Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why Aren't the Mass Media Asking Where Assad got Sarin, What Ambassador Stevens was doing in Benghazi, and Why al-Nusra was caught with Chemical Weapons in Turkey?

1.  The 2013 sarin attacks in Syria, despite efforts to pin it on Assad, were never proven to come from the Syrian government. On the contrary, the chemical weapons were probably supplied to al-Nusra Front 'rebels' by agents of Turkey.  In 2014 Seymour Hersh wrote:

British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff...
Last May [2013], more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin...
A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack.
2.  Did you ever wonder why Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was even in Benghazi, at a 'consulate,' when his embassy was in Tripoli?  He was checking on an arms ratline set up by the CIA/ General Petraeus to funnel weapons from (slain) Gaddafi's arsenal to Syrian rebels, to be used against Assad.  From Seymour Hersh:
A highly classified annex to the [Senate Intelligence Committee] report [on the death of Ambassador Stevens], not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria...
 ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’
... The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.
3.  Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey -- and the 'rebel' troops they have supported-- had a motive to use gas.  The obvious motive was to create a false flag attack that would draw the west (the US, UK and France) into active war against Syria, after Obama laid down a red line in 2012. Both in 2013, and 2017 (here and here), it appeared the Syrian government was coming close to beating the opposition.  And then there was sarin.

4.  While Obama was initially prepared to wage a hot war in 2013, once he learned the charges against Assad for the chemical weapons attacks did not stand up, and that our allies knew this, he backed off.  He left it to Congress to decide on war, and the impetus for an attack quickly died.  When David Cameron called for a Parliamentary vote to attack Syria, he lost.  Seymour Hersh claims that at a 2013 face-to-face meeting,  

Erdoğan said [to Obama], ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “f***ing waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing [supplying sarin] with the radicals in Syria.’
5.  To prevent the US waging war on Syria, all Syria's chemical weapons (1300 tons) were offered up by Assad, and destroyed, in 2014.  At least, this is what was claimed by Secretary of State Kerry, and by National Security Advisor Rice

But the Wall Street Journal and the Times of Israel said no, despite destroying the bulk of his weapons, Assad held some back.  From the Israeli Times:

Assad “hid caches of even deadlier nerve agents” than the ones he gave up.
“A new intelligence assessment says Mr. Assad may be poised to use his secret chemical reserves to defend regime strongholds. Another danger is that he could lose control of the chemicals, or give them to Hezbollah.
6.  It is infuriating that the US media and armed forces can attack Assad over "more" sarin gas attacks -- when he was never proven to be responsible for any previous attacks.

Had governments and media told the truth about what they knew back in 2013, we would be less likely to be suckered into a war now on the basis of false allegations. We the People could weigh the evidence for ourselves.  Instead, we get rehashed baloney from the mass media.

 The fake media's sins of omission (avoiding giving us the facts) are equally as serious as its sins of commission (its lies and slanted stories).  We need new, honest, Peoples' Media.  Thank God for the internet.

7.  UPDATE:  See Michel Chossudovsky's piece from today with references to the UN and the Daily Mail (2013) stating that US and allies were involved in chemical weapons training of Syrian rebels.

8.  UPDATE:  And if you really want to weep about US foreign policy, read this piece I posted in March, 2016 from the LA Times titled "In Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA."

Friday, April 7, 2017

Syria's 2013 gas attacks were all false flags. Why would Assad in 2017, nearly winning his war, use gas and incite a US response?

I wrote about Syria's earlier gas attacks, in 2013.  There was never any evidence linking Syrian government troops or the Assad government to the attacks then.  No proof in the document given to the UN.  And the US report making the case to Congress admittedly was full of unsubstantiated claims and guesswork.  After initially pushing for action, France did a U-turn when the lack of evidence became obvious.  UK Prime Minister David Cameron was halted by a vote in Parliament from going to war over the gas attacks. From the Aug 29, 2013 Guardian:
David Cameron indicated on Thursday evening that Britain would not take part in military action against Syria after the British government lost a crucial vote on an already watered-down amendment that was designed to pave the way to intervention in the war-torn country.
Even 'fake news' CNN pointed out the inconsistencies, back then.  I and others noted that (just like today) Assad had no motive for such an attack, which could only hurt him.  See 2013 coverage by the AP and the Atlantic.

