Dispelling Common Misconceptions About Almonds' Water Use
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:51
California is no stranger to drought. The entire history of agriculture in California can be told through cycles of extreme dry and extreme wet - there really is no such thing as ''normal''. That being said, its propensity to experience extreme climatic conditions hasn't stopped it from becoming the leading powerhouse of agriculture among all US states, especially when it comes to certain crops. Almonds are a great example - California is the only state where Almonds are grown commercially as its climate is uniquely suited for them, and yet the US accounts for 80% of global almond harvests.
Given the disruption droughts have caused for the state's agriculture industry, as well as the prolonged nature of the last major statewide drought from 2011-2015, California's almonds have attracted attention due to their demand for water. In reality, though, almonds' water requirements actually compare favorably to alfalfa, many field crops, and rice, and require substantially less water than most livestock products. Thus, while media buzz might suggest that growing almonds in California is not a sustainable choice, it's important to examine the full story.We recognize that there are significant concerns in regards to water supply risk in California, and that is exactly why we take water risk so seriously. Sustainable water usage is central to our due diligence and underwriting processes, and a core component of how we select our properties. Our almond offerings are no exception.
As a result, we thought it would be beneficial to dive into some of the recent headlines surrounding almonds, and to address some of the common misconceptions of this crop and their associated water usage.
For many reasons, almonds are actually a very sensible fit for California farmers, and positioned to continue producing well even during a drought. In fact, with new technical advances in irrigation that have made almonds more water-efficient, they use much less water per kilo-Calorie of food than many other agricultural products.
Let's dive into it.
Misconception 1: ''It takes 1.1 gallons of water just to grow one single almond.''This fact was one of the major headliners about almonds during California's last drought. Much of the data behind this statistic was based on global estimates of water use for almonds, rather than specific to almond farming in California.
An updated analysis of almonds' ''water footprint'' in California found that California's average was actually about 30% less total water demand than the global averages that were widely reported during the last drought. Conducted in 2018, this analysis also highlighted that implementation of water-saving measures such as micro-drip irrigation technology by almond growers was well above the average rate for all of California's farms. This has already led to an average of 33% water savings per acre over the last 20 years and will continue to improve as the technology evolves.
In the backdrop of Almonds' improving water efficiency, California's overall water allocation to agriculture has been decreasing for the last several decades, while gross farm production value has been rising. From 1980-2015, agriculture's share of overall freshwater use statewide decreased by 14%, while the total combined value of all harvests jumped 38%. These trends will likely continue across all commodities but especially in Almonds - in fact, the Almond Board of California has made a direct pledge to make the crop another 20% more water-efficient by 2025.
What's more, farmers themselves have disputed the way that this statistic was reported during the last drought on the grounds that it simply doesn't tell the whole story. For starters, it ignores the fact that the almond itself represents one small component of the tree itself - much of the water used in the growth of the crop is consumed by the growing, leafing, blooming, fruiting tree. The ''1.1 gallons per nut'' statistic doesn't express water use in proportion with the water demands of the whole plant, and therefore doesn't account for the value provided by two key by-products of almond harvesting. Besides the kernels, which we eat, the hulls of the almond fruit are used for livestock feed and even for alternative energy, while the shells are often repurposed for secondary farming uses such as livestock bedding.
Misconception 2: ''Almonds use more water than any other agricultural product.''This claim was born out of the widespread reporting on almonds' water demand from the last drought. When this statement was made, almonds actually made up approximately 13 percent of California's total irrigated farmland and used less than nine percent of the state's agricultural (not total) water.
When measuring water requirements in gallons-per-pound-harvested, almonds use a comparable amount of water to most other tree nuts as well as to some fruit crops and specialty products. For example, it takes about the same amount of water to produce one pound of almonds as it does one pound of walnuts, cashews, or olive oil. Beef, as an example, takes more than double the amount of water than almonds to produce one pound of beef versus one pound of almonds.
Still, making these comparisons purely in terms of the volume produced of each product misses the nuance of those products' nutritional value. Global almond demand has experienced rapid acceleration over the last couple of decades, driven largely by their popularity in snack foods as well as their usefulness in a wide range of processed forms, such as almond milk, almond butter and even as an ingredient in meat substitutes. Almonds are particularly useful for these kinds of products because of their energy density and high protein and fat content, among other characteristics.
If you break down water use by the nutritional content of each agricultural commodity, almonds actually look like a much more favorable choice even in the context of a drought. For example, in terms of gallons per kilocalorie, rather than gallons per pound, almonds actually outperform sheep & goat meat and are roughly consistent with poultry products, while significantly outperforming beef. In terms of water used per gram of fat or protein, almonds even compare favorably with some legumes, root crops, and some cereal grains like rice.
Lastly, almonds water use looks even more justified when compared with other crops in terms of the ''economic productivity of water'' in their cultivation. This measure amounts to the total value of the crop harvested per acre-foot of water applied to the field over the course of the growing season. California's almonds and other tree nuts are so profitable that they have been estimated to generate about three times as much value per unit of water used as rice, and nearly ten times that of corn.
Misconception 3: ''Almonds aren't a natural fit for California's dry climate.''California's last major drought from 2011-2015, as well as the recent news that the state has re-entered drought conditions just this year, have led many people to label almonds as an improper fit for the region.
However, almonds as well as many tree and vine crops are actually predisposed to perform well specifically in ''Mediterranean'' climates such as that of California. Fairly scarce around the world, this climate type can generally only be found along western coasts of continents between 30-40 degrees latitude in the northern and southern hemisphere. Best described by long, hot, dry summers and wet winters in which the air temperature gets cooler but doesn't go dramatically below freezing, there are five major regions in the world that combine these characteristics: The Mediterranean basin, Chile, southwest Australia, South Africa, and California.
Crucially, these are exactly the conditions that almond trees need in order to go through their annual cycles of dormancy, leaf-out and budding, each of which are crucial for proper fruit-set and ultimately for economically productive yields. Among all of the major ''Mediterranean Climate'' regions, California has the most robust infrastructure and water resources to deal with exacerbated droughts.
California's droughts will, obviously, continue to strain almond production just as they will any form of agriculture, but that doesn't mean that almonds themselves are an underlying reason for the severity of droughts California is experiencing. A multitude of scientific publications have linked the elevated severity of droughts in California over the last couple of decades to climate change, which will force agriculture of all forms to adapt - whether that's tree nuts, beef cattle, or row crops. Cycles between hot and dry versus wet and cool periods have always defined California's climate, and the challenge for all water users in the state is in how to adapt to those cycles intensifying, rather than simply forcing farmers to choose which crops to eliminate.
Misconception 4: ''If I invest in farmland planted in almonds, I will inevitably suffer a huge loss during a drought.''Though a drought certainly places any crop, as well as the farm's income, under additional stress, it isn't a foregone conclusion that the drought will mean the ruin of the farm. There are several ways that a farm can be favorably positioned to navigate a period of drought successfully, as well as a few important levers that the farmer can pull during a drought to ensure the health of the crop.
In the San Joaquin Valley, the farms that can weather a drought most easily tend to be those with access to multiple water sources, and especially those that have access to both surface water and groundwater. Most of the aquifers in this part of the state are critically over-drafted and typically have a lower surface water reliability due to environmental hurdles moving water through the Delta. Having redundancy in water supply means that in the event that surface water access is reduced, growers can still irrigate with groundwater.
In the Sacramento Valley, Oregon, and Washington, a single source of water is often more than adequate to ensure water security. 75% of the precipitation in California falls north of Sacramento which provides substantial recharge for this region's aquifers. While there are no critically overdrafted aquifers north of Sacramento, sustainable groundwater pumping is a central focus of California. In 2015, California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which mandates all basins to be sustainably managed by 2040. It gives local agencies authority to develop sustainability plans with sustainability being defined as the mitigation or avoidance of six undesirable impacts. Ensuring that irrigation strategies employed on each property avoid the unreasonable deterioration or adverse impact on those six sustainability indicators is a key consideration of FarmTogether's approach to screening properties that we are considering making available for investment.
Meanwhile, installing micro-drip irrigation infrastructure on the farm and implementing a variety of other irrigation best practices can make an almond orchard dramatically more water-efficient. Tracking the moisture levels at different soil depths throughout a growing season, as well as the stages of maturation of the crop itself, and adjusting irrigations to optimally deliver the right amount of water to the crop at the right time can both provide huge savings.
Additionally, being conscientious with equipment maintenance and capturing runoff water during spring rain events will both reward farmers during times of drought. Good equipment and irrigation line maintenance can ensure that irrigation water is delivered evenly over an entire field, avoiding losses in places where hoses may be in disrepair. Furthermore, spring rain events, although less frequent during a drought, will often have precipitation rates that exceed the rate of infiltration of water into the soil, Using cover crops and soil amendments to improve aggregation and slow the rate of runoff from the farm can both be attractive options for farmers.
Almonds remain an attractive farmland investment, and deserve a place in California's futureRather than being a poor fit because of their water requirements, almonds are actually uniquely well suited to California's climate. Most of California's almond farmers are already employing best practices for irrigation, and given the strength of the state's agriculture industry, they have a wealth of resources at their disposal to continue improving. Though droughts are common, they actually reinforce the incentives for almond farmers to be good even better stewards of their water resources, as well as make the case for almond production instead of other crops: Almonds' economic value per unit of water used is substantially higher than that of alfalfa, field crops, irrigated pasture and rice. It's no surprise, therefore, that acreage planted in almonds effectively doubled between 2005 and 2015 despite the historic drought in the latter 5 of those 10 years. The popularity of almonds is driven both by accelerating global demand as well as by a pronounced shift among farmers toward higher-value crops.
If located favorably and managed properly, an almond farm is a great option for any new farmland investor even during times of drought. At FarmTogether, we pride ourselves on an approach that rigorously emphasizes good water stewardship and management, and have built our pipeline for sourcing new opportunities specifically around searching for characteristics that set a farm up for financial success through even the most adverse conditions. Our latest offering, Antelope Almond Orchard in Tehama County, CA is emblematic of these characteristics and is an exciting opportunity for anyone looking to diversify their portfolio with farmland.
Our mission is to bring creative and transformative capital to farming while opening up a vital asset class to all investors. By driving abundant and creative capital to farmers, we're giving investors the opportunity to drive agriculture toward sustainability on a massive scale.
Interested in investing in our current Antelope Almond Orchard offering? Check it out here. Or, learn more by visiting our FAQ.Disclaimer: FarmTogether is not a registered broker-dealer, investment adviser or investment manager. FarmTogether does not provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. You should consult your own tax, legal and investment advisors before engaging in any transaction.
Theranos's Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani Found Guilty on All 12 Fraud Counts - WSJ
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:20
Verdict of company's former president comes six months after founder Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on similar charges
Updated July 7, 2022 6:20 pm ETSAN JOSE, Calif.'--A federal jury convicted Ramesh ''Sunny'' Balwani, the former top lieutenant to Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes, on all 12 charges that he helped perpetuate a yearslong fraud scheme at the blood-testing startup.
The verdict is the second conviction against Theranos leadership and comes six months after a jury found Ms. Holmes guilty of fraud; it secures another major victory for the U.S. government, which brought the case against the pair in 2018. It brings to conclusion one of Silicon Valley's most notorious...
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SAN JOSE, Calif.'--A federal jury convicted Ramesh '' Sunny'' Balwani, the former top lieutenant to Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes, on all 12 charges that he helped perpetuate a yearslong fraud scheme at the blood-testing startup.
The verdict is the second conviction against Theranos leadership and comes six months after a jury found Ms. Holmes guilty of fraud; it secures another major victory for the U.S. government, which brought the case against the pair in 2018. It brings to conclusion one of Silicon Valley's most notorious startup implosions, which saw nearly $1 billion of investor money evaporate after revelations that the company delivered inaccurate blood-test results to patients, including for life-threatening conditions, and Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani lied about its proprietary technology.
Mr. Balwani, Theranos's former president and chief operating officer, was charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His case, like Ms. Holmes's, marked a rare prosecution of a technology executive, and served as a referendum on startups taking the culture of ''fake it until you make it'' too far. Mr. Balwani faces up to 20 years in prison for each count for which he was found guilty, but former prosecutors said such a stiff sentence is rare in white-collar cases.
Mr. Balwani's lawyers argued he wasn't in charge at Theranos, and the responsibility for the company rested with Ms. Holmes. He used investor money as promised, to build the company, they said, and invested his own money to help the startup succeed. Mr. Balwani's verdict shows how the government, in its second time prosecuting the case against the Theranos executives, appeared to have buttoned up its arguments following Ms. Holmes's trial, which had a more mixed result.
Most notably, the jury in Mr. Balwani's case found him guilty on all counts related to defrauding patients'--counts for which Ms. Holmes wasn't convicted, an outcome that disappointed patients affected by Theranos's faulty technology. A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 32 hours before reaching the verdict.
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Mr. Balwani said nothing as he left the courthouse, walking alongside his lawyers and trailed by family members.
In an email, Jeffrey Coopersmith, Mr. Balwani's attorney, said: ''We are obviously disappointed with the verdicts. We plan to study and consider all of Mr. Balwani's options including an appeal.''
Ms. Holmes was found guilty on four of the 11 fraud charges against her and acquitted of four, and the jury couldn't reach a unanimous conclusion on three. Mr. Balwani didn't testify in his own defense, as Ms. Holmes did. She is free while she awaits sentencing in September.
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Mr. Balwani's sentencing was set for November. He also is free on a $750,000 bond.
Mr. Balwani's conviction may affect the sentencing given to Ms. Holmes. The judge likely will want to give similar sentences to both because of their near-identical crimes, said Andrey Spektor, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York. Any leniency he shows Ms. Holmes'--who is 38 years old and had a baby last year'--he will have to also show Mr. Balwani, or risk looking unfair, Mr. Spektor said.
''If he gives her a big break he is going to think, how will it look if he sentences Balwani differently,'' said Mr. Spektor.
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Stephanie Hinds, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, said the verdict shows Mr. Balwani shares responsibility with Ms. Holmes for perpetrating fraud. ''We appreciate the verdict and look forward to sentencing proceedings,'' she said.
Mr. Balwani's trial lacked the spectacle of Ms. Holmes's, when members of the press and public gathered hours before dawn outside the courthouse for one of the coveted seats, and Ms. Holmes filled courtroom benches with friends and family. Mr. Balwani's trial, which began in mid-March, on most days had minimal press coverage and only a smattering of attendees, including his brother. Yet lawyers who followed the case say Mr. Balwani's trial was no less important'--he was one half of a power couple and accused of carrying out the same crimes.
''I considered Mr. Balwani and Elizabeth to be unified in all of their decision-making processes,'' Mark Pandori, Theranos's lab director from 2013 to 2014, who reported to Mr. Balwani, said in his testimony in March.
Mr. Balwani was in charge of the company's lab, where the blood testing occurred, and was quick to rebuff and sometimes fire employees who raised concerns about the performance of Theranos technology, prosecutors and witnesses said. He was responsible for the financial models given to investors that greatly exaggerated revenue, prosecutors said, and he managed the company's partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.,
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in which the startup would offer its finger-prick tests inside the drugstore chain.
Mr. Balwani, 57 years old, repeatedly looked at his lawyer and toward the jury as the verdict was being read. He didn't express any emotion. His family in the courtroom remained quiet as the guilty counts were being read.
Mr. Balwani joined Theranos in 2009 as vice chairman of its board and the following year became president and chief operating officer, a position he held until 2016. He and Ms. Holmes were in a romantic relationship for more than a decade. Mr. Balwani helped finance the startup by underwriting a $12 million loan in April 2010, and bought $4.6 million in stock. His lawyers pointed to his financial investment as proof that he acted in good faith, because he had millions of dollars on the line at Theranos.
Mr. Balwani's and Ms. Holmes's convictions are the culmination of a scandal that surfaced through a series of articles by The Wall Street Journal in 2015 and 2016 calling into question Theranos's claims about its proprietary blood-testing technology.
Mr. Balwani met Ms. Holmes in 2002 during a language-immersion trip to China when she was 18 and he was 37, prosecutors said. They reconnected while she was a student at Stanford University, where Ms. Holmes had dreamed up the idea for what would become Theranos: revolutionizing blood-testing by eliminating the need for large needles and vials of blood. Mr. Balwani encouraged her to drop out and build a startup. They developed a romantic relationship and moved in together. A few years later, she asked him to join the company. They kept their personal relationship mostly secret from employees, investors and board members.
Mr. Balwani is a veteran tech executive who worked in software, including at Lotus Software and Microsoft Corp., but much of his wealth derived from work at an e-commerce startup. He has degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Berkeley. In the dot-com boom, he helped run online auction startup CommerceBid.com, which was acquired in 1999 for roughly $228 million in cash and stock. Mr. Balwani received shares as part of the deal that he sold for more than $40 million, wealth he used to help prop up Theranos for a time.
Through documents and witness testimony, prosecutors showed that Mr. Balwani had near free rein at Theranos and was fully informed about its many technical problems, laboratory challenges and cash shortfalls.
''He sought to know everything he could about everything,'' Dr. Pandori, the former lab director, said in his testimony. He ''sought to have as much intelligence about what was going on in the company as he could at all times.''
Crucially, he was responsible for the lab when in 2015 a federal regulatory inspection uncovered serious deficiencies that would eventually lead to Theranos closing its blood-testing facilities. Adam Rosendorff, another former lab director, testified that Mr. Balwani controlled which employees had access to the lab, managed the laboratory resources, and hired and fired lab employees. He was more involved in the operations of the lab than Ms. Holmes, Dr. Rosendorff said.
Prosecutors showed a text message Mr. Balwani sent Ms. Holmes in July 2015: ''I am responsible for everything at Theranos. All have been my decisions too.''
At its peak, Theranos was valued at more than $9 billion, 10th-largest at the time among venture-capital-backed startups. Mr. Balwani's stake was worth $500 million for a time, and Ms. Holmes's was worth $4.5 billion. They never sold their shares.
Their on-paper wealth was propelled by claims that their technology could cheaply and quickly run more than 200 health tests using a proprietary device that required just a finger prick of blood. In a partnership, Theranos offered the tests to patients at Walgreens pharmacies.
The trials have shown a different reality. The company managed to use its proprietary finger-prick blood-testing device for just 12 types of patient tests. Those results were unreliable. At its lab, Theranos secretly ran another 27 blood tests on commercial devices from other companies that it altered to work with tiny blood samples.
Patients testified about receiving false test results. One result wrongly indicated that a woman could be HIV positive; another incorrectly led a pregnant woman to believe she was miscarrying. Prosecutors rectified an error made in Ms. Holmes's case that had forced them to drop one of the patient-related fraud charges against her. That correction allowed Brent Bingham, a Phoenix-based retiree, to testify in Mr. Balwani's trial about what he believed were inaccurate results for a blood-platelet count test. He said in his testimony that several days after he received results that showed his platelet count dangerously high, he received an email from Theranos telling him to go seek immediate medical attention.
''And I actually laughed when I read it because I joked to my wife, well, I guess I should go to the emergency room,'' Mr. Bingham testified. ''But I knew I didn't need to.''
In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration declared Theranos's proprietary ''nanotainer,'' a tiny vial for collecting the small blood samples, an ''uncleared medical device,'' effectively banning its use.
Investors described how Mr. Balwani gave them revenue projections that were grossly inflated and had persuaded them to sink millions into the startup. In one instance, investors were shown revenue projections in October 2014'--with just two months of the year remaining'--that said the company would reach $140 million in revenue for the year. In reality, its revenue for that year was $150,000, according to a document shown in court. Its most lucrative year was in 2009, when the company had about $2.8 million in sales.
''It is only a matter of time before the house of cards crumbles and the financial projections never come true,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Schenk.
Brian Grossman, who runs hedge fund PFM Health Sciences LP, which invested $96 million in Theranos, testified that Mr. Balwani walked him through a financial model that showed ''they were profitable, surprisingly profitable,'' Mr. Grossman said. ''We did take their estimates and we used those'' to inform the decision to invest, he testified. Theranos never turned a profit and lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The first witness in Mr. Balwani's brief defense was an Arizona physician, who had sent around 150 patients to Theranos for blood tests and herself had taken a Theranos test for pregnancy. But she walked back her endorsement of Theranos on the stand when cross-examined by a prosecutor who pointed out that her patients' results had been voided and Theranos struggled with accuracy.
The second and final witness was a technical consultant who was paid by the defense to examine Theranos's laboratory database that tracked more than a million patient test results, which Theranos executives ordered destroyed before the government examined its contents. Defense lawyers sought to use his testimony to show that the government hadn't exhausted all efforts to obtain the patient database from Theranos, which could have shown test results were accurate'--an argument that fell flat with the jury.
Prosecutors' case against Mr. Balwani largely mirrored the one they brought against Ms. Holmes. The pair were indicted together, but U.S. District Judge Edward Davila ordered the case severed in March 2020. Both trials were postponed due to the pandemic, and Mr. Balwani's trial suffered repeated delays due to Covid cases affecting jurors and others involved in the trial.
Theranos dissolved in September 2018.
Lawyers for both Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani have moved for a judgment of acquittal. The judge hasn't ruled on the matter.
Write to Heather Somerville at Heather.Somerville@wsj.com and Meghan Bobrowsky at Meghan.Bobrowsky@wsj.com
Europe faces Facebook blackout '' POLITICO
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:19
Europeans risk seeing social media services Facebook and Instagram shut down this summer, as Ireland's privacy regulator doubled down on its order to stop the firm's data flows to the United States.
The Irish Data Protection Commission on Thursday informed its counterparts in Europe that it will block Facebook-owner Meta from sending user data from Europe to the U.S. The Irish regulator's draft decision cracks down on Meta's last legal resort to transfer large chunks of data to the U.S., after years of fierce court battles between the U.S. tech giant and European privacy activists.
The European Court of Justice in 2020 annulled an EU-U.S. data flows pact called Privacy Shield because of fears over U.S. surveillance practices. In its ruling, it also made it harder to use another legal tool that Meta and many other U.S. firms use to transfer personal data to the U.S., called standard contractual clauses (SCCs). This week's decision out of Ireland means Facebook is forced to stop relying on SCCs too.
Meta has repeatedly warned that such a decision would shutter many of its services in Europe, including Facebook and Instagram.
"If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe," Meta said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in March this year.
The Irish blocking order, if confirmed by the group of European national data protection regulators, is likely to send a chill through the wider business community too, which has been scratching its head about how to continue sending data from Europe to the U.S. following the EU's top court ruling in 2020.
The EU and U.S. are in the midst of negotiating a new data-transfer text that would allow companies like Meta to continue to ship data across the Atlantic irrespective of the Irish order. Brussels and Washington in March agreed to a preliminary deal at the political level, but negotiations on the legal fine print have stalled and a final deal is unlikely to be reached before the end of the year.
A spokesperson for the Irish DPC confirmed that the draft decision had been sent to other European privacy regulators, who now have a month to give their input, but wouldn't discuss details of the decision.
''This draft decision, which is subject to review by European Data Protection Authorities, relates to a conflict of EU and U.S. law which is in the process of being resolved," a Meta spokesperson said. "We welcome the EU-U.S. agreement for a new legal framework that will allow the continued transfer of data across borders, and we expect this framework will allow us to keep families, communities and economies connected."
This article has been updated to add a comment from Meta.
Discover the Digital Bridge newsletterI'm Mark Scott, POLITICO's chief tech correspondent, and if you enjoyed this story, check out Digital Bridge, my weekly newsletter on EU-US digital politics.
Monkeypox Vaccine Rollout Is Marred by Glitches in New York - The New York Times
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:19
The city has struggled to respond to a growing monkeypox outbreak, the first major public health crisis since the Covid pandemic began.
Video Officials said New York City is the ''epicenter'' of the nation's monkeypox outbreak, and announced the opening of a vaccine clinic in Harlem and the reopening of another in Chelsea. Credit Credit... Hiram Durn for The New York Times July 7, 2022
Thousands of New Yorkers spent hours refreshing a city government webpage this week, desperately seeking a monkeypox vaccine that, for now, is mostly going to the web-savvy and connected.
The rollout echoed the early days of New York City's Covid-19 vaccine, when finding an appointment could feel like winning a radio contest. The city decided to assign appointments for the first doses of the highly sought-after monkeypox vaccine via an online system, using Twitter as the main way to notify people. The 2,500 appointments went within minutes.
On top of that, because of a glitch, the initial 600 appointments released Wednesday went only to those who happened to store an older appointment website on their browsers, because the slots appeared there before a link on the main Department of Health website went live.
''By following the Department of Health's instructions, we had zero chance of getting the vaccine,'' said Nicholas Diamond, who spent hours refreshing the city's website in search of a shot. ''I am really concerned that the city, state and federal government have learned nothing from the Covid response, and essentially the burden again has been left on us to figure out how to care for ourselves.''
New York City is the epicenter of the nation's monkeypox outbreak, its health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said at a news conference on Thursday, with 141 cases recorded so far, more than any other American city. The disease is mostly spreading among men who have sex with men, and experts believe there may be many more cases than have so far been detected.
The spreading outbreak has not yet caused any deaths in the United States, but it can cause very painful lesions that take weeks to resolve.
With yet another frightening virus spreading in their community, many gay New Yorkers have pinned their hopes on getting the Jynneos vaccine, the safer of two available vaccines that can prevent monkeypox. But distribution missteps have caused anger and frustration. The first 1,000 doses of Jynneos, which arrived two weeks ago, were given out at a single clinic, in Chelsea, with almost no public notice.
As a result, they went primarily to people who saw a Twitter post or knew about the release ahead of time through public health connections.
Then on Wednesday, the city Department of Health said on Twitter at 10:45 a.m. that a second round of appointments would be coming soon. There was no further update until 1 p.m., when the department posted on Twitter that because of an ''unfortunate glitch,'' the appointments were already gone. People were told to keep checking back.
At 6:11 p.m., 1,900 more appointments were made available. They were gone in 10 minutes.
Dr. Vasan apologized for the mistakes at the news conference, at which he announced the opening of a second clinic in Harlem and explained that the city would work harder to insure a more equitable approach as more appointments become available.
What to Know About the Monkeypox Virus Card 1 of 5What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus endemic in parts of Central and West Africa. It is similar to smallpox, but less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are the symptoms? Monkeypox creates a rash that starts with flat red marks that become raised and filled with pus. Infected people may also have a fever and body aches. Symptoms typically appear in six to 13 days but can take as long as three weeks after exposure to show, and can last for two to four weeks. Health officials say smallpox vaccines and other treatments can be used to control an outbreak.
How infectious is it? The virus spreads mainly through body fluids, skin contact and respiratory droplets, though some experts suggest that it could occasionally be airborne. Typically it does not lead to major outbreaks, though it has spread in unusual ways this year, and among populations that have not been vulnerable in the past.
What's the situation in the United States? Experts say that the rapid spread of monkeypox across the country and the government's sluggish response raise questions about the nation's preparedness for pandemic threats. Tests will not be readily available until later this month and vaccines will be in short supply for months. Official case counts, now in the hundreds, are likely a gross underestimate.
''Our vendor experienced technical glitches, and New Yorkers have had to wait much longer than they should have to get this vaccine,'' Dr. Vasan said. ''Ultimately, they work for us and the buck stops with us.''
He added: ''Equity is an incredibly hard thing to preserve in an environment of scarce supply.''
Cases of monkeypox have been steadily increasing in the city, even though testing has been limited. New York City's public health lab, which had been the sole city location running the test for the disease, has been able to test only 10 people per day, city officials said. But testing will now be able to ramp up: As of Wednesday, health providers can now order monkeypox tests through Labcorp, a commercial testing company.
Dr. Vasan said that he picked Chelsea, an upscale Manhattan area, as the location for the first clinic because 75 percent of the city's known cases so far have been in Manhattan, and one-third of all cases have been in the Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen neighborhoods, areas with large gay populations.
With the arrival of 6,000 additional doses this week, the city added the second vaccine clinic, which opened Thursday. It is planning a third clinic in Corona, Queens, once vaccine supply increases.
At the news conference on Thursday, officials acknowledged that there were high levels of anxiety among men who have sex with men and that there were still many unknowns about the disease's spread. But they underscored that the risk to most New Yorkers remains low.
Shortly after the officials left, a line of men with appointments began to form. By noon, it stretched north on Fifth Avenue and west down 137th Street.
Irving Ruiz, who lives in Queens, said he was there because he had recently seen someone with a severe case of monkeypox, with rashes up and down his arms and legs. He said the experience made him fearful for his community.
''It's not fair. I feel like we've gone back to H.I.V.-stigma,'' he said.
Image Credit... Victor J. Blue for The New York Times Kevin de Wolf, who was also in the line, said his partner just came down with monkeypox, and that he was worried about his fatigue and fever.
''Seeing this up close and what it does to somebody at the height of good health is crazy,'' said Mr. de Wolf, 35, who lives in Hell's Kitchen.
Mr. de Wolf said he was desperate to find a vaccine and had considered traveling to Montreal because of the lack of availability in the United States. His partner found him the appointment on Wednesday. ''It feels like being in a third world country,'' he said.
New York City has so far received about 7,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine. About 4,000 have already been given out or assigned to appointments. An additional several thousand are being held in reserve for distribution through community partners, Dr. Vasan said.
More doses are coming, said Dr. Raj Panjabi, the coordinator of the White House Pandemic Office, who also spoke at the news conference. The federal government will release another 144,000 doses within the next weeks, with some of those coming to New York. In total, four million doses have been ordered for use nationwide, with 1.5 million of those expected to go out to health departments later this summer and fall.
The Jynneos vaccine requires two doses to be fully protective, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but so far, all of the doses coming to the city are being considered as first doses. As more doses arrive, there will be more available for second doses, said Dr. Mary Bassett, the state health commissioner.
Paul Chaplin, the chief executive officer of Bavarian Nordic, which makes the vaccine, said Thursday that research shows that one dose offers ''a very robust level of protection.'' Dr. Bassett, however, said that full protection from the vaccine would only come two weeks after the second dose.
New York health officials said people who fall into one of several categories are eligible for the vaccine:
Individuals with exposure to monkeypox within the past 14 days.
Those at high risk of a recent exposure to monkeypox, including members of the gay, bisexual, transgender and other communities of men who have sex with men and who have engaged in intimate or skin-to-skin contact with others in the past 14 days in areas where monkeypox is spreading.
Individuals who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network where monkeypox is spreading, including men who have sex with men and who meet partners through an online website, digital app or social event, such as a bar or party.
In part because the categories are broad, demand for the vaccine is extremely high.
Eugene Resnick, who works as a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he spent nine hours refreshing the city's webpage before being able to finally snag an appointment after 6 p.m.
''I'm frustrated, angry, disappointed with the Health Department,'' he said. ''I'm an insider working in the government. I can't imagine it's at all accessible to the regular person not on Twitter.''
At a news conference on Thursday, Mayor Eric Adams said the city was giving out vaccine doses as soon as it received them. ''We are not just ignoring it,'' he said. ''There was a glitch by the third-party vendor that created the website, but we pivot and shifted and we're getting the vaccines out the door.''
Joseph Osmundson, a microbiologist and queer activist helping to increase access to the vaccine, said that the city did the right thing by opening the Harlem clinic, but that there had to be a more urgent effort to get more vaccine supply to the city soon.
''At every level, there is such frustration in the community,'' Mr. Osmundson said. He said people he knows are trying to be careful but are increasingly angry at what they feel is a lack of urgency to protect the gay community in particular: ''We feel like we're being left behind and then blamed for the spread.''
Nate Schweber contributed reporting.
As inflation rises, gift cards are becoming less valuable
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:15
Like most Americans, you probably have a long-unused gift card lying somewhere, half-forgotten. In fact, more than half of Americans have unused gift cards totaling an average of $116 per person, according to a 2021 survey by personal finance website Bankrate.
If you need a reason to finally spend it, consider rising inflation, which has reduced your gift card's value by roughly 13% since 2019, according to CNBC calculations using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' consumer price index (CPI).
A $100 gift card issued in May 2019 would only retain $87.61 of its spending power if redeemed in May 2022, the month with the most recent CPI data.
However, it's worth noting that some items have been more affected by inflation than others. The 13% difference is based on a weighted average of the CPI index as a whole, so price changes on individual items will vary. For instance, as of May, dishware prices had risen by 6.1% over the last year, while men's suits and coats had risen 22.3% in that same time.
But with year-over-year inflation up 8.6% since last June, one thing is clear: Inflation is eating away at your gift card's spending power, and will continue to do so until you use what's left. Retailers will likely continue to raise prices in the meantime.
Another reason to redeem unused gift cards: some may expire or have inactivity fees that kick in after 12 months of non-use.
Rules for gift card expiry and inactivity fees vary by state. To learn more about the rules in your state, the National Conference of State Legislatures has a helpful search tool.
How to get rid of your gift cardsThe first step in using up your gift cards is knowing what you have. With most cards, you can verify the remaining balance using either a toll-free phone number or website printed on the card.
To keep track of the verified balances, write them out on the face of each card using a black marker. Then, it's just a matter of shopping, either in-store or online, depending on the retailer.
However, it's not always easy to spend gift cards at retailers that don't offer anything you want to buy. In that case, you can try selling your gift cards on reseller sites like CardCash.com or ClipKard.com.
Keep in mind you won't be able to sell these cards for their full value. Sought-after cards like Walmart can be sold for up to 90% of their value, while more niche cards, like a Subway restaurant gift card, will be sold for closer to 60% of their value. It might not be worth selling unless you won't use the card and could use the cash.
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Don't miss: Biden calls on Congress to pass a federal gas tax holiday this summer, but the savings might not be worth much
Almonds & Sustainability: The Truth About Almonds & Water Use
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:14
People are going nuts about almonds. Consumers are eating more and more of them, and growers are struggling to keep up with demand. But many environmentalists are concerned about the amount of water that's used in almond production. Are they a delicious food for the world '-- or an environmental disaster? Read on to find out.
Countless, sweet-smelling pink and white petals bloom on more than a million acres of almond trees across California in late February and March. It's a captivating experience and many compare it to the blossoming of cherries.
Locals call the falling flowers ''the valley snow.'' And several months later, from mid-August to October, ''shaker'' machines shake billions of pounds of almonds to the ground, where they dry in the sun before they're swept into rows, picked up, and processed.
California grows close to 100% of commercial almonds in the U.S. and 81% of almonds worldwide. And the global almond demand is rising at a rate that exceeds the supply.
Almonds are an easy, healthy snack. Almond milk has become more popular than soy milk in the U.S. (even though some store-bought almond milk may contain only about 2% almonds). And other almonds products, like almond butter and flour, are also increasing as the demand for plant-based products continues to rise.
Almonds are nutrient-dense and healthy. They're high in protein, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. And they have some proven health benefits, such as reducing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
But are almonds a sustainable choice? Or are they ''ruining the environment'' as some are saying?
Why Are Almonds Grown in California?Mediterranean climates, like California's, have mild, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers. These are the ideal growing conditions for almonds.
The state also has fertile soils, natural resources and infrastructure, and innovative research and technology. All of which makes California one of the most optimal places on the planet to grow almonds.
California is also the most productive agricultural state in the United States, and one of the most productive in the world. After California, Spain and Iran are the next largest almond growers. Other top almond producers include Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Italy, and Australia.
Are Almonds Bad for the Planet?If you Google ''are almonds environmentally friendly,'' you'll see results about why you ''should ditch the almond milk,'' ''the dark side of almond use,'' ''are you nuts to keep eating almonds?'' and other similar headlines.
Most of the arguments focus on the water almonds need. But how much water do almonds actually use? And is this as big a problem as some make it out to be?
How Much Water Do Almonds Need?A single almond takes about 1.1 gallons of water to produce. Or close to 10 gallons for a handful.
California dedicates about 8% of its total agricultural water supply to growing almonds.
Almond trees need water year-round, even when they're not producing almonds.
And more almond trees are being planted in California, with the number of almond orchards doubling in the last 20 years.
The Truth About Almonds and Water UseThe water almonds need became a topic of concern during the California drought from 2012 to 2016, the worst one on record since 1895. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for the state.
During this time, many websites published stories about almonds and almond milk.
But according to research published in 2017 in the Journal of Ecological Indicators, almonds' water footprint in California has to be put into context. The study's author says it's important to consider the water use and the benefits that come with that water use.
The authors compared the nutrition content of 42 different California food crops. They also ranked the economic value of 44 food crops. They concluded that for the water needed to produce them, almonds ranked among the most valuable foods grown in California for their dietary and economic benefits.
In fact, almonds ranked at or near the top of all California crops in seven of the 11 nutrient categories. And walnuts and pistachios ranked similar to almonds for their water use.
The California Agricultural Issues Center says the California almond community delivers significant economic value to the state. Almonds support 104,000 jobs across California and contribute $11 billion annually to the state's GDP.
Why California's Real Water Problem Isn't AlmondsSo, yes, California produces a lot of almonds. And these almonds require a lot of water. But the state is a leading producer of another product that uses even more water'... and that's dairy.
In fact, per cup, almond milk is actually less water-intensive than cow's milk. Companies like Blue Diamond and Silk contain approximately 38 almonds in a half gallon of milk. So, if each almond takes about 1.1 gallons of water to grow, then it takes about 84 gallons of water to produce the almonds used in a typical store-bought gallon of almond milk. By comparison, it can take up to 880 gallons of water to produce a gallon of dairy milk.
Plant-based milks not only typically need less water than dairy, but they also have a smaller carbon footprint. Almonds are estimated to have a carbon footprint 10 times smaller than that of dairy milk.
California is also a major producer of beef. And both dairy and beef cows use a huge amount of water. In fact, a single pound of beef requires a whopping 1,800 gallons of water. Around one-third of the state's entire water budget is used to produce meat and dairy. Stunningly, California's livestock industry uses more water than all the homes, businesses, and government in the state combined.
Additionally, California cows are responsible for 45% of the state's methane emissions, and methane is an especially potent greenhouse gas.
Last time I checked, almonds didn't burp or fart, so they don't emit methane.
