biden vowed he would shut down the pandemic, the number of new cases just hit a new all time high. One hope we have for 2022 is that people will finally open their eyes... 2021 was not just about covid - soaring prices and relentless inflation were one of the most poignant topics. It got so bad that Biden's approval rating - and that of Democrats in general - tumbled toward the end of the year, putting their mid-term ambitions in jeopardy, as the public mood soured dramatically in response to the explosion in prices. And while one can debate whether it was due to supply-issues, such as the collapse in trans-pacific supply chains and the chronic lack of labor to grow the US infrastructure, or due to roaring demand sparked by trillions in fiscal stimulus, but when the "Big Short" Michael Burry warned that hyperinflation is coming, the people listened, and with over 731,000 reads, the 12th most popular article of 2021 was "Michael Burry Warns Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming."  Of course, Burry did not say anything we haven't warned about for the past 12 years, but at least he got the people's attention, and even mainstream names such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey agreed with him, predicting that bitcoin will be what is left after the dollar has collapsed. While hyperinflation may will be the endgame, the question remains: when. For the 11th most read article of 2021, we go back to a topic touched upon moments ago when we addressed the full-blown media campaign seeking to discredit Ivermectin, in this case via the D-grade liberal tabloid Rolling Stone (whose modern incarnation is sadly a pale shadow of the legend that house Hunter S. Thompson's unforgettable dispatches) which published the very definition of fake news when it called Ivermectin a "horse dewormer" and claimed that, according to a hospital employee, people were overdosing on it. Just a few hours later, the article was retracted as we explained in "Rolling Stone Issues 'Update' After Horse Dewormer Hit-Piece Debunked" and over 812,000 readers found out that pretty much everything had been a fabrication. But of course, by then it was too late, and the reputation of Ivermectin as a potential covid cure had been further tarnished, much to the relief of the pharma giants who had a carte blanche to sell their experimental wares. The 10th most popular article of 2021 brings us to another issue that had split America down the middle, namely the story surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse and the full-blown media campaign that declared the teenager guilty, even when eventually proven innocent. Just days before the dramatic acquittal, we learned that "FBI Sat On Bombshell Footage From Kyle Rittenhouse Shooting", which was read by over 822,000 readers. It was unfortunate to learn that once again the scandal-plagued FBI stood at the center of yet another attempt at mass misinformation, and we can only hope that one day this "deep state" agency will be overhauled from its core, or better yet, shut down completely. As for Kyle, he will have the last laugh: according to unconfirmed rumors, his numerous legal settlements with various media outlets will be in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.  And from the great US social schism, we again go back to Covid for the 9th most popular article of 2021, which described the terrifying details of one of the most draconian responses to covid in the entire world: that of Australia. Over 900,000 readers were stunned to read that the "Australian Army Begins Transferring COVID-Positive Cases, Contacts To Quarantine Camps." Alas, the latest surge in Australian cases to nosebleed, record highs merely confirms that this unprecedented government lockdown - including masks and vaccines - is nothing more than an exercise in how far government can treat its population as a herd of sheep without provoking a violent response.  The 8th most popular article of 2021 looks at the market insanity of early 2021 when, at the end of January, we saw some of the most-shorted, "meme" stocks explode higher as the Reddit daytrading horde fixed their sights on a handful of hedge funds and spent billions in stimmies in an attempt to force unprecedented ramps. That was the case with "GME Soars 75% After-Hours, Erases Losses After Liquidity-Constrained Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban", which profiled the daytrading craze that gave an entire generation the feeling that it too could win in these manipulated capital markets. Then again, judging by the waning retail interest, it is possible that the excitement of the daytrading army is fading as rapidly as it first emerged, and that absent more "stimmies" markets will remain the playground of the rich and central banks. Kyle Rittenhouse may soon be a very rich man after the ordeal he went through, but the media's mission of further polarizing US society succeeded, and millions of Americans will never accept that the teenager was innocent. It's also why with just over 1 million reads, the 7th most read article on Zero Hedge this year was that "Portland Rittenhouse Protest Escalates Into Riot." Luckily, this is not a mid-term election year and there were no moneyed interests seeking to prolong this particular riot, unlike what happened in the summer of 2020... and what we are very much afraid will again happen next year when very critical elections are on deck.  With just over 1.03 million views, the 6th most popular post focused on a viral Twitter thread on Friday from Dr Robert Laone, which laid out a disturbing trend; the most-vaccinated countries in the world are experiencing  a surge in COVID-19 cases, while the least-vaccinated countries were not. As we originally discussed in ""This Is Worrying Me Quite A Bit": mRNA Vaccine Inventor Shares Viral Thread Showing COVID Surge In Most-Vaxxed Countries", this trend has only accelerated in recent weeks with the emergence of the Omicron strain. Unfortunately, instead of engaging in a constructive discussion to see why the science keeps failing again and again, Twitter's response was chilling: with just days left in 2021, it suspended the account of Dr. Malone, one of the inventors of mRNA technology. Which brings to mind something Aaron Rogers said: "If science can't be questioned it's not science anymore it's propaganda & that's the truth." In a year that was marked a flurry of domestic fiascoes by the Biden administration, it is easy to forget that the aged president was also responsible for the biggest US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, when the botched evacuation of Afghanistan made the US laughing stock of the world after 12 US servicemembers were killed. So it's probably not surprising that over 1.1 million readers were stunned to watch what happened next, which we profiled in the 5th most popular post of 2021, where in response to the Afghan trajedy, "Biden Delivers Surreal Press Conference, Vows To Hunt Down Isis, Blames Trump." One person watching the Biden presser was Xi Jinping, who may have once harbored doubts about reclaiming Taiwan but certainly does not any more. The 4th most popular article of 2021 again has to do with with covid, and specifically the increasingly bizarre clinical response to the disease. As we detailed in "Something Really Strange Is Happening At Hospitals All Over America" while emergency rooms were overflowing, it certainly wasn't from covid cases. Even more curiously, one of the primary ailments leading to an onslaught on ERs across the nation was heart-related issues, whether arrhytmia, cardiac incidents or general heart conditions. We hope that one day there will be a candid discussion on this topic, but until then it remains one of the topics seen as taboo by the mainstream media and the deplatforming overlords, so we'll just leave it at that. We previously discussed the anti-Ivermectin narrative that dominated the mainstream press throughout 2021 and the 3rd most popular article of the year may hold clues as to why: in late September, pharma giant Pfizer and one of the two companies to peddle an mRNA based vaccine, announced that it's launching an accelerated Phase 2/3 trial for a COVID prophylactic pill designed to ward off COVID in those may have come in contact with the disease. And, as we described in "Pfizer Launches Final Study For COVID Drug That's Suspiciously Similar To 'Horse Paste'," 1.75 million readers learned that Pfizer's drug shared at least one mechanism of action as Ivermectin - an anti-parasitic used in humans for decades, which functions as a protease inhibitor against Covid-19, which researchers speculate "could be the biophysical basis behind its antiviral efficiency." Surely, this too was just another huge coincidence. In the second most popular article of 2021, almost 2 million readers discovered (to their "shock") that Fauci and the rest of Biden's COVID advisors were proven wrong about "the science" of COVID vaccines yet again. After telling Americans that vaccines offer better protection than natural infection, a new study out of Israel suggested the opposite is true: natural infection offers a much better shield against the delta variant than vaccines, something we profiled in "This Ends The Debate' - Israeli Study Shows Natural Immunity 13x More Effective Than Vaccines At Stopping Delta." We were right about one thing: anyone who dared to suggest that natural immunity was indeed more effective than vaccines was promptly canceled and censored, and all debate almost instantly ended. Since then we have had tens of millions of "breakout" cases where vaccinated people catch covid again, while any discussion why those with natural immunity do much better remains under lock and key. It may come as a surprise to many that the most read article of 2021 was not about covid, or Biden, or inflation, or China, or even the extremely polarized US congress (and/or society), but was about one of the most long-suffering topics on these pages: precious metals and their prices. Yes, back in February the retail mania briefly targeted silver and as millions of reddit daytraders piled in in hopes of squeezing the precious metal higher, the price of silver surged higher only to tumble just as quickly as it has risen as the seller(s) once again proved more powerful than the buyers. We described this in "Silver Futures Soar 8%, Rise Above $29 As Reddit Hordes Pile In", an article which some 2.4 million gold and silver bugs read with hope, only to see their favorite precious metals slump for much of the rest of the year. And yes, the fact that both gold and silver ended the year sharply lower than where they started even though inflation hit the highest level in 40 years, remains one of the great mysteries of 2021. With all that behind us, and as we wave goodbye to another bizarre, exciting, surreal year, what lies in store for 2022, and the next decade? We don't know: as frequent and not so frequent readers are aware, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future and we don't try despite endless allegations that we constantly predict the collapse of civilization: we leave the predicting to the "smartest people in the room" who year after year have been consistently wrong about everything, and never more so than in 2021 (even the Fed admitted it is clueless when Powell said it was time to retire the term "transitory"), which destroyed the reputation of central banks, of economists, of conventional media and the professional "polling" and "strategist" class forever, not to mention all those "scientists" who made a mockery of the "expertise class" with their bungled response to the covid pandemic. We merely observe, find what is unexpected, entertaining, amusing, surprising or grotesque in an increasingly bizarre, sad, and increasingly crazy world, and then just write about it. We do know, however, that after a record $30 trillion in stimulus was conjured out of thin air by the world's central banks and politicians in the past two years, the attempt to reverse this monetary and fiscal firehose in a world addicted to trillions in newly created liquidity now that central banks are freaking out after finally getting ot the inflation they were hoping to create for so long, will end in tears. We are confident, however, that in the end it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who will eventually be revealed as fully naked. When that happens and what happens after is anyone's guess. But, as we have promised - and delivered - every year for the past 13, we will be there to document every aspect of it. Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck in 2022, with much success in trading and every other avenue of life. We bid farewell to 2021 with our traditional and unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day - usually with a cynical smile - helping readers expose, unravel and comprehend the fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that defines every aspect of our increasingly broken system. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/02/2022 - 03:44.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 2nd, 2022

An appeals court upheld a block on Florida"s social media "censorship" law, saying it violates free speech

The law, signed by DeSantis in 2021, allowed users to sue tech companies for removing politicians' accounts. In a blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an appeals court ruled Monday blocked a law he championed that would punish social-media platforms for "silencing" politicians. Here, he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.John Raoux/AP An appeals court upheld a block on a Florida law that stops tech firms from "deplatforming" politicians. A three-judge panel ruled that tech firms are protected by the First Amendment. The law is part of a broader conservative campaign against tech firms for supposedly silencing right-wing voices. A Florida law that punishes social media firms for "deplatforming" politicians hit a roadblock on Monday, after a federal appeals court ruled it would violate firms' constitutional rights to freedom of speech.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in May 2021 with an eye to preventing firms from "willfully deplatforming" political candidates in Florida by suspending their accounts, in keeping with wider conservative complaints about perceived silencing of right-wing voices. Firms could be fined up to $250,000 for violations under the law."Big Tech bureaucrats are not the arbiters of truth," DeSantis tweeted at the time. "Unaccountable oligarchs will no longer have the power to silence Floridians for challenging corporate media narratives or dissenting from the Silicon Valley orthodoxy. We the people of Florida will now hold Big Tech accountable."Industry groups including NetChoice and the CCIA — which represent TikTok, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Facebook, and others — sued Florida the week the bill was passed, The Verge reported.The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled the law violates firms' Firms Amendment protections."We hold that it is substantially likely that social-media companies — even the biggest ones — are 'private actors' whose rights the First Amendment protects," Judge Kevin Newsom, who was appointed by Donald Trump, wrote in the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Monday. The three-judge panel's decision was unanimous."Put simply, with minor exceptions, the government can't tell a private person or entity what to say or how to say it," Newsom added.Monday's decision upheld a lower court's ruling in 2021 that prevented parts of the same law from coming into effect, including preventing social-media companies from "de-platforming" political candidates, or choosing which posts from political candidates to prioritize, Forbes reported.However, the decision did allow other provisions to go through, including requiring clear content standards and allowing users to access their data, per Reuters. A spokesperson for DeSantis told Deadline: "The court's central holding that social media platforms are similar to newspapers and parades, rather than common carriers that transmit others' messages, is stupefying. Floridians know differently."DeSantis is up for re-election this year and is expected to run for president in 2024 as a GOP candidate, Insider reported. He was the first among several governors to sign such a bill into law.Monday's decision stands in contrast to a decision two weeks ago by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit. That ruling reinstated a Texas law that allowed users to sue social-media companies if they think their content was taken down for their political views, Insider reported. The judges did not explain their reasoning, but the decision was not unanimous, Reuters reported. Tech lobby groups are now asking the Supreme Court to block the Texas law, and a decision could be issued soon, per NPR.The Florida decision "makes it even more likely that the US Supreme Court will overturn the 5th Circuit's split decision on the similar Texas law," NetChoice vice president Carl Szabo told Protocol.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMay 24th, 2022

Five Steps To Save Free Speech On Twitter: A Musk Roadmap

Five Steps To Save Free Speech On Twitter: A Musk Roadmap Authored by Jonathan Turley, According to reports, Elon Musk is now expected to take over as the temporary CEO of Twitter as soon as his financing of the purchase is finalized. It is good news because buying Twitter may prove a mere skirmish in comparison to the coming battle. Political forces in the United States and abroad are already aligning to resist his effort to restore free speech to social media. If history has shown one thing, it is that it is easier to lose rights than to regain them. Musk has a product in demand but neither governments nor many of his own employees want to be sold. If Musk is to fulfill his pledge, he will need to take five specific steps to secure free speech protections.  Given the interests allied against him, Musk must move quickly if he wants to not only reintroduce but to maintain free speech on Twitter. 1. Adopt the First Amendment standard. Pundits and politicians, including President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, have justified their calls for censorship (or “content moderation” for polite company) by stressing that the First Amendment only applies to the government, not private companies. That distinction allows Obama to declare himself last week to be “pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist.” He did not call himself a “free speech absolutist” because he favors censorship for views that he considers to be “lies,” “disinformation,” or “quackery.” The distinction has always been a disingenuous evasion. The First Amendment is not the sole or exclusive definition of free speech. Censorship on social media is equally, if not more, damaging for free speech. However, Musk can call this bluff. He could order Twitter to apply the First Amendment standard that applies to the government for speech in a public forum. In doing so, Musk would instantly eliminate most of the censorship currently imposed on the site. He would, however, have to stipulate that the standards for “government speech” (which allows for greater speech regulation) would not apply. Twitter will be treated as “the digital town square” that he has long embraced.  2.    Restructure Twitter. Once a new standard is set, Musk must establish how it is enforced. That will require breaking down the extensive censorship bureaucracy at Twitter, starting at the top. That move is already likely as evident in the tearful remarks of Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, to her staff this week. Gadde, like Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, is notorious in the free speech community for her record of censorship, including her role in banning Donald Trump as well as the New York Post story on the Hunter Biden laptop. Taking over as CEO and immediately removing such figures will have a clear impact. However, new measures should also include publishing the algorithms and finally achieving transparency in the decision-making at Twitter over content. This should also include a full accounting of any means used in the past to control online discussions, including throttling or shadow banning. 3.  Shift from site moderation to individual filters. The adoption of the First Amendment standard is not perfect. This is a private site that can be sued for a variety of postings from copyright and trademark violations to privacy violations to criminal threats. Moreover, many sites bar the use of racist or offensive terms in comments. That is necessary since all readers are exposed to the comment section. Twitter is different. It can adopt a general free speech platform model while allowing individuals to apply specific filters to block racist terms or profane language. Free speech includes the right to readers to choose what they read. The key is that the decision can be left to readers rather than imposed by the company. Just as you can walk away from speakers in the town square, you can choose what you read. You can also choose to read more broadly. Twitter can leave such decisions in the hands of the consumer. 4.  Shift away from ad revenue. The next campaign is predictable. Liberals will likely target advertisers to boycott Twitter. Advocates have already shown that they can prevail on corporations to yield to such campaigns. Many are concerned that Musk could be proven right that consumers want more freedom despite campaigns by companies like Facebook to get them to embrace censorship. If Twitter grows in size and profits it will only add pressure to companies like Facebook that continue to undermine their own product through censorship. Advocates will likely seek to attack Twitter’s profits to discourage other companies from embracing free speech. Notably, Musk has already expressed a desire to have fewer ads and rely more on subscription revenue. That will not only be aesthetically more pleasing but can insulate the site from the inevitable cancel campaign. 5.  Protect against Surrogate State Censors. As it became more likely that Musk could buy Twitter, there was a notable shift in the comments of pro-censorship figures. Hillary Clinton, who has long been viewed as hostile to free speech values, went to Twitter to call on the European Union to quickly pass the Digital Services Act in Europe to force censorship “before it’s too late.” That time table appears to be the Musk takeover when the public will suddenly have a free speech alternative to the once solid alliance of censorship among social media companies. Since figures like Clinton cannot count on corporate surrogates to censor, they are returning to good old-fashioned state censorship. If the DSA is passed, they hope to force Twitter to resume censoring material – a warning echoed by EU officials this week. Congress needs to act to blunt such an attack on American companies seeking to restore free speech values. At the same time, the United Kingdom is pushing its own Online Safety Act and recently Musk was summoned to Parliament to answer for his alarming suggestion of restoring free speech on social media. The British are assuring citizens to “stay calm and censor on” despite Musk’s pledge. It is threatening to take ten percent of the company’s profits if Musk does not censor users.  Musk will have to create firewall or siloed systems for countries forcing censorship. These systems should post tweets with a warning that these users are being subjected to national censorship standards while protecting U.S. users from having their free speech reduced to the lower common denominator. These challenges are difficult but pale in comparison to reinventing space travel. The greatest asset that Musk brings to Twitter beyond a deep pocket and deep faith in free speech is his legendary creativity. He tends to focus on a horizon rather than the obstacles or opponents before him. Free speech remains a horizonal ideal but one that is attainable for someone with unflagging commitment and creativity. This could be the ultimate “moon shot” for Musk to bring free speech back to the Internet. Tyler Durden Fri, 05/06/2022 - 09:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 6th, 2022

The First Amendment Option: An Easy Way For Musk To Restore Free Speech On Twitter