Putin then brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to give up all his chemical weapons (the same ones the US and Russia still have).  Portable factories that destroy chemical weapons were brought in, and all chemical weapons were turned over and destroyed.

Secretary of State Kerry confirmed the complete removal of chemical weapons from Syria on NBC's "Meet the Press" on July 20, 2014.   He said
Russia has been constructive in helping to remove 100% of the declared chemical weapons from Syria. In fact, that was an agreement we made months ago. And it never faltered, even during these moments of conflict.
Fast forward 3 years, and we are again alleging that Assad used his (destroyed in 2014) chemical weapons on his own people.  Oops, no.  That was yesterday.

Alleging Assad's use of chemical weapons is over; the claims have morphed into pounding Syria with Tomahawk cruise missiles and plenty more.

The Deep State apparatchiks (HillaryPelosiSchumerMcCain, etc.) are celebrating. But the Congressmembers also want a piece of this war action.  For example:
“This week’s unspeakable chemical weapons attack is only the latest in a long series of horrors perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad on innocent men, women and children,” Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement issued on the attacks in Syria. “Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the the regime’s use of chemical weapons. If the President intends to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, he must to come to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force which is tailored to meet the threat and prevent another open-ended war in the Middle East.”
Arrangements that helped avoid clashes between US and Russian planes/missiles/troops have now been shredded. This is not good.

Gold, the dollar, and oil prices are up.  Tillerson should be pleased.

Meanwhile, Trump's base believes it has been double-crossed. Candidate Trump promised less war.  Pundit Trump criticized Obama for even considering war in Syria, back in 2013.

Whether Trump continues to obey the will of the shadow government/deep state remains to be seen.  But today he has lost his supporters, those in the 99% who know the cost of war falls on their shoulders... while some of those in the 1% reap the spoils.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

US government spent over $500m on fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos that tracked location of viewers/The Independent

The US government spent half a $Billion (yes, with a B) on a UK public relations firm to make fake videos that were supposedly made by al Qaeda (and, I read elsewhere, ISIS.)
A former contractor for a UK-based public relations firm says that the Pentagon paid more than half a billion dollars for the production and dissemination of fake Al-Qaeda videos that portrayed the insurgent group in a negative light...  
And from Zero Hedge we get some more detail: 
According to a Bell Pottinger insider, propaganda films were categorized into three categories with “White" being accurately attributed, “Grey" being unattributed, and "Black" being falsely attributed material.  The media firm created various types ofcontent ranging from TV commercials to news items and "fake Al Qaeda propaganda films..." 
Bell Pottinger’s output was signed off by the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. Wells recalled: “We’d get the two colonels in to look at the things we’d done that day, they’d be fine with it, it would then go to General Petraeus.”

Some of the projects went even higher up the chain of command. “If [Petraeus] couldn’t sign off on it, it would go on up the line to the White House, and it was signed off up there, and the answer would come back down the line.”
Seems that reality is even more interesting than any fiction that Hollywood can conjure up.  

Legalized Marijuana Could Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, Study Finds/ Reuters, NBC

Finally some good news!  Legalizing pot may have large, unpredicted benefits, according to NBC and this Reuters article:
In states that legalized medical marijuana, U.S. hospitals failed to see a predicted influx of pot smokers, but in an unexpected twist, they treated far fewer opioid users, a new study shows. 
Hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse dropped on average 23 percent in states after marijuana was permitted for medicinal purposes, the analysis found. Hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average. 
At the same time, fears that legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an uptick in cannabis-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, according to the report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence...

