Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nine Major Problems with James Comey’s Involvement with the Trump Hoax Dossier


NEW YORK -- James Comey took to Twitter on Saturday to respond to an earlier tweet by President Trump about the Russia probe, with the former FBI director exclaiming that the “American people will hear my story very soon.”


Of a type developed by liars - Nexus Newsfeed

Of a type developed by liars - Nexus Newsfeed:

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US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack - Nexus Newsfeed

US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack - Nexus Newsfeed:

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How The New York Times Is Making War With Iran More Likely


It’s not easy to say which country America will fight in its next ill-advised war. Iran? Or, assuming President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un don’t hit it off at their summit, North Korea? Maybe even Venezuela or Russia?

It’s easier to say what one of the major causes of the war will be: the failure by many Americans — notably politicians, journalists, think tankers, and other elites — to employ a specific mental power that we’re all capable of employing.

That power is called cognitive empathy, and it’s not what you might think. It doesn’t involve feeling people’s pain or even caring about their welfare. Emotional empathy is the kind of empathy that accomplishes those things. Cognitive empathy — sometimes called perspective taking — is a matter of seeing someone’s point of view: understanding how they’re processing information, how the world looks to them. Sounds unexceptional, I know — like the kind of thing you do every day. But there are at least two reasons cognitive empathy deserves more attention than it gets.

First, because the failure to exercise it lies behind two of the most dangerous kinds of misperceptions in international affairs: misreading a nation’s military moves as offensive when the nation itself considers them defensive, and viewing some national leaders as crazy or fanatical when in fact they’ll respond predictably to incentives if you understand their goals.

The second reason cognitive empathy deserves more attention is that, however simple it sounds, it can be hard to exercise. Somewhat like emotional empathy, cognitive empathy can shut down or open up depending on your relationship to the person in question — friend, rival, enemy, kin — and how you’re feeling about them at the moment.

And, to make matters worse, there’s this: In Washington, lots of money is being spent to keep us from exercising cognitive empathy. Important institutions, most notably some we misleadingly call “think tanks,” work to warp our vision. And the reality-distortion fields they generate can get powerful when the war drums start beating.

You may have trouble understanding why Iran would fear an unprovoked attack.

Consider, as a case study, a recent piece about Iran in the New York Times.

It was a front-page story — the lead article in the physical edition of the paper — written by Ben Hubbard, Isabel Kershner, and Anne Barnard. The headline, in the top-righthand corner of the front page, read, “Iran Building Up Militias in Syria to Menace Israel.”

Just about any expert on Iran would agree that, strictly speaking, this headline is accurate. However, a number of experts would add something that these three reporters failed to add: From Iran’s point of view, the purpose of menacing Israel may be to prevent war; having the capacity to inflict unacceptable damage on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv can be a way of keeping both Israel and the U.S. from attacking Iran.

You may have trouble understanding why Iran would fear an unprovoked attack. Most Americans don’t think of their country as wantonly aggressive and most Israelis don’t think of their country that way, either. But Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran — and eight years ago assassinated Iranian scientists on Iranian soil. And America, for its part, has repeatedly signaled that it reserves the right to bomb Iran and that it would stand by Israel in the case of war with Iran.

Against the backdrop of Iranian history — including America’s support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, which produced hundreds of thousands of dead Iranians — it’s hardly surprising that Iran views both Israel and America as forces to be deterred; or that Iran sponsored anti-American Iraqi militias after a massive American military force invaded and occupied neighboring Iraq in 2003; or that when America and its allies armed Syrian rebels, thus turning a probably doomed insurrection into a full-scale civil war, Iran sent forces into Syria to save its longstanding ally, Bashar al-Assad’s regime, rather than see it toppled possibly by pro-American forces.

If you want this kind of insight into Iran’s perspective, I recommend avoiding the New York Times and checking out the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. There you’ll find a piece by Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, called “Iran Among the Ruins.”

Nasr writes that “the Israeli and U.S. militaries pose clear and present dangers to Iran.” He explains how this threat, along with hostile Arab neighbors and other perceived threats, has given rise to Iran’s policy of “forward defense.” He writes: “Although Iran’s rivals see the strategy of supporting nonstate military groups” — in Syria and Lebanon — “as an effort to export the revolution, the calculation behind it is utterly conventional.” Iran’s foreign policy, Nasr explains, is driven by national interest more than revolutionary fervor and “is far more pragmatic than many in the West comprehend.”

Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Dr. Vali Nasr testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about "Syria after Geneva" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Vali Nasr testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about “Syria after Geneva” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2014.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Times reporters don’t seem to have consulted Nasr, or any of the other respected analysts who have similar views of Iran’s strategic perspective. The result is unbalanced reporting.

The Times piece tells us that Israel and the U.S. “fear Iran’s growing influence,” that Israel “fears that it could face a threat” from Iranian proxies in Syria, that “many Israelis” sense “danger,” and that Iran’s behavior “worries Israel.”

All true. But there’s no mention of Iranian “fears” or “worries” or perceived “danger.” There’s also no mention of what, from an Iranian perspective, is a glaring asymmetry: Iranians and Iranian proxies in Syria are there with the permission of Syria’s government. But when Israeli jets routinely enter Syrian airspace to bomb those proxies, Israel doesn’t have the government’s permission and so, is violating international law. So too with the American troops that are stationed in Syria without the government’s permission and that have fought against pro-Assad forces; this is illegal under any but the most tortured reading of international law.

Far from highlighting this asymmetry, the Times story could give the casual reader the idea that the asymmetry points in the other direction. The story opens with this sentence: “When an Iranian drone flew into Israeli airspace this month …” No mention of the fact that this incursion, apparently by a surveillance drone, not an armed drone, was such an aberration that some observers think it was accidental. And no mention of the many Israeli violations of Syrian airspace that had preceded it, sometimes with lethal consequences. (And, at the risk of getting too picky, no mention of the fact that the “Israeli airspace” the Times said was violated was actually over the Golan Heights, which under international law is Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.)

The unbalanced presentation isn’t surprising in light of the Times reporters’ choice of sources.

This unbalanced presentation isn’t surprising in light of the Times reporters’ choice of sources. They quote an American official and an Israeli official and a former Israeli official, but no Iranian officials or former officials. And their selection of D.C. think tanks to rely on for analysis doesn’t exactly skew to the left.