The First Amendment Option: An Easy Way For Musk To Restore Free Speech On Twitter Authored by Jonathan Turley, Below is my column in the Hill on one way for Elon Musk to re-introduce free speech values on his newly acquired social media platform. Pro-censorship advocates like former President Barack Obama may have given Musk a roadmap for restoring free speech on Twitter. Here is the column: For free speech advocates, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter could prove the most impactful event since Twitter’s founding in 2006. The question, however, is how Musk can accomplish his lofty goal of restoring free speech values to social media. He first would have to untie the Gordian knot of censorship in a company now synonymous with speech control. The answer may be simpler than most people think. Indeed, anti-free-speech figures in the country may have given Musk the very roadmap he’s looking for: the First Amendment. The purchase of Twitter alone will have immediate and transformative changes for free speech. The control over speech on social media required a unified front. Free speech is like water, it tends to find a way out. With social media, there was no way out because of the unified front of companies like Google, Apple and Facebook. Facebook is actually running commercials trying to convince people to embrace their own censorship. This message was reinforced by Democratic leaders like President Biden, who demanded that these companies expand censorship and curtail access to harmful viewpoints. Now this market has one major competitor selling a free speech product. The fear is that Musk might be proven right and that Twitter could become larger and more profitable by allowing more free speech. Facebook has not had much success in convincing customers to embrace censorship, but it may find shareholders wondering why the Facebook board (like the Twitter board) is undermining its own product as a communications company committed to limited speech. Another immediate change could be the forced exodus of a line of ardent censors from the company, with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal (hopefully) at the head of line. Agrawal is one of the most anti-free-speech figures in Big Tech. After taking over as CEO, Agrawal quickly made clear that he wanted to steer the company beyond free speech and that the issue is not who can speak but “who can be heard.” However, once such figures are removed from Twitter, the question is how to re-establish a culture of free speech. The answer may be in the very distinction used by Democratic politicians and pundits to justify corporate censorship. For years, anti-free-speech figures have dismissed free speech objections to social media censorship by stressing that the First Amendment applies only to the government, not private companies. The distinction was always a dishonest effort to evade the implications of speech controls, whether implemented by the government or corporations. The First Amendment was never the exclusive definition of free speech. Free speech is viewed by many of us as a human right; the First Amendment only deals with one source for limiting it. Free speech can be undermined by private corporations as well as government agencies. This threat is even greater when politicians openly use corporations to achieve indirectly what they cannot achieve directly. Corporations clearly have free speech rights. Ironically, Democrats have long opposed such rights for companies, but they embrace such rights when it comes to censorship. The Democratic Party embraced corporate governance of free speech once these companies aligned themselves with their political agenda. Starbucks and every other company have every right to pursue a woke agenda. Social media companies, however, sell communications, not coffee. They should be in the business of free speech. Democrats have continued to treat the First Amendment as synonymous with free speech, as a way to justify greater censorship. Just last week, former President Barack Obama spoke at Stanford to flog this false line. Obama started by declaring himself, against every indication to the contrary, to be “pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist.” He then called for the censorship of anything that he considered “disinformation,” including “lies, conspiracy theories, junk science, quackery, racist tracts and misogynist screeds.” He was able to do that by emphasizing that “The First Amendment is a check on the power of the state. It doesn’t apply to private companies like Facebook or Twitter.” Well, what if it did? The Constitution does not impose the same standard on Twitter — but Musk could. He could order a new Twitter team to err on the side of free speech while utilizing First Amendment standards to maximize protections on the platform. In other words, if the government could not censor a tweet, Twitter would not do so. The key to such an approach is not to treat Twitter as akin to “government speech,” a category where the government has allowed major speech controls. Rather, tweets are very much as Musk has described them: akin to speech in “the digital town square.” If the government could not stop someone from speaking in a public forum like a town square, Twitter should not do so through private means. The value to tying private speech to First Amendment jurisprudence is that there is a steady array of cases illuminating this standard and its applications. Such a rule would admittedly allow a large array of offensive and objectionable speech — just as the First Amendment does in a public square. That is the price of free speech. This is, admittedly, not a perfect fit. Twitter needs to protect itself from civil liability in the form of trademark, copyright and other violations in the use of its platforms. Moreover, most sites (including my own blog) delete racist and offensive terms. That can be done through standard moderation systems or, preferably, optional filters for users to adopt on Twitter. There are also standard rules against doxxing as well as personal threats or privacy violations. Social media companies long had these limitations before plunging headlong into the type of content-based speech regulations made infamous by Twitter. Musk can use the baseline of the First Amendment with these limited augmentations to re-create the type of relatively open forums that once characterized the internet. I have long admitted to being a type of “internet originalist” who prefers precisely the digital town square concept embraced by Musk. Adopting the First Amendment standards would create a foundation for free speech that can be tweaked to accommodate narrow, well-defined limitations. The greatest challenge is not the restoration of free speech but the retention of such a site. Notably, figures like Hillary Clinton have suddenly turned from advocating corporate censorship to calling for good old-fashioned state censorship. Last week, Clinton called on the European Union to pass the Digital Services Act (DSA), a massive censorship measure that has received preliminary approval. Coming after Musk’s bid for Twitter, Clinton and others now want to use European countries to offer the same circumvention of the First Amendment. Rather than use a corporate surrogate, they would use an alternative state surrogate to force Twitter to censor content or face stiff penalties in Europe. Musk will have to fight that battle when it comes. In the interim, he can rally the public, as he did Twitter shareholders, to the cause of free speech. [ZH: Always willing to help, Elon Musk himself explained where he stands...] pic.twitter.com/Q9OjlJhi7f — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 28, 2022 Tyler Durden Thu, 04/28/2022 - 16:35.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 28th, 2022

Greenwald: Former Intel Officials, Citing Russia, Say Big-Tech Monopoly Power Vital To National Security

Greenwald: Former Intel Officials, Citing Russia, Say Big-Tech Monopoly Power Vital To National Security Authored by Glenn Greenwald via Substack, When the U.S. security state announces that Big Tech's centralized censorship power must be preserved, we should ask what this reveals about whom this regime serves. (l) An illustration of the CIA logo (Getty Images); (r) An illustration shows the logos of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft displayed on a mobile phone and a laptop screen. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) A group of former intelligence and national security officials on Monday issued a jointly signed letter warning that pending legislative attempts to restrict or break up the power of Big Tech monopolies — Facebook, Google, and Amazon — would jeopardize national security because, they argue, their centralized censorship power is crucial to advancing U.S. foreign policy. The majority of this letter is devoted to repeatedly invoking the grave threat allegedly posed to the U.S. by Russia as illustrated by the invasion of Ukraine, and it repeatedly points to the dangers of Putin and the Kremlin to justify the need to preserve Big Tech's power in its maximalist form. Any attempts to restrict Big Tech's monopolistic power would therefore undermine the U.S. fight against Moscow. While one of their central claims is that Big Tech monopoly power is necessary to combat (i.e., censor) “foreign disinformation,” several of these officials are themselves leading disinformation agents: many were the same former intelligence officials who signed the now-infamous-and-debunked pre-election letter fraudulently claiming that the authentic Hunter Biden emails had the "hallmarks” of Russia disinformation (former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Obama CIA Director Michael Morrell, former Obama CIA/Pentagon chief Leon Panetta). Others who signed this new letter have strong financial ties to the Big Tech corporations whose power they are defending in the name of national security (Morrell, Panetta, former Bush National Security Adviser Fran Townsend). The ostensible purpose of the letter is to warn of the national security dangers from two different bipartisan bills — one pending in the Senate, the other in the House — that would prohibit Big Tech monopolies from using their vertical power to "discriminate” against competitors (the way Google, for instance, uses its search engine business to bury the videos of competitors to its YouTube property, such as Rumble, or the way Google and Apple use their stores and Amazon uses its domination over hosting services to destroy competitors). One bill in the Senate is co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), and has attracted ample support in both parties, as has a similar House bill co-sponsored by House Antitrust Committee Chair David Cicilline (D-RI) and ranking member Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO). The amount of bipartisan support each bill has garnered — and the widespread animosity toward Big Tech reflected by this Congressional support — has shocked Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook lobbyists, who are accustomed to getting their way in Washington with lavish donations to the key politicians in each party. This letter by former national security officials is, in one sense, an act of desperation. The bills have received the support of the key committees with jurisdiction over antitrust and Big Tech. In the Senate, five conservative Republican Committee members who have been outspoken critics of Big Tech power — Grassley, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MI), Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) — joined with Democrats to ensure the passage of one bill out of the Judiciary Committee by a 16-6 vote, with a companion bill passing that Committee with the support of 20 of twenty-two Senators. As The Intercept's Sara Sirota and Ryan Grim report: “Both bills have Big Tech reeling” since “a floor vote would likely be a blowout for Big Tech.” The extreme animus harbored by large parts of the left and right toward Big Tech make it very difficult for any lawmaker to go on record in opposition to these proposed bills if they are forced to publicly take a position in a floor vote. Many Senators with financial ties to Big Tech — including the two California Senate Democrats who represent Silicon Valley and are recipients of their largesse (Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla) — have expressed reservations about these reform efforts and have refused to co-sponsor the bill, yet still voted YES when forced to vote in Committee. This shows that public pressure to rein in Big Tech is becoming too large to enable Silicon Valley to force lawmakers to ignore their constituents’ wishes with lobbyist donations. These politicians will work behind the scenes to kill efforts to rein in Big Tech, but will not vote against such efforts if forced to take a public position. As a result, Big Tech's last hope is to keep the bill from reaching the floor where Senators would be forced to go on record, a goal they hope will be advanced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York due to his close ties to Silicon Valley. “Both [Schumer's] children are on the payroll of companies the proposals would seek to rein in,” reported The New York Post: “Jessica Schumer is a registered lobbyist at Amazon, according to New York state records. Alison Schumer works at Facebook as a product marketing manager.” Despite that, Schumer claimed to The Intercept that he supports both bills and will vote in favor of them, even though he has engaged in maneuvers to impede the bills from getting a full floor vote. This is where these former intelligence and national security officials come in. While these former CIA, Homeland Security and Pentagon operatives have little sway in the Senate Judiciary and House Antitrust Committees, they command great loyalty from Congressional national security committees. Those committees, created to exert oversight of the U.S. intelligence and military agencies, are notoriously captive to the U.S. National Security State. The ostensible purpose of this new letter is to insist that Big Tech monopoly power is vital to U.S. national security — because it is necessary for them to censor “disinformation” from the internet, especially now with the grave Russian threat reflected by the war in Ukraine — and they thus demand that the anti-Big-Tech bills first be reviewed not only by the Judiciary and Antitrust Committees, but also the national security committees where they wield power and influence, which have traditionally played no role in regulating the technology sector: We call on the congressional committees with national security jurisdiction – including the Armed Services Committees, Intelligence Committees, and Homeland Security Committees in both the House and Senate – to conduct a review of any legislation that could hinder America’s key technology companies in the fight against cyber and national security risks emanating from Russia’s and China’s growing digital authoritarianism. Why would these former national security and intelligence officials be so devoted to preserving the unfettered power of Big Tech to control and censor the internet? One obvious explanation is the standard one that always runs Washington: several of them have a financial interest in serving Big Tech's agenda. Unsurprisingly, Apple CEO Tim Cook has himself pushed the claim that undermining Big Tech's power in any way would threaten U.S national security. And there is now an army of well-compensated-by-Silicon-Valley former national security officials echoing his message. A well-researched Politico article from September — headlined: “12 former security officials who warned against antitrust crackdown have tech ties” — detailed how many of these former officials who invoke national security claims to protect Big Tech are on the take from the key tech monopolies: The warning last week from a dozen former national security leaders was stark: An antitrust crackdown on Silicon Valley could threaten the nation’s economy and “cede U.S. tech leadership to China.” But the group was united by more than their histories of holding senior defense and intelligence roles in the Trump, Obama and George W. Bush administrations: All 12 have ties to major tech companies, either from working with them directly or serving with organizations that get money from them, according to a POLITICO analysis…. Seven of the 12, including Panetta, hold roles at Beacon Global Strategies, a public relations firm that according to a person familiar with the matter counts Google as a client…Five of the former officials, including former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo and former National Security Agency deputy director Richard Ledgett, serve as advisory board members at Beacon. Panetta and Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director under President Barack Obama, are senior counselors for the firm…. Frances Townsend, who was a counterterrorism and homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, is on the national security advisory board for American Edge, a Facebook-funded group that opposes changes to strengthen antitrust laws….Townsend is also on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, which counts Facebook and Google as funders; the board of trustees for Center for Strategic and International Studies, which counts Apple and Google as funders; and the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, which receives money from Microsoft and counts Facebook and Google in its highest membership category. As Rep. Buck, the Colorado House Republican who favors reform, put it: “It is not surprising that individuals who receive money from Big Tech are defending Big Tech. At the end of the day, Big Tech is harming U.S. competition and innovation through anticompetitive practices.” In other words, these former intelligence officials are exploiting their national security credentials to protect an industry in which they have a deep financial interest. The view that preservation of Big Tech is vital for national security is by no means a unanimous view even in that world. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark and others have vehemently argued that this claim is a “myth.” As veteran internet security expert Bruce Schneier observed: “These bills will encourage competition, prevent monopolist extortion, and guarantee users a new right to digital self-determination.” But the National Security State has enough True Believers combined with paid shills to make it appear as if Americans should be desperate to preserve and protect Big Tech's power because this power is crucial to keeping America safe and, particularly, fighting Russia. There are indeed valid and rational reasons for these officials to view Big Tech monopoly power as a vital weapon in advancing their national security agenda. As I documented last week when reporting on the unprecedented censorship regime imposed in the West regarding the war in Ukraine, Big Tech censorship of political speech is not random. Domestically, it is virtually always devoted to silencing any meaningful dissent from liberal orthodoxy or official pieties on key political controversies. But in terms of foreign policy, the censorship patterns of tech monopolies virtually always align with U.S. foreign policy, and for understandable reasons: Big Tech and the U.S. security state are in a virtually complete union, with all sorts of overlapping, mutual financial interests: Note that this censorship regime is completely one-sided and, as usual, entirely aligned with U.S. foreign policy. Western news outlets and social media platforms have been flooded with pro-Ukrainian propaganda and outright lies from the start of the war. A New York Times article from early March put it very delicately in its headline: “Fact and Mythmaking Blend in Ukraine’s Information War.” Axios was similarly understated in recognizing this fact: “Ukraine misinformation is spreading — and not just from Russia.” Members of the U.S. Congress have gleefully spread fabrications that went viral to millions of people, with no action from censorship-happy Silicon Valley corporations. That is not a surprise: all participants in war use disinformation and propaganda to manipulate public opinion in their favor, and that certainly includes all direct and proxy-war belligerents in the war in Ukraine. Yet there is little to no censorship — either by Western states or by Silicon Valley monopolies — of pro-Ukrainian disinformation, propaganda and lies. The censorship goes only in one direction: to silence any voices deemed “pro-Russian,” regardless of whether they spread disinformation….Their crime, like the crime of so many other banished accounts, was not disinformation but skepticism about the US/NATO propaganda campaign. Put another way, it is not “disinformation" but rather viewpoint-error that is targeted for silencing. One can spread as many lies and as much disinformation as one wants provided that it is designed to advance the NATO agenda in Ukraine (just as one is free to spread disinformation provided that its purpose is to strengthen the Democratic Party, which wields its majoritarian power in Washington to demand greater censorship and commands the support of most of Silicon Valley). But what one cannot do is question the NATO/Ukrainian propaganda framework without running a very substantial risk of banishment. It is unsurprising that Silicon Valley monopolies exercise their censorship power in full alignment with the foreign policy interests of the U.S. Government. Many of the key tech monopolies — such as Google and Amazon — routinely seek and obtain highly lucrative contracts with the U.S. security state, including both the CIA and NSA. Their top executives enjoy very close relationships with top Democratic Party officials. And Congressional Democrats have repeatedly hauled tech executives before their various Committees to explicitly threaten them with legal and regulatory reprisals if they do not censor more in accordance with the policy goals and political interests of that party. Needless to say, the U.S. security state wants to maintain a stranglehold on political discourse in the U.S. and the world more broadly. They want to be able to impose propagandistic narratives without challenge and advocate for militarism without dissent. To accomplish that, they need a small handful of corporations which are subservient to them to hold in their hands as much concentrated power over the internet as possible. If a free and fair competitive market were to arise whereby social media platforms more devoted to free speech could fairly compete with Google and Facebook— as the various pending bills in Congress are partially designed to foster — then that new diversity of influence, that diffusion of power, would genuinely threaten the ability of the CIA and the Pentagon and the White House to police political discourse and suppress dissent from their policies and assertions. By contrast, by maintaining all power in the hands of the small coterie of tech monopolies which control the internet and which have long proven their loyalty to the U.S. security state, the ability of the U.S. national security state to maintain a closed propaganda system around questions of war and militarism is guaranteed. In this new letter, these national security operatives barely bother to hide their intention to exploit the strong animosity toward Russia that they have cultivated, and the accompanying intense emotions from the ubiquitous, unprecedented media coverage of the war in Ukraine, to prop up their goals. Over and over, they cite the grave Russian threat — a theme they have been disseminating and manufacturing since the Russiagate fraud of 2016 — to manipulate Americans to support the preservation of Big Tech's concentrated power, and to imply that anyone seeking to limit Big Tech power or make the market more competitive is a threat to U.S. national security: This is a pivotal moment in modern history. There is a battle brewing between authoritarianism and democracy, and the former is using all the tools at its disposal, including a broad disinformation campaign and the threat of cyber-attacks, to bring about a change in the global order. We must confront these global challenges. . . . U.S. technology platforms have given the world the chance to see the real story of the Russian military’s horrific human rights abuses in Ukraine. . . . At the same time, President Putin and his regime have sought to twist facts in order to show Russia as a liberator instead of an aggressor. . . . The Russian government is seeking to alter the information landscape by blocking Russian citizens from receiving content that would show the true facts on the ground. .. . . . Indeed, it is telling that among the Kremlin’s first actions of the war was blocking U.S. platforms in Russia. Putin knows that U.S. digital platforms can provide Russian citizens valuable views and facts about the war that he tries to distort through lies and disinformation. U.S. technology platforms have already taken concrete steps to shine a light on Russia’s actions to brutalize Ukraine. . . . Providing timely and accurate on-the-ground information – and disrupting the scourge of disinformation from Russian state media – is essential for allowing the world (including the Russian people) to see the human toll of Russia’s aggression. . . . [T]he United States is facing an extraordinary threat from Russian cyber-attacks . . . In the face of these growing threats, U.S. policymakers must not inadvertently hamper the ability of U.S. technology platforms to counter increasing disinformation and cybersecurity risks, particularly as the West continues to rely on the scale and reach of these firms to push back on the Kremlin . . . . Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks the start of a new chapter in global history, one in which the ideals of democracy will be put to the test. The United States will need to rely on the power of its technology sector to ensure that the safety of its citizens and the narrative of events continues to be shaped by facts, not by foreign adversaries. It is hardly controversial or novel to observe that the U.S. security state always wants and needs a hated foreign enemy precisely because it allows them to claim whatever powers and whatever budgets they want in the name of stopping that foreign villain. And every war and every new enemy ushers in new authoritarian powers and the trampling of civil liberties: both the First War on Terror, justified by 9/11, and the New Domestic War on Terror, justified by 1/6, should have taught us that lesson permanently. Usually, though, U.S. security state propagandists are a bit more subtle about how they manipulate anger and fear of foreign villains to manipulate public opinion for their own authoritarian ends. Perhaps because of their current desperation about the support these bills have attracted, they are now just nakedly and shamelessly trying to channel the anger and hatred that they have successfully stoked toward Russia to demand that Big Tech not be weakened, regulated or restricted in any way. The cynical exploitation could hardly be more overt: if you hate Putin the way any loyal and patriotic American should, then you must devote yourself to full preservation of the power of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. It should go without saying that these life-long security state operatives do not care in the slightest about the dangers of "disinformation.” Indeed — as evidenced by the fact that most of them generated one Russiagate fraud after the next during... *  *  * To support the independent journalism we are doing here, please subscribe, obtain a gift subscription for others and/or share the article Tyler Durden Wed, 04/20/2022 - 23:50.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 21st, 2022

European Companies Plead China To Revise "COVID Zero" As Beijing Vows Stronger Policies To Reverse Economic Collapse