The Military’s 5 Biggest Procurement Fails Since 9/11 / Task and Purpose

Lt. Douglas Santillo administers an anthrax vaccination in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

The multi-billion dollar vaccination for Anthrax that the DoD has required many of its personnel to receive may be one of the largest scams in recent history. Despite numerous congressional inquiries, the program being shut down on multiple occasions, and scientific peer reviews questioning its ability to protect in an actual anthrax attack, the vaccine — called BioThrax — received another round of funding worth $1.25 billion in 2013. 
The company had a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman among its founders in 1998, and has spent more than $20 million on lobbying efforts — often being accused of strong-arming any emerging competition. Despite the DoD dropping them dolla-dolla bills on the vaccine, and serious side effects suffered by some military personnel who have taken it, there has never been any notable anthrax attacks on any entity in the Department of Defense. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Maine: Drug Overdose Deaths TEN TIMES higher than in 1997/ Portland Press Herald

By the end of 2016, Maine overdose deaths totaled 378, and the black and green lines were a lot steeper.  The black line was off the chart (literally).

Also note that overdose deaths from prescription (legal) narcotics have actually been stable, and fallen a little, since 2002.  Legal drugs are not a factor in the staggering increase of deaths.  While the use of legal narcotics definitely needs to be minimized, and while legal narcotics continue to be diverted and used illegally, the epidemic of opioid deaths is due to Afghan heroin and (probably Chinese) fentanyl, which are not being prevented from entering the US.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Heroin deaths skyrocket to 620% of 2002-2006 levels; fentanyl increase steeper than heroin/ NIH, CDC Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin.​National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 6.2-fold increase in the total number of deaths.

National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin and Non-Methadone Synthetics.Above reflects mostly heroin plus fentanyl overdose deaths

 Graph: Number of Reported Law Enforcement Encounters Testing Positive for Fentanyl in the US: 2010 - 2015. 2010: 641; 2011: 650; 2012: 673; 2013: 1015; 2014: 5343; 2015: 13882

My collected posts on the raging epidemic of Heroin/Fentanyl, and the lies we are told about it, 2015-2016

2.  My vanished post, and important comment, recovered from the WayBackMachine, about how US heroin comes mostly from Afghanistan, not Mexico, and the US Government could easily stem the supply, if it wished to. Original title and date are below:
Saturday, January 30, 2016
NY Times' penetrating look at the heroin epidemic gets the cause and solution all wrong

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Wikileaks asks you to vote on whether you think CIA is planting stories in media to overthrow the President

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

5 top Russian diplomats die in 3 months--plus Putin's chauffeur died in freak car wreck in September--and former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell told Charlie Rose he would assassinate Russians "to make them pay a price"

100 Strange Russian deaths

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador since 2006,  died unexpectedly at age 64 in the consulate, two days ago.  And while it was said initially that Churkin died of a heart attack, that is not the case, according to his autopsy.

He is the fifth Russian diplomat to die unexpectedly in 3 months.  Turkish ambassador Karlov was shot at an art exhibition in December, Soviet Foreign Ministry officer Polshikov was shot in his Moscow apartment in December, Indian ambassador Kadakin died "from illness" in January, and Greek consul Malanin's death in January is unexplained

Putin's chauffeur is the sixth politically important Russian to die recently and suspiciously. 

Don't forget that on Christmas day, a Russian military jet went down over the Black Sea, killing 60 members of the Red Army choir and 33 others.

Sergei Krivov, said to be a security officer, died in the Russian consulate in NY on election day 2016 from an undisclosed cause, possibly head trauma.

The video of Putin's chauffeur crashing and dying (passenger less) looked like no ordinary wreck.

And here is another odd coincidence:  none of the western mainstream media have reported this spate of Russian diplomat deaths, at least not with my Google search.

Churkin's autopsy did not show a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism (all generally easily identifiable).  These are the 3 usual (non-drug) causes of sudden unexplained death. Following the autopsy, the NY Medical Examiner said that toxicology and other studies will need to be performed to determine why Churkin died.

This looks suspiciously like the Deep State (aided by rogue intelligence officers) trying to provoke Russia.  Or at least, send (several) messages to Putin, while sending another interesting message to Trump.