And Then There's AlfalfaAlfalfa consumes the most water of any crop in California. This green crop sucks up 15% of the state's irrigation water.
You may not have eaten alfalfa or seen it in your grocery store (except maybe as alfalfa sprouts). But meat eaters consume lots of alfalfa'... after it is cycled through livestock. Some of that alfalfa gets exported, too.
California, it turns out, exports more than 100 billion gallons of water per year in the form of alfalfa to countries like China, who use it for livestock feed. How much sense does it make, in a state that can face devastating water crises, to '-- in effect '-- ship away one-third of the water to meet the needs of every household in the city of San Francisco, so China can eat more beef?
So, are almonds really California's top water concerns? Or should the focus be reducing dairy and beef consumption and production?
Water Progress and Solutions for AlmondsiStock.com/GomezDavidEven though meat and dairy might present a bigger problem, there's no question that almonds are a thirsty crop. And providing 82% of the world's almonds is a tall order for any state.
In response to the recent drought, the state's almond farmers have been working to improve their water efficiency. And progress is being made: California almond farmers have reduced the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33% over 20 years.
And by 2025, the California almond community commits to reduce the amount of water to grow a pound of almonds by an additional 20%.
Nearly 80% of farmers across the state use efficient microirrigation systems, which conserve water by applying it where the crop needs it rather than to the entire field.
And the Almond Board is exploring if almond orchards can help replenish underground aquifers (which are used for drinking water and agriculture). Through a process called groundwater recharge, orchards are purposely flooded when water is available to allow the water to filter gradually into the aquifers.
Almonds Begin Because of BeesAlmonds' sustainability story doesn't end with water.
For these nuts to grow, bees must pollinate each blossom. Almond orchards are the first natural food source of the year for many bees after winter hibernation.
Bees store this food to start their pollination season. According to the Almond Board of California, almond pollen is nutritious, providing all 10 of the essential amino acids bees need.
In total, California's almond industry requires roughly 2 million hives '-- it's the world's largest managed pollination event.
Almost all the bees are brought to the state from across the country. More than 68% of all commercial honey bee colonies in the United States are used to pollinate almond orchards.
And in case you don't know, bees are in trouble. Bee numbers are declining for a number of factors, one of which is pesticides. And many of the bees in California are dying from pesticides used on almond groves.
The USDA Pesticide Data Program has found nine different pesticide residues in almonds '-- and four are toxic to honey bees.
What About Organic Almonds? Are They More Sustainable?Organic crops use less pesticides. And that's a very good thing for the bees!
Unfortunately, there are only a few million acres of almond groves that are currently certified organic in California. But in response to consumer demand, more and more farmers are choosing to make the switch.
Chris and Marcie Baugher of Baugher Ranch Organics in Northern California have been marketing organic almonds for 30 years and have helped pioneer the organic almond industry.
Their 640 acres features natural water reservoirs, ponds for collecting water runoff, and natural habitat surrounding their orchards. They also promote bee activity by planting bee-friendly native pollinators around their orchard sites.
The Burroughs are another farm family. They grow nearly 1,000 acres of organic almonds in California's Central Valley:
They say that despite challenges, going organic is the best decision they've ever made, and they won't go back.
As Ward Burroughs says in the video, ''You cannot improve the health of this world if you're gonna continue to put poisons and toxins on it to produce your food.''
If You Choose to Eat Almonds'...When purchasing almonds and almond milk, there are some good reasons to go organic if you can. Certified organic almonds are grown without pesticides, which makes them more bee-friendly. And they often use less water, too.
If you want to drink almond milk, you might want to try making your own. Most commercial almond milks are low in actual almonds and high in thickeners, flavorings, and sugars. Homemade recipes call for a lot more almonds than store-bought varieties, so you can get more of their health benefits). And you'll eliminate the packaging and food miles. (For more on plant-based milk options, click here.)
If you want to try making your own almond milk at home, consider one of these easy to follow recipes:
Plain Almond Milk (with optional varieties)Minimalist Baker posted a simple ''How to Make Almond Milk'' recipe on her blog with an accompanying video. She even includes whole food ingredients like cocoa powder or berries if you want to make chocolate almond milk or berry-infused almond milk.
Vanilla Cinnamon Almond MilkFor a delicious, homemade spin on the conventional vanilla almond milk found in stores, give this Vanilla Cinnamon Almond Milk from Oh She Glows a try. The combination of Medjool dates, vanilla bean, and powdered cinnamon combine for just the right amount of natural sweetness with a little bit of spice.
And Then There's the ''Almond Cow''You can also get a useful machine to make the process even easier. The Almond Cow is a plant-based milk maker that allows you to create milk from any nut, seed, or grain in minutes with easier cleanup and no nut milk bags required. The machine uses a cold blending process to protect the nutrients, so it doesn't apply heat. You can check it out here. (Use the code FOODREVOLUTION20 for a special discount.)
Tell us in the comments below:What do you think about the sustainability of almonds?Do you eat almonds? Does their environmental impact concern you?Featured Image: iStock.com/Anna Usova
Read next:Why you should eat at least 15 almonds daily to prevent top diseases and health challenges
Did Ohio's Abortion Ban Force a 10-Year-Old Rape Victim to Travel to Indiana? | Snopes.com
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:08
In late June 2022, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortions, Ohio outlawed abortions for people who had been pregnant for six weeks or longer, including rape victims.
The impact was swift. According to several news outlets, for example, Ohio's new abortion ban forced a 10-year-old girl who had gotten pregnant by rape to travel to her neighboring state of Indiana where abortion remained legal.
Dozens of Snopes readers searched our site or contacted us wondering whether that had actually happened. To find out, we reached out to Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist based in Indianapolis and who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch, about the headline-generating story. As of this writing, Bernard had not returned our request for an interview, and we had not been able to independently corroborate the abortion claim. If we receive additional information, will update this post.
Speaking to the Ohio newspaper, Bernard said she was contacted by a colleague in Ohio, a doctor who treats child-abuse victims, for help three days after the high court's Roe decision. The doctor told Bernard, according to her retelling, that a 10-year-old patient was six weeks pregnant, needed an abortion, and was unable to terminate the pregnancy in Ohio due to the state's post-Roe law.
According to the Dispatch, the child was able to travel to Indiana, and Bernard carried out the procedure under the state's laws on abortion at the time.
Indiana state lawmakers are expected to hold a special session on July 25, 2022, where they, too, are expected to pass an abortion ban. ''It's hard to imagine that in just a few short weeks we will have no ability to provide that care,'' Bernard told the Dispatch.
As we have previously reported at Snopes, although medical privacy laws prevent health care workers from sharing the personal details of patients publicly, social media posts have circulated widely alleging various harrowing effects of recent abortion bans on pregnant people.
For example, shortly after the Supreme Court's decision, a message spread across the internet, supposedly detailing a situation in which a health care worker in a state where so-called trigger laws went into effect witnessed a patient with an ectopic pregnancy experience life-threatening bleeding before the doctor felt he could intervene. An ectopic pregnancy is a condition in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. As it grows, it can cause the tube to rupture, which can lead to life-threatening hemorrhaging.
Rudavsky, Shari and Rachel Fradette. ''As Ohio Restricts Abortions, 10-Year-Old Girl Travels to Indiana for Procedure.'' The Columbus Dispatch, 1 July 2022, https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/2022/07/01/ohio-girl-10-among-patients-going-indiana-abortion/7788415001/.
Avril, Tom. ''What Is Ectopic Pregnancy and How Does the Abortion Ruling Affect It?'' Https://Www.Inquirer.Com, https://www.inquirer.com/health/ectopic-pregnancy-abortion-supreme-court-ruling-20220627.html. Accessed 5 July 2022.
Smith, Brandon. ''Indiana Special Session on Abortion and Inflation Relief Delayed until July 25.'' WFYI Public Media, 29 June 2022, https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/indiana-special-session-on-abortion-and-inflation-relief-delayed-until-july-25.
Army cuts pay, benefits from 57,000 unvaccinated National Guard, Reserves | Fox News
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:06
NEW You can now listen to Fox News articles!
Roughly 57,000 Army National Guardsmen and Army Reservists who have yet to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will be barred from their duties, effectively cutting their pay and benefits an Army official confirmed for Fox News Digital.
"Beginning July 1, 2022, members of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve who have refused the lawful DOD COVID-19 vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption may not participate in federally funded drills and training and will not receive pay or retirement credit," the Army said in a July 1 release obtained by Fox News Digital.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks with U.S. troops on Friday, March 18, 2022, at an Army training range in Bulgaria. Austin was in Bulgaria to meet with U.S. troops and to consult with top Bulgarian government officials. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)
THOUSANDS OF ARMY NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIERS WHO HAVEN'T GOTTEN COVID-19 VACCINE COULD BE FORCED OUT
The announcement came one day after the June 30 deadline passed requiring soldiers in the Army National Guard to get the shots in their arms.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in November said that members of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard who refused to get vaccinated would be barred from participating in trainings and their pay would be blocked.
Austin also warned that the continued refusal to get vaccinated could result in "separation" or expulsion from the service.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
ARMY NEARS 100% VACCINATION, CLAIMS ONLY 1% REFUSAL AMONG TROOPS
The move reportedly comes as servicemen prepare for annual summer trainings that help them hone their military skills and ensure they are ready should they need to be deployed.
Though servicemen who remain dubious on the merits of the vaccine will feel the repercussions of disobeying a directive, Army officials said they will continue to work with soldiers to keep them in the service '-- whether through informing them on the benefits of the vaccine or in rare cases making sure they qualify for exemption status.
American soldiers and the U.S. flag are pictured. (iStock)
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
"We're going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career," Director of the Army Guard, Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, said in a statement to Military.com. "We're not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed."
Roughly 13 percent of the Army National Guard and 12 percent of Army Reservists remain unvaccinated '-- a margin that could prove detrimental to the ranks as the service struggles with low recruitment.
Caitlin McFall is a Fox News Digital reporter. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ctlnmcfall on Twitter.
The 100-year Japanese residential mortgage: An examination - ScienceDirect
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:06
AbstractA recent innovation in the Japanese real estate industry to promote home ownership is the creation of a 100-year mortgage term. The home, encumbered by the mortgage, becomes an ancestral property and is passed on from grandparent to grandchild in a multigenerational fashion. We analyze the implications of this innovative practice, contrast it with the conventional 30-year mortgage popular in Western nations and explore its unique benefits and limitations within the Japanese economic and cultural framework. Through the use of simulation, the conclusion is reached that the 100-year mortgage has failed to increase the affordability of homes. Instead, affluent homeowners are more likely to employ long-term mortgages as an estate-planning tool to reduce inheritance taxes.
View full text Copyright (C) 1995 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Facebook and tech giants to target attacker manifestos, far-right militias in database | Reuters
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:05
A militia member with body armor and a Three Percenters militia patch stands in Stone Mountain as various militia groups stage rallies at Stone Mountain, Georgia, U.S. August 15, 2020. REUTERS/Dustin Chambers/File Photo
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comJuly 26 (Reuters) - A counterterrorism organization formed by some of the biggest U.S. tech companies including Facebook (FB.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) is significantly expanding the types of extremist content shared between firms in a key database, aiming to crack down on material from white supremacists and far-right militias, the group told Reuters.
Until now, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism's (GIFCT) database has focused on videos and images from terrorist groups on a United Nations list and so has largely consisted of content from Islamist extremist organizations such as Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Over the next few months, the group will add attacker manifestos - often shared by sympathizers after white supremacist violence - and other publications and links flagged by U.N. initiative Tech Against Terrorism. It will use lists from intelligence-sharing group Five Eyes, adding URLs and PDFs from more groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and neo-Nazis.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comThe firms, which include Twitter (TWTR.N) and Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) YouTube, share "hashes," unique numerical representations of original pieces of content that have been removed from their services. Other platforms use these to identify the same content on their own sites in order to review or remove it.
While the project reduces the amount of extremist content on mainstream platforms, groups can still post violent images and rhetoric on many other sites and parts of the internet.
The tech group wants to combat a wider range of threats, said GIFCT's Executive Director Nicholas Rasmussen in an interview with Reuters.
"Anyone looking at the terrorism or extremism landscape has to appreciate that there are other parts... that are demanding attention right now," Rasmussen said, citing the threats of far-right or racially motivated violent extremism.
The tech platforms have long been criticized for failing to police violent extremist content, though they also face concerns over censorship. The issue of domestic extremism, including white supremacy and militia groups, took on renewed urgency following the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Fourteen companies can access the GIFCT database, including Reddit, Snapchat-owner Snap (SNAP.N), Facebook-owned Instagram, Verizon (VZ.N) Media, Microsoft's LinkedIn and file-sharing service Dropbox (DBX.O).
GIFCT, which is now an independent organization, was created in 2017 under pressure from U.S. and European governments after a series of deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels. Its database mostly contains digital fingerprints of videos and images related to groups on the U.N. Security Council's consolidated sanctions list and a few specific live-streamed attacks, such as the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
GIFCT has faced criticism and concerns from some human and digital rights groups over centralized or over-broad censorship.
"Over-achievement in this takes you in the direction of violating someone's rights on the internet to engage in free expression," said Rasmussen.
Emma Llanso, director of Free Expression at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said in a statement: "This expansion of the GIFCT hash database only intensifies the need for GIFCT to improve the transparency and accountability of these content-blocking resources."
"As the database expands, the risks of mistaken takedown only increase," she added.
The group wants to continue to broaden its database to include hashes of audio files or certain symbols and grow its membership. It recently added home-rental giant Airbnb (ABNB.O) and email marketing company Mailchimp as members.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comReporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li, Lisa Shumaker and Rosalba O'Brien
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Ghana reports first-ever suspected cases of Marburg virus disease | WHO | Regional Office for Africa
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:05
Accra '' Ghana has announced the preliminary finding of two cases of Marburg virus disease and if confirmed these would the first such infections recorded in the country. Marburg is a highly infectious viral haemorrhagic fever in the same family as the more well-known Ebola virus disease.
Preliminary analysis of samples taken from two patients by the country's Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research indicated the cases were positive for Marburg. However, per the standard procedure, the samples have been sent to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for confirmation. The two patients from the southern Ashanti region '' both deceased and unrelated '' showed symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting. They had been taken to a district hospital in Ashanti region.
Preparations for a possible outbreak response are being set up swiftly as further investigations are underway.
''The health authorities are on the ground investigating the situation and preparing for a possible outbreak response. We are working closely with the country to ramp up detection, track contacts, be ready to control the spread of the virus,'' said Dr Francis Kasolo, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Ghana.
WHO is deploying experts to support Ghana's health authorities by bolstering disease surveillance, testing, tracing contacts, preparing to treat patients and working with communities to alert and educate them about the risks and dangers of the disease and to collaborate with the emergency response teams.
If confirmed, the cases in Ghana would mark the second time Marburg has been detected in West Africa. Guinea confirmed a single case in an outbreak that was declared over on 16 September 2021, five weeks after the initial case was detected.
Previous outbreaks and sporadic cases of Marburg in Africa have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
Marburg is transmitted to people from fruit bats and spreads among humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, surfaces and materials. Illness begins abruptly, with high fever, severe headache and malaise. Many patients develop severe haemorrhagic signs within seven days. Case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management.
Although there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments approved to treat the virus, supportive care '' rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids '' and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. A range of potential treatments, including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies, are being evaluated.
Have new variants changed the risk of getting COVID outdoors?
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:01
Summer in the Bay Area means outdoor parties, weddings and music festivals, where people can worry a little bit less about catching COVID-19. But will fast-spreading offshoots of the omicron coronavirus variant change the equation this year?
The highly infectious and immune-evasive BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of omicron are now the dominant strains in Northern California, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID infections are up across the state as the test-positivity rate nears record levels, meaning the risk is higher in nearly all settings.
''We know they're more transmissible, so the risk is greater inside or outside,'' said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert with UC Berkeley.
Health experts agree that outdoor activities are still much safer than indoors, since viral aerosols don't have a chance to accumulate in the air. But with the most transmissible variants yet, chances are you have less protection in certain situations.
''Being at parks and outdoor sporting events is still what we should turn to,'' said Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford. ''But if you are in a dense crowd or in an outdoor space that has been modified to look like an indoor space, then the risk becomes higher.''
In other words, walking on an isolated hiking trail or a breezy beach is a lot safer than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrants under a tent at a wedding or singing and dancing with fans crammed into an outdoor concert.
Summer means outdoor activities, where the risk of getting coronavirus is supposed to be low. But will new new COVID variants change things? An attendee of Stern Grove Festival's opening concert was one of the few wearing masks for the event at Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove in San Francisco in early June.
Laura Morton/Special to The ChronicleThe omicron sub-lineages are so new that infectious disease experts are still measuring their potential impact, even in outdoor settings.
''The risk outside is going to be substantially less than inside but we don't know if it's changed because we haven't had a lot of experience with BA.4 and BA.5,'' said Swartzberg. ''We're basing our assumptions on BA.1 and BA.2.''
Given the high rate of infection across the Bay Area, there is more virus circulating in the air, so it's better to be cautious in any environment. That means masking, social distancing, and being aware of your surroundings.
''The chances of being around someone outside or inside who is shedding virus is very high,'' said Swartzberg.
Even for those who were recently infected, the new variants don't offer much protection against catching the virus again, according to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert with UCSF.
''The newest kids on the block, BA.4 and BA.5, cause a lot more reinfections,'' he said.
There are certain outdoor situations when you should even consider wearing a mask.
''If I was crowded together with other people where I couldn't keep my distance, or if somebody near me was talking loudly or singing, I would just carry a mask with me and put it on if I feel uncomfortable,'' said Swartzberg.
Wedding receptions and concerts are some examples of high-risk environments where you would likely slip on a high-quality mask, such as an KN95 or KF94, especially if you need to go inside to use the restroom or pick up drinks from the bar.
''These are really transmissible variants. It doesn't take much time to pick up the virus,'' Liu said.
Some people wear masks as Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd read ''You Are Not Alone'' on stage during the Bay Area Book Festival at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley in May.
Brian Feulner/Special to the ChronicleSo far, the CDC guidance for outdoor masking is unchanged: People generally don't need masks outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. However, face masks are recommended in areas of high transmission for individuals not fully vaccinated in a crowded outdoor setting, or in situations with sustained close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
Testing is also an effective tool in helping catch potential infections when large groups of people gather, especially if attendees are traveling from different locations.
Keep in mind that BA.4 and BA.5 are taking longer to detect than previous strains of the virus, so anyone showing symptoms should stay at home and isolate. Swartzberg said it is not unusual to see tests with negative results up to three days after people become infected.
''If I was having a party outside, I would ask everybody to do a rapid test recognizing that it's not going to be foolproof but might pick up a few positive cases,'' he said. ''If you wanted to add a layer of protection, you would ask people to do a PCR test the day before. We're now getting results back for those within 24 hours.''
People should also test if they plan on spending any time inside.
''Outdoor activities are often associated with indoor activities,'' said Liu. ''Any time people are staying in close quarters, like an Airbnb, it is advisable to do testing. The antigen testing has proven to help detect the presence of infection even if doesn't completely rule it out.''
Aidin Vaziri (he/him) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com
CONFLICTED MUCH? '' World Economic Forum 'Anti-Corruption' Champion Is Pfizer Director AND Reuters CEO.
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:01
Jim Smith '' whose concurrent roles as a Pfizer board member and Reuters CEO appear to pose a conflict of interest '' serves as a board member of the World Economic Forum's anti-corruption initiative.
Smith's leading role with the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Partnering Against Corruption Initiative follows controversy over his position at the pharmaceutical giant and mainstream media outlet, which frequently reports on Pfizer. Reuters has published tens of thousands of articles covering or mentioning Pfizer, though the articles never disclose Smith's affiliation with either entity.
Smith serves on the board of the WEF's Partnering Against Corruption Initiative, dubbed the ''leading business voice on anti-corruption and transparency.''
''It is one of the Forum's strongest cross-industry collaborative efforts and is creating a highly visible, agenda-setting platform by working with business leaders, international organizations and governments to address corruption, transparency and emerging-market risks,'' explains a WEF synopsis.
In this role, Smith has contributed articles to the WEF website, including a 2017 piece: ''Corruption and the Erosion of Trust.''
''Today's common struggle against corruption goes far beyond compliance. More problematic is the profound and worsening trust deficit that exists between institutions and individuals,'' Smith begins before lamenting the public's loss of trust in mainstream media outlets:
''The widespread perception that institutions'--both public and private'--are not acting in the interests of the people they serve pervades the thinking of communities across the globe. News organizations, which have historically served as the watchdog for governments and business leaders, are less trusted by the public than ever before.''
''Public confidence has been corroded by a concentration on near-term priorities and payoffs, propelled by election-cycle politics or quarterly results targets that too often leave children worse off than their parents,'' laments Smith.
The article, however, comes amidst the Federal Drug Administration and Pfizer attempting to delay the release of documents related to the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine.
The WEF has been accused of exploiting COVID-19 to advance its ''Great Reset'' agenda to advance its radical agenda of abolishing private property ownership.
You can read more about the World Economic Forum at www.TakeDownTheWEF.com
Biden's claim a 10-year-old girl was forced to travel to get an abortion is called into question | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:58
President Joe Biden's claim that a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion after last month's Roe Vs. Wade ruling has come into question, after a Washington Post fact-checker found the story to be largely unsubstantiated.
It has also emerged that the doctor who first shared the story with an Indiana-based news outlet is a prominent abortion advocate - placing further doubt on its credibility.
The one-source story was provided to an Indiana news outlet by Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard last week. She claimed a child abuse doctor in Ohio contacted her about the case seeking aid from the doctor.
The account asserts the unnamed girl, who lives in Ohio, was forced to seek an abortion in Indiana after her home state banned abortion under its trigger law after Roe v Wade was overturned.
The dramatic anecdote has been widely shared since - primarily as a talking point by the left to lambaste last month's ruling.
On Friday, the president himself referenced the story, using it to help push an executive order that would protect abortions in the wake of the decision - spurring the Post journalist to eventually weigh in.
On Friday, the president himself referenced the story, using it to help push an executive order that would protect abortions in the wake of the decision - spurring the Post journalist to eventually weigh in
'This isn't some imagined horror,' Biden said. 'It is already happening. Just last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim - 10 years old - and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.'
Biden, 79, raised his voice as he recounted the story, grasping the podium with both hands as he railed about the trauma the girl would have faced, and the presumed unfairness of the situation.
'Imagine being that little girl,' he added, in another appeal to the crowd. 'Just imagine being that little girl. Ten years old!'
The account was given by Bernard to the Indianapolis Star on July 1 - but has since been called into question by a flood of critics who have deemed the claims as dubious.
The one-source story was provided to an Indiana news outlet by Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who said a child abuse doctor in Ohio contacted her about the case seeking aid from the doctor. She has since declined to provide more details about the story
Detractors cite how Bernard did not name the doctor who contacted her about the incident, nor the city where the child was located, while others pointed out that Bernard is a prominent abortion advocate, citing a slew of posts on her social media.
On Saturday, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler threw further cold water on the claims after watching the president's speech, calling the story 'very difficult' to verify.
' This is the account of a one-source story that quickly went viral around the world '-- and into the talking points of the president,' Kessler - usually a proponent for the president - wrote of his doubt's over the tale's certainty.
Kessler began writing, 'The Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a right to abortion, has led a number of states to quickly impose new laws to restrict or limit abortions.
'Ohio was one of the first, imposing a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest,' he went on, reiterating claims in the article, which was titled, 'Patients head to Indiana for abortion services as other states restrict care.'
Kessler noted how Bernard was the only source for the story - and revealed the OBGYN declined to provide details to the Post about the location of the alleged rape, or whether it was being investigated by authorities.
Bernard's account, given to the Indianapolis Star days after last month's Supreme Court ruling, asserts the unnamed girl was forced to seek an abortion in Indiana after her home state of Ohio barred abortion following the decision
'The only source cited for the anecdote was Bernard. She's on the record, but there is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account.'
Kessler then mentioned how that one claim from Bernard soon went viral, making its way into headlines of publications all over the world - with other outlets in the process failing to investigate the doctor's claims.
'The story quickly caught fire, becoming a headline in newspapers around the world. News organizations increasingly 'aggregate' - or repackage - reporting from elsewhere if it appears of interest to readers. So Bernard remained the only source.'
He added that when asked to verify her reporting, the story's author, Shari Rudavksy, 'did not respond.'
The paper's executive editor, meanwhile, Bo Krift, defended the piece, but provided no facts or sourcing to support his or Bernard's claims.
'The facts and sourcing about people crossing state lines into Indiana, including the 10-year-old girl, for abortions are clear,' Krift reportedly wrote. 'We have no additional comment at this time.'
It has since emerged that Bernard is a prominent abortion advocate, with several posts on her social media showing her support for the cause. She has refused to provide any details to the press that would substantiate her claims regarding the 10-year-old rape victim
Bernard, meanwhile, declined to identify to Kessler the name of her colleague or the city where the rape transpired.
Bernard wrote in an email: 'Thank you for reaching out. I'm sorry, but I don't have any information to share.'
The fact-checking website Snopes.com earlier this week said Bernard had refused to provide further information about the incident to the outlet as well.
DailyMail.com reached out to Bernard's office Saturday, but did not receive a response.
By law, both physicians and reporters are mandated to disclose evidence of child abuse to police - however, in the days since, no arrests in such a case have been reported.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's office said this week that it was 'unaware of any specific case' that met the claims' criteria.
President Biden signs an executive order protecting access to reproductive health services on July 8. The president - like many other pro-abortion advocates - used the anecdote to push his political stance on the issue
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has since refused to say if Biden had confirmed that local law enforcement was seeking the child's attacker, while seeming conceding the president used the anecdote to push a political agenda.
'The President spoke to that -a young woman -just to show how extreme the decision on... the Dobbs decision was, and just how extreme it is now for American public, the American families,' Jean-Pierre said at daily press briefing Friday.
Kessler concluded his report on the story by giving his 'Bottom Line,' in which he said the case would be impossible to substantiate until more information is provided.
'This is a very difficult story to check,' the fact-checker wrote. 'Bernard is on the record, but obtaining documents or other confirmation is all but impossible without details that would identify the locality where the rape occurred.'
He added that in the absence of the charge, US citizens should take Bernard's claims with a grain of salt.
'With news reports around the globe and now a presidential imprimatur, however, the story has acquired the status of a 'fact' no matter its provenance,' he wrote, adding, 'If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding.'
Since the Supreme Court's ruling two weeks ago, Biden has been under pressure to take executive action and faced criticism from some in his own party for not acting with more urgency.
The administration also is continuing to push Congress to codify Roe into federal law.
Biden, last week, called for the Senate to overturn the use of the filibuster to help codify abortion rights.
The White House previously ruled out giving women access to abortion on federal lands, saying it would have 'dangerous ramifications.'
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, many states tamped down on access to abortion services and, in some cases, to emergency contraception.
In a nod to the legal battles expected to come, Biden will also direct the attorney general and the White House counsel to convene private pro bono attorneys, bar associations, and public interest groups to help with legal representation.
'Such representation could include protecting the right to travel out of state to seek medical care,' the White House noted in a fact sheet on the order.
Abortion rights activists, dressed in an outfits from The Handmaid's Tale, lead protestors during a march in Denver, Colorado - protests sprang up around the nation after the Supreme Court ruling
Abortion is expected to be a huge issue in the upcoming midterm election.
And states are expected to be the major legal battle ground.
Biden met with Democratic governors at the White House last week to talk about efforts to protect reproductive rights.
Many of them have already taken action.
The Democratic governors of Colorado and North Carolina have issued executive orders to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to home states that have banned the practice.
And the governors of Rhode Island and Maine have signed executive orders stating that they will not cooperate with other states' investigations into people who seek abortions or health care providers that perform them.
CTF report warns Bill C-11 censorship might lead Canada to become 'like China and North Korea' | News | westernstandard.news
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:57
A Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) report outlines the dangers of internet-regulating Bill C-11 in Canada and the lack of government accountability that would come along with it, according to a CTF press release Monday.
The new June report from the CTF, titled Bill C-11 a Fatally Flawed Gateway to Government Censorship, comes from the CTF Ontario Director Jay Goldberg with advice and input from Dr. Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa.
''Bill C-11 undermines Canadians' right to express themselves and watch what they want online and that makes it harder to hold the government to account,'' said CTF Ontario Director Jay Goldberg in a press release.
''The government is trying to ram through this dangerous legislation without proper debate or real consideration of the major accountability concerns associated with this bill.''
Bill C-11 would give controlling power over to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to regulate information that is appropriate for Canadian audiences.
Contrary to government claims, the bill hands the CRTC power to regulate user-generated content online, ranging from TikTok videos to YouTube posts, according to the CTF.
''The government has consistently claimed that user-generated content will not be regulated under Bill C-11, but the text of the bill and the chair of the CRTC both say otherwise,'' said Goldberg.
''Bill C-11 will hand unelected bureaucrats the power to influence what we say and see online, including on social media.''
Goldberg explains in the report how Bill C-11 does not include specific boundaries for the power it bestows, meaning limits on the powers are not outlined.
"No other democratic nation regulates user-generated content through broadcasting rules in this manner," said the report.
"Canada would be unique among allies in doing so, and not in a good way. Twitter, for example, has likened parts of the government's regulatory agenda with approaches taken in authoritarian nations like China and North Korea."
The report says the government's rules could lead to Canadian content being deprioritized or even blocked abroad, meaning digital creators would lose out on the global scene.
''The Trudeau government says the CRTC will only have the power to filter and prioritize what we see online based on whether the content qualifies as Canadian, but that opens a Pandora's box,'' said Goldberg.
''These powers could easily be repurposed in the future for other means, including quieting the government's critics.''
VT Nuclear Education: Khalezov, Victor Bout, 9/11 and Justice '' Veterans Today | Military Foreign Affairs Policy Journal for Clandestine Services
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:49
I used to always postpone writing this Chapter, because the extradition case against Victor Bout (who is my personal friend, after all) was still with the criminal court here in Bangkok, and I did not want to jeopardize Victor's position in the court of law by publishing such a thing.mega millionsBut since he finally lost the case in the Appeals' court and is now in New York, there is nothing to lose anymore. I did not have enough time to finalize this Chapter, but since I was in a hurry to publish the new edition of my free book I have got a compromise idea. Instead of writing this Chapter, I place here my recent interview regarding Victor Bout which I gave to another friend of mine '' brave investigating journalist Daniel Estulin, well known for his anti-NWO works and particularly for his bestselling books ''The True Story of the Bilderberg Group'' and ''The Shadow Masters.''
Dimitri Khalezov is a former Soviet commissioned officer of the ''military unit 46179'', otherwise known as ''the Special Control Service'' of the 12thChief Directorate of the Defense Ministry of the Soviet Union. He has agreed to this exclusive interview.
Dimitri is a crucial piece of the puzzle in the case of Victor Bout. It is safe to say that had it not been for Dimitri´s dedication to helping Mr. Bout, his incorruptibility and brilliance, Victor, might very well have found himself today behind bars in some high-profile American prison.Dimitri is the first man to see Mr. Bout after his world famous arrest in Bangkok and he is the man who has given more headaches to the United States government than anyone else in the world.
Furthermore, Dimitri Khalezov is the first person in the world to have uncovered the true reasons for the United States government's dogged pursuit of Victor Bout. Mr. Bout´s arrest is directly linked to 9/11, and Mr. Khalezov, because of his unique vantage point as a former member of the Soviet ''atomic'' and later ''nuclear'' intelligence says that he knew about the in-built so-called ''emergency nuclear demolitions scheme'' of the Twin Towers as long back as early 1980´s, while serving in the Soviet Special Control Service.
How did you get involved in the case? Both Victor Bout and I are Russian. We are both former Soviet military officers. Moreover, we actually come from the same village. I think, these are good enough reason to try and help him with his case, considering that Victor was arrested in Bangkok and I happened to have been living in Bangkok at the time of his arrest.
Furthermore, I have extensive experience with the Thai legal system, especially when you consider that the United States government has tried to have me arrested and extradited to America too in connection with 9/11. It happened back in 2003. So, I have enough motivation to try to help Victor.In March 2008, Victor Bout was Osama bin Laden´s equal as far as notoriety on the world´s stage.
How did you manage to see Victor Bout on the very first day of his detention in Bangkok? Under the Thai Criminal Procedure any person under arrest has his or her undeniable right to be visited by friends while under arrest. Victor Bout, despite being the so-called ''Merchant of Death'' and the so-called ''Lord of War'', was not excluded from the provisions of the Thai Criminal Procedure Code. I simply came to the police station where he was detained and requested to visit my friend. They had to let me see him as much as it might have pained them. In fact, the police went out of their way to help.
They seated both of us on a sofa in the corridor and let us chat nicely. Usually they only allow visitors to talk to detained persons through bars of a detention cage, but for Victor and me they made an exception to this rule.Is there a link between your case, 9-11 and Victor Bout? Apparently yes. I was wanted by the United States allegedly in connection with 9/11, and with the 2002 Bali bombing (which was a mini-nuke bombing), while Victor Bout is apparently wanted by the Americans in connection with 9/11 and in connection with the 2003 El-Nogal bombing. Incidentally, El-Nogal is known to have been a mini-nuke bombing '' at least known to appropriate security officials. As you can see there are a lot of similarities.Melted car, an unmistakable sign of a nuclear explosion
: the author of these lines with Victor's wife Alla and Victor's Thai lawyer '' Mr. Lak NittiwatwicharnWho are the main players: US and Bout's camp?
It might appear that a certain alleged 'Bout camp' exists, it is a totally false impression. The so-called 'Bout camp' consists of Victor Bout, his wife, his brother, his mother, his daughter, me (Dimitri Khalezov), a couple of Victor's personal friends from the Soviet Union, his Thai lawyer '' Mr. Lak Nittiwatvicharn, his Russian lawyer, of course, Daniel Estulin, and, perhaps, a few journalists who came to know Victor and his family during their investigation of the case. If you can call this rag-tag army ''Bout´s camp'', then yes, there are two main players '' ''Bout's camp'' and the US camp. Aside from the US government, however, there are quite a few other powerful players who have positioned themselves against Victor.
Who are these powerful players and why have we not heard anything about them?
First of all, the Russian Government (at least certain powerful individuals within the Russian Government), and the Russian secret service.
What? Are you serious? You have just accused the Russian government of working against Victor Bout when the entire world is convinced that had it not been for Putin and Medvedev, Victor Bout, most likely would have been extradited to the United States a long time ago!
You will not be able to hear anything about them, because they are not so stupid as to show off. They would rather show you something entirely opposite '' that they are allegedly ''helping'' Victor Bout. But make no mistake '' from the very beginning of this unprecedented set-up, the Russian side was heavily involved with the Americans in the entire operation in framing Victor and in luring him to Bangkok. It was conceived and conducted by both '' the Russian and the American secret services working together.
In addition to the Russians, other players were involved as well. Primarily, the Israeli secret services '' the Mossad and Sayaret Matkal. They have keen interest in this case, too. It was demonstrated by the unprecedented Sayaret Matkal's involvement in the case of one of the FARC leaders '' Raul Reyes and ''his'' weapon-grade Uranium that was planted by ''someone'' around his camp in the Ecuadorian jungle.
Don't miss this point '' Raul Reyes was murdered on March 1, 2008, while Victor Bout was scheduled to be lured to Bangkok on March 4,2008, indirect connection with the FARC and Uranium affairs, while all legal paperwork that requested the Thais to arrest him has been submitted to the Thai side by the Americans in the last day of February '' that is BEFORE the murder of Raul Reyes.
And, please, note that it was the Israeli Sayaret Matkal (a highly tailored organization that deals exclusively with nuclear weapons of enemies and with nothing else but that) involved in the actual murder of Reyes and in the ''discovery'' of ''his'' Uranium. Don't miss to notice also that Victor Bout arrived in Bangkok not alone, but in a strange company of his alleged ''friend'' '' a certain colonel from the Russian FSB, who was initially arrested with Victor and then strangely released and sent back to Moscow on the first available flight.
To understand how improbable it is, try to imagine the following situation. Let´s say that a certain secret service (the French, for example) arranged to lure Osama bin Laden to Paris, promising the Saudi terrorist that he will meet in Paris with his Muslim brothers and in the meeting they will discuss how to demolish the Eiffel Tower with a stolen Soviet mini-nuke. But Osama bin Laden arrives to the meeting in Paris not alone, but accompanied by a certain colonel from the Taliban counter-intelligence service who decided to travel together with Osama just for the occasion '' to have a chance to see the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower (before it is nuked).
The French secret service arrests both '' Osama bin Laden and the colonel from the Taliban. Except that the French realize that the one they want is Osama bin Laden, and not the colonel from the Taliban's counter-intelligence who indeed came to Paris to see its attractions and who simply kept his friend Osama bin Laden company on the flight to France´s capital. So, the French police decide to release the colonel and send him back to Kabul on the next available flight, detaining only Osama bin Laden, because ONLY he was the target of their sting-operation. Does this version sound believable to you? Just as ''believable'' sounds the explanation why the Thai police and the U.S. DEA so quickly released Victor Bout's casual companion '' the FSB colonel '' who strangely arrived with the infamous ''Merchant of Death'' and ''Lord of War'' on the same plane and in the same taxi and checked into the same hotel, but in reality did not want to help the latter to sell ''portable anti-aircraft missiles'' to the blood-thirsty narco-dealers from FARC '' he only wanted to see Bangkok and to have a chance to try the famous Thai massage.
Of course, this FSB colonel arrived to Bangkok by ''mistake'', so this ''mistake'' was promptly corrected by the honorable and honest Thai police who quickly realized that the friend of the ''Merchant of Death'' was innocent and sent him back home immediately. Do you believe this nonsense? I don´t. At least four countries were heavily involved in Victor Bout´s frame up: Russia, United States, Israel and Thailand. There is plausible evidence that other nations were involved in this disgusting frame-up, but involved to a lesser extent than the abovementioned four. It appears that the Danes, the Dutch and the Romanians were involved too; at least, it appears so from the legal paperwork available in Victor's case-file at the Thai Criminal Court.