The first Washington think-tank expert quoted in the piece is Amir Toumaj from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. As John Judis noted in a Slate profile of this think tank several years ago, back when the Iran nuclear deal was taking shape, FDD’s “positions have closely tracked those of the Likud party and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — not just on the Iran deal, but on the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the desirability of a two-state solution.” In its original application for tax-exempt status, FDD — then called EMET, the Hebrew word for ‘truth’ — said its mission was “to provide education to enhance Israel’s image in North America and the public’s understanding of issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations.” FDD has gotten funding from various far-right, “pro-Israel” donors, including Sheldon Adelson, who once seriously proposed dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran — just in the desert, he emphasized, to convey that “we mean business.”

So, naturally, when the New York Times is assembling a story about a conflict between Israel and Iran, it turns for impartial guidance to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

FDD does an impressive job of cultivating experts who can give journalists useful and sometimes hard-to-find information — and who, in return, get quoted a lot in the media. Almost invariably, the quotes strike a balance: They don’t overtly editorialize — and indeed are often defensible observations insofar as they go — yet they carry a subtle slant. The FDD quote in the Times piece is a good example: “The ultimate goal is, in the case of another war, to make Syria a new front between Israel, Hezbollah and Iran. They are making that not just a goal, but a reality.”

It’s no doubt true that if there’s a war with Israel, Iran would rather it not take place in Iran. But nowhere in the New York Times piece is there even consideration of the possibility that from Iran’s point of view the main point of robust proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon is to reduce the chances of war by deterring Israeli and American aggression.

I’m not saying we know that’s the case; I’m just saying this possibility is taken seriously by enough experts to warrant, say, 20 or 30 words in the course of a 1,700-word piece whose headline says Iran aims to “menace” Israel. Yet the Times piece never suggests that Iranian strategy could be aimed at reducing the threat to Iran by any means other than pushing the arena for war away from Iran’s borders.

A picture taken on February 11, 2018 shows an Israeli soldiers deployed in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria.Israel issued stark warnings on Sunday over Iran's presence in neighbouring Syria after a confrontation threatened to open a new and unpredictable period in the country's seven-year civil war. / AFP PHOTO / JALAA MAREY (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture taken on Feb. 11, 2018, shows an Israeli soldiers deployed in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria.

Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images

The Times piece includes a powerful visual aid: a map of Syria showing lots of “long-term positions held by Iranian forces or their allies.” I have no idea how this data was gathered, so I guess we’ll have to trust the source. But if you look at the credit line, you’ll see that the source is the Institute for the Study of War, another D.C. think tank whose objectivity is dubious at best.

The Institute for the Study of War’s ideological profile is clear: Its board members have included various neoconservatives, such as Bill Kristol, and it has gotten money from neoconservative and otherwise hawkish donors (including, in fact, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies), as well as from defense contractors. The institute’s founder and president has argued for U.S.-backed regime change in Syria because, as she put it, the “security of the United States and its allies would be significantly enhanced if Assad fell and Iranian influence over Syria were removed.”

The Times piece does mention one D.C. think tank that isn’t ultra-hawkish. Near the end there’s a quote from an expert at the vaguely centrist Atlantic Council. But it turns out that this particular expert, Ali Alfoneh, was until 2016 at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and before that was at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.

Alfoneh’s quote is: “Iran has realized that it is actually possible to maintain a front against Israel where there is no war but also no peace.” No mention of the fact that virtually all violent encounters between Israel and Iranian proxies in Syria — the incidents that have meant there is “no peace” — have been initiated by Israel, not the proxies.

Reporters from the Times are relying for “analysis” on sources that, in some cases, seem intent on drawing the U.S. into military conflict with Iran.

The New York Times famously helped get America into the Iraq War with reporting, by Judith Miller and others, that relied heavily on neoconservative and other hawkish sources. This reporting helped keep us from understanding what was going on in Saddam Hussein’s head: He was trying to hold onto power in Iraq and save as much face as possible, not hide a secret weapons of mass destruction program.

This misreading was abetted not just by the Times, but by various media outlets and various think tanks, ranging from the American Enterprise Institute to the “liberal” Brookings Institution.

And now we’re repeating the exercise with Iran. Reporters from the Times and other media outlets are, like Miller, relying for “analysis” on sources that, in some cases, seem intent on drawing the U.S. into military conflict with Iran. And it’s not as if these sources are keeping their agenda hidden. A week before the Times piece ran, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted in support of the idea that the U.S. military should attack “vulnerable Iranian forces” in Syria.

One reason the reality distortion field surrounding Iran has gotten so amped up is that Washington’s traditional source of funding for specifically anti-Iran talking points — far-right, “pro-Israel” donors — has increasingly been supplemented by money from Sunni Arab states that are Iran’s regional rivals. Another is that various players in the Trump administration have various reasons for favoring anti-Iran policies.

Still, Iran isn’t the only case of a media-abetted perceptual distortion that could bring war. The extent to which both North Korea’s and Russia’s behavior is defensively driven tends to get underplayed, and the craziness of their leaders — particularly in the case of Kim Jong-un but occasionally in the case of Russian President Vladimir Putin — tends to get overplayed.

In all of these cases — Iran, Russia, and North Korea — the problem is a lack of cognitive empathy, a failure to understand what’s going on inside the heads of adversaries. The good news is that cognitive empathy is often not as hard to muster as emotional empathy; you don’t have to try to feel sorry for leaders who have done horrible things. The bad news is that cognitive empathy is harder than it seems and can be impeded by activating such emotions as fear.

For that reason, it’s understandable that Israelis wouldn’t extend much cognitive empathy toward Iran. Given Israel’s history and the hostility it faces from various neighbors — and the way some Iranian leaders spout anti-Zionism talking points — it’s only natural that many Israelis and many of Israel’s most ardent American supporters dismiss as hopelessly na├»ve the idea I’ve put forth: That Iran, too, has deep fears about its security and these may explain some of its seemingly threatening behavior. By the same token, it’s understandable that people in Gaza and Lebanon who have endured massive and deadly Israeli military campaigns doubt the Israeli claim that these are motivated defensively, to preserve a security that feels tenuous.

“Think tanks” that actually deserve that name should help us transcend these and other tribal perspectives, not reinforce them; help strengthen, not impede, cognitive empathy. And so should journalists — even if impeding cognitive empathy is good for traffic and conveniently streamlines the reporting process.

Top photo: Iran’s T-72B3 tank competes in a relay race during the Tank Biathlon semifinal event as part of the 2017 International Army Games, at Alabino shooting range on Aug. 10, 2017.

