TBR News December 12, 2016

Dec 12 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  December 12, 2016:”The notorious CIA is now putting its nose into the last Presidential elections by making obviously false claims that somehow the evil Russians were responsible for the WikiLeaks release of many amoral DNC documents. Given its terrible record of chronic lying, instigations of rebellion in foreign countries, numerous murders of people the CIA does not like, fake reports, involvement in the drug business, subversion of foreign intelligence agencies to further their policies (such as British intelligence and the German BND which is heavily infiltrated by the CIA) to believe anything the CIA claims as fact would be serious error. A long (4000+ names) list of CIA friendly foreign and domestic persons, such as the news media, foreign intelligence, foreign and domestic banking persona has appeared and can be viewed at this link:   ”Trump condemns CIA Russia hacking report

December 12, 2016

BBC News

Donald Trump has poured fresh scorn on US intelligence claims of Russian hackers meddling in the US election.

He tweeted: “Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!”

The US president-elect also questioned why the allegations were not widely made public before the election.

His remarks set the incoming commander-in-chief against intelligence services that he will preside over.

“Unless you catch “hackers” in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

The FBI said in October that it believed Russia was behind the Democratic Party hacks but on Friday the CIA went further by concluding Russia’s motive was to help Mr Trump.

On Monday, the Hillary Clinton campaign, which lost to Mr Trump in last month’s election, said it was supporting an effort by a handful of members of the electoral college to request an intelligence briefing on the latest hacking allegations.

Mrs Clinton’s top political adviser, John Podesta, told Politico: “The bipartisan electors’ letter [requesting the intelligence] raises very grave issues involving our national security.”

The electoral college meets next week to ratify the results of the election.

Mr Trump’s latest Twitter tirade comes a day after he told Fox News the Democrats were disseminating the “ridiculous” hacking reports because they lost the election, and it was “impossible to know” who was behind it.

On Friday, CIA officials told US media they had “high confidence” that Russian hackers had attempted to sway the US election in Mr Trump’s favour.

The Trump team responded to those reports in a statement: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

Stop the CIA Coup

The Deep State versus Donald Trump

December 12, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


The CIA is up to its old tricks: overthrowing a democratically elected government. Only this time it’s our government.

As they are now legally allowed to do ever since the law against covert CIA propaganda in the United States was repealed, the Agency has leaked to the Washington Post reports – via anonymous third parties – of its alleged assessment of a Russian campaign to hand Donald Trump the White House:

“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

“Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to US officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“’It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,’ said a senior US official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to US senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

The reaction of the Trump transition team was swift and cutting: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

This reference to the “intelligence failure” that led us into the most disastrous war in our history is not mere rhetoric: if you’ll recall, there was plenty of dissent within the intelligence community over the Bush administration’s conclusion that Iraq had WMD, and was getting ready to deploy, but this was stripped from the public documents. Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby made several trips to Langley to browbeat analysts into submission and give the administration the talking points they wanted to justify the invasion.

It’s important to note that this leak was published just as President Obama announced he was ordering a full-scale review of the intelligence: the Washington Post story was an effort to get out ahead of that and put the CIA’s conclusions on the record before the review could be made public. This is obliquely alluded to in the Post’s story:

“The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal US assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior US official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.” [emphasis added]

As we get down into the weeds, these unspecified “minor disagreements” seem a bit more major than the reporters at the Post would have us believe:

“Intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin ‘directing’ the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior US official said. Those actors, according to the official, were ‘one step’ removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees.”

What does it mean to be “one step removed” from the Russian intelligence apparatus? Well, it means anything the CIA wants it to mean: it is clearly a subjective judgment, akin to the “criteria” by which the web site propornot.com identifies “Russian agents”: if you hold certain views, you must be “Putin’s puppet.” Another similarity to the propornot scam is that the “officials” cited throughout the Post piece are anonymous: we don’t know their motives, their positions, or whatever other information is necessary to evaluating their credibility.

What is missing from the Post’s story is any evidence: it is simply a series of assertions, offered without proof of any kind. That the Democrats, the warmonger wing of the GOP, and the media (or do I repeat myself?), are seizing on this was all too predictable. What separates this out from the usual rhetorical overkill that has characterized this election season is that it is being invoked as a reason for the Electoral College to vote for someone other than President-elect Trump.

“Ex”-CIA analyst Bob Baer – the unofficial media spokesman for the Deep State – is calling for “a new election,” although he wants to “see the forensics first.” (Guess what, Bob, there are no reliable “forensics”!). John Dean, White House counsel under former president Richard Nixon, “called for the intelligence report on Russia’s role to be made available to the 538 members of the electoral college before 19 December, when they formally vote to elect the next president.” Retiring Senate minority leader Harry Reid accused the FBI of covering up the intelligence assessment, and called on director Comey to resign. The “progressive” Twitterverse lit up with hysterical accusations of “treason,” and not so subtle hints that the Electoral College must repudiate Trump.

Meanwhile, former British diplomat Craig Murray threw a monkey wrench into the coup plotters’ campaign by asserting what I’ve been saying in this space all along: that publication of the DNC and John Podesta emails weren’t hacks, but rather were leaks. Murray, a close associate of Julian Assange, had this to say to the Guardian:

“Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of Assange, called the CIA claims ‘bullshit,” adding: ‘They are absolutely making it up.’

“’I know who leaked them,’ Murray said. ‘I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“’If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States. America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.”

Of course we had to go to the British media in order to read this.