The entire world has the impression that the Russian government and Russian Embassy in Thailand have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help Mr. Bout? In fact, the United States government has bitterly complained publicly about the apparent behind-the-scenes pressure Putin and Company are allegedly applying on the Thais to release Mr. Bout.
Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest mistakes to think that the Russian Government is allegedly involved in Victor Bout's extradition case in the Thai court on the side of Victor. Indeed, the ''official line'' in many hysterical publications in the Western and even in the Russian press imply that the Russian officialdom is allegedly ''trying hard to help Victor'' as Victor could, allegedly, implicate ''certain Russian politicians'' in some alleged ''wrongdoings''.
This impression is somehow supported by the fact that Russian Embassy officials regularly attended Thai court during Victor's extradition case hearings, and also as a result of a number of statements coming from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But this leaves one with a false impression. Russian Embassy officials visiting Victor Bout and attending court hearings are nothing but a regular consular assistance to a Russian citizen; be it to a citizen named Victor Bout or an unknown Sergei Ivanov.
That said, I can assure you that even though the Russian Consul attended every court hearing, the Thai judges were not ''pressured'' by the Russian delegation. It is normal for consuls to attend hearings of foreign defendants and the judges are used to it. So by no means the fact that the Russian Consul has diligently performed his duties could be considered as a kind of an ''extrajudicial assistance'' to the Defendant Victor Bout in the courtroom.
When it comes to the apparent statements of unflagging support made by the Russian Foreign Ministry they should not mislead you either into believing that the Russian officials are allegedly ''helping Victor Bout''. They were not and are not helping him at all, but are rather doing their best to harm his position in the Thai court. It sounds strange to a lay Westerner, but you have to understand some peculiarities when it comes to the Russians.
First of all, besides Putin, Medvedev and Co., there are other political powers in Russia '' so-called ''patriots'' led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, for example, or ''communists'', just to mention a few. Some of the ''old Russians'' sincerely believe that the United States government must not be allowed to arrest a Russian citizen abroad, especially in a third country. Because if allowed to do so with impunity, it will set a dangerous precedent. Today they dare to frame and arrest an alleged ''Merchant of Death'' who knows no government secrets. But tomorrow, they might arrest a real colonel from the Russian Strategic Missile Forces who decided to spend his holidays in Thailand. The United States government can accuse this colonel of ''planning to annihilate the United States as an entity with a massive thermo-nuclear strike'' and to demand his extradition to America. What´s more, such a hypothetical accusation would in fact be correct '' because such a colonel could indeed plan to annihilate the US due to his service duties.
Please understand, a great majority of Russian citizens as well as Russian Armed Forces, are extremely unhappy that the United States can arrogantly claim their alleged jurisdiction over territories that are not part of the United States and they are especially annoyed when such bullying directly affects Russian citizens. Medvedev, Putin and Company are aware of this and they have to take it into account when making their public statements.
Hence the public pledges of support from the Russian Foreign Ministry which sound like they really care about Victor Bout and his case in Thailand. But nobody should be fooled by these tearful pledges of support. They are nothing but a publicity stunt.
In reality, they are no more harmful to the Americans and their cause than barking of stray dogs around the Criminal Court in Bangkok. All these actions of the Russian Foreign Ministry are merely intended to appease Russian population by creating an impression that the Russian Government allegedly ''works for Russia'' and still ''constitutes a challenge to the US hegemony in the world''. However, neither of these is true in reality. Moreover, if the Russian Government did nothing at all to help Victor Bout fight his extradition case in the Thai courts, he would have had a much better chance at winning his case.
Does the United States want Victor Bout for being an arms merchant as he is portrayed by the UN and US journalist Douglas Farah or is there more to his case?
In reality, Victor Bout is not wanted for being an alleged ''arms merchant'' as he is portrayed and as he is perceived by the people who put more stock into a newspaper article than they do into facts. If Victor was really wanted for what you suggested, then the Americans would not wait until March 2008 to arrest him '' they would have initiated criminal proceedings against Victor Bout back in the '90s, or, at the latest, at the very beginning of the new millennium. The problem is, Victor is NOT wanted for being the ''arms merchant'', at least in the sense he is portrayed in the infamous movie or described in the irresponsible UN report by a former United Nations weapons inspector, Johan Peleman. Victor is wanted for something totally different, but, perhaps, we will discuss that further in more detail.
How strong of a case does the United States government have?
From the judicial point of view, US government's case is very weak and Victor could easily have won it. Can you imagine that the accusers (US government) failed to bring to the Thai court even a single ''portable anti-aircraft missile'' that Victor was alleged to have been illegally selling to ''the highest bidder''? But the main problem was that the Russian Government and the Russian secret service did their best to harm Victor's position in the Thai court, to force him to defend himself in the wrong way from the judicial point of view, to make false promises that would dull his vigilance, and, moreover, to deprive Victor of funds, so that he would have simply no money to conduct his defense in the Thai court in an effective manner.
If the Russian Government were indeed concerned about Victor's defense as believed by most people, then it would have at the very least subsidize his legal expenses. It would be normal to expect for the Russian Government to at least provide the best legal experts from the Russian side free of charge and contribute a couple of millions US dollars to cover the legal expenses on the Thai side.
At least, it is logical to expect it. What is the two million US dollars for the government of a country with over 150 millions populations that sells gas and oil and brandishes nuclear weapons capable of destroying the Earth a hundred times over? Such petty cash is a small price to pay for Mother Russia to defend its famous citizen in such a notorious case, isn't it?
But in reality not only the Russian Government did not pay anything either openly or covertly (in disguise through a ''private donation'') to Victor Bout and his family; the Russian secret service did their best to force Victor's brother and Victor's wife into absolutely unnecessary expenses that drove them into total bankruptcy.
Instead of helping them financially, the Russian Government indeed sucked out their last savings. If you also add that it was the Russian officials who advised Victor to conduct his defense in the Thai court in the most wrongful manner and if you add that one of Victor's lawyer '' a proven shill for the American DEA '' was also recommended by the Russian officials, you will understand the travesty and injustice and treason involved. Let me say it again, the Russian Government, from the very beginning was secretly, but very efficiently working with the Americans to get Victor Bout to the United States to stand trial, and at the same time, to create an impression that Russia is still ''great'' and could still ''defend its citizens''.
Let´s go over the basic facts of the case. First of all, the Russian secret service managed to convince Victor and his wife Alla, not to conduct the defense in the Thai court by proving the fact that there were no actual portable anti-aircraft missiles available to be sold to the FARC. Solely based on this evidence alone, the case should have been dismissed. The Russian officials proposed, instead, to conduct the defense by proving to the Thai court that the case was allegedly ''political'', because the FARC is a political organization, the Communist party.
This was a suicidal method of defense if looking at the case through the eyes of a professional lawyer. By proving that the case was ''political'' Victor automatically proved that he agreed with the existence of the actual ''case'', that is missiles and such. This case could have been easily won by proving that there were ''no case at all'' and as such a non-existent ''case'' can not be ''political'' because there was nothing to be ''political''.
Instead, Victor and his wife agreed with the proposal of the Russian officials and limited the defense in the Thai court by claiming that the case of dealing with the FARC was ''political'' without challenging the actual ''case'' whatsoever. The most important point of the entire case '' that there was not even a single alleged ''portable anti-aircraft missile'' captured '' was not voiced in the court-room.
And no questions have been asked by Victor's lawyer from the witnesses of the prosecution as to WHY the arresters failed to go after the alleged ''missiles'' in order to seize them and to deprive the so-called ''Merchant of Death'' of his deadly arsenal. Therefore, from the way Victor´s lawyer conducted the actual defense, it appeared to the judges that Victor was indeed selling the missiles, but the matter to consider was only if the FARC was a terrorist organization (as claimed by the Americans) or a political one (as claimed by Victor).
As you may expect, the court eventually disagreed with such an interpretation and ruled that the case was NOT political, while Victor and his then lawyer (who was a shill for the Americans) did absolutely nothing to prove to the court that there were no case, no missiles, and no FARC '' instead of proving that so-called ''FARC'' was represented by the US citizens while the ''missiles'' was merely a product of their sick imagination and existed only in their bogus paperwork, Victor and his then lawyer managed to prove by default that the actual accusations of the Americans had some grounds.
Secondly, the Russian secret service promised Victor and his wife that if Victor conducted his defense in the Thai court in the abovementioned manner (by proving that the case was ''political'' without challenging the actual claims and the total absence of any evidence of the Americans) then the Russian Government would guarantee that Victor would win the case. As you may expect this promise and this ''guarantee'' was just a cheap ploy invented by the Russian secret service in order to blunt his vigilance and to ensure that Victor would lose his case in the Thai court despite total absence of the alleged missiles and despite an absolute presence of abundant evidence that the entire ''case'' was merely a frame-up by the American DEA.
Furthermore, Victor's wife, at my insistence made a very efficient complaint against her husband's illegal detention (because the actual detention of Victor was indeed illegal due to technicalities and during the entire extradition hearings in the Thai court Victor must have been freed, and not behind bars). Submission of such a complaint by Victor's wife caught all Victor's enemies '' the Thais, the Russians and the Americans '' virtually with their pants down.
The problem was that the detention of Victor was indeed technically illegal and he must have been released immediately '' the technicalities of the illegality of the detention were obvious, if not to say self-evident, and were presented in the written complaint byAlla Boutin such a clear manner that they could not have been challenged even by the best lawyers in the world. The only way left to the judges was to consider the case and to rule to release Victor Bout from unlawful custody and to continue the extradition hearings with him released from prison. Apparently, it was not an option for the Russians, Americans and Thais who worked too hard to get Victor arrested, thrown behind bars, and deprived of any income.
But what could they do in this situation? Unfortunately, they found a way out: the ''trusted guys'' from the Russian secret service approached Victor's wife and convinced her to voluntarily withdraw her complaint against her husband´s illegal detention (claiming that it puts the Thai court in a difficult position and the court does not like this at all '' which was indeed true) in exchange for the deal: once the complaint is withdrawn, the ''grateful'' Thai court would immediately rule to release Victor on bail '' as a kind of a ''settlement'' that allows everyone ''to save face''.
Victor and his wife again put their faith in the Russian government and agreed to withdraw the complaint. Except that the ''grateful'' Thai court never released Victor on bail as promised. This is just another example of how the Russian officials actually ''helped'' Victor Bout. The list of their ''help'' is very long, but I don't want to make it too long and too boring. I would mention that on the recommendation of the Russian secret service, Victor's brother has paid U.S. $120,000 for Victor's bail, but the money was stolen, the bail has never been granted and the money was never returned. Again, on the recommendation of the Russian secret service, Victor's brother paid $250,000 dollars allegedly for an ''out of court settlement'' whereas Victor would be released before conclusion of the case. According to the promise of the Russian officials, if the 250 thousand USD were paid, Victor Bout will be freed by May 1, 2008. The money was paid as demanded, but nothing happened in the Thai court '' the case just continued and nobody bothered to return the money or take responsibility for the false promise.
As a result of this despicable behavior on the part of the Russian officials, ''Victor Bout's camp'' as you call it, ran out of money to such an extent that when it became necessary to translate several important court documents from Thai to English in order to understand what the Thai witnesses said in court, Victor could not afford to pay the 2,000 USD for the translation and till today, some of the important papers from the case-file remain only in Thai language. I hope this is more than enough to establish how the Russian Government is actually ''helping'' Victor Bout to lose his extradition case in the Thai court.
Then, why is the Russian government working against Victor Bout?
Because of the Russian, to be more exact the Soviet-made missile that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.
What? I think you better explain that and, please go slowly.
The Americans, understandably, demand from the Russians to find a fall guy or a patsy (or a group of fall guys) who is/are responsible for the missile that was found in the middle of the Pentagon. Considering that the missile was actually nuclear-tipped (with a half-megaton thermo-nuclear warhead that is more than 25 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb) you can imagine that the Americans are quite insistent with their demands to the Russians to find, at last, the culprit and to surrender him to the US Justice.
The Pentagon immediately after being hit by the cruise missile before it wall was collapsed and before lampposts were toppled to imitate ''plane's wings''.It is indeed serious. But when it comes to the Russians, they can not admit the truth '' that the ''Granit'' missile with its thermo-nuclear warhead was stolen from the sunken ''Kursk'' submarine, because Putin back in 2000 solemnly declared to the world that there were no nuclear weapons on board of the sunken submarine.
What is a ''Granit''?
The P-700 ''Granit'' missile (also known by its NATO classification as ''Shipwreck'' or ''SS-N-19''- where ''N'' apparently stands for ''Navy'') is the most advanced Soviet-era Navy missile. It is intended to be fired from submarines in submerged position and is primarily intended to destroy the US aircraft-carrier battle-groups. This is a highly sophisticated and highly ''intelligent'' missile.
The ''Granit'' missiles could be used to strike battle-groups and other ship orders while fired in swarms of 12 missiles in one salvo, but could be as well used in single shots '' fired against single naval targets, as well as against stationary ground targets (as was demonstrated in the case of the Pentagon strike on 9/11). Each ''Granit'' missile weighs about 7 tons, has length of about10 meters, could fly up to 625 kmat the supersonic speed at 2.5 Mach. Each missile is typically equipped with a standard ''Navy-type'' 500 kiloton thermo-nuclear warhead; conventional warheads for this missile even though exist in theory, are never used in reality '' so that all without any exception ''Granit'' missiles in service are nuclear-tipped.
Granit Missile on Display at the FactoryThis missile deems to be totally indestructible, because NATO lacks any means to shot down this missile even if they detect it in advance. In fact, it was demonstrated in the case of the Pentagon attack on 9/11 '' NORAD managed to detect the upcoming ''Granit'' missile at least 6 minutes before it struck the Pentagon. NORAD's operational officers managed to ring the atomic alert, scramble the so-called ''Doomsday plane'' in response, but were not able to prevent the actual strike '' the missile managed to successfully approach Washington DC and hit the wall of the Pentagon despite being detected by NORAD 6 minutes in advance. Make you own conclusions '' as to the danger of this weapon.
I would also like to note, that according to the Soviet and Russian strategic plans, the submarines armed with the ''Granite'' missiles could be used as a ''back-up'' option for the retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States (while the primary role in such a strike belongs to strategic intercontinental- and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, of course).
For the reason of possible usage in the retaliatory strike the ''Granit'' missiles are also designed to produce airbursts above the US cities '' so they are equipped with special non-contact detonators for such reason, in addition to the usual contact detonators. I should mention also that the ''Granit'' missile has a very advanced inertial guidance system that also has a list of pre-loaded most important NATO targets.
While flying above the ocean the ''Granit'' missile will scan and reconnoiter the operational theater and try to distinguish ship orders and especially aircraft-carrier battle-groups and to select the most important targets in the ship orders and to strike them in automated manner. If flying above the territory the missile will reconnoiter it too and will try to detect the most important stationary targets by comparing their coordinates with those pre-loaded in its warhead.
Once encounter such targets the missile's on-board computer will immediately select the most important target by the order of priority and the missile will strike it. So, once the missile was fired towards Washington D.C. it compared the two most important targets '' the White House and the Pentagon and ''preferred'' to strike the latter one as being in its ''opinion'' the more important target. Perhaps I should mention that this is the most heavily armored missile in the world '' it is made from very thick steel and in fact it could be compared with a flying tank or with a giant bullet.
Due to its tremendous speed, weight and strength of its body this missile managed to penetrate six capital walls of the Pentagon building when it struck it on 9/11.
Actual penetration details demonstrated by the missile during the 9/11 Pentagon strike.Ok, please continue.
You have to understand that now Putin can not afford to take his noble presidential words back and to admit that he was outright lying to the world community and that all nuclear missiles from the ''Kursk'' were indeed stolen. Some other solution is badly needed to meet the US demands for the ''culprit'' behind the Pentagon attack. And this ''solution'' was eventually found. The problem is that all ''Granit'' missiles, despite being made in the Soviet days, could only belong to Russia and to no other former Soviet republic.
Can you prove this?
Absolutely. The 'Granit'' is the Navy missile; it is not used by anyone except the Navy. In the Soviet Union there were four Navy fleets '' the Arctic Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, and the Black See Fleet. Out of the four Russia inherited in its entirety the three fleets '' the Arctic, the Baltic, and the Pacific ones. Only the Black See Fleet has been divided between Russia and Ukraine. However, the ''Granit'' missiles were in service only on the Pacific Fleet and on the Arctic Fleet; so such missiles could not have ended up in the hands of Ukrainians, even theoretically.
All the ''Granits'' must have been inherited by Russia alone. However, to shift blame away from Russia for the Pentagon strike, the Russian officials had no chance than to blame that some ''Granit'' missiles were allegedly a part of the Black See Fleet and for sometime they were allegedly in the temporary possession of the Ukrainians during the turmoil caused by the Soviet Union collapse and by the consecutive dividing of its property (nuclear weapons and the Black See Fleet inclusive).
For this reason the Russian secret service concocted a bogus back-dated paper-work which ''revealed'' that one of the heavy cruisers of the Black See Fleet was allegedly scheduled to be re-armed with the ''Granit'' missiles and for that reason in the last years of the Soviet rule several ''Granit'' missiles were allegedly transferred to the Black See Fleet and were kept there and eventually they allegedly ended up with the Ukrainians after the break up of the Soviet Union.
And, from these Ukrainians these ''Granit'' missiles were allegedly ''stolen'' and thus ended up with the terrorists (who eventually fired one of such missiles into the Pentagon on 9/11). This version is ridiculous because even if you imagine that several ''Granit'' missiles were indeed kept in Ukraine, intended for the re-armament of that heavy-cruiser, as claimed, these missiles would never be kept in storage with their nuclear warheads attached. In accordance with the rules, in the Soviet Union, missiles were kept in one place, while the nuclear warheads were kept in another location, moreover, under control of a different department of the military.
Only lay people who know nothing about the Soviet Armed Forces and their rules could believe such a version that it was allegedly possible for the ''reckless Ukrainians'' to lose the missiles and the nuclear warheads at the same time. The missiles with the attached nuclear warheads could only be stolen from one place '' from a submarine in service. However, it seems that some responsible security officials believe (or ''pretend to believe'') this ridiculous version with the ''Ukrainian trail'' which seems to successfully exonerate the Russians.
In this case the Russians are not guilty at all. Some ''bad guys'' who stole the missiles from Ukraine (and not from Russia) are allegedly guilty. Now they need the actual ''bad guys''. Who, do you think, fits the bill? You guessed it, the infamous ''Merchant of Death'' and the ''Lord of War'', thanks to the fact that his personality has been demonized long ago and everyone would easily believe that it was indeed Victor Bout who sells not only weapons, but NUCLEAR and even THERMONUCLEAR weapons to the highest bidder.
That is exactly why the Russians and the Americans got into this seemingly strange agreement '' to frame Victor Bout. It is not so strange in reality, if you try to analyze the actual circumstances '' because both parties badly need to close the Pentagon case and they simply can not find any one better than Victor Bout for the role of the scapegoat who could sell such a missile to the terrorists. There is simply no one else in the world who could fit this role.
Let´s move to Bout´s alleged partner in the FARC deal, Andrew Smulian, who was arrested along with Victor. What happened to him?
The so-called ''co-conspirator Smulian'' was Bout´s former friend and a former business-partner. But in this particular case, Smulian was a ''co-conspirator'' of the DEA agent-provocateurs who framed Victor, rather than a Victor Bout ''co-conspirator''. Unlikely you can be a ''co-conspirator'' to the one who is innocent.
This is a clarification of terminology usage, if you don't mind me being pedantic with such a correction. Andrew Smulian was the one who visited Victor in Moscow several times and presented him with business offers '' particularly, he promised to find good customers for the last plane in Victor´s possession, still parked in UAE and which Victor dreams to get rid of in exchange for badly needed cash. As an aside, keep in mind that Victor was totally broke even before his arrest in Bangkok and to sell his last aircraft was a big deal for him.
Eventually Smulian lured Victor to Bangkok '' to finally negotiate with the prospective buyers. During the negotiations, according to the US government documents presented in his case, Smulian introduced Victor to several people who allegedly looked Latin American and who allegedly spoke Spanish. These people were alleged to be from a Colombian revolutionary organization named FARC '' which is basically a Marxist guerilla movement fighting the capitalist government of Colombia for decades.
The deal to sell the plane was held in the hotel business-center. A few minutes after the meeting began, the Thai police and the American DEA agents from the US local Embassy barged in and arrested everyone '' Victor Bout, his ''friend'' from Moscow (who was found to be an FSB colonel), and Andrew Smulian. Out of the three only Victor was naturally arrested and detained. Victor's FSB colonel friend was immediately released, put on the first available flight and appeared in Moscow the next morning.
Andrew Smulian allegedly escaped (i.e. escaped from the custody of the Thai police) and disappeared. Keep in mind, he allegedly escaped from a locked down hotel guarded by over 150 Thai commandos. Then, without anyone noticing his disappearance, he alleged flagged a taxi to the airport, with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Once at the airport, he allegedly bought a ticket with no money and no passport to the United States, the only country in the world that if arrested, he would be looking at 30 years to life in prison. This is the American version of the events. Mr. Andrew Smulian suddenly ''appeared'' in America and was arrested in New York for being an alleged ''co-conspirator'' of Victor Bout. There is confirmed information that Andrew Smulian has been turned to be a prosecution witness who would testify against his former friend. Smulian is not in jail in America '' he is in a ''protective custody''.
What is your opinion of Bout's two lawyers: Lak and Chamroen?
Lak has been my lawyer for many years and naturally, I know him very well. I am the one who recommended him to Victor for his case in the first place. Lak was introduced to Victor on March 7, 2008 when Victor was first brought to the police station, i.e. before he was first brought to the court. When he was brought to the court Lak was there and the first defense statements '' both spoken and written '' were made by Lak. Lak was also the one who managed to get back Victor's passport and all his personal belongings '' mobile phones and Victor´s personal computer, even though the Americans demanded these items to be transferred to the United States.
Lak managed to make a good deal with the local police to get all of these invaluable items back almost immediately to the United States government's chagrin and disbelief. Later Lak was also working hard on Victor's further defense in the criminal case and also on the extradition case, as well as on Victor's own complaint for illegal detention. However, thanks to clandestine efforts of the Russian secret service, Lak was dismissed from the case and replaced with a new lawyer '' Chamroen.
Chamroen was a shill for the American DEA and was introduced to Victor through a long chain of people who worked for the DEA as unofficial agents. But make no mistake '' Chamroen, being a 100% proven shill for the Americans, was introduced by none other than the Russian secret service officials who were well aware of what they were doing: the Russians who introduced Chamroen to Victor KNEW FOR SURE that he was the American shill and, DESPITE this KNOWLEDGE, they still introduced him to Victor and highly recommended to use his services.
Chamroen was the one who resisted and blocked all positive attempts to defend Victor and who conducted Victor's defense in the extradition case in the most wrongful manner. He managed to make Victor to technically lose a 100% winnable case. In addition, Chamroen did his best to prevent what you called above ''Bout's camp'' from submitting to the Thai court documents that might clarify the ridiculousness of the US charges and to serve as a real defense for Victor.
As you might sincerely expect, Chamroen was not cheap either '' he cost Victor well over 100 thousand US dollars which is an absolutely fabulous amount of money by Thai standards. During the time when lawyer's work was important '' i.e. during the time the court of first instance was hearing witnesses and accepting documents '' the case was under control of Chamroen. I was able to re-introduce Lak back to the case by a strange trick: he was no longer a lawyer of Victor, but a lawyer of Victor's wife Alla, who submitted to the court an additional complaint against the illegal detention of her husband that was joined with the main extradition case.
In this capacity, Lak managed to get back to the case at the last moment; however, it was too late by then '' the case was effectively lost by Chamroen, who intentionally failed to call right witnesses for the defense and who sabotaged cross-questioning of the witnesses of the prosecution. Despite being only Alla's lawyer and not Victor's, Lak, nonetheless, managed to somehow turn this case into something more favorable in the very last moment: instead of making Alla only a witness in the illegal detention's case, he managed to make her the most important witness in the extradition case, despite all efforts of Chamroen to the contrary.
Alla's testimony was probably the most powerful evidence ever added to the extradition case, thanks to Lak. Furthermore, Lak managed to object to the latest set of new ''evidence'' that the Americans attempted to submit to the judge at the last moment, when the hearing of the case was almost over.
The Americans actually submitted the last set of new ''evidence'' under the silent approval of Chamroen, but Lak managed to stand up and loudly voice his objections (despite actually being a lawyer in a different case '' i.e. technically having no right to do so) and thus the most dangerous addition to the case by the Americans was not accepted by the Thai court. So, you can make you own conclusions what is Lak and what is Chamroen.
And eventually when Victor lost the case and was about to be extradited to America, Chamroen simply disappeared and it was Lak who managed to prevent Victor from being immediately extradited to the United States.
Just to clarify, did the jet actually arrive to Bangkok or did it turn back shortly after taking off from the United States?
The actual jet with the armed US court marshals arrived, but, thanks to Lak, went back empty.
What you are saying is absolutely shocking. Not as much for the treason of both the Russian government and Victor´s lawyer, but for the collective stupidity of people involved in the case. Why on Earth didn´t you say something and how is it possible that Victor and his wife didn't realize what was being done to them? I am sorry, but this sounds utterly implausible.
For me it also sounds implausible and I could only wonder how could it happen that way. But, taking into consideration purely psychological aspects of the problem and also the fact that Victor and his wife are not seasoned criminals, but merely innocent people, it could be explained. The problem is that Victor does not know that he is the one who allegedly ''sold'' the missile that hit the Pentagon to the ''terrorists''.
It seems that only now, when he lost the case in the Court of Appeal (as I told him would long time ago), he began to slowly realize what really happened with him and who stood behind the entire affair with this frame-up. But before, he was confident that he was winning the case because his vigilance was effectively lulled by the false promises and by the irresponsible assurances of the Russian officials, which Victor, nonetheless, took seriously. Just imagine yourself in his shoes.
You are behind bars and you are being constantly assured by officials from your country that everything is ''OK'' and everything is ''under control'', moreover, you wife also constantly conveys you similar messages from the Russian officials in Moscow who promise the same things (don't forget that while in MoscowAlla Boutwas always invited by high-ranking government- and secret service officials and the mere fact that such ''big guys'' condescended to talk to her and, moreover, to assure her that everything was allegedly ''under control'' created the desired effect). Just imagine yourself in such a situation: would you doubt when the secret service officials and the government officials promise you all help possible and they promise it on behalf of the president of the state and all of it is being accompanied by corresponding public statements of the Foreign Ministry. Wouldn't such a performance blunt your vigilance too?
Victor and his wife had simply no reason to suspect the Russian officials in any wrongdoing in those days. You must be a cynic to be able to suspect the Russian officials in this situation, but Victor is simply too nice and too innocent for this. Furthermore, the Russians appointed to harm Victor's position in the Thai court were professionals from the secret service and they know their job very well. They know how to make their lies sound plausible and convincing.
It is difficult to deal with this type of the professionals when you yourself are simply an innocent person who has no criminal background, no previous convictions, not even encounters with the legal system prior to this, and no experience with the inner workings of the secret service. When you are an innocent person you simply can´t realize how dirty the actual world of the secret service is. Add here that neither Victor, nor his wife are lawyers and therefore the ridiculous method of defense that the Russian officials enforced on them might look quite ''reasonable'' for them and they failed to notice the dirty game behind it.
You know more about this case than anyone else. USG knows how dangerous you are. So does the Russian government. Have these governments tried to buy your silence or threaten you?
Yes, they have. The Americans on several occasions tried to either threaten me with the prospect of being arrested and charged with something or with some offers of cash. At first, they promised me an undisclosed amount of money if I would help them to get Victor to America by secretly harming his case in the court '' in the same manner Chamroen did. When I refused, they said that they could still pay me for doing nothing, as long as I withdrew from this case, stopped visiting Victor in prison, stopped attending the court hearings and giving Victor and his wife advise. I refused that as well.
But when it comes to the Russian Government, they did not dare to offer me any money or to try to threaten me, because it would be just too dangerous for their own story. Don't forget that while the Americans were open enemies of Victor, the Russians were openly ''Victor's friends'', so while the Americans could afford to offer money or to try to threaten someone who helps Victor and it would look natural, the Russians could not afford doing so, because otherwise they would betray themselves.
The Russians have never showed their dissatisfaction with my activities openly, they rather tried to harm my reputation by spreading vicious rumors about my alleged ''cooperating with the Americans'' and ''Dimitri can not be trusted'' and so on. In fact, these efforts yielded some result in the initial stage of the case '' at one point I noticed that Victor's wife suddenly stopped trusting me, and also as I have said that the Russians managed to get Lak dismissed and replaced with a new lawyer based on the same thing.
How valuable is Victor Bout to the United States?
If you mean that Victor Bout is allegedly ''valuable'' to America as an alleged ''Merchant of Death'' and a ''Lord of War'' you are dead wrong. Many people, who believe Western propaganda, think that Victor Bout is allegedly wanted in America for his involvement with illegal weapons trade as alleged by the Hollywood film, the book, and by hysterical Western publications.
It is not true at all. You have to understand that Victor has never sold any weapons, whether legally or illegally, in Africa, in Asia or anywhere else. In his entire life he has never sold even a single Makarov pistol or a single AK-47, not to mention large quantities of Soviet-made or any other weapons. Yes, on several instances airlines controlled by Victor Bout and by his brother Sergei Bout indeed transported weapons, munitions, and even armed troops, but the problem is that these were NOT THEIR weapons, these were weapons of THEIR CUSTOMERS. Moreover, all of such customers were LEGAL CUSTOMERS.
Wherever Victor's or Serguei's airlines transported weapons or armed troops it was ALWAYS governmental troops and the weapons always belong to the governments! Not once, did Victor Bout´s or his brother Serguei´s aircraft transported weapons of any illegal customers!
But people seem not to realize this obvious fact. Victor Bout can´t be turned into ''an illegal weapons trader'' by the hysterical Western media. Only the court verdict could do this. But not once during all these years has Victor Bout receive a summons to any court of law whereby someone sued him for being an illegal weapons dealer. There was not even a single attempt by any government, or by any public prosecutor, or by UN, or by any other organization, or by even a private individual to sue Victor Bout for his being an alleged ''Merchant of Death''.
Why not, you ask? The answer is very simple: because no solid evidence exists that could be admissible in a court of law. The image of Victor Bout being an alleged ''Merchant of Death'' is based exclusively on the Hollywood movie, on Douglas Farah's book, and on the bogus ''UN report'' concocted by a certain unscrupulous inspector, Johan Peleman.
A number of Mr. Peleman´s former associates are willing to come forward and testify in the court of law that in every UN report, Victor Bout´s name was added to the final version of the report and that his name was absent in every preliminary UN report on arms trafficking. You simply can't sue Victor Bout for being an illegal weapon trader based on the evidence compiled by the shameless Johan Peleman or bring to court the movie ''Lord of War'' as a substitute for the evidence.
That is exactly why the Americans do not want Victor Bout for any illegal weapons trade as appears to many people around the world. If they really wanted him for that they would have done it long time ago. The evidence is simply not there.
The Americans wanted Victor for something else. And for this ''something'' his apparent Hollywood-inspired image of the ''Merchant of Death'' was not enough due to this being legally inadmissible in the American court of law. Certain REAL and PROVABLE charges must have been created in order to get him arrested for real. And the American officials found nothing better than to employ the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) for that reason.
Since the DEA area of operations are drugs and drug dealers, their modus operandi is corresponding '' to plant drugs on a victim and thus, to get the victim arrested. The very same approach was used in Victor Bout's case: the DEA agent-provocateurs created a certain provocation that looked perhaps ''normal'' for a typical drug-policeman, but ridiculous to anyone else. The DEA sent their agent to meet Victor Bout. This agent, turned out to be Bout´s former friend, Andrew Smulian, who offered him a deal.
But, instead of planting drugs on Victor Bout, the DEA planted bogus documents and falsified ''intercepts'' of alleged e-mail exchanges and alleged telephone conversations claiming that Victor Bout allegedly: 1) had in his possession portable anti-aircraft missiles; 2) was willing to sell them to FARC rebels in Columbia; 3) in doing so he was planning of- and willing to participate in murdering (sic) the US citizens/US officials working in Columbia.
Despite the fact that compared to the typical planting of real heroin on their clients the DEA failed to plant any actual anti-aircraft missiles on Victor, this ridiculous case was judged by the DEA superiors to be ''solid'' enough to be brought to court. And only after THIS provocation of the DEA, the US officials dared, at last, to arrest Victor Bout and to pass this matter to the court of law. Before that, they have simply nothing in their hands that would be admissible in the court-room.
Therefore we can not even talk about alleged former ''criminal activities'' of Victor Bout in Africa or elsewhere in connection with his current case in the court. The current case is purely about his alleged attempt to sell the alleged ''portable anti-aircraft missiles'' to FARC in Columbia and nothing else besides that.
This is the official ''open'' part of the story. However, there is also an official but ''secret'' part of the same story. Victor Bout is not really wanted in America for these absurd and non-existent portable anti-aircraft missiles. This ridiculous frame-up could never be successfully won by the US government in the US court. Victor, in reality, is wanted for something far more serious that can not be made public and can not be discussed in the courtroom in any open proceedings.
I mean you can compare it with the case of the infamous nuclear bomber Timothy McVeigh who was openly indicted of using the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD, but in a form of the Ryder truck loaded with cheap fertilizer) against US citizens, but whose case was strangely conducted behind closed doors. The same thing is with Victor Bout's case.
Of course, the US officials and especially those US officials responsible for legal matters are apparently reasonable enough to realize that they would never be able to win the ridiculous case against Victor based on the proceeds of the abovementioned DEA provocation primarily because no actual anti-aircraft missile have ever been found and not even an attempt to find such missiles has been made by the DEA.
Why do you think that is?
Because they knew that the entire story was invented and no missiles would be found anywhere. That is why they did not even attempt to go after the missiles. The real cause of the extradition attempt against Victor Bout is not these non-existent portable anti-aircraft missiles. The real cause is that the US Government in collaboration with the Russian Government secretly blamed an individual named ''Victor Bout'' for selling to the terrorists a Soviet-made ''Granit'' missile that struck the Pentagon on 9/11. And THIS is the real truth behind Victor's case.
And THIS secret part of the case the American legal experts plan to win in the US court behind closed doors. Because it appears that the Russian FSB has secretly concocted some
In addition, Victor is being secretly accused of selling portable nuclear weapons '' known as ''mini-nukes'' or ''suite-case nukes'' to various terrorist organizations, ranging from the Columbian FARC to Osama bin Laden´s Al-Qaeda. Apparently, several recent real and alleged mini-nuclear bombings are secretly being blamed on Victor Bout. The most important of them is the infamous ''El Nogal'' nuclear bombing in Bogot that was presented to the uninitiated as a ''car-bombing'', in which, according to the US security officials, the same type of a mini-nuke was used as in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing.
Dimitri, you are a former nuclear intelligence officer of the 12 Chief Directorate of the Russian armed forces. Public Prosecutor's August 26, 2009 appeal stated that BOUT conspired to provide GUIDED BALLISTIC MISSILES to the FARC. Are they suggesting that BOUT is involved in nuclear terrorism?
Yes. This is just a slip of the tongue. The Freudian syndrome. In the official paperwork of Victor Bout's case in the Thai court, as well as in the official (a/k/a ''public'') part of the US extradition request they do not talk about any ''guided ballistic missile''. They talk about ''portable anti-aircraft missiles'' (that are small enough to be launched from one's shoulder). However, behind closed doors, the US officials tried to convince their Thai colleagues that while the anti-aircraft missiles provocation against Victor Bout was indeed very crude and ridiculous, the real cause of the extradition for which Victor is wanted are far more serious, but, unfortunately, can not be disclosed to the general public or discussed in the court-room in open proceedings.
So, the US officials in order to convince the Thais to accept the extradition case despite total lack of evidence and despite numerous violations of Thai law, had no choice but to reveal the ''awful truth'' to at least some of the Thai officials. Therefore high-ranking Thai police and security officials, as well as a select few amongst Thai public prosecutors, know very well that Victor is wanted not for selling the small portable anti-aircraft missiles, but for selling the cruise missile with an unexploded 500 kiloton thermo-nuclear warhead that hit the Pentagon on 9/11 and narrowly missed incinerating the entire Washington D.C. thanks to its broken detonator.
But since Thailand is a non-missile and non-nuclear state, the Thais don't see much difference between a cruise missile and a ballistic missile, so the public prosecutor mistakenly believed that the Pentagon was hit by a ballistic missile with a thermo-nuclear warhead, while in reality it was hit by a cruise missile with a thermo-nuclear warhead. But it is forgivable for the Thais to make such a mistake, because it is not really a big difference in this sense.
However, there is a big difference when you compare a portable shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile that weighs just a few kilograms with a tens-of-meters-long ballistic missile that weighs many tons. While it is forgivable for a Thai public prosecutor (who is a military officer, by the way) to confuse the first two, considering that he is Thai, it is not forgivable for him (considering that he is a military officer) to mistake the second two with each other.
In the Security Council of Thailand there was a discussion that Bout is being blamed for the entire Pentagon attack on 9/11 '' for both the missile and its thermo-nuclear warhead. Apparently, the public prosecutor picked up this idea from them and as a slip of the tongue, when he composed his appeal, he accidentally mentioned the ''guided ballistic missile'' instead of the ''politically correct'' ''portable anti-aircraft missile(s)''.
