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TBR News August 5, 2019

Aug 05 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. August 5, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for August 5 :” I was having lunch a week ago in a noisy restaurant (chosen because the noise level precludes taping by others of the simian type) and one of the diners regaled us with a most entertaining story.

I will relay this here for your entertainment.

I plan to use it in my forthcoming book to be entitled ‘Revenge.’

I could never get an American publisher but I do have a Russian one and they do publish in both English and Russian.

Someone took a strong dislike to another who had the fortune to own a number of hotels.

He bought a box of smallish and genuine sponges.

He also bought several containers of liquid starch and a ball of twine.

He soaked the sponges in water, compressed them and wrapped them in twine. Then he soaked them in liquid starch. When the starch had dried, he cut off the twine and put the small hard shrunken sponges in a suitcase.

He checked in at one of his mark’s hotels but paid cash and used a fake name.

I believe it was Ben Dova but then again it might have been Mike Hunt.

He got a room on a lower floor and promptly dropped several of the starched sponges into the toilet and flushed it.

The sponges lodged somewhere in the pipes and when the water dissipated the starch, the  sponges expanded to the point where they effectively blocked the pipe.

And then one postulates the scene in a room above  where a fat Mrs. Estelle Ginsberg sat on her toilet and passed out yesterday’s dinner. She flushed the toilet and was greeted by a column of water containing feces, used sanitary napkins and old condoms.

The floor in the bathroom was a mess and it took the specialists called in by the staff three days to locate the sponges lodged in the pipes.

It also cost $15,000 and resulted in holes chopped in ceilings and floors.

The insurance company paid the bills but the second time he played the game, they refused.

Simple and inexpensive and, to be sure, undetectable.

He has over a hundred sponges to play with but I doubt if stories about this sabotage will ever find their way into the media.

It might give others ideas and we must not do that, must we?

The story-teller said he never gets mad but he does get even.

I guess the motto of this story is that one must wait a bit before teaching a lesson in manners to a knuckle-dragger.

‘Though with patience stand they waiting

with exactness grind they all’

 

The Table of Contents

  • Trump tweets as gun violence and white nationalist terrorism stalk America
  • What’s inside the hate-filled manifesto linked to the alleged El Paso shooter
  • The Murder of Foreign Border Crossers
  • We must call the El Paso shooting what it is: Trump-inspired terrorism
  • Military-Style Surveillance Technology Is Being Tested in American Cities
  • More Money, Fewer Jobs
  • Iran says will not tolerate ‘maritime offences’ in Gulf
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • How anti-vaccine movements threaten global health

 

Trump tweets as gun violence and white nationalist terrorism stalk America

Domestic terrorism now results in more deaths than the foreign kind but the president shows no sign of toning down his rhetoric

August 4, 2019

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Two menaces have stalked America throughout its history. One is gun violence. The other is white supremacy. In El Paso, Texas, on Saturday they collided.

A 21-year-old gunman with a hatred of Hispanic immigrants killed 20 people in a shopping mall in the eighth deadliest mass shooting in American history. The suspect is believed to have posted online an anti-immigrant screed that praised the killing of 51 people in Christchurch mosques in New Zealand in March.

Less than 13 hours later, nine people were killed in Dayton, Ohio, in a second mass shooting.

The chilling reality of domestic terrorism – which now results in far more deaths than foreign terrorism – was acknowledged by political analysts, Democratic candidates for president and George P Bush, nephew of former president George W Bush.

But there was no televised appearance from President Donald Trump, who attempted to wash his hands of the hate crime in a few tweets. His acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, toured TV studios on Sunday expressing righteous indignation. “I blame the people who pull the trigger,” Mulvaney told NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. “Goodness gracious, is someone really blaming the president? People are sick, until we address why people think this way.”

There is a need for caution when drawing a direct line between politicians and heinous acts: the Columbine high school massacre happened under President Bill Clinton, the Orlando nightclub shooting under Barack Obama. But the lone gunman theory is often a way of refusing to grapple with underlying motives. For those who live with violence and its consquences in their communities every day, context matters.

Inflammatory words matter in a country that has more guns than people. Tragically, shootings have become as American as apple pie. Dayton was the 22nd mass killing in America this year, according to an AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database, which tracks all attacks involving four or more people killed. America has by far the highest gun ownership rate in the world.

Time and again Congress refuses to act. Not even the shooting that killed 20 students and six teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 led to meaningful reforms, even though a sympathetic president, Barack Obama, was in the White House.

Then came Trump. The National Rifle Association (NRA) was a key part of his coalition, spending $30m to help him beat Hillary Clinton. He has resisted basic measures such as signing background checks for gun sales into law. A promise to defend the second amendment, the right to bear arms, always rouses one of the biggest cheers at his campaign ralles. Trump wildly exaggerates Democrats’ plans for gun control.

In addition, Trump has fomented a toxic discourse around immigration and race. He questioned Obama’s birthplace, launched his election campaign with talk of Mexican “criminals” and “rapists” and drew moral equivalence between white supremacists and anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has used the word “invasion” numerous times when tweeting about the US-Mexico border; the gunman in El Paso, in a “manifesto” being linked to him, complained of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

White nationalist terrorism is now a real danger, yet it receives a fraction of the attention of Islamist extremism. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, testified last month that the bureau has recorded about 100 arrests of domestic terrorism suspects in the past nine months; many were linked to white supremacist violence. Trump’s critics say he is fanning the flames of bigotry.

Presidential candidate Cory Booker told CNN’s State of the Union: “I want to say with more moral clarity that Donald Trump is responsible for this. He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry. He is responsible because he is failing to condemn white supremacy, and seeing it as it is.

Trump believes the rhetoric worked for him in 2016, not with a majority of Americans (he lost the popular vote), but with the white-majority states that were crucial to his victory in the Electoral College. The past month – where he has doubled down on race baiting and launched unprecedented racist attacks on Democrat politicians of color – strongly implies he will try the same approach in 2020 but perhaps go even further. The election looks set to be the most explosive in living memory.

But, gun control activists say, this is no time for despair or surrender. The NRA is currently in a state of disarray, plagued by internal feuding and financial strife. House Republicans suffered a hammering in last year’s midterm elections, driven by an anti-Trump backlash. Voters can make a difference in 2020, not only in the White House but, crucially, in the Senate. As Nelson Mandela once observed, it always seems impossible until it is done.

 

What’s inside the hate-filled manifesto linked to the alleged El Paso shooter

August 4, 2019

by Yasmeen Abutaleb

Washington Post

Shortly before a gunman opened fire outside a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more, a manifesto believed to be linked to him was posted online. It railed against a “Hispanic invasion” and laid out a plan to divide the United States into territories based on race.