Six ways from Sunday

It appears that Trump may not be in control of his intelligence services, and furthermore, Churkin's death happened in Trump's home town.  Which is also the home of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said Trump was "really dumb" to threaten the CIA
“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on January 3, 2016.

Since when do Senators threaten Presidents in such an open manner?  These are no ordinary times.

Who is in control of assassinations of US 'enemies'?  Who designates who our 'enemies' are? Recall that after JFK fired CIA Director Allan Dulles, and said he would destroy the CIA, it was Kennedy who got killed, while the CIA prospered.  

Please watch this short Charlie Rose interview with former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell--it is really scary.  Morell talks about his plan to assassinate Russians ("to make them pay a price") and kill Iranians, and destroy Assad's helicopter or plane, on the ground, to send Assad a warning. The interview was broadcast August 8, 2016. And now, his threats have come true. Will Schumer's also come true?

Last month, on "Meet the Press" Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump should "make Russia pay a price for trying to interfere" in the election.  Are assassinations the price, despite no evidence being proffered that Russia hacked the election--and who is extracting the price? Who is calling the shots? 

Putin will have to do something about this. He has been patient, until now. Who will have to pay the next price?

* Thanks to Cynthia McKinney's twitter feed for the Morell video clip:

The Goal of Mainstream Media? / Thx to Zero Hedge

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer/ Counterpunch

DAVID PRICE in Counterpunch
With members of the CIA and NSA leaking materials on Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian officials, we are witnessing a slow boiling domestic coup that will transform American governance and the Executive Branch’s relationships with intelligence agencies. It remains to be seen whether these moves signal broader attacks on the Presidency by agencies long accustomed to taking out administrations threatening the Agency’s perceived interests.
This moment tells us more about the CIA revolting against a particular administration than it does about Trump’s people engaging in unusually diabolical-illegal activities designed to undermine an outgoing administration. We know enough about Reagan’s pre-election dealings with Iran to know that the CIA and NSA knew about these transactions, yet these agencies were content to remain silent; apparently glad to see Carter ousted and welcoming a new era of unparalleled “peace time” military and intelligence spending. Similarly, American intelligence agencies knew of Nixon’s efforts to sabotage the Paris peace talks before the 1968 election, and the CIA did nothing to undermine a new president who was going to give the agency the war it wanted. The leaking of Flynn’s information tells us little new about how incoming administrations act, but it suggests something new about US intelligence agencies willingness to take out an administration not to their liking.
To be clear: I see nothing wrong with the leaks themselves. I like intelligence leaks. I think they are generally good for democracy and reveal important truths about power. I am not worried about leaks, I am worried about the CIA and other intelligence agencies making a significant power grab that is not being critically considered. This is a move that no future president will soon forget, and that will make him or her think twice before crossing these agencies.
The left’s widely shared disdain for Donald Trump makes the current rushing national wave of schadenfreude understandable, yet there are few on the left who appear worried about what this domestic CIA coup portends for American democracy. Because of the long history of liberals’ attractions to using the CIA, perhaps we should not be too surprised at this elation, but we need to cautiously think beyond this moment.
It is no secret that many at the CIA hold disdain for Flynn. His years at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and in command of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) coincided with efforts to move many of what had been CIA operational activities and covert operations away from CIA to DIA. With the CIA attacking the Trump administration so soon after the election with leaks of the Russian hacking report there were clear public fissures appearing between the Agency and the new Executive.
I assume that there are lots of reasons why many at the CIA and NSA wish to undermine the Trump administration—I even assume I may share a few of these reasons with them. While the agency is comfortable with much of the corporate looting that Trump appears ready to unleash, few in the agency like the sort of instability that Trump generates—and I suppose some within may take his ongoing barbs and attacks on Agency incompetence seriously.
As it is to many of us on the left, it is obvious to me that Trump is the most dangerous, unqualified, and reckless US President I have ever seen—much less imagined. And while it seems as if he will soon enough seize some opportunity to declare a national security disaster granting himself new unlimited powers, I know no reason to trust the CIA and other intelligence agencies any more than we trust Trump.
This attack on the Executive Branch is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The most historically interesting element of this moment is the rarity of seeing the CIA operating, in real time, not in its usual historical role as a covert arm of the presidency (which Congressman Otis Pike argued was its primary function), but as the sort of rogue elephant that Senator Frank Church and others long ago claimed it is. As members of the Republic, no matter what momentary joy we might feel watching this rogue elephant canter towards our incompetent Commander and Chief, we must not ignore the danger this beast presents to one and all.
We should welcome calls to investigate Trump, Flynn, Bannon, Pence and others within the administration, but we need to also investigate and monitor the CIA for this latest in its long history of attempted coups.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