The post How The New York Times Is Making War With Iran More Likely appeared first on The Intercept.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Cops Were Possible Shooters in Parkland

Don’t Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria

NY POST: Explosive 'Secret Empires' Book Uncovers Joe Biden, John Kerry Billion-Dollar China Bombshell | Breitbart

NY POST: Explosive 'Secret Empires' Book Uncovers Joe Biden, John Kerry Billion-Dollar China Bombshell | Breitbart:

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Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary


Photo by edkohler | CC BY 2.0

MSNBC prides itself for progressive reporting on national security issues but continues to use apologists for the Central Intelligence Agency in reporting on key intelligence issues.  The network’s reliance on former deputy director of the CIA John McLaughlin is an excellent example of the skewed and tailored information that it offers to viewers on matters dealing with CIA.  McLaughlin, a former colleague of mine at the CIA who I remember as an amateur magician, regularly pulls the wool over the eyes of such MSNBC veterans as Andrea Mitchell.

The most recent example took place over the past several days, when McLaughlin made the case for confirmation of Gina Haspel as the first woman to become director of the CIA.  McLaughlin and former CIA directors Leon Panetta and John Brennan referred to Haspel as a “seasoned veteran” who had the support of senior CIA leaders.  Perhaps MSNBC should acknowledge the fact that Deputy Director McLaughlin was Haspel’s boss during this terrible period in American history.

Haspel arrived at the CIA in the late 1980s as I was preparing my resignation, but I know from  former colleagues that she is also known as “bloody Gina” for her role as a clandestine operative who was a cheerleader for torture and abuse.  Her role as a commander of a secret prison in Thailand where waterboarding was practiced and her support for destroying the 92 secret tapes that revealed the sadistic practices of the CIA are well known.  These practices went far beyond the practices that were sanctioned in the unconscionable memoranda from the Department of Justice on the euphemistically labeled “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

McLaughlin’s role at the CIA is less well known.  Although CIA director George Tenet is infamous for telling President George W. Bush in December 2002 that it would be a “slam dunk” to provide intelligence to take to the American people to support the invasion of Iraq, it was McLaughlin who actually delivered the “slam dunk” briefing at the White House in January 2003.  The briefing was based on the phony National Intelligence Estimate that McLaughlin endorsed in October 2002 along with the infamous White Paper that the CIA delivered to the Congress on the eve of the vote to go to war against Iraq. The White Paper was a violation of the CIA’s charter that prohibits the use of information to influence public opinion.

McLaughlin then doubled down in January 2003 when he provided false intelligence and false assurances to Secretary of State Colin Powell who regrettably used CIA’s so-called intelligence in his speech to the United Nations in February 2003 to make the case for war to an international audience.  The Bush administration would have gone to war even if the CIA had gotten the intelligence right, but it is conceivable that honesty from Tenet and McLaughlin and a strong CIA stand could have created more opposition to the war from Congress, the media, and the public. McLaughlin regularly tells his MSNBC audiences that CIA officials tell “truth to power.”  Well, he certainly didn’t at a particularly important point.

More recently, McLaughlin led the CIA’s attempt to discredit the authoritative Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s program of torture and abuse.  Like the White Paper in 2002, the CIA report violatedf the CIA charter against influencing public opinion in the United States. In the report titled “Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program’” McLaughlin was joined by such CIA apologists as Tenet, former directors Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, and former deputy director Michael Morell.  There were other apologists involved in the project such as Philip Mudd, who comments regularly on CNN, and Jose A. Rodriguez, the godfather of torture and abuse, who was permitted to publish a book that denied there was torture and abuse.

In “Rebuttal,” McLaughlin and the others lie about the information it obtained from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, and ignore the fact that the information obtained from waterboarding KSM was already available. The apologists also misrepresented the number of detainees in CIA custody, and “Rebuttal” corroborates other lies as well. McLaughlin and Brennan still maintain that the CIA never lied to policymakers about the information obtained from the use of torture.  Thus, we have one of the biggest lies of all from a former deputy director of the CIA and a former director of the CIA, respectively, who regularly “inform” the American people on cable television.



Thursday, March 15, 2018

Glenn Greenwald Murders Harvard Professor Larry Tribe…




It started with this insane tweet from Tribe…

Not at all. It looks like Russia picked Tillerson to be a Putin puppet, then pushed Trump to fire Tillerson when he proved to be an unreliable puppet. No mystery there.

— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) March 14, 2018




Glenn Greenwald stood up for truth and Trump voters…

An actual, not figurative, LOL. The hallmark of a deranged conspiracy theorist is that all evidence, including evidence that negates the theory, is instantly converted into further proof of it. See the next tweet for the most remarkable demonstration of this.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 14, 2018




Tribe didn't just spend the year accusing Tillerson of purposely weakening US because he's a Putin puppet. He said this as recently as *one week ago.* Then Trump fires him & it instantly becomes: Putin "pushed Trump to fire Tillerson when he proved to be an unreliable puppet."

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 14, 2018




Greenwald calls Tribe insane…

This person teaches at Harvard Law. He genuinely believes Trump chose Tillerson to be Secretary of State because Putin ordered it, because Tillerson is a Kremlin asset, but now believes Trump fired him because Putin ordered this. This is a psychological, not a political, issue.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 14, 2018




Also: just a reminder that last month, Tribe – routinely presented as an expert on Trump/Russia on MSNBC & in NYT – strongly insinuated that Putin purposely ordered a Russian civilian jet to crash in order to murder a witness who wasn't even on the plane

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 14, 2018




Tribe's tweet from *ten days ago* – insinuating Tillerson is purposely weakening America at Putin's behest – was re-tweeted 10,000 times. Then Trump fires Tillerson & the same people instantly decide that Putin ordered this because Tillerson was too disobedient & harsh on Russia

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 14, 2018




Obviously, Putin ordered Trump to order Tillerson to pretend to be harsh on Russia so that Putin could order Trump to fire him to divert attention from how he hadn't been harsh on Russia and then appoint Putin's real puppet Pompeo, or something.