Authorities believe 21-year-old Patrick Crusius wrote the document, though they are still gathering evidence.

It begins by praising the manifesto of the gunman who killed 51 Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand earlier this year. That document cited a white supremacist theory known as “The Great Replacement,” which postulates that a secret group of elites is working to destroy the white race by replacing them with immigrants and refugees.

“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the manifesto says.

After a brief introduction, the 2,300-word manifesto is divided into five sections: political reasons for the attack, economic reasons, equipment that will be used to carry out the shooting, the expected reaction to the attack, and “personal reasons and thoughts.” Titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” the document is a jumble of positions and ideologies. In it, the writer warns of the dangers of environmental degradation, rails against corporate influence in the government and cautions against interracial marriage.

Under “political reasons,” the manifesto lambastes both Democrats and Republicans, suggesting the United States will soon become a one-party state run by Democrats because of the growing Hispanic population, the death of the baby-boom generation and the “anti-immigrant rhetoric of the right.” The author postulates that the growing Hispanic population in Texas will soon make it a solidly Democratic state, which he argues would all but assure repeated Democratic presidential victories.

“The Democrat party will own America and they know it. They have already begun the transition by pandering heavily to the Hispanic voting bloc in the 1st Democratic Debate,” the manifesto says.

[As world watches violence in El Paso, some point finger at Trump’s rhetoric]

The document repeatedly rails against corporations, which the author says have taken over the government. The author criticizes Republicans for favoring corporations, but argues that “at least with Republicans, the process of mass immigration and citizenship can be greatly reduced.”

The author also expresses fear over the impact automation will have on job opportunities and argues that immigrants should not be allowed to continue coming into the country as long as job opportunities are scarce. He argues that while immigrants often take menial jobs that Americans are unwilling to perform, their children seek better opportunities and often receive college degrees that allow them to obtain high-skill positions. The document again blames corporations for advocating for work visas for skilled workers and says they rely on immigrants to fill low-skilled positions.

In a jumbled rant, the document rails against corporations for destroying the environment by over-harvesting resources. The manifesto chastises the government for being unwilling to confront environmental issues and most Americans for being unwilling to change their lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly. It argues that the United States therefore needs fewer people consuming resources.

The author wrote that he planned to mainly rely on an AK-47 as his weapon for the shooting, noting that it overheats after about 100 rounds and that he would need a heat-resistant glove.

The manifesto notes that many migrants return to their home countries to reunite with family, arguing that “the Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive. An incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide.” The author writes that such terrorist attacks will “remove the threat of the Hispanic voting bloc.”

[Officials call El Paso shooting a domestic terrorism case, weigh hate crime charges]

In the “personal reasons and thoughts” section, the author writes that he has spent his life preparing for a future that does not exist, though does not specify what that future would be. He ends on an anti-immigrant screed, worrying that Hispanics will take over the Texas government and says the Founding Fathers have given him the rights — presumably referring to the right to bear arms — to save the country from destruction.

“Our European comrades don’t have the gun rights needed to repel the millions of invaders that plaque [sic] their country. They have no choice but to sit by and watch their countries burn,” the manifesto says.

Finally, the manifesto ends by decrying interracial couples and proposes separating the United States into territories based on race. The author points to white supremacist theories that “stronger and/or more appealing cultures overtake weaker and/or undesirable ones.”

[As bystanders shared videos of El Paso’s violent aftermath, strangers online begged them to stop]

The author expresses fear that he will be captured, rather than die during the shooting, because that would mean he would receive the death penalty and his family would despise him. And he stresses that he has maintained his white supremacist ideology for many years, predating President Trump and his 2016 campaign, which he says did not influence his reasons for carrying out the attack.

“This is just the beginning of the fight for America and Europe,” the author writes.

 

The Murder of Foreign Border Crossers

August 5, 2019

by Christian Jürs

It has just been brought to my attention, by a participant, that certain highly illegal practices are being committed at the U.S. Army base at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona.

It seems that a large number of illegals use routes through the rough countryside ,south and west of the base, to illegally enter the United States. Among these groups, it is alleged, a number of non-Latinos can be found and many of them, but not all certainly, are persons hostile to American interests.

What happens is this: The Border Patrol interdicts groups en route to Highway 10. If they can identify any foreigners, i.e., not Central or South Americans, they notify the Army people at Huachuca. These non-Latinos are then separated by the Army and removed to a  “secure location” on the base where they are “severely interrogated” by contract workers. There is always a member of the U.S. Army CIC present at these sessions.

When the interrogators have finished their work, the tortured individuals are taken out into the desert, stripped of their shoes and socks and dumped out. These dumping places are selected because of their remoteness and the impossibility for the victim to find any kind of civilization, food or water.

Obviously, they die of exposure.  Neither a quick nor a pleasant death but a sure one. And no bullet holes or broken bones to accuse.

This method of removal was chosen over the standard shot in the neck because if the dessicated bodies are ever found, it is immediately assumed that they were illegals who had gone astray.

Such conduct, even if Trump personally ordered it, (which, given his vicious nature would not be surprising) is completely illegal and severely punished under American law.

There will be further information on this subject in the future.

From August, 2018 to date, the following breakdown of those terminated ‘with extreme prejudice’ (actually a CIA term for offing one of their own agents) reads as follows:

 

Australian/New Zealand  16

Yemeni 38

Chinese 35

Filipinos 53

UAE 9

Venezuelans 34

Turkmenstani 14

Pakistani   32

Canadian     4

Lebanese   10

 

We must call the El Paso shooting what it is: Trump-inspired terrorism

It is staggering to imagine how much more violence this president may motivate if he continues down this deeply disturbing path

August 5, 2019

by David Schanzer

The Guardian

Last year, when a rabid, anti-immigrant antisemite murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, I called it an act of domestic terrorism inspired by the ideology of Trumpism. The shooting took place during the height of the 2018 midterm campaign when Trump was inciting fear of an immigrant “caravan” from Central America. The shooter got the message. Hours before his bloody rampage, he accused a Jewish refugee support agency of bringing “invaders in that kill our people”.

Saturday in El Paso it was deja vu all over again.

Trump has launched his 2020 re-election campaign this summer by doubling down on the theme of racial and ethnic division and anti-immigrant hysteria. And as sure as the sun rises in the east, a mere month into this racially charged atmosphere, an extremist suspect fearful of Hispanics gaining political power in Texas decided to go kill as many Hispanics as possible at an El Paso Walmart. It is Trump-inspired terrorism yet again.