To answer the second part of your question '' yes, Victor Bout is apparently wanted for nothing less then NUCLEAR TERRORISM. He is being secretly blamed for at least: 1) selling the Soviet-made ''Granit'' missile with the half-megaton thermo-nuclear warhead to the terrorists who later launched it against the Pentagon on 9/11; 2) selling at least 3 or more Soviet-made mini-nukes known as ''RA-115''and ''RA-116''to terrorists prior to 9/11 (at least so it appears from the ''El-Mundo'' newspaper's article as of 16 of September, 2001, and also from John D. Negroponte's [the former director of the US National Intelligence] official communiqu(C) released right after Victor Bout's arrest in Bangkok in March, 2008 '' available here: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/tnt_03-08.pdf ); and 3) selling of weapon-grade enriched Uranium to terrorists '' as appears from the actual course of actions against the FARC and particularly against Raul Reyes' group in the Ecuadorian jungle only 5 days before Victor was actually lured to Bangkok to be arrested there.
X-55 air-launched sub-sonic cruise missile (AS-15 ''Kent'' in NATO classification).For our readers' benefit, can you explain the difference between ballistic missile with the thermo-nuclear warhead and cruise missile with the thermo-nuclear warhead.
A ballistic missile is launched vertically and it travels with speeds comparable to the first cosmic velocity well above the Earth atmosphere on a ballistic trajectory '' meaning its engines bring the ballistic missile into what we call ''space'' and then its warhead falls towards its target from space in the same manner as would a meteorite. You can roughly compare a trajectory of a ballistic missile with a trajectory of a football when a goalkeeper strikes it from his area into the other half of the football pitch.
A cruise missile is much slower when compared to the ballistic missile '' its speed is just sub-sonic or slightly super-sonic and a missile travels to its target (and delivers its warhead to it) in the atmosphere '' in the same manner as would do a typical jet-fighter. In the case of particularly the ''Granit'' missile which is very expensive and very advanced, its speed is about 2.5 Mach while traveling in the cruise altitude and it is decreased to only 1.5 Mach when the missile descends and sets itself to the final path of attack '' that is parallel to the ground (exactly as it was demonstrated in the actual 9/11 Pentagon strike). But when it comes to the actual thermo-nuclear warhead there is no difference.
You will not feel any difference when a half-megaton thermo-nuclear warhead suddenly produces a blinding white flash and in the next few milliseconds incinerates you with its intensive thermal radiation. It does not matter if such a half-megaton warhead was delivered by a ballistic missile falling from space, or by a horizontally flying cruise missile. The effects of the actual thermo-nuclear explosion and the destruction caused by it will be undistinguishable.
Victor Bout's name is often mentioned along with the alleged sale of X-55 missiles to Iran and China. Can you tell us more?
This is a kind of ''controlled leak of information'' that was afforded on purpose in order to create some ''grounds'' and so to convince some officials who are not entitled to know the full truth, but who could be fed some half-truth. The story with the X-55 illegal sale was just a cover-up story that was concocted to distract attention from the real culprit '' the awful ''Granit'' missile. To talk about the ''Granit'' missile that hit the Pentagon is TABOO. It is off limits. Only very few high-ranking US security officials (as well as high-ranking security officials of Russia and of some highly-trusted US allies) are entitled to know that it was the ''Granit'' missile. For the rest, it is taboo to know this word.
But many people know that it was the missile (and many also know that it was a certain Russian- or Soviet-made missile) that hit the Pentagon. But the problem is that those who know or suspect the awful truth are much more than those who are entitled to know it in full detail. Therefore to feed the ''half-truth'' for those not entitled to know the full truth, the story with the alleged X-55 has been concocted.
Secondly, even from the technical point of view the story with the X-55 can not be true '' that missile is not technically capable of penetrating 6 (six!) capital walls of the Pentagon as was demonstrated in the 9/11 attack. Only one missile in the world '' the ''Granit'' '' could achieve such a penetrating feat. That is to say that the Americans and the Russians together are trying hard to cover up the real truth behind the Pentagon attack, while trying in the same time to apprehend and to bring to justice someone [allegedly] responsible for the actual attack. Hence the persecution against Victor Bout. Hence the ridiculous stories about the alleged illegal deal with the X-55 missiles (that are also nuclear-capable, by the way '' don't miss this point: the fact that X-55 missiles are nothing less than ''nuclear-capable'' is always being diligently mentioned along with the claims that Victor Bout and his companions allegedly sold these missiles from Ukraine to Iran).
I understand that the first question the DEA asked Bout during their interrogation of him is the name of the cruise missile he had sold to Iran. Why would they ask him that?
Yes, it is true. The first question asked of Victor after his arrest was not about the ridiculous deal with the non-existent shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles that were allegedly intended for the Columbian FARC. The first question was about the alleged cruise missile Victor allegedly sold to Iran. This was because those mid-ranking DEA operatives were low enough not to be entitled to know the full awful truth '' about the ''Granit'' cruise missile, but were fed by their superiors the half-truth '' about the alleged ''X-55''cruise missile that was discussed in the previous question.
A great deal of effort has been made by mainstream US and European press to link Bout with FARC and uranium. What do they have to do with Bout?
The US security officials have a double task actually. One: they have to close the case with the missile that hit the Pentagon on 9/11. Two '' they also have to close several cases where mini-nukes were really or allegedly used in disguise of the so-called ''suicide'' and ''non-suicide'' ''car-bombings''.
The most important '' the case of nuclear bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 on an anniversary of Hiroshima bombing, the 1996 Khobar Tower nuclear bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma nuclear bombing, the 2002 Bali nuclear bombing, the 1993 first nuclear bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, several recent nuclear bombings in Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia that were reported to the gullible plebs as ''car-bombings'', and also the El-Nogal nuclear bombing in Bogot in 2003, as well as the previous nuclear bombing in Bogot in November 1999, both blamed on the FARC.
As not too many specialists in nuclear weapons are available for consultation, it is possible to present to the lay people a notion that it is allegedly possible to produce a self-made low-caliber nuclear bomb made out of Uranium (while in reality all mini-nukes are made exclusively out of Plutonium and have nothing to do with any Uranium).
Well, is it possible to produce a homemade low-caliber nuclear bomb?
Thanks to the general ignorance of the people (many security officials and high-ranking politicians inclusive) in regard to the nuclear weapons, the abovementioned mistaken belief is widespread: indeed many security officials and politicians sincerely believe that it is possible to obtain50 kg(single critical mass) of highly-enriched Uranium-235 on the black market and to make a mini-nuke out of it. In reality it is impossible to make any ''mini-nuke'' out of Uranium even in an industrial process, not to mention in the cottage industry, but many gullible folks believe to the contrary.
Therefore a few unscrupulous individuals who really stood behind those nuclear ''car- and truck-bombings'' shamelessly exploit such gullibility. In the particular case with the FARC group led by Raul Reyes they planted on them almost50 kgof weapon-grade Uranium-235 that was hidden around Reyes' camp in the Ecuadorian jungle, then they murdered Reyes and additionally created some bogus computer files planted into Reyes' computer where it was claimed that Reyes and his group were allegedly responsible for the 2003 nuclear bombing in Bogot and were also seeking more weapon-grade Uranium.
The gullible security officials who understand little about the real nuclear weapons technology would not miss the point as was suggested '' when they encounter the50 kgof REAL weapon-grade Uranium around Reyes' camp while knowing for sure that both '' 1999- and 2003- bombings in Bogot were indeed mini-nukes bombings. However, this theater should not mislead serious people: both bombings in Bogot, as well as 1995 Oklahoma bombing and the rest of well-known and little-known nuclear ''car-bombings'' was made with mini-nukes made out of PLUTONIUM and NOT URANIUM, and so the50 kgof Uranium-235 planted to Reyes' camp should not dupe any serious person into believing otherwise.
When it comes to Victor Bout if you carefully review available public sources you will find out that:
1) Victor Bout's alleged connection with the FARC was mentioned in the same list of ''evidence'' allegedly ''found'' in Reyes' computer right next to Reyes's attempt to buy50 kg(single critical mass enough to make one atomic bomb of Hiroshima yield) of weapon-grade Uranium-235 and alleged Reyes' responsibility for the El-Nogal ''car-bombing'' (that is known to be nuclear to any and every security official); and
2) Alleged ''international channels'' by which the alleged ''portable anti-aircraft missiles'' of Victor Bout were allegedly transported '' namely: Russia '' Armenia '' Romania '' Denmark '' Netherlands' Antilles '' Columbia strangely coincides to the country with the alleged rout of transportation of the weapon-grade Uranium that was obtained by Reyes and indeed found around his camp after Reyes was murdered by the Americans on March 1, 2008 '' just 5 days prior to Victor Bout's arrest in Bangkok. Anyone is welcome to make his own conclusions.
Add here that the US officials actually exploit two levels of the ''truth'' in regard to the WTC demolition during 9/11 events. Just imagine that there are quite a lot of mid-ranking security officials and politicians who are advanced enough to know that kerosene can not ''melt steel'' into fluffy microscopic dust and that ''ground zero'' in pre-9/11 English language had no other meaning than ''a place of a nuclear explosion''.
Therefore these types of people would not swallow the plebeian version of the ''planes brought down the towers 9/11 truth''. Some ''higher'' and more plausible version of the ''truth'' needed to be invented to satisfy them. So according to the intermediate level of the 9/11 ''truth'' (that is intended to satisfy the mid-ranking security officials and mid-ranking politicians both in America and abroad), the Twin Towers of the WTC, as well as the building #7 of the WTC, were demolished by 3 mini-nukes that allegedly belonged to Osama bin Laden's operatives. You can find a confirmation of what I mean in the article ''Mi Hermano bin Laden'', published in the Spanish daily, El-Mundo, on September 16, 2001.
MI HERMANO BIN LADENMi hermano Bin Laden.pdfHowever, once you claim that the WTC was demolished by the three Soviet mini-nukes allegedly bought by Osama from Ukraine, then, being a responsible security official, you should also find Russian or Ukrainian nationals who first stole these mini-nukes for the Soviet nuclear arsenals and who actually sold such awful weapons to the terrorists. Isn't' it? Hence another attempt of the Americans '' to implicate Victor Bout into trading in mini-nukes and in weapon-grade nuclear materials, in addition to the missiles with half-megaton thermo-nuclear warheads that usually fly around and strike pentagons. It appears that Victor Bout was made a scapegoat just for everything that is nuclear. Add here is where the Americans began their unprecedented persecution against Victor Bout only after 9/11 and in an apparent connection with 9/11. Read the ''nuclear'' communiqu(C) of John D. Negroponte (available here:
http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/tnt_03-08.pdf ) that was released immediately after Victor's arrest inBangkok in March 2008 and that was directly connected to his arrest and moreover, entirely devoted to his arrest. And compare that communiqu(C) by John D. Negroponte with the abovementioned ''El Mundo'' article about the 3 mini-nukes bought by Osama from Ukraine and allegedly used for destroying the three WTC buildings on 9/11 and surely you will not miss the main point. There are two more additional moments that could clarify the alleged ''nuclear'' connections of Victor Bout, FARC, and actual so-called ''car-bombings'' and ''truck-bombings'' (spots of which are being strangely called by the strangest nuclear name ''ground zero''). First of them occurred soon after Victor Bout's arrest.
About two weeks after his arrest there was a video published on YouTube showing Russia Today footage titled ''Merchant of Death denied bail inBangkok''. As you know, anyone registered as a YouTube user could post a comment under a video. Guess what was the very first comment published by some alleged ''Victor Bout's friend'' under that video? This is what the comment said: ''180 Compact Russian Nukes are missing, soon US will get a nuclear apocalypse up its ass''.
How do you like the comment? Or you prefer to believe in coincidences? In the world of intelligence there is a saying: There are well made and badly made operations. Coincidences do not exist. Especially when soon after this comment appeared, a real nuclear explosion occurred inDubaion March 26, 2008 '' in the city where Victor Bout was kicked from and where he lost all his former airline business.
You can see details of this nuclear explosion on YouTube here:
or you can read (between the lines) here: Massive explosion rocks Dubai
'' please notice words such as ''mushroom cloud'' and ''civil defense'' in that article.
By the way '' when I noticed that YouTube provocation and compared it against the mini-nuke's explosion inDubaia few days later I immediately complained about this to the security official at the local Russian Embassy inBangkok. And what do you think happened? The next day the provocative comment/promise about ''180 stolen mini-nukes'' and the ''nuclear apocalypse'' was removed from YouTube.
Luckily, I made a screenshot of the YouTube web page with that comment still there, so I still have it.
Oh, I almost forgot it. Since I was involved with Victor Bout's legal defense here in Bangkok right from the next day following his arrest '' i.e. from March 7, 2008, I understandably attracted a lot of attention from the US side. The local DEA officer '' Mr. Derek Odney, responsible for Victor's apprehension in Bangkok on March 6, 2008, invited me to drink coffee and to ''discuss something'' around mid-April. Since I was curious to know what they would ask me about Victor and also perhaps I could have a chance to ask them something that would clarify the mystery of the case I agreed ''to drink coffee''.
Derek showed up with someone who appeared to be from another department, perhaps from the US military intelligence or may be from the CIA. The conversation began in a roundabout way and with no mention of Victor Bout. They asked me to help the DEA to catch certain drug dealers in Bangkok. On the surface it may seem logical, considering what the DEA does, but certainly not normal, considering the actual circumstances '' I was helping Victor Bout and his case had nothing to do with drugs.
Anyway, this discussion about the drugs and drug-dealers slowly moved on to something different: Derek´s companion asked me if I knew anything about a black market nuclear materials, particularly enriched Uranium and how much, in my opinion, such weapon-grade Uranium could cost on such a black market. Out of politeness I expressed my humble opinion on the subject, adding that it is only my humble opinion, but I don't know the exact figures, because I am not involved in illegal trade in nuclear materials.
In turn, I asked them if they were asking me this question because of highly-enriched Uranium that was found around Reyes' camp in the Ecuadorian jungle? They told me that yes, they wanted to know the answer to that question for exactly that reason, because the US Government took that matter very seriously. The most laughable was that no alleged ''portable anti-aircraft missiles'' were mentioned during that conversation, but only the FARC Uranium alone (and neither any ''portable anti-aircraft missiles'' in connection with Victor Bout were mentioned in Reyes' computer, but only the weapon-grade Uranium purchase deal and the FARC responsibility for the nuclear ''car-''bombings'...) This was my first conversation with Mr. Derek Odney.
Let´s fast forward to today, Dimitri. Where is Victor at and what´s left for him as far as his defense options.
Victor Bout is still in Bangkok, to be more exact in Nonthaburi province (on the outskirts of Bangkok) inside the high-security Bangkwang prison, known to many people as ''Bangkok Hilton'' thanks to the famous movie of the same name. He was transferred there from the Bangkok Remand Prison on August 20, the day his court verdict which ordered the extradition was read.
To answer the second part of your question is not so easy. Several defense options are available but I would prefer not to disclose them publicly, because the Americans will read this interview with great interest and they might take certain countermeasures. But surely something is pending when it comes to the legal means to defend Victor Bout. His lawyer, Lak, is still there and he is working hard on his defense. Despite Victor´s extradition case appearing to be ''final'' after the Appeals' Court verdict, it is not so ''final'' in reality. Many things can still be done, God willing.
* * *
Unfortunately, I was wrong. This interview was made when Victor was still inThailandwhile he still had two pending cases with the Thai criminal court. One of his cases was on a re-trial process which was not yet finished, and another case was still in an appeal process. Thus, technically, the Thai Government had no right to extradite him '' the extradition could only have been executed when both of Victor's cases in the local court have become final.
However, the Thai Government was so eager to please their American counterpart that it virtually ordered Victor's kidnapping from the Thai prison in contravention of the proper judicial procedure: without informing their own court of law, without informing the local Russian Embassy, without informing Victor's lawyer and without informing Victor's relatives the Thai Government suddenly published the Cabinet's decision to extradite him to America. By the time the decision was announced by radio and Victor's lawyer rushed to the criminal court to file a complaint in order to prevent the illegal action of the government, Victor Bout has been already loaded into the special jet bound toNew York'...
Victor was not allowed to take with him toAmericaany of his personal belongings, nor even his telephone book (with telephone number of his lawyers, friends and family members), nor a pen, nor a toothbrush, nor any underwear, nor even pocket money. He was taken to the death row, stripped completely naked, ordered to put on a dirty black tracksuit (the tracksuit was perhaps taken from some previously executed prisoner of the ''Bangkok Hilton'' and has never been washed since then) and no shoes, and in this attire he was flown to the United States of America '' the most ''democratic'' country in the world, which is proud of its justice'... Thanks to his free American lawyer (appointed by the court inNew York), who gave him 100 dollars, Victor managed to buy a toothbrush and other basic necessities in theNew Yorkprison.
Now I could only express my sincere hope that the DEA / FBI will not be able to swallow Victor. I hope they will choke on him. And perhaps they will choke to death. The entire hunting session on the so-called ''Merchant of Death'' by the ''brave'' DEA's guys and gals (who live in 5-stars hotels and travel exclusively by the 1st class) cost the American taxpayer well over 50 millions US dollars and I wish the American taxpayer will never forgive those folks parasitizing on the 9/11 tragedy this luxurious expenditure.
But in any case I would like to call on everyone who reads these lines to provide any help possible to this innocent man. The man who is merely a victim of the so-called ''new world order'' and whose only crime is to be an enterprising Russian who dared to do a business on the international scale and to compete with Westerners. (In reality Victor Bout is a German whose family lived in Russia for a long time and in Russia we call these kind of people ''Germans'', and so it is written in their official documents: ''Germans'', but the New World Order guys do not care about this '' they want him to be a ''bad Russian'', because they need ''bad Russians'''' the story with ''bad Arabs'' who collapse steel skyscrapers with kerosene is exhausted'...)
Victor's current address in the American prison: ''Victor A Bout, Registration Number 91641-054, MCC NEW YORK METROPOLITAN CORRECTIONAL CENTER 150 PARK ROW NEW YORK, NY 10007''.
Alternatively contact me, Dimitri Khalezov, and I will put you in contact with Victor or his wife if necessary.
About Dimitri Khalezov and his research:
More here: GORDON DUFF: WHEN WILL THE CRIMES OF 9/11 END?Important information and download links: www.dimitri-khalezov-video.comDownload videos and other important files (direct): 911-truth.netVarious information regarding Victor Bout's case: 911-truth.net/Victor_BoutYouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/DimitriKhalezovUpdated information, Forum, etc: www.911thology.comContacts: www.dkhalezov.com
Covid Vaccines More Likely to Put You in Hospital Than Keep You Out, BMJ Editor's Analysis of Pfizer and Moderna Trial Data Finds '' The Daily Sceptic
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:46
A new paper by BMJ Editor Dr. Peter Doshi and colleagues has analysed data from the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccine trials and found that the vaccines are more likely to put you in hospital with a serious adverse event than keep you out by protecting you from Covid.
The pre-print (not yet peer-reviewed) focuses on serious adverse events highlighted in a WHO-endorsed ''priority list of potential adverse events relevant to COVID-19 vaccines''. The authors evaluated these serious adverse events of special interest as observed in ''phase III randomised trials of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines''.
A serious adverse event was defined as per the trial protocols as an adverse event that results in any of the following conditions:
death;life-threatening at the time of the event;inpatient hospitalisation or prolongation of existing hospitalisation;persistent or significant disability/incapacity;a congenital anomaly/birth defect;medically important event, based on medical judgement.Dr. Doshi and colleagues found that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were associated with an increased risk of serious adverse events of special interest of 10.1 events per 10,000 vaccinated for Pfizer and 15.1 events per 10,000 vaccinated for Moderna (95% CI -0.4 to 20.6 and -3.6 to 33.8, respectively). When combined, the mRNA vaccines were associated with a risk increase of serious adverse events of special interest of 12.5 per 10,000 vaccinated (95% CI 2.1 to 22.9).
The authors note that this level of increased risk post-vaccine is greater than the risk reduction for COVID-19 hospitalisation in both Pfizer and Moderna trials, which was 2.3 per 10,000 participants for Pfizer and 6.4 per 10,000 for Moderna. This means that on this measure, the Pfizer vaccine results in a net increase in serious adverse events of 7.8 per 10,000 vaccinated and the Moderna vaccine of 8.7 per 10,000 vaccinated.
Addressing the difference between their findings and those of the FDA when it approved the vaccines, the authors note that the FDA's analysis of serious adverse events ''included thousands of additional participants with very little follow-up, of which the large majority had only received one dose''. The FDA also counted 'people affected' rather than individual events, despite there being twice as many individuals in the vaccine group than in the placebo group who experienced multiple serious adverse events.
The authors wonder where the U.S. Government's own studies of adverse events are. They note that in July 2021, the FDA reported detecting four potential adverse events of interest following Pfizer vaccination '' pulmonary embolism, acute myocardial infarction, immune thrombocytopenia and disseminated intravascular coagulation '' and stated it would further investigate the findings. However, no update has yet appeared.
They also note that ''while CDC published a protocol in early 2021 for using proportional reporting ratios for signal detection in the VAERS database, the agency has not yet reported such a study''.
The authors point out their results are compatible with a recent pre-print analysis of COVID-19 vaccine trials by Benn et al., which found ''no evidence of a reduction in overall mortality in the mRNA vaccine trials'', with 31 deaths in the vaccine arms versus 30 deaths in the placebo arms (a 3% increase; 95% CI 0.63 to 1.71).
Noting their study is limited by the fact that the raw data from COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials are not publicly available, they stress that ''given the global public health implications, there is an urgency to make all COVID-19 trial data public, particularly regarding serious adverse events, without any further delay''.
They conclude that there is a need for formal harm-benefit analyses for Covid vaccines, taking into account the different levels of risk of serious Covid and adverse events that exist between demographic groups. Ideally, this would be based on individual participant data, they say, though such data remain frustratingly unavailable.
Monticello draws criticism after trashing Thomas Jefferson
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:45
Monticello is going woke '-- and trashing Thomas Jefferson's good name in the process.
The Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the Founding Father and America's third president is one of our best-known national monuments, familiar from its appearance on the nickel since 1938.
But the hilltop mansion designed by Jefferson himself, once preserved as a tribute to the author of the Declaration of Independence, now offers visitors a harangue on the horrors of slavery.
''The whole thing has the feel of propaganda and manipulation,'' Jeffrey Tucker, founder of the libertarian Brownstone Institute and a recent visitor, told The Post. ''People on my tour seemed sad and demoralized.''
The new emphasis is the culmination of a 10-year effort to balance the historical record, officials of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the estate, have said.
But visitors complain that employees go out of their way to belittle Jefferson and his life.
''The tour guides play 'besmirchment derby,' never missing a chance to defame this brilliant, complex man,'' Stephen Owen of Enochville, NC, wrote on Facebook.
Visitors have noticed Thomas Jefferson's Monticello has transformed to a slavery exhibit criticizing the founder father.Visitors are encouraged to question President Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence at the Monticello.''Half of the comments on Jefferson were critical,'' wrote William Bailes of Chester, Virginia in an online review after visiting in June. ''Even my 11-year-old daughter noticed the bias.''
Tucker described his guide last month as ''surly and dismissive'' of Jefferson's accomplishments.
''Someone asked if Jefferson had built a machine in the house, and the guide said, 'Nah, he never built anything, he was just a tinkerer,''' Tucker recalled.
Jeffrey Tucker, founder of the libertarian Brownstone Institute, accused the Thomas Jefferson Foundation of putting ''propaganda'' inside the Monticello. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images''It was ridiculous. He was the architect of this house and of the University of Virginia '-- what are you talking about?''
Jefferson's life story is full of thorny contradictions. The world's foremost proponent of liberty, who wrote the immortal words, ''We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'' was nonetheless a committed slave owner until his death in 1826.
That has made him a prime target for the left. Last year, a Jefferson statue was unceremoniously booted from the New York City Council's chamber, where it had stood for 187 years.
A placecard describing Thomas Jefferson's horse carriages describes how ''enslaved'' people traveled with the founding father.In the past, the managers of Monticello sanitized Jefferson's history for the 25 million tourists who have flocked there since it was opened to the public in 1923. References to slavery were few, and signs labeled ''Servants' Quarters'' marked sites where Jefferson's slaves once lived.
''Our goal is to present an honest, inclusive history of Monticello in all its aspects as well as Jefferson's contributions to the founding of the country,'' Jenn Lyon, a Monticello spokesperson, said.
But on a visit this week, The Post found, the grievance has become the predominant theme at Monticello, from the ticket booth in the visitor's center '-- decorated with a contemporary painting of Jefferson's weeping slaves '-- to its final gift-shop display.
Not even the president's world-famous music room, an octagonal space carefully restored to its 18th century grandeur and decorated with Gilbert Stuart's original presidential portrait and classical busts, is safe from revisionist disapproval.
A grim modern painting of a faceless figure with a matte black head now looms over the room, positioned so that it directly confronts visitors as they enter the mansion.
The huge 4-foot-by-5-foot work, a new addition to Monticello's collection, was ''commissioned in honor of Juneteenth last month,'' said Susan Woodward, The Post's guide on Wednesday. ''It's quite provocative, I do believe,'' she added.
North Carolina resident Stephen Owen complained about tour guides smearing Thomas Jefferson at the Monticello. VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty ImagesThe figure's ''hands and face of featureless tar'' represent ''the faceless lives of all who served in bondage, witnessing but never recognized,'' an identifying card explains.
The anachronistic artwork is just one of many jarring signs of over-the-top politicization at Jefferson's beloved home.
Guides begin their outdoor tours of Monticello's gardens and grounds by invoking the Native Americans who once lived on the land.
An artist exhibit called ''A Moment of Silence'' by Jabari Jefferson describes the ''lost history'' of ''enslaved inhabitants of Monticello.''''How does that land come to be in European possession?'' a guide named Justin asked an unresponsive group of vacationers from Germany. ''A lot of violence, right?'' he prodded.
Placards with conversation starters on the topic of civil rights festoon a patio outside the snack shop. ''Is 'all men are created equal' being lived up to in our country today?'' one reads. ''When will we know when it is?'' it continues '-- supplying a negative answer to the first question.
Books by critical race theory proponents Ibram X. Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates enjoy pride of place in the visitor center's gift shop, while the smaller Farm Shop store displays five titles on Jefferson's slaves '-- and a single biography of the man himself.
Interpretive signage throughout the estate places slavery at the forefront of each historical feature by adding the word ''enslaved'' before every possible job description, often multiple times: ''an enslaved cook,'' ''enslaved postilions,'' ''Jefferson's enslaved valet, Burwell Colbert.''
Meanwhile, a ''trigger warning'' alerts sensitive visitors outside a basement room that plays a video about Sally Hemings, the mixed-race slave who, many historians believe, bore Jefferson six unacknowledged children.
The presentation ''covers difficult subject matter and can inspire strong emotions '... We encourage you to respect the feelings of your fellow guests,'' the signage reads.
Travelers are first greeted by a painting of Thomas Jefferson's weeping slaves in the visitor's center of the Monticello.Indeed, the story of Hemings is told in more detail '-- and with far greater sympathy '-- than that of the third president himself.
Guides launch into Hemings's biography on the slightest pretext. During The Post's tour, a description of an interior archway in the library, as well as a comment on Jefferson's love of French cuisine in the dining room, gave Woodward openings to expound on what little is known of Hemings's life.
''The entire focus was on his mistress,'' complained Wesley Stevens of Tulsa, Okla. ''They are trying to rewrite history to make it seem like the founding fathers were terrible immoral creatures that happened to start a country.''
An advertisement by the Mountaintop Project promotes an app showcasing ''Slavery at Monticello.''The Thomas Jefferson Foundation is run by a roster of big-money Dem donors and former Democratic officials, including:
Chair Melody Barnes, a former assistant to President Barack Obama and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. ''I grew up in Virginia, where Jefferson was always '-- and only '-- celebrated,'' Barnes griped in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed.Foundation president Leslie Greene Bowman, who was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by President Bill Clinton. Bowman in 2021 decried ''the flaws in [Jefferson's] promise of liberty that haunt us to this day.''Vice Chair Tobias Dengel, the CEO of a Virginia tech company who lists his pronouns in his LinkedIn bio, donated $75,000 to President Joe Biden's superPAC and other Democratic campaigns in 2020.Secretary Molly Hardie, another major Dem donor, gave more than $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's PAC in 2016. Board member Ren(C)e Grisham, wife of bestselling novelist John Grisham, won an appointment to a state foundation from Virginia's former Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe. Monticello's push to ''finish the restoration of the landscape of slavery'' on the estate has largely been funded by left-leaning philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, who donated $20 million toward that effort in 2015.
Virginian native William Bailes argued the Monticello was attempting to tarnish Thomas Jefferson's legacy.Rubenstein, a private-equity billionaire and former Carter Administration official '-- recently pledged to continue his extensive investments in China '-- and is on the boards of the globalist World Economic Forum, China's Tsinghua University, and the Council on Foreign Relations, among others.
''In the long term, China has a very bright economic outlook, it has a large population, very hardworking people, well-educated and so forth,'' Rubenstein said in May at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as he hailed the country's government its ''pretty good handle'' on the economy.
But in Virginia, George Allen, the state's former GOP governor and US Senator, blasted Monticello's new focus as ''contemporary politicization of a beautiful historic property.''
''Some of this to me just detracts from how people can be inspired and understand Thomas Jefferson and his time and how brilliant he was, how creative he was, his innovations and how ahead of his time he was,'' Allen said.
Douglas MacKinnon, author of ''The 56 '' Liberty Lessons From Those Who Risked All To Sign The Declaration of Independence, agreed.
''It's very problematic to look at 1776 and Thomas Jefferson through the prism of 2022,'' MacKinnon said. ''You can't go back 250 years to know what was in their hearts at that time.''
''Jefferson was the ultimate Founding Father of our nation,'' he added. ''His name should not be diminished because of our political disagreements.''
Why Working Less Hours and Sleeping Longer Can Reduce Carbon Footprints and Fight Climate Change
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:20
Jayson Porter never meant to go viral on Twitter. Porter, an environmental historian at Northwestern University, was thinking about an in-class conversation he'd had with some of his students when he tweeted on March 1, 2022: ''I'm still stuck on this idea: investing in more sleep for climate justice.''
The tweet quickly exploded, resonating with hundreds of thousands of users, including climate advocates, sleep enthusiasts and burnt-out millennial types. But it also raised a huge question: Can sleeping more really help combat climate change?
The answer, according to experts, is yes'--with a few qualifications.
The idea of sleeping in to save the planet is ''enticing,'' Porter told The Daily Beast, ''partly because it's a reflection of a lot of privilege.'' Most of us would love to catch some extra z's. But simply snoozing your alarm won't do much to slash carbon emissions. What's more, not everyone has the time, resources or economic security to sleep more at night without widespread systemic change. That's why, at its heart, ''this is really a question of anti-capitalism,'' Porter said.
The trouble is, we live in a society'--and for most of us in the Global North, that society happens to be hyper-capitalistic. ''Growth is very much ingrained in capitalism,'' Milena Buchs, an environmental sociologist at the University of Leeds in England, told The Daily Beast. It's an insidious truth reflected in business-speak mantras like ''growth mindset'' and ''rise and grind,'' which glorify constant work as a virtue.
However, from a climate perspective, humanity's current workload is downright destructive. It takes a lot of carbon to make the stuff we purchase on a daily basis, like clothes, electronics and various plastics. Industry alone accounts for over a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. That slice balloons to 40 percent when combined with emissions produced from powering office buildings and commuting to work.
''In most developed countries, work time hasn't really decreased since the mid-1980s, despite very large improvements in productivity,'' Jonas N¤ss(C)n, a sustainability researcher at Chalmers University in Sweden, told The Daily Beast. But there are some groups working to counteract this paradox, and their ideas are starting to gain a foothold in the mainstream.
Degrowth is a movement based on the theory that perpetual growth is ultimately unsustainable, both from an economic perspective and an environmental one. Its proponents advocate scaling back the sheer amount of stuff industrial nations produce and moving towards a sustainable, circular economy. ''It's important to emphasize that degrowth is not recession or a forced shrinking of economies, but an intentional shift,'' Neera Singh, an environmental economist at the University of Toronto in Canada, told The Daily Beast.
''This is really a question of anti-capitalism.''
'-- Jayson Porter, Northwestern University
While a sudden pivot to degrowth policies probably isn't in the cards for most wealthy nations, some are taking a few tentative steps toward reducing people's workload.
In June, over 3,300 workers across 70-plus companies in the U.K. began participating in a pilot program of a 30-hour, four-day work week. The six-month trial, organized by the not-for-profit 4 Day Week Campaign, aims to improve their overall well-being by providing extra time to rest and recover (without reducing pay). The goal, according to campaign director Joe Ryle, is ''less stress, less burnout, less overwork.''
And those hours off work might not just benefit human health'--they could be good for the planet as well. ''Moving to a four-day week is a relatively quick way of bringing down emissions,'' Ryle told The Daily Beast.
The science seems to bear this out, at least in highly industrialized nations. For example, one of N¤ss(C)n's studies of Swedish households from 2015 found that every 1 percent reduction in working time reduced carbon emissions across the country by 0.8 percent. Another 2012 study suggested that scaling back work hours by 10 percent in industrial countries could reduce their carbon footprint by over 14 percent annually. Most of those reductions come from energy saved on office building lighting, air conditioning, computer usage, and commuting. And in early 2020, COVID lockdowns caused a 5.4 percent drop in global carbon dioxide emissions (that number quickly rebounded as restrictions lifted later in the year).
So, it seems that in general, less time at work equals lower emissions. But, experts caution, how people spend their personal time matters too.
Activities that are more expensive also tend to be more environmentally costly. Travel, particularly by plane, is an especially carbon-intensive undertaking. So are consumption-driven activities, like shopping. Whereas ''reading a book, having a conversation, or going for a walk are obvious low-emitters,'' said N¤ss(C)n. It turns out that sleeping might just be the greenest activity of all. A 2019 study of nearly 5,000 households in Austria found that sleeping (and generally vegging out) was the least carbon-intensive way for a person to spend their free time; in contrast, going out to eat at a local restaurant emitted nearly 20 times as much carbon dioxide.
However, even sleep isn't necessarily carbon neutral. In the summer and wintertime, for instance, folks often leave air conditioners or heaters running all night in order to stay comfortable. And sleeping with a noise maker or other plugged-in device could consume extra nocturnal energy.
Ultimately, Porter thinks that this sort of ''personal responsibility'' narrative by itself is insufficient in the fight against climate change. ''Sleep is an environmental justice issue,'' he said. ''There are so many different things, both class and race, that disproportionately affect how people of color sleep.'' To reduce emissions in a meaningful way and give everyone adequate time to rest, developed nations need to address larger, more structural issues, like unrestricted industrial growth and socioeconomic inequities.
Buchs believes that our current pandemic-altered economic landscape might offer an opportunity to allow some degrowth practices to take root naturally (albeit in a less intentional way than many degrowth advocates would like). ''Some economists think that this could be part of an obvious sort of era where we see very low growth rates anyway, and where policymakers have to adjust to this very new context,'' she said. She sees the growing interest in programs like the 4 Day Week Campaign as a sign that this shift has already begun.
For his part, Ryle hopes that 4 Day Week's impact will ripple into environmental justice circles, too. ''We need to be taken much more seriously by the climate movement,'' he said.
N¤ss(C)n sees implementing shorter work weeks and encouraging people to get more rest as a far easier sell than many other sweeping climate policies. ''While many pro-environmental lifestyle changes are [purely] sacrifices, this is a bit of both,'' he said. ''You'll sacrifice a bit of consumption, but you'll get more time for recovery or to do the things that matter to you.''
As much as we might wish it could, more hours spent dozing off won't magically solve climate change. But restructuring the work week to allow for more rest could be a significant step towards a sustainable future'--one where we can all'... sleep just a little easier.
Bombshell Claim: Google Intercepted 100% of RNC Donation Emails on Biggest Donation Days of Month - for 7 Months Straight
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 16:16
News By Richard Moorhead June 30, 2022 at 5:32am Big Tech's bias against conservatives is well known.
And yet Google is taking its double standards and discrimination to a new level.
The Republican National Committee revealed that its email communications are being tactically labeled as ''spam'' by the Silicon Valley company, according to Axios.
The ''spam'' label allows Google to filter the emails away from the sight of Gmail users, hidden in a spam inbox.
Google sent RNC emails to the spam inbox with regularity on important fundraising deadlines, according to RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
Big Tech's bias is out of control.
Every single month '' for 7 months in a row '' Google has systematically attacked the RNC's email fundraising during important donation days at the end of the month.
Our emails go from strong inbox delivery (90-100%) down to 0%. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/WLJUSg4viY
'-- Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) June 29, 2022
On some days, as many as 90 percent to 100 percent of RNC emails hit the main inbox.
On other critical fundraising dates, the emails are all but assured to be hidden away as spam, reaching as few as 0 percent of Gmail inboxes.
Should Google be regulated as a common carrier?
Yes: 98% (2930 Votes)
No: 2% (50 Votes)
Google has blacklisted and purged information that's inconvenient to the left from search results for years.
This form of censorship is even more nefarious. It blocked communications between willing parties.
Individuals who are signed up to receive RNC emails can unsubscribe at any time.
Critics of Big Tech's censorship and bias have proposed regulating the Silicon Valley giants as common carriers.
This would make it illegal for Google to discriminate politically. They'd be obligated to treat every user of their service equally.
McDaniel revealed that the RNC has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Google's political bias.
Google has failed to explain why this is happening. It's unacceptable. We have filed a complaint with the FEC over this practice of censoring Republican emails and it just keeps happening.
Big Tech needs to be held accountable. (4/4)
'-- Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) June 29, 2022
Billionaire Elon Musk is one of Big Tech's most prominent critics, despite his own technology background.
Musk has pledged to restore free speech to Twitter when his pending purchase of the social media platform is finalized.
Big Tech bias,
Republican National Committee RNC,
US newsSummaryRecent Posts ContactRichard Moorhead is a conservative journalist, a graduate of Arizona State University, service member, and guitar player.
Explosion Rocks Oklahoma Natural Gas Plant | ZeroHedge
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 15:37
A natural gas gathering and processing facility near Medford, Oklahoma, exploded Saturday afternoon and could disrupt the flow of hydrocarbons to energy export hubs on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Oneok, Inc., a leading midstream service provider and the operator of a major natural gas liquids (NGL) systems, experienced an explosion at its NGL fractionation facility in Medford, about 85 miles south of Wichita, Kansas.