— Consent Factory (@consent_factory) March 14, 2018



Here’s Greenwald’s piece from a month ago in case you missed it:


Harvard’s Laurence Tribe Has Become a Deranged Russia Conspiracist: Today Was His Most Humiliating Debacle






58-minute video: National school safety expert who trained 43 of 67 Florida counties including Parkland HS: class-action lawsuit for no trauma helicopters, medical first responders/police ordered to stand down and NOT ENTER, two teachers/6 students saw full-combat police shooting students & teachers, 22 video cameras with useless 27-minute ‘delay’ not released, admin told teachers THAT MORNING of active shooter drill then did Orwellian-opposites of all protocol



Lift the Veil’s powerful 58-minute interview of National School Safety expert, Wolfgang Halbig, who trained 43 of Florida’s 67 counties in active school shooter safety protocol, including Parkland High School:

I wrote on this last week with more detailed facts and interview with Mr. Halbig that include these points:
  • The school’s CCTV system is designed for school security to have visuals for school safety, obviously. However, this school claims to have chosen to create a 27-minute delay in the visual feed that is obviously criminal negligence defeating the primary purpose of instant visuals.
  • Three sheriffs and one armed security guard waited outside the school during gunfire (herehere) in criminal negligence and failure to perform their primary duty of their jobs. This is confirmed as intentional in released radio broadcast. One officer lied in his attorney's statement that he thought gunfire was outside the school buildings because released radio has him stating gunfire within the building. Moreover, SWAT team members who followed school protocol to enter the school to confront shooter(s) were suspended from duty.
  • Several students reported multiple gunmen, with a teacher claiming (and here) she saw what she initially assumed was a police officer in full combat gear firing into students and teachers. She was grazed by a bullet, and said this occurred just 20 feet from her.
  • A medical first responder reported to media he was ordered by the law enforcement commander to abandon protocol and not enter the school; to stand down.
  • At least two students are on record (herehere) that CNN scripted questions against the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, and against the Founders in the American Revolution defending their guns when their own government came to take them.
  • Some students and associates are smiling and laughing, with all appearance as crisis actors (herehere). More on crisis actorsherehere.
  • Further helpful analyses hereherehere.
I make all factual assertions as a National Board Certified Teacher of US Government, Economics, and History (also credentialed in Mathematics), with all economic factual claims receiving zero refutation since I began writing in 2008 among Advanced Placement Macroeconomics teachers on our discussion board, public audiences of these articles, and international conferences (and here). I invite readers to empower their civic voices with the strongest comprehensive facts most important to building a brighter future. I challenge professionals, academics, and citizens to add their voices for the benefit of all Earth’s inhabitants.

Carl Herman worked with both US political parties over 18 years and two UN Summits with the citizen’s lobby, RESULTS, for US domestic and foreign policy to end poverty. He can be reached at

Note: My work from 2012 to October, 2017 is on Washington’s Blog. Work back to 2009 is blocked by (and from other whistleblowers), so some links to those essays are blocked. If you’d like to search for those articles other sites may have republished, use words from the article title within the blocked link. Or, go to, paste the expired link into the box, click “Browse history,” then click onto the screenshots of that page for each time it was screen-shot and uploaded to webarchive (blocked author pages: herehere).


BREAKING: Surveillance Video Released of Parkland Shooting—Does Not Show Shooter


New surveillance footage has been released from the Parkland Shooting—but it fails to show the gunman entering or exiting the building.

The post BREAKING: Surveillance Video Released of Parkland Shooting—Does Not Show Shooter appeared first on The Free Thought Project.


K-12: The War on Boys and Men

It's clear that men today are less manly.  To find out why, look at what's being done to boys.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

THOUGHT POLICE: YouTube to start “correcting” controversial videos with “facts” from discredited Wikipedia pages run by disinfo trolls




Hawaii refuses to release internal records about the January missile alert that left islanders fearing a nuclear blast



YouTube cracking down on conspiracy videos


(AP) — YouTube says it’s cracking down on conspiracy videos, though it’s scant on the details.

Conspiracy videos abound on YouTube, whether it’s about the Earth being flat or school shootings being staged. YouTube, its parent Google, Facebook and Twitter are all facing challenges with the spread of misinformation, propaganda and fake news.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said at a conference Tuesday that the company will include links to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to try to debunk videos espousing conspiracy theories.


Big Sugar, Bigger Government, and Bad Nutrition. Gary Taubes on The Case Against Sugar


Science writer Gary Taubes has a knack for subverting conventional wisdom. Sixteen years ago, he published a groundbreaking feature in The New York Times Magazine, arguing that decades worth of government-approved nutritional advice attacking fatty foods and praising carbohydrates was flat-out wrong, ideologically motivated, and is contributing to rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

He was widely attacked—including in the pages of Reason. His 2007 book Good Calories/Bad Caloriesfollowed on that story, as did Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, which came out in 2011. Today, his thesis is gaining ground among heath and nutrition researchers and has been highlighted once again in the New York Times and Time magazine.

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Taubes in his kitchen in Oakland, California to talk about his latest book on nutrition, The Case Against Sugar, which recently came out in paperback.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Camera by Paul Detrick, Justin Monticello, and Weissmueller. Additional graphics by Brett Raney.

"The Rat King is Coming" by Krackatoa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source:

Photo Credits: Timkiv Vitaly/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.


Amazing New Website Helps You Detect If a Photo Was Faked or Not

FotoForensics(ANTIMEDIA) — There’s no denying that the Internet changed the game. Today, simply by going online, the average person has abilities and privileges that were unfathomable to human beings of past generations. But that’s not to say those gifts come for free. There are costs involved, and as of late, one of them has been in the spotlight and […]


Pentagon caught falsifying paperwork for weapons transfers to Syrian rebels



A new bombshell joint report issued by two international weapons monitoring groups Tuesday confirms that the Pentagon continues to ship record breaking amounts of weaponry into Syria and that the Department of Defense is scrubbing its own paper


Abby Martin retweeted: @AbbyMartin Dems are going Full Metal Jacket: "An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, [NSC] and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections."

cuTzHwMq_normal.jpeg Jon Whitener
Abby Martin retweeted:
@AbbyMartin Dems are going Full Metal Jacket: "An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, [NSC] and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections."


Beyond GMOs and Fast Food Nation: Regenerating Public Health


By Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association

After decades of chemical-intensive agriculture, factory farms and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food, and an ongoing war against natural systems and traditional knowledge, America's rural communities, environment and public health are rapidly deteriorating.

The fatal harvest of Big Food Inc. includes rural economic decline and depopulation throughout the Americas, forced migration from Mexico and Central America, water and air pollution, aquifer depletion, pollinator and biodiversity destruction, soil erosion and fertility loss, climate destabilization, food contamination and nutrient degradation, and deteriorating public health.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress and the White House, aided and abetted by collaborators north and south of the border, are still dishing out their standard culinary message: Shut up and eat your GMOs.

Don't worry about toxic food and obesity, heart disease, learning and behavioral disorders, the cancer epidemic, food allergies, asthma and other chronic diseases. Forget about mutant genes, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormone-disruptors, saturated fat, refined carbs, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, e-coli, slaughterhouse waste, added sugar and a growing list of other horrors in your food, food packaging and drinking water.

Agribusiness, the Farm Bureau, and an army of public relations flacks want us to stop complaining. They want you to believe that if we work together — farmers and consumers — we can make Fast Food Nation great again. Just follow the example of our corpulent commander in chief in the White House: Chow down on a juicy Big Mac today, and every day. Keep the faith in America's industrial food system and Monsanto's minions — indentured scientists, politicians, dieticians, regulatory agencies and the mass media.