The president’s defenders have taken great offense to the notion that any of his actions or rhetoric have contributed to what happened in El Paso, but this defense is deeply flawed.

First, the assertion that Trump can be absolved of responsibility because he condemns violence by white supremacists reflects a misunderstanding of how homegrown domestic terrorism works.

It doesn’t require an overt appeal to violence to motivate an ideological extremist to engage in violence. Indeed, individuals often move from being a passive supporter of a cause to a mobilized killer when their political grievances are amplified, and their enemies are dehumanized.

So when Trump goes on Twitter and television calling migrants “invaders” and dehumanizes them by suggesting they are “infesting” America, he is motivating aggrieved individuals to take action into their own hands by using violence.

Second, the claim that Trump shares no blame for the shooting because he rejects the white supremacist ideology of the El Paso shooter is blatantly at odds with the facts. Indeed, the central political project of the Trump presidency has been reducing the political power of non-white people in America – a key tenet of white supremacist thinking.

Trump took action to reduce the number of minorities coming to America in the opening days of his administration when he halted immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and temporarily suspended the refugee program. He has subsequently dramatically reduced the number of refugees admitted to the US each year and is threatening to drop the number to zero in 2020.

Trump’s demand that the census include a question about citizenship is also consistent with a white supremacist agenda. It is firmly established that such a question would suppress census participation by noncitizens and perhaps recent immigrants as well, thereby reducing the political power of the states where they reside.

Of course Trump’s notorious policy of separating children from their parents and detaining them in squalid conditions is part and parcel of the white supremacist desire to deter migration to the United States and dehumanize those who dare attempt to gain legal residency.

And, when Trump suggested last month that four members of Congress of color who were born or naturalized in the United States “came from” other countries, he ratified the core concept of white supremacy that nonwhite people are not truly “Americans”.

The manifesto the El Paso shooter posted online reflects that he understood and endorsed the president’s political program to a T. The attack, the shooter wrote was “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”. Echoing the president’s logic that cruel conditions of confinement will deter migration, the shooter opined that his use of violence would provide a needed “incentive” for Hispanics to return to their home countries. His violent actions were necessary, he wrote, to save America from destruction.

Finally, while Trump does not overtly call for his supporters to use violence to further his agenda, his rhetoric is infused with notions of violence and dehumanization. The “send her back” chant Trump allowed to continue for 13 seconds at a campaign rally was an explicit call for the power of the state to be used to forcibly expatriate a foreign-born immigrant citizen. Last week he called a minority community in Baltimore a “rodent, rat-infested mess” – mixing images of urban minorities with inhuman pests and vermin.

These messages are not lost on people like the El Paso shooter: “Your president shares your view that immigrants and racial minorities are a scourge on America. They are not deserving of the privileges of citizenship and must be denied political power at all costs. They are animals anyway, so the use of violence is permissible.”

We remain 15 months from the 2020 election. It is staggering to imagine how much more violence this president may motivate if he continues down this deeply disturbing path.

Military-Style Surveillance Technology Is Being Tested in American Cities

August 3, 2019

by Arthur Holland Michel

The Atlantic

In the eyes of the law, there’s no difference between a smartphone photo taken through an airplane window and one taken by an ultra-powerful camera in a helicopter hovering over your backyard.

Say you’re on a commercial flight and you pass over a city. You pull out your phone and take a picture. Much of the area that you have photographed is private property, but have you violated anybody’s privacy? You’d probably say no, and you’d be right. But what if, instead of your phone, you use a professional camera equipped with a telescopic lens that’s strong enough to make out individual people in their backyards? Though your actions might raise some eyebrows among your fellow passengers, they are, from a legal standpoint, no different from the first example.

Let’s say you take it a step further. You fly a helicopter over the city at 1,000 feet. Now, with your telescopic camera, you can even make out distinctive features of the people in your frame. Surely this isn’t legal, you might say. Surely a bright line exists between snapping a photo with your phone from an airplane window and focusing a telescopic lens a few hundred feet over someone’s backyard.

But it doesn’t. Even if you happen to record someone sunbathing in a backyard, it is not your fault. It’s the sunbather’s fault, for not taking better precautions to protect against aerial observation.

This is because the airspace over America falls into the same legal category as other public spaces, such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and beaches—and it isn’t illegal to take photographs of private property, or private citizens, from public space. As a result, we have no expectation of privacy from above.

Even the most secretive organizations in the U.S. government are not necessarily safe from aerial observation. In the spring of 1998, an NSA employee who goes by the nickname Cheebie was standing in the parking lot of the agency’s headquarters, in Maryland, when a civilian helicopter equipped with a strange, round object under its nose flew directly overhead. A group of employees inside the building worried that the helicopter crew might have even been able to see into their offices through their open blinds

As it turned out, the helicopter was being operated by a film crew working on—believe it or not—Enemy of the State. It was taking a series of establishing shots of the agency’s sleek glass complex. Cheebie and other employees asked the NSA administration whether the agency could have done anything to prevent the flight. They couldn’t. “Believe me,” wrote one public-relations official in response to the queries, “we tried.”

A few days earlier, members of the film’s production team had met with a group of NSA officials, and had explained that they were planning a series of flights over the facility in the following weeks. The officials protested the idea, but there was nothing they could do, legally speaking, to stand in the way. The airspace over the complex is public. All the Enemy of the State crew had to do was file a flight plan and call it a photo mission.

Capitalizing on this gap, as some might call it, in standing privacy law, wide-area-camera manufacturers and users often turn the all-seeing eye on peacetime populations in the United States and elsewhere without their knowledge. PV Labs, a Canadian firm, has flown a “persistent surveillance” camera over various U.S. cities, including Charlotte and Wilmington, North Carolina. The Australian Department of Defence has tested a wide-area camera in exercises over Adelaide and Montreal. The Air Force has spent hours recording Ohio State University’s campus in Columbus.

 

More Money, Fewer Jobs

The Stubborn Truth About Employment and the Defense Industry

by Nia Harris, Cassandra Stimpson, and Ben Freeman

Tom Dispatch

A Marilyn has once again seduced a president. This time, though, it’s not a movie star; it’s Marillyn Hewson, the head of Lockheed Martin, the nation’s top defense contractor and the largest weapons producer in the world. In the last month, Donald Trump and Hewson have seemed inseparable. They “saved” jobs at a helicopter plant. They took the stage together at a Lockheed subsidiary in Milwaukee. The president vetoed three bills that would have blocked the arms sales of Lockheed (and other companies) to Saudi Arabia. Recently, the president’s daughter Ivanka even toured a Lockheed space facility with Hewson.