Let’s be clear about what we actually know – and, just as importantly, what we don’t know — about the WikiLeaks email releases:

1) There is not a lick of evidence that the Russians, or anyone else, “hacked” the DNC/Podesta emails. That is, we don’t know if someone used electronic means to obtain them, or if it was an insider, i.e. a person with access who subsequently turned them over to WikiLeaks

2) It is nearly impossible to trace the source of a hack using “scientific,” i.e. purely technical, means. As cyber-security expert Jeffrey Carr puts it, the methods of the professional cyber-security industry are essentially what he calls “faith-based attribution.” Furthermore, the methodology that firms such as CrowdStrike used in supposedly uncovering the “Russian hackers” in the DNC case are classic examples of confirmation bias and laughably inadequate.

3) Julian Assange denies that the Russians are the source of the emails, and although he refuses to identify the person or persons responsible, someone he has worked closely with and his known to have his confidence, Craig Murray, is now telling us that it wasn’t a hack, it was an insider who leaked the documents. That this is being steadfastly ignored in the American media is hardly surprising: after all, it was WikiLeaks that exposed the “mainstream” media’s active collaboration with the Clinton campaign, and the media was clearly in Clinton’s camp.

4) A key element of the CIA campaign is that the Republican National Committee was also hacked by the same Russian spooks, and yet nothing was posted on WikiLeaks Note how this assumes the premises of the conspiracy theorists: that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC/Podesta emails and that WikiLeaks is merely an extension of the Kremlin. Also note that the Republican National Committee denies it was hacked, and furthermore please note the fact that Colin Powell’s emails were indeed posted by DC Leaks, along with routine emails from various GOP operatives that had no particular significance.

So what is going on here?

When Trump supporters opined that the “Deep State” would never allow the populist real estate mogul to take office, I was skeptical. This seemed to me like a made-for-television movie script rather than a real possibility: after all, what could they actually do, aside from using force to prevent him from taking the oath of office?

However, as the campaign progressed, and the Clintonites became progressively more unhinged in their attacks on Trump, the Russian angle became more prominent: former acting CIA Director Mike Morell’s accusation that Trump is an “unconscious agent” of the Kremlin, and “not a patriot,” seemed over the top at the time, but in retrospect looks more like it was laying the groundwork for the current CIA-driven propaganda campaign.

But why would the CIA, in particular, have a special aversion to Trump? Marcy Wheeler, whose analytical abilities I respect despite our political disagreements, has this to say:

“First, if Trump comes into office on the current trajectory, the US will let Russia help Bashar al-Assad stay in power, thwarting a 4-year effort on the part of the Saudis to remove him from power. It will also restructure the hierarchy of horrible human rights abusing allies the US has, with the Saudis losing out to other human rights abusers, potentially up to and including that other petrostate, Russia. It will also install a ton of people with ties to the US oil industry in the cabinet, meaning the US will effectively subsidize oil production in this country, which will have the perhaps inadvertent result of ensuring the US remains oil-independent even though the market can’t justify fracking right now.

“The CIA is institutionally quite close with the Saudis right now, and has been in charge of their covert war against Assad.”

The Saudis, having given millions to the Clinton Foundation, along with their Gulf state allies, were counting on a Clinton victory. The CIA has a longstanding relationship with Riyadh, and together they have been working assiduously to not only overthrow Assad in Syria but to forge a “moderate” Sunni alliance that will effectively police the region while establishing the Saudis as the regional hegemon. This was the Clintonian strategy while Hillary was at the helm of Foggy Bottom: Libya, Syria, the alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are all examples of this utterly disastrous “Sunni turn.”

Trump represents a threat to this grand design, and therefore has to be stopped by whatever means necessary. His desire to “get along with Russia,” his opposition to regime change in Syria, his critique of the Libyan misadventure, his foreign policy stance in general – all this meant that he would come to power and “drain the swamp” of the CIA and the State Department.

The irony here is that the accusation leveled at Trump – that his historic victory represents a successful attempt by a foreign power to take control of the White House – is a classic case of projection. What we are witnessing is a joint CIA-Saudi operation to overthrow the duly elected President of the United States.

In a recent speech given on his “victory tour,” Trump said the following:

“We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. Our goal is stability not chaos.”

For the whole of its existence, the CIA has been in the business of toppling regimes that didn’t bow to Washington’s dictates, from Guatemala to Iran to Chile and on and on. The production of chaos is their whole reason for existing. Trump would effectively put them out of business. No wonder they want to destroy him.

We have heard much about how the CIA “assessment” needs to be made public, at least partially: of course, the details will never be published so that ordinary Americans can see them. It’s the old “we have to protect sources and methods” excuse. But cries – from both those who support the CIA and the few skeptics – for an “investigation” into the charges are simply playing into the hands of the Langley crowd. For an investigation assumes that the premises of the CIA’s case – that WikiLeaks is a Russian front, that the emails were actually hacked rather than leaked, and that there is some validity to the assertion that Trump is a “Russian puppet,” as  Mrs. Clinton put it – are anything other than the basis of a smear campaign designed to undermine our democratic institutions. We might as well have an “investigation” into “Pizza-gate” or the belief that the moon landing was faked.

Yes, we do need an investigation – into this brazen attempt by the CIA to subvert our democratic institutions, and undermine the office of the President. When Trump takes the oath of office, the very first thing he must do is to launch that probe – and clean house at the CIA. The cancer of subversion that is festering at the core of the national security bureaucracy must be excised, and Trump is just the man to do it.

How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing

The “fake news” hysteria has become the cover for the U.S. government and mainstream media to crack down on fact-based journalism that challenges Official Washington’s “group thinks,”

December 7, 2016

by Robert Parry


A key reason why American foreign debacles have been particularly destructive mostly to the countries attacked but also to the United States is that these interventions are always accompanied by major U.S. government investments in propaganda. So, even when officials recognize a misjudgment has been made, the propaganda machinery continues to grind on to prevent a timely reversal.