Factory Farmed GMO Food Is a Public Health Disaster

Without going into the alarming damage of industrial agriculture to our environment, climate and social fabric, which you can read about in the essay "Degeneration Nation 2018: The Darkest Hour," let's focus on the impact of America's degenerative food and farming system on public health.

The U.S. now spends more money on so-called health care than any other nation on Earth — $3.5 trillion a year. Yet, public health continues to deteriorate. This degeneration arises not only from an increasingly toxic environment laced with 84,000 industrial and agricultural chemicals, but via the cheap, unhealthy grub featured in supermarkets and dished up in restaurants, schools and institutional settings.

Even the government admits that:1 "About half of all American adults — 117 million individuals — have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns …" Approximately 85 percent of Americans do not consume the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recommended intakes of the most important vitamins and minerals necessary for proper physical and mental development.2

In this "Fast Food Nation," the conventional (i.e., chemical-tainted, genetically engineered, factory-farmed) U.S. diet is made up primarily of highly-processed packaged foods, garnished with small amounts of low-grade produce (fried potatoes, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes), with a typical supersized main course of factory-farm meat, eggs and dairy.

The vitamin and nutritional composition of these conventional foods and food-like substances is typically far below the nutritional density of fresh organic whole foods (organic produce and grains) grown on fertile soil, and 100 percent organic grass fed or pastured meat, eggs and dairy. Research3 consistently shows that organic foods are significantly higher in vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols and total antioxidants, especially in no-till regenerative organic systems.4

Poor Nutrition and Disease Go Hand in Hand

The fact that organic produce contains significantly more antioxidants than chemical food5 is especially important given that higher levels of antioxidants are associated with reduced risks for chronic diseases, including heart and brain disease and certain cancers.

Since the advent of industrial agriculture and GMOs, the nutritional value of foods, including important trace minerals and micronutrients, has dramatically declined, in large part due to the degradation of the soil from heavy tillage, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In contrast, healthy microbe-rich soil associated with regenerative (soil-centered) organic practices, produces crops with higher levels of nutrients. As Dr. Mercola has previously pointed out:

"The sad fact is, most of the food consumed by Americans today is not real food — it's genetically engineered, saturated with pesticides and added chemicals, and processed in a number of different ways. Many are so used to prepackaged foods, they struggle to understand what real food is."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 87 percent of Americans don't eat the USDA-recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day; 91 percent do not consume the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.  And, assuming the average person did consume these recommended amounts, unless these fruits and vegetables are organic — or better yet organic and regenerative — even the USDA admits that conventionally grown (i.e., nonorganic) vegetables and fruits contain far less nutrition than their counterparts 50 years ago. National Public Radio cited a nutrition expert:6

"'We have a serious disconnect between agriculture and health policy in our country,' said Marion Nestle,7 a leading nutrition researcher and author at New York University. 'The USDA does not support 'specialty crops' [like vegetables] to any appreciable extent and the Department of Commerce' figures show that the relative price of fruits and vegetables has gone up much faster than that of fast food or sodas.'

So while Americans are told to eat fruits and vegetables for their health, the government has meanwhile mostly just subsidized other crops that end up in cheaper, less healthy processed food. 'Price has a lot to do with this,' she adds.'"

Factory Farms Are Major Sources of Environmental Pollution

America's appetite for cheap meat and animal products has spawned an intensive confinement, factory farm system of production that not only makes us sick, but pollutes our water8 and air,9 exploits workers,10 is causing an antibiotic resistance crisis11 and is unconscionably inhumane.12

Factory-farm (GMO grain-fed) meat, eggs and dairy, compared with 100 percent grass fed and organic pastured products, are lower in omega-3 fatty-acids and typically contain less vitamin E, beta-carotene, antioxidants and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA.

The public health and economic consequences of our degraded environment and food system are alarming. A recent Rand Corporation study13 found that 60 percent of Americans are now suffering from at least one chronic health condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis; 42 percent have two or more, and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. health care spending of $3.5 trillion.

As indicated earlier, most of these chronic diseases are attributable to toxic food or other contaminants in our environment. One of every 2 Americans are now expected to come down with cancer in their lifetime. According to recent research, U.S. men born in 1960 have a lifetime cancer risk of 53.5 percent. For women, it's 47.5 percent.14

Seventy percent of U.S. drinking water15 is now contaminated with Monsanto's top-selling herbicide, Roundup, and 93 percent of consumers have traces of this toxic poison (active ingredient glyphosate) in our urine.16

Today in the U.S., 1 in 13 children has a serious food allergy; 6 to 24 percent have serious intestinal problems; 20 percent are obese; 60 percent have chronic headaches; 20 percent suffer from mental disorders and depression; while 1 in every 41 boys and 1 in every 68 girls are diagnosed with autism.17

A New Recipe

The movement for healthy, eco-friendly and humane food that many of us are now calling the "organic and regenerative food and farming movement,"18 has made huge strides in the past several decades in the U.S. and worldwide, fighting GMOs and industrial agriculture and promoting organic and regenerative food and farming.19

But now is not the time to sit back and just be satisfied with what we've accomplished. We must build on our success and ride our momentum to a future where organic and regenerative food and farming are the norm, not just the alternative. Here's what we need to do next:

Boycott GMOs, including every nonorganic packaged food product that displays a QR code.

Since Congress stabbed us in the back in 2016, killing mandatory GMO labeling and substituting new federal regulations that will replace Vermont's on-package mandatory GMO labels with QR Codes and 1-800 numbers, these QR Codes must become a veritable "skull and crossbones" symbol on food and beverage containers, helping us launch the largest boycott in modern history.

The easiest way, of course, to avoid GMOs is to buy organic, today and every day, or else look for the "Non-GMO Project" seal on food products. Keep in mind, however, that many "Non-GMO Project" labeled foods (unless they are also labeled organic) are produced using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Boycott factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry, i.e., everything that isn't labeled or marketed as organic or 100 percent grass fed or pastured.

Factory farms are the lynchpin of GMOs, industrial agriculture and fast-food restaurants. The U.S. factory farmed meat, dairy and poultry cartel is an out-of-control, trillion-dollar industry based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons (euphemistically called concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs).

Factory farm production is characterized by GMO- and pesticide-tainted animal feeds, labor exploitation, false advertising, corporate corruption of government, and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters.

Factory-farmed meat, dairy, poultry and fish are the No. 1 cause of water pollution, soil degradation, food system greenhouse gas emissions and human diet-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

We will never get rid of GMOs, chemical-intensive monocrops, antibiotic resistance, animal cruelty and agriculturally derived greenhouse gas emissions until we eliminate factory farms, which now imprison 95 percent of farm animals in the U.S., and 70 percent of all farm animals in the world.