On July 15th, the official White House Twitter account tweeted a video of the Lockheed CEO extolling the virtues of the company’s THAAD missile defense system, claiming that it “supports 25,000 American workers.” Not only was Hewson promoting her company’s product, but she was making her pitch — with the weapon in the background — on the White House lawn. Twitter immediately burst with outrage over the White House posting an ad for a private company, with some calling it “unethical” and “likely unlawful.”

None of this, however, was really out of the ordinary as the Trump administration has stopped at nothing to push the argument that job creation is justification enough for supporting weapons manufacturers to the hilt. Even before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, he was already insisting that military spending was a great jobs creator. He’s only doubled down on this assertion during his presidency. Recently, overriding congressional objections, he even declared a national “emergency” to force through part of an arms sale to Saudi Arabia that he had once claimed would create more than a million jobs. While this claim has been thoroughly debunked, the most essential part of his argument — that more money flowing to defense contractors will create significant numbers of new jobs — is considered truth personified by many in the defense industry, especially Marillyn Hewson.

The facts tell a different story.

Lockheed Locks Down Taxpayer Dollars, While Cutting American Jobs

To test Trump’s and Hewson’s argument, we asked a simple question: When contractors receive more taxpayer money, do they generally create more jobs? To answer it, we analyzed the reports of major defense contractors filed annually with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Among other things, these reveal the total number of people employed by a firm and the salary of its chief executive officer. We then compared those figures to the federal tax dollars each company received, according to the Federal Procurement Data System, which measures the “dollars obligated,” or funds, the government awards company by company.

We focused on the top five Pentagon defense contractors, the very heartland of the military-industrial complex, for the years 2012 to 2018. As it happened, 2012 was a pivotal year because the Budget Control Act (BCA) first went into effect then, establishing caps on how much money could be spent by Congress and mandating cuts to defense spending through 2021. Those caps were never fully adhered to. Ultimately, in fact, the Pentagon will receive significantly more money in the BCA decade than in the prior one, a period when the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were at their heights.

In 2012, concerned that those caps on defense spending would cut into their bottom lines, the five top contractors went on the political offensive, making future jobs their weapon of choice. After the Budget Control Act passed, the Aerospace Industries Association — the leading trade group of the weapons-makers — warned that more than one million jobs would be at risk if Pentagon spending were cut significantly. To emphasize the point, Lockheed sent layoff notices to 123,000 employees just before the BCA was implemented and only days before the 2012 election. Those layoffs never actually happened, but the fear of lost jobs would prove real indeed and would last.

Consider it mission accomplished, since Pentagon spending was actually higher in 2018 than in 2012 and Lockheed received a sizeable chunk of that cash infusion. From 2012 to 2018, among government contractors, that company would, in fact, be the top recipient of taxpayer dollars every single year, those funds reaching their zenith in 2017, as it raked in more than $50.6 billion federal dollars. By contrast, in 2012, when Lockheed was threatening its employees with mass layoffs, the firm received nearly $37 billion.

So what did Lockheed do with those additional $13 billion taxpayer dollars?  It would be reasonable to assume that it used some of that windfall (like those of previous years) to invest in growing its workforce. If you came to that conclusion, however, you would be sorely mistaken. From 2012 to 2018, overall employment at Lockheed actually fell from 120,000 to 105,000, according to the firm’s filings with the SEC and the company itself reported a slightly larger reduction of 16,350 jobs in the U.S. In other words, in the last six years Lockheed dramatically reduced its U.S. workforce, even as it hired more employees abroad and received more taxpayer dollars.

So where is all that additional taxpayer money actually going, if not job creation? At least part of the answer is contractor profits and soaring CEO salaries. In those six years, Lockheed’s stock price rose from $82 at the beginning of 2012 to $305 at the end of 2018, a nearly four-fold increase. In 2018, the company also reported a 9% ($590 million) rise in its profits, the best in the industry. And in those same years, the salary of its CEO increased by $1.4 million, again according to its SEC filings.

In short, since 2012 the number of taxpayer dollars going to Lockheed has expanded by billions, the value of its stock has nearly quadrupled, and its CEO’s salary went up 32%, even as it cut 14% of its American work force. Yet Lockheed continues to use job creation, as well as its employees’ present jobs, as political pawns to get yet more taxpayer money. The president himself has bought into the ruse in his race to funnel ever more money to the Pentagon and promote arms deals to countries like Saudi Arabia, even over the nearly unified objections of an otherwise incredibly divided Congress.

Lockheed Is the Norm, Not the Exception

Despite being this country’s and the world’s top weapons maker, Lockheed isn’t the exception but the norm. From 2012 to 2018, the unemployment rate in the U.S. plummeted from roughly 8% to 4%, with more than 13 million new jobs added to the economy. Yet, in those same years, three of the five top defense contractors slashed jobs. In 2018, the Pentagon committed approximately $118 billion in federal money to those firms, including Lockheed — nearly half of all the money it spent on contractors. This was almost $12 billion more than they had received in 2012. Yet, cumulatively, those companies lost jobs and now employ a total of 6,900 fewer employees than they did in 2012, according to their SEC filings.

In addition to the reductions at Lockheed, Boeing slashed 21,400 jobs and Raytheon cut 800 employees from its payroll. Only General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman added jobs — 13,400 and 16,900 employees, respectively — making that total figure look modestly better. However, even those “gains” can’t qualify as job creation in the normal sense, since they resulted almost entirely from the fact that each of those companies bought another Pentagon contractor and added its employees to its own payroll. CSRA, which General Dynamics acquired in 2018, had 18,500 employees before the merger, while Orbital ATK, which General Dynamics acquired last year, had 13,900 employees. Subtract these 32,400 jobs from the corporate totals and job losses at the firms become staggering.

In addition, those employment figures include all company employees, even those now working outside the U.S. Lockheed is the only top five Pentagon contractor that provides information on the percentage of its employees in the U.S., so if the other firms are shipping jobs overseas, as Lockheed has done and as Raytheon is planning to do, far more than 6,900 full-time jobs in the U.S. have been lost in the last six years.