"There is an active incident at the plant south of town, and we are asking all residents south of Main Street to evacuate your homes and go to the Medford public school building," the Grant County Sheriff's Office noted on Facebook yesterday.
Michael and Brittany Stone captured this video of an explosion in Medford, Oklahoma, near the Kansas border. This gas plant fire caused evacuations and road closures #KWCH12 pic.twitter.com/V8Cy8FbYfM
'-- KWCH Eyewitness News (@KWCH12) July 9, 2022#DEVELOPING Evacuations issued after explosion at ONEOK natural gas plant in Medford, Oklahoma pic.twitter.com/2N52yC0CCA
'-- KWTX News 10 (@kwtx) July 10, 2022ONEOK released a statement later in the day that said, "there was an incident at ONEOK's Medford natural gas liquids fractionation facility ... All ONEOK personnel are accounted for, and we are unaware of any injuries at this time. We are cooperating with local emergency responders and appreciate their quick response. Our focus continues working with emergency responders to extinguish the fire and the safety of the surrounding community and our employees."
ONEOK's fractionation plant separates NGLs into NGL products, such as ethane, propane, butane, and natural gas, used widely in all sectors of the economy. NGL products are used in inputs for petrochemical plants, generating electricity at power plants, burning for cooking, and blended into vehicle fuel.
The Medford fractionation facility feeds NGL products in pipelines through Texas to Mont Belvieu on the Gulf Coast, a major export hub area for energy products. There's no word (yet) on disruptions to pipeline flows.
One Twitter user points out there has been a spate of fires and explosions at oil/gas facilities or pipelines in the last month (similar to the mysterious fires at food processing plants), and the most significant disruption so far has been Freeport's LNG export terminal catching firing last month, curbing some LNG exports to Europe.
2/4 July 9, 2022- ONEOK natural gas plant explosion (Medford, OK)July 7, 2022- Energy Transfer pipeline explosion (Wallis, TX)
Jun. 27, 2022- Petro Star refinery explosion, (VALDEZ, AK)
Jun. 8, 2022- LNG natural gas plant explosion (Freeport, TX)@hackableanimal
'-- J Mal (@EPUnum_) July 10, 2022Details are scant about what disruptions the ONEOK fractionation facility has caused. Still, if there were any, it comes at an inopportune time for the Texas power grid (powered half by NatGas) set to experience record demand as soaring heat boosts cooling demand by households and businesses.
From OTC Global:ERCOT demand is expected to top 80GW Monday afternoon. Fasten your seatbelts. pic.twitter.com/TyLpH65TPU
'-- Mike Zaccardi, CFA, CMT (@MikeZaccardi) July 9, 2022What could possibly go wrong?
Green Dogma Behind Fall Of Sri Lanka
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 15:15
Police use water canon to disperse farmers taking part in an anti-government protest demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on July 6, 2022. (Photo by AFP) (Getty Images) Sri Lanka has fallen. Protesters breached the official residences of Sri Lanka's Prime Minister and President, who have fled to undisclosed locations out of fear of death. The proximate reason is that the nation is bankrupt, suffering its worst financial crisis in decades . Millions are struggling to purchase food, medicine and fuel. Energy shortages and inflation were major factors behind the crisis. Inflation in June in Sri Lanka was over 50% . Food prices rose by 80%. And a half-million people fell into poverty over the last year.
But the underlying reason for the fall of Sri Lanka is that its leaders fell under the spell of Western green elites peddling organic agriculture and ''ESG,'' which refers to investments made following supposedly higher Environmental, Social, and Governance criteria. Sri Lanka has a near-perfect ESG score (98) which is higher than Sweden (96) or the United States (51), notes a commentator.
To be sure, there were other factors behind Sri Lanka's fall. COVID-19 lockdowns and a 2019 bombing hurt tourism, a $3 billion to 5 billion-per-year industry. Sri Lanka's leaders insisted on paying China back for various ''Belt and Road'' infrastructure projects when other nations refused to do so. And higher oil prices meant transportation prices rose 128% since May.
But the biggest and main problem causing Sri Lanka's fall was its ban on chemical fertilizers in April 2021. Over 90% of Sri Lanka's farmers had used chemical fertilizers and, after the ban, 85% experienced crop losses. After the fertilizer ban, rice production fell 20% and prices skyrocketed 50 percent in just six months. Sri Lanka had to import $450 million worth of rice despite having been self-sufficient in the grain just months earlier. The price of carrots and tomatoes rose five-fold. Tea, the nation's main export, also suffered, thereby undermining the nation's foreign currency and ability to purchase products from abroad.
While there are 2 million farmers in Sri Lanka, 70% of the nation's 22 million people are directly or indirectly dependent on farming. ''We are furious!'' said one rice farmer in May. ''Angry! Not just me - but all the farmers who cultivated here are angry.''
In November 2021, Sri Lanka tried to reverse course, but it was too late. Rajapaksa said , ''we don't have enough chemical fertilizers in the country because we didn't import them. There is a shortage.'' By the end of last August, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had declared a state of emergency.
What, exactly, were Sri Lanka's leaders thinking? Why did they engage in such a radical experiment?
DoorDash customers say glitch let them order free food
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 14:40
DoorDash customers were celebrating on Thursday after discovering a glitch that allowed them to get their purchases for free, according to a flood of social media posts.
Customers boasted about ordering free food, pricey tequila, and even contraceptives. Some posted screenshots of extravagant orders in the thousands of dollars. One man tweeted images of dozens of stratospherically priced tequilas he says he ordered during the glitch.
Those included orders of Casamigos Reposado and Don Julio Reposado worth $1,673.73 and $1,949.70, respectively.
Others posted memes making fun of those who made large purchases without paying '-- predicting that the company would seek to have those payments fulfilled.
One Twitter user commented: ''careful now ppl doordash out for blood.''
DoorDash customers took to social media on Thursday after a glitch apparently allowed them to order thousands of dollars worth of food and groceries for free. REUTERSA Doordash spokesperson confirmed the glitch and said the company was canceling fraudulent orders.
''On the evening of July 7th DoorDash experienced a payment processing issue, and as a result, some users were able to check out without an authorized form of payment for a short period of time,'' a DoorDash spokesperson told The Post.
''We were subsequently notified that some users were placing fraudulent orders, and we immediately corrected the issue.''
''We're actively canceling fraudulent orders, and are in touch with merchants impacted to ensure they are compensated for any unauthorized orders they may have received,'' the Doordash spokesperson added.
''We work to ensure that we are always offering the highest quality of service to the communities we serve, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused by this,'' the company rep told The Post.
Doordash may be under greater pressure than ever before as one of its largest rivals, Grubhub, just inked a year-long deal with Amazon to offer free food deliveries to Prime members.
''Offering GrubHub+ for free to Prime members all but ensures that GrubHub gains a ton of market share, presumably at the expense of Doordash,'' said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, ''That pressures Doordash to increase efforts to keep up, leading to missteps.''
Pachter added that the Grubhub-Amazon tie-up could lead to ''more issues with competitor delivery services.''
y'all getting free food on DoorDash and ordering McDonald's ?! y'all trippin ðð¤...ð½''¸
'-- ð§ TRINAE ð§ (@trinae_dapisces) July 8, 2022Meanwhlie, another user wondered why people were using the freebie to order fast food, writing: ''y'all getting free food on DoorDash and ordering McDonald's ?! y'all trippin.''
So y'all got a Doordash glitch to where you can get anything you wanted for free and nobody thought to start tipping workers $1,000+ ??
'-- Niccoya (@niccoyat) July 8, 2022One Twitter user wondered why people didn't take advantage of the glitch to tip DoorDash delivery people.
''So y'all got a Doordash glitch to where you can get anything you wanted for free and nobody thought to start tipping workers $1,000+ ??'' the Twitter user wrote.
How Pfizer won the pandemic, reaping outsize profit and influence
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 14:31
The grinding two-plus years of the pandemic have yielded outsize benefits for one company '-- Pfizer '-- making it both highly influential and hugely profitable as covid-19 continues to infect tens of thousands of people and kill hundreds each day.
Its success in developing covid medicines has given the drugmaker unusual weight in determining U.S. health policy. Based on internal research, the company's executives have frequently announced the next stage in the fight against the pandemic before government officials have had time to study the issue, annoying many experts in the medical field and leaving some patients unsure whom to trust.
Pfizer's 2021 revenue was $81.3 billion, roughly double its revenue in 2020, when its top sellers were a pneumonia vaccine, the cancer drug Ibrance, and the fibromyalgia treatment Lyrica, which had gone off-patent.
Now its mRNA vaccine holds 70% of the U.S. and European markets. And its antiviral Paxlovid is the pill of choice to treat early symptoms of covid. This year, the company expects to rake in more than $50 billion in global revenue from the two medications alone.
Paxlovid's value to vaccinated patients isn't yet clear, and Pfizer's covid vaccine doesn't entirely prevent infections, although each booster temporarily restores some protection. Yet, while patients may recoil at the need for repeated injections '-- two boosters are now recommended for people 50 and older '-- the requirement is gold for investors.
''Hopefully, we could be giving it annually and maybe for some groups that are high-risk more often,'' CEO Albert Bourla told investors this year. ''Then you have the treatment [Paxlovid] that will, let's say, resolve the issues of those that are getting the disease.''
Just last week, the Biden administration agreed to buy another 105 million doses of Pfizer's covid vaccine for the fall booster campaign, paying $3.2 billion. At $30.47 a dose, it's a significant premium over the $19.50-a-dose rate the government paid for the first 100 million. The vaccine is being modified to target early omicron variants, but newer variants are gaining dominance.
Because the virus keeps mutating and will be around for a long time, the market for Pfizer's products won't go away. In wealthier countries, the public is likely to keep coming back for more, like diners at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, sated but never entirely satisfied.
The reliance on Pfizer products at each stage of the pandemic has steered the U.S. response, including critical public health decisions.
When last year Bourla suggested that a booster shot would soon be needed, U.S. public health officials later followed, giving the impression that Pfizer was calling the tune. Some public health experts and scientists worry these decisions were hasty, noting, for example, that although boosters with the mRNA shots produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech improve antibody protection initially, it generally doesn't last.
Since January, Bourla has been saying that U.S. adults will probably all need annual booster shots, and senior FDA officials have indicated since April that they agree.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEOAt a June 28 meeting of FDA advisers considering a potential fall vaccination campaign, Pfizer presented studies involving about 3,500 people showing that tweaks to its covid vaccine allowed it to elicit more antibodies against the omicron variant that began circulating last December. But most of the advisers said the FDA should require the next vaccine to target an even newer omicron variant, known as BA.5.
That would mean more work and expense for Pfizer, which called on the FDA to enable it to make future changes to the covid vaccine without human trials '-- similar to how annual influenza vaccines are approved. ''If such a process were implemented, responses to future waves could be substantially accelerated,'' said Kena Swanson, Pfizer's vice president for viral vaccines.
FDA officials at the meeting did not immediately respond to the suggestion.
As societies abandon other efforts to control covid's spread, such as mask mandates and physical distancing, Pfizer's prospects look even brighter, especially now that the company has brought out the first oral covid treatment, Paxlovid.
''People are going to get out there,'' Angela Hwang, president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, told investors May 3. ''We know with all of that, infections are going to increase, and that's the role that Paxlovid can play.''
During a recent investor call, a Pfizer official could spin the recent reports that the virus can hide from Paxlovid into good news, predicting that, as with the vaccine, patients may need multiple courses.
Immunocompromised patients ''may carry this virus for a very, very long time,'' Dr. Mikael Dolsten said in the investor call. ''And we see that area as a real new opportunity growth area for Paxlovid to do very well, where you may need to take multiple courses.''
Pfizer has spent handsomely to bolster its influence during the pandemic. Since early 2020, it has shelled out more than $25 million for in-house lobbying and payments to 19 lobbying firms, pushing for legislation to protect its products and promote more robust U.S. vaccination programs.
Pfizer's donations to political candidates in the 2020 cycle were larger than those of any other drug company, totaling about $3.5 million, with the greatest share going to Democrats. Joe Biden got $351,000; Donald Trump just $103,000.
Unlike Moderna, Sanofi, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson, which got billions of dollars in U.S. support, Pfizer did not seek government money to develop its vaccine, saying it would work independently.
Pfizer did benefit from $445 million the German government provided to BioNTech, Pfizer's partner in developing the vaccine. And, in the end, Pfizer relied substantially on U.S. government logistical support, according to a new book by former Health and Human Services official Paul Mango.
Pfizer recorded $7.8 billion in U.S. revenue for its covid vaccine in 2021. The government has options to buy 1.6 billion Pfizer vaccine doses and has so far bought 900 million of them, including 500 million purchased at not-for-profit prices to be donated to poor countries.
Pfizer's terms in the contracts exclude many taxpayer protections. They deny the government any intellectual property rights and say that federal spending played no role in the vaccine's development '-- even though National Institutes of Health scientists invented a key feature of Pfizer's vaccine, said Robin Feldman, a patent law expert at the University of California.
''The agreement could set a precedent,'' in which another company could cite Pfizer's contracts to argue the government has surrendered any rights to an invention, she said.
The government also has agreed to buy about 20 million five-day courses of Paxlovid for $530 each.
Prices for the covid drug and vaccine will go up once the pandemic period is over, Bourla said at a January event, ''to reflect the cutting-edge technology.''
Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo declined to respond to specific questions about Pfizer's influence on pandemic policy. She released a statement saying that ''since Day 1 of this pandemic, we have been laser-focused on working collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders to bring to the world two medical breakthroughs. In doing so, we have moved at the speed of science, complied with the strict regulatory processes, and relied on our scientists' expertise and manufacturing prowess.''
There is little question that the company ripped a scientific home run in responding rapidly to meet the medical needs created by the pandemic. It used artificial intelligence to track the spread of the virus and find the best places to recruit volunteers for its vaccine trials and deployed rapid drug-screening tools to develop Paxlovid.
Its success with the covid vaccine has raised hopes for a Pfizer vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, a danger to babies and older adults. The company is also moving toward seeking licensure for shots that protect against Lyme disease and hospital infections.
Pfizer had long shunned the vaccine business, with its historically modest financial returns. It dropped out of human vaccine production in the late 1960s after the recall of its disastrous measles vaccine, which sickened scores of children after exposure to the virus caused unexpected reactions with antibodies stimulated by the shot. The company returned to the field in 2009 when it bought Wyeth, which was making a highly effective and uncommonly profitable vaccine against pneumonia and ear infections.
Now, Pfizer is a new kind of global powerhouse. In 2021 alone, the company hired nearly 2,400 people. ''We are a household name right now to billions of people,'' Bourla said in January. ''People are trusting the Pfizer vaccines.''
The company's power worries some vaccinologists, who see its growing influence in a realm of medical decision-making traditionally led by independent experts.
During a recent investor call, analyst Evan Seigerman of BMO Capital Markets asked whether the world was ''kind of walking blindly into recommending boosters'' so frequently.
Data from Israel, which uses only Pfizer's vaccine and has provided most of the studies that have led to vaccination booster recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that third and fourth doses of the mRNA vaccines increase antibody levels that quickly wane again. Added boosters saved some lives in the over-60 population, but the data is less clear about the benefit to younger adults.
When President Biden in September 2021 offered boosters to Americans '-- not long after Bourla had recommended them '-- Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a developer of a vaccine for an intestinal virus, wondered, ''Where's the evidence you are at risk of serious disease when confronted with covid if you are vaccinated and under 50?''
Policies on booster recommendations for different groups are complex and shifting, Offit said, but the CDC, rather than Bourla and Pfizer, should be making them.
''We're being pushed along,'' he said. ''The pharmaceutical companies are acting like public health agencies.''
This story was originally published July 5, 2022 by KHN (Kaiser Health News) a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues.
Strong Dollar Wins the Inflation Battle in New Spin on Currency Wars - WSJ
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 14:09
The euro is near parity. The yen is at its lowest in decades. Is this part of an essential rebalancing, or a big overshoot?
There is a reverse currency war, and America is winning. Again. Just as the U.S. ''won'' the fight to devalue the dollar after the 2008 financial crisis, now it is winning the fight to strengthen it.
In both cases the Federal Reserve proved the most powerful and most aggressive of the major central banks, and the dollar swung to help it'--first down, now up.
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There is a reverse currency war, and America is winning. Again. Just as the U.S. ''won'' the fight to devalue the dollar after the 2008 financial crisis, now it is winning the fight to strengthen it.
In both cases the Federal Reserve proved the most powerful and most aggressive of the major central banks, and the dollar swung to help it'--first down, now up.
The question for investors is whether this is merely part of the essential rebalancing of the global economy, or a big overshoot that might suddenly'--and painfully'--correct. It's probably a bit of both.
The scale of the recent move in the dollar is unusual, but it is the level that really stands out. The greenback is just over 1 cent from parity with the euro for the first time since 2002, and the strongest against the yen since 1998. Adjusted for inflation, the dollar has been stronger when weighted against the country's trading partners only twice, in 2002 and 1985.
The dollar's been powered up by the combination of economic logic and monetary support.
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The economic logic both drives the dollar move and helps to restore some balance to the global economy. But for many, it hurts.
The economy justifies a strong dollar not because U.S. growth is particularly strong'--indeed, data have been very disappointing recently'--but because other places are even worse. The most recent jump against the euro and yen was due to the soaring price of natural gas, and the threat that Russian supplies might be cut off altogether. As big energy importers and machinery exporters, Japan and Germany will be particularly hit.
At a very simple level, new investment will be redirected, and the U.S. is attractive as fracking has made it self-sufficient in energy.
''For any industry that's energy intensive the U.S. just looks better now,'' says Jonas Goltermann,
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senior markets economist at Capital Economics. ''The U.S. has gained a lot of competitiveness, the terms of trade have improved.''
That shows up in a stronger currency. It is also visible in the economic data, where Japan and Germany both have soaring import costs, driven by energy. Germany in May registered its first trade deficit in goods since 1991, an astounding reversal for a country that usually runs a mercantilist policy of huge trade surpluses.
The strong dollar helps fix the problems, to some extent. If the market is right that Germany faces permanently higher energy costs, it is going to need to rely less on heavy industry and chemical plants powered by cheap Russian gas. A weak euro helps offset the loss of competitiveness, encourages investment in other, less energy-intensive export industries and discourages imports, softening the blow to employment.
Such a dispassionate description misses the pain. A weaker currency makes exports more competitive at the expense of consumers, who can no longer buy so much imported stuff, and boosts inflation when it is already running far too hot. The opposite happens in the U.S.: The strong dollar makes exporting harder and reduces the foreign profits of American multinationals, but makes imported goods cheaper, helping the Federal Reserve fight inflation.
The monetary logic is obvious. Money in the U.S. earns a higher yield than money in the rest of the developed world. The Fed is lifting rates to try to fight inflation, the European Central Bank says it will, but hasn't yet, and the Bank of Japan says it won't. Even as expectations for Fed rate increases have been pared back in recent weeks as recession fears grew, eurozone expectations have dropped faster. The wider gap that results between two-year bond yields in the U.S. and Europe supports the dollar.
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Assessing when this has gone too far is hard. Purchasing power parity attempts to compare the cost of items across countries, but often differs wildly from the actual exchange rates'--and such differences can last a very long time. The simplest measure is the long-running Big Mac index compiled by the Economist, which shows that the ubiquitous burgers are 42% cheaper in Japan than in the U.S. at the current exchange rate. The euro is less of a bargain for hungry American travelers, but burgers are still cheap.
In the absence of useful fundamental measures, currency traders often rely on drawing lines on charts to try to predict moves, which is little better than gut feel. My feeling at the moment is that yen weakness has gone too far, while the euro at parity makes a lot of sense given the war in Ukraine. Aside from anything else, the yen usually acts as a haven in tough times, but has instead weakened even further as global recession fears rose in recent weeks.
The more stretched an exchange rate is, the bigger, faster and more painful the eventual correction. But without a trigger'--a peace deal in Ukraine might restore cheap gas to Germany, or perhaps a dovish turn by the Fed'--it is hard to see what could prompt the dollar to turn.
Write to James Mackintosh at James.Mackintosh@wsj.com
A Possible Marburg-RiVax Final Solution - LewRockwell LewRockwell.com
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 13:40
While it would now appear from Mainstream Media's propaganda and the relaxation of some of the draconian restrictions on freedom, that the war on the COVID pandemic war is being won, however I believe that this is a ruse, reinforcement part of a larger PSYCOPS to complete an ongoing Eugenics agenda. Features of the COVID-19 pandemic are very worrying as follows: ''
COVID-19 disease has now been overwhelmingly proven to be just another treatable cold / Influenza which was medically mis-managed by denying early treatment which caused premature deaths in very elderly and people with underlying health conditions, this gave the misconception that there were excess deaths occurring and created mass hysteria.Mainstream Media coverage of a possible Wuhan Lab virus leak heightened the fear that a perceived sudden increase in deaths could have been the result of a deadly bioweapon escape and caused further panic to develop a vaccine to stop the spread of COVID, it was stated that this would take at least 10 years further raising public fears.The use of the now debunked real-time PCR test to diagnose COVID produced large numbers of positive results, dubbed ''cases'' without any symptoms, i.e. asymptomatic infections which is known not to exist, and this further terrorised the population. We now know that at least 97% of those positive results were false due the excessive cycle thresholds used in testing labs. Real-time PCR was developed as a research tool and is considered not suitable for diagnostic purposes.New COVID mRNA and Viral Vector gene therapy technology ''vaccine'' injections were hastily developed, These injections were administered in a frenzy, in a mass global unlicenced experiment, without informed consent, causing many adverse reactions including symptoms similar to haemorrhagic fever i.e. bleeding and clots, The clots and bleeding have been found to be caused by the spike proteins generated by the body in response to the injections, and this is compounded by an undisclosed ingredient, Graphene Oxide, in the injections which is also known to cause clots and bleeding.The first and second doses of the COVID injections have now weakened the overall health of the population as can be seen by the current situation in hospitals which are well above capacity during the summer months with patients suffering adverse reactions from the injections, many patients have symptoms similar to haemorrhagic fever.The planned COVID booster injections claimed to be necessary due to waning immunity of the initial vaccinations, plus proposed injection of children, will undoubtably cause more severe haemorrhagic fever like symptoms and also be more widespread.During my research into the false claims of excess deaths caused by COVID-19 and the pseudo-sciences which supports it, I have stumbled over some very worrying developments which I will summarise due to the urgency I feel to highlight them to the public as follows: ''
Bill Gates GAVI published an article on 22-Apr-2021 titled ''The next pandemic: Marburg?''. There have been numerous Mainstream Media articles highlighting an upcoming threat Marburg and referencing the WHO in recent months.Marburg Virus is a relatively rare haemorrhagic fever which was first described in 1967, there have only been a total of 376 related deaths, and only 16 deaths since 2005.Primerdesign developed a one-step Real-Time PCR test genesig® in 2018 for Marburg haemorrhagic fever. Why would they develop a test in 2018 for an illness which has not had a major outbreak since 2005?Soligenix, are currently rushing to trial a ricin-rich vaccine RiVax® for Marburg haemorrhagic fever. RiVax has Fast Track designation for the prevention of ricin intoxication by the US FDA. Approval of ricin toxin vaccine will utilize the FDA Animal Rule to eliminate the phase 1, 2 & 3 trials. Why such a rush now, to trial a vaccine for which there has only been a total of 376 deaths since 1967 and only 16 deaths since 2005? The main component of the Rivax vaccine is Ricin is a lectin and a highly potent toxin produced in the seeds of the castor oil plant.Soligenix shareholders include BlacRrock Fund Advisors, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, etc.Ricin is a lectin and a highly potent toxin produced in the seeds of the castor oil plant. Ricin is very toxic if inhaled, injected, or ingested. It acts as a toxin by inhibiting protein synthesis. It prevents cells from assembling various amino acids into proteins according to the messages it receives from messenger RNA in a process conducted by the cell's ribosome (the protein-making machinery) '' that is, the most basic level of cell metabolism, essential to all living cells and thus to life itself.A paper tilled Asymptomatic Infection of Marburg Virus was published by the NIH in January 2021.The fabrication of the COVID-19 pandemic and its apparent failure leads me to believe that there is a second phase or final solution at hand to catch the public while they are off-guard. Haemorrhagic fever symptoms can be easily increased and made more visible by forcing COVID booster injections on vulnerable, COVID injection injured patients, who are now prisoners in hospitals and nursing homes, plus injecting children. The haemorrhagic fever symptoms would appear as a huge Marburg pandemic and could be confirmed by the new Marburg PCR test causing mass hysteria like the world has never seen. RiVax could be quickly deployed using the existing COVID injection infrastructure and the public would be easily convinced to take it using PSYCOPS on Mainstream Media. The toxic ricin in the RiVax would kill billions of people very quickly and effectively before they realised what was happening as the deaths would be attributed to Marburg haemorrhagic fever based on the symptoms. People who refused the RiVax could be labelled as asymptomatic spreaders and placed in camps like they are doing in Australia claimed to be a COVID protection measure.
If you read my previous two COVID articles you will have seen that I began this journey in early 2020 as a vaccine hesitant person. As a result of my recent study of Virology and Immunology in an attempt to understand the SARS'CoV'2 virus, my previously held beliefs in the theories being peddled by official science and medicine has been completely upended.
I now understand that Louis Pasture fabricated his Germ Theory of Disease in the 1850's stating that invisible microorganisms known as pathogens or ''germs'' lead to disease. Pastures ideas on Viruses were concocted upon similar theories going back to Ancient Greece and Rome, more like a developing religion or cult rather than real scientific discovery.
I now believe that the theory developed by Antoine Bechamp (Pasteur bitter rival) Terrain Theory which states that microorganisms (germs) feed upon the poisonous material which they find in the sick organism and prepare it for excretion, much more similar to the natural immune response which we know to be true. However, Terrain Theory has been actively blocked due to a bias for the Germ Theory by Big Pharma due to its immense profitability.
The practice of Variolation dated back to the 16th century in China and is the precursor of the first Vaccine invented for smallpox in 1796 by English physician Edward Jenner. I have discovered that the widespread use of vaccines has killed far more people than they have saved.
A bookkeeper, John D. Rockefeller who made his fortune in the oil business was the first philanthropist and his foundations pioneered developments in medical research. The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research founded in 1901, was in the forefront of research in virology and principal investigator Louis O. Kunkel had researched the biology and pathology of the mosaic virus diseases. Beginning in 1930, the Rockefeller Foundation provided financial support to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, which later inspired and conducted eugenics experiments in the Third Reich. The Rockefeller empire in tandem with Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase), owns over half of the pharmaceutical interests in the United States today. No alternative approach to the Germ Theory in virology, immunology or medicine including the increasing use of vaccines, has been possible due to the indoctrination of the sciences by the most powerful and wealthy industry in the world. Banking and Big Pharma who now control Mainstream Media and all medical and scientific institutions.
Please do your own research, quickly, use your critical thinking and let us unite to stop this madness. I believe the Marburg-RiVax final solution could be deployed suddenly while we are relaxing after the worst of COVID and distracted by the now daily revelations on Mainstream Media regarding the Government fraud and public health mismanagement which created the COVID emergency.
Not only could haemorrhagic fever symptoms be caused by the currently deployed COVID gene therapy injections but health departments are frantically pushing the HPV vaccine for girls and boys, this vaccine and even the MMR vaccine could be deliberately contaminated with nanoparticles of Graphene Oxide or other adjuncts which cause clots and bleeds, the haemorrhagic fever symptoms of Marburg.
We must stop all vaccinations immediately and destroy all stockpiles of vaccines and the pharmaceutical manufacturing plants which make the.
GAVI https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/next-pandemic/marburgMarburg Virus https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/next-pandemic/marburggenesig® https://www.genesig.com/assets/files/mbgv_std.pdfRiVax® Animal Rule https://www.fda.gov/drugs/nda-and-bla-approvals/animal-rule-approvalsshareholders https://money.cnn.com/quote/shareholders/shareholders.html?symb=SNGX&subView=institutionalAsymptomatic Infection of Marburg Virus https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33157026/Germ Theory of Disease https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_diseaseAntoine Bechamp https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_B%C3%A9champTerrain Theory https://landbyhand.org/terrain-is-everything-dr-antoine-bechamp/Vaccine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VaccinationJohn D. Rockefeller https://www.lewrockwell.com/assets/2016/08/thomas-lamont_john-d.-rockefeller-jr..jpgThe Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research The Rockefeller empire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockefeller_University
Car Repos Are Exploding. That's a Bad Omen. | Barron's
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 13:29
The jobs report and minutes from the Federal Reserve's June meeting were the economic highlights of the week, but they are, respectively, a lagging indicator and old news. This column instead digs into the auto market, where there is an underappreciated ticking time bomb.
Lucky Lopez is a car dealer who has been in the business for about 20 years. In recent meetings with bankers, where he bids on repossessed vehicles before they go to auction, he has noticed some common characteristics of the defaulted loans. Most of the loans on recently repossessed cars originated during 2020 and 2021, whereas origination dates are normally scattered because people fall on hard times at different times; loan-to-value ratios, or the amount financed relative to the value of the vehicle, are around 140%, versus a more normal 80%; and many of the loans were extended to buyers who had temporary pops in income during the pandemic. Those monthly incomes fell'--sometimes by half'--as pandemic stimulus programs stopped, and now they look even worse on an inflation-adjusted basis and as the prices of basics in particular are climbing.
Part of the problem is that some consumers' incomes were temporarily high as the pandemic brought about debt forbearance, pandemic stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, and, in some cases, forgiven loans from the Paycheck Protection Program. Lopez says he recently bought a Bentley, McLaren and two Aston Martins'--all purchased by buyers using PPP money as down payments, and all repossessed after few or no monthly payments.Another recent acquisition: a Silverado repossessed from a borrower with a solid 700 credit score who made two payments.
Banks' auto lending standards, meanwhile, went out the window, and then lenders jumped on the bandwagon of overpaying for cars, Lopez says. ''Everybody thought the free gravy train would never end,'' Lopez says.
Now, he says he has never seen so many people making $2,500 a month owing $1,000 a month in car payments. That's about double the maximum portion of income many financial advisors recommend allocating toward a car payment. ''The idea that the economy is strong? Anyone who is actually doing business sees things are not strong,'' says Lopez. ''We had a housing bubble in 2008, and now we have an auto bubble.''
Consider data from car-shopping app CoPilot, which monitors daily online inventory across dealers nationwide to track what they say is the difference between a car's listed price and what it would be worth if not for extraordinary pandemic dynamics. In June, used-car prices were up 43%, or $10,046 above projected ''normal'' levels, the company says.
As Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO of Quill Intelligence puts it, companies in the business of repossessing autos are among the first to know when economic trouble is brewing. And now those companies are buying car lots to handle the flood of repossessed, used cars coming to the market because what they are seeing is a longer and harder recession, she says. Lopez says banks are in turn leasing more land to handle an expected car-repossession surge.
Some auto executives have hinted of turbulence. Earlier this year, Vickie Judy, CFO of America's Car-Mart (ticker: CRMT), discussed rising car repossession rates on an earnings call. In June, Ford (F) CFO John Lawler said the company had started to see delinquencies increase.
Lopez says it is hard to track vehicle repossession rates because banks are loath to talk about them. But based on what he says he has seen from banks, subprime repos have nearly doubled since 2020, to around 11% on average. The bigger red flag is in prime repos, where borrowers have higher credit scores. Lopez says usually about 2% of prime loans wind up repossessed. Now, that rate is at about 4%. Some of that can be explained by pandemic support temporarily making some consumers look like better borrowers. But it probably doesn't fully explain the jump in prime defaults, thus suggesting a wider swath of consumers are struggling despite narratives around large cash cushions and a strong job market buffering households as inflation bites, interest rates rise, and financial markets melt.
Pamela Foohey, law professor at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, warned in 2021 of an auto-loan crisis. She wrote then that heading into the pandemic, auto loans outstanding were at record levels and auto-loan delinquencies were hitting new highs almost every quarter. The bubble was about to burst, it seemed, but government pandemic responses meant the bottom didn't fall out of the auto-loan market. The measures were temporary, she warned then, and the bubble has since only grown.
Barron's checked in with Foohey this past week. ''The bubble is beginning to show signs of bursting soon,'' she says, pointing to the overall spike in car prices that has led to larger loans and to rising repossession rates.
Review & Preview Every weekday evening we highlight the consequential market news of the day and explain what's likely to matter tomorrow.
What is bubbling in the auto market reflects broader economic problems. The question: How might a bursting of an auto bubble affect the broader U.S. economy? Data published in May by the New York Fed shows Americans' auto debt rose $87 billion for the year ended in March, to $1.47 trillion. That represents about a 10th of total consumer debt, which rose 8.2% over the same period.
One place the trouble is starting to show up, Lopez says, is on banks' balance sheets. He says banks that were giving auto loans with LTVs of around 140 are now getting around 70 at auction'--meaning they are losing substantial money. Foohey says the increase in auto loans and the increase in delinquencies and defaults track an increase in defaults on personal loans and credit cards.
There is a silver lining in that the weaker economy the auto trouble both reflects and portends should cool inflation. But it might not be that simple, at least not right away. ''A lot of the banks'--they're smart. They control the market, like diamonds,'' Lopez says. ''As repos pour in, they only release them so often,'' he says, meaning auto prices will probably remain stubborn even as economic growth wanes and more repos mean more used-car inventory.
That will also remain the case for inflation broadly, with stagflation the only alternative to a deeper-than-expected recession.
Write to Lisa Beilfuss at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q-koorts - Wiktionary
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 13:22
Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
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1 Dutch 1.1 Etymology 1.2 Pronunciation 1.3 Noun Dutch [ edit ] Etymology [ edit ] Calque of English Q fever.
Pronunciation [ edit ] IPA(key): /Ëky.koËrts/ Hyphenation: Q-koorts Noun [ edit ] Q-koorts f (uncountable)
Q fever, bacterial disease caused by Coxiella burnetii Retrieved from "
Dutch terms calqued from EnglishDutch terms derived from EnglishDutch terms with IPA pronunciationDutch lemmasDutch nounsDutch uncountable nounsDutch multiword termsDutch feminine nounsHidden category:
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Cruise's Robot Car Outages Are Jamming Up San Francisco | WIRED
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 12:59
Around midnight on June 28, Calvin Hu was driving with his girlfriend near San Francisco's Golden Gate Park when he pulled up at an intersection behind two white and orange autonomous Chevrolet Bolts operated by Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors. Another was stopped to his right in the adjacent lane. The light turned green but the cars, which operate in the city without drivers, didn't move.
When Hu prepared to reverse and go around the frozen vehicles, he says, he noticed that several more Cruise vehicles had stopped in the lanes behind him. Hu, another driver, and a paratransit bus were trapped in a robotaxi sandwich.
After a few minutes of bemused waiting, Hu says, he resorted to driving over the curbs of the street's median to escape. When he returned on foot a few minutes later to see whether the situation had resolved, the Cruise vehicles hadn't budged. A person who appeared to work for the company had parked in the intersection, Hu says, as if to indicate the street was closed, and was trying to direct traffic away from the immobile self-driving cars. Hu estimates that the robot car blockade, which has not previously been reported, lasted at least 15 minutes.
The Cruise vehicles that trapped Hu weren't the only autonomous cars holding up traffic in San Francisco that night. Internal messages seen by WIRED show that nearly 60 vehicles were disabled across the city over a 90-minute period after they lost touch with a Cruise server. As many as 20 cars, some of them halted in crosswalks, created a jam in the city's downtown in an incident first reported by the San Francisco Examiner and detailed in photos posted to Reddit. In a written statement the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees the state's autonomous vehicle operations, said it was aware of the incident and would meet with Cruise to ''gather additional information.''
The June 28 outage wasn't Cruise's first. On the evening of May 18, the company lost touch with its entire fleet for 20 minutes as its cars sat stopped in the street, according to internal documentation viewed by WIRED. Company staff were unable to see where the vehicles were located or communicate with riders inside. Worst of all, the company was unable to access its system which allows remote operators to safely steer stopped vehicles to the side of the road.
A letter sent anonymously by a Cruise employee to the California Public Utilities Commission that month, which was reviewed by WIRED, alleged that the company loses contact with its driverless vehicles ''with regularity,'' blocking traffic and potentially hindering emergency vehicles. The vehicles can sometimes only be recovered by tow truck, the letter said. Images and video posted on social media in May and June show Cruise vehicles stopped in San Francisco traffic lanes seemingly inexplicably, as the city's pedestrians and motorists navigate around them.
How a chaotic skunkworks race in the desert launched what's poised to be a runaway global industry.
By Alex Davies and Aarian Marshall
Cruise spokesperson Tiffany Testo says that the cars stuck on May 18 ''were able to move over as part of the suite of fallback systems Cruise has in place.'' She provided a written statement that said the company's vehicles are programmed to pull over and turn on their hazard lights when they encounter a technical problem or meet road conditions they can't handle. ''We're working to minimize how often this happens, but it is and will remain one aspect of our overall safety operations,'' the statement said. Testo did not respond to questions about multiple incidents in which Cruise vehicles stopped in traffic.
The outages come at a vital time for Cruise, which is accelerating its autonomous vehicle program on the tricky streets of San Francisco as it competes with well-capitalized rivals like Google's sister company Waymo, Aurora, and Zoox, which is owned by Amazon. In the spring, General Motors bought out the SoftBank Vision Fund's $2.1 billion stake in Cruise and invested another $1.35 billion into the self-driving unit. Just over two weeks after the May outage that froze Cruise's fleet, the CPUC approved Cruise's permit to charge money for Uber-like ride-hail rides'--opening a path to a full commercial robotaxi service that could help the company start to recover the billions it has poured into building its technology.