Right now, the overwhelming majority of U.S. farmland is used to raise factory farm-destined animals before they are sent to the feedlots, or to grow GMO- and chemical-intensive grains to feed them. We need to stop feeding herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) GMO- and pesticide-contaminated grain, and instead put the world's billions of farm animals back onto the pastures, rangelands and agro-forestry paddocks where they belong.

Make organic, grass fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025.

We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do.

To do this, we will need to eliminate the multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem inexpensive compared to organic and grass fed food, despite industrial food's massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.

Pressure investors, universities, municipalities, states and pension funds to divest, not only from fossil fuel companies, but also from industrial agriculture corporations, and reinvest in organic and regenerative agriculture, to reach our goal of 50 percent organic and regenerative by 2025.

Lobby governments — local, state and federal — to move to zero fossil fuel emissions and support the International 4/1000 Initiative20 to sequester as much carbon in our soils and forests through regenerative farming, grazing and land use as humans are currently emitting.

Move beyond single-issue thinking ("my issue is more important than your issue") and silos and "connect the dots" between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, poverty, climate change, environment, peace, forced migration, humane treatment of farm animals and democracy.

Work together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a revolution in food, farming and land use, not just in the U.S. but in all the nations of the world. Subscribe to the weekly online newsletter of the Organic Consumers Association by clicking here: Subscribe to Organic Bytes.

About the Author

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder and International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee. Ronnie has been active as a writer and activist since the 1960s, with extensive experience in public education, grassroots mobilization, and marketplace pressure campaigns.

Over the past two decades he has served as director of US and international campaigns dealing with sustainable agriculture issues including food safety, genetic engineering, factory farming, and global warming.

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E-cigs Deliver Appalling Amounts of Heavy Metals


By Dr. Mercola

While the gradual demise of traditional cigarettes has been heralded as an achievement for better health, the dangers of the alternative many have chosen may be just as alarming. If you smoke e-cigarettes (e-cigs), it is important to know researchers have demonstrated you may be exposing yourself to dangerous chemicals and heavy metals with each puff.

It is currently believed that e-cigs do not expose you to the thousands of toxic compounds the average conventional combustion cigarette contains, but researchers are only beginning to understand the toxicities involved in smoking e-cigarettes. In some ways, these man-made tobacco alternatives are just as dangerous to your health as regular cigarettes, but may have different consequences.

Smoking traditional cigarettes harms nearly every organ in your body and triggers many different diseases, including many cancers, reduced lung function, chronic obstructive lung disease and coronary artery disease.1 Recent research published in Environmental Health Perspectives now demonstrates vapor and aerosol samples from e-cigarette liquid may release heavy metals dangerous to human health.2

Toxic Heavy Metals Found in Vapor From E-Cigarettes

The study was conducted by scientists at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They examined devices owned by 56 users, finding a significant number of them generated aerosol with unsafe levels of lead, nickel, chromium and manganese.3 Participants were recruited from vaping conventions and e-cigarette shops in the Baltimore area. The devices were brought to the laboratory where researchers tested for the presence of 15 metals.4

The results were consistent with past studies, finding a minimal amount of heavy metal in the e-liquid, but much larger amounts in the liquid that had been exposed to heating coils.5

This difference suggested the heavy metals were originating from the heating coils within the e-cigarette tank. Heavy metal concentrations were also higher in devices where the owners frequently change the coils. Of the different metals measured in the aerosol, lead, nickel, chromium and manganese were most concerning as they are highly toxic when inhaled.

Nearly 50 percent of the vapor samples had lead concentrations higher than limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).6 Concentrations of the other three metals either approached or exceeded safety limits set by the EPA.  Researchers observed the heating coils were made of nickel, chromium and several other metals, making this the most obvious source of contamination. However, the source of lead remained a mystery.

Inhaled lead can attack your brain and central nervous system, as well as your kidneys, liver and bones.7 In adults, lead may stay dormant in teeth and bones for years but may be reactivated during pregnancy. It can poison a developing baby and trigger brain damage. Also concerning was the amount of arsenic detected in the refill liquid and the tank in 10 of the 56 devices.

The researchers suggested it’s important for regulators to determine the cause for the presence of arsenic8 as it can trigger cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.9 Past studies have demonstrated e-cigs release higher levels of nickel, zinc and silver.10 The lead author of one study commented, "Some of these metals are extremely toxic even in very low amounts."11 The author added in a statement:12

"The metal particles likely come from the cartridge of the e-cigarette devices themselves — which opens up the possibility that better manufacturing standards for the devices could reduce the quantity of metals in the smoke. Studies of this kind are necessary for implementing effective regulatory measures. E-cigarettes are so new, there just isn't much research available on them yet."

Secondhand Aerosol Dangerous for Bystanders

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine and other chemicals using a heated liquid, but not combustion in the way traditional cigarettes function. Heat is created by a battery, creating an aerosol containing nicotine. As you inhale the vapor, you receive nicotine and flavor chemicals, experiencing the same effect from nicotine in cigarettes without the high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons associated with smoking traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes and vaping pens come in a variety of shapes and sizes but all deliver the same composition of chemicals. And, while the user inhales most of the vapor and aerosolized toxins, some of it also enters the environment to affect the health of bystanders. In a study from the University of Southern California,13 researchers conducted experiments in offices where volunteers had smoked traditional cigarettes and e-cigs.

Air sample analysis revealed smoking e-cigs resulted in a tenfold decrease in carcinogenic particulate matter, but toxic metals from e-cigarette secondhand smoke was much higher than regular cigarette smoke. Another study looked at the structure of e-cigarette devices, testing whether aerosolized metal was derived from the components.14 They found components were sometimes missing or had evidence of use before packaging. Elements identified in e-cig aerosol were known to cause respiratory disease.

Researchers also felt the presence of silicate particles found in the aerosol necessitated improved quality control in the design and manufacture of devices to protect the health of users and bystanders.

Bystanders may be lulled into a false sense of security as the vapor from e-cigs often has little to no scent and appears to dissipate quickly. However, research from the University of California San Francisco15 demonstrates e-cigs pollute the air with nicotine and fine particulate matter that is easily absorbed by bystanders through inhalation.

Despite the lower levels of nicotine pollution e-cigs produce, researchers found people exposed to e-cigarette air pollution have a similar level of cotinine — a measure of the amount of nicotine taken into the body — as those exposed to traditional secondhand cigarette smoke.16 The reason for this discrepancy remains unclear.