European Companies Plead China To Revise "COVID Zero" As Beijing Vows Stronger Policies To Reverse Economic Collapse As we first previewed last week... China cutting, US hiking: 10Y yield crossover will take place in the next few days pic.twitter.com/0gCuXxnzyK — zerohedge (@zerohedge) April 7, 2022 ... and as noted earlier today, this morning we got the first US-China 10Y yield "inversion" since 2010, as Chinese 10Y treasuries briefly yielded less than their US peers, a shift which we hadn't seen since 2010, yet one which in light of the continued Chinese easing and US tightening, was only a matter of time. However, judging by the sharp slowdown in China's economy - the latest CPI and PPI data notwithstanding - Chinese yields have a long way lower to go to as does PBOC easing. As Bloomberg writes this morning, China’s Covid-policy continues to bite, and as the following charts from Goldman show, the continued surge in Shanghai covid cases means China's financial center is starting to hurt the broader economy. To be sure, growth fears will put further pressure on local equities - and indeed Chinese stocks stumbled on the first day of the week - pending a more aggressive policy response. China’s CSI 300 was among Asia's worst-performing indexes as Shanghai reported more than 26,000 daily infections Sunday and official data showed that factory-gate and consumer prices both jumped more than expected last month. China’s tech shares took an additional hit from the country’s new guidelines on removing data monopoly at platform companies, dragging the Hong Kong equity gauge. China’s effective lockdown index, published by Goldman Sachs, remains at the highs since April 2020. At an average of 36.6 for the first week of April 2022, the index has sustained the end-March levels that have put the dire August 2021 period in the shade (22.0 for that month’s average). The August numbers were associated with large downside surprises in activity data. This is especially damaging to local demand. Tourism revenue over the Qingming festival, the three-day national holiday last week, plunged to only 39% of pre-pandemic levels. Data Monday showed a 10.9% y/y slide in vehicle sales in March. To be sure, China has a good record of keeping production running despite its draconian Covid-control policies, and supply-side disruptions have been surprisingly mild. That said, according to China television, the country's outgoing Premier Li Keqiang told some local officials that China will study and adopt stronger economic policies as needed. And needed they are, because according to Li, downward pressure on the economy is increasing and is in part from international and domestic changes that are beyond expectations. Li urged stabilizing employment, consumer prices and keeping the economy in reasonable range; the premier also said that China must stabilize the economy via better implementation of existing macroeconomic policy. Li also urged local officials to accelerate release of coal capacity, ensure transportation and port operations. One place which will be keeping a close eye on China’s policy response is Europe: according to the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, the country's Covid lockdowns have caused “significant disruptions” for many companies and Beijing should look to Singapore as a model to spur economic growth. A flash survey of German companies showed that China’s Covid Zero strategy has consequences “extending from logistics and production all the way along the entire supply chain within China,” Joerg Wuttke, the president of the chamber, wrote in a letter to Vice Premier Hu Chunhua. 51% of German companies’ logistics and warehousing and 46% of their supply chains are “completely disrupted or severely impacted” by China’s Covid situation, Wuttke wrote in the letter, which was seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed by the Chamber. The trade group suggested China follow Singapore’s strategy to “simultaneously prioritize protection for all its citizens and economic growth,” including allowing positive cases with no or mild symptoms to quarantine at home, focusing on fully vaccinating the population, and using boosters including mRNA vaccines.  Tyler Durden Tue, 04/12/2022 - 05:45.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 12th, 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

The Necro-Neologism Of Lethal Legal Experts

The Necro-Neologism Of Lethal Legal Experts Authored by Laurie Calhoun via The Libertarian Institute, The power of language is magical to behold. Through the mere pronouncement of words, people can be persuaded to do what they would never have thought to do, left to their own devices. The playbook with the most success in this regard is that of war. When people are “informed” that they and their families are in mortal danger, they can and often will acquiesce to any and all policies which government authorities claim to be necessary in order to protect them. Young people can be coaxed into killing complete strangers who never did anything personally to them. Citizens can be brainwashed to believe that suitably labeled persons can and indeed must be denied any and all human rights. When the stakes are claimed to be life and death, even apparently intelligent people can be goaded to accept that the mere possession of a divergent opinion is evil, and the expression of dissent a crime. The use of military weapons to execute obviously innocent, entirely innocuous civilians, including children, suddenly becomes permissible, so long as the victims have been labeled collateral damage. All any of this takes is to identify “the enemy” as evil. In centuries past, “the laws of war” were said to require the humane treatment of enemy soldiers. They were diagnosed as suffering from “invincible ignorance,” misled and mistaken about the dispute said to necessitate recourse to war, but still acknowledged as persons capable of being courageous combatants who found themselves through historical fortuity on the wrong side. An enemy soldier was to be provided with the opportunity to lay down his weapon and surrender in order to save his own life. Disarmed or incapacitated soldiers were not to be executed by their captors, for they had already been neutralized and posed no more danger than unarmed civilians. Prisoners of war were to be treated as human beings, and when they were tortured or summarily executed, this constituted a war crime. Such “laws of war,” which form the basis of international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions, have needless to say often been flouted, but, in theory, they were to be upheld by civilized people. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, political leaders and government officials proclaimed that “everything changed.” The Bush administration legal team deployed linguistic innovation to issue in an entirely new era of warfare, wherein the “laws of war” would still be said to obtain, but they would be inapplicable to entire classes of human beings. Jihadist soldiers for radical Islamist causes were labeled unlawful enemy combatants, whose “unlawful” status was said to imply that they were protected by neither international norms such as the Geneva Conventions nor the laws of civil society. Under this pretext, terrorist suspects were tortured while held captive at prisons in Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Baghram, in addition to many black sites around the world. Ever keen to cover their tracks, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) also flatly denied that they ever tortured anyone, by redefining as enhanced interrogation techniques the abusive practices inflicted on hundreds, if not thousands, of men in an effort to extract from them actionable intelligence. And just in case any of this “logic” was called into question by pesky human rights advocates, Bush administration officials also derided the Geneva Conventions as “quaint.” Imminent vs. Immediate in the Global War on Terror The “peace candidate” Barack Obama was elected in 2008 on the promise to rein in the excesses of the Bush administration, including what Obama characterized as the “dumb” war on Iraq. The new president publicly denounced “enhanced interrogation techniques” as torture but then proceeded to take linguistic neologism to an entirely new level by not only redefining assassination as targeted killing but also labeling any suspect eliminated through the use of lethal drones as an Enemy Killed in Action (EKIA). The slaughtered “soldiers” were assumed to be guilty of possible complicity in future possible crimes, a preposterous position never fully grasped by Obama’s devotees, who somehow failed to recognize that the specific implement used to kill does not distinguish various types of homicide from one another, morally speaking. The extrajudicial execution of individual human beings in civil society is illegal, but the Obama administration effectively maintained that the targeting of suspicious persons and their associates in lands far away was perfectly permissible, so long as the victims were killed by missiles launched from drones, thereby rendering them “acts of war.” The entire drone program, whether within or far from areas of active hostilities (i.e., war zones), was portrayed by Obama and his administration as just another facet of “just war.” Blinded to the moral atrocity of this new lethal-centric approach to dealing with suspected enemies, whereby they would be executed rather than taken prisoner, Obama’s loyal supporters blithely embraced the propaganda according to which he was a smart warrior. After demonstrating his death creds to the satisfaction of hawks, by killing not only Osama bin Laden, but also U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, suspected of complicity in factional terrorism, Obama was reelected for a second term in 2012, despite having summarily executed thousands of men—mostly brown-skinned, unnamed, and unarmed—located in their own civil societies, far from any U.S. citizen, and in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. The deft deployment of two simple words, immediate and imminent, played a key role in allowing Obama to get away with murder, even of U.S. citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki and his sixteen-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Guided by drone-killing czar John Brennan, Obama’s lawyers calmly explained in public addresses and official documents that suspects who posed imminent threats to the United States could be targeted by lethal drones because an imminent threat did not imply immediacy. In other words, they could be killed even when they were currently unarmed and living in their own civil society, surrounded by family members and friends, and even when the future crime of which they were vaguely suspected was merely hypothetical and therefore had no specific date. When targets were “nominated” for execution, the administration operated under the assumption that they were guilty unless specific information was brought forth to demonstrate their innocence. The victims themselves obviously could not do this, initially, because they were not informed that they were being targeted and, later, because they were dead. Meanwhile, local residents and journalists on the ground who knew these people’s names and dared to assert that the victims were not terrorists were either denounced as propagandists or cast as misguided persons hoodwinked by the rhetoric of jihadists. As the death toll mounted, outspoken critics in the vicinity of the missile strikes became progressively more terrified of being themselves eliminated for seeming to support terrorist groups. Their concerns were not unfounded, for they risked being affixed with the lethal label associate and added to hit lists for execution if they dared to question the drone warriors’ narrative. This oppressive climate needless to say served actively to suppress dissent from the U.S. government’s official story of what they had done, even among locals who witnessed the grisly scenes where entirely innocent community members were incinerated by missiles launched from drones. Imminent vs. Immediate in the Opioid Crisis Improbably enough, the very same two words, imminent and immediate, used by the Obama legal team to invert the presumption of innocence to a presumption of guilt in the case of terrorist suspects located abroad, proved to be deadly in an entirely different context during the twenty-first century as well. The causes of the sudden and shocking increase in the number of narcotics addicts and overdose deaths all over the United States are manifold, but a tidal wave of diversion was made possible by drug-dealer doctors and the notorious “pain clinics” where they plied their trade. Manufacturers produced and pharmacies dispensed billions of pills as demand multiplied in tandem with the creation of more and more new addicts, who could no longer function without narcotics. Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are widely regarded as the prime movers of the opioid crisis, having undertaken a highly successful campaign to coax doctors into believing that their patented time-release prescription narcotic Oxycontin was nonaddictive and could be safely provided to patients even for moderate pain. This marketing feat was achieved by influencing key players at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), who not only approved the medication but permitted it to be sold along with a package insert falsely suggesting that it was less prone to abuse than other narcotics. In its quest to sell as many pills as possible, the pharmaceutical industry repeatedly pivoted to neologize in lethal ways over the two decades following the launch of Oxycontin in 1996. When it emerged that the pills sometimes wore off before the twelve-hour time release period, marketers and sales representatives claimed that those patients were suffering from breakthrough pain, the remedy for which was (surprise!) to double their dose. The narcotics marketers indulged in flat-out sophistry when they insisted that patients who appeared to be addicted to their painkillers were in fact suffering from pseudoaddiction, the remedy for which was (surprise!) even higher doses of their drugs. As farcical as these arguments may seem in retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight and in the light of the overdose epidemic now running rampant, many doctors appear to have been persuaded to believe that their patients’ miserable condition was not indicative of addiction but a manifestation of their ongoing and unbearable pain, the solution to which was to ply them with yet more powerful narcotics. Pharma-coopted lawmakers were notified of the proliferating addiction problem early on but refused to stop the runaway train by demanding that the FDA cease playing along with Purdue’s insane pro-narcotics marketing campaign. Other companies needless to say contributed as well, through promulgating the “pain epidemic” propaganda so as to expand the market niche of such products, which had previously been reserved for terminally ill patients. Johnson & Johnson played a causal role in what became the opioid crisis by growing tons of poppies (in Tasmania) to meet the enormous increased industry need for raw opium, without which the billions of pills prescribed could not and would never have been produced. As the opioid crisis began to become recognized for what it was, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sought to issue “Immediate Suspension Orders” (ISOs) against the three major drug wholesale distributors to pharmacies, Cardinal Health, McKesson, and Amerisource Bergen. Through issuing such orders, Joe Rannazzisi, the deputy director of the Office of Diversion Control, hoped to halt the ongoing mass shipments of opioids to retailers such as CVS in cases where the sheer volume of prescriptions could not be explained by ordinary medical practice and so was a clear indication that widespread diversion of narcotics was underway. Rannazzisi ended up being hobbled by a team of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who managed to cobble together a new law in 2014 which, despite its beneficent-sounding name, “The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” (HR4709), served to protect, above all, drug manufacturers and distributors. The Act rewrote the law already on the books through redefining the imminent danger required to issue an ISO to mean “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat.” One of the new Act’s enthusiastic promoters, Linden Barber (a former DEA officer and lawyer who had left his government position to represent the drug distributors), persuasively explained on the floor of Congress that “having a clear legal standard is always better.” The measure passed unanimously, without a roll call vote, for the simple reason that it sounded like a policy to which no decent person could object. But rather than stemming the tide of the opioid crisis, the Act severely hampered the DEA’s ability to issue ISOs, for it was prohibitively difficult for officials to meet the newly stipulated legal standard of imminence as requiring immediacy. President Obama signed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014 into law, and the marketing campaign used to promote the use of highly addictive time-release narcotics barreled ahead. The DEA’s sudden inability to call a halt to the shipment of tons of narcotics to retailers effectively guaranteed that the number of dependent persons would multiply, as potent prescription pills continued to be diverted for recreational uses and thereby create more addicts. But more addicts meant more overdoses, not only from the potent pills themselves, but also because the street supplies of heroin to which many users eventually turned were often cut with extremely dangerous fentanyl. Unfazed by the death tolls, which had already soared to many thousands by 2014, the pharmaceutical giants insisted that the sorry situation of addicts was no argument against helping patients genuinely in pain, who would in fact be wronged if their access to narcotics were curbed. The addicts dropping like flies were painted as solely responsible for their plight, despite ample evidence that many of the overdose victims began as legitimate pain patients, who became aware of their dependency only upon reaching the bottom of their amber vials. The Role of Obamacare in Propelling and Augmenting the Opioid Crisis “Everything changed” in the twenty-first century, not only with the war on terror, the rebranding of torture, and the normalization of assassination, but also in the pharma-friendly approach to healthcare ushered in by President Barack Obama. By pushing through his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, which leftists were led to believe would create a system of socialized medicine (referred to by many as Obamacare), the president notoriously bowed to drug makers and the insurance industry, extending to those sectors the very form of crony corporate welfare already enjoyed by companies in the military industry. Obama’s collaboration with pharmaceutical and insurance company executives in crafting the ACA allowed them to secure advantageous pricing arrangements to ensure the maximization of their profits, while at the same time massively increasing the sheer volume of sales. The pharmaceutical industry was greatly enriched through the provision of virtually limitless free psychiatric medications to low-income patients through government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and to veterans through the VA (Veterans Administration). Mental health-based disability claims soared, and the sales of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), anti-anxiety, atypical anti-psychotic medications and other psychotropes, including narcotics, increased accordingly. The millions of new prescription medications dispensed to formerly uninsured Americans ended up being paid for by the middle class, who were mandated by law to sign up for Obamacare or else face a hefty tax penalty, should they decline to comply. Despite what may have been Obama’s initial good intention, to make healthcare available to uninsured persons, Obamacare ultimately made medical treatment in the United States prohibitively expensive for many middle class families, whose copays, premiums and deductibles increased dramatically. The new mandatory healthcare program skyrocketed the salaries of health industry executives while pricing drugs and procedures out of reach for many persons who had previously been able to afford them. Millions of people in the United States have filed medical bankruptcy in recent years. In cases where prescription narcotics addicts became uninsured because they lost their jobs, they turned to the streets for their needed drugs, given the impossibility of paying out of pocket for extraordinarily expensive prescription pills. Given the story of Obamacare, perhaps no one should be surprised that when the Obama administration finally took action to address the opioid epidemic, most of the allocated $1.1 billion was for the alternative medication of already existing addicts. The pharma-friendly approach prevailed once again, encouraging the sale of more and more drugs (such as Suboxone) to help addicts to wean themselves off their narcotics. Obama’s dilatory and pro-pill approach to the opioid crisis ultimately generated even more people who, in order to kick their narcotics habit, would need to avail themselves of further pharmaceutical means, effectively trading one drug for another. In other words, both the problem of opioid overprescription, facilitated through Obamacare by providing easy access to narcotics to formerly uninsured persons, and the measures implemented by the Obama administration in response to the overdose epidemic, served to increase pharmaceutical industry profits. The Death Connection Whether or not one wishes to connect any further dots in the cases of drone assassination and the opioid epidemic, it does seem worth pointing out that Obama’s own attorney general, Eric Holder (2009-2015), was a former legal counselor to Purdue Pharma, who in fact defended the company in a 2004 lawsuit alleging deceptive marketing of Oxycontin. This is noteworthy because it was none other than Eric Holder who, in an infamous White Paper and various public addresses, so adamantly defended the creative interpretation of imminence as not implying immediacy, the crucial linguistic maneuver used to defend and promote Obama’s drone killing spree. The normalization of assassination achieved by the Obama administration expanded the domain of what was said to be legitimate state killing by inverting the burden of proof on suspects while simultaneously claiming (illogically enough) that “areas outside active hostilities” were in fact war zones. Together, all of these linguistic tricks generated a veritable killing machine, opening up vast new market niches and dramatically increasing the profit potential for companies in the shockingly lucrative business of state-inflicted homicide. Not only weapons manufacturers but also logistics and analytics companies were able to reap hefty profits through eliminating as many people pegged as “terrorist suspects” as possible. The imminent vs. immediate dichotomy was inverted and redeployed, but in the opposite direction, by pharmaceutical company legal teams and collaborating lawmakers in 2014 to permit the promiscuous sale of narcotics to continue on despite the opioid overdose epidemic on display throughout the United States. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014 ironically “ensured” only profits for drug companies, as millions of new addicts would be created during the second decade of the twenty-first century, accelerating and multiplying the domino effect of diversion and overdoses already ravaging communities all across the United States. It matters not that pharmaceutical company executives sought not to kill people but to sell pills. They aggressively pushed narcotics without regard for the likely future consequences of their drive for profit. Indeed, they persisted in pushing narcotics even as drug overdose deaths reached record levels. Under Obama, more than two thousand suspects outside areas of active hostilities were premeditatedly and intentionally incinerated by missiles launched from drones. The tally of overdose deaths in the United States exceeded 100K for the single year ending in April 2021. The long-range effects of the normalization of assassination, however, are likely to be more deadly than the opioid crisis, given that many other governments have followed suit in acquiring lethal drones for their own use, having been persuaded by the precedent set by the U.S. government that this form of state-inflicted homicide is perfectly permissible. In contrast, the promiscuous opioid prescription practices of doctors in the United States has been curtailed and was not emulated in the UK or in Europe, although the pharmaceutical giants do appear to have continued their morally dubious marketing practices in other countries abroad, especially in less-developed lands. As both the drone program and the opioid prescription debacle illustrate, when government agencies such as the Pentagon and the FDA have been captured by industry forces focused above all on maximizing profits, they will simply look the other way as the corpses pile up, denying responsibility for any and all “collateral damage.” This tendency of bureaucrats and corporate leaders to shirk responsibility for the negative consequences of their policies helps to explain the ease with which lawmakers are coopted by lobbyists from not only the military but also the pharmaceutical industry. The recent deployment of imminent and immediate by lethal legal “experts” serves to underscore why the censorship of language by government officials themselves is inherently dangerous, given that their policies in recent years have multiplied, not prevented, the deaths of human beings. In a representative democracy, the lawmakers promote the interests of the voters who elected them. What kind of government sacrifices the lives of human beings in order to maximize the profits of corporate leaders? Tyler Durden Fri, 04/01/2022 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 2nd, 2022