Ukraine lays out $750B 'recovery plan' for postwar future - The Washington Post
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 12:52
LUGANO, Switzerland '-- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday the reconstruction of his war-battered country is the ''common task of the entire democratic world,'' as his prime minister laid out a $750 billion recovery plan once the guns of Russia's invaders fall silent one day.
As Russian forces continued their crushing advance in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, Zelenskyy spoke by video message to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Switzerland about the needs of the country that has been on an up-and-down march toward democracy since the end of the Cold War and now faces widespread devastation.
''The reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local project, is not a project of one nation, but a common task of the entire democratic world '-- all countries, all countries who can say they are civilized,'' Zelenskyy told hundreds of attendees in Lugano. ''Restoring Ukraine means restoring the principles of life, restoring the space of life, restoring everything that makes humans humans.''
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said such a recovery would require a sort of ''Marshall Plan'' for Ukraine to help it rebuild.
Such ambitions, Zelenskyy said, will require wide-scale construction, funding and security ''in all of our country which will be forced to continue living beside Russia.''
The task, which is already under way in some areas that were liberated from Russian forces, aims to leverage outside expertise, government funds and work of Ukrainians to rebuild hospitals, schools, government buildings, homes and apartments '-- but also water pipes, gas lines and other battered infrastructure.
''Today, we're all united in our defense. Tomorrow in our reconstruction,'' said Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who attended in person. He presented a recovery plan that meets immediate needs '-- even as the war continues '-- followed by a ''fast recovery'' when it's over, and then longer-term requirements.
Shmyhal said the cost of the recovery plan is estimated at $750 billion, and insisted a key source of funding ''should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs.'' He cited unspecified estimates that such sums total $300 billion to $500 billion now.
''The Russian authorities unleash this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction and they should be held accountable for it,'' Shmyhal said.
Valdis Dombrovskis, vice president of the European Union's executive branch, said using such confiscated Russian assets would involve criminal law, so the ''legal obstacles'' weren't resolved, ''but we think it's important that according to the principle of 'aggressor pays' it's also Russia's assets which are directed to the reconstruction of Ukraine.''
Earlier Monday, a leading Swiss nongovernmental group called out Switzerland as a ''safe haven'' for Russian oligarchs and as a trading hub for Russian oil, grain and coal.
Public Eye urged the Swiss executive branch to ''use all levers at its disposal to stop the financing of this inhuman aggression,'' a reference to Russia's war that has killed thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, and rippled through world economy by driving up food and fuel prices.
It said Switzerland has been over the years a ''popular refuge'' for Russian business magnates to park their assets. The group said firms use Switzerland as an ''unregulated commodity trading hub'' and exploit a lack of transparency about financial dealings in the country.
There was no immediate response from the Swiss government.
The group welcomed Switzerland's ''humanitarian engagement'' for Ukraine through the conference but called on the government to strictly implement international sanctions on Russian elites and their government, and better regulate its trading hub.
Switzerland is a major international financial center and its government has traditionally touted Swiss ''neutrality'' '-- which is enshrined into law '-- and Switzerland's role as an intermediary between hostile countries and as a host of many international and U.N. institutions.
The Swiss Bankers Association has estimated that the assets of Russian clients deposited in Switzerland's banks total 150-200 billion Swiss francs (about $155-$210 billion), making the country a key repository of Russian money abroad.
Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, has largely joined the bloc's sanctions against Russia. The website of the Swiss federal economics department says that as of May 12, a total of 6.3 billion francs have been frozen in Switzerland in connection with Russia's war in Ukraine.
In its call for transparency and better regulation in Switzerland, Public Eye said that ''as a safe haven for oligarchs close to the Kremlin and as a trading hub for Russian oil, grain and coal, Switzerland bears a big political responsibility.''
The conference in lakeside Lugano brings together hundreds of representatives from government, advocacy groups, the private sector, academia and U.N. organizations '-- and scores of Ukrainian ministers, lawmakers, diplomats and others. It builds upon a multi-year, multi-country discussion about reform in Ukraine '-- even before the war began '-- but this time the focus is ''recovery'' from the war.
Environmental groups want to help Ukraine build back better. Lobby groups Solar Power Europe and Wind Europe, together with their Ukrainian counterparts, urged Ukraine to set a target of producing at least 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, bringing it in line with European Union targets.
According to the International Energy Agency, Ukraine generated less than 10% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2019, the last year for which data was published. Most of Ukraine's electricity comes from nuclear power and burning coal.
A small group of Greenpeace activists staged a media stunt by pretending to set up a fake wind turbine on the banks of Lake Lugano, as part of a call with Ukrainian NGOs to support sustainable energy development in the country whose infrastructure has been widely damaged.
Government advisors propose environment tax on meats
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 12:50
A group of experts commissioned by the Ministry of Finance have proposed massively increasing taxes on the sale of meat, in a bid to make new taxation new green and eco-friendly.
According to Belgian newspaper Le Soir, experts have suggested raising VAT on meat from 6% to 12%, or even 21%. The impact of this decision, inevitably, would be to discourage the consumption of meat products, which have a much larger carbon footprint than many other types of food.
According to data from Statista, red meats have an extremely large carbon footprint as the rearing of cattle uses large amounts of feed and emits methane gases. One kilogram of beef produces an average of 99.48 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents. Poultry produced just 10 kilograms.
Some vegan activists and organisations are now calling for nations to adopt a ''Plant Based Treaty'', ending all subsidies and incentives to the meat industry. Citing research papers by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate activists state that a switch to a global vegan diet could save 7.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
The experts advising the Ministry of Finance have said that the current price of meat is ''significantly lower than its environmental impact.'' The VAT on all foods, except luxury goods such as lobster, crab, crayfish, caviar, and oysters, is currently fixed at 6%. To adjust this rate of taxation to the environmental impact of the meat industry could mean nearly tripling the rate of tax.
Taxation going greenThe economists based their suggestions off a recent study conducted in the Netherlands. When extrapolating the results to Belgium, the experts calculated that the tax could bring in '¬394-933 million, as well as external benefits of '¬108-272 million due to decreased environmental damages.
Related PostsThere are also hopes that tax disincentives would reduce consumption, thereby leading to ''long-term consumer health benefits.''
The green taxation proposals don't stop at meat. Rather than adding to the tax burden, the experts also suggest greening tax revenues by removing incentives on company cars. The economists advocate for the gradual abolition of tax regimes for corporate cars.
The experts are not the first to suggest such a move. Last year, the rate of tax on these vehicles increased significantly. The Flemish government reserves the most generous incentives for electric vehicles. The advisors to the Ministry of Finance also propose creating green bonds, and environmentally responsible pension funds.
Goodbye gasoline cars? EU lawmakers vote to ban new sales from 2035
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 12:49
Traffic in Paris, France, on May 12, 2020. The European Parliament now supports the European Commission's goal of a 100% cut in emissions from new passenger cars and vans by 2035.
Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images
European lawmakers have voted to ban the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans in the EU from 2035, representing a significant shot in the arm to the region's ambitious green goals.
On Wednesday, 339 MEPs in the European Parliament voted in favor of the plans, which had been proposed by the European Commission, the EU's executive branch. There were 249 votes against the proposal, while 24 MEPs abstained.
It takes the European Union a step closer to its goal of cutting emissions from new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles by 100% in 2035, compared to 2021. By 2030, the target is an emissions reduction of 50% for vans and 55% for cars.
The Commission has previously said passenger cars and vans account for roughly 12% and 2.5% of the EU's total CO2 emissions. MEPs will now undertake negotiations about the plans with the bloc's 27 member states.
The U.K., meanwhile, wants to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030. It will require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero tailpipe emissions. The U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.
Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC ProDutch MEP Jan Huitema, who is part of the Renew Europe Group, welcomed the result of Wednesday's vote. "I am thrilled that the European Parliament has backed an ambitious revision of the targets for 2030 and supported a 100% target for 2035, which is crucial to reach climate neutrality by 2050," he said.
Others commenting on the news included Alex Keynes, clean vehicles manager at Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment. "The deadline means the last fossil fuel cars will be sold by 2035, giving us a fighting chance of averting runaway climate change," Keynes said.
He also argued that the plans provide the car industry with the certainty it needed to "ramp up production of electric vehicles, which will drive down prices for drivers."
For its part, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association said it was "concerned that MEPs voted to set in stone a -100% CO2 target for 2035."
Oliver Zipse, who is the president of the ACEA and CEO of BMW, said his industry was "in the midst of a wide push for electric vehicles, with new models arriving steadily."
"But given the volatility and uncertainty we are experiencing globally day-by-day, any long-term regulation going beyond this decade is premature at this early stage," Zipse added. "Instead, a transparent review is needed halfway in order to define post-2030 targets."
The EU has said it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. In the medium term, it wants net greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by at least 55% by the year 2030, which the EU calls its "Fit for 55" plan.
The realization of this plan has not been all plain sailing. The news on cars and vans came after MEPs rejected a revision to the EU Emissions Trading System, or ETS.
In a press release on Thursday, the European Parliament said three draft laws in the Fit for 55 package were now "on hold pending political agreement."
The making of Dick Cheney
Sun, 10 Jul 2022 04:36
A Professional and Personal Memoir
By Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney
Threshold Editions. 565 pp. $35
nolead ends nolead begins
Reviewed by Frank Wilson
Wikipedia may not be the last word when it comes to finding information, but it does make a useful distinction regarding memoirs, namely, that they "are structured differently from formal autobiographies . . . focusing on the development of [the author's] personality." Whether former Vice President Dick Cheney thought about this or not, the fact remains that he has called his book a memoir and as such it ought to be judged.
If the headlines that greeted the book are any indication, however, such has not been the case. The book has instead been used as a pretext for revisiting policy disputes. I am not particularly qualified to size up those differences, so I read In My Time for what it purports to be: a memoir.
Now, since there is nothing more elusive than one's own identity, a memoir is of necessity a story, the tale of the character the author takes himself to be. And the only way to get at a story, as D.H. Lawrence so shrewdly observed, is to trust the story, not the storyteller.
Any memoir, of course, but especially one by a man of affairs, is also largely a chronicle of things done and experienced. Still, agere sequitur esse: Action follows from being. You act as you do because you are who you are.
So who exactly, given the story he tells about himself, is Richard Bruce Cheney, 46th vice president of the United States?
I think Cheney has been defined by three key events in his life. The first occurred when his maternal grandfather paid a visit to his family when Cheney was 14:
One morning when I was in the living room and my parents were outside working in the yard, I heard him calling from his bedroom down the hall. "Dicky, come here, I need you." I found him sitting on the bed, clearly in pain. He told me that he thought he was having another heart attack. I ran outside to get my folks, and they called for help. I ran down to the street corner to flag down the ambulance and make sure it came to the right house. In those days there wasn't much the drivers could do except put Grandpa on oxygen and rush him to the hospital. I held the screen door open as they carried him out on a stretcher. My folks followed the ambulance to the hospital, but they were back home within the hour and told Bob and me that Grandpa had died.
A typical bureaucrat, Cheney tends to tell, not show. So this passage stands out in its precision of detail - running down the street, flagging down the ambulance, holding the screen door. Small wonder Cheney "couldn't help but think of my grandfather" when, in June 1978, he had the second defining event, waking up in the middle of the night "with a tingling sensation in two fingers of my left hand." He figured it was a false alarm, but his cousin had had a heart attack just a few weeks earlier, so he decided to have a doctor check him out. The moment he sat down in the emergency room, he passed out: "When I came to I noticed that there was a great deal of activity in the ER. Then I noticed it was all focused on me."
This was the first of his four heart attacks. Heart disease runs in his family, he notes, and since age 37 Cheney has lived with a sense of mortality more acute than most of us have. That is surely the reason his book is an apologia only in the old-fashioned sense of an account of the reasons he had for taking the positions and favoring the policies that he did.
The most controversial of those positions and policies relate to what Cheney always refers to as the Global War on Terror. The third defining event, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2011, seems for Cheney to have an effect equivalent to a major national heart attack. His view of the Terrorist Surveillance Program - a key element of which "involved intercepting targeted communications into and out of the United States where there was a reasonable basis to conclude that at least one party to the communication was associated with al Qaeda or a related terrorist organization" - says it all.
Cheney notes that the program had received unanimous approval of an expanded congressional briefing whose attendees included then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, as well as Jane Harmon, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, and Jay Rockefeller, her counterpart on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He calls the program "one of things of which I am proudest. I know it saved lives and prevented attacks. If I had it to do all over again, I would, in a heartbeat."
Cheney does voice a few regrets. Some are mostly over procedure, as in the case of Paul O'Neill, George W. Bush's first treasury secretary. Cheney admits that "economic policy was being run out of the White House, and meetings to make decisions often did not include the treasury secretary."
Cheney thinks O'Neill should have insisted that he be at such meetings, but adds that, "on the other hand, either the president or I could have said, 'Where's O'Neill? We should not be having this meeting without the treasury secretary."
Another regret is more substantive. Cheney was secretary of defense during the first Gulf War, and he has not forgotten that, some time after the war ended, Saddam Hussein "ordered the draining of the marshes near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, displacing thousands of the predominantly Shia Marsh Arabs. Our failure to do more to protect the Shia from Saddam contributed to a sense of betrayal and suspicion that affected our relationships 12 years later when America was confronting Saddam once again."
Cheney makes plain throughout his book that he considers himself a conservative. But his brand of conservatism is very much grounded in the individualism of the frontier. His childhood heroes were the mountain men. Among his favorite books when he was growing up were A.B. Guthrie 's The Big Sky and Bernard De Voto's Across the Wide Missouri. He tells how he and his brother loved to roam the prairie: "To a casual observer the landscape might have seemed barren and boring, but my brother and I, out there for hours, knew its different grasses, the sagebrush, the scrub pine and all the animals that lived there - antelope, deer, jackrabbits, cottontails, and an occasional rattlesnake."
It comes as no surprise when he reminds readers of his answer to a question about gay rights posed by CNN's Bernard Shaw during the 2000 vice presidential debate:
. . . we live in a free society and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don't get to choose, and shouldn't be able to choose, and say, you get to live free but you don't. That means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.
So who exactly is Dick Cheney? Almost certainly not the person you may have been led to think he is.
UK Bill Threatens Journalists With Life in Prison '' Consortium News
Sat, 09 Jul 2022 22:35
Journalists and publishers could face life sentences if National Security Bill 2022, being debated in the U.K. Parliament, becomes law, reports Mohamed Elmaazi.
Assange supporters marching on Parliament, February 2020. (Joe Lauria)
Mohamed Elmaazi in London Special to Consortium News
T he British Parliament is debating a national security bill which could undermine the basis of national security reporting and ultimately throw journalists in jail for life.
A person convicted under the new offense of ''obtaining or disclosing protected information,'' defined in Section 1 of National Security Bill 2022, faces a fine, life imprisonment, or both, if convicted following a jury trial.
A review of the parliamentary debate on the bill makes clear that work by press outlets such as WikiLeaks is at the heart of Tory and Labour MPs' thinking as they push to make the bill law.
As currently written, direct-action protests, such as those conducted by Palestine Action against U.K.-based Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd, could also be captured under the offences of ''sabotage'' and entering ''prohibited places'' sections of the bill.
Whistleblowers, journalists and publishers focusing on national security related matters may be most at risk of being prosecuted, though any person who ''copies,'' ''retains,'' ''discloses,'' ''distributes'' or ''provides access to'' so called protected information could be prosecuted.
''Protected information'' is defined as any ''restricted material'' and it need not even be classified.
Under this bill, leakers, whistleblowers, journalists or everyday members of the public, face a potential life sentence if they receive or share ''protected information'' which is widely defined.
That does not mean imprisonment from one day ''up to'' a life sentence. If a judge determines a fine isn't suitable enough punishment the only alternative is life in prison. Following a conviction, a judge would have no choice but to either issue a fine or hand down a life sentence, or both.
[Read the bill in its entirety here.]
There is no public interest or journalistic defense in the bill, a fact noted by some of the parliamentarians during the debates.
''The glaring omission at the heart of the National Security Bill is a straightforward public-interest defense, so that those who expose wrongdoing, either as whistleblowers or journalists, will be protected,'' Tim Dawson, a long-time member of the National Union of Journalists' National Executive Council told Consortium News.
''Without this, there is a risk of concerned U.K. citizens being prosecuted as though they were foreign spies,'' he added.
[Related: Sweeping Threat to Free Speech in U.K,]
The bill can be seen as part of a growing crackdown in both Britain and the United States against legitimate journalism that challenges establishment narratives.
In many respects, the proposed law, which applies to people both inside and outside the U.K., shares many elements with the draconian 1917 Espionage Act, which the U.S. government is using to prosecute WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
Assange is charged with 17 offenses under the Espionage Act, amounting to a maximum 170 years in prison. None of the charges allege conspiring with a foreign power and merely pertain to receiving and publishing documents leaked to him by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
No Evidence of Harm
As is the case with the U.S.' Espionage Act, no evidence of actual harm needs to be proven by prosecutors in order to secure a conviction under the National Security Bill.
There is a broad test of whether the defendant knows or ''ought reasonably to know'' that their conduct is ''prejudicial to safety or interests of the U.K.''
What is, or is not, ''prejudicial'' to the ''safety'' or ''interests'' of the U.K. is also to be determined by the government of the day, according to long established case law from the U.K.'s highest court.
This could include anything from environmental, energy, climate and housing policy, to policing, foreign affairs or military policy.
A review of the parliamentary debates over the bill shows that although it is being justified on the basis of protecting the U.K. from the ''serious threat from state-backed attacks on assets, including sites, data and infrastructure critical to the U.K.'s safety or interests,'' national security leaks and reporting '' including that of WikiLeaks '-- is explicitly in the minds of at least some of the key politicians supporting the bill.
''Will the right honourable lady condemn the WikiLeaks-type mass dumping of information in the public domain? It is hugely irresponsible and can put lives at risk,'' Tory MP Theresa Villiers asked Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Yevette Cooper, on June 6.
''Yes, I strongly do, because some of the examples of such leaks that we have seen put agents' lives at risk, put vital parts of our national security and intelligence infrastructure at risk and are highly irresponsible,'' Cooper replied, adding, ''We need safeguards to protect against that kind of damaging impact on our national security.''
There is no evidence that anything published by WikiLeaks has resulted in the loss of life.
A U.S.-leaked government report itself concluded that there was ''no significant 'strategic impact' to the release of the [Iraq War Logs and Afghanistan War Diary]'', from the Manning leaks which Assange is being prosecuted over. ''No actual harm [against an individual]'' could be shown either, a lawyer acting for the U.S. government admitted during Assange's extradition hearings.
This contradicts the official government line that the leaks caused serious harm.
Among the many disclosures revealed by WikiLeaks, include the secret texts of proposed corporate and investor rights treaties such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
These treaties, which were being negotiated in secret and would not have been known to the citizens until just before or even after they had become law, would have preferenced corporate rights over domestic laws and subordinated labor, environmental and health protections and climate policy to the profit-making imperatives of private industry. Their passage stalled after their draft texts were leaked and then published by WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks revelations also include dramatic incidents such as the execution of 10 handcuffed Iraqi civilians in their family home, including four women, two children and three infants, by U.S. soldiers who later ordered an airstrike to cover it up.
Many around the world might still believe that a U.K. plan to build the world's largest ''marine park'' in the Chagos Islands was motivated by environmental concerns, were it not for a cable published by WikiLeaks revealing that the true purpose was to prevent the indigenous population from ever being able to return to their land.
Militarized atoll of Diego Garcia, in Chagos Islands in central Indian Ocean. (Wikimedia Commons)
Torture and rendition of civilians as well as other war crimes were also revealed by WikiLeaks.
All such material, which are among the documents Assange is being prosecuted by the U.S. for publishing, would fall under the National Security Bill's definition of ''protected information.''
Conspiracy with Foreign Power
In theory, involvement of a ''foreign power'' must also be proven for Section 1 of the bill to apply. But a review of the ''foreign power condition'' in Section 24 of the bill shows a myriad of ways that this condition could be satisfied.
Section 24 reads as follows:
''24 The foreign power condition
(1) For the purposes of this Part the foreign power condition is met in relation to a person's conduct if '--
(a) the conduct in question, or a course of conduct of which it forms part, is carried out for or on behalf of a foreign power,
(b) the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that to be the case.
(2) The conduct in question, or a course of conduct of which it forms part, is in particular to be treated as carried out for or on behalf of a foreign power if '--
(a) it is instigated by a foreign power,
(b) is under the direction or control of a foreign power,
(c) it is carried out with the financial or other assistance of a foreign power, or
(d) it is carried out in collaboration with, or with the agreement of, a foreign power.
(3) Subsections (1)(a) and (2) may be satisfied by a direct or indirect relationship between the conduct, or the course of conduct, and the foreign power (for example, there may be an indirect relationship through one or more companies).
(4) A person's conduct may form part of a course of conduct engaged in by the person alone, or by the person and one or more other persons.
(5) The foreign power condition is also met in relation to a person's conduct if the person intends the conduct in question to benefit a foreign power.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (5) it is not necessary to identify a particular foreign power.
(7) The foreign power condition may be met in relation to the conduct of a person who holds office in or under, or is an employee or other member of staff of, a foreign power, as it may be met in relation to the conduct of any otherperson.''
Foreign Funded Organizations
The foreign power condition could potentially be satisfied, therefore, due simply to the involvement, at any stage, of a journalist working for news outlets such as Al Jazeera, Press TV, CGTN, RT, Voice of America, France 24, Redfish or TeleSUr.
Tory MP David Davies, himself a supporter of the bill despite being known for his criticism of the prosecution of Assange, noted that ''[human rights group] Reprieve, Privacy International, Transparency International and other excellent organizations that do very good work have received some funding from other nations' Governments'' and could therefore ''fall foul'' of this law.
''Perfectly legitimate organizations could be left committing an offence, under this area of the bill, if they use leaked information '-- which may not even be classified '-- to challenge government policy,'' Davies added.
Furthermore, what is deemed to be a ''perfectly legitimate organization'' is in the eye of the beholder and can change over time '' as proven by the increased E.U. and U.S. censorship of RT and Sputnik since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Even if a foreign power is proven to somehow be involved, either in the obtaining of restricted material, sharing or publishing it, there is no apparent need to prove conspiring with that foreign power for the condition to be satisfied and therefore for a defendant to be convicted.
Therefore, if a person reports upon U.K. government documents '-- which prosecutors argue have been hacked and released by a foreign government agency, or even a hacker group infiltrated or influenced somehow by a foreign government agency '-- they could be found guilty under this law, without any evidence either of participation in the hack or conspiracy with a foreign power.
The Bill and the Official Secrets Act
Following the revelations of mass, warrantless, government surveillance, by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as WikiLeaks revelations of war crimes and other state wrongdoing, the Cabinet Office asked the Law Commission to review its official secrecy, data protection and espionage laws.
In 2020, the Law Commission recommended replacing the Official Secrets Acts 1911, 1920 and 1939 with an Espionage Act, and updating the Official Secrets Act 1989. Many of its recommendations on 'reforming' U.K, secrecy laws, would make it easier to bring prosecutions against whistleblowers, journalists and publishers by lowering so called ''barriers to prosecution''.
For example, the Law Commission recommended that prosecutors should no longer have to prove that leaks by public servants and contractors, covered by the 1989 Act, have caused ''damage''. The 1989 Act is the main legislation currently used to target whistleblowers, leakers, journalists and publishers.
The National Security Bill repeals the older official secrets laws and expands criminalisation of conduct which might be useful to an ''enemy'' with the more broadly defined ''foreign power''. This bill also adopts recommendations to expand what can be labelled a ''prohibited place'' beyond military sites. Section 1 applies to people based outside the U.K,, regardless of their nationality, and this appears to flow from the Law Commission's proposed amendments to the 1989 Act, which currently only applies to U.K. citizens.
Technically, the National Security Bill hardly amends the Official Secrets Act 1989. Perhaps this is because the Home Office opposes the Law Commission's insistence that revisions to the 1989 Act re-introduce a public interest defence, which could be used by journalists and everyday civilians. The Home Office also opposes the idea of an independent body to receive whistleblower concerns. Yet many of the most draconian recommendations have been implemented in some form in the Bill.
Section 1 of the Bill '' which lacks any requirement to prove damage along with the overly broad foreign power condition'' could simply be the Home Office's way of seeking to expand the scope of conduct covered by the 1989 Act as much as possible without explicitly doing so. The National Security Bill therefore appears to fall foul of the Law Commission's recommendations that the definition of a foreign power ''should not render the offense overly broad''.
National Security Rep orting
Vauxhall Cross, London, headquarters of British Secret Intelligence Service. (Laurie Nevay, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
In 2018, emails and other documents belonging to the Institute for Statecraft's Integrity Initiative, a now defunc t U.K.-based, intelligence services-linked, propaganda and psyop organization, were hacked and published online.
The documents revealed that the Integrity Initiative was receiving funding from the U.K. Foreign Office, Facebook, NATO and neoconservative-linked foundations, and was engaged in directing anti-Russian, anti-left and pro-NATO propaganda towards the European and U.K. public.
Integrity Initiative documents, including emails and a contract with the U.K. Foreign Office, revealed an ambitious global agenda involving secret ''clusters'' of academics, journalists, policy makers and national security-linked officials in Europe, North Africa and North America, with more being planned.
The hacked documents revealed that the purpose of the Integrity Initiative was to shape public opinion and public policy under the guise of combatting Russian ''disinformation.''
A group called Anonymous Europe claimed responsibility, though the Foreign Office and Western media suggested, without evidence, that the Russian government was somehow behind the hack.
The BBC even reported, also without evidence, that the documents were ''leaked to the Russian media.''
In fact, the documents were published on an internet messaging board and available to anyone aware of the website, including independent British and American journalists who reported upon them.
Reporting on such documents, if the National Security Bill becomes law, could be considered a violation of Section 1, given that some of the files were ''restricted'' government documents and the Integrity Initiative was partially government funded. If foreign government actors were involved in hacking or releasing the documents that alone could satisfy the ''foreign power condition'' in Section 24.
Even the fact that journalists (including British citizens) who were writing for foreign government-funded news outlets reported on the documents could satisfy the ''foreign power condition.''
Even more disturbing, involvement of a foreign power is not actually needed if the government argues that the conduct of the defendant was ''intended'' to ''benefit a foreign power.'' In this circumstance, ''it is not necessary [for the prosecution] to identify a particular foreign power.''
Therefore, for example, if a journalist known for writing articles critical of NATO reports on ''restricted'' material which paints the military alliance in a bad light, regardless of whether the documents were leaked to him directly or even if he simply came across them already published online, that journalist could be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to life '-- if the prosecutor convinces the jury that, based on their prior reporting or public comments critical of NATO or of Western foreign policy, they intended their reporting on the ''restricted material'' to ''benefit a foreign power.''
Which foreign power was he intending to benefit? It isn't necessary for the prosecutor to say, as Section 24 (6) makes clear.
There are a number of other notable elements to this bill worth considering.
'Sabotage' & Entering 'Prohibited Place'
Direct action might also fall foul of provisions in this bill, if the foreign power condition is satisfied.
Committing ''damage'' against any ''asset,'' inside or outside the U.K., for ''a purpose that they know, or ought reasonably to know, is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom'' is also punishable by a fine or life in prison, or both, under Section 12.
''Damage'' includes ''alteration'' or ''loss of or reduction in access or availability'' to an ''asset.''
Under Section 4, entering a ''prohibited place'' could result in a life sentence, if the person knew or ''ought reasonably to know'' it is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the U.K. This includes if someone ''accesses, enters, inspects [including films], passes over or under, approaches or is in the vicinity of a prohibited place.''
Conceivably, direct action activists such as members of Palestine Action who have successfully shut down factories belonging to Israeli weapons manufacture Elbit Systems Ltd, would be caught by such provisions, The same goes for journalists filming them or entering a premises designated ''prohibited.''
BREAKING: Palestine Action has scaled the roof and seized control of Elbit's weapons factory in #Shenstone, knocking out the engines manufacturer for Israel's killer drones? #ShutElbitDown pic.twitter.com/mVatwdb9Hk
'-- Palestine Action (@Pal_action) June 22, 2022
In the 1964 case of Chandler v Director of Public Prosecutions, the U.K.'s highest court upheld conviction of members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament for violating the Official Secrets Act. The activists were convicted for entering Wethersfield RAF base ''a prohibited place'' for a purpose deemed ''prejudicial to the security of the state.'' The trial judge was said to be within his right to deny the defendants the ability to offer evidence or cross-examine witnesses to argue that their purpose in entering the base was to improve the U.K.'s security.
This is the same case that held that what is ''prejudicial'' to the ''safety'' or ''interest'' of the country is up to the government of the day to determine.
Protecting Corporate Secrets
(M M, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Section 2 of the bill also creates a crime of ''obtaining or disclosing trade secrets.'' As is the case with Section 1, this occurs whether the person knew or ''ought reasonably to know'' that their conduct is ''unauthorised.''
A person faces either a fine or up to 14 years in prison, or both, if they are convicted.
There is no whistleblowing, journalistic or public interest protection provided in this section either.
Arguably, obtaining or disclosing ''trade secrets'' which could reveal, for example, corruption, environmental pollution, labor violations and other human rights abuses or other forms of corporate malfeasance could conceivably result in prosecution under this bill.
The foreign power condition must be satisfied for Section 2 to apply, which, it has already been shown, is arguably easier to do than one might think.
Limiting Legal Aid Access
Access to legal aid is also restricted for anyone convicted of a ''terror'' offence. This means that someone who, for example, was convicted for violating Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 '-- for refusing to give access to their mobile phone password at the airport '-- could find themselves denied legal aid years later.
Freezing Funds & Other Assets
The ability of the government to ''freeze'' assets is also made easier in the Bill. The law currently permits freezing and seizing of assets if it can be shown that they are ''intended to be used'' for terrorism. This is replaced in Section 61 and Schedule 10 with the lower threshold of ''at risk of being used'' for terrorism.
State Crimes Committed Abroad
Interestingly, Section 23 amends the Serious Crime Act 2007 to note that it can't be used to prosecute members of MI5 (Security Service), MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service), GCHQ or the armed forces, for any criminal conduct committed outside the U.K,, if their criminal conduct is deemed ''necessary for the proper function'' of those institutions.
Leaking & Direct Action
When the National Security Bill was first revealed, a number of observers seemed somewhat sanguine about it on the basis that the foreign power condition needed to be met before a conviction could be secured under Section 1.
The Freedom of Information Campaign, for example, tweeted:
The government appears to have dropped plans to tighten the 1989 Official Secrets Act which punishes the leaking of certain classes of information. Today's National Security Bill replaces the 1911, 1920 and 1939 OSAs but makes no substantive change to the 1989 Act. #FOI
'-- Campaign for Freedom of Information (@CampaignFoI) May 11, 2022
When journalist Richard Spence asked about the potential life sentence, they replied:
That applies only where the 'foreign power condition is met in relation to the person's conduct'. Not to the unauthorised disclosure of information caught by the 1989 Official Secrets Act.
'-- Campaign for Freedom of Information (@CampaignFoI) May 13, 2022
Since then, however, the Freedom of Information Campaign, jointly with Article 19, submitted a brief for MPs making clear that journalists and civil society activists who receive some foreign funding and yet are engaged in ''legitimate activities'' could be caught by this bill.
The Bill appears to have cross-party support (with few dissenters) amid seeming hysteria over alleged Chinese government influence operations.
Laws are versatile and can, if not strictly drafted, be used in circumstances that even the original drafters had not intended. All it requires is for a prosecutor to be willing to bring a case and for a judge to allow it to go forward.
Beyond Stated Purpose
Jan. 1 1916: Pacifists on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. (Library of Congress)
The Espionage Act is a perfect case in point. Ostensibly created to protect the U.S. from German spies during WWI, it was used to successfully prosecute people for their opposition to their country's involvement in the war. Their convictions were upheld on appeal despite the fact that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Decades later the administration of Richard Nixon used the same act to prosecute Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. The governments of George W. Bush and Barack Obama would then use the law, again to target whistleblowers such as John Kiriakou who revealed C.I.A. torture, Jeffrey Sterling who used official channels to blow the whistle on a dangerous and ultimately botched plot to undermine Iran's nuclear program and Daniel Hale who revealed that 90 percent of those killed by U.S. drones in Afghanistan were civilians.
Now this same 1917 law is being used to prosecute Assange, an award-winning journalist, for publishing ''restricted'' documents while based outside the U.S.
During a debate, Margaret Ferrier, an independent MP from Scotland, asked whether the home secretary has ''considered the dangers to freedom of the press that the National Security Bill presents.''
''Many of my constituents,'' Ferrier added, ''are concerned that measures that could prevent journalists from publishing stories of public interest are undemocratic.''
'Online Safety Bill'
''No, I do not see a danger to journalistic freedoms,'' Minister for Security and Borders Damian Hinds replied. He proceeded to change the subject by referring to another proposed bill saying that the government is ''taking stringent steps to ensure, for example, that in the Online Safety Bill journalistic rights and freedoms are absolutely to the fore, because of the vital and irreplaceable role that a free and sometimes boisterous media plays in underpinning and challenging us in our democracy.''
The Online Safety Bill, described as an ''Orwellian censorship machine'' by the Open Rights Group, would grant powers to ministers to censor legal content. It requires all online communications '' public and private '-- to be monitored for ''harmful content'' and undermines encryption of private messenger apps like WhatsApp and Signal.
''The Online Safety Bill creates a carve out for news media organizations (defined as 'news publishers') who are registered with the Independent Press Standards Organisation or IMPRESS or Ofcom in the case of broadcasters,'' said Monica Horten, policy manager for freedom of expression at the Open Rights Group.
In theory, this carve out means news organizations ''are not subject to platform content moderation policies in the same way as everybody else.'' Horten added that online platforms ''are mandated to leave their content online, regardless of whether it meets their policies, or other Online Safety Bill compliance requirements.''
This censorship exemption ostensibly applies to ''all content that is created for the purpose of journalism and which is U.K.-linked,'' according to a convoluted explanatory note recently published by the Home Office.
Regulated media outlets will also have a fast-track complaint process if their material is taken down.
In other words, a two-tier freedom of expression between the press and everyday people.
What will happen in practice to citizen journalists, bloggers and independent and alternative outlets which are not, cannot or have no interest in being, regulated by U.K. press regulators remains to be seen.
''It will be impossible for large platforms, operating at scale, to determine on that basis who is and who is not a 'journalist,''' Horten argued.
Ominously, she assessed that it is ''therefore probable that the only way to make this provision work will be to institute a register of media.''
Mohamed Elmaazi studied law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and has contributed to numerous news outlets, including Jacobin, The Dissenter, The Canary, Open Democracy, The Grayzone and The Real News Network. He has covered all of Julian Assange's extradition hearings.
Rogers BGP SNAFU in real-time. : sysadmin
Sat, 09 Jul 2022 17:31
With BGP you "own" public IPs and they are in an ASN number.
Routers register their ASN numbers, and then advertise their public IPs as prefixes to other ASNs it has configured as "neighbours", think of it like telling other routers what it's own IPs are and that they should put it in an ACL and then keep advertising that onto other routers, so that things can make their way across geography to the destination. Routers that know the neighbors of other routers, etc.. can figure out the best path to the destination.
If you advertise your prefix wrong, it can cause major routing issues, either things go down and there's no route to it, or different routers know an IP as a different ASN due to a wrongly configured router advertising the same IP as another, it can cause loops and things like that which aren't quickly sorted.
This is more small scale though, in the larger picture for an ISP they are bringing datacenters offline and things like that, then they lose access to internal tools and it becomes very complicated to get on site and start connecting locally to do updates.
That's my take of it from someone who did some work for a startup that had a /23 block of public IPs for eBGP. The benefit in this case is that workstations that were critical to operation connected to things on their public eBGP IP. If there was a network blip or outage on ISP1, BGP would failover to ISP2, but the workstation still had the same public IP and things like TCP negotiations could continue.
The Battle Over Gender Therapy - The New York Times
Sat, 09 Jul 2022 15:56
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Scott Leibowitz is a pioneer in the field of transgender health care. He has directed or worked at three gender clinics on the East Coast and the Midwest, where he provides gender-affirming care, the approach the medical community has largely adopted for embracing children and teenagers who come out as transgender. He also helps shape policy on L.G.B.T. issues for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist who is gay, he found it felt natural to work under the L.G.B.T. ''umbrella,'' as he put it, aware of the overlap as well as the differences between gay and trans identity.
It was for all these reasons that Leibowitz was selected, in 2017, to be a leader of a working group of seven clinicians and researchers drafting a chapter on adolescents for a new version of guidelines called the Standards of Care to be issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). The guidelines are meant to set a gold standard for the field of transgender health care, and this would be the first update since 2012. What Leibowitz and his co-authors didn't foresee, when they began, was that their work would be engulfed by two intersecting forces: a significant rise in the number of teenagers openly identifying as transgender and seeking gender care, and a right-wing backlash in the United States against allowing them to medically transition, including state-by-state efforts to ban it.
During the last decade, the field of transgender care for youth has greatly shifted. A decade ago, there were a handful of pediatric gender clinics in the United States and a dozen or so more in other countries. The few doctors and therapists who worked in them knew one another, and the big debate was whether kids in preschool or elementary school should be allowed to live fully as the gender they identified as when they strongly and consistently asserted their wishes.
Now there are more than 60 comprehensive gender clinics in the United States, along with countless therapists and doctors in private practice who are also seeing young patients with gender-identity issues. The number of young people who identify as transgender nationally is about 300,000, according to a new report by the Williams Institute, a research center at U.C.L.A.'s law school, which is much higher than previous estimates. In countries that collect national data, like the Netherlands and Britain, the number of 13-to-17-year-olds seeking treatment for gender-identity issues has also increased, from dozens to hundreds or thousands a year.