In effect, Official Washington gets trapped by its own propaganda, which restricts the government’s ability to change direction even when the need for a shift becomes obvious.

After all, once a foreign leader is demonized, it’s hard for a U.S. official to explain that the leader may not be all that bad or is at least better than the likely alternative. So, it’s not just that officials start believing their own propaganda, it’s that the propaganda takes on a life of its own and keeps the failed policy churning forward.

It’s a bit like the old story of the chicken that continues to run around with its head cut off. In the case of the U.S. government, the pro-war or pro-intervention “group think” continues to run amok even after wiser policymakers recognize the imperative to change course.

The reason for that dilemma is that so much money gets spread around to pay for the propaganda and so many careers are tethered to the storyline that it’s easier to let thousands of U.S. soldiers and foreign citizens die than to admit that the policy was built on distortions, propaganda and lies. That would be bad for one’s career.

And, because of the lag time required for contracts to be issued and the money to flow into the propaganda shops, the public case for the policy can outlive the belief that the policy makes sense.

Need for Skeptics

Ideally, in a healthy democracy, skeptics both within the government and in the news media would play a key role in pointing out the flaws and weaknesses in the rationale for a conflict and would be rewarded for helping the leaders veer away from disaster. However, in the current U.S. establishment, such self-corrections don’t occur.

A current example of this phenomenon is the promotion of the New Cold War with Russia with almost no thoughtful debate about the reasons for this growing hostility or its possible results, which include potential thermonuclear war that could end life on the planet.

Instead of engaging in a thorough discussion, the U.S. government and mainstream media have simply flooded the policymaking process with propaganda, some of it so crude that it would have embarrassed Joe McCarthy and the Old Cold Warriors.

Everything that Russia does is put in the most negative light with no space allowed for a rational examination of facts and motivations – except at a few independent-minded Internet sites.

Yet, as part of the effort to marginalize dissent about the New Cold War, the U.S. government, some of its related “non-governmental organizations,” mainstream media outlets, and large technology companies are now pushing a censorship project designed to silence the few Internet sites that have refused to march in lockstep.

I suppose that if one considers the trillions of dollars in tax dollars that the Military Industrial Complex stands to get from the New Cold War, the propaganda investment in shutting up a few critics is well worth it.

Today, this extraordinary censorship operation is being carried out under the banner of fighting “fake news.” But many of the targeted Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com, have represented some of the most responsible journalism on the Internet.

At Consortiumnews, our stories are consistently well-reported and well-documented, but we do show skepticism toward propaganda from the U.S. government or anywhere else.

For instance, Consortiumnews not only challenged President George W. Bush’s WMD claims regarding Iraq in 2002-2003 but we have reported on the dispute within the U.S. intelligence community about claims made by President Barack Obama and his senior aides regarding the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.

In those two latter cases, Official Washington exploited the incidents as propaganda weapons to justify an escalation of tensions against the Syrian and Russian governments, much as the earlier Iraqi WMD claims were used to rally the American people to invade Iraq.

However, if you question the Official Story about who was responsible for the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, after President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the mainstream media pronounced the Syrian government guilty, you are guilty of “fake news.”

By straying from the mainstream “group think” that accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of crossing Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons, you are opening yourself to retaliation as a “fake news” site.

Similarly, if you point out that the MH-17 investigation was put under the control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence service, which not only has been accused by United Nations investigators of concealing torture but also has a mandate to protect Ukrainian government secrets, you also stand accused of disseminating “fake news.”

Apparently one of the factors that got Consortiumnews included on a new “black list” of some 200 Web sites was that I skeptically analyzed a report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that while supposedly “Dutch-led” was really run by the SBU. I also noted that the JIT’s conclusion blaming Russia was marred by a selective reading of the SBU-supplied evidence and by an illogical narrative. But the mainstream U.S. media uncritically hailed the JIT report, so to point out its glaring flaws made us guilty of committing “fake news” or disseminating “Russian propaganda.”

The Iraq-WMD Case

Presumably, if the hysteria about “fake news” had been raging in 2002-2003, then those of us who expressed skepticism about Iraq hiding WMD would have been forced to carry a special marking declaring us to be “Saddam apologists.”

Facts Don’t Matter

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s been confirmed in a mainstream report by The Atlantic that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper advised President Obama that there was no “slam-dunk” evidence proving that the Syrian government was responsible. Nor does it matter that legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has reported that his intelligence sources say the more likely culprit was Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front with help from Turkish intelligence.

Back then, everyone who was “important” in Washington had no doubt about Iraq’s WMD. Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt repeatedly stated the “fact” of Iraq’s hidden WMD as flat fact and mocked anyone who doubted the “group think.”

Yet, even after the U.S. government acknowledged that the WMD allegations were a myth – a classic and bloody case of “fake news” – almost no one who had pushed the fabrication was punished.

So, the “fake news” stigma didn’t apply to Hiatt and other mainstream journalists who actually did produce “fake news,” even though it led to the deaths of 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. To this day, Hiatt remains the Post’s editorial-page editor continuing to enforce “conventional wisdoms” and to disparage those who deviate.

Another painful example of letting propaganda – rather than facts and reason – guide U.S. foreign policy was the Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of some 58,000 U.S. soldiers and millions of Vietnamese.

The Vietnam War raged on for years after Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and even President Lyndon Johnson recognized the need to end it. Part of that was Richard Nixon’s treachery in going behind Johnson’s back to sabotage peace talks in 1968, but the smearing of anti-war dissidents as pro-communist traitors locked many officials into support for the war well after its futility became obvious. The propaganda developed its own momentum that resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

A Special Marking

In the Internet era, there will now be new-age forms of censorship. Your Web site will be excluded from major search engines or electronically stamped with a warning about your unreliability.