The Revolution Has Come For Joe Rogan

The Revolution Has Come For Joe Rogan Authored by Techno Fog via The Reactionary (emphasis ours), The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in the late summer of 2021, shortly after the Americans withdrew, tired and weary and broke after nearly 20 years of fighting. They seized was control of the country in the broad and particular sense: setting up command in the presidential palace in Kabul and targeting the individuals who criticized the new government. By December 2021, regular Afghans and the members of the Afghan press who had expressed critical views of their new rulers had “been subjected to months of intimidation and fear.” The Biden Administration has adopted these same tactics, calling for their critics to be silenced by the Administration’s corporate and media allies. After 20 years of trying to export Western values to Afghanistan, they ended up importing Taliban-style repression to the United States. And it only cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. Now, the Regime and its comrades target Joe Rogan, an inquisitive comedian with a podcast. He is accused of spreading “misinformation” by those that illegally spy on their citizens and lies without remorse. In reality, this isn’t about misinformation. It’s that Rogan’s crimes are those of words and thought. The prosecutors have become the prophet of the god they have created, searching to eradicate those guilty of the sin of blasphemy. The Taliban would be proud. We can be certain that the Regime is not concerned with the truth. Have you seen them struggle to explain the “evidence” that Russia was planning a false-flag in Ukraine to justify an invasion? Or, consider how the COVID-19 misinformation originated from the U.S. government and its bureaucratic arms. In early 2020, Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins were both presented with arguments that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered. Instead of investigating this issue, they saw to it that this theory was killed off. Despite – or perhaps because of – these lies, Fauci and Collins remain dear sons of the Regime. Reminders that “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others. (The Christians of the Left – such as David French – even go so far as to say that you have a “spiritual problem” if you don’t trust Fauci and Collins. Both the left and the right make their idols.) They killed the truth before. Who is to say they’re not trying to do that with Rogan? Those are the easy observations. Then we get to the deeper and more consequential truths that are manipulated and deformed and remade for political purposes. Patterns emerge - and maybe they’re repeating. The institution of marriage, and the definition of marriage, is subjected to social – meaning political – evolution. Mothers are redefined as “birthing people.” Words are even disappeared by the U.S. government for threat that they are stigmatizing, dare someone have a negative opinion of an ex-convict or prisoner. To put it more bluntly, the people who believe men can give birth are now in charge of what is true. The only authority they have is political power. Such power isn’t necessarily authoritative, but it gives them the strength to set definitions and enforce the rules, to declare guilt and issue punishment. Conflicts of interest be damned. Power over language is power over the people: “the primary purpose of language – which is to describe reality – is replaced by the rival purpose of asserting power over it.”1 In their eyes, this public lynching is justified because these are revolutionary times and removing Rogan is a revolutionary act. There is no forgiveness because they seek destruction, not restoration. There is some limitation to their enforcement power, those means by which they achieve their ends, necessitating the Biden Administration in July 2021 to order social media companies to ban those who disagree with the official line of thinking. The U.S. government went so far as to flag the objectionable content itself, helping corporate America snuff out inconvenient voices. Supposedly devout Christian Francis Collins has been silent on the government’s campaign to punish dissent, having been part of the cover-up. As Collins uses his faith to promote COVID-19 vaccines, perhaps he needs a reminder that Christianity does not give the civil government jurisdiction over your thoughts or words. Or a refresher of the evils of abortion. Anyway, the censorship encouraged by the Biden Administration was effective – to an extent. Alex Berenson was banned from Twitter in August 2021 for correctly labeling the COVID-19 vaccines as “therapeutics.” Dr. Robert Malone, “who has been credited with inventing the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 immunizations,” was also been banned from Twitter. These suspensions came after Fauci and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and other members of the Biden Administration called for stronger measures to stop the spread of misinformation. Yet Joe Rogan thrived, in large part because he provided an alternative platform to the voices that were being suppressed. The public yearned for this information and it was delivered through his podcast. It’s reported that Rogan has an estimated 11 million listeners per episode. It’s also estimated that his interviews with Dr. Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough brought in millions more. In response, the Biden White House demanded Spotify do more to censor the discussions of Rogan and his guests. At the same time, the liberal mob – encouraged by their leadership – aimed at Rogan, hurling disgusting and false allegations of “racism.” CNN, eager to shift the focus off the network’s own problems, is asking Spotify to give Rogan the proverbial death sentence: CNN's @BrianStelter & Jim @Acosta strongly suggest Spotify should remove Joe Rogan from their platform; also note his "profanity-laced apology" "It seems untenable to have that kind of video surface, and that kind of compilation surface, and keep one’s job" pic.twitter.com/rSyAV8f1dN — Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 6, 2022 This is the same network that lied about Rogan’s use of Ivermectin, calling it “horse dewormer.” It is the same network that ran an altered video of Rogan, making him seem sicker with COVID-19 than he really was. No surprise that it’s CNN’s Brian Stelter leading the way against Rogan. How do I describe Stelter? (For starters, I do so with pleasure.) He is a humorless fat man. A dedicated media believer pretending to be a media reporter. He is as dumb as he sounds and as arrogant as he looks. He oozes the sadism of a hall monitor and the false confidence of an impostor. He is Kim Jong-un without the hair or the country or the charisma. Prior to Rogan, Stelter’s favorite targets were enemies of the Regime: Tucker Carlson and Fox News. For being a “media reporter,” he typically has a curious focus to target one journalist and one network. CNN tolerates this well enough, excusing Stelter’s poor ratings because he attacks the network’s adversaries and defends the network without question. Put Stelter on the offense against critics and he’ll call a Jihad against “right wing” media from his CNN studio. He’s the zealot that will behead you for drawing a cartoon of the wrong left-wing figure (whether it’s Joe Biden or Don Lemon) – and then blame you for inciting violence on “Reliable Sources” the next day. He will demand the unvaccinated be treated as second-class citizens, relegated to the margins of society until they comply with his favored health policies, just as he continues on his own adventure of finding out what comes after “morbid obesity.” And in the presence of his preferred State power, masochist Stelter emerges to flatter and grovel. When he had the chance to interview Biden’s press secretary, he lobbed the softball of his dreams: “What does the press get wrong when covering Biden’s agenda?” But back to Rogan. One could say that Rogan is under attack for speaking truth to power. But that’s not quite true. As Christopher Hitchens observed, that cliché is looking in the wrong direction because power already knows the truth. More importantly, Rogan – and his guests – speak truth to the powerless. That’s what they’re scared of. And that’s why we see these campaigns against Tucker and Rogan and anyone else who dare tell dangerous truths. To put it another way, President Biden and his corporate allies, and their mob of supporters, seek to obliterate the relationship between the writer and the reader, the speaker and the listener. Thus, this is about more than Joe Rogan. It is about you and it is about me. It is about gatekeeping and limiting what we can watch and read and hear. And they achieve that end through the destruction of Rogan the individual.2 *  *  * 1. Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands.2. “Human individuals are the most important of those real things, the obstacles that all revolutionary systems must overcome, and which all ideologies must destroy.” Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands. Subscribe to The Reactionary Tyler Durden Sun, 02/06/2022 - 23:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 6th, 2022

This Will Really Ruin Anthony Fauci"s Xmas

This Will Really Ruin Anthony Fauci's Xmas A general failure to comply... Family members daring to co-mingle this holiday season... Americans who refuse (or reject) the mandatory triple jabs... Un-masked deplorables... These are a few of the things that will likely infuriate the world's foremost authoritarian on COVID catastrophe porn - Dr. Anthony Fauci. But, we suspect this may just be the straw that breaks the angry little bureaucratic camel's back... Yes, Robert F Kennedy's book exposing "The Real Anthony Fauci" was the most-bought non-fiction book on Amazon this week! How is that book even allowed to be published in today's censored world? How long before Bezos gets a tap on the shoulder and is asked to remove such abhorrent blasphemy? It is a long, dense (450 pages) book full of facts and evidence and is therefore likely to be bought a thousand times more than it is read, but, Steve Kirsch comes to America's rescue with "How to read RFK Jr's book in 5 minutes"... Here are five methods to get the gist of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s best-selling book, “The Real Anthony Fauci,” quickly: 1. The first third shows that Fauci is the leader of the largest cabal of organized crime thugs to have ever walked the face of Earth. The middle third goes into more detail about the history of the establishment of Fauci’s criminal cabal. The final third ties together loose ends with more details and factual history. The overriding theme is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization are all run and controlled by criminal thugs in concert with their criminal counterparts running Big Pharma. 2. Read this review. 3. Consider this excerpt: “Under Dr. Fauci’s leadership, the allergic, autoimmune, and chronic illnesses which Congress specifically charged NIAID to investigate and prevent, have mushroomed to afflict 54 percent of children, up from 12.8 percent when he took over NIAID in 1984. “Dr. Fauci has offered no explanation as to why allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, food allergies, allergic rhinitis, and anaphylaxis suddenly exploded beginning in 1989, five years after he came to power. “On its website, NIAID boasts that autoimmune disease is one of the agency’s top priorities. Some 80 autoimmune diseases, including juvenile diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, and Crohn’s disease, which were practically unknown prior to 1984, suddenly became epidemic under his watch. “Autism, which many scientists now consider an autoimmune disease, exploded from between 2/10,000 and 4/10,000 Americans when Tony Fauci joined NIAID, to one in thirty-four today. “Neurological diseases like ADD/ADHD, speech and sleep disorders, narcolepsy, facial tics, and Tourette’s syndrome have become commonplace in American children. “The human, health, and economic costs of chronic disease dwarf the costs of all infectious diseases in the United States. By this decade’s end, obesity, diabetes, and pre-diabetes are on track to debilitate 85 percent of America’s citizens. “For this reason, all the drug companies and members of Congress (except Rand Paul) LOVE Fauci.” 4. Open the book to a random page and start reading. Then realize there are ~450 other pages with stories of corruption just as bad as the one you just randomly selected. 5. My review:  The book shows that Fauci is a really bad guy who has done a lot of bad stuff and he should be immediately fired. It also shows a completely corrupt system that is allowing dangerous drugs to be approved. We need to all stand up and oppose what is going on. The system is badly broken and corrupt and needs to be fixed ASAP. I haven’t read the entire book, but I have read sections and everything I have read so far aligns with the facts I know. It’s a devastating book, filled with details that few people knew about until now. For example, I knew about Tess Lawrie’s call with Andrew Hill and knew it was recorded, but I never got a copy. So to see the line-by-line transcript … that was truly stunning. It aligned 100% with what I had heard about the call. The book is an amazing accomplishment and I can’t figure out how Kennedy had the time to write it because he’s so busy. I’m very proud to be one of his friends. He’s just a great guy with a heart of gold and one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. President Biden does not want you to read this book. That is precisely the best reason you must take the time to read as much of it as you can. Finally, remember President Biden put RFK, Jr. on the “Disinformation Dozen” list at #2. He does not want you to read his book. And that is precisely why it is so urgent and important that you do so. Also, your member of Congress doesn’t want you to read it either. None of them objected to putting Kennedy on the censorship list. So they support censorship of this important work. The message from RFK, Jr. going forward is simple: DO NOT COMPLY. *  *  * And on a lighter note, it won't be just Fauci who is angry at Jeff Bezos this Xmas. Imagine what Beijing will do when they see this... Source - yes this is real! Stocking stuffer? Tyler Durden Fri, 12/24/2021 - 11:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 24th, 2021

Our Shopping Obsession Is Causing a Literal Stink

Box factories are enjoying a revival since the pandemic spurred more online shopping, but neighborhoods downwind of box makers say the smell is making life miserable The world is on a spending spree, and no matter what you’re buying, it’s probably going to have been in a box at some point along its route to you. That means companies are rushing to build pulp mills and box factories to meet demand, and many of them are in the United States. About 40 billion boxes—equal to 407 billion square feet, which is roughly the size of Switzerland —were shipped in the U.S. in 2020, surpassing the previous record from 1999 set amidst a hot economy and burgeoning e-commerce. This year is likely to beat that record; in the first nine months of 2021, box shipments were up 3.9% from 2020, according to the Fibre Box Association. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] But making paper products is a smelly operation, and as more box factories expand into U.S. neighborhoods, there’s come a pushback from people who don’t want to be downwind of an American manufacturing revival. In South Carolina, three groups of plaintiffs filed lawsuits this summer against New-Indy, a company that converted a paper mill to make containerboard, saying the conversion has made the air dangerous and unhealthy; the state received more than 17,000 complaints of noxious odors from citizens near the New-Indy plant in the first half of this year, which it calls “an unprecedented number.” New York state fined a Niagara Falls paper mill $375,000 in September for “intolerable odors” that it said impacted the health of the surrounding neighborhood, especially in the summer; the mill, Cascades Containerboard Packaging, agreed to spend millions of dollars in equipment upgrades. The mill says the smell comes from sludge created when the plant processes recycled paper into cardboard, and this recycled sludge was generated at higher rates this year to meet higher demand for boxes. David Goldman—APThe Midwest Paper Group mill in Combined Locks, Wis., is seen from across the the river in Little Chute, Wis., on Aug. 18, 2020. The mill is one of many that switched its focus from producing paper to cardboard for boxes as online shopping soared. And in Kalamazoo, Mich., residents filed a lawsuit against paperboard maker Graphic Packaging International after they say the company started production on a machine that would increase output by 500,000 tons a year; the residents say the mill has “discharged discrete and offensive noxious odors, air particulates, and fugitive dust” into the air. Adding to the tensions: many of these odor-emitting factories are in communities of color, which by virtue of zoning laws find themselves tucked against industrial zones. People of color account for the bulk of exposure to industrial pollutants in the United States, according to a study published in April in ScienceAdvances. How the pandemic changed shopping The complaints about the box factories coincide with the reversal of a long-term trend in the U.S. that saw mills shutting down as demand for printer paper and newspapers waned. Now, shuttered mills that once printed newspapers and magazines in places like Old Town, Maine and Port Angeles, Wash., are reopening to make pulp and containerboard—the liner and brown paper used to make a cardboard box. There are even new mills opening in places like Green Bay, Wisc. and Wapakoneta, Ohio, and new mills planned in places like Henderson, Ky. Though e-commerce has long driven an increase in the boxes passing through the average American’s home, until now it had not led to a huge uptick in box production; the boxes being sent to people’s homes were merely in lieu of the boxes carrying goods to brick and mortar stores. The pandemic changed that. Read more: I Tried Buying Only Used Holiday Gifts. It Changed How I Think About Shopping “There was this extraordinary shift from spending on services to spending on goods,” says Adam Josephson, a paper and packaging analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “Higher purchases of goods leads to higher use of boxes.” Now, people are buying so much stuff—a record $16.3 trillion in October in the U.S. alone—that there’s more demand for boxes than ever before. E-commerce and mail order use seven times more corrugated cardboard per dollar of sales than traditional retail does, according to Fastmarkets RISI, which tracks the industry. The new and updated mills in the U.S.—30 since 2017 by the count of the Northeast Recycling Council—are a boon to efforts to jumpstart American manufacturing and create new jobs in a long dwindling industry. But the manufacturing process can create hydrogen sulfide and other substances that smell like rotten eggs. In some places where mills have come on line or increased production, residents say that the problem goes beyond stench and that the operations, running at full capacity, are polluting the air and water. The downside of ‘Made in America’ For decades, Americans have bought things made from minerals extracted elsewhere, assembled in faraway factories where the stench and pollution impacted someone else. Now that more boxes are being made in the United States, some residents are confronting one of the pitfalls to making things in America again. “It started as rotten eggs but recently it’s been a sweet port-a-potty, urinal cake smell,” says Kerri Bishop, 34, who runs a Facebook group for people trying to do something about the smell in Catawba, S.C., where the New-Indy mill is located. “I don’t really leave my house—it’s worse when I go outside, and I never know when it’s going to hit,” she says. Bishop, who moved her family to South Carolina from Rochester, N.Y., in 2016, says that before the conversion, the mill would make the air smell like rotten eggs a few times a year, but it didn’t bother her. Then, New-Indy Containerboard, a joint venture part-owned by the Kraft Group, bought the mill in 2018 and converted it to making brown paper for containerboard. The mill began high-volume production in February of 2021, and people working within a 30-mile radius started complaining of strong odors and physical reactions, according to the lawsuit. As Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and New-Indy Containerboard, headed to his plane, he drove by me, photojournalist Chelsea Pomales, and our big @wcnc sign. We hope Mr. Kraft will follow through and call us. pic.twitter.com/ntV39RZQPn — Brandon Goldner (@BrandonWCNC) November 7, 2021 In order to start making brown paper at the mill, New-Indy had to apply for a new permit; the permit application estimated that hydrogen sulfide emissions would not significantly increase because of the conversion, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, or DHEC. The state began receiving thousands of complaints about foul odors in the vicinity in February 2021; when it investigated, it found the odors were coming from the mill. When it asked for information about current sludge management at the facility, the state says, New-Indy provided documents from 2014 and 2017, before the conversion. “It started as rotten eggs, but recently it’s been a sweet port-a-potty, urinal cake smell.” In May 2021, the EPA issued an emergency order under the Clean Air Act requiring the company to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions and install air quality monitors on its fence line. But for Bishop and other residents, that’s not enough; the company was only required to install a few monitors, and air quality has not improved since May, she says. She and other residents blame the odor on something called a steam-stripper, which treats foul condensate; they say that because of the increased volume at the plant, the steam-stripper can’t handle all the waste the company is producing. Bishop has a cranial nerve disorder, which means the smells hit her even harder, making her physically ill; she gets dizzy and starts seeing spots, she says. Her youngest son developed a rash on his face. She and others say that the environmental agencies are monitoring for the wrong chemicals and that the wastewater the mill is sending into surrounding lagoons is contaminating the groundwater. They say that the problem isn’t just the smell, but that the mill is polluting the air, causing nausea, rashes, and other health problems. Other residents say they can’t take their dogs outside when the smell hits, that they can’t sleep at night; one woman says she keeps a gas mask by her bed to wear when the air seems particularly dirty. New-Indy declined to comment for this story. Paul Hennessy—NurPhoto/Getty ImagesBoaters pass near the Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill on Dec. 14, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. The China connection There’s another reason that there’s a boom in paper mills in the U.S. In 2018, China stopped accepting most types of recycled material from the U.S., including paper and cardboard. That created an opportunity for paper mills that previously couldn’t compete with China on cost. There was cardboard available to recycle, so mills just had to be retrofitted to turn that cardboard into more cardboard. “The Chinese import restrictions changed the recycling equation and spurred a revitalization of the U.S. mill industry,” says Colin Staub, senior reporter at Resource Recycling, who compiled a map of more than two dozen conversions and new mills announced across the U.S. “We’re certainly seeing more interest in buying and opening paper mills.” China consumes 107 million tons of paper per year, but it has fewer trees to use for pulp and less of a recycling infrastructure than the U.S. Its import restrictions mean that it can primarily import pulp, not cardboard, so some Chinese companies are funding new mills in the U.S. to make pulp that can then be sent overseas. A Chinese company, Nine Dragons, reopened the shuttered mill in Old Town, Maine to make pulp to export to China for boxes. (The mill spilled more than 30,700 gallons of chemicals into the Penobscot River in 2020, violating state and federal laws, causing a rise in the river’s PH level and prompting the Penobscot Nation to advocate for greater stewardship of the river.) Of course, the pulp mills and containerboard factories opening now are much more sustainable than the mills of the past. These mills are an important part of the circular economy in which nothing is thrown away and everything is reused; without mills to recycle cardboard, it would be going to a landfill. Jon Cherry—Getty Images Amanda Eversole, a UPS employee and package handler, watches boxes rush past after clearing a chute jam on Dec. 6, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. But the communities hosting these mills often don’t want to have to bear the brunt of our obsession with shopping. “They’re causing pollution that’s never going to leave; they’re turning their own community into a superfund site,” says Jackie Lane, a marine biologist who lives near an International Paper mill in Cantonment, Fla., that she and others say has long polluted Perdido Bay. International Paper failed to meet its wastewater treatment plant permit limits for toxicity on 19 documented occasions from 2015 to 2019, according to a final consent order executed by the state in May. The consent order fines International Paper $190,000 in penalties and requires it to pay a $10,000 fine every time it fails certain water quality tests, an order Lane says is a slap on the wrist. International Paper said in a statement that its monitoring, done in coordination with the state, has shown that the wetlands are “biologically rich and diverse” and that it works closely with the state to preserve the wetlands. International Paper employs more than 500 Alabama and Florida residents, the company said. ‘Environmental racism’ Most of the new and improved paper mills are on sites that have long held paper mills—it’s much easier to get the permits and infrastructure on an existing site than to build a new factory. But that’s meant that because of historical zoning practices that located polluting plants near Black neighborhoods, it’s minority neighborhoods who are subject to much of this pollution. Earlier this year, a former resident filed a complaint against the city of Kalamazoo with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, alleging that leaders discriminated against Black residents by approving a tax break that allowed Graphic Packaging to expand in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The city also agreed to cut down 721 trees for the company, according to the complaint. George Rose—Getty ImagesHoliday shopping contributes to a backlog of boxes outside a U.S. Post Office in Solvang, Calif., on Nov. 27, 2021. Brandi Crawford-Johnson, the plaintiff, also filed a complaint against Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, alleging that it discriminated against a predominantly Black neighborhood when it approved changes to an air permit allowing Graphic Packaging to expand in November of 2020. In November, the EPA’s Civil Rights Compliance Office said that it would investigate this complaint. “It’s environmental racism,” says Crawford-Johnson, who after moving to the neighborhood was shocked to learn how many of her neighbors had asthma and other health problems. Graphic Packaging said in a statement that the expansion is not yet fully operational and that it has taken several steps over the years to mitigate potential odors. Though it does not comment on pending litigation, the company that there are several other local manufacturers and a city wastewater treatment plant near its operations, and the odors are caused by “a number of complex factors.” And in Brunswick, Georgia, which is 55% Black, residents have long been accustomed to the smell of rotten eggs from a nearby Georgia-Pacific pulp mill. But starting in December of 2020, residents started having such severe health reactions to the smell that some called 911 because they couldn’t breathe in their homes, says Rachael Thompson, the executive director of the Glynn Environmental Coalition. “I feel like if this were a Caucasian neighborhood and community, more would be done about it,” one resident who called 911, Spanline Dixon, told The Current, a news site covering coastal Georgia. Brunswick is home to four Superfund sites, but the University of Georgia worked with the Glynn Environmental Coalition to analyze weather reports and track what was upstream from the odor complaints. The study showed definitively a direct correlation between the mill and the odors, Thompson says. Her group has received 130 complaints since last year; the only time it did not receive any complaints was during a month the mill was temporarily closed. A Georgia-Pacific spokesman said, in an email, that the company is aware of the odor complaints and shares the community’s concern. The company is working with the state environmental regulatory agency and other stakeholders to identify and mitigate the potential sources of the odor, the spokesman said. More from TIME Read more: How American Shoppers Broke the Supply Chain Tensions between growing demand for paper and the environmental problems that causes aren’t limited to the U.S. In Indonesia, more than 30 community groups sent a letter to Asia Pulp & Paper in August arguing that the mill’s plan to triple pulp production will risk the respiratory health of millions of people. And a community in Nova Scotia is divided after a paper company is taking legal action to reopen a mill that was shut in 2020 after community concerns about its wastewater discharge. One thing’s for sure, says Joshua Martin, director of the Environmental Paper Network—these conflicts are likely to mount as the world consumes more packaging. The problem isn’t just that mills create bad odors; despite high cardboard recycling rates, trees are still cut down to make packaging—around 3 billion a year, according to EPN. Although cardboard is easier to recycle than other products like plastic, it can only be recycled about 5-7 times before it can’t be used any more. Recycled cardboard is often mixed with virgin pulp to make boxes. The U.S. drives that demand—it consumes 202 kg of paper and paperboard per capita, compared to Africa’s 6 kg per capita, Latin America’s 44 kg per capita, and Asia’s 44 kg per capita, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. “If the entire world used the amount of paper as America currently does, it would be completely unsustainable,” he says. The only way to reverse this trend, he says, is to change the way we buy things to have less dependence on paper and packaging. Consumers can send messages to companies by patronizing businesses that use packaging certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; they can try brands like Loop that deliver groceries in reusable packaging, which Loop then collects. Perhaps the easiest solution, though, is to buy less stuff that you’re going to toss soon—disposable coffee cups or takeout packaging or multiple e-commerce orders. “It’s this culture of disposability and single-use, no matter what the product is made from, that needs to change,” he says. It’s something Kerri Bishop, the South Carolina resident, is taking to heart. Bishop spent her career working in manufacturing and says she didn’t join the class-action lawsuit and didn’t even want the mill to shut down at first. She just hoped they would upgrade their equipment. Now, though, she’s worried she moved to a state that values manufacturing and jobs more than the quality of life and health of its residents. She’s considering getting a home air filtration system. Once a frequent Amazon shopper, she tired of ordering a few different things and having them arrive in many different boxes, even if she tried to get them to all come the same day. She’d heard from a local politician that the New-Indy boxes were being used by Amazon, so she started boycotting the online retailer. She lifted the boycott for the holidays, as higher prices and supply chain problems made it hard to buy things elsewhere, but Bishop says she plans to stop shopping at Amazon again in January.    .....»»