Highly Reactive Free Radicals Cause Damage

In a study commissioned by Japan's Health Ministry, researchers found acetaldehyde and formaldehyde in the vapor produced by several types of e-cig devices.17 At least one brand had more than 10 times the level of carcinogens found in a traditional cigarette. Researchers from the University of Louisville18 conducted quantitative analysis on older and newer model cartridges.

The older models had a fixed battery output while the next generation devices had a variable output, allowing the user to increase heat produced by the battery. Emissions of aldehydes from all the devices, both new and older, created a health risk for the user and bystander.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has detected the antifreeze chemical diethylene glycol in e-cigarette cartridges, which is linked to cancer.19 According to Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, secondhand smoke from e-cigs may contain at least 10 chemicals that have been identified on California's proposition 65 list of reproductive toxins and carcinogens.20

Diacetyl is an artificial flavor used by popcorn makers21 to add a buttery taste to microwave popcorn. The chemical is linked to respiratory damage22 and permanent scarring of the airway, aptly named “popcorn lung.” In an evaluation of 51 e-cigarette flavors on the market, Harvard researchers found 47 of the 51 contained flavoring chemicals, including diacetyl.23 The chemical was detected in more than those flavors sounding “buttery,” including fruit-flavored, alcohol-flavored and candy-flavored e-cigarettes.

Aerosol released by e-cig devices has been analyzed and found to have the presence of highly reactive free radicals.24 In traditional cigarette smoke, these highly reactive free radicals are associated with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease. The researchers found e-cig levels were more than you may be exposed to in heavily polluted air, but less than what you find in traditional cigarette smoke.

Decline of Vaping May Be Threatened

The first recorded instance of an e-cigarette device was in 1963 when Herbert Gilbert filed a patent on his design.25 The idea did not become popular at the time and it wasn't until 2003 when a Chinese pharmacist revolutionized the design enabling smokers to inhale nicotine without combustion.

Today, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in America.26 Nearly 40 million adults smoke cigarettes and 4.7 million middle and high school students have used at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)27 state e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, flavorings, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. Nicotine is the addictive substance and is a known toxin to developing babies. Exposure harms adolescent brain development until your early to mid-20s.

In 2014, smoking among high school students had declined, but use of e-cigs had increased. Fortunately, according to a 2017 survey by the CDC,28 the number of students using e-cigs has steadily declined since 2014. The CDC attributes the decline to a combination of tobacco restrictions, taxes and advertising.

While these strategies have demonstrated success, the American Lung Association believes budget cuts proposed by President Trump, which will eliminate the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, will threaten this progress. American Lung Association CEO Harold Wimmer told NBC news:29

“Funding to states would also be severely cut, making it even harder to prevent and reduce tobacco use in local communities across the country. Congress must reconsider this ill-advised budget and robustly fund the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.”

Matthew Myers, president for the campaign for tobacco-free kids, agrees, saying:30

“The dramatic, long-term decline in youth cigarette smoking is a public health success story of extraordinary importance. Our progress stems directly from implementing proven strategies, including higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, effective FDA oversight of tobacco products and marketing, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and hard-hitting media campaigns, like the campaigns conducted by the CDC, the FDA and Truth Initiative in recent years. In addition, California, Hawaii and over 245 cities and counties have now raised the tobacco sale age to 21.”

How To Make Quitting Smoking Easier

I believe the "secret" to quitting smoking is to get healthy first, which will make quitting mentally and physically easier. Exercising is an important part of this plan, as research shows people who engage in regular strength training double their success rate at quitting smoking compared to those who don't exercise.31 Healthy eating is another crucial factor to improving your health and strengthening your ability to quit. In short, if you want to quit, here are three basic tips to get started:

  • Read through my comprehensive free nutrition plan to get started eating right.
  • Develop a well-rounded exercise regimen. This is your ally to fighting disease and to quitting smoking. Strength training is an important part, but also remember to incorporate high-intensity interval exercises, core-strengthening exercises, stretching and regular nonexercise movement (like walking and cutting back on sitting).
  • Find a healthy emotional outlet. Many use exercise, meditation or relaxation techniques for this, and these are all great. I also recommend incorporating Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This can help clear out emotional blockages from your system (some of which you might not even realize are there), thus restoring your mind and body's balance and helping you break the addiction and avoid cravings.

Once you are regularly doing these three things, then you can begin to think about quitting smoking. At this point many are ready to try quitting "cold turkey." If you need a distraction, these six things to do instead of smoking may help. Finally, if you're a parent, talk with your children about the risks of smoking, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. The easiest pathway to not smoking is to avoid starting in the first place.


Why Colleges Hide the Truth


By Dr. Mercola

Decades of research show excess sugar damages your health, yet for many years the sugar industry was successful in burying the evidence and misdirecting the public.1,2 Industry-funded research is often bent on proving the efficacy of their product, in much the same way the sugar industry ensured their financial security by burying data demonstrating negative health effects.

One example is the anti-inflammatory medication Vioxx, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after research demonstrated it was “scientifically proven” for arthritis. Only after causing an estimated 60,000 deaths was the drug finally pulled from the market.3

“Scientifically proven” has become a catchphrase used in published studies and is one the public and physicians can easily misinterpret. Research studies and statistics can be set up to demonstrate a drug or food is safe based on the initial question asked at the start of the study. This allows the researchers to orchestrate the results, increasing the perception that science has proven a concept, while in reality the data have been heavily manipulated to support a preconceived objective.

When applied appropriately and executed in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner, the scientific method works. Unfortunately, in the case of many studies the research is not unbiased or unprejudiced, leading to selective results serving the agenda of the industry funding the study. This is a serious flaw that ultimately affects your health care and one the industries are fighting to keep secret.

Your Right to Know Stands in the Way of Industry Interests

Your food choices may be guided by recommendations from friends, physicians and even advertising. These recommendations may take the form of dietary guidelines, such as those emanating from the sugar industry, as they continually seek to shift blame for heart disease to fats. Food manufacturers may make claims, as do yogurt companies about your intestinal health. However, these recommendations often conflict with independent research.

In his work to achieve greater transparency, Gary Ruskin, organizer at the consumer health watchdog organization U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), continues his investigation into the connections between food industries, agrochemical companies and universities where research is performed.4 Acting on a hunch that interactions between these groups would reveal secrets, Ruskin filed multiple freedom of information act (FOIA) requests to receive public records crucial to uncovering details of interactions between these groups.

A number of his requests have produced documents exposing relationships between companies like Syngenta and Monsanto and universities, such as the University of Florida. Large agrochemical companies are fighting to keep these ties a secret, as they speak volumes about the research bias underlying many health recommendations today.