Your guilt will be judged by a panel of mainstream media outlets, including some partially funded by the U.S. government, or maybe by some anonymous group of alleged experts.

With the tens of millions of dollars now sloshing around Official Washington to pay for propaganda, lots of entrepreneurs will be lining up at the trough to do their part. Congress just approved another $160 million to combat “Russian propaganda,” which will apparently include U.S. news sites that question the case for the New Cold War.

Along with that money, the House voted 390-30 for the Intelligence Authorization Act with a Section 501 to create an Executive Branch “interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence,” an invitation to expand the McCarthyistic witch hunt already underway to intimidate independent Internet news sites and independent-minded Americans who question the latest round of U.S. government propaganda.

Even if a President Trump decides that these tensions with Russia are absurd and that the two countries can work together in the fight against terrorism and other international concerns, the financing of the New Cold War propaganda — and the pressure to conform to Official Washington’s  “group think” — will continue.

The well-funded drumbeat of anti-Russian propaganda will seek to limit Trump’s decision-making. After all, this New Cold War cash cow can be milked for years to come and nothing – not even the survival of the human species – is more important than that.

Why vitamin pills don’t work, and may be bad for you

We dose up on antioxidants as if they are the elixir of life. At best, they are probably ineffective. At worse, they may just send you to an early grave.

December 8, 2016

by Alex Riley

BBC News

For Linus Pauling, it all started to go wrong when he changed his breakfast routine. In 1964, at the age of 65, he started adding vitamin C to his orange juice in the morning. It was like adding sugar to Coca Cola, and he believed – wholeheartedly, sometimes vehemently  – that it was a good thing.

Before this, his breakfasts were nothing to write about. Just that they happened early every morning before going to work at California Institute of Technology, even on weekends. He was indefatigable, and his work was fruitful.

At the age of 30, for instance, he proposed a third fundamental way that atoms are held together in molecules, melding ideas from both chemistry and quantum mechanics. Twenty years later, his work into how proteins (the building blocks of all life) are structured helped Francis Crick and James Watson decode the structure of DNA (the code of said building blocks) in 1953.

The next year, Pauling was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his insights into how molecules are held together. As Nick Lane, a biochemist from University College London, writes in his 2001 book Oxygen, “Pauling… was a colossus of 20th Century science, whose work laid the foundations of modern chemistry.”

But then came the vitamin C days. In his 1970 bestselling book, How To Live Longer and Feel Better, Pauling argued that such supplementation could cure the common cold. He consumed 18,000 milligrams (18 grams) of the stuff per day, 50 times the recommended daily allowance.

In the book’s second edition, he added flu to the list of easy fixes. When HIV spread in the US during the 1980s, he claimed that vitamin C could cure that, too.

In 1992, his ideas were featured on the cover of Time Magazine under the headline: “The Real Power of Vitamins”. They were touted as treatments for cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, and even cancer. “Even more provocative are glimmerings that vitamins can stave off the normal ravages of ageing,” the article claimed.

Sales in multivitamins and other dietary supplements boomed, as did Pauling’s fame.

But his academic reputation went the other way. Over the years, vitamin C, and many other dietary supplements, have found little backing from scientific study. In fact, with every spoonful of supplement he added to his orange juice, Pauling was more likely harming rather than helping his body. His ideas have not just proven to be wrong, but ultimately dangerous.

Pauling was basing his theories on the fact that vitamin C is an antioxidant, a breed of molecules that includes vitamin E, beta-carotene, and folic acid. Their benefits are thought to arise from the fact that they neutralise highly reactive molecules called free-radicals.

In 1954, Rebeca Gerschman then at the University of Rochester, New York, first identified these molecules as a possible danger – ideas expanded upon by Denham Harman, from the Donner Laboratory of Medical Physics at UC Berkeley in 1956, who argued that free radicals can lead to cellular deterioration, disease and, ultimately, ageing.

Throughout the 20th Century, scientists steadily built on his ideas and they soon became widely accepted.

Here’s how it works. The process starts with mitochondria, those tiny combustion engines that sit within our cells. Inside their internal membranes food and oxygen are converted into water, carbon dioxide, and energy. This is respiration, a mechanism that fuels all complex life.

‘Leaky watermills’

But it isn’t so simple. In addition to food and oxygen, a continuous flow of negatively charged particles called electrons is also required. Like a subcellular stream downhill powering a series of watermills, this flow is maintained across four proteins, each embedded in the internal membrane of the mitochondria, powering the production of the end product: energy.

This reaction fuels everything we do, but it is an imperfect process. There is some leakage of electrons from three of the cellular watermills, each able to react with oxygen molecules nearby. The result is a free radical, a radically reactive molecule with a free electron.

In order to regain stability, free radicals wreak havoc on the structures around them, ripping electrons from vital molecules such as DNA and proteins in order to balance its own charge. Although inconceivably small in scale, the production of free radicals, Harman and many others posited, would gradually take its toll on our entire bodies, causing mutations that can lead to ageing and age-related diseases such as cancer.

In short, oxygen is the breath of life, but it also holds the potential to make us old, decrepit, and then dead.

Shortly after free radicals were linked to ageing and disease, they were seen as enemies that should be purged from our bodies. In 1972, for example, Harman wrote, “Decreasing [free radicals] in an organism might be expected to result in a decreased rate of biological degradation with an accompanying increase in the years of useful, healthy life. It is hoped that [this theory] will lead to fruitful experiments directed toward increasing the healthy human lifespan.”

He was talking about antioxidants, molecules that accept electrons from free radicals thereby diffusing the threat. And the experiments he hoped for were sown, nurtured, and replicated over the next few decades. But they bore little fruit.