Just as striking, the types of cases have changed. Many of the current group of teenagers haven't told their families, from a young age, that they feel they are a different gender, though they often say they internalized such feelings for years. The average age when a young person first comes to a clinic tends to be around 14 or 15, according to some clinicians I talked to. Cases of teenagers coming out as trans aren't new. But their prevalence is. In addition, the current caseload is around two-thirds youths who were ''assigned female at birth,'' in the current parlance of the field, and identify as trans boys '-- or as nonbinary, in a smaller but growing number of cases. In the past, by contrast, most patients at gender clinics were trans girls who were ''assigned male at birth.''
As they worked on a draft of the adolescent chapter of the Standards of Care, the big debate among clinicians was how they should respond to the thousands of teenagers who are arriving at their doors. Some are asking about medication that suppresses puberty or about hormone-replacement treatments. Leibowitz and his co-authors thought that the timing of the rise in trans-identified teenagers, as well as research from Britain and Australia, suggested that the increased visibility of trans people in entertainment and the media had played a major '-- and positive '-- role in reducing stigma and helping many kids express themselves in ways they would have previously kept buried. At the same time, the authors acknowledged that they weren't sure that visibility was the only factor at play.
As they wrote in their December draft chapter, part of the rise in trans identification among teenagers could be a result of what they called ''social influence,'' absorbed online or peer to peer. The draft mentioned the very small group of people who detransition (stop identifying as transgender), saying that some of them ''have described how social influence was relevant in their experience of their gender during adolescence.'' In adolescence, peers and culture often affect how kids see themselves and who they want to be. Their sense of self can consolidate, or they can try on a way of being that doesn't prove right in the long run as the brain further develops the capacity for thinking long-term. To make matters more complicated, as a group, the young people coming to gender clinics have high rates of autism, depression, anxiety and eating or attention-deficit disorders. Many of them are also transgender, but these other issues can complicate determining a clear course of treatment.
Without stating them outright, the draft raises tricky questions: Could some of the teenagers coming out as trans today be different from the adults who transitioned in previous generations? For them the benefits are well established and the rate of regret is very low. How many young people, especially those struggling with serious mental-health issues, might be trying to shed aspects of themselves they dislike?
Leibowitz and his colleagues knew these were delicate issues. They were deeply troubled when right-wing politicians grasped the unsettled nature of these matters '-- which barely registered for most Americans 10 years ago '-- and turned them into political dynamite. In 2019, right-wing groups, the Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance, which fought for many years against same-sex marriage, held a meeting on ''Protecting Children From Sexualization'' that covered ''controversial medical treatments to treat gender dysphoria,'' which is defined as a form of distress and is also a psychiatric diagnosis. Model legislation followed. Organizations like Family Policy Alliance helped state legislators draft a ban on gender-related medical treatment for anyone under age 18. Arkansas passed the first such ban in April 2021, and over the next months, similar bills were introduced in 18 other Republican-led state legislatures.
WPATH is a 3,300-member international organization, mostly made up of health care professionals. It came into existence in 1979, the year it issued its first Standards of Care. These standards influence the positions taken by major medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association, and the coverage offered by health insurers and national health services around the world. Trans and nonbinary practitioners are helping to write and oversee the new guidelines, called the SOC8 because it's the eighth edition.
Over the eight months I reported on this story, I talked to more than 60 clinicians, researchers, activists and historians, as well as more than two dozen young people and about the same number of parents. WPATH gave me exclusive access to the final SOC8 (which is divided into 18 chapters, most of which address treatment for transgender adults) and lifted some of the confidentiality agreements the authors signed. Now the final version of the new Standards of Care is scheduled to come out this summer '-- in the midst of a raging political battle.
When I started talking to Leibowitz last December, he was watching the political attacks unfold with growing alarm. In his own state, Ohio, there was a bill afoot to ban the care he himself provides to trans young people and sees as essential to their well-being. His group's job for the SOC8 was to be ''as rigorous and scientific as possible,'' he said, about how to translate the evidence about gender care into clinical practice. But they were acutely aware that any unknowns that the working group acknowledged '-- any uncertainties in the research '-- could be read as undermining the field's credibility and feed the right-wing effort to outlaw gender-related care.
Image Scott Leibowitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, helped lead the working group writing a chapter on adolescents for the Standards of Care, a set of guidelines from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Credit... Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times The group was stocked with experts, including Leibowitz's co-leader for the adolescent chapter, the Dutch child psychiatrist Annelou de Vries, who for 19 years has worked at what was the first transgender pediatric clinic in the world, and the clinical psychologist Ren Massey, who is a former president of the Georgia Psychological Association and is transgender. When WPATH released the draft of the SOC8 for public comment, Leibowitz and his co-authors braced for the inevitable conservative attack. For teenagers who have parental consent, the draft adolescent chapter lowered to 14 (from 16 in the previous guidelines) the recommended minimum age for hormone treatments, which can permanently alter, in a matter of months, voice depth and facial and body hair growth and, later, other features like breast development. It set a minimum recommended age of 15, for breast removal or augmentation, also called top surgery. (The previous standards didn't set a minimum age.)
Opponents of gender-related care did, indeed, denounce all of this. But Leibowitz and his co-authors also faced fury from providers and activists within the transgender world. This response hit them harder, as criticism from your colleagues and allies often does. It arose from two of the conditions the draft chapter established in order for young people to start taking puberty suppressants and hormones. First, the draft said, preteens and teenagers should provide evidence of ''several years'' of persistently identifying as, or behaving typically like, another gender, to distinguish kids with a long history from those whose stated identification is recent. And second, they should undergo a comprehensive diagnostic assessment, for the purpose of understanding the psychological and social context of their gender identity and how it might intersect with other mental-health conditions.
Assessments for children and adolescents have long been integral to the Standards of Care. But this time, the guard rails were anathema to some members of a community that has often been failed by health care providers. ''The adolescent chapter is the worst,'' Colt St. Amand, a family-medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic and a clinical psychologist, posted on the Facebook page of International Transgender Health, which has thousands of members and functions as a bulletin board for the field. (St. Amand is on the working group for another chapter in the SOC8 on hormone treatments.) In a publicly streamed discussion on YouTube on Dec. 5, activists and experts criticized the adolescent chapter, with the emotion born of decades of discrimination and barriers to care. ''This statement sucks,'' Kelley Winters, a moderator of International Transgender Health who is an interdisciplinary scholar and community advocate in the field, said of the assessment. ''This is talking about singling out trans kids, and specifically with a mental-health provider, not medical staff, to interrogate, to go down this comprehensive inquisition of their gender.'' The requirement for evidence of several years of gender incongruity before medical treatment is ''harmful and destructive and abusive and unethical and immoral,'' said Antonia D'orsay, another moderator of the group who is a sociologist and psychologist. In January, in a public comment to WPATH, International Transgender Health blasted the adolescent chapter for ''harmful assertion of psychogatekeeping'' that ''undermines patient autonomy.''
And just like that, after four years of painstaking work, Leibowitz, de Vries and the rest of their group were being called out as traitors by peers and the community they sought to care for. ''We understood the enormity of the need for these standards from the beginning,'' Leibowitz told me. ''I'm not sure we recognized the enormity of the controversy. It's a result of the fact that our world, the world of gender care, has exploded.''
In the 1950s and '60s, a small cadre of doctors in Europe and the United States started to talk about how to evaluate adults who wanted to medically transition. Harry Benjamin, the endocrinologist for whom WPATH was originally named, embraced the idea that the people he agreed to treat (mostly trans women) were ''born in the wrong body.'' Fearing lawsuits from dissatisfied patients, the doctors were quick to exclude patients for reasons of mental stability. And, arbitrarily, they only included those who they believed would go on to pass as the gender they identified with, as Beans Velocci, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an article last year in TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Some doctors made trans adults promise to live as heterosexuals after they transitioned.
The small group of clinicians who wrote the first Standards of Care were all cisgender. After WPATH was created in 1979, transgender advocates increasingly gained influence in the organization, but many transgender people viewed subsequent versions of the standards as imposing paternalistic and demeaning barriers to treatment. For some genital surgery, the standards required adults to live for a year as the gender they identified with and to provide referrals from two mental-health professionals. The SOC8 is the first version to dispense with these requirements, adopting a model of ''shared decision-making'' between adult patient and surgeon.
The leap toward medical transition for young people occurred in the Netherlands in the 1980s. Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, a Dutch clinical psychologist specializing in children, began receiving referrals of teenagers who were experiencing gender dysphoria (then called gender identity disorder). But therapy wasn't the primary answer, Cohen-Kettenis, who is retired, told me over the phone this spring. ''We can sit and talk forever, but they really needed medical treatment.'' As their bodies developed in ways they didn't want, ''they only did worse because of that.'' She decided to help a few of her patients start hormone treatments at 16 rather than waiting until 18, the practice in the Netherlands and elsewhere at the time. She monitored them weekly, then monthly. ''To my surprise, the first couple were doing much better than when they first came,'' she said. ''That encouraged me to continue.''
Cohen-Kettenis helped establish a treatment protocol that proved revolutionary. Patient Zero, known as F.G., was referred around 1987 to Henriette A. Delemarre-van de Waal, a pediatric endocrinologist who went on to found the gender clinic in Amsterdam with Cohen-Kettenis. At 13, F.G. was in despair about going through female puberty, and Delemarre-van de Waal put him on puberty suppressants, with Cohen-Kettenis later monitoring him. The medication would pause development of secondary sex characteristics, sparing F.G. the experience of feeling that his body was betraying him, buying time and making it easier for him to go through male puberty later, if he then decided to take testosterone. Transgender adults, whom Cohen-Kettenis also treated, sometimes said they wished they could have transitioned earlier in life, when they might have attained the masculine or feminine ideal they envisioned. ''Of course, I wanted that,'' F.G. said of puberty suppressants, in an interview in ''The Dutch Approach,'' a 2020 book about the Amsterdam clinic by the historian Alex Bakker. ''Later I realized that I had been the first, the guinea pig. But I didn't care.''
Over the next decade, Cohen-Kettenis and Delemarre-van de Waal designed an assessment for young people who seemed like candidates for medical treatment. In questionnaires and sessions with families, Cohen-Kettenis explored the reasons for a young person's gender dysphoria, considering whether it might be better addressed by therapy or medication or both. The policy was to delay treatment for those with issues like attention-deficit and eating disorders or who lacked stable, supportive families, in order to eliminate factors that might interfere with the treatment. ''We did a lot of other work before letting them start, which created a lot of frustration for them,'' Cohen-Kettenis said. ''Maybe we were too selective in the early stages.'' In retrospect, she says, she thinks young people who might have benefited were excluded.
The stringent screenings seemed critical, however, given the opposition they faced. Other doctors, in the Netherlands and outside it, publicly accused them of recklessness. At a low moment, at a medical conference in the late 1990s, she said, they were likened to Nazis experimenting on children.
Cohen-Kettenis stressed that she and her growing team at the Amsterdam clinic were not channeling children toward a particular outcome. The Dutch advised what they called ''watchful waiting.'' Throughout his childhood, with his parents' support, F.G. lived as a boy, with short hair and a gender-neutral nickname. But Cohen-Kettenis counseled parents to ''keep the door open, as much as possible, for children to be able to change back.'' Among the adolescents who came to the clinic beginning at the age of puberty, 41 percent went on puberty suppressants, and more than 70 percent received hormone treatments and went on to surgery.
The Amsterdam clinic attracted international interest. Norman Spack, an endocrinologist at Boston Children's Hospital who began treating transgender adults in the 1980s, and Laura Edwards-Leeper, then a child psychologist there, visited Amsterdam in 2007 for a gathering of clinicians from countries including Canada, Britain, Norway and Belgium. Spack and Edwards-Leeper went back to Boston, where they and another doctor were opening the first dedicated gender clinic for kids in the United States that provided medical treatment based on the fundamentals of the Dutch approach '-- a comprehensive assessment before patients could begin puberty suppressants or hormone treatments and close consultation between a clinic's mental-health professionals and medical doctors.
The Push to Restrict Rights for Young Transgender People Card 1 of 8A growing trend. Measures that could tranform the lives of young transgender people are at the center of heated political debate across America. Here is how some states are approaching the subject:
Utah. A day after the decision in Indiana, Gov. Spencer Cox, also a Republican, vetoed a similar bill that would have barred young transgender athletes from participating in girls' sports. Republican legislators subsequently voted to override the veto and enacted the legislation.
Other states. Since 2019, lawmakers have introduced bills seeking to bar transgender youths from joining school sports teams consistent with their gender identities. They have become law in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
Scott Leibowitz joined the Boston clinic as a psychiatrist in training a year later. In the early days, families traveled long distances for appointments. The waiting list grew. Edwards-Leeper and Spack eventually shortened the period a child had to be in therapy before the clinic did its own assessment, from a year to between three and six months. ''If a child was on the cusp of puberty, and anxious about how their body was about to change, we tried to squeeze them in faster, which I still think is really important,'' Edwards-Leeper says.
Image Tori (a nickname), who is 13 and lives outside Atlanta: ''With gender, it has been more and more, wanting more things to happen. And luckily I have parents who are willing to let me describe myself and be whoever I want.'' Credit... Anne Vetter for The New York Times In 2011, de Vries and her colleagues published the first of two landmark studies about medical interventions in adolescence. Among the first 70 patients who received puberty suppressants at the Amsterdam clinic after their initial assessment at the mean age of about 13½, the researchers found ''a significant decrease in behavioral and emotional problems over time.'' A second study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2014, of about 55 of those who went from puberty suppressants to hormone treatments at the mean age of about 16½, showed that five years after starting hormone treatments and at least one year after surgery, they had the same or better levels of well-being as a control group of cisgender adults their age. None of the 55 regretted their treatment. (The 15 of the original 70 who were not included in the follow-up study did not take part mainly because of the timing of their surgery.)
For the first time, a long-term, peer-reviewed study showed positive outcomes after medical treatment in adolescent patients who'd gone through Cohen-Kettenis and Delemarre-van de Waal's protocol. They had all been through a version of the type of assessment the December draft of the SOC8 adolescent chapter would recommend years later. They had experienced gender dysphoria since childhood (according to their families), lived in supportive environments and had no interfering mental-health conditions. As is often the case in medicine, the question for those drafting the SOC8 would be how to apply the findings of a particular cohort to the growing numbers of teenagers lining up at clinics in a host of countries.
In the United States and Canada, meanwhile, two dueling approaches to therapy for young children, before they reached puberty, were vying for supremacy. At what is now called the Child and Adolescent Gender Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist, was counseling families to take what she and others called a ''gender affirming'' approach, which included a social transition: adopting a new name and pronouns for a child who expressed such a preference, along with letting kids dress and play as they pleased.
For years, Ehrensaft's intellectual foil was Ken Zucker, a psychologist and prominent researcher who directed a gender clinic in Toronto. Between 1975 and 2009, Zucker's research showed that most young children who came to his clinic stopped identifying as another gender as they got older. Many of them would go on to come out as gay or lesbian or bisexual, suggesting previous discomfort with their sexuality, or lack of acceptance, for them or their families. Based on this research, in some cases Zucker advised parents to box up the dolls or princess dresses, so a child who was being raised as a boy (a majority then) wouldn't have those things to play with.
In 2012, the last version of WPATH's Standards of Care, with Cohen-Kettenis and Zucker among the authors, cited his work 15 times and called social transition in early childhood ''controversial.'' The American Psychological Association said in 2015 guidelines that there was no consensus about a best practice for children before puberty, describing both accepting children's ''expressed gender identity'' (citing de Vries and Cohen-Kettenis, Ehrensaft, Edwards-Leeper and Spack, among others) and, alternatively, encouraging them to ''align with their assigned gender roles'' (citing Zucker, among others).
At the end of 2015, the Canadian medical center that ran Zucker's clinic in Toronto shut it down because of complaints from activists about his method. (Zucker sued the center for defamation and later received an apology and a settlement of $450,000.) In February 2017, protesters interrupted and picketed a panel featuring Zucker at the inaugural conference of USPATH (the U.S. affiliate of WPATH) in Los Angeles. That evening, at a meeting with the conference leaders, a group of advocates led by transgender women of color read aloud a statement in which they said the ''entire institution of WPATH'' was ''violently exclusionary'' because it ''remains grounded in 'cis-normativity and trans exclusion.''' The group asked for cancellation of Zucker's appearance on a second upcoming panel. Jamison Green, a trans rights activist and former president of WPATH, said the board agreed to the demand. ''We are very, very sorry,'' he said.
After that controversy, other providers were on notice that Zucker's methods were no longer acceptable. His approach was likened to conversion therapy, which treats being gay or trans as a mental illness to be cured, and which many states and localities have made illegal.
The Amsterdam clinic shifted, too. Some Dutch families socially transitioned kids on their own, which de Vries and her colleagues accepted; they began counseling other families about social transition too. Though the Amsterdam researchers' previous results, like Zucker's, showed that most kids who came to the clinic in elementary school later realigned with the genders of their birth, and often came out as gay, lesbian or bisexual, de Vries and her colleagues now see those findings as a product of their time, when the children whom parents brought to the clinic included many boys with an interest in wearing feminine clothing and playing with dolls that didn't turn out to be gender dysphoria. Today many Dutch parents are more accepting of this behavior, and the Amsterdam clinicians think that as a result, most of the children who come to the clinic are asserting a strong and persistent gender preference. It's more likely that such children will stay the course of being transgender, research shows. One long-term study, published in 2021, of 148 kids in the United States who socially transitioned with their families' support between the ages of 8 and 14, found that five years later their psychological well-being was on par with their siblings and a control group of cisgender peers.
There is a separate chapter in the SOC8 that focuses on young children and that recommends that health care professionals and parents support social transition when it originates with the child while also recognizing that for some kids, gender is fluid. An outstanding question, asked by gay commentators like the author Andrew Sullivan, is whether some kids who socially transition today, and remain trans, would have grown up to be gay or lesbian in previous generations. ''I know there are worries that effeminate males can be assumed to be female or masculine girls can be assumed to be male,'' says Amy Tishelman, the lead author of the SOC8 chapter on children and a child psychologist who is the former director of clinical research at the gender clinic at Boston Children's Hospital. ''That's not what we're advocating. Support for trans people should not be a way of limiting what a girl or a boy or a woman or a man or a person can be.''
Image Marci Bowers, a gynecologic and reconstructive surgeon, is slated to be the next president of WPATH. Credit... Ryan Young for The New York Times A few months before the release of the December draft of the SOC8, WPATH had a preview of the firestorm to come. In October 2021, the journalist Abigail Shrier published a post called ''Top Trans Doctors Blow the Whistle on 'Sloppy' Care'' on the Substack of Bari Weiss, a former opinion editor and writer for The New York Times.'' The word ''sloppy'' was a quote from Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist who was a past president of USPATH and who worked at the U.C.S.F. gender center for years before leaving in October (for unrelated reasons). She told Shrier she expected more regret among young people because some providers were rushing them toward medication without sufficient mental-health evaluations.
Shrier also quoted Marci Bowers, a gynecologic and reconstructive surgeon who is slated to be the next president of WPATH, who voiced a separate concern about blocking puberty too early. Though there is no published data on this question, over hundreds of surgeries, Bowers has found that trans girls who don't go through male puberty may find it difficult to have an orgasm after they have genital surgery as adults. They also could have less penile tissue with which to create a vagina, which can lead to more complications from surgery, according to Bowers. These concerns apply in a small percentage of cases in the United States, as most teenagers come to gender clinics at 14 or older, after puberty. But for the younger kids, Bowers advocated delaying puberty suppressants to a later stage of development.
Anderson and Bowers are transgender women, which brought more attention to their critique and to their decision to talk to Shrier, who is the author of a 2020 book, ''Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,'' which many trans people and their allies abhor. Many trans health providers were furious. ''I was like, Whoa, what is this? And then I texted Erica,'' says Maddie Deutsch, the president of USPATH and a professor at U.C.S.F. as well as the medical director of the Gender Affirming Health Program there, who is also transgender. ''We were all broadsided.'' She worries about the political fallout. ''States like Texas and Florida are looking to these articles to fan the flames.''
About a week after Shrier's post appeared, USPATH and WPATH issued a statement opposing ''the use of the lay press'' for scientific debate about gender-related medical treatment. Anderson disagreed with the directive. ''Some of our colleagues would have us shut up,'' she told me in the fall. ''No. It's not OK to ignore the problems.'' In late November, she and the child psychologist Laura Edwards-Leeper published an opinion essay in The Washington Post. They said they were ''disgusted'' by the proposed state bans on gender-related medical treatment for minors, but they warned that some providers in the United States were ''hastily dispensing medicine'' and skipping comprehensive assessments.
'Young people are quite capable of understanding themselves, but not all of them will.'The following week, news broke in Texas that the only gender clinic for adolescents that provides hormone therapy in the Dallas region, Genecis, was being disbanded, a result of political pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott. ''We have wolves at the door,'' says Ehrensaft, who worked with Anderson at U.C.S.F. and is an author on the SOC8 chapter on children with Edwards-Leeper. ''Conversations among us get aired as controversy and confusion. You end up eating your own instead of making the wolves go away.'' Others were scathing about placing blame. ''Every time a law passes blocking trans youth from getting care, I hope it's called an Edwards-Leeper law,'' Andrew Cronyn, a pediatrician and a former adviser on policy about L.G.B.T. health for the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote on a professional email list with more than 500 recipients. ''And I hope that every time one of the youth who is blocked from affirmative care dies, she gets sent a copy of the obituary.'' He subsequently apologized and the post was removed at his request.
When I spoke to Bowers in December, she distanced herself from Anderson and Edwards-Leeper. ''The most important thing is access to care,'' she said. ''And that is a much bigger problem than the issue of how the medical community and transition is failing people.'' But she remained intent on drawing attention to her concerns about the early suppression of puberty. ''Sexual satisfaction is a huge thing,'' she said. ''You've got to talk about it.''
Partly in response to Bowers's concerns, the December draft of the SOC8 adolescent chapter suggested that health care providers discuss ''future unknowns related to sexual health'' when families consider puberty suppressants. The Amsterdam clinic often waits to prescribe suppressants until later in puberty.
In the United States, waiting would be a major shift for the relatively small group of younger kids at gender clinics. For them, families weigh the relief the medications can provide against the health implications. Taking puberty suppressants (or hormones) for gender affirmation is ''off-label,'' meaning this specific use of the medications is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Off-label prescriptions are common and don't imply anything improper, but there may be less research about the drug's effects. If young people continue on to hormone treatments, puberty suppressants ''probably'' compromise fertility, especially for trans girls, Stephen M. Rosenthal, a pediatric endocrinologist at the gender center at U.C.S.F. who is on the group for the SOC8 chapter on hormone treatments, explained in a review last year for Nature Reviews Endocrinology. The medication can also prevent bone density from increasing as it typically would, and while levels returned to normal in trans boys who went on to hormone therapy, they remained low in trans girls who did the same, according to a 2020 study from the Amsterdam clinic. Little is known about the impact on brain development. ''The relative paucity of outcomes data raises notable concerns,'' Rosenthal wrote in his review. But he has no hesitation about prescribing puberty suppressants to kids who are deemed ready for them at his clinic. ''The observed benefits greatly outweigh the potential adverse effects,'' he said.
As winter approached, criticism of Anderson and Edwards-Leeper by their peers mounted as right-wing attacks on medical care for minors grew louder. In early November, the board of USPATH privately censured Anderson, who served as a board member. In December, the board imposed a 30-day moratorium on speaking to the press for all board members. That month, Anderson resigned.
In February, Governor Abbott ordered child-abuse investigations of parents and providers in Texas who give gender-related medical treatments to kids, generating national headlines and causing fear and anguish for families. In March, Arizona became the second state to ban gender medical care for minors. (The law, which applies to surgery, not medications, is scheduled to go into effect in 2023.)
The next month, four doctoral students in psychology asked to drop Edwards-Leeper from their dissertation committees at Pacific University, where she is an emeritus professor. And yet in the same week, she presented on the SOC8 adolescent chapter at the annual pediatric conference of the American Psychology Association, where the moderator of one of her panels praised her for her bravery in voicing her concerns about her field. The roller coaster of reaction, at the same time kids were losing access to care altogether in red states, shook Edwards-Leeper and her co-authors of the SOC8 chapters on adolescents and children. They didn't want to be blamed for the right-wing backlash '-- neither by activists nor their own peers.
Watching the waves of conflict break, Leibowitz worried. He respected Bowers, Anderson and Edwards-Leeper for raising difficult issues but could see their views being mischaracterized to justify banning gender-related care. For people who don't know much about the issues, ''banning the care probably sounds more enticing than the idea that kids are dictating what treatment they should get,'' he says. ''Our guidelines are the voice from the middle.''
Image Kat (a nickname), who is 18 and lives in the Midwest: ''When I was younger, I tried to wear girls' clothes, but it hurt. I still can't quite explain why. But I don't focus on gender that much now. It's just one aspect of myself.'' Credit... Anne Vetter for The New York Times One morning over the phone, Leibowitz explained to me the elements of the mental-health assessments he saw as essential. His starting point, when a child presents as transgender, is obtaining a complete diagnostic profile. This means understanding the relationship between gender dysphoria and any other conditions (like depression or an eating disorder) or another factor that might be causing discomfort (like trauma or feeling confined by gender stereotypes) before coming up with a treatment plan. ''It's about understanding how the issues that might make someone experience gender dysphoria are connected,'' he said.
As Leibowitz and his co-authors discussed revisions over video calls and email, colleagues who were critical of the draft chapter were also working together. Colt St. Amand, the psychologist and physician who disparaged the adolescent chapter on the Facebook page of International Transgender Health, brought together a collective of 16 mental-health professionals who are either transgender (as he is) or nonbinary, or have a close family member who is, to talk about how the assessment guidelines in the adolescent chapter fit with their lived experience and professional knowledge.
St. Amand thinks the purpose of an assessment is not to determine the basis of a kid's gender identity. ''That just reeks of some old kind of conversion-therapy-type things,'' he told me over the phone in April. ''I think what we've seen historically in trans care is an overfocus on assessing identity.'' He continued: ''People are who they say they are, and they may develop and change, and all are normal and OK. So I am less concerned with certainty around identity, and more concerned with hearing the person's embodiment goals. Do you want to have a deep voice? Do you want to have breasts? You know, what do you want for your body?''
The draft of the adolescent chapter suggests that ''extended assessments'' may be useful for young people who are autistic or have some characteristics of autism without a full diagnosis. ''One of the key accommodations for autistic youth is providing more time and structure to support the young person's self-advocacy and communication capacity,'' said John Strang, the specialist on the intersection of autism and gender identity on the SOC8 adolescent and child chapters and a neuropsychologist at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. But St. Amand calls a standard of extended assessments a ''gross generalization'' and ''discriminatory.''
The priority for the collective St. Amand organized, which is working on a series of articles and training materials, is to ensure that transgender and nonbinary youth get the care they need rather than to shield teenagers from taking medication with effects they might later decide they didn't want. St. Amand's focus is on a young person's response after beginning puberty suppression or hormone therapy. ''If that is the right thing for them, then the response over time will tell me,'' he says. ''Once we start those interventions, we are checking in with the patient to see how they're doing.'' If the drugs don't suit them, in his view, they can simply stop.
Image Colt St. Amand, a family-medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic and a clinical psychologist, is in the working group for a chapter on hormone treatments in WPATH's new Standards of Care. Credit... Ben Innes for The New York Times Other providers, however, see an ethical dilemma stemming from the principle of justice '-- which promotes access to care for trans youth '-- and the principle of doing no harm. ''I wouldn't recommend just initiating testosterone straight away,'' says Nathaniel Sharon, a child psychiatrist in New Mexico who has helped shape mental-health policy that affects transgender young people for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. ''Their voice gets permanently low. They're hairy. Their clitoris is enlarged. And what do you do now? I just find that inappropriate and unsafe.''
The differences among gender-affirming providers over assessments and medical intervention don't break down along cisgender-transgender lines. Some transgender practitioners, like Sharon and Ren Massey, a psychologist on the SOC8 adolescent chapter, support the chapter's approach to assessments. ''We need to understand that the reality is that adolescents go through a lot of developmental changes and have a lot of internal and external influences on their development,'' Massey says. And some transgender activists also support a cautious approach. ''It is life changing,'' Jamison Green, the former president of WPATH, says of transitioning. ''It is all encompassing. If it's right for you, then it's really important. It's very easy to get interested in a new idea, get excited and not think it through all the way. Young people are quite capable of understanding themselves, but not all of them will. That's why I think prudence is useful.''
Leibowitz had a related concern. For young people who have yearned for puberty suppressants or hormone treatments, reversing course can be difficult, he says. ''Some people, once they make the decision, they're not going to go against it, because they feel internal pressure to continue. They might be susceptible to feeling ashamed.''
Research is just beginning about why young people halt medical treatment and what it means for them. Some continue to identify as trans or nonbinary, like Nova West, a 27-year-old filmmaker I spoke to, who was happy with top surgery and the way testosterone lowered their voice and helped them build muscle '-- and then stopped the treatment because they didn't want to go bald (which sometimes happens) and felt they'd reached their ''optimal gender expression.''
Others decide they want to fully detransition and return to their cis identities. Grace Lidinsky-Smith, who is 28, has written about her regret over taking testosterone and having her breasts removed in her early 20s. She told me that she wished she'd had the kind of comprehensive assessment the last Standards of Care endorsed for adults. ''That would have been really good for me,'' she said.
St. Amand and the collective argue that as no study has directly compared different types of assessment, there's no evidence that the Amsterdam clinic's approach is better. They point to research from clinics in the United States, which shows small-to-moderate improvements in depression and anxiety and large improvements in body-related dysphoria for young patients six months or a year after beginning medication. One of those studies is by the clinical child psychologist Laura Kuper, based on a sample of young patients, some of who went through a streamlined assessment process that Kuper helped design at the Genecis program in Dallas. ''In medicine in general, if you find a new treatment and it seems overwhelmingly helpful, you start to roll it out before you have a 10-year follow up,'' says Kuper, who helped start the collective with St. Amand and is one of the authors of a SOC8 chapter on nonbinary individuals. ''You continually reflect on new research and clinical findings as you go.''
It's not yet known how well improvement in the short term predicts how teenagers today will feel as older adults about the changes they made to their bodies. In their draft chapter, Leibowitz, de Vries, Massey and their co-authors note that to date, only the Amsterdam clinic, with its comprehensive assessments, has results showing strong psychological benefits later in life for people who medically transitioned in their teens. Today, the Amsterdam clinic usually requires at least six monthly sessions (following a longer period on a waiting list) to begin medical treatment. ''We've always said, Do it in a careful way,'' de Vries says.
Most of the young people today who come to clinics for treatment are affluent and white, live in progressive metropolitan areas and have health insurance. For them, gender-related care has become more accessible since 2016, when the Obama administration included gender identity in a rule against denying health care benefits on the basis of sex. If a provider deems the care medically necessary, it's possible to get insurance coverage for puberty suppressants, which can be injected or implanted under the skin, and hormone treatments, which can be taken orally, injected or applied as a gel or a patch. Each can cost thousands of dollars a year.
But in other parts of the country, there is often no gender clinic and sometimes no therapist or doctor to help transgender kids '-- who often still face bullying and harassment '-- navigate the process of coming out. ''I have a patient in rural Mississippi who tried to find mental-health support, but it was traumatic,'' says Izzy Lowell, a family-practice doctor and the founder of QueerMed, which treats patients mostly via telemedicine (without in-person visits) in about a dozen states covering the Southeast. In effect, states like Arkansas are banning care where it is already rare.
'I say to parents, ''I have no idea if your child is trans or not '-- they need an open field to explore.'' 'Finding care can also be harder for low-income or religious families and families of color. Lizette Trujillo, a mother in Arizona, told me that when she realized her son was trans several years ago, she found a parent support group on Facebook where her family was one of only two that were Hispanic. When she became the group's facilitator, she worked to get the word out in her community. But some parents are reluctant to join because of their religious backgrounds, and the wave of bills to ban gender-related medical treatment is generally increasing families' fears. ''It's terrifying,'' Trujillo said. ''It was the first time my son was actually afraid. 'Could this happen here? Will you make sure I'm safe?' He's 14.''
Among those who had access to care, many parents and kids told me they were deeply grateful for a relatively smooth path to medical transition. Tori (a nickname) told her parents she didn't want a boy's body at the beginning of seventh grade. Her pediatrician in Atlanta referred her to QueerMed, Lowell's practice. ''We asked all our questions,'' says Tori's father, who belongs to the local chapter of TransParent USA, a national support group. ''What if she changes her mind? What can you and can't you come back from? There was no question on the table they didn't have a research-based answer for. You see your kid light up at the answers, and you say, 'OK, this is the right thing to do.''' Tori says she just wishes her transition could go faster.
Other parents, however, were bewildered by a landscape in which there are no labels for distinguishing one type of therapeutic care from another. In recent years, the Endocrine Society, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have endorsed gender-affirming care as the only acceptable approach. But the major medical groups tended to speak in broadly supportive terms without specifying how providers should actually do it.
It's not clear how common comprehensive assessments are among gender-affirming providers in the United States. ''The American Psychiatric Association doesn't really have an official position on the best way to treat the kids,'' says Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who helped write the group's position statements.
One mother in New England told me about talking to a therapist when her 6-year-old, Charlie (a nickname), became tearful about using the girls' bathroom and urgently asked for a buzz cut. Without meeting Charlie, the therapist told the mother during a single session that her child was a trans boy. Feeling overwhelmed, the mother took Charlie to another therapist, Julie Mencher. ''I say to parents, 'I have no idea if your child is trans or not,''' Mencher told me. ''They need an open field to explore.'' Charlie, who is now 12, told me that he figured out over the next year or so that he was sure of his male identity. His parents could see it solidifying and supported his wish to go on puberty suppressants. ''The first therapist was right,'' his mother says. ''But we needed a process we could trust.''
Image Charlie (a nickname), who is 12 and lives in New England: ''Here's something I really remember: My older brother introducing me as 'Hey, this is my brother' for the first time. I was so happy. We were at camp. I think I was around 7.'' Credit... Anne Vetter for The New York Times I also talked to parents who were surprised when their teenagers came out as trans. Some wanted to be both supportive and cautious. Four years ago, when she was 12, Catherine (her middle name) left a note under her mother's pillow saying she was a trans boy. She followed a script from YouTube videos she'd watched of other teenagers coming out. Catherine's mother says she looked for a therapist who ''would be open to whatever came,'' and found Jennifer Butzen, a licensed counselor in the Atlanta area. Butzen estimates that about two-thirds of her young clients with gender-identity issues eventually choose to go on hormones, while the other one-third either are nonbinary, nonconforming or trans but decide not to have medical interventions or are cisgender.
Butzen told me about the influence of the types of YouTube videos Catherine watched. She calls them ''butterfly videos'' because of their curated, beautiful portrayal of self-transformation. For some kids, the videos are a valuable resource '-- a bridge to the self they desire that they can't easily find in real life. But others, Butzen finds, are on a less coherent search for belonging. ''Being trans comes with goals '-- this is what to do,'' Butzen says. ''It comes with a support network and a cause to fight for.'' Online, where the stakes start relatively low, teenagers in progressive communities can trade in a cisgender, heterosexual, white identity '-- the epitome of privilege and oppression '-- to join a community with a clear claim to being marginalized and deserving of protection.
When Catherine started seeing Butzen, the pair talked about sexuality as well as gender identity and did exercises, using a whiteboard, about male and female stereotypes, which Butzen wants her clients to know they can challenge whatever their gender. Butzen also explained the physical and social changes that come with medical transition. ''Everything became more real, and it got a little scary,'' Catherine says. ''But I was in this forward movement, like, 'I have to do this.'''
But one day on the way to her appointment with Butzen, Catherine started crying and told her mother she'd been lying to herself. In retrospect, she thinks the YouTube videos gave her a way to relieve discomfort she felt about being attracted to girls, which wasn't accepted at her Catholic school. Later, Catherine came out as bisexual. If her parents had said no to the idea that she was trans, she says, ''I would have revolted against them.'' But when they gave her room to explore, ''I internalized what I wanted to do.''
Other teenagers talked about the way misogyny affected their thinking. One 18-year-old, Kat (a nickname), started using a boy's name and pronouns four years ago and asked to take puberty suppressants, as a friend was doing in her Midwestern college town. Her mother said no to medication. She worried about the health effects and the role of peer influence; she also told me she wanted to make sure her child understood there was no right or wrong way to be a girl. ''I didn't get it as well as other people did, what being a girl even meant,'' Kat told me, looking back. ''And my mental health wasn't great. I was cutting around that time.'' At about 17, she went back to her girl's name and pronouns. ''I still have weird, internalized misogyny in my brain I'm trying to get over,'' she says. ''I don't even get where it's coming from.''
In other families, a teenager's decision to come out was a source of prolonged conflict. F., now 18 and living in Maryland, started identifying as a trans boy and binding his breasts in seventh grade. His mother told me that when she found out, she told F. she didn't believe anyone was born in the wrong body. Later, she went to a protest at a gender clinic in Washington, D.C., which upset F. His group of friends, which included other trans and queer kids, became ''a really big part in me being able to be myself,'' he says. These days, F., who has not medically transitioned, identifies as nonbinary. ''I'm kind of coming to terms with my body,'' he says. ''Who's to say my body is female? I'm not a girl and it's my body. Don't put your labels on me.''
To parents who doubt the authenticity of a child's assertion or oppose medical treatments their kids strongly want, the smooth road to gender care looks like a dangerously slippery slope. Such parents have increasingly found each other online, in Facebook groups and on websites. Last fall, an international group called Genspect started holding web-based seminars that are critical of social and medical transition and, a spokeswoman said, gained thousands of members.
Some Genspect parents told me the rise in trans-identified teenagers was the result of a ''gender cult'' '-- a mass craze. (In February, an anonymous parent on a Substack newsletter affiliated with Genspect wrote a post called ''It's Strategy People!'' about how the group gets its perspective into the media by making sure not to talk about their kids as ''mentally ill'' or ''deluded.'') Other parents said they were not conservative and generally supported L.G.B.T. rights but not medical transition for their own children or usually for anyone under the age of 18. Several parents argued that though 18 is the legal age to vote, buy a gun and consent to medical treatment, in this single area of medicine '-- gender-related treatment '-- the age of consent should be 25, when brain development is largely complete. (At 18, these parents are aware, teenagers can go to Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of gender-affirming hormones in the country, and receive hormones after a roughly half-hour consultation and giving consent.)