For Those Who Say the Science is Settled

That is what the Phrenologists thought, too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

US military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted since 2001 in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan/ Military Times

The U.S. military under former President Barack Obama quietly hid “potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes” from the American public that likely killed hundreds of civilians in war-ravaged Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, the Military Times has found.
In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war's expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters. 
Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001. If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized. Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities...
U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activity in all three war zones, indicated it is unable to determine how far back the Army’s numbers have been excluded from these airpower summaries. Officials there would not address several detailed questions submitted by Military Times, and they were unable to provide a full listing of annual airstrikes conducted by each of the Defense Department's four military services.  
Now why would the DOD want to publish false information?  Well, it helps in the effort to achieve "plausible deniability" --by denying a US mission took place when the US military commits a potential war crime, like deliberately bombing hospitals or bombing elite counter narcotics forces in Afghanistan, which the USG initially denied.  In fact, an unnamed Army official quoted in the article said he did not consider Apache helicopter attacks airstrikes! While according to Boeing, its manufacturer, “The Apache is the world's best armed, integrated and connected attack helicopter in production and in operational use today. It’s a flying weapons system that is fully integrated. It has options to have missiles, rockets or guns depending on what your enemy is."

If you have no report of thousands of air attacks, instead of bombing ISIS, you can bomb anti-ISIS targets and likely get away with it. There could be so many reasons to hide US military missions.
UPDATE:  From the Sept 7, 2015 Wall Street Journal, we learn that a US "friendly fire" airstrike in southern Afghanistan on Sept 6 "hit a 30 member elite counternarcotics police unit as they were on a mission..." [to stop opium trafficking.  We stopped them all right.]
At least 11 died in "one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in the country in recent years.Here is the Reuters story. The US denied the strike in Helmand province, but admitted to airstrikes in the adjacent province of Kandahar. According to the Guardian"The US is the only member of the NATO coalition known to have carried out bombing raids in Afghanistan this year." The AP/WaPo on 9/8/15 reported that, "Brigadier General Shoffner [Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications in Afghanistan] said 'based on information we received [on 9/8], we feel it is prudent to investigate the airstrike our forces conducted in Kandahar.'"
Deliberately falsifying the number of  US airstrikes in Afghanistan makes it impossible to know what was spent, how many Afghanis were killed, and what actually is being "accomplished" in Afghanistan.  

It makes it harder than ever to know why we are in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, what our targets truly are, and what has been done in our name.  As I discussed here, the US presence in Afghanistan can only be explained as a grab for at least a trillion dollars' worth of oil and minerals, a pipeline, and a renewable resource called heroin.  

On "killers" working for OUR government, Trump spoke the truth—and our "free press" freaked out....

​By Mark Crispin Miller

Attacking everything Trump says as wholly false, just because Trump said it, is just as mindless as Trump's own knee-jerk attacks on everything his critics say.

And since Trump, now and then, surprisingly refutes some Big Lie that no other president—or any other major player in the political establishment (the press included)—has ever dared to question publicly, reflexively dismissing everything he says is not just mindless, but dangerous.

It's dangerous, because those Big Lies that Trump now and then contests in his erratic way have done more harm, by far, than Trump's wild, flagrant and, for the most part, trivial lies could ever do.