In the 1970s and into the 80s, for example, many mice – our go-to laboratory animal – were prescribed a variety of supplementary antioxidants in their diet or via an injection straight into the bloodstream. Some were even genetically modified so that the genes coding for certain antioxidants were more active than non-modified lab mice.

Although different in method, the results were the largely the same: an excess of antioxidants didn’t quell the ravages of ageing, nor stop the onset of disease.

“They never really proved that they were extending lifespan, or improving it,” says Antonio Enriquez from the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid. “Mice don’t care for [supplements] very much.”

What about humans? Unlike our smaller mammalian kin, scientists can’t take members of society into labs and monitor their health over their lifetime, while controlling for any extraneous factors that could bias the results at the end. But what they can do is set up long-term clinical trials.

The premise is pretty simple. First, find a group of people similar in age, location, and lifestyle. Second, split them into two subgroups. One half receives the supplement you’re interested in testing, while the other receives a blank – a sugar pill, a placebo. Third, and crucially to avoid unintentional bias, no one knows who was given which until after the trial; not even those administering the treatment.

Known as a double-blind control trial, this is the gold standard of pharmaceutical research. Since the 1970s, there have been many trials like this trying to figure out what antioxidant supplementation does for our health and survival. The results are far from heartening.

In 1994, for example, one trial followed the lives of 29,133 Finish people in their 50s. All smoked, but only some were given beta-carotene supplements. Within this group, the incidence of lung cancer increased by 16%.

A similar result was found in postmenopausal women in the U.S. After 10 years of taking folic acid (a variety of B vitamin) every day their risk of breast cancer increased by 20% relative to those women who didn’t take the supplement.

It gets worse. One study of more than 1,000 heavy smokers published in 1996 had to be terminated nearly two years early. After just four years of beta-carotene and vitamin A supplementation, there was a 28% increase in lung cancer rates and a 17% increase in those who died.

These aren’t trivial numbers. Compared to placebo, 20 more people were dying every year when taking these two supplements. Over the four years of the trial, that equates to 80 more deaths. As the authors wrote at the time, “The present findings provide ample grounds to discourage use of supplemental beta-carotene and the combination of beta-carotene and vitamin A.”

Fatal ideas

Of course, these notable studies don’t tell the full story. There are some studies that do show benefits of taking antioxidants, especially when the population sampled doesn’t have access to a healthy diet.

But, according a review from 2012 that noted the conclusions of 27 clinical trials assessing the efficacy of a variety of antioxidants, the weight of evidence does not fall in its favour.

Just seven studies reported that supplementation led to some sort of health benefit from antioxidant supplements, including reduced risk of coronary heart disease and pancreatic cancer. Ten studies didn’t see any benefit at all – it was as if all patients were given the sugar pill also (but, of course, they weren’t). That left another 10 studies that found many patients to be in a measurably worse state after being administered antioxidants than before, including an increased incidence of diseases such as lung and breast cancer.

“The idea that antioxidant [supplementation] is a miracle cure is completely redundant,” says Enriquez. Linus Pauling was largely unaware of the fact that his own ideas could be fatal. In 1994, before the publication of many of the large-scale clinical trials, he died of prostate cancer. Vitamin C certainly wasn’t the cure-all that he cantankerously claimed it was up until his last breath. But did it contribute to a heightened risk?

We’ll never know for sure. But given that multiple studies have linked excess antioxidants to cancer, it certainly isn’t out of the question. A study published in 2007 from the US National Cancer Institute, for instance, found that men that took multivitamins were twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to those who didn’t. And in 2011, a similar study on 35,533 healthy men found that vitamin E and selenium supplementation increased prostate cancer by 17%.

Ever since Harman proposed his great theory of free radicals and ageing, the neat separation of antioxidants and free radicals (oxidants) has been deteriorating. It has aged.

Antioxidant is only a name, not a fixed definition of nature. Take vitamin C, Pauling’s preferred supplement. At the correct dose, vitamin C neutralises highly charged free radicals by accepting their free electron. It’s a molecular martyr, taking the hit upon itself to protect the cellular neighbourhood.

But by accepting an electron, the vitamin C becomes a free radical itself, able to damage cell membranes, proteins and DNA. As the food chemist William Porter wrote in 1993, “[vitamin C] is truly a two-headed Janus, a Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde, an oxymoron of antioxidants.”

Thankfully, in normal circumstances, the enzyme vitamin C reductase can return vitamin C’s antioxidant persona. But what if there’s so much vitamin C that it simply can’t keep up with supply? Although such simplifying of complex biochemistry is in itself problematic, the clinical trials above provide some possible outcomes.

Divide and conquer

Antioxidants have a dark side. And, with increasing evidence that free radicals themselves are essential for our health, even their good side isn’t always helpful.

We now know that free radicals are often used as molecular messengers that send signals from one region of the cell to another. In this role, they have been shown to modulate when a cell grows, when it divides in two, and when it dies. At every stage of a cell’s life, free radicals are vital.

Without them, cells would continue to grow and divide uncontrollably. There’s a word for this: cancer.

We would also be more prone to infections from outside. When under stress from an unwanted bacterium or virus, free radicals are naturally produced in higher numbers, acting as silent klaxons to our immune system. In response, those cells at the vanguard of our immune defense – macrophages and lymphocytes – start to divide and scout out the problem. If it is a bacterium, they will engulf it like Pac-Man eating a blue ghost.

It is trapped, but it is not yet dead. To change that, free radicals are once again called into action. Inside the immune cell, they are used for what they are infamous for: to damage and to kill. The intruder is torn apart.

From start to finish, a healthy immune response depends on free radicals being there for us, within us. As geneticists Joao Pedro Magalhaes and George Church wrote in 2006: “In the same way that fire is dangerous and nonetheless humans learned how to use it, it now appears that cells evolved mechanisms to control and use [free radicals].”