Where, then, did all that job-creation money really go? Just as at Lockheed, at least part of the answer is that the money went to the bottom-line and to top executives. According to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consulting firm that provides annual analyses of the defense industry, “the aerospace and defense (A&D) sector scored record revenues and profits in 2018” with an “operating profit of $81 billion, surpassing the previous record set in 2017.” According to the report, Pentagon contractors were at the forefront of these profit gains. For example, Lockheed’s profit improvement was $590 million, followed closely by General Dynamics at $562 million. As employment shrank, CEO salaries at some of these firms only grew. In addition to compensation for Lockheed’s CEO jumping from $4.2 million in 2012 to $5.6 million in 2018, compensation for the CEO of General Dynamics increased from $6.9 million in 2012 to a whopping $20.7 million in 2018.

Perpetuating the Same Old Story

This is hardly the first time that these companies have extolled their ability to create jobs while cutting them. As Ben Freeman previously documented for the Project On Government Oversight, these very same firms cut almost 10% of their workforce in the six years before the BCA came into effect, even as taxpayer dollars heading their way annually jumped by nearly 25% from $91 billion to $113 billion.

Just as then, the contractors and their advocates — and there are many of them, given that the weapons-making outfits spend more than $100 million on lobbying yearly, donate tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of members of Congress every election season, and give millions to think tanks annually — will rush to defend such job losses. They will, for instance, note that defense spending leads to job growth among the subcontractors used by the major weapons firms. Yet research has repeatedly shown that, even with this supposed “multiplier effect,” defense spending produces fewer jobs than just about anything else the government puts our money into. In fact, it’s about 50% less effective at creating jobs than if taxpayers were simply allowed to keep their money and use it as they wished.

As Brown University’s Costs of War project has reported, “$1 billion in military spending creates approximately 11,200 jobs, compared with 26,700 in education, 16,800 in clean energy, and 17,200 in health care.” Military spending actually proved to be the worst job creator of any federal government spending option those researchers analyzed. Similarly, according to a report by Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for every $1 million of spending on defense, 6.9 jobs are created both directly in defense industries and in the supply chain. Spending the same amount in the fields of wind or solar energy, she notes, leads to 8.4 or 9.5 jobs, respectively. As for the education sector, the same amount of money produced 19.2 jobs in primary and secondary education and 11.2 jobs in higher education. In other words, not only are the green energy and education areas vital to the future of the country, they are also genuine job-creating machines. Yet, the government gives more taxpayer dollars to the defense industry than all these other government functions combined.

You don’t, however, have to turn to critics of defense spending to make the case. Reports from the industry’s own trade association show that it has been shedding jobs. According to an Aerospace Industries Association analysis, it supported approximately 300,000 fewer jobs in 2018 than it had reported supporting just three years earlier.

If the nation’s top defense contractor and the industry as a whole have been shedding jobs, how have they been able to consistently and effectively perpetuate the myth that they are engines of job creation? To explain this, add to their army of lobbyists, their treasure trove of campaign contributions, and those think tanks on the take, the famed revolving door that sends retired government officials into the world of the weapons makers and those working for them to Washington.

While there has always been a cozy relationship between the Pentagon and the defense industry, the lines between contractors and the government have blurred far more radically in the Trump years. Mark Esper, the newly minted secretary of defense, for example, previously worked as Raytheon’s top lobbyist in Washington.  Spinning the other way, the present head of the Aerospace Industries Association, Eric Fanning, had been both secretary of the Army and acting secretary of the Air Force. In fact, since 2008, as the Project On Government Oversight’s Mandy Smithberger found, “at least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers shifted into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors.”

Whatever the spin, whether of that revolving door or of the defense industry’s publicists, the bottom line couldn’t be clearer: if job creation is your metric of choice, Pentagon contractors are a bad taxpayer investment. So whenever Marillyn Hewson or any other CEO in the military-industrial complex claims that spending yet more taxpayer dollars on defense contractors will give a jobs break to Americans, just remember their track record so far: ever more dollars invested means ever fewer Americans employed.

 

Iran says will not tolerate ‘maritime offences’ in Gulf

August 5, 2019

by Tuqa Khalid

Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran runs security in the Strait of Hormuz and will no longer tolerate “maritime offences” there, its foreign minister said on Monday, a day after it seized a second oil tanker near the strategic waterway that it accused of smuggling fuel.

Tanker traffic through the Strait has become a focus for an increasingly tense standoff between Washington and Tehran, into which Britain has also been dragged, and the United States has beefed up its military presence in the Gulf since May.

On Sunday, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps seized the Iraqi tanker north of the Strait and detained its seven crew, state media reported. Guards commander Ramezan Zirahi was quoted as saying it was carrying 700,000 liters of fuel.

“Iran used to forgo some maritime offences in … (the) Gulf but will never close (its) eyes anymore,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a televised news conference in Tehran.

“… Iran is responsible for the security and safety of the Strait of Hormuz and the region.”

Iran has threatened to block all exports via the Strait, through which a fifth of global oil traffic passes, if other countries comply with U.S. pressure to stop buying Iranian oil.

Zarif criticized U.S. sanctions imposed on him on Wednesday, saying Washington had closed the door to diplomacy over Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump exited last year.

The deal with a handful of global powers had curbed Tehran’s nuclear work in return for an easing of sanctions, striking a delicate political balance that the U.S. pullout has destabilized.

Strains between Washington and Tehran have heightened further since the spring. In June, Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone prompted preparations for a U.S. retaliatory air strike that Trump called off at the last minute.

Angered by intensified U.S. sanctions designed to strangle its vital oil trade and the failure of European parties to agree on a way of salvaging the nuclear agreement, Tehran has scaled back its commitments under the pact.

“Iran will leave its 2015 nuclear deal with powers if necessary,” Zarif said on Monday, adding that all measures taken by Iran were however “reversible if its interests under the deal are secured.”

Iran has so far rejected calls by the Trump administration to negotiate a new deal.

Zarif called for improved ties with Iran’s rivals in the Middle East, where it has been involved in proxy wars for decades with Sunni Saudi Arabia.

He also labeled as “piracy” the seizure by Britain in July of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar that London accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

Two weeks later, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British tanker, Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations.

“Britain has been complicit in the U.S. economic terrorism against Iran,” Zarif said.

(Story corrects chronology in penultimate paragraph)

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by John Stonestreet

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

August 5, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

Conversation 80

Date: Thursday, April 17, 1997

Commenced: 2:21 PM CST

Concluded:  2:52 PM CST

RTC: Good afternoon Gregory. Did you get your car back from the shop in one piece?

GD: Yes, and it actually runs better now that they got the stroller out from under the engine compartment.

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, somehow I can’t believe that. How could a stroller get under your car?

GD: I like to run red lights, Robert, how else. And last night, I got a ticket for going twenty miles an hour.