Category: topSource: timeDec 17th, 2021

Our Shopping Obsession Is a Boon to Box Makers, But Not to Their Neighbors

Box factories smell, and the neighborhoods near them say ramped-up production to meet online shopping needs is making life miserable The world is on a spending spree, and no matter what you’re buying, it’s probably going to have been in a box at some point along its route to you. That means companies are rushing to build pulp mills and box factories to meet demand, and many of them are in the United States. About 40 billion boxes—equal to 407 billion square feet, which is roughly the size of Switzerland —were shipped in the U.S. in 2020, surpassing the previous record from 1999 set amidst a hot economy and burgeoning e-commerce. This year is likely to beat that record; in the first nine months of 2021, box shipments were up 3.9% from 2020, according to the Fibre Box Association. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] But making paper products is a smelly operation, and as more box factories expand into U.S. neighborhoods, there’s come a pushback from people who don’t want to be downwind of an American manufacturing revival. In South Carolina, three groups of plaintiffs filed lawsuits this summer against New-Indy, a company that converted a paper mill to make containerboard, saying the conversion has made the air dangerous and unhealthy; the state received more than 17,000 complaints of noxious odors from citizens near the New-Indy plant in the first half of this year, which it calls “an unprecedented number.” New York state fined a Niagara Falls paper mill $375,000 in September for “intolerable odors” that it said impacted the health of the surrounding neighborhood, especially in the summer; the mill, Cascades Containerboard Packaging, agreed to spend millions of dollars in equipment upgrades. The mill says the smell comes from sludge created when the plant processes recycled paper into cardboard, and this recycled sludge was generated at higher rates this year to meet higher demand for boxes. David Goldman—APThe Midwest Paper Group mill in Combined Locks, Wis., is seen from across the the river in Little Chute, Wis., on Aug. 18, 2020. The mill is one of many that switched its focus from producing paper to cardboard for boxes as online shopping soared. And in Kalamazoo, Mich., residents filed a lawsuit against paperboard maker Graphic Packaging International after they say the company started production on a machine that would increase output by 500,000 tons a year; the residents say the mill has “discharged discrete and offensive noxious odors, air particulates, and fugitive dust” into the air. Adding to the tensions: many of these odor-emitting factories are in communities of color, which by virtue of zoning laws find themselves tucked against industrial zones. People of color account for the bulk of exposure to industrial pollutants in the United States, according to a study published in April in ScienceAdvances. How the pandemic changed shopping The complaints about the box factories coincide with the reversal of a long-term trend in the U.S. that saw mills shutting down as demand for printer paper and newspapers waned. Now, shuttered mills that once printed newspapers and magazines in places like Old Town, Maine and Port Angeles, Wash., are reopening to make pulp and containerboard—the liner and brown paper used to make a cardboard box. There are even new mills opening in places like Green Bay, Wisc. and Wapakoneta, Ohio, and new mills planned in places like Henderson, Ky. Though e-commerce has long driven an increase in the boxes passing through the average American’s home, until now it had not led to a huge uptick in box production; the boxes being sent to people’s homes were merely in lieu of the boxes carrying goods to brick and mortar stores. The pandemic changed that. Read more: I Tried Buying Only Used Holiday Gifts. It Changed How I Think About Shopping “There was this extraordinary shift from spending on services to spending on goods,” says Adam Josephson, a paper and packaging analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “Higher purchases of goods leads to higher use of boxes.” Now, people are buying so much stuff—a record $16.3 trillion in October in the U.S. alone—that there’s more demand for boxes than ever before. E-commerce and mail order use seven times more corrugated cardboard per dollar of sales than traditional retail does, according to Fastmarkets RISI, which tracks the industry. The new and updated mills in the U.S.—30 since 2017 by the count of the Northeast Recycling Council—are a boon to efforts to jumpstart American manufacturing and create new jobs in a long dwindling industry. But the manufacturing process can create hydrogen sulfide and other substances that smell like rotten eggs. In some places where mills have come on line or increased production, residents say that the problem goes beyond stench and that the operations, running at full capacity, are polluting the air and water. The downside of ‘Made in America’ For decades, Americans have bought things made from minerals extracted elsewhere, assembled in faraway factories where the stench and pollution impacted someone else. Now that more boxes are being made in the United States, some residents are confronting one of the pitfalls to making things in America again. “It started as rotten eggs but recently it’s been a sweet port-a-potty, urinal cake smell,” says Kerri Bishop, 34, who runs a Facebook group for people trying to do something about the smell in Catawba, S.C., where the New-Indy mill is located. “I don’t really leave my house—it’s worse when I go outside, and I never know when it’s going to hit,” she says. Bishop, who moved her family to South Carolina from Rochester, N.Y., in 2016, says that before the conversion, the mill would make the air smell like rotten eggs a few times a year, but it didn’t bother her. Then, New-Indy Containerboard, a joint venture part-owned by the Kraft Group, bought the mill in 2018 and converted it to making brown paper for containerboard. The mill began high-volume production in February of 2021, and people working within a 30-mile radius started complaining of strong odors and physical reactions, according to the lawsuit. As Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and New-Indy Containerboard, headed to his plane, he drove by me, photojournalist Chelsea Pomales, and our big @wcnc sign. We hope Mr. Kraft will follow through and call us. pic.twitter.com/ntV39RZQPn — Brandon Goldner (@BrandonWCNC) November 7, 2021 In order to start making brown paper at the mill, New-Indy had to apply for a new permit; the permit application estimated that hydrogen sulfide emissions would not significantly increase because of the conversion, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, or DHEC. The state began receiving thousands of complaints about foul odors in the vicinity in February 2021; when it investigated, it found the odors were coming from the mill. When it asked for information about current sludge management at the facility, the state says, New-Indy provided documents from 2014 and 2017, before the conversion. “It started as rotten eggs, but recently it’s been a sweet port-a-potty, urinal cake smell.” In May 2021, the EPA issued an emergency order under the Clean Air Act requiring the company to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions and install air quality monitors on its fence line. But for Bishop and other residents, that’s not enough; the company was only required to install a few monitors, and air quality has not improved since May, she says. She and other residents blame the odor on something called a steam-stripper, which treats foul condensate; they say that because of the increased volume at the plant, the steam-stripper can’t handle all the waste the company is producing. Bishop has a cranial nerve disorder, which means the smells hit her even harder, making her physically ill; she gets dizzy and starts seeing spots, she says. Her youngest son developed a rash on his face. She and others say that the environmental agencies are monitoring for the wrong chemicals and that the wastewater the mill is sending into surrounding lagoons is contaminating the groundwater. They say that the problem isn’t just the smell, but that the mill is polluting the air, causing nausea, rashes, and other health problems. Other residents say they can’t take their dogs outside when the smell hits, that they can’t sleep at night; one woman says she keeps a gas mask by her bed to wear when the air seems particularly dirty. New-Indy declined to comment for this story. Paul Hennessy—NurPhoto/Getty ImagesBoaters pass near the Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill on Dec. 14, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. The China connection There’s another reason that there’s a boom in paper mills in the U.S. In 2018, China stopped accepting most types of recycled material from the U.S., including paper and cardboard. That created an opportunity for paper mills that previously couldn’t compete with China on cost. There was cardboard available to recycle, so mills just had to be retrofitted to turn that cardboard into more cardboard. “The Chinese import restrictions changed the recycling equation and spurred a revitalization of the U.S. mill industry,” says Colin Staub, senior reporter at Resource Recycling, who compiled a map of more than two dozen conversions and new mills announced across the U.S. “We’re certainly seeing more interest in buying and opening paper mills.” China consumes 107 million tons of paper per year, but it has fewer trees to use for pulp and less of a recycling infrastructure than the U.S. Its import restrictions mean that it can primarily import pulp, not cardboard, so some Chinese companies are funding new mills in the U.S. to make pulp that can then be sent overseas. A Chinese company, Nine Dragons, reopened the shuttered mill in Old Town, Maine to make pulp to export to China for boxes. (The mill spilled more than 30,700 gallons of chemicals into the Penobscot River in 2020, violating state and federal laws, causing a rise in the river’s PH level and prompting the Penobscot Nation to advocate for greater stewardship of the river.) Of course, the pulp mills and containerboard factories opening now are much more sustainable than the mills of the past. These mills are an important part of the circular economy in which nothing is thrown away and everything is reused; without mills to recycle cardboard, it would be going to a landfill. Jon Cherry—Getty Images Amanda Eversole, a UPS employee and package handler, watches boxes rush past after clearing a chute jam on Dec. 6, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. But the communities hosting these mills often don’t want to have to bear the brunt of our obsession with shopping. “They’re causing pollution that’s never going to leave; they’re turning their own community into a superfund site,” says Jackie Lane, a marine biologist who lives near an International Paper mill in Cantonment, Fla., that she and others say has long polluted Perdido Bay. International Paper failed to meet its wastewater treatment plant permit limits for toxicity on 19 documented occasions from 2015 to 2019, according to a final consent order executed by the state in May. The consent order fines International Paper $190,000 in penalties and requires it to pay a $10,000 fine every time it fails certain water quality tests, an order Lane says is a slap on the wrist. International Paper said in a statement that its monitoring, done in coordination with the state, has shown that the wetlands are “biologically rich and diverse” and that it works closely with the state to preserve the wetlands. International Paper employs more than 500 Alabama and Florida residents, the company said. ‘Environmental racism’ Most of the new and improved paper mills are on sites that have long held paper mills—it’s much easier to get the permits and infrastructure on an existing site than to build a new factory. But that’s meant that because of historical zoning practices that located polluting plants near Black neighborhoods, it’s minority neighborhoods who are subject to much of this pollution. Earlier this year, a former resident filed a complaint against the city of Kalamazoo with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, alleging that leaders discriminated against Black residents by approving a tax break that allowed Graphic Packaging to expand in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The city also agreed to cut down 721 trees for the company, according to the complaint. George Rose—Getty ImagesHoliday shopping contributes to a backlog of boxes outside a U.S. Post Office in Solvang, Calif., on Nov. 27, 2021. Brandi Crawford-Johnson, the plaintiff, also filed a complaint against Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, alleging that it discriminated against a predominantly Black neighborhood when it approved changes to an air permit allowing Graphic Packaging to expand in November of 2020. In November, the EPA’s Civil Rights Compliance Office said that it would investigate this complaint. “It’s environmental racism,” says Crawford-Johnson, who after moving to the neighborhood was shocked to learn how many of her neighbors had asthma and other health problems. Graphic Packaging said in a statement that the expansion is not yet fully operational and that it has taken several steps over the years to mitigate potential odors. Though it does not comment on pending litigation, the company that there are several other local manufacturers and a city wastewater treatment plant near its operations, and the odors are caused by “a number of complex factors.” And in Brunswick, Georgia, which is 55% Black, residents have long been accustomed to the smell of rotten eggs from a nearby Georgia-Pacific pulp mill. But starting in December of 2020, residents started having such severe health reactions to the smell that some called 911 because they couldn’t breathe in their homes, says Rachael Thompson, the executive director of the Glynn Environmental Coalition. “I feel like if this were a Caucasian neighborhood and community, more would be done about it,” one resident who called 911, Spanline Dixon, told The Current, a news site covering coastal Georgia. Brunswick is home to four Superfund sites, but the University of Georgia worked with the Glynn Environmental Coalition to analyze weather reports and track what was upstream from the odor complaints. The study showed definitively a direct correlation between the mill and the odors, Thompson says. Her group has received 130 complaints since last year; the only time it did not receive any complaints was during a month the mill was temporarily closed. A Georgia-Pacific spokesman said, in an email, that the company is aware of the odor complaints and shares the community’s concern. The company is working with the state environmental regulatory agency and other stakeholders to identify and mitigate the potential sources of the odor, the spokesman said. Read more: How American Shoppers Broke the Supply Chain Tensions between growing demand for paper and the environmental problems that causes aren’t limited to the U.S. In Indonesia, more than 30 community groups sent a letter to Asia Pulp & Paper in August arguing that the mill’s plan to triple pulp production will risk the respiratory health of millions of people. And a community in Nova Scotia is divided after a paper company is taking legal action to reopen a mill that was shut in 2020 after community concerns about its wastewater discharge. One thing’s for sure, says Joshua Martin, director of the Environmental Paper Network—these conflicts are likely to mount as the world consumes more packaging. The problem isn’t just that mills create bad odors; despite high cardboard recycling rates, trees are still cut down to make packaging—around 3 billion a year, according to EPN. Although cardboard is easier to recycle than other products like plastic, it can only be recycled about 5-7 times before it can’t be used any more. Recycled cardboard is often mixed with virgin pulp to make boxes. The U.S. drives that demand—it consumes 202 kg of paper and paperboard per capita, compared to Africa’s 6 kg per capita, Latin America’s 44 kg per capita, and Asia’s 44 kg per capita, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. “If the entire world used the amount of paper as America currently does, it would be completely unsustainable,” he says. The only way to reverse this trend, he says, is to change the way we buy things to have less dependence on paper and packaging. Consumers can send messages to companies by patronizing businesses that use packaging certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; they can try brands like Loop that deliver groceries in reusable packaging, which Loop then collects. Perhaps the easiest solution, though, is to buy less stuff that you’re going to toss soon—disposable coffee cups or takeout packaging or multiple e-commerce orders. “It’s this culture of disposability and single-use, no matter what the product is made from, that needs to change,” he says. It’s something Kerri Bishop, the South Carolina resident, is taking to heart. Bishop spent her career working in manufacturing and says she didn’t join the class-action lawsuit and didn’t even want the mill to shut down at first. She just hoped they would upgrade their equipment. Now, though, she’s worried she moved to a state that values manufacturing and jobs more than the quality of life and health of its residents. She’s considering getting a home air filtration system. Once a frequent Amazon shopper, she tired of ordering a few different things and having them arrive in many different boxes, even if she tried to get them to all come the same day. She’d heard from a local politician that the New-Indy boxes were being used by Amazon, so she started boycotting the online retailer. She lifted the boycott for the holidays, as higher prices and supply chain problems made it hard to buy things elsewhere, but Bishop says she plans to stop shopping at Amazon again in January.    .....»»