In an effort to complete his search of publicly-accessible records not released in the FOIA request, he filed a lawsuit against the University of Florida alleging they violated the Florida Sunshine Law.5

The Sunshine Law6 provides a right of access to governmental proceedings at the state and local levels to any gathering where two or more members of the same board discuss actions that may come before the board. In a press release discussing the lawsuit against the University of Florida, Ruskin states:7

“We are conducting an investigation of the food and agrochemical industries, their front groups and public relations operatives, their ties to universities, and the health risks of their products. The public has the right to know if and when taxpayer-funded universities and academics are collaborating with corporations to promote their products and viewpoints. We seek these records to learn more about the University of Florida's collaboration with the agrochemical industry.”

Legal Wranglings Deepen

While we may hope influence of the scope demonstrated by the sugar industry won't happen again, only transparency will alleviate this concern. It is apparent industries and universities have no desire to assure public health by opening their records to scrutiny. In an effort to squash the lawsuit against the University of Florida, Drew Kershen, retired University of Oklahoma professor who has served on the board of directors of companies with ties to Monsanto, argued these documents would violate his privacy.

The motion for summary judgment was denied. Subsequently, Kershen filed a discovery request in order to question Ruskin about why he wants the records in the first place.

Michael Morrissey, cofounder of MuckRock — a nonprofit collaborative news site for journalists, researchers, activists and citizens to request and share government documents8 — believes this line of questioning is concerning,9 because if the information is open to one person, it is open to everyone and it should not matter why the requester is asking for documentation.

Food Industry Uses Academics to Push Their Agenda

Links between the sugar industry and researchers, or between agrochemical companies and researchers, are not the only two associations the food industry has had as they seek to push their financially-driven agenda on the American people. USRTK maintains an investigation page on their website10 where findings are listed on topics such as Coca-Cola, glyphosate and Disney-funded food research. Journalists use this documentation in developing articles about manufacturers and industry giants.

For instance, an article in Forbes11 using data discovered by USRTK outlines the connection between Coca-Cola and researchers who compared diet soda to water and found sodas were healthier; a study where subjects switched from regular to diet soda to lose weight, and one which questioned the methodology in a study finding a link between soda and diabetes. Each of these studies came to a favorable conclusion for the Coca-Cola Co. and each were paid for, or financially supported by, Coca-Cola.

Universities are also involved in another hot button health concern: genetically modified foods. In 2015 The New York Times12 exposed University of Florida professor Kevin Folta as an industry-funded third-party expert on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Folta, who had vehemently denied ever receiving any money from Monsanto, was caught having been less than forthright about his conflicts of interest when his email correspondence with Monsanto was released in response to one of USRTK’s FOIA requests.

In response, Folta sued The New York Times,13 also filing a subpoena against Ruskin and two other employees, essentially demanding the organization produce over 100,000 documents. While FOIA public records are available under federal law, they reveal details of relationships between organizations and industries affecting public health. In a new diversionary strategy, private parties are attempting to prevent disclosure of documentation supporting their involvement, thus holding up the entire process.

Blocking Conflict of Interest Issues Requires Secure Safeguards

In an op-ed published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,14 Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, discusses the conflict of interest existing between the food industry and nutritional research, making several salient points.15 He notes:

  • National Institutes of Health funding has decreased by 22 percent in the decade leading to 2013, with only a small fraction of the budget supporting nutritional research.
  • At the same time total spending for research on nutrition across all federal agencies was approximately $1.5 billion per year, compared to $60 billion spent on drugs, biotechnology and medical devices.
  • Since a substantial burden of diet related diseases and scarce federal funding increases danger to the public, there must be greater alignment between public health and the mission of nutritional research in order projects do not exploit public good.
  • Industry sponsors should have no role in project design, implementation, analysis or interpretation of the data.
  • Funding must be transparent and fully acknowledged.

Universities Motivated to Protect Academics and Financial Associations

In documentation released from the University of Florida, Folta instructed Monsanto on how to avoid disclosing funding for his work by depositing money into the University's Special Help for Agricultural Research and Education (SHARE) contribution account.

Universities have strict conflict of interest rules in place, but the foundation can receive contributions and then issue money to the individual researcher’s program, thereby circumventing the conflict of interest rules. This loophole exists because the foundation operates as a separate, nonpublic entity.

Although it's in the best public health interest to avoid conflict of interests between those doing the research and those funding it, most donations to university foundations are granted a waiver for indirect costs, expenses necessary for the operation of the organization, such as salaries for accountants, but not associated with one particular department.

By being granted a waiver for indirect costs, corporations can essentially piggyback their donations onto students and taxpayers and simultaneously keep their funding hidden. As noted by the sponsored research administration at Florida State University:16

"It is important to remember that the inclusion of these charges results in the support of research efforts across the campus. To request waivers of negotiated and allowable charges means a decreased SRAD [Sponsored Research and Development Trust Fund] pool and a corresponding reduction in the research and creative activities that the university stimulates and supports."

Hidden Ties Influence Research Results and Your Health

Hidden ties between university researchers and industry affects your health care as biased research influences your physician’s decisions. Publication bias affects every field of medicine, and positive findings are twice as likely to be published as negative ones. Nearly half of the clinical trials by drug companies have not come to light in the past decade.

For example, prompted by trial litigation, researchers sifted through previous data determining the safety of the antidepressant drug Paxil, finding evidence contradicting the drug company’s claim that the drug was safe for teens.17 Former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, believes the record may also be distorted by what is not said as much as what is published. She commented:18

"Any reputable journal is at the mercy of what is submitted to it and must choose from whatever comes over the transom. Many studies never see the light of day because their findings are negative. There is a heavy bias toward positive studies, and this negative bias is a real problem. A company may conduct 1,000 trials; if two are positive, they get FDA approval and are published. The other 998 never see the light of day."

Funding Significantly Influences Research Results

In an effort to assess the level of research bias in industry-funded studies, researchers analyzed 60 published studies that looked at the health effects of soda, examining potential links between funding sources and study outcomes.19 Essentially, what they wanted to know was whether negative studies (studies that failed to find an association between sugary beverages and obesity and diabetes) were more likely to have received industry funding than positive studies.

As suspected, of the 60 studies, 26 found no link between sugary drinks and obesity or diabetes and ALL were funded by the beverage industry. In the 34 studies where a relationship was found, only one had received industry funding. As noted by the researchers,20 "This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public's health."

Indeed, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest industry-funded “science” undermines public health while creating financial windfall for manufacturers. Until safeguards are instituted to eliminate the influence manufacturers have on scientific outcome, it will be important to evaluate the funding behind any recommendations you decide to take to heart.

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