RTC: Normally, that’s not so fast.

GD: Ah, but it was in the local mall.

RTC: Gregory, you must have been at the coffee again.

GD: What else? Glue is just too expensive. And when I used it in the past, my face kept sticking to the sheets. Oh, well, enough ribaldry so late in the day. And getting stuck to the sheets is a forbidden topic, I guess. Last week I dreamed I was eating an angel food cake and when I woke up, my pillow was gone. Enough, enough. How is life treating you?

RTC: Good days and bad days, Gregory.

GD: How is Emily?

RTC: Very good. Thank you for asking.

GD: Not at all. I had a privileged childhood. We were taught to be polite. I have no idea what good that does but I have been conditioned.

RTC: Bill Corson is thinking of running for Congress, by the way. Did he mention this to you?

GD: No. Is he serious?

RTC: Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell what is serious about Bill.

GD: Kimmel should run. The ladies would flock to his standard.

RTC: I think he’d spend most of his time on the platform discussing his grandfather and Pearl Harbor.

GD: Yes. He is a little limited in his scope. I was involved with politics one time and it was a hysterical romp in the sheep pen.

RTC: You ran for something?

GD: A speeding bus. No, I ran for nothing but I helped out a friend of mine who wanted to unseat a local judge. Interesting sort of thing. Do you want to hear about it?

RTC: Does this involve drag racing in the mall?

GD: No, actually it doesn’t but it had its roots in my friend, Marvin, and his Ferrari. He was going too fast in it and had a few drinks under his belt so the local cops grabbed him. The judge in his case, a local power, was nasty with him and Marvin loathed the man. Also, I note, Marvin had a lot of money. We knew each other, and he was aware that I could get things done in let’s say unorthodox ways. We had the same lawyer. Anyway, the judge, who was part of our local power elite, had been on the bench for centuries and was a permanent fixture. He was up for the standard reelection and Marvin wanted him booted off the bench. We made a deal, did Marvin and I. I would get rid of the judge and Marvin would pay my out of pocket expenses plus whatever he thought proper if I was successful. Now, we had some young attorney running for the job. He had no money and the sitting judge had all the local money behind him. How to unseat him.

RTC: You had one of your nasty friends shoot him?

GD: Now, you’re trying to use CIA tactics here, Robert. No, I was not going to shoot him or even run over him with someone else’s car on a rainy night. First, I went to see the young candidate. I asked him, in private, that if I got him elected at no expense to himself, would he throw out Marvin’s conviction for drunk driving and he laughed and agreed.

RTC: Did he?

GD: We’ll get to that in good time. Well, the first thing I did was to design a bumper sticker telling voters to vote for the judge. All perfectly straightforward. Took it to Frisco to a professional printer along with a phony purchase order I had drawn up using a letterhead from the judge’s reelection campaign. They printed 20,000 stickers and billed it to the judge. Next, I went to some of my Teamster friends for whom I had done a recent and significant favor and in return, we took all of these stickers and had the boys put them on the back of every car they could find in parking lots and other public places. Now note, I did not say on the rear bumper. They put them on the back trunk lids of the cars. Ever try to get a bumper sticker off, Robert? They stick like shit to a blanket. Many very angry citizens, Robert, many. Now, that was the first thing I did. The second was to write up a letter to every citizen in the town, telling them the reasons to vote for the judge. I ran off thousands at a girl friend’s church mimeograph service. For free, of course. Then we stuffed many thousand envelopes, sealed them and stuck labels on the front. I had the judge’s campaign office stamped with a rubber stamp on the front top and I had bought gummed labels for every registered voter in town. That I also billed to the judge. The stamps I had to buy. Now the overall theme of this mailing sounded as if it were written by a participant in the Special Olympics and the terrible sketches accompanying it were equally awful. We marked them as third class postage but sealed the envelopes, Robert, making them first class mailings. We, Marvin and I, dropped thousands of these into the main post office late at night and then a day later, we had so much fun. You see, the letters had postage due because they were not third class and notices were left for residents absent at work. The day after this, we drove past the local post office and I would have sworn that it had been snowing. There were vast snowbanks of ripped up letters all over the front lawn and sidewalk in front of the building as thousands of citizens flocked down there to pay their two cents only to discover really awful campaign trash.

RTC: (Laughter)

GD: Marvin did enjoy it too. And the next thing we did was to hire a sound truck to drive all over town early Sunday morning with a loud appeal for anyone hearing to vote for judge so and so the next week. My, my, so many irate late sleepers, wrenched from the arms of Morpheus, or their idiot sister, and having to listen to the message. Oh yes, we charged that to the judge as well. Let’s see now…yes, and then we got a couple of ladies I know to do a number. See, they would stand at bus stops in town around four in the afternoon, a block apart. One would get on the crowded commute bus and at the next stop, the other would. My, they would recognize each other and start a nice dialog that could be heard from one end of the bus to the other. They discussed the coming election and one said she would never vote for the incumbent judge because her cousin in the sheriff’s office had told her that the distinguished jurist had a fifteen year old black girl out in La Honda for weekends of endless fun. And they would then get off the bus, one stop at a time, and repeat the act again.

RTC: Now that’s really evil, Gregory.

GD: Oh, I thought so at the time. But creative and very, very deadly. See, when people hear something like that, they repeat it, Robert, but they don’t want to say it was gossip heard on a bus to they tell their co workers or family members that an unnamed high level police official told them. And so the good work prospers. And I rather like what I did on the day before the election. You see, in that town, you could get a permit from the city and bag the parking meters, paying for the daily take in return for free advertising….

RTC: Jesus

GD: So I bought some bread bags in Frisco and had another printer up there indicate that there was free parking that day, courtesy of the reelection campaign for the judge. Naturally, people parked and felt they could stay there all day, thanks to the judge and his friends. I got m y Teamster friends and we bagged every meter in town. Along came the parking cops who looked at the bags and then called in to check. When they found the bags were fake, they tore them off and ticketed the cars.

RTC: Oh lovely, Gregory. I always said we should have put you on the payroll.

GD: I don’t take blood money. Interesting election results. The challenger spent about $200 on silly ads but a whopping 90% of the electorate turned out and about the same amount voted him into office in a stunning landslide. They voted their annoyance. I understand the judge’s people had some terrible bills they challenged. Anyway, Marvin got his conviction overturned.

RTC: Did he make it good to you?

GD: Well, I gave him my out of pocket expenses, mostly stamps, and told him as for anything additional, I would leave it up to his generosity. He gave me a check for the stamps and another sealed envelope. Of course I didn’t open it because that would be in bad taste and after he took me out to a wonderful, and very, very expensive  French dinner, I went home and opened the second envelope. Five hefty figures, Robert, five figures. I call that sowing seeds of kindness.