Put another way, freeing ourselves of free radicals with antioxidants is not a good idea. “You would leave the body helpless against some infections,” says Enriquez.

Thankfully, your body has systems in place to keep your inner biochemistry as stable as possible. For antioxidants, this generally involves filtering any excess out of the bloodstream into urine for disposal. “They go in the toilet,” says Cleva Villanueva from Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Mexico City, in an email.

“We’re very good at balancing things out so that the affect [of supplementation] is moderate whatever you do, which we should be grateful for,” says Lane. Our bodies have been selected to balance the risk of oxygen ever since the first microbes started to breathe this toxic gas. We can’t change billions of years of evolution with a simple pill.

No one would deny that vitamin C is vital to a healthy lifestyle, as are all antioxidants, but unless you are following doctor’s orders, these supplements are rarely going to be the answer for a longer life when a healthy diet is also an option. “Administration of antioxidants is justified only when it is evident that there is a real deficiency of a specific antioxidant,” says Villanueva. “The best option is to get antioxidants from food because it contains a mixture of antioxidants that work together.”

“Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown generally to be good for you,” says Lane. “Not invariably, but generally that’s agreed to be the case.” Although often attributed to antioxidants, the benefits of such a diet, he says, might also hail from a healthy balance of pro-oxidants and other compounds whose roles aren’t yet fully understood.

After decades of unlocking the baroque biochemistry of free radicals and antioxidants, hundreds of thousands of volunteers, and millions of pounds spent on clinical trials, the best conclusion that 21st Century science has to offer is also found within a child’s classroom – eat your five-a-day.

Trump tweet hits Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet costs

December 12, 2016


Donald Trump on Monday criticized Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program as too expensive, the latest attack by the U.S. President-elect on large defense contractors.

Lockheed shares dropped 5.1 percent and shares of several other defense contractors also tumbled.

“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump said on Twitter, echoing campaign promises to cut waste in federal spending. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”

Last week, he also used Twitter to target Boeing Co (BA.N) for its “out of control” costs on a new fleet of Air Force One planes, urging the federal government to “Cancel order!”

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program leader, Jeff Babione, responded by saying the company understands concerns about affordability and has invested millions of dollars to reduce the jet’s price.

Babione said Lockheed’s goal was to reduce the price of the F-35 by 70 percent from its original estimates. “We project it to be about 85 million dollars in the 2019 or 2020 time frame,” he told reporters in Israel.

A week before Trump won the Nov. 8 presidential election, the U.S. Defense Department and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) concluded negotiations on their ninth contract for 90 F-35 fighter jets, the Pentagon said. Lockheed won the contract, valued at up to $7.18 billion, in late November and has received an interim payment.

The Pentagon is paying about $102 million for each of the conventional takeoff A-model jets being built for the U.S. Air Force, Israel and many other countries, according to sources familiar with the program. That marks savings of over 50 percent from the initial jets ordered, reflecting larger quantities and the fact that many technical issues have been ironed out.

The F-35 program has been dogged by problems since its inception, with the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer once describing as “acquisition malpractice” the decision of previous officials to start producing the jets before their development had been completed. That decision led to a series of costly retrofits on early production jets.

The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester has continued to criticize the program, but the jets are now in operational use by the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, and the jets are being flown by six countries: Australia, Britain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands and Israel. Japan took delivery of its first jet last week, according to a spokesman for the program.

Still, cost overruns have made the F-35 a target for criticism. With an estimated price tag of $400 billion, the F-35 program has been described as the most expensive weapon system in history.

Lockheed and its key partners, Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), United Technologies Corp unit Pratt & Whitney (UTX.N) and BAE Systems (BAES.L), are developing and building three variants of the F-35s for the U.S. military and 10 allies including Britain, Australia, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Japan and South Korea.

After Trump’s tweet, shares of Lockheed Martin were down 5.1 percent. Shares of General Dynamics (GD.N), Northrop Grumman Boeing, BAE and Raytheon were lower, while United Technologies shares were flat.

United Technologies recently came under fire from the President-elect over a plan to ship 2,100 Carrier air conditioning jobs to Mexico from Indiana. The company agreed to keep about 800 of the manufacturing jobs in Indiana and retain another 300 headquarters jobs, in return for state tax incentives.

The attacks on Boeing and Lockheed Martin raise concerns that the incoming Trump administration will threaten defense contractors’ profit margins.

“His emerging habit of using Twitter as a bully pulpit could become a threat to controversial high-profile programs,” Cowen analysts wrote last week after Trump criticized the cost of Boeing’s Air Force One replacement program. “Even if Trump only launches a bombastic Twitter shout-out, this more aggressive approach to contractor relations could impact the stocks.”

Earlier this month, the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer said he was hopeful that Lockheed F-35 block buy will proceed.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Alwyn Scott, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey;

Editing by Bill Trott and Nick Zieminski)

Trump’s tweet about Lockheed-Martin cuts $4bn in value as share prices fall

President-elect’s missive about ‘out of control’ costs for F-35 fighter jets causes share prices to fall at a rate equal to about $28.6m per character tweeted

Decenber 12, 2016

by Sam Thielman


New York-Donald Trump scolded military jet manufacturer Lockheed Martin on for “out of control” costs on Monday, sending the defence contractor’s stock plummeting.

“Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” when he will officially take office, the president-elect wrote on Twitter. The subsequent share price drop cut $4bn from the company’s value and is the latest of a series of attacks on businesses made by Trump.

The Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter jet is the most expensive military hardware program in history and is scheduled to quadruple production during Trump’s administration. Each jet currently costs $100m. Trump’s tweet sent the price falling from $252 to $246 – a loss of about $28.6m per character tweeted.