Category: topSource: timeDec 15th, 2021

How Silicon Valley came to depend on China for success — and why it"s bent over backward to stay in the government"s good graces

American tech has courted China by making disputed islands larger on Apple Maps, banning "prohibited content," and building censored search engines. Apple CEO Tim Cook in November.Mario Tama/Getty Images China is a lucrative market for large US tech companies. In order to operate there, LinkedIn, Apple, and others have abided by the government's wishes. But that's growing increasingly difficult as its demands intensify amid the nation's rise in power. Apple may be famous for its spaceship-like corporate headquarters smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley.But thousands of miles west of California, it has another nation altogether to thank for a significant portion of its success: China.The country has become one of Apple's most important, and lucrative, markets. The tech giant has grown to rely heavily on contract suppliers for assembling its many popular gadgets — as well as on consumers in the populous nation. Forty percent of Apple's net sales came from China last quarter, and the country represents about one-fifth of total iPhone sales, analysts estimate. But that increased reliance puts Apple in a tricky spot, forcing the company to choose between complying with the Chinese government's desires and missing out on a growing market. And it's not just the phone giant: Microsoft's LinkedIn, Facebook, Disney, Google, and others have made concessions to stay afloat there. After all, missing out on the massive — and growing — market would mean potentially falling behind rivals. "China is like the legend of Excalibur to Silicon Valley CEOs, the sword in the stone," Duncan Clark, a Beijing-based tech analyst and author of a book about the Chinese tech company Alibaba, told Time in 2016.Tech companies have made business decisions based on the party's demandsChinese leader Xi Jinping.Li Xueren/Getty ImagesLinkedIn in September took down several journalists' accounts on its China website over content that the government had prohibited, like mentions of genocide against the Uyghur Muslim minority. Concerns about those humanitarian abuses have fueled the US and other nations' diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.At the time, LinkedIn told one affected journalist, Greg Bruno, that "while we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China."But eventually LinkedIn gave up and shut down its Chinese site. Then there's Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was asked in November about human-rights issues in China. He responded that his firm has a "responsibility" to do business everywhere, including China, and to "acknowledge that there are different laws in other markets." Apple also reportedly struck a secret $275 billion deal with China in 2016 to skirt regulatory guardrails. China told the company to display certain disputed territories larger than surrounding areas or lose out on selling its Apple Watch in the country.China's 'Great Firewall' still bans most US techWhile some companies bend over backward to appease the ruling Communist Party, many don't have that choice.China's "Great Firewall" has squeezed out foreign social-media firms, as the party controls what content its citizens are allowed to see and censors posts that it deems harmful to its cause. Facebook, Twitter, and Google's YouTube were blocked in 2009 for not complying with the government's demands, but some Chinese users can still access the sites with a virtual private network.Facebook has since attempted to make strides in China to no avail, Time previously reported. But it has continued to rake in revenue through advertising by Chinese companies. And in April, the platform got flak for allowing China state ads to run denying persecution of Uyghur Muslims. Google pulled its search engine in 2010 because it was fed up with censorship demands. But that hasn't stopped it from trying to sneak back into the market. It also launched an artificial-intelligence research center in Beijing in 2017 and briefly worked on a secret, censored search engine dubbed Project Dragonfly."We need to understand what is happening there in order to inspire us. It's not just a one-way street. China will teach us things that we don't know," the project's head of search told employees at the time, according to The Intercept.And strained US-China relations aren't helping anything. Analysts expected some of that animosity to subside under the Biden administration, "and ultimately it's been the exact opposite," Wedbush told clients this month. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 15th, 2021

Escobar: Fauci As Darth Vader Of The COVID Wars

Escobar: Fauci As Darth Vader Of The COVID Wars Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times, Robert F Kennedy Jr’s The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health should be front-page news in all the news media in the US. Instead, it has been met with the proverbial thundering silence. Critics seeking to have Kennedy dismissed as a kook trading on a famous name had scored a hit in February, when Instagram permanently deleted his account, allegedly for making false claims about coronavirus and vaccines. Nevertheless, the book, published only a few days ago, is already a certified pop hit on Amazon. RFK Jr., chairman of the board of and chief legal counsel for Children’s Health Defense, sets out to deconstruct a New Normal, encroaching upon all of us since early 2020. In my early 2021 book Raging Twenties I have termed this force techno-feudalism. Kennedy describes it as “rising totalitarianism,” complete with “mass propaganda and censorship, the orchestrated promotion of terror, the manipulation of science, the suppression of debate, the vilification of dissent and use of force to prevent protest.” Focusing on Dr Anthony Fauci as the fulcrum of the biggest story of the 21st century allows RFK Jr to paint a complex canvas of planned militarization and, especially, monetization of medicine, a toxic process managed by Big Pharma, Big Tech and the military/intel complex – and dutifully promoted by mainstream media. By now everyone knows that the big winners have been Big Finance, Big Pharma, Big Tech and Big Data, with a special niche for Silicon Valley behemoths. Why Fauci? RFK Jr. argues that for five decades, he has been essentially a Big Pharma agent, nurturing “a complex web of financial entanglements among pharmaceutical companies and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and its employees that has transformed NIAID into a seamless subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. Fauci unabashedly promotes his sweetheart relationship with Pharma as a ‘public-private partnership.’” Arguably the full contours of this very convoluted story have never before been examined along these lines, extensively documented and with a wealth of links. Fauci may not be a household name outside of the US and especially across the Global South. And yet it’s this global audience that should be particularly interested in his story. RFK Jr accuses Fauci of having pursued nefarious strategies since the onset of Covid-19 – from falsifying science to suppressing and sabotaging competitive products that bring lower profit margins. Kennedy’s verdict is stark: “Tony Fauci does not do public health; he is a businessman, who has used his office to enrich his pharmaceutical partners and expand the reach of influence that has made him the most powerful – and despotic – doctor in human history.” This is a very serious accusation. It’s up to readers to examine the facts of the case and decide whether Fauci is some kind of medical Dr Strangelove. No Vitamin D? Pride of place goes to the Fauci-privileged modeling that overestimated Covid deaths by 525%, cooked up by fabricator Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College in London, duly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is the model, later debunked, that justified lockdown hysteria all across the planet. Kennedy attributes to Canadian vaccine researcher Dr Jessica Rose the charge that Fauci was at the frontline of erasing the notion of natural immunity even as throughout 2020 the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) admitted that people with healthy immune systems bear minimal risk of dying from Covid. Dr Pierre Kory, president of Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, was among those who denounced Fauci’s modus operandi of privileging the development of tech vaccines while allowing no space for repurposed medications effective against Covid: “It is absolutely shocking that he recommended no outpatient care, not even Vitamin D.” Clinical cardiologist Peter McCullough and his team of frontline doctors tested prophylactic protocols using, for instance, ivermectin – “we had terrific data from medical teams in Bangladesh” – and added other medications such as azithromycin, zinc, Vitamin D and IV Vitamin C. And all this while across Asia there was widespread use of saline nasal lavages. By July 1, 2020, McCullough and his team submitted their first, ground-breaking protocol to the American Journal of Medicine. It became the most-downloaded paper in the world helping doctors to treat Covid-19. McCullough complained last year that Fauci has never, to date, published anything on how to treat a Covid patient.” He additionally alleged: “Anyone who tries to publish a new treatment protocol will find themselves airtight blocked by the journals that are all under Fauci’s control.” It got much worse. McCullough: “The whole medical establishment was trying to shut down early treatment and silence all the doctors who talked about success. A whole generation of doctors just stopped practicing medicine.” (A contrarian view would argue that McCullough got carried away: A million US doctors – the approximate number practicing at any given time – could not all have been in on it.) The book argues that the reasons there was a lack of original research on how to fight Covid were the dependence of much-vaunted American academics on the billions of dollars granted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the fact they were terrified of contradicting Fauci. Frontline Covid specialists Kory and McCullough are quoted as charging that Fauci’s suppression of early treatment and off-patent medication was responsible for up to 80% of deaths attributed to Covid in the US. How to kill the competition The book offers a detailed outline of an alleged offensive by Big Pharma to kill hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) – with research mercenaries funded by the Gates-Fauci axis allegedly misinterpreting and misreporting negative results by employing faulty protocols. Kennedy says that Bill Gates by 2020 virtually controlled the whole WHO apparatus, as the largest funder after the US government (before Trump pulled the US out of the WHO) and used the agency to fully discredit HCQ. The book also addresses Lancetgate – when the world’s top two scientific journals, The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine published fraudulent studies from a nonexistent database owned by a previously unknown company. Only a few weeks later both journals – deeply embarrassed and with their hard-earned credibility challenged – withdrew the studies. There was never any explanation as to why they got involved in what could be interpreted as one of the most serious frauds in the history of scientific publishing. But it all served a purpose. For Big Pharma, says Kennedy, killing HCQ and, later, Ivermectin (IVM) were top priorities. Ivermectin happens to be a low-profit competitor to a Merck product, molnupiravir, which is essentially a copycat but capable of retailing at a profitable $700 per course. Fauci was quite excited by a promising study of Gilead’s remdesivir – which not only is not effective against Covid but is a de facto deadly poison, at $3,000 for each treatment. The book suggests that Fauci might have wanted to kill HCQ and IVM because under federal US rules, the FDA’s recognition of both HCQ and IVM would automatically kill remdesivir. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation happens to have a large equity stake in Gilead. A key point for Kennedy is that vaccines were Big Pharma’s Holy Grail. He details how what could be construed as a Fauci-Gates alliance put “billions of taxpayer and tax-deducted dollars into developing” an mRNA “platform for vaccines that, in theory, would allow them to quickly produce new ‘boosters’ to combat each ‘escape variant.'” Vaccines, he writes, “are one of the rare commercial products that multiply profits by failing.… The good news for Pharma was that all of humanity would be permanently dependent on biannual or even triannual booster shots.” Any similarities with our current “booster” reality are not mere coincidence. The final summary of Pfizer’s clinical trial data will raise countless eyebrows. The whole process lasted a mere six months. This is the document that Pfizer submitted to the FDA to win approval for its vaccine. It beggars belief that Pfizer won the FDA’s emergency approval despite showing that the vaccine might prevent one (italics mine) Covid death in every 22,000 vaccine recipients. Peter McCullough: “Because the clinical trial showed that vaccines reduce absolute risk less than 1 percent, those vaccines can’t possibly influence epidemic curves. It’s mathematically impossible.” The Gates matrix Bill Gates – Teflon-protected by virtually all Western mainstream media – describes the operational philosophy of his foundation as “philantrocapitalism.” It’s more like strategic self-philantropy, as both the foundation’s capital and his net worth have been ballooning in style ($23 billion just during the 2020 lockdowns). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – “a nonprofit fighting poverty, disease and inequity around the world” – invests in multinational pharma, food, agriculture, energy, telecom and global tech companies. It exercises considerable de facto control over international health and agricultural agencies as well as mainstream media – as the Columbia Journalism Review showed in August 2020. Gates, without a graduate degree, not to mention medical school degree (like author Kennedy, it must be noted, whose training was as a lawyer), dispenses wisdom around the world as a health expert. The foundation holds corporate stocks and bonds in Pfizer, Merck, GSK, Novartis and Sanofi, among other giants, and substantial positions in Gilead, AstraZeneca and Moderna. The book delves in minute detail into how Gates controls the WHO (the largest direct donor: $604.2 million in 2018-2019, the latest available numbers). Already in 2011 Gates ordered: “All 183 member states, you must make vaccines a central focus of your health systems.” The next year, the World Health Assembly, which sets the WHO agenda, adopted a Global Vaccine Plan designed by – who else? – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation also controls the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), the top advisory group to the WHO on vaccines, as well as the crucial GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), which is the second-largest donor to the WHO. GAVI is a Gates “public-private partnership” that essentially corrals bulk sales of vaccines from Big Pharma to poor nations. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, only three month ago, proclaimed that “GAVI is the new NATO”. GAVI’s global HQ is in Geneva. Switzerland has given Gates full diplomatic immunity. Few in East and West know that it was Gates who in 2017 handpicked the WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – who brought no medical degree and a quite dodgy background. Dr Vandana Shiva, India’s leading human rights activist (routinely accused of being merely anti-vax), sums up: “Gates has hijacked the WHO and transformed it into an instrument of personal power that he wields for the cynical purpose of increasing pharmaceutical profits. He has single-handedly destroyed the infrastructure of public health globally. He has privatized our health systems and our food systems to serve his own purposes.” Gaming pandemics The book’s Chapter 12, Germ Games, may be arguably its most explosive, as it focuses on the US bioweapons and biosecurity apparatus, with a special mention to Robert Kadlec, who might claim leadership of the – contagious – logic according to which infectious disease poses a national security threat to the US, thus requiring a militarized response. The book argues that Kadlec, closely linked to spy agencies, Big Pharma, the Pentagon and assorted military contractors, is also linked to Fauci investments in “gain of function” experiments capable of engineering pandemic superbugs. Fauci strongly denies he’s promoted such experiments. Already in 1998 Kadlec had written an internal strategy paper for the Pentagon – though not for Fauci – promoting the role of pandemic pathogens as stealth weapons leaving no fingerprints. Since 2005 DARPA, which invented the internet by building the ARPANET in 1969, has funded biological weapons research. DARPA – call it the Pentagon’s angel investor – also developed the GPS, stealth bombers, weather satellites, pilotless drones, and that prodigy of combat, the M16 rifle. It’s important to remember that in 2017 DARPA funneled $6.5 million through Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance to fund “gain of function” work at the Wuhan lab, on top of gain of function experiments at Fort Detrick. EcoHealth Alliance was the organization through which Kadlec, Fauci and DARPA financed these gain of function experiments. DARPA also developed the GPS, stealth bombers, weather satellites, pilotless drones, and that prodigy of combat, the M16 rifle. In 2017 DARPA funneled $6.5 million through Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance to fund “gain of function” work at the Wuhan lab, on top of gain of function experiments at Fort Detrick. EcoHealth Alliance was the organization through which Kadlec, Fauci and DARPA financed these gain of function experiments, Few people know that DARPA also financed the key tech for the Moderna vaccine, starting way back in 2013. RFK Jr dutifully connects the Germ Games progress, starting with Dark Winter in 2001, which emphasized the Pentagon’s drive towards bioweapon vaccines (the code name was coined by Kadlec); the anthrax attack three weeks after 9/11; Atlantic Storm in 2003 and 2005, focused on the response to a terrorist attack unleashing smallpox; Global Mercury 2003; and Lockstep in 2010, which developed a scenario funded by the Rockefeller Foundation where we find this pearl: During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems – from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty – leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power. RFK Jr paints a picture in which, by mid-2017, the Rockefeller Foundation and US intel agencies had all but crowned Bill Gates as the top financier for the intel/military pandemic simulation business. Enter the MARS (Mountain Associated Respiratory Virus) simulation during the G20 in Germany in 2017. MARS was about a novel respiratory virus that spread out of busy markets in a mountainous border of an unnamed nation that looked very much like China. It gets curiouser and curiouser when one learns that MARS’s two moderators were very close to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and one of them, David Heymann, sat with the Moderna CEO on the Merieux Foundation USA Board. BioMerieux happens to be the French company that built the Wuhan lab. Big Pharma kisses Western intel Afterward came SPARS 2017 at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation happen to be major funders of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. SPARS 2017 gamed a coronavirus pandemic running from 2025 to 2028. As RFK Jr. notes, “the exercise turned out to be an eerily precise predictor of the Covid-19 pandemic.” By 2018 bioweapons expert Peter Daszak was enthroned as the key connector through whom Fauci, Kadlec, DARPA and USAID – which used to be a CIA cover and now reports to the National Security Council – moved grants to fund gain-of-function research, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology Biosafety Lab. Crimson Contagion, overseen by Kadlec after eight months of planning, came in August 2019. Fauci was on board the self-described “functional exercise,” representing the NIH, alongside the CDC’s Robert Redfield and several members of the National Security Council. The war game was held in secret, nationwide. The After-Action Crimson Contagion Report only came out via a FOIA request. The star of the Gates pandemic show was undoubtedly Event 201 in October 2019, held only 3 weeks before US intel may – or may not – have suspected that Covid-19 was circulating in Wuhan. Event 201 was about a global coronavirus pandemic. RFK Jr. persuasively argues that Event 201 was as close as possible to a “real-time” simulation. The book’s Germ Games chapter leads the reader to acknowledge what mainstream media have simply refused to report: how the pervasive involvement of US (and UK) intel has a secretive – yet dominating – presence in the whole response to Covid-19. A very good example is the Wellcome Trust – the UK version of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – which is a spin-off of Big Pharma’s GlaxoSmith Kline. This epitomizes the marriage between Big Pharma and Western intel. The Wellcome Trust chair, from 2015 to 2020, used to be a former director general of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller. She was also chair of the Imperial College since 2001. The “English Dr. Fauci,” Neil Ferguson, of the infamous, deadly wrong models that led to all lockdowns, was an epidemiologist working for the Wellcome Trust. These are only a few of the insights and connections woven through RFK Jr’s book. As a matter of public service, the whole lot should be available for popular scrutiny worldwide. These matters concern the whole planet, especially the Global South. Nobel laureate Luc Montaigner has noted how, “tragically for humanity, there are many, many untruths emanating from Fauci and his minions.” Even more tragic is what emanates from his masters. Tyler Durden Tue, 11/30/2021 - 23:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 1st, 2021

Ken Griffin Says Chicago Violence Like "Afghanistan On A Good Day", Claims Crypto Is "Jihadist" Attack On The Dollar