RTC: You missed your calling, Gregory.

GD: A wardheeler or a parson, Robert?

RTC: Not much difference in the end.

GD: Yes, and that’s where the judge got it.

(Concluded at 2:52 PM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

 Bill Posey

William Joseph Posey is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 8th congressional district, member of the Freedom Caucus and Congress’s resident (main) anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist after the departure of Dan Burton.

Together with Carolyn Maloney, Posey – who has received significant donations from the anti-vaccine movement – sponsored “The Vaccine Safety Study Act”, which would direct the National Institutes of Health to conduct a retrospective study of health outcomes, including autism, of vaccinated-versus-unvaccinated children, and to determine whether exposure to vaccines or vaccine components are associated with autism spectrum disorders, chronic illnesses, or other neurological conditions. The bill should, according to Posey, “bring an answer to this decades-long question.” Of course it won’t, and of course Posey knows that it couldn’t. For, of course, the “decades-long question” has long been settled; there is accordingly no scientific rationale for the suggested studies, in particular since there is no evidence suggesting that the problem exists (but plenty showing it doesn’t) – antivaxx delusions really don’t count. The purpose of the bill was, in other words, not to settle anything but to legitimize antivaxx conspiracy theories by suggesting otherwise. Posey has been pushing similar resolutions for a long time.

He is, however, particularly famous for pushing the utterly debunked CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory (still popular in antivaxx circles) in Congress, attempting to initiate apparently formal investigations, without providing any documentation whatsoever of any wrongdoing to be investigated, for obvious reasons; he claimed to have a bunch of documents, but it quickly became clear that there was nothing interesting in any of them – no whistle to blow, in other words. Posey also suggested that there is – despite near-conclusive evidence to the contrary – a link between vaccines and autism (it is worth pointing out that Posey doesn’t care one whit about autism, however). He has also pushed the Poul Thorsen gambit, which is pretty ridiculous (a Danish coauthor on one of numerous studies showing that vaccines are safe once misused grant money to cover personal expenses; therefore all research showing that vaccines are safe is invalidated). Posey denies being anti-vaccine, however; he just pushes antivaxx conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine legislation.

Now, pseudoscience and conspiracy theorizing rarely come in isolation, and Posey is also a climate change denialist. At a 2018 hearing in the Science, Space and Technology Committee, Posey claimed that climate scientists in the 1970s believed that the Earth was cooling, which is a myth but at least shows what kinds of sources Posey is using to inform his policy decisions. At the hearing Posey expressed skepticism that humans contributed to climate change, asked whether climate change was occurring because carbon dioxide captured in permafrost was now leaking out, and suggested that global warming would be being beneficial (it won’t). “I don’t think anybody disputes that the Earth is getting warmer,” said Posey, but “I think what’s not clear is the exact amount of who caused what, and getting to that is, I think, where we’re trying to go with this committee.” God forbid that the question is left to scientists, who, unlike Posey, have some ineffable agenda. It really isn’t not clear.

He is also consistently opposed to gay rights or legal protection from discrimination. And to top it all, Posey was the sponsor of H.R. 1503 to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 requiring the campaign committee to give documents proving that a candidate for president is actually eligible for the office – yes, if not a birther himself, Posey was one of the major birther conspiracy theory enablers in Congress. He declined to provide documents to disprove rumors about his own past, however.

Diagnosis: Perhaps the leading conspiracy theorist in Congress at the moment, and that says quite a bit. Posey is anti-science and pro-pseudoscience to the core, and if you scratch any denialist position even superficially, a deranged conspiracy theory appears. But Posey also wields quite a lot of influence and power, and though his wild-eyed conspiracy rants still appear to be mostly ignored, he may cause serious damage to civilization

 

Janet Levatin

Janet Levatin is a pediatrician and one of few actual pediatricians who sympathize with the anti-vaccine movement – she has, for instance, been used in the marketing campaign for the anti-vaxx film “The Greater Good” after praising the movie for “offer[ing] a balanced discussion of the issues” (it doesn’t). Of course, Levatin doesn’t care about “balanced”; Levatin is a hardcore anti-vaxxer whose article “Why Do Doctors Push Vaccines” appeared right there on leading anti-vaxxer Sherri Tenpenny’s website. That article is rich in standard anti-vaccine tropes, such as:

Confusing correlation and causation: “the deterioration of our nation’s health with the bloated vaccination schedule” (the correlation is itself highly questionable; the causation claim demonstrably false).

Claiming that many pediatricians continue to recommend vaccines “out of fear” of authorities (and possibly greed).

Of course, taking a look at Levatin’s own practices is revealing. Yes, she does have a medical degree; she has also been a Homeopathic Master Clinician for 15 years who “regularly refers children for chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, allergy elimination, and other modalities,” and proclaims that her practice offers “holistic pediatrics” and homeopathy for children and adults. Yes, Levatin is a good, old-fashioned quack. And, says her bio: “Throughout her training Dr. Janet disagreed with much of what she observed in the conventional medical practice, including overuse of medications, unwholesome hospital nutrition, and virtually nonexistent methods for true prevention and health promotion. Since seeing more than one case of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) after infant vaccination in the 1980s, she has been an outspoken physician against the over-vaccination of children”. Of course, vaccination is demonstrably negatively correlated with SIDS, but Levatin is not one to let facts override conclusions she emoted herself to through motivated reasoning.

None of her background in quackery and the antivaccine movement was mentioned in the marketing campaign for “The Greater Good”, of course.

Levatin is otherwise a mainstain at antivaxx conferences and gatherings, and makes sure to keep the pseudoscience content high and levels of accountability and sensitivity to evidence low. You can see a summary of her talk at the 2012 AutismOne quackfest conference here (the hib vaccine causes peanut allergy because some pseudochemical equivalent of astrology that outweighs the complete lack of evidence for any connection; and vaccines causes autism since science and evidence don’t matter when up against Levatin’s powers of intuition guided by what she already knows to be true regardless of evidence.)

She also appeared as an alleged expert in Ty Bollinger’s Truth About Vaccines series.

Diagnosis: Good, old-fashioned crackpot; and as all crackpot she bolsters her pseudoscience by rejecting actual science, evidence and facts in favor of an epistemic system based on inference by free emoting. But since she does have an actual education, anti-vaxxers cherish her firm commitment to the cause, and gives her ample air time. Frighteningly dangerous, in quite tangible ways (her vaccine position, if adopted by merely a small number, will likely lead to real deaths).