It is unclear why Trump targeted Lockheed Martin or how or if he intends to save money on the program.

Jeff Babione, the F-35’s general manager, said Lockheed-Martin “understand the importance of affordability and that’s what the F-35 has been about” in an emailed statement. “Whoever has it will have the most advanced air force in the world, and that’s why we’re building the F-35,” Babione wrote. “That’s why it’s important that the US and our partners, like the Israeli air force, have this aircraft. It’s a great value and we look forward to any questions the president-elect may have.”

Lockheed has defended the joint strike fighter program as job-creating. The firm uses facilities in 45 of 50 US states and says the F-35 program is “responsible for more than 146,000 direct and indirect US jobs”, according to the company’s website.

The salvo against Lockheed is only Trump’s latest: on Tuesday the president-elect attacked Lockheed competitor Boeing, again for “out of control” prices for Air Force One, the president’s private jet. Those comments sent the contractor’s share price into a similar tailspin. “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Lockheed-Martin doesn’t manufacture the F-35 alone. The stakeholders form a complex geopolitical web – one reason it has been allowed to grow so costly. UK defense hardware firm BAE Systems makes the airplane’s aft section; Californian company Northrop Grumman makes the plane’s center fuselages, as does Ankara’s Turkish Aerospace Industries.

The F-35 will be for use by US and allied military forces, Turkey and the UK among them. Trump was broadly critical of American military support for its allies during his campaign, criticizing it as too expensive.

Trump has previously commented on the F-35, but never to criticize. In 2014 he quoted a follower’s criticism of the Affordable Care Act website, saying the US “could have bought 50 F35 fighters or 5 Aircraft Carriers but we got a worthless website”. In 2012, Trump linked to a story about the suspected theft of F-35 plans by Chinese spies on a blog called Asia Security Watch, run by a think tank called the New Pacific Institute.

The Istanbul Bombings Are a Sign of the Trouble Turkey Is Now in

December 11, 2016

by Patrick Cockburn

Unz Review

The bombings that killed 38 people and injured 155 after a football match in Istanbul is the latest episode to underline Turkey’s violent instability. Government officials blame the attack on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with which the Turkish state has been fighting a guerrilla war since 1984. But only a week ago the spokesman of Isis called on its followers to target “the security, military, economic and media establishment” in Turkey.

The fact that either an offshoot of the PKK or Isis could have carried out the football stadium bombings is a measure of the trouble Turkey is now in. The credibility of the government’s initial attribution of responsibility to the PKK is undermined by its past tendency to claim that that the Kurds are behind any terrorist atrocity, regardless of the evidence. The biggest terrorist attacks in Turkey in recent months – 47 killed at Istanbul International Airport in June and 57 dead at a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep in August – were both carried out by Isis.

The bombings will no doubt be used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to justify his proposed assumption of more power under a new bill just submitted to the Turkish parliament. In practice, Erdogan already wields dictatorial powers and Turkey’s shift towards becoming an authoritarian state using arbitrary powers is well under way. The last remnants of the free media are being closed down and journalists are being arrested under the guise of pursuing those responsible for the failed military coup on 15 July. Even before this purge, Kurdish population centres in the south east had been shelled and bulldozed into heaps of rubble.

Erdogan has responded to the Istanbul bombings by swearing to eradicate those responsible, but it was he himself who created the conditions under which terrorism has become a permanent feature of Turkish life. He chose confrontation with the Kurds last year in order to boost his nationalist support at the polls, while the rise of Isis in Syria since 2011 would not have been possible without Turkey’s tolerance of extreme jihadis. For a long time Isis had free passage across the Turkish-Syrian border and al-Qaeda clones, not much different from Isis, received copious supplies of arms and ammunition.

Turkey is today reaping the dire consequences of Erdogan’s past policies which created crises from which he says he will emerge victorious. But this is not going to happen because, again thanks to Erdogan, the PKK and Isis can operate from foreign sanctuaries in Syria and Iraq.

Erdogan could go a step further and increase his present limited military intervention in northern Syria and Iraq. Turkish-backed forces are getting close to the Isis stronghold of al-Bab, 25 miles from Aleppo. Turkey could launch a more widespread assault, ostensibly directed at the de facto Isis capital at Raqqa, but in reality aimed at crushing the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish leader has hitherto combined belligerent rhetoric with practical caution when it comes to Syria and Iraq, but this may not always be so.

Turkish police detain hundreds after bomb attacks, pro-Kurdish party targeted

Police have detained 235 people including pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) officials over alleged ties to Kurdish militants. One day prior, a PKK splinter group claimed responsibility for bombings in Istanbul.

December 12, 2016


Scores of people suspected of acting on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were detained in nationwide raids, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said on Monday.

Some 235 people were taken into custody, the interior ministry said in a statement, saying they were suspected of either membership in outlawed groups like the PKK, or of “spreading terror group propaganda.”

Counter-terrorism police conducted early-morning raids in 11 Turkish provinces on Monday, detaining officials in cities like Istanbul and Ankara, the ministry said. The raids appeared to also target officials from the pro-Kurdish HDP political party.

In Istanbul, police took 20 officials into custody, including the HDP’s provincial head in the city, Aysel Güzel, Turkish authorities said. The party’s main offices in the city were also reportedly searched.

Another 17 people involved in the party were detained in Ankara, including the provincial head Ibrahim Binici, Hurrieyet reported. To the south in Adana, a further 25 were taken into custody as part of a large police raid.

The sweeping police raids came after weekend attacks in Istanbul killed 44 people and injured 155, according to the latest figures from the health ministry in Ankara. Most of those killed were police officers.