Ken Griffin Says Chicago Violence Like "Afghanistan On A Good Day", Claims Crypto Is "Jihadist" Attack On The Dollar Move over Jamie Dimon. There's another American billionaire financier who appears to be quietly launching a post-business political career. Or at the very least, one could be forgiven for believing Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin's appearance Monday at the Chicago Club of Economics was one long stump speech. Griffin's hour-plus dialogue, which received extensive coverage from the financial press, comes at an interesting time. On the Internet, "conspiracy theorists" (according to Citadel) have continued to raise questions about possible collusion (or other wrongdoings) between Citadel and Robinhood (and one Robinhood exec in particular) before RH pulled the plug on January's meme stonk mania. Meanwhile, over at the SEC, Gary Gensler has said he's looking into regulating - or possibly eliminating or greatly restricting - the practice of 'Payment for Order Flow", whereby electronic retail brokerages like Robinhood sell their customers' orders to Citadel and other market makers (but primarily Citadel). Griffin spoke with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker about a seemingly endless list of topics, offering imminently quotable lines and thoughtful takes on everything from crypto, to political corruption in Illinois and Chicago's slow decline into anarchy, President Biden's policies, the prospect of another Trump presidency, PFOF, crypto, and of course COVID. The dialogue started with a question on vaccination rates and meandered on from there. Here's a breakdown of what Griffin said by topic. COVID When it comes to containing COVID, Griffin believes that the US's battle against the virus was lost right at the beginning. "The country lost this battle in the first attack, when we weren’t willing to do what it took to shut down America, to truly contain Covid-19. And then to get back out of the seat, and we’ve all just paid a catastrophic price as a result." When it comes to vaccination rates, Griffin believes they have plateaued at an "unacceptably low level". The Fed According to Griffing "the Fed's in a really tough box." The Fed is in "no man's land", Griffin says, and as far as being its chairman, "it is a job I would not be so grateful to have". He also noted that inflationary pressures in the US are "really unsettling." What to do? "If i were Chairman Powell, i stay the course that I'm on as unnerving as that is. to see inflation running this hot is really unsettling." It was at this point that Griffin said something really interesting about the Fed and it's credibility. It's not often that you hear the people who actually run our financial system speak frankly about how it really works. But Griffin essentially said 'the quiet part out loud' when the discussion turned to the Fed's credibility, which we have argued time and again is already in tatters - especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. "And let's be clear right now we don't have price stability. Inflation is at 5% is the highest number people here have seen in their lifetimes," Griffin said. He added that the Fed's position that these pressures are "transitory" is really just "a big bet". But regardless of the course of inflation in the future, Griffin said that the more pressing issue is protecting the Fed from being tainted by the same ugly politics that afflict Capitol Hill. The whole point of a central bank is it's supposed to be independent from politics. Whether this is actually true or not, it's the appearance of neutrality that's necessary to maintain global confidence in the dollar. "We need to maintain the belief in the separation of the Fed from the halls of Washington for the sake of a strong dollar. If you're part of the financial community...you need to push back on that". Fiscal Stimulus Griffin slammed the post-COVID stimulus for being to expansive, and claimed all those benefits are still "disincentivizing lower-wage workers". China The first question Griffin was asked about China was whether he still opposes a "decoupling" between China and the US. According to Griffin, this "decoupling" is already happening. "I think in important ways we have already decoupled." But on a day where Biden's Trade Rep Katherine Tai essentially plagiarized President Trump's tough-on-China economic policies during a major speech, Griffin insisted that there will be drawbacks to what the US is doing - including limiting access to semiconductors and software, which has further motivated Beijing to develop their own. "By restricting Chinese access to semiconductors and American software we have pushed them into a national campaign to eliminate their dependence on the west...imagine a world where there are two totally independent software stacks." When it comes to the technology arms race, Griffin warned, the US is bound to lose. "They graduate about twice as many graduates as we do half of them have stem degrees. They're producing about 5x more talented engineers per annum. The belief that we will be technologically dominant...is naive." Once China surpasses American tech, "not only will they use it in the biggest market in the world which is their own market...but they'll push it to all their trading partners, the Brazils of the world..." Ultimately, "I can imagine a world where we have been divided...and I don't like thinking about that outcome. I can picture a world in 30 to 40 years where, in some sense we have divided the world up between east to west technologically,” Griffin said. TSMC Could Beijing's lust for better semis technology accelerate their takeover of Taiwan? The tiny rogue territory has somehow emerged as a global leader in chip technology and production thanks to TSMC. "They don't have the entire solution, they still buy equipment from around the world, but talk about a powerhouse...and going back to my point earlier, China views Taiwan as part of China, there's no way they will be technologically important against American in the next 20 years. They will get there eventually." The Rust Belt That's not to say there haven't been drawbacks to the US engagement with Beijing, and according to Griffin is the fact that China's advances in manufacturing and the state support allowing their companies to be more competitive helped contribute to the hollowing out of thousands of American factory towns. In retrospect, this was a necessary sacrifice to entice the Chinese to embrace first capitalism, and then democracy. But increasingly it looks like the CCP has no intention to ever loosen its monopoly on power, meaning all those sacrifices were for nothing. "To have the most populous country in the world becoming increasingly capitalistic our belief was that them becoming capitalist would inevitably lead to them becoming a democracy. when we wrote the rules of rht road for them, we did it with the objective of making that happen." "The challenge that we underestimated is how devastating this was going to be for small towns that had its only factory shut down. It wasn't how it was going to impact NYC, Chicago or LA but how it was going to impact a small town in upstate New York. That was a terrible policy miscalculation not done in bad faith...but we didn't have the trainin or relocation strategies to help people get back on their feet." Competition Griffin believes America is facing an identity crisis, and needs to get back to its "core values." And a big part of that is embracing "competition". Enough of this 'everybody gets a trophy' bs. "We need to get back to our core values if we're going to win. What does that mean? Children need to be taught the virtue of earned success. It can't be that every time a race is won, there's two gold medal winners. and earned success is so important to the psychological success of our country. When people know they've done a job well..." there's a sense of pride. The reason why 1 in 10 Americans is severely depressed is that "when life revolves around your instagram and facebook account not how well you do on the sports field, how well you do in class...you've lost your way in life." "We need to teach our children math and science and how to write and how to compete and how to enjoy success....because we need these children to lead this country in 20 years." Griffin also complained that the scientists who developed the COVID jabs weren't properly venereated. "Why haven't we brought the scientists from Pfizer and Moderna to the White House to recognize them for the accomplishment of developing a vaccine in a year. These people are the heroes of our lifetime..." "There are no people who are children are looking up to to say 'I wanna be like her'" Griffin said. Teachers Unions One of the biggest causes of the decay in the quality of public education, according to Griffin, are the teachers unions. He relayed how former Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel went to bat for the schools against the unions...and lost. That's why Chicago has one of the shortest school years, and shortest school days, in the country. "Our mayor went to bat to change that and got batted over the head by the teacher's union," he said. Biden Agenda Moving on to the subject of Biden's economic agenda, which is presently the subject of a Democratic civil war in Washington, Griffin said there was plenty in the bill he liked, but also plenty he opposed, starting with the price tag. "Let's just say thank God for Sen. Manchin," Griffin said. Debt Ceiling Griffin believes the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling lies with the Dems...whether or not that means falling back on reconciliation to bypass a GOP filibuster, or not. "We've played this game of chicken before...I hope somebody blinks before they go over the cliff. I do believe the Democrats have a responsibility....to push this forward." Payment for Order Flow Finally, the big one. Are hidden costs imposed by Citadel and other market makers via payment for order flow (PFOF) helping to line Griffin's pockets at the expense of retail traders? Of course not, he insisted. In fact, if you took away PFOF, Citadel would be just fine..."from the 100,000 feet view" at least, Griffin said. Even though the practice has been a major driver of profits at his firm, Griffin tried to frame PFOF as a nuisance cost, suggesting he would rather not have to "pay" for order flow at all. "Let us hope that we maintain the status quo. brokerage firms have a duty to secure the best price for their customers. That's the premise on which we compete that's the premise on which we win." Ultimately, losing PFoF would be "a huge loss" for traders who enjoy the lowest commissions in history right now (nothing), Griffin claimed, while adding that "let us hope that in Washington, they maintain the status quo." Ken Griffin discusses PFOF (1/2)#BanPFOF #KenGriffinLied pic.twitter.com/nprGSAzT1M — Antonio Martinez (@AntonioTheMexi) October 4, 2021 Ken Griffin discusses PFOF (2/2)#BanPFOF #KenGriffinLied pic.twitter.com/PwnVVNuex5 — Antonio Martinez (@AntonioTheMexi) October 4, 2021 Whatever the SEC decides regarding PFoF, "all i want to know are the rules of the road...If i have to drive on the left I'll drive on the left...just tell me to drive." Crypto While Griffin is certainly amused by crypto, he wishes all this energy could be channeled toward something that doesn't also inadvertently undermine the American financial system. Instead, Griffin sees crypto-mania as a "jihadist call"... Griffin Sees Crypto-Mania as ‘Jihadist Call’ Against the Dollar A mania which your Robinhood subsidiary is eagerly fanning... — zerohedge (@zerohedge) October 4, 2021 ...to attack and undermine the dollar. "I wish all this passion directed at crypto was redirected at making American stronger," adding that backing bitcoin over the dollar was a "Jihadist call". He also made a crack about how terribly energy inefficient bitcoin is, repeating a longstanding criticism. While he certainly has ethical objections to crypto, Griffin says he would absolutely let Citadel to get involved in the market if it's ever regulated. "If it were regulated, I would trade it because..it would be good to have a Tier 1 firm making prices." Chicago Griffin saved most of his anger for Gov. Pritzker and other Illinois elected officials. He started with a story of a conversation between him and Pritzker where Griffin claimed the governor refused to send in the National Guard to quell violence in the city because of the political optics. Since the last time Griffin spoke at the Economic Club in 2013, the City has gotten even worse. "Since the last time I spoke in 2013, 25,000 of my fellow Chicagoans have been shot. It is a disgrace that our governor will not insert himself into the challenge of addressing crime in our city. It won't look good to have men and women on corners on Michigan Avenue with assault weapons...well, if it would save the life of one child, I don't care. We need to try and start to take the state back inch by inch from people who put their politics first and the people second." On the subject of police, Griffin said: "We need our police officers to know that they are respected and welcomed as Americans." In fact, Griffin says Citadel has already started to dial back its presence in Chicago because of the safety issue before sharing an amusing crack about Chicago being more dangerous than Afghanistan. "We aren't as much in Chicago. It's becoming ever more difficult to have this as our global headquarters, a city that has so much violence. I mean Chicago is like Afghanistan on a good day. They tried to car jack the security detail that sits outside my apartment. It just shows you how deep crime runs in this city. There is nowhere you can feel safe walking home at 2130 at night. And it's really hard to recruit people to Chicago. When they read the headlines, theey know the facts. 20 years ago, this was a great place to raise a family...I could say that and be genuine...I can't give that speech today." As for New York City, Griffin warned that many of the same things he has seen in Chicago are starting to take place in New York City. Griffin added that Citadel's next big expansion will be office space in Miami, and that the company's time of remaining headquarter in Chicago will be measured in "years not decades". The Sun Belt Moving on from the Chicago discussion, Griffin believes that across the US, coastal blue states with high taxes will start to lose their economic edge to the Sun Belt, which has more business-friendly regulations. "Conditions are Better across the sun belt states, less regulation less taxes a workforce that's generally of the ethos of 'I'm here to earn it'. Northern cities still have a considerable advantage...those schools anchor our great northern cities. the south doesn't have that yet writ large. But as universities in the south continue to get better, you're going to see the balance of power shift from the north to the south as the ease of doing business in the south trumps the ease of hiring top employees in the north." Trump Finally, the big one. When it comes to President Trump, Griffin admits his economic policies were "pretty damn good." However, when asked about the prospect of another campaign in 2020, he said that "it's time for America to move on. The 4 years under president trump were so divisive it was not constructive for the country." He also said he was "appalled" by Trump's willingness to play identity politics. * * * Griffin's speech before the Chicago Club  the first major public appearance by Griffin since the "GameStopped" hearings back in Feb. Tyler Durden Mon, 10/04/2021 - 17:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 4th, 2021

Elon Musk keeps attacking Jeff Bezos over the billionaires" rival space companies. Here"s a history of the Tesla CEO"s weirdest beefs, including with Azealia Banks and Pablo Escobar"s brother.

Musk has got into spats and even long-running feuds with an eclectic bunch of people, often over his preferred medium of Twitter. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a history of strange spats. Getty Images Elon Musk has a habit of getting into bizarre fights. Recently he's been attacking Jeff Bezos over the billionaires' rival space companies. Bezos is one of an eclectic bunch of people Musk has feuded with, including rapper Azealia Banks. See more stories on Insider's business page. Elon Musk has a serious combative streak.The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is famously unpredictable as chief executives go, a personality trait which has sometimes landed him in trouble - particularly with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.But Musk's combative side doesn't just express itself in skirmishes with government bodies. The Tesla billionaire has ended up in bizarre spats with a strange array of people - from fellow billionaires to artists to rescue divers - and often via his preferred medium of Twitter.Recently, he has repeatedly attacked Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose space exploration company Blue Origin has been a thorn in the side of Musk's rival company SpaceX.The twists and turns in the stories of Musk's various battles are often baffling, and it can be hard to remember all the different ways Musk has squared up to various public figures and regular citizens.We've catalogued his weirdest fights. In May 2020 Musk challenged Alameda County officials to arrest him for reopening the Tesla factory during the coronavirus pandemic. AP Photo Reports surfaced in May 2020 that Tesla was asking workers in its California factory to return to work despite Alameda County's shelter-in-place order forbidding the factory from re-opening as only essential businesses are allowed to operate in California due to the coronavirus pandemic.Musk confirmed the reports on May 11 in a tweet. "Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules, I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me." Tesla threatened to sue Alameda County. The view of Tesla Inc's US vehicle factory in Fremont, California Reuters Tesla's suit hinged around the fact that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said manufacturers in the state would be allowed to reopen, but Alameda County extended its shelter-in-place order only allowing essential businesses to open.Tesla's suit argued that Alameda County's forced shutdown ignored an order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom allowing businesses from "16 crucial infrastructure industries" to remain open, one of which is transportation.The fight prompted Musk to leave California altogether. "Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA," Musk tweeted in May 2020.This prompted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to tweet: "F--- Elon Musk."Musk confirmed in December 2020 he had moved to Texas. Alameda County gave the Tesla factory the go-ahead to reopen on May 13, 2020. Alameda County officials said on May 13 Tesla would be allowed to reopen its Fremont factory so long as it implemented robust safety plans for its workers, and a Tesla executive sent a letter to employees saying it would resume "full production" the following week.Tesla dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County the same week it resumed production. Musk picked numerous fights over the severity of the coronavirus. Elon Musk speaks during the Satellite 2020 at the Washington Convention Center on March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images Musk has consistently espoused the theory that the threat posed by the coronavirus is overblown, and tweeted misinformation about the virus including that children are "basically immune."He has also been openly hostile towards state lockdowns, calling them "fascist," and questioned the official death count as it includes people with underlying health conditions.As Business Insider's Dave Mosher and Aylin Woodward write, Musk's rhetoric is dangerously misguided. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests lockdowns help curb the spread of the virus and slow the death rate, and underlying health conditions make people more vulnerable to the virus, and so should not be discounted from death tolls. Musk's frustrations were tied to Tesla's fortunes. A worker descends from the top deck of a car carrier trailer carrying Tesla electric vehicles at Tesla's primary vehicle factory after CEO Elon Musk announced he was defying local officials' coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions by reopening the plant in Fremont, California on May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Lam Musk said during Tesla's Q1 2020 earnings call that the forced closure of the Tesla factory posed a "serious risk" to business."I should say we are a bit worried about not being able to resume production in the Bay Area, and that should be identified as a serious risk," Musk said.During the same call, Musk went on a tirade against lockdowns in general. "I would call it forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional rights. That's my opinion, and breaking people's freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country — what the f---. Excuse me, the outrage. It's just outrage," Musk said. In 2018 Musk called a complete stranger "pedo guy." British caver Vernon Unsworth looks to Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018 REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun Vernon Unsworth is a British diver who participated in the rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave system in June 2018. It was a difficult, complex operation and the boys were successfully rescued after being trapped for 17 days by international divers and Thai Navy SEALs. Unsworth, an experienced cave explorer, was asked by Thai officials to aid in the rescue.He had never met Elon Musk, but would go on to spend most of 2019 locked in a legal battle with the Tesla billionaire.Musk had inserted himself into the Thai rescue operation and offered to build a mini-submarine to fetch the boys. The idea never materialized.Unsworth was asked about Musk's submarine in an interview with CNN, and described it in unflattering terms, describing it as a PR stunt. He added that Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts."That angered Musk, who subsequently wrote a post on Twitter calling Unsworth a "pedo guy." When a Twitter user challenged him over it, he replied "bet ya a signed dollar it's true."His remarks immediately triggered headlines around the world, despite the fact he provided no proof for the "pedo" claim. Musk doubled down on the allegation by emailing BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac and calling Vernon Unsworth a "child rapist", with no evidence. Brendan McDermid/Reuters Censured by critics for using the slur, Musk deleted his tweet and apologised, but he didn't leave it there. A month later he responded to a Twitter user who criticised him. "You don't think it's strange he hasn't sued me? He was offered free legal services," Musk tweeted, referring to Unsworth.Then in September 2018, he doubled down. BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac emailed Musk asking for comment on a legal threat made by Unsworth's lawyer. Musk replied, suggesting Unsworth was a "child rapist" and "I hope he fucking sues me." Musk prefaced the email to Mac with "off the record," but the journalist had never agreed to go off the record, and published the entire exchange. Documents later revealed Musk called himself a "fucking idiot" for sending the email to Mac in the first place.A few weeks after Mac's article was published Unsworth sued Musk for defamation. Court filings revealed Musk hired a detective to investigate Unsworth - but the PI turned out to be a conman. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel listens to engineer and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk of The Boring Company talks about constructing a high speed transit tunnel at Block 37 during a news conference on June 14, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Joshua Lott/Getty Images The case threw up some bizarre findings.Court filings revealed that Musk paid a man named James Higgins-Howard $50,000 to investigate Unsworth and relay reports to Musk's family office.Higgins-Howard emailed Musk out of the blue following the initial "pedo guy" tweet to offer his services as a private detective. "You may want to dig deep into Mr. Unsworth['s] past to prepare for his defamation claim," Higgins-Howard wrote, adding "no smoke without fire!"Higgins-Howard didn't find any evidence, however, and BuzzFeed's Ryan Mac later reported that the would-be PI had previously been convicted of fraud. Musk admitted in a deposition that he later realised Higgins-Howard was "just taking us for a ride."In depositions Musk has also argued that by calling Unsworth "pedo guy" he wasn't literally accusing him of being a pedophile because the term was used to be synonymous with "creepy old man" when he was growing up in South Africa. He also claimed he was genuinely worried Unsworth could be "another Jeffrey Epstein."The trial began on December 3, 2019.   On December 6, 2019, Elon Musk won the defamation case. Elon Musk arriving at court in California. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill After a four-day trial in California, the jury found Musk not guilty of defamation.The jury took less than half an hour to reach their decision, which reportedly hinged on the fact that Musk did not identify Unsworth in his tweet, according to the Times of London.The foreman also said that Unsworth's lawyers had made the case too emotive. "The failure probably happened because they didn't focus on the tweets... I think they tried to get our emotions involved in it. In a court of law you have to prove your case, which they did not prove," said foreman Joshua Jones, per The Guardian."My faith in humanity is restored," Musk said following the verdict.Unsworth's lawyer Lin Wood said in a tweet that his team would "explore legal options" for challenging the verdict.  In June 2018, Musk took a liking to some farting unicorn art but didn't pay for it, leading to a copyright dispute with a potter. Tom Edwards' farting unicorn mug. Tom Edwards, Wallyware  Musk locked horns with another unlikely member of the public in June 2018.Colorado-based potter Tom Edwards caught Musk's attention with a mug. The mug carried a painting of a unicorn farting rainbows to power an electric car. Musk tweeted a picture of a mug in February 2017 calling it "maybe my favorite mug ever." Two months later friends of Edwards' told him they had seen the same farting unicorn image used as an icon on Tesla screens, and the image was later used on Tesla's company Christmas cards.The Christmas card spurred Edwards into action. "I decided to make it my New Year's resolution to pursue getting compensation, because artists are always seeing their work just taken, and it happens all the time," he told Insider in June 2018.In later-deleted tweets Musk attacked Edwards, saying taking legal action would be "kinda lame.""If anything, this attention increased his mug sales," he said. Musk also claimed (also in subsequently deleted tweets) to have offered to pay for the work twice. Edwards said he'd had no contact from Musk or Tesla at that point. Despite Musk's protestations, the two eventually settled. Brendan McDermid/Reuters A month after the farting unicorn argument erupted on Twitter, Musk and Edwards came to a settlement. The terms of the settlement were not made public, but Edwards posted on his blog that it "resolves our issues in a way that everyone feels good about.""It's clear there were some misunderstandings that led to this escalating, but I'm just glad that everything has been cleared up," he added.Musk for his part tweeted a link to the blog accompanied by three emojis: a unicorn, a gust of wind, and a peace symbol.—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 21, 2018  Azealia Banks waded into Tesla's regulatory troubles in August 2018. Rapper Azealia Banks became embroiled in Elon Musk's infamous "funding secured" saga. Getty On August 7, 2018, Elon Musk sent his infamous "funding secured" tweet, in which he claimed to be taking Tesla private at $420 a share.Tesla did not go private, and Musk landed himself with a $20 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the tweet. He lost his position as chairman of Tesla's board, leading to long-running bad blood with the agency.It triggered another unlikely feud with rapper Azealia Banks.A week after Musk sent his fateful Tweet, Banks wrote on her Instagram that she had been at Musk's house at the time when he'd sent it. She had visited to collaborate with Musk's then-partner Grimes (real name Claire Boucher), and claimed she had been annoyed when the crisis caused by "funding secured" dominated Grimes' time."I waited around all weekend while grimes coddled her boyfriend," Banks wrote, and compared the weekend to the horror film "Get Out.""I saw him in the kitchen tucking his tail in between his legs scrounging for investors to cover his ass after that tweet," Banks told Insider at the time.   Banks accused Musk of taking her phone. Getty Images On August 20, Banks was back on Instagram, tagging Elon Musk. Banks posted "@elonmusk you need to contact me. ASAP." and "I need my phone back now.  @elonmusk," on her Instagram story — she later deleted the posts.Banks then shared a screenshot with Insider that appeared to show a text from Grimes saying the choice of share price ($420) was a weed reference. "He just got into weed cuz of me and he's super entertained by 420 so when he decided to take the stock private he calculated it was worth 419$ so he rounded up to 420 for a laugh and now the sec is investigating him for fraud," the text read.Musk told The New York Times that he rounded up the price because $420 had better "karma" than $419, and denied using weed. Musk didn't really respond publicly to Banks except to say he had never met her. Reuters / Rebecca Cook Musk told Gizmodo that he hadn't met Banks "or communicated with her in any way," but confirmed to the New York Times that he had seen her at his house."I saw her on Friday morning, for two seconds at about a 30-foot distance as she was leaving the house... I'd just finished working out. She was not within hearing range. I didn't even realize who it was. That's literally the only time I've ever laid eyes on her," he told the Times. The Banks-Musk feud dragged on for months after the story blew up. Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic In January 2019, a court granted a motion to subpoena Banks, Grimes, and publications including Insider.In July 2021 Grimes posted in a Discord chat that she'd written a song, called "100% Tragedy," which was about "having to defeat Azealia Banks when she tried to destroy my life."Musk announced in September 2021 that he and Grimes had broken up after three years together. Banks responded to the news on her Instagram, saying: "Ok girl, can we finally make those darn songs now that apartheid Clyde is out of the way?"The nickname "Apartheid Clyde" is an apparent reference to Musk's South African upbringing. Musk was accused of stealing an idea from Pablo Escobar's brother in July 2019. Roberto Escobar (left). YouTube Musk ended up in a spat with Roberto Escobar, brother of deceased Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, over an accusation of intellectual property theft.TMZ first reported that Escobar had accused Musk of stealing his idea for a flamethrower when Musk's venture The Boring Company announced its "Not-A-Flamethrower" flamethrower in January 2018, beating Escobar's own flamethrower to market.Escobar claimed to TMZ that one of Musk's engineers had stolen the idea while visiting an Escobar family compound in 2017. "It's not a flamethrower, Mr. Escobar." iJustine/YouTube/Joe Rogan Experience Elon Musk responded to the story in classic Muskian style — on Twitter.Musk tweeted a link to the TMZ story accompanied by the words, "It's not a Flamethrower, Mr. Escobar," a tongue-in-cheek reference to the device's name.—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2019In a follow-up tweet he added he stole the idea from the comedy movie "Spaceballs." Musk has traded jibes with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about which parts of space to conquer. Jeff Bezos unveils Blue Moon, a lunar lander designed by his spaceflight company, Blue Origin, on May 9, 2019. Blue Origin Jeff Bezos owns a space exploration company called Blue Origin, a rival to Musk's own space exploration company SpaceX.Bezos and Musk have sporadically interacted about their companies' successes, sometimes applauding each other, but more often locking antlers.When Blue Origin unveiled its new lunar lander Blue Moon in May 2019 Bezos reportedly took a swipe at SpaceX's plans to colonize Mars during his presentation, saying that the moon was a much more realistic prospect. According to Bloomberg, Bezos showed a slide with a picture of Mars accompanied by the labels "Round-trip on the order of years" and "No real-time communication."Musk responded by mocking the lander's name."Competition is good. Results in a better outcome for all... But putting the word "Blue" on a ball is questionable branding," Musk said in a pair of tweets on May 10, 2019. Musk also called Bezos a "copycat" over his plan to launch thousands of satellites. Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters In April 2019, Amazon announced its plan to launch 3,236 satellites with the aim of providing broadband to communities without high-speed internet, nicknamed Project Kuiper.The project bears some resemblance to a SpaceX project called Starlink, which won FCC approval in November 2018 to launch almost 12,000 satellites into orbit. CNBC also reported that Amazon hired a former SpaceX executive to head up Kuiper.After news of Project Kuiper broke, Musk tagged Bezos and tweeted the word "copy" followed by a cat emoji.—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2019Bezos did not respond.  Musk tweeted in June 2020 that Amazon should be broken up after it de-listed a book written by a coronavirus skeptic. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais When Amazon's Direct Kindle Service refused to publish a book called "Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns," it caught Musk's eye.The author of the book, Alex Berenson, is a former New York Times reporter who has written claiming the threat posed by the coronavirus has been overblown.Musk, who has also been vocal in his opinion that the virus was not dangerous enough to warrant lockdown measures (despite evidence to the contrary) spotted a tweet by Berenson presenting the email he got from Amazon saying his book did not comply with its guidelines."This is insane @JeffBezos. Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong!" Musk tweeted.—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 4, 2020 Amazon later confirmed to Business Insider the book had been removed in error and would be reinstated.  In mid-2021 Musk started attacking Bezos repeatedly claiming the Amazon founder retired so he could sue SpaceX. Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos (left) and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Axel Springer On August 26, Elon Musk tweeted saying Bezos had "retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX."Musk repeated the joke on September 1, and during an interview at the Code Conference on September 28 said he can't "sue your way to the moon."These attacks were prompted by both Amazon and Blue Origin mounting challenges against SpaceX.Amazon filed a protest letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in August 2021 urging it to block SpaceX's Starlink from putting up more satellites.Blue Origin also sued NASA in August after the agency granted an exclusive moon-lander contract to SpaceX.While Bezos tends not to engage personally in his feud with Musk, Amazon and Blue Origin have openly criticized Musk's companies. Amazon sent an unprompted 13-page list to The Verge of all the legal actions SpaceX has taken stretching back as far as 2004, claiming it showed SpaceX is just as litigious as itself. In a complaint submitted to the FCC on September 8 Amazon also said: "The conduct of SpaceX and other Musk-led companies makes their view plain: rules are for other people, and those who insist upon or even simply request compliance are deserving of derision and ad hominem attacks." Musk has a long-running animosity towards David Einhorn, a billionaire short seller he loves sending short shorts to. Greenlight Capital president David Einhorn. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Musk has a pretty well-documented hatred for short sellers, tweeting in October 2018 "what they do should be illegal."One short seller, in particular, has drawn Musk's ire. David Einhorn is president of Greenlight Capital, and is typically pretty scathing in his notes about Tesla and Musk.When Einhorn blamed Tesla's good performance in the first half of 2018 for denting Greenlight's hedge fund, Elon Musk promised to send him a box of "short shorts" — and he followed through.—David Einhorn (@davidein) August 10, 2018In November 2019, Musk renewed the offer of short shorts after Einhorn published a damning note on Tesla's Q3 results, drawing attention to a shareholder's lawsuit against Tesla, which alleges that Musk acquired his cousin's company SolarCity at an inflated value to bail it out.Musk posted an incredibly sarcastic note on Twitter following Einhorn's letter, addressing him as "Mr. Unicorn." Einhorn is German for unicorn. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 1st, 2021