 

How anti-vaccine movements threaten global health

June 20, 2019

BBC News

Vaccines against preventable illnesses like measles, tetanus, mumps and rubella are safe and effective, but healthcare professionals still find themselves having to push back against vocal anti-vaccination Parents looking for answers on the safety of vaccinations are led astray by fake news, hoaxes, as well as religious and cultural beliefs, and sometimes even threats of violence – which mean diseases once thought eradicated are making a comeback.

The problem facing medicine is global, where disinformation about vaccines is readily accepted as having equal or greater value than the work of scientists who have spent their careers fighting disease.

While immunisation has long proved to be one of public health’s most cost-effective interventions, different countries and regions have their own issues, which makes the fight against diseases more difficult.

Russia

Accounts promoting an anti-vaccination agenda enjoy large followings on social media, and often tug at the heartstrings of followers, even though they present no evidence for their unsubstantiated claims.

One account on Instagram is @doctor_kolatova with 359,000 followers, run by a homeopath and a mother.

In a posted titled “After-effects of vaccines”, Ms Kolatova tells the story of a baby in Kazakhstan who died the day after receiving vaccines for measles, polio, rubella and other illnesses.

“On whose conscience will be the death of the child?” she asks.

“Doctors deny blame and called a very convenient diagnosis of ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’,” she writes, claiming that the “aggressive vaccines upset the balance of the body, especially the immune system”.

Ms Kolatova deploys the debunked argument that the risk of vaccinating a child is far higher than the risks of them catching diseases “which are not serious and can be cured… but Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cannot”.

In young children, measles can lead to pneumonia, swelling of the brain, permanent injury, and death. Polio can cause paralysis and death.

The idea that vaccines rewrite DNA appears widespread, but these claims do not go unchallenged, with one person asking: “Are you even qualified, authors of this nonsense?”

Romania

The eastern European nation is said to be the most affected country in Europe in terms of preventable diseases.

More than 15,500 measles cases have been recorded this year – and more than 60 deaths – while a large Romanian diaspora across the Continent has been identified as a driver for outbreaks in other countries.

According to the Balkan regional news agency BIRN, the spread of measles in the country is a result of distrust in Romania’s health services “due to poor facilities and mismanagement”.

However, anti-vaccine campaigners also play their part, with one leaflet being distributed in Bucharest playing on religious beliefs, saying “the measles vaccine contains the cells of aborted foetuses”. The same leaflet also claims that unvaccinated children are healthier.

Prominent TV presenter Olivia Steer pushes an anti-vaccine agenda on social media and television chat shows. She’s also an advocate of the recent theory that suncreams are a scam, and cause Vitamin D deficiencies.

Neither claim is true.

In order to increase the vaccination rate, United Nations children’s agency Unicef and the Romanian health ministry have been conducting a door-to-door campaign in some regions, hoping to fully explain the benefits of vaccinations and the dangers of listening to conspiracy theories.

Nigeria

Poverty and security issues mean there has been a gap in vaccination coverage in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that some 3.3 million unvaccinated children are at risk from measles, while polio cases have also been reported.

The Nigeria Guardian newspaper notes that poverty and a lack of health infrastructure are the greatest drivers in the spread of disease. “The major reason for having high numbers of unvaccinated children is due to poor logistics and funding,” it says.

However, terrorism also plays its part in the continuing spread of otherwise preventable diseases.

The discovery of cases of polio in areas reclaimed by government forces from Islamist militant group Boko Haram is seen as a result of the group’s complete isolation of the areas it controls from the rest of the country.

While Boko Haram is opposed to vaccines, echoing militant groups in South Asia saying that immunisation is a “Western plot to sterilise Muslims”, the cutting off of their territories from the rest of Nigeria played a greater role in the re-emergence of polio than ideological considerations.

As a result, people displaced by the conflict against Boko Haram, either through liberation or fleeing the militant group, pose a risk to others because of their close proximity to unvaccinated people in refugee camps and host communities.

“Unless there is a breakthrough to reach those areas in Borno State, the entire polio programme is at risk,” the WHO says.

Democratic Republic of Congo

People in parts of DR Congo are finding themselves at risk from Ebola as they do not trust a Canadian-developed vaccine.

This is because they distrust police and troops sent to protect medical workers, and suspicion of a “sudden” vaccination programme against the disease when other health crises have been ignored.

The Red Cross confirmed in April that “the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is worsening as trust in the response effort falters. Disease outbreaks begin and end in communities. We must place communities at the very centre of all we do”.

However, health organisations face an uphill struggle, with a study published in The Lancet finding that “nearly half of respondents believed that Ebola didn’t exist or was invented to destabilise the region or to make money. People with those beliefs were far less likely to seek Ebola treatment, and about one-third of all respondents were unwilling to take the Ebola vaccine”.

The outbreak in the east of the country is particularly dangerous because of the porous borders with Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

It’s led Congolese Nobel Prize laureate Dennis Mukwege to encourage locals to ignore false narratives about the vaccine, and to convince them that the deadly disease actually exists.

“As a doctor, I tell you that Ebola is not a false epidemic. It is real and deserves our attention, as well as our very committed struggles to put an end to it. To refuse to consider this danger is to open the door to us being decimated in isolation”, he said.

However, social media users continue to spread doubt that the emergency is real, with comments variously claiming Ebola was “planted in the country for big business” and that it is an “Illuminati plot” in which the WHO is playing a part.

India

According to the News Minutes website, although half of the world’s vaccines are produced in India, the country is in danger of falling victim to anti-vaccine hoaxes, largely driven by religion and tradition.

In one case in 2017, a nurse was attacked at a vaccination drive for schoolchildren in south-western Malappuram region. “There is false propaganda against the vaccination drive. Certain people still hold on to superstitions. But we are trying to overcome the situation by enlightening people,” Health Minister KK Shailaja said at the time.

However, these hoaxes can now travel faster and further via social media such as WhatsApp, which has some 300 million users in India.

In April, the Wall Street Journal reported: “Dozens of schools in Mumbai have refused to allow health officials to carry out vaccinations in recent months, largely because of rumours shared on Facebook Inc’s popular messaging app [WhatsApp] about the supposed dangers.”

Tamil Nadu’s director of public health, Dr K Kolandaswamy, warned that it “costs nothing” to spread hoax messages on social media, and they “encourage misinformed mobs”.

“I feel that many of these people do this for cheap popularity and nothing more. It’s a type of cult behaviour,” he said.

 

 

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