On Sunday, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) – a radical splinter group of the PKK – claimed responsibility for twin blasts outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul.

Following the claim, Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, an army statement said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a published statement that those behind the attack would “pay a heavier price” for Saturday evening’s attack.

Turkey has cracked down hard on the HDP both before and especially since a July 15 coup attempt, arresting several national leaders and local officials although the pro-Kurdish party had no obvious connection to the coup plot. The party’s members insist they have no ties to the PKK.

Last month, HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were arrested along with eight others and are being held in pre-trial detention.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States.

Turkish economy contracts amid instability

Following the failed coup attempt, political uncertainty and continued unrest, Turkey’s GDP shrank for the first time since 2009.

December 12, 2016


After the failed coup attempt in July, a government crackdown and repeated terrorist attacks, the Turkish economy is suffering. According to figures released Monday, gross domestic product shrank by 1.8 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2015. This is the first contraction since the end of 2009.

Household consumption was down 3.2 percent. And though overall imports rose, the export value of goods and services also declined. The Turkish lira has been notably impacted this year, losing about 20 percent of its value compared with the dollar. Since the economy is heavily dependent on imports, this will make materials and goods from abroad more expensive.

Tourism has also been especially hard hit. Most visitors are likely staying away because of political uncertainty and the number of continued attacks in Istanbul; but Russian tourists were additionally in the crossfire of a diplomatic spat between their two countries and were staying home.

Government reaction

Turkey’s economy has recently been showing signs of slowing and the news about GDP contraction was not a surprise to the government. Political instability was bound to affect business. In response, last week Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that government spending would be tightened next year. At the same time he also promised more than 66 billion euros ($69.7 billion) in credit for private industry, incentives for investment in production and tax refunds for businesses.

“There will be no unnecessary spending in 2017,” said the prime minister last Thursday.  “No new buildings, no buying cars, no unimportant government travel.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed foreign speculators for the drop in the currency’s value. To help stabilize the lira, he is encouraging everyone to convert their foreign currency back into Turkish lira or gold. So far the Ministry of Defense and the national postal system have obliged.

Federal judge blocks Pennsylvania recount request

December 12, 2016


The Green Party request to recount paper ballots from the presidential election in Pennsylvania and inspect electronic systems for signs of hacking has been denied by a federal judge.

US District Judge Paul Diamond dismissed Jill Stein’s lawsuit on Monday morning. It was part of a larger effort to challenge the voting results in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Republican candidate Donald Trump won a narrow victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in all three to carry the Electoral College vote.

In his 31-page decision, Judge Diamond said there were at least six grounds that required him to reject the lawsuit among them that suspicion of a hacked Pennsylvania election “borders on the irrational.”

Diamond also wrote that granting the recount would “ensure that no Pennsylvania vote counts” given Tuesday’s federal deadline to certify the vote for the Electoral College.

The recount effort had been opposed by Trump, the Pennsylvania Republican Party and Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by about 44,000 votes out of 6 million cast.

Judge Diamond also said the lawsuit suffered from lack of standing, and potentially the lack of federal jurisdiction.

Lawyers for the Green Party hit numerous roadblocks in county and state courts over the group’s recount effort. They argued in their lawsuit that computer hackers changed the election outcome and that the state’s use of paperless machines made it a prime target. They also argued that the state erected unconstitutional barriers to voters seeking a recount.

Wisconsin’s presidential election recount, which began December 1, is expected to conclude on Monday. With about 95 percent of the votes recounted as of Sunday, Clinton had gained 25 votes on Trump, but still trailed by about 22,000.

Trump’s supporters also tried to halt the Wisconsin recount.

Frigid air spills into Lower 48 this week, in two brutal waves

December 12, 2016

by Jason Samenow

The Washington Post

Two shots of bitter cold air blast into the Lower 48 this week. In some areas, temperatures will drop more than 30 degrees below normal with punishing wind chills well below zero.

The first shot of cold air arrives as a piece of the polar vortex is unleashed from the Arctic, tumbling southeastward across Canada over the next few days.

A second less-pronounced lobe of the vortex breaks off and dips south over the weekend.

The first wave

Cold air has already begun to spill into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest where temperatures hovered near zero Monday morning.

By Tuesday, temperatures from Billings, Mont., to Chicago are forecast to be 10 to 30 degrees colder than normal.

The brunt of the cold is expected to surge southeastward Wednesday and cover the most territory by Thursday, when temperatures from the Dakotas to the Northeast will be 15 to 30 degrees below normal.

All of North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin should have temperatures below zero Thursday morning.

In Chicago, “Thursday looks to be the coldest day in particular with subzero lows both Thursday morning and again Thursday evening/night and daytime highs in the single digits,” the National Weather Service forecast office serving Chicago said.

Early Thursday, below-zero wind chills will cover a wide area from the Great Lakes to interior New England, where some locations could see wind chills as low as minus-20 to minus-30, including Chicago and Minneapolis.

The coldest air will affect the Northeast on Friday morning, when lows are in the single digits with subzero wind chills north of Washington.

Second wave

While the first wave of cold air erodes in the East on Saturday, a second extremely potent cold front will plunge south into the Upper Midwest.

“The coldest air mass in nearly 3 years looks set to surge south into Minnesota this weekend,” wrote meteorologist Paul Huttner for Minnesota Public Radio.

Huttner said temperatures could easily dip to minus-20 in Minneapolis on Sunday morning. “If we do hit -23, it will be the coldest in nearly 3 years since we hit -23 on January 6th, 2014,” he said.

Wind chills in parts of the Upper Midwest could dip to minus-40 early Sunday.

The brunt of this second cold snap will focus on the center of the country and it will retreat and weaken some as it rolls east and northeast early next week.











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