Several Genspect parents told me their teenagers came out as trans after struggling for years with serious mental-health issues. One mother in Northern California said her child had previously been hospitalized for a suicide attempt and started identifying as trans while spending many hours online. The mother said yes to puberty suppressants at the recommendation of a local gender clinic, but her child became more volatile, she said. Around 15, her child wanted to progress to hormone treatment, which the gender clinic supported, according to emails I reviewed. When the mother refused, she became the object of her child's fury. ''What if I'm wrong?'' she asked. ''Knowing my kid sees me as the barrier to happiness '-- that's the worst part. I feel like a monster.''
Image Laura Kuper, a clinical child psychologist, is one of the authors of a chapter in the Standards of Care on nonbinary individuals. Credit... Misty Keasler for The New York Times As the United States battled over whether gender-related care should be banned or made more accessible, a few European countries that had some liberal practices concerning young people seeking medication imposed new limits recently. In February, the national health board in Sweden limited access to puberty suppressants and hormones before the age of 18 to ''exceptional cases'' and in research settings. The shift followed a Swedish public-television documentary that claimed doctors tried to hide spinal damage in a young patient whose bone density wasn't adequately monitored. Finland has similarly restricted access. One month after Sweden's decision, the National Academy of Medicine in France called for ''great medical caution'' regarding treatment for young people, citing health risks (including for bone density and fertility) and noting the unexplained rise in trans-identified teenagers.
In March, I visited the Amsterdam clinic to talk to de Vries about its trailblazing program and what she made of the responses of other European countries. We talked in her office, near a waiting room with a foosball table and artsy photos of an androgynous masked dancer. As a child, de Vries told me she resisted stereotypical gender roles. ''Why were the boys asked to help the teacher carry heavy loads and the girls had to bring coffee and tea?'' she said. ''You could make me quite angry by asking me as a kid to do those things, as a girl.''
Working in her clinic now, de Vries is concerned about the waiting list, which she called ''devastating.'' Young people often wait two years or more for an appointment in the Netherlands. One of them, a theater student named Yal who is now 22, told me that the delay felt endless. ''My friends started growing beards, and people were looking at me like they were the guys and I was a girl or their little brother,'' he said. ''It was just very frustrating and depressing.'' He remembered the day he started hormones at 16. ''Someone came to the door to deliver a package, and when I signed for it, he said, 'Have a good day, ma'am.' For the first time, it didn't bother me. I thought, I know in a couple of months you won't say that.'' He added, ''I can't imagine a life without being able to transition.''
De Vries said she was disappointed by the developments in Scandinavia and France. But she thought the retreat in those countries signaled a different kind of conservatism, about how to practice medicine in light of scientific uncertainty, from the bans in the red American states, fueled by anti-trans vitriol. The shift from European health authorities also suggested that scientists and physicians who don't have the clinical experience of seeing young people receive gender treatments felt more constrained by the limitations of the research.
England's National Health Service, too, asked for an independent review of the country's gender-identity services (following a whistle-blower's report in 2018 that the nation's only pediatric clinic was fast-tracking young people into medical treatment and a lawsuit by a former patient '-- who later detransitioned '-- over the care she received there). Hilary Cass, a prominent pediatrician, is leading that effort. In a preliminary report in February that doesn't make a final recommendation, she said the ''lack of available high-level evidence'' about puberty suppressants and hormone therapy for young people was ''too inconclusive to form the basis of a policy position'' on whether to continue the treatments. She also described a ''mismatch'' between the ethical responsibilities of clinicians to meet certain standards before a treatment and the distress some young people feel about a detailed assessment because they want ''rapid access to physical interventions.'' Like the SOC8 adolescent chapter, Cass suggested that the Dutch approach to assessment is the one best supported by the research.
New findings continue to support that approach. In April, de Vries presented data at a pediatric conference, still unpublished, about more than 80 patients from the clinic's early cohort who were now between the ages of 25 and 50. (The response rate was about 50 percent.) According to the answers they provided, the trans men were doing just as well, in terms of mental health, as the general population. The trans women were slightly below the norm. No one in the group had reversed their hormonal treatments or surgeries. There is no published research on the physical effects in middle or old age of having transitioned in adolescence; the Amsterdam clinic is now collecting data on this question.
'In our society right now, something is either all good or all bad. Either there should be a vending machine for gender hormones or people who prescribe them to kids should be put in jail.'In a video chat this spring, I talked to F.G., the first patient to take puberty suppressants for gender affirmation 35 years ago, when he was 13. He's a veterinarian, and when we spoke, he wore a yellow track jacket and had a short brush cut and a patch of beard under his lip. He told me that when he was a child, he wanted simply to be a boy. But of course that was impossible. Taking medication to stop puberty, he said, saved his life. He waited until he was 18 for hormone treatment. It would be unusual now to have such a prolonged stint on puberty suppressants. F.G. says he never wanted to have children, though he's not sure if that's because he didn't know if he could. For years, he stayed away from romantic and sexual relationships, but that changed in his 30s, and these days he has a serious girlfriend.
F.G. has watched the rise in numbers of transgender young people with a mix of joy and trepidation. He thinks kids who want the medical treatment he received should go through a significant assessment process. ''It makes me sound a bit of a hypocrite, because I needed that to be who I am,'' he said. And yet the time on the suppressants, to test the strength of his own desires, was essential to his peace of mind. ''I really, really thought about it,'' he said, ''and I've never been so sure of anything in my whole entire life.''
In March, the Biden administration's Department of Health and Human Services put out a statement unequivocally supporting gender care for minors, ''when medically appropriate and necessary,'' as a matter of federal civil rights law. But the backlash was gaining momentum. The bill to ban trans medical treatment that Leibowitz had been worrying about was moving through the Ohio House; in April, Alabama passed a similar bill. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson called treatment for young people ''chemical castration.'' And the Florida Department of Health issued guidelines that opposed social or medical transition for kids of any age. Conservatives usually champion parental authority, but in families with trans kids, they were lining up to take it away.
Judges blocked the statewide bans, but in some cases, preteens and teenagers were losing access to a course of medication they'd already begun because pharmacies refused to fill prescriptions and doctors or hospitals preemptively stopped treatment, fearing liability or political opposition. In Texas, Ximena Lopez, a pediatric endocrinologist who worked at Genecis, the Dallas program that was forced to disband in November, sued to continue to see patients, and Leibowitz prepared to testify in support of her case. (Lopez has continued to see her previous patients and is temporarily accepting new ones under a one-year injunction.)
Leibowitz was frustrated by a political dilemma. To defend against the bans, some gender-affirming providers were oversimplifying aspects of the treatments. They said minors never or almost never had surgery at all, even though top surgery is important to some trans teenagers to relieve their dysphoria and is rising. (In the Kaiser Permanente health care system in Northern California, the incidence rose from a handful of operations in 2013 to nearly 50 in 2019, according to a study published in Annals of Plastic Surgery in May. Only two of the 200-plus teenagers in the study said they regretted the surgery at least one year later.)
To make the urgent case that medical interventions are necessary, some providers started emphasizing the risk of suicide among trans kids. The rate of suicide attempts among them in the previous year is terribly high '-- nearly 35 percent in a 2017 survey of high school students by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared with single digits for the cisgender population. A 2020 study of trans patients of all ages, over more than four decades, at the Amsterdam clinic, found that deaths by suicide, which are fortunately rare, though still higher than for the general Dutch population, seem to ''occur during every stage of transitioning.''
In the overheated political moment, however, parents were getting the terrifying message that if they didn't quickly agree to puberty suppressants or hormone treatments, their children would be at severe risk. Many parents told me they'd heard the mantra: ''It's better to have a live son than a dead daughter.''
In individual cases, teenagers often say that being able to medically transition is lifesaving. Jack Turban, a fellow in psychiatry at Stanford Medical School, has become a major voice in the media and on Twitter among gender-affirming providers including on the question of medications and suicide risk. He leads a research team that worked with data from a 2015 survey of transgender adults in the United States. The survey asked respondents if they remembered taking puberty suppressants or hormone treatments before age 18. Using those adult recollections, Turban's team published articles in 2020 and 2022 finding an association between taking puberty suppressants and hormone treatments and having lower odds of suicidal thoughts in adulthood. But the studies didn't find the same link between taking the medications in adolescence and actually planning or attempting suicide. (Through a Stanford spokeswoman, Turban said he didn't have time to talk to me.)
Another 2022 study based on a different survey, by researchers from the Trevor Project (which provides crisis support to L.G.B.T.Q. young people), did show a 40 percent lower incidence in recent depression and in past-year suicide attempts for transgender and nonbinary 13-to-17-year-olds who said they had hormone treatments. There was no such finding for 18-to-24-year-olds.
The survey-based studies received prominent media coverage. But this research doesn't prove that young people who get puberty suppressants or hormones are at lower risk because of the medications, points out Christine Yu Moutier, a psychiatrist and the chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The adults who remembered getting the treatments as teenagers could have had other advantages '-- ''socioeconomic factors, having health insurance, having supportive families'' '-- that better accounted for why their rates of suicidal thoughts or attempts were lower, Moutier says. And they could have received the medications they wanted in part because their mental health was evaluated as stable beforehand.
One of the clearest and most consistent findings about L.G.B.T. young people is that support from their families is essential for protecting them from a host of poor outcomes, from depression and suicide attempts to homelessness. The Family Acceptance Project, a research and intervention program for families of L.G.B.T. children, tells parents that refusing to use a child's chosen names and pronouns is a form of rejection. But the project stops short of saying that parents who delay or refuse to consent to medication, despite their children's wishes, are rejecting them or putting them at risk.
In the heat of a battle like the one raging over gender-related medical care for minors, insisting on precision about scientific evidence can seem nitpicky. But Leibowitz thinks gaining the trust of families necessitates acknowledging complexity. ''It's irresponsible to reinforce very scary statistics to families in an attempt to gain consent for treatment,'' Leibowitz says. ''This strategy doesn't build the type of love and acceptance that a child needs, which is truly at the heart of preventing suicidal behavior.''
Maddie Deutsch, the president of USPATH, worries that the loud voices on all sides are the extreme ones. ''In our society right now, something is either all good or all bad,'' she says. ''Either there should be a vending machine for gender hormones or people who prescribe them to kids should be put in jail.''
At a hearing called by the Ohio Assembly in May, supporters testified in favor of a ban on gender-related medical treatment, called the ''Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act,'' while opponents rallied outside the hearing-room window. One conservative activist singled out Leibowitz for attack, based on statements he has made about gender-affirming care and supporting transgender young people and their families. It felt surreal to him to hear his remarks turned into fodder for testimony about how parents were being ''coerced'' into agreeing to medical intervention. It was a reminder, if he needed one, that for all the care and moderation he tried to take, he would always be perceived as dangerous by the right.
The 62-page final version of the adolescent chapter, which WPATH sent me the first week of June, is scheduled to be released this summer. It will include a key change in the top-line recommendations of the SOC8, in response to advocates like International Transgender Health. In place of the December draft's recommendation of evidence of several years of gender incongruence before a preteen or teenager begins any medical intervention, the final chapter set a vaguer timeline: gender incongruence that is ''marked and sustained over time.'' Below their recommendations, Leibowitz, de Vries and their committee did note that several years of experience is important for teenagers who want hormones and surgery but said that for puberty suppressants, several years was ''not always practical or necessary.'' In the end, the chapter sided with the trans advocates who didn't want kids to have to wait through potentially painful years of physical development.
Leibowitz, de Vries and their co-authors held their ground on assessments. The final version of their chapter said that because of the limited long-term research, treatment without a comprehensive diagnostic assessment ''has no empirical support and therefore carries the risk that the decision to start gender-affirming medical interventions may not be in the long-term best interest of the young person at that time.''
''Sometimes I feel that the field is so polarized that I worry whether the guidelines will be followed '-- how much authority will they have?'' de Vries said of the upcoming publication of the chapter. ''But I think a sensible reader will read a very nuanced, thoughtful approach that will help those who really need it.''
In the run-up to the release of the final SOC8, Leibowitz couldn't imagine a more nerve-racking moment to make the guidelines public. In early June, the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida asked the state's health department essentially to ban gender-related medical care for minors '-- and in addition, to lay the groundwork to take that care away from trans adults with a report that justified ending Medicaid coverage for them.
Leibowitz said he hoped the SOC8 would improve the quality of care. He knew it wouldn't settle the larger debates about how well teenagers know themselves and how parents and professionals should respond to them. ''It's convenient to say there's not enough evidence if you don't believe in the treatment '-- and that there's enough evidence, if you do believe,'' Leibowitz said. The clinical experience he had, seeing kids every day, was uppermost. ''Evidence matters, yes, but common sense matters, too.''
Emily Bazelon is a staff writer for the magazine and the Truman Capote fellow for creative writing and law at Yale Law School. Her 2019 book, ''Charged,'' won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the current-interest category. Anne Vetter is a photographer and writer in California and Massachusetts. Their work is focused on the fluidity of identity, as well as Jewishness, whiteness and wealth.
Glimpses of Brittney Griner Show a Complicated Path to Release - The New York Times
Sat, 09 Jul 2022 11:58
Sports of The Times
The W.N.B.A. star's appearances this week during her trial on drug charges in Russia highlighted the unclear path to her release and heightened her supporters' concerns for her safety.
Brittney Griner, a seven-time All-Star center for the W.N.B.A.'s Phoenix Mercury, pleaded guilty to drug charges on Thursday. Credit... Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press July 8, 2022
One hundred forty-one days.
That is how long Brittney Griner has been behind bars in Russia. That is how long she has been stuck in the middle of a high-stakes staredown between the United States and Russia at exactly the wrong time, as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia continues his horrendous invasion of Ukraine and echoes the return of the Cold War.
One hundred forty-one days. That is how long Griner has been in limbo.
What terrible uncertainty and fear she must feel, facing a decade in a Russian prison if she is convicted. Griner captured that emotion in her recent letter to President Biden. ''I'm terrified I might be here forever,'' she wrote. She added, ''Please don't forget about me.''
The seven-time All-Star center for the W.N.B.A.'s Phoenix Mercury pleaded guilty on Thursday, admitting wrong doing. In so many words, Griner and her lawyer said her troubles began with a mistake: She was readying quickly for her flight to Russia in February and inadvertently packed the smoking cartridges with the small amounts of hashish oil '-- less than a single gram, according to prosecutors. She said she had no intention of breaking Russian law.
Experts say a guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion in a Russian legal system entirely stacked against defendants. Griner may have chosen not to fight a battle she could not win, helping speed her case to a conclusion.
We don't know right now. The Mercury center's teammates, supporters and wife, Cherelle Griner, have not been able to speak with her directly. With the war in Ukraine, all we in America have seen or heard from Griner has been from appearances at a Moscow-area courtroom that she has attended in handcuffs.
Uncertainty and complication hover over this awful affair. Russian media outlets have claimed that talks of a possible prisoner exchange are already underway, though U.S. officials have not confirmed this. One floated swap would include Russian national Viktor Bout, who has been imprisoned in the United States since 2012 on a 25-year sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to people who said they planned to kill Americans. During his sentencing, prosecutors called Bout ''among the world's most successful and sophisticated arms traffickers.'' He is known as the Merchant of Death.
That lopsided prospective deal shows the difficulty of negotiating Griner's release. Would it be a balanced exchange to swap a basketball star who carried hashish oil into Russia for a man found guilty of participating in an international plot against Americans?
Paul Whelan, another American being held in Russia, has served two years of a 16-year sentence on espionage charges that he has denied. Is it fair to push for Griner's release before Whelan's? Should the United States negotiate for him to be included in a deal, even if doing so delays both their releases?
Image Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of spying and arrested in Russia, inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow in 2019. Credit... Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images Complicating matters further are issues of race, gender and sexuality.
Griner is tattooed, dreadlocked, Black and three inches shy of seven feet tall. She does not conform to broadly accepted gender stereotypes. She is married to a woman and is an outspoken L.G.B.T.Q. activist. Putin has a well-documented disdain for L.G.B.T.Q. people, which only heightens her supporters' fears for her well-being.
Her appearance, sexuality and outspokenness mean that the contempt for Griner is just as thick in some quarters of the United States. That makes it fair to wonder if the outrage from American citizens would be louder and more pervasive if Griner were a male star athlete who fit neatly into a traditionally accepted role.
''If it was LeBron, he'd be home, right?'' said Vanessa Nygaard, Griner's coach with the Mercury. ''It's a statement about the value of women. It's a statement about the value of a Black person. It's a statement about the value of a gay person.''
Nygaard may be right. Male athletes are the beneficiaries of a sports ecosystem in which their leagues garner more TV time, their endorsements generate more money and their accomplishments are more loudly lauded. If this were James in custody '-- or Stephen Curry or Tom Brady '-- it stands to reason that their fame would push a more fervent mainstream call for release than has been the case for Griner.
On the other hand, imagine what Russia would be asking in return for LeBron James: The ransom would probably far exceed a single arms dealer languishing in an American prison, especially given the tension between Biden and Putin.
If this were James in custody, well, a whole lot more than a few hundred people would have shown up to rally for his release. On Wednesday, an estimated 300 people gathered at the Mercury's arena, Phoenix's Footprint Center, to show their support for Griner. The building seats 17,000.
Image Supporters held up signs reading ''Bring Brittney Home'' during a rally to support Griner. Credit... Christian Petersen/Getty Images I visited the arena in April for a Mercury preseason game and was surprised by the muted acknowledgment of Griner in a city where she has given so much. Known as B.G., she helped lead the Mercury to a W.N.B.A. title in 2014 but is as admired there for helping the homeless and championing L.G.B.T.Q. rights. Local sports-radio announcers hardly mentioned her, instead going on and on about the Phoenix Suns' competing in the N.B.A. playoffs.
At the time, Griner's Mercury teammates were following the lead of her advisers, who had decided to stay low-key and not raise a ruckus that might draw Putin's ire. It was clear the players wanted to be more forthright. As they spoke of how much they loved their teammate and followed the advised path, the fierceness and pain in their eyes showed me that they wanted to say more.
The approach flipped a few weeks later when the U.S. State Department declared that Griner had been ''wrongfully detained.'' The league and its players began to roar '-- the same as they often do on pressing social issues. Teams paid tribute to Griner by pasting her initials on home courts leaguewide. Over social media, in news conferences and interviews, players demanded that Biden and the White House do whatever was needed to bring her home.
''Free B.G.,'' said DeWanna Bonner, of the W.N.B.A.'s Connecticut Sun, speaking to the press. ''We are B.G. We love B.G. Free her.''
The N.B.A. joined the chorus. Players wore ''We are B.G.'' T-shirts to practices held during the N.B.A. finals. James, Curry and many other stars spoke out, demanding her release. Athletes from other sports joined in. After Griner's guilty plea on Thursday, Megan Rapinoe, the outspoken star of the U.S. women's soccer team, wore a white jacket with Griner's initials stitched into her lapel as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
What a roller coaster of strategy and emotion. Thursday's hearing brought another searing twist, seeing Griner there in court, begging for mercy.
''This situation with B.G., it's hard for everybody on our team,'' Nygaard said before Thursday night's home game against the Liberty.
The court hearing and admission of guilt. The images of Griner, hands bound, eyes wide, surrounded by Russian police.
''When your friend is in danger,'' Nygaard added, and that friend is saying ''that they're scared, those things are hard to get away from.''
One hundred forty-one days, and counting.
Brittney Griner is far from home, and we do not know when she will be set free.
Google News - Glimpses of Brittney Griner Show a Complicated Path to Release
Sat, 09 Jul 2022 11:58
Language & region English (United States)
Megaphone Is Now On Multiple Blocklists For Tracking Podcast Listeners
Fri, 08 Jul 2022 18:00
Megaphone is a podcast hosting provider. All podcast hosting providers collect listener stats, but that's only seen by the hosting provider and the podcaster themselves. Stats are fine, but Megaphone collects listener data in order to serve targeted ads to listeners. Not only that, they are sharing this data with big ad tech like Neilsen Media Research. Which is bad for privacy and creepy. So bad that some anti-tracking tools are blocking all podcasts hosted on Megaphone.
Full discloser: I use Megaphone as the hosting provider for my podcast.
What is going on?Here's a video made by Megaphone explaining what they are doing and what MTM is.
In short they have a service called Megaphone Targeted Marketplace (MTM) which tracks listener behavior and pairs it with Nielsen segments to present listeners with ads that are targeted for them. It's actually some amazing tech because if you think about it, all that has to be done on demand in real time and new ads are stitched into the mp3 as it streams over to the listener.
A more longer version is that when you request an mp3 from Megaphone to listen to, you first request it from traffic.megaphone.fm. Then it redirects to adserver.va3.megaphone.cloud, which grabs all kinds of listener data such as geo location and type of device and sends that to Neilsen Media Research to find a an ad for the listener. It then redirects the listener to the actual mp3 which is hosted on dcs.megaphone.fm. The problem is, listener data is now being collected by an advertising agency. Which means podcast listeners may be tracked across multiple shows even.
Megaphone has a website which explains their ad choices and even gives you a link to Neislen to opt out of targeted ads. However it's not clear that if you opt-out in the browser if it also opts-out for the podcast players too.
So Megaphone makes it clear they are collecting listener data and sharing it with ad tech companies (such as Neilsen) to insert targeted ads into podcasts.
Why is this a problem?Well as it turns out people don't like being tracked. And there's a whole suite of anti-tracking privacy tools out there. There are DNS sinkhole services like pi-hole and NextDNS which block domains that track you, there are browser plugins to block this like AdBlockPlus, uBlock Origin, and PrivacyBadger, and there are browsers that block this too like Brave. These tools work tirelessly to figure out what website are tracking us and it blocks them so they can't do it anymore. Megaphone tracks listeners.
Megaphone is now blockedFor the first time this has become an issue. At no point in the history of podcasting has this ever been an issue before, but now it is (thanks to Megaphone). In the last few months certain blocklists have began adding Megaphone to them. This means that people who use some of the tools above may not be able to play some of their favorite podcasts.
For instance when you go to my podcast website and try to play my podcast with an up to date version of Brave, you cannot play the audio. When you hit the play button you get a big red exclamation point.
Then when you investigate what's going on you see that Megaphone was blocked.
And there's the real problem, Brave blocked traffic.megaphone.fm because it considers it a tracker. This means podcast listeners cannot play podcasts if they use certain privacy tools and tracker blockers. It's not like Brave can block just the tracking part of Megaphone and let through the audio. No it blocks the audio which fundamentally breaks the podcast listening experience.
What blocklists is Megaphone showing up on?Once again, when someone goes to listen to a podcast (mp3) hosted on Megaphone it first goes to traffic.megaphone.fm which is just a CNAME for adserver.va3.megaphone.cloud. And this does show up on some blocklists.
(The ones with the green check marks means it appears in the blocklist. The red ones mean it was on the list previously.)
That's 6 blocklists that lists Megaphone!
Brave is blocking Megaphone. This is a privacy focused browser which has a feature called shields which blocks ads and trackers by default. Specifically it blocks traffic.megaphone.fm because that has a CNAME resolution to adserver.va3.megaphone.cloud, which does appear on one of their blocklists. Brave blocks CNAMES which resolve to domains on the blocklist.
uBlock Origin is blocking Megaphone. This is a browser plugin to block ad content. It sees that when you go to download an mp3 it sends you to adserver.va3.megaphone.cloud and blocks it.
Now the reason Brave and uBlock are blocking Megaphone is because they use the standard EasyList blocklist. But if you search EasyList you won't see Megaphone. Instead it's hitting the rules that look like this:
Volgens de gynaecoloog is ze per ongeluk met zijn sperma verwekt. 'Ik heb ervoor gekozen hem te geloven'
Fri, 08 Jul 2022 15:12
Na een lange zoektocht ontdekte Lieke van der Pol dat een gynaecoloog haar biologische vader is, terwijl haar ouders dachten dat ze samen een kind hadden gekregen. 'Het is heel pijnlijk allemaal.'
Rik Kuiper 6 juli 2022 , 16:15 Dit was zo'n brief die je persoonlijk moest afgeven, vond ze. En dus reed Lieke van der Pol in het najaar van 2019 naar Gemert. Ze was zenuwachtig, herinnert ze zich, zenuwachtiger dan ooit. Nadat ze had geparkeerd in de buurt van het caf(C) dat hij uitbaatte, wandelde ze op de hoge hakken die ze voor de gelegenheid had aangetrokken naar de ingang. 'Ik zoek Henk', zei ze tegen de man die ze binnen trof.
Ze wachtte. En toen stond hij daar. Henk Ruis was kleiner dan ze verwacht had. Maar zijn blik herkende ze. Hij keek, zo zou ze later noteren, 'alsof hij me uitdaagt voor een potje schaken'. Van der Pol schudde zijn hand, die bol en vlezig voelde. Daarna overhandigde ze hem de brief waarin ze de afgelopen dagen tot vervelens toe woorden had vervangen en komma's had verplaatst.
En hoewel Van der Pol opperde dat hij die misschien beter later kon lezen, zette Ruis zijn leesbril op en opende de envelop. Zijn ogen gleden over het papier tot ze ook de laatste zinnen bereikten, waarin ze hem de vraag stelde die haar al zo lang bezighield: 'Bent u mijn biologische vader?'
Ruis keek haar aan, over zijn leesbril heen. 'Ik neem snel contact met je op', zei hij.
Vruchtbaarheidskliniek In de Tilburgse twee-onder-een-kapwoning, waar ze met haar vriend Jeroen en haar twee kinderen woont, vertelt Lieke van der Pol (33) hoe ze Henk Ruis op het spoor kwam. Het is een belangrijk verhaal, vindt ze, want misschien zijn er meer mensen zoals zij. Mensen die denken dat ze het kind van hun vader zijn, maar in werkelijkheid in de vruchtbaarheidskliniek zijn verwekt met het zaad van een andere man. Van de gynaecoloog bijvoorbeeld.
Zelf kwam ze er pas een paar jaar geleden achter, na een zoektocht vol zweet en tranen. Die resulteerde vorige week in een bericht dat landelijk aandacht kreeg '' het bericht waaruit bleek dat oud-gynaecoloog Henk Ruis tussen 1988 en 1992 bij ten minste drie van zijn patinten donorkinderen verwekte met zijn eigen sperma, al dan niet met opzet.
Van der Pol is een van deze kinderen. Door naar buiten te treden, wil ze eventuele lotgenoten naar de waarheid leiden. Ze wijst erop dat ze hun dna in een databank kunnen laten opnemen. Ook wil ze laten zien hoe zij en haar ouders hebben geworsteld: toen ze van niets wisten, maar ook nu ze de waarheid kennen.
'Ze zijn blij dat ik er ben, maar hebben hier nooit voor gekozen', zegt ze. 'Door wat Henk heeft gedaan, heeft mijn moeder minder vertrouwen in andere mensen. En mijn vader voelt de noodzaak me vaak te vertellen dat hij van me houdt. Dat laatste vind ik fijn. En toch is het heel pijnlijk allemaal.'
Onbestemde gevoelens Haar twijfels kwamen vroeg, vertelt Van der Pol. Ze groeide op in Handel, een klein Brabants dorp 'waar iedereen elkaar kent'. Haar vader was timmerman, haar moeder deed huishoudelijke ondersteuning in een verzorgingstehuis. Hoewel de opvoeding liefdevol was, zat Van der Pol nooit echt lekker in haar vel. Al op de basisschool bekroop haar het gevoel dat ze anders was dan de andere gezinsleden. 'Ik trok mezelf vaak terug', zegt ze. 'En ik hield van andere dingen dan mijn ouders en mijn zusje. Schrijven bijvoorbeeld.'
Haar favoriete sprookje was 'Het lelijke eendje' van Hans Christian Andersen. 'Een verhaal over een eenling in een groep. Het ging over mij, al had ik dat als kind niet in de gaten.'
Het bleef bij onbestemde gevoelens, totdat haar moeder een opmerking maakte waardoor bij Van der Pol alle alarmbellen afgingen. Ze vertelde dat haar dochter 'uit een reageerbuisje' kwam. 'Toen ik vroeg of ik wel van papa was, zei ze dat ik me geen zorgen hoefde te maken. Maar ik was daar niet zo zeker van. En dat voelde ze. Daardoor groeiden we verder uit elkaar.'
Dna-databank De tijd verstreek, de onrust bleef. En dus besloot Van der Pol op onderzoek uit te gaan. Ze benaderde de kliniek waar haar ouders destijds voor hun vruchtbaarheidsbehandeling hadden aangeklopt. Het 'eenregelige antwoord' dat ze ontving, heeft ze niet meer in haar bezit.
'Het kwam erop neer dat ik gewoon een kind van mijn vader ben', zegt Van der Pol. 'Ik vond het schimmig dat ik op zo'n belangrijke vraag zo'n eenvoudig antwoord kreeg, zonder verwijzing naar enig onderzoek.'
Toen ze een paar jaar later zelf kinderen kreeg, schreef ze zich op advies van haar psycholoog in bij een dna-databank. En jawel, na een paar weken zag ze in de app van MyHeritage dat ze een match had. Ene Anka bleek familie van haar, een nicht of een achternicht. Van der Pol had haar naam nooit eerder gehoord. Ze bestudeerde de stamboom die Anka had samengesteld. En daarin stuitte ze op een achternaam die ze vaker gehoord had: de achternaam van de gynaecoloog van haar moeder.
Ze googelde hem. Vond een foto. Bekeek die. En voelde toen hoe de paniek bezit van haar nam. Paniek die weken aan zou houden, zegt ze. Paniek die haar soms verlamde, maar soms ook het duwtje gaf om in actie te komen, om te doen wat ze moest doen: de waarheid achterhalen.
Stamboom Het leek Lieke van der Pol geen goed plan haar ouders op hetzelfde moment met haar bevindingen te confronteren. Wie weet had haar moeder een affaire gehad met Henk Ruis en vermoedde ze altijd al dat haar dochter van een andere man was. Daarom zorgde Van der Pol dat ze alleen met haar moeder was. Aan de keukentafel toonde ze haar een Post-it waarop ze twee namen had gekrabbeld: die van Anka en die van Henk.
'Ken je deze mensen?' vroeg ze. 'Henk wel', antwoordde haar moeder. 'Die ander niet.' Van der Pol begon uit te leggen dat ze haar dna in de database had gestopt en dat Anka in haar stamboom stond. Ze pakte haar telefoon erbij en liet de app van MyHeritage zien. Kijk, daar stond haar naam, Anka moest dus familie zijn. Haar moeder begreep het niet. Van der Pol legde het een tweede keer uit. Een derde keer. Toen daalde het nieuws in.
'Maar hij zei dat je van papa zou zijn', stamelde haar moeder.
Onwaarschijnlijk verhaal De uitslag van het verwantschapsonderzoek verraste haar niet. En toch werd Lieke van der Pol overmand door woede. 'Ik worstelde met existentile vragen', zegt ze daar nu over. 'Mijn ouders wilden een kind met het zaad van papa. Als dat niet gelukt was, waren ze waarschijnlijk gestopt met proberen. Ik hoor er dus niet te zijn.'
Ze schreef die brief aan Henk Ruis, bracht hem langs in zijn caf(C) en wachtte op antwoord. Dat kwam, al was het niet wat ze ervan gehoopt had. Aan de telefoon vertelde Ruis dat hij het een onwaarschijnlijk verhaal vond. Maar vooruit, hij stemde in met een gesprek.
Opnieuw toog Van der Pol naar Gemert, waar Ruis haar vertelde dat hij het dossier had gevonden. Daarin stond zwart op wit dat hij op 14 maart 1988 het zaad van haar vader bij haar moeder had ingebracht. 'Hij vond mijn theorie ook onwaarschijnlijk, omdat ik niet op hem of zijn kinderen leek. Dat was pijnlijk, want ik herkende wel iets van mezelf in hem. Ook zei hij dat hij ooit de beweeglijkheid van zijn sperma had laten onderzoeken en dat die zeer laag was. Dat hij zelf vier kinderen had gekregen was een wonder.'
Toch arriveerde niet lang daarna een envelop met het resultaat van het dna-onderzoek. Henk Ruis was 'met een zekerheid van 99,999 procent' haar biologische vader. En dus reed Van der Pol opnieuw naar Gemert. 'Ik kreeg cola, Henk dronk bier', zegt ze. 'Toen ik hem de brief liet zien, zei hij dat hij het nu moeilijk nog kon ontkennen.'
Wel of geen opzet Hoe de moeder van Lieke van der Pol zwanger raakte van Henk Ruis is nog altijd onduidelijk. In een e-mail die hij op 11 februari 2020 aan Van der Pol stuurde schreef de oud-gynaecoloog dat hij in 1987 was overgestapt van vers zaad op ingevroren donorzaad.
Maar hij bekende ook dat dat niet bij iedereen het geval was geweest. 'Er waren enkele vrouwen die, deels elders, al enkele jaren zonder succes behandeld waren met ingevroren donorzaad', schreef Ruis. 'Op verzoek van deze vrouwen heb ik hen behandeld met vers zaad. Aangezien de donoren allemaal liepen in het invriessysteem, heb ik hiervoor mijn verse zaad gebruikt.'
Hij benadrukte dat hij niet kon achterhalen of zijn sperma op de dag dat haar moeder de kliniek bezocht in het laboratorium aanwezig was geweest. De dossiers van de betreffende vrouwen waren 'op hun verzoek' vernietigd. En zou zijn zaad er zijn geweest, dan nog kon hij niet verklaren hoe dat aan het sperma van haar vader was toegevoegd. 'Er is in ieder geval geen opzet in het spel geweest.'
Die verklaring wijkt af van de verklaring die Ruis vorige week gaf, toen naar buiten kwam hij tussen 1988 en 1992 met zijn eigen sperma minstens drie kinderen verwekte bij vrouwen die hij behandelde. De oud-gynaecoloog ontkende opzet en verwees in de Volkskrant naar 'de primitieve laboratoriumfaciliteit' waarover hij destijds beschikte. Mogelijk was zijn eigen zaad, dat daar aanwezig was voor experimenten met de invriesprocedure, verwisseld of vermengd geraakt met het zaad van anderen.
Instemming Het klopt allebei, zegt Ruis desgevraagd. In de 'algemene behandelingen' heeft hij nooit bewust zijn eigen sperma gebruikt. De dna-matches met Van der Pol en twee anderen kwamen dus echt een verrassing voor hem, zoals hij vorige week al zei.
De twee vrouwen over wie hij in die e-mail schreef, vallen in een andere categorie. Dat waren bekenden van hem, zegt hij, 'vrouwen die dichtbij me stonden'. Ruis stelde destijds zelf voor zijn eigen verse zaad te gebruiken en de vrouwen zouden daarmee hebben ingestemd. Of uit die behandelingen ook zwangerschappen zijn ontstaan, wil de oud-gynaecoloog omwille van de privacy niets zeggen. Wel laat hij weten dat hij zoiets met de kennis van nu niet meer zo zou doen. 'Je moet je priv(C) en de behandeling gescheiden houden.'
Gelooft Lieke van der Pol de verklaringen van Ruis? Ze denkt er even over na. En dan geeft ze een antwoord dat illustreert hoezeer ze met de kwestie worstelt. 'Ik heb ervoor gekozen het te geloven', zegt ze. 'Want als dit niet de waarheid is, dan stam ik af van iemand die smerige leugens vertelt. Dat kan ik niet verkroppen. Daarom geloof ik hem. Voor mijn eigen gemoedsrust.'
Biologische vader De missie van Lieke van der Pol nadert het einde. Ze vond haar biologische vader. Ze maakte kennis met zijn kinderen. Ze haalde hem over zijn dna af te staan aan de database van Fiom. Ze vond mede daardoor nog twee kinderen die met zijn zaad verwekt waren. En ze zorgde dat zijn naam naar buiten werd gebracht, waardoor ook andere dolende zielen mogelijk hun biologische vader vinden.
Van der Pol heeft geen spijt, zegt ze. 'Ik weet nu dingen die niet leuk zijn, maar ik voel me wel vrij.' De gedachte dat ze er eigenlijk niet hoort te zijn, houdt haar de laatste tijd minder bezig, al kan ook meespelen dat ze zelf kinderen heeft. 'Dan ben ik er in ieder geval voor hen.'
Tussen haar en haar ouders is meer begrip ontstaan, sinds duidelijk is dat ze een andere biologische vader heeft. 'Eerst was er frictie omdat ik dingen op een andere manier deed dan zij. Nu snapt iedereen waarom dat zo is. We verwachten niet meer van elkaar dat we veranderen.'
En het contact met Henk Ruis? Dat verloopt moeizaam, zegt ze, omdat de oud-gynaecoloog niet openstaat voor contact. Een paar maanden geleden leverde ze nog een brief bij hem af, waarin ze schreef dat ze hem graag beter wilde leren kennen en dat hij altijd welkom was bij haar.
'Hij heeft daar nooit iets op laten horen', zegt ze. 'Daarom heb ik hem onlangs laten weten dat ik het heb opgegeven.'
Agent 'kapot' na afvuren kogel op Jouke (16) bij Heerenveen: 'Het gaat slecht met hem' | Binnenland | Telegraaf.nl
Fri, 08 Jul 2022 15:12
Het beste van De Telegraaf
Door Wietske Koen en Jan Ligthart
Updated Gisteren, 23:46Gisteren, 23:32 in BINNENLAND
De politie heeft dinsdag meerdere waarschuwingsschoten en gerichte schoten gelost.
Akkrum - De agent die dinsdagavond in Heerenveen op boerenzoon Jouke Hospes (16) uit Akkrum schoot, zit ziek thuis. Hij acht zichzelf momenteel niet in staat om te werken. Zeker niet nadat hij hoorde dat hij een kogel op een jonge jongen had afgevuurd.