That is certainly the case with Trump's (recent) jaw-dropping pushback in the face of Bill O'Reilly's ritual assertion that Putin (just like Stalin) "is a killer": "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

Well, yeah. Duh. No kidding. Though there is, of course, NO reason to assume that the thin-skinned, revenge-obsessed and Mob-connected Trump has any moral qualms about the state employing "killers" to whack inconvenient persons, there also are NO grounds to doubt Trump's cheeky implication that the US government itself has quite "a lot of killers" on the payroll, and not just on the battlefield abroad, and has had for a very long time.

Anybody who's read much at all about our history since World War 2 knows full well that the dark side of "our" government has (to quote LBJ) "been running a damn Murder, Inc." all over the world—the USA included, despite the old canard that they don't do that here. That they unquestionably do—and that a comprehensive list of their domestic hits would put the dreaded Putin in the deepest shade—is clear enough to anyone who knows even a little bit (as Bill O'Reilly does) about the epic carnival of murder that BEGAN with the assassination of John Kennedy, followed by the hits on Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; a carnival including the related murders of innumerable witnesses, accomplices and inconvenient journalists and investigators.

Beyond those four "iconic" murders, and the awesome list of further killings consequent upon them (from J.D. Tippit, Lee Oswald, David Ferrie, Jack Ruby, Dorothy Kilgallen and Mary Pinchot Meyer to Johnny Roselli, Sam Giancana, George de Mohrenschildt, Roger Craig and William Sullivan: just to name a few related to JFK's murder alone), the tally of more recent deaths premature, convenient and anomalous enough to be considered probable assassinations by the state (as they would be for sure, if they went down that way in Russia), includes, in no particular order, Michael Hastings, William Colby, Danny Casolaro, Philip Marshall, Athan Gibbs, Ray Lemme, Seth Rich, Gary DeVore, Barry Jennings, Vince Foster (yes), Mike Connell, Gary Caradori, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, Paul Wellstone and maybe (the evidence suggests it) Antonin Scalia, just to name a few.
Only in America, where one succeeds in journalism not just by refusing to investigate such stories, but by learning to stay perfectly UNCONSCIOUS of them, could the press decry Trump's common-sense remark as somehow scandalous.

And that is dangerous indeed; because we'll never overcome the looming dangers to American democracy unless we know exactly what they are, and that Trump/Pence is only one of them.

Monday, February 6, 2017

How little we know about lifestyle and longevity

I recently spent a lot of time in Spain, did a lot of reading about Spain, and got some surprises.

The Spanish are the longest-lived people in Europe (barring tiny places like Monaco and San Marino), and are between the 5th and 10th most long-lived nation in the world, depending on who is counting.

The Spanish live several years longer than Americans, and also exceed Canadians, French, British, Germans, Greeks, Italians.  Estimated life expectancy, per the WHO, is 80 for men and 86 for women.

They spend 9% of their GDP on healthcare, half what the US spends (17-18%).  And because the US has a higher GDP per capita, the Spanish actually spend about 1/3 as much as Americans on healthcare, or $3,000 per person per year, while the US now spends $10,000 pppy.

How do the Spanish do it?  Do they have really healthy diets and lifestyles?

I would answer that what I thought was an optimal diet (mainly fresh fruits and vegetables) may not be.  Or, at least, such a diet does not seem to explain Spanish longevity.

As far as diet goes, the consumption of vegetables in Spain (besides potatoes) is LOW.  The consumption of bread and meat is HIGH.  Most of the meat is ham, from black pigs that ate oak acorns in the wild. Iberian ham is 'dry cured':  soaked in brine and then hung up for 1-3 years.

In The New Spaniards (2006 edition) John Hooper reports that Spaniards spend more on lottery tickets than they do on fruits, vegetables and dairy, combined.

The Spanish eat a lot of pastry, and the pastries are very sweet and very high in saturated fats.  (More so than in the US.)  I have never seen so many pastry and candy shops per capita as in Spain.  It seems the 'evils' of sugar and saturated fats are not causing the Spanish problems.

The Spanish tend to consume smaller amounts at each sitting, eating about 5 times a day.  They definitely eat more (locally grown) olives, olive oil, and almonds than Americans.