Enlightened Algos: Democrats Demand Increased Corporate Controls To Protect Citizens From Their Own Dangerous Curiosities

Enlightened Algos: Democrats Demand Increased Corporate Controls To Protect Citizens From Their Own Dangerous Curiosities Authored by Jonathan Turley, Below is my column in USA Today on the recent call by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) for Amazon to steer readers to “true” books on climate change. It is the latest example of Democrat’s embracing a type of  corporate governance model to carry out tasks barred to the government under the Constitution. Companies are now being asked to protect us from our own dangerous interests and inquiries. An array of enlightened algorithms will now watch over citizens to help them make good choices and read “true” things. Here is the column: Two centuries ago, rulers sought to convince subjects that they should embrace the notion of “enlightened despotism,” living without rights under the beneficent watch of overlords. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II summed up the idea with the maxim “everything for the people, nothing by the people.” Today, we seem to be living in an age of enlightened corporate despotism, where social media and technology companies watch over what we read and what we discuss to protect us from ourselves. That corporate governance model was on display this month when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called on Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to use algorithms to steer readers away from books that spew “misinformation.” Enlightened algorithms are already responsible for large-scale censorship across social media platforms that reach global audiences. They “stand the wall” as sentinels against dangerous ideas. Warren argued that people were not listening to the enlightened views of herself and leading experts. Instead, they were reading views of vaccine skeptics by searching Amazon and finding books, including “falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and cures, including those written by the most prominent spreaders of misinformation.” Warren blamed Amazon for failing to limit searches or choices: “This pattern and practice of misbehavior suggests that Amazon is either unwilling or unable to modify its business practices to prevent the spread of falsehoods or the sale of inappropriate products.” In her letter, Warren gave the company 14 days to change its algorithms to throttle and obstruct efforts to read opposing views. What was most striking about this incident is that Warren was eager for others to see her efforts to promote a form of censorship. Once considered unAmerican and authoritarian, censorship has become a rallying cry from the left. Indeed, a new poll shows roughly half of the public supports not just corporate censorship but government censorship of anything deemed “misinformation.” In one critical hearing, tech CEOs appeared before the Senate to discuss censorship programs. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story, but then pledged to censor more people in defense of “electoral integrity.” Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, however, was not happy. He was upset not by the promised censorship but that it was not broad enough. He noted that it was hard to define the problem of “misleading information,” but the companies had to impose a sweeping system to combat the “harm” of misinformation on climate change as well as other areas. “The pandemic and misinformation about COVID-19, manipulated media also cause harm,” Coons said. “But I’d urge you to reconsider that because helping to disseminate climate denialism, in my view, further facilitates and accelerates one of the greatest existential threats to our world.” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal also warned that he and his colleagues would not tolerate any “backsliding or retrenching” by “failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” He demanded “the same kind of robust content modification” from the companies – the new Orwellian term for censorship. Others have sought even more “robust” action. For years, Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have called for corporate censorship on a variety of subjects. Last year, Democratic Reps.  Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney of California wrote a letter to cable carriers like AT&T to ask why they are still allowing people to watch FOX News. (For the record, I appear as a FOX legal analyst). The members stressed that “not all TV news sources are the same” and called the companies to account for their role in allowing such “dissemination.” Washington Post columnist and CNN analyst Max Boot also wrote that cable providers should “step in and kick FOX News off.” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof  insisted that “cable providers should be asked why they distribute channels that peddle lies.” CNN’s media expert Brian Stelter has called for censorship as “a harm reduction model.” Twitter, Facebook, and other companies have responded enthusiastically in banning those who question the official view of vaccines, climate change, elections or other subjects. Calling for companies to protect us from ourselves is the ultimate in enlightened despotism.  It is ironic that Warren has denounced the use of “racist” algorithms in biometric technology like facial recognition. She objects to the error rate in such algorithms but has few such concerns when other algorithms are used to curtail free speech. The embrace of corporate censorship reflects a change in attitude of many toward free speech. Once the very defining right of our constitutional system, it is now more often portrayed as an existential threat to that system. Speech is now “harmful” and allowing the expression of unpopular opinions is treated as an act of an accomplice. Once free speech is defined as harmful or violent, the algorithms can take it from there. At the urging of our leaders companies like Amazon can censor “everything for the people, nothing by the people.” We can then live under the enlightened despotism of governing algorithms that protect us from our dangerous curiosities. Tyler Durden Thu, 09/30/2021 - 19:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 30th, 2021

Tales Of The Very-Much-As-Expected

Tales Of The Very-Much-As-Expected By Michael Every of Rabobank Tales of the Very-Much-as-Expected Once upon a time there was a popular UK show called ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, a pound-shop version of ‘The Twilight Zone’, but fun for all that. For most in markets, 2022 is proving to be a ‘tale of the unexpected’. For those who dwell in twilight zones, it’s sadly all very much as expected. First, yesterday saw the previously-flagged fiscal package from the UK government worth a huge £15bn, giving households hundreds of pounds to offset soaring energy costs, and imposing a 25% windfall tax on energy firms. Doing so had been vociferously rejected for weeks, but the Australian election result cleared heads. As the Daily Mail put it, “In effect, what the Chancellor has announced is ‘helicopter money’ – cash handouts to ordinary citizens. Nothing else, it seems, could give the immediate help they need to get through this economic crisis.” They are wrong, of course. Monetization is what everyone did during Covid. This time, taxes are being raised on the rich – so this is partial monetization and partial redistribution. The true-blue Mail is happy with that state action, which says a lot about where we are today: indeed, what are states there for if not this kind of thing? Yet while sensible policy, this is also inflationary. Unless energy supply increases, as demand now doesn’t fall, prices will increase. On which note, the White House now says it supports opening more oil refineries – except that takes a long time to achieve, and more so when you have the prospect of windfall taxes and a dislike of fossil fuels. Oil is meanwhile back up to around $118 a barrel despite more releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). If China reopens, the US may have to refill the SPR at higher prices than it sold from it. ‘Sell low and buy high’ – there is a tale of the unexpected.   Second, agri commodity markets took a dip on rumors Russia was allowing vessels laden with grain to leave the Black Sea from Ukrainian ports. President Putin stated he was not driving the global food crisis, and that he would be willing to drop his naval blockade,… if the West removes its economic sanctions. This isn’t food blackmail, honest, as Davos rightly called it, and which we had flagged as a key risk before the was even started. The White House response is that this quid pro quo is not on the cards; the EU, which may finally get an oil embargo over the line in days, is proposing making breaking Russia sanctions a crime; and Ukraine is unlikely to play the good cop knowing if its food starts flowing again (some via Russian hands), world attention will shift elsewhere. In short, our agri markets team view remains that any price dips look to be temporary rather than structural. Indeed, while fertilizer prices are way off their highs, it is because farmers are using less of it, which will mean lower crop yields. Bloomberg’s David Fickling asks, ‘Now Even Chicken is Getting Too Expensive?’. US egg prices are also about to leap 21% y-o-y due to bird flu, it is reported. It’s a good job we don’t farm monkeys. Third, US Secretary of State Blinken gave a speech framing the White House’s approach to China. Blinken and you missed anything new, however. With the physical and vocal presence of a junior-high school teacher failing to intimidate a class of 10-year olds, he laid out a new plan the same as the old one, with rebranding of “invest, align, and compete”. Yet there was the usual mixed messaging of China being an authoritarian threat to the international order, but also an essential partner in solving global problems. There was incremental movement in implying US businesses should think of ‘values not prices’ – yet no action at all to enforce such hard choices. Indeed, the key message, again, was that the US does not want a Cold War with China,… as many other voices underline not only are they in one, but the risk is a slide towards something worse. This was a speech given against the backdrop of a Chinese diplomatic tour through Pacific islands to offer them security deals: look at the map here and spot a pattern? As China expert @BaldingsWorld puts it in his own blunt fashion, “China is preparing for war and the US is hoping to restart the Shanghai Four Seasons breakfast buffet for conferences. We aren’t even playing the same game at this point.” And there are darker claims out there on YouTube and Twitter (as is always the case). Yet even in the bright lights of Congress, yesterday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the FY2023 Navy and Marine Corps budget heard the Secretary of the Navy stress, “Our national security depends on sea power”; Senator Shelby say the proposed budget does not appear enough due to inflation and the need to boost defence in a dangerous world – and that while the Navy is constrained in what budget it can present, the Congress is not; and Senator Graham argue it is incredibly dangerous, represents irresponsibility in terms of threats facing the nation, and that the US requires a bigger, not smaller Navy as, “Our enemies are going up and we are going down, which is a recipe for disaster.” That is obviously not the White House stance, but Congress can dispose much more than the president is proposing. One can understand why Blinken wants to cool hot heads to avoid terrifying scenarios. Yet does such a placatory stance work, or makes things worse with a lag? Many voices point to Vegetius (“Si vis pacem para bellum”) and the undeniable fact that Western olive branches have failed to act as any kind of carrot (or stick) against both Russia and China for over a decade. Worse, the White House, which left Taiwan out of the newly-launched IPEF trade deal to appease China, is now talking about separately deepening economic ties with it bilaterally(!) According to reports from Bloomberg, the focus will be on enhanced cooperation and supply-chain resiliency --which seems a somewhat odd choice given the CLS analysis above-- as well as agri products, although not a full free-trade deal. Beijing will be livid. And fat tail risks fatten further. Focusing on the commercial side of this, Columbia Law School (CLS) discusses SEC guidance over potential legal claims US firms could face for allegedly misleading shareholders about the impact of risk events on their supply chains, looking at Covid-19, Russia-Ukraine, and the “next domino” of Taiwan. On the latter they conclude: “The implications for ocean-going trade is at once simple, and terrifying… a PRC invasion of Taiwan could result in a termination of all commercial shipping within 1,500 nautical miles... Issuers would not only lose access to the PRC, but also to ports and markets in Japan, the ROK, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. It is also highly unlikely that insurers would underwrite any coverage for vessels transiting the Pacific, given the distinct possibility that either Taiwan or the PRC would misidentify a merchant vessel as a combatant. The same is likely true for air freight passing within missile range of the PRC or Taiwan borders.” Furthermore, they add: “A final feature of a PRC-Taiwan conflict is the likely nationalization of PRC natural resources and manufacturing facilities owned by western companies, or controlled by US-PRC joint ventures.  The same is true for manufacturing facilities used by US issuers to source production from private PRC entities.  In the event of an invasion of Taiwan, the PRC is likely to seize these facilities, and issuers are unlikely to have any viable means to recover resulting losses.” Imagine the impact on supply chains and financial markets! Some are laughing at Western stock-pickers who called China “uninvestable” just before some key stocks saw a huge rally. Good point:  but who laughs last laughs longest, as they say. CLS also stresses that SEC’s ‘Pandemic Guidance and Sample Letter’ provides a valuable blueprint for US firms with such potential exposures in how to make them clear to investors: proactive disclosures of Taiwan-related risk (rather than “It won’t happen” stances); and mitigating potential litigation risk by reviewing all statements referencing supply chains, considering single points of failure and inventory, and monitoring developments in Asia. Which, I would suggest, best involves more than listening to Blinken, or indeed any one voice. Fourth, Fed Vice-Chair Brainard just spoke to Congress about digital assets. Her view was clear: she wants to see robust action on a US Central Bank Digital Currency in the wake of the recent crypto market collapse - and because China is pushing ahead with its own. However, she sees this is something Congress needs to act on. She also wants a clear crypto “regulatory guardrail” to protect investors and financial stability, probably meaning no more of this please, or perhaps taxing it close to the same point. After all, we need to get people back in the labor force again chop-chop, rather than day-trading at home and making far more than minimum wage in some cases. (Until recently.) In short, the same kind of ‘national security’ wave we got in the UK with its windfall taxation and helicopter money, which we see in regard to Ukraine and global food supplies, and that we heard from Congress over the size of the US Navy and the risks around it, is likely coming for crypto too. At least Brainard implied she didn’t want to remove physical dollar deposits, which is much of the appeal of the currency around the world. (For good, and bad ‘Twilight Zone’, reasons.) * * * Take this all together and look ahead. What will be the market ‘tale of the unexpected’ for the second half of 2022 and 2023, and what will prove the ‘tale of the very-much-as-expected’? Happy Friday. Tyler Durden Fri, 05/27/2022 - 10:18.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedge15 hr. 43 min. ago

Texas Law Forces Companies To Be Neutral On Guns Or Face Consequences

Texas Law Forces Companies To Be Neutral On Guns Or Face Consequences Woke companies who want to continue operating in Texas will have to effectively take a vow of neutrality on guns following the latest school shooting. Gun rights advocates gathered outside the state Capitol in Austin in 2019 (Eric Gay / The Associated Press) Thanks to a June 2021 law endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) signed by Governor Greg Abbott, firearm makers, retailers and industry groups have special protections using language typically reserved to shield people from racism, sexism, ageism or other 'isms, Bloomberg reports. The bill requires companies signing contracts with state government agencies to verify that they don't discriminate against the gun industry - which forces them to ignore calls from Democrats to sever business ties in the state over the latest shooting in Uvalde, TX in which a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers. "Texas has pro-gun legislation which clearly makes a statement at ensuring that the firearms industry is well protected," said Janice Iwama, a professor at American University, who studies the impact of gun legislation.  Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation wants states to follow in Texas' footsteps, as companies in the industry are regularly denied services by banks. Similar bills have been advanced in Oklahoma and Louisiana, while additional measures have been introduced elsewhere. The Texas law has already cast ripples across Wall Street, where Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. had been curtailing some ties to gun companies, including by not lending to those that make military-style weapons for civilian use. Citigroup Inc. had also put in place restrictions for retailers that it works with. The Texas bill requires any public contract valued at or more than $100,000 to include a provision that states the company does not and will not discriminate against a firearm entity or trade association. -Bloomberg Texas' law caused virtue signaling banks such as BofA, JPMorgan and Goldman to stop underwriting Texas muni bonds, however Citigroup returned to the market last year, and earlier this month JPMorgan took a first step to re-enter the market with an attempt to appeal to state lawmakers. This isn't the first time woke corps have bent the knee. Earlier this week, State Farm withdrew support of a program providing LGBTQ-themed children's books to teachers and libraries, after conservative groups slammed the insurance company as "a creepy neighbor," a play on its slogan "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." "State Farm tells us they’re a good neighbor, but would a good neighbor target 5-year-olds for conversations about sexual identity?" a narrator says in a Monday video by the conservative group, Consumers' Research. "That's what State Farm is doing." This gross and blatant attempt to indoctrinate our children by @StateFarm is shameless and consumers should be aware a company founded on family values is now encouraging five-year-old children to question their gender. And we have the receipts. pic.twitter.com/UYTWGb5yod — Will Hild (@WillHild) May 23, 2022 "Conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents," said State Farm spokesman Roszell Gadson in a statement to the Washington Post on Tuesday. "We don’t support required curriculum in schools on this topic. We support organizations providing resources for parents to have these conversations. We no longer support the program allowing for distribution of books in schools." Get woke, go broke. Tyler Durden Thu, 05/26/2022 - 21:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 26th, 2022