They spend a lot of time outdoors, and there is a LOT of sunshine.  Jerez (the sherry capital) gets between 3,000 and 3,200 hours of sunshine each year, for example.

The Spanish drink a lot of coffee and get an hour less sleep per night than the rest of Europe, perhaps because the midday break for 3-4 hours results in late nights.  Thirty per cent are smokers.  Alcohol consumption is about average for Europe.

Spanish city centers tend to be difficult to drive in, and more and more streets have been pedestrianized.  I believe the Spanish walk a lot more than Americans, but could not find data on this. In terms of formal exercise, Spaniards seem like Americans.  The OECD claims there is more obesity in Spain than in most western European countries, while I found the Spanish to be slim.

So, there you have it.  Neither diet, weight, smoking, drinking, sleep or exercise explain Spain's remarkable longevity.

I have to admit that, despite copious study and a professional focus on healthy lifestyle, I have been ignorant.  I apologize for the certainty with which I counseled patients about diet in the past.  OTOH, it is possible that if the Spanish started eating more fruits, veggies and dairy and less pastries, they would live even longer.  But how do you ask the winners of the longevity race to change?

And now excuse me while I grab a sunny table at a cafe and get a Napoletana (a chocolate-filled croissant) and a cafe Americano.

Monday, January 30, 2017

New article showing lack of evidence for healthcare workers' flu shots/ PLOS

The issue of healthcare worker (HCW) flu vaccine mandates is of particular interest because no one has shown the shots help patients.  Healthcare workers have had to accept many vaccines, including that for Hepatitis B, for decades.  But flu vaccination mandates are particularly egregious.

The flu shot is given yearly.  It does not prevent flu infections or flu deaths in patients.  And the more often you get a flu shot, the less well it works.  It may reduce absenteeism, but only by a small amount-- because the effectiveness of the shots is low.  Effectiveness is estimated at 37%, averaging CDC data on effectiveness over the past 12 years.  Per the Cochrane Collaboration, you need to vaccinate 71 people to prevent one case of clinical flu.  (I have added all these citations to earlier posts.)

The experts at CDC, FDA, NIH and their parent DHHS know this.  We all read the same literature, and they hold and attend conferences where this is discussed. The federal govt paid for some of the research.

So why does the federal government insist on pushing these shots? Why must healthcare workers get them, or in many cases, be fired?  Some thoughts:

1.  Who controls healthcare? Healthcare workers (HCWs) must be trained to march in lockstep with what their anointed health agencies tell them, irrespective of the science. Loyalty must be to government and employer, rather than to professional standards. Doctors may no longer interpret the medical literature for themselves. Hospital administrators have happily issued draconian edicts and fired disloyal employees, increasing their power in the process.

2.  Once doctors and healthcare workers have been pacified, the rest of the adult population, like the pediatric population, can be made to take whatever vaccines the government designates.

3.  Autonomy is to be chipped away.  We are not to be in control of our own bodies; rather, the government is, for the good of the community.  Will mandated drugging be next?

4.  While the flu shot program is being sold using the powerful memes of patient protection and Science, everyone who has looked into the science knows neither is true. But (as in George Orwell's 1984) it is the memes we must bow down to, not the science.

Anyway, the new PLOS study concluded, as have others: 
The impression that unvaccinated HCWs place their patients at great influenza peril is exaggerated. Instead, the HCW-attributable risk and vaccine-preventable fraction both remain unknown and the NNV (number needed to vaccinate) to achieve patient benefit still requires better understanding. Although current scientific data are inadequate to support the ethical implementation of enforced HCW influenza vaccination, they do not refute approaches to support voluntary vaccination or other more broadly protective practices, such as staying home or masking when acutely ill.
I believe the last sentence is  directed at healthcare administrators, who a) demand unvaccinated staff wear face masks throughout flu season (totally stupid since you can't spread flu when you don't have it--but then, that is not why the mask edict was issued) and b) make it very difficult for HCWs to stay home when they are sick.