Archive | October 27, 2016

The Zika Virus has been Proven Harmless*

zika1The Zika Virus has been Proven Harmless*

After nearly a year of causing hysteria, mass travel cancellations and unnecessary abortions it finally daunts to “journalists” and “experts”  that the Zika virus is harmless. It can cause a very minor flue – two days of a low fever and uncomfortable feeling for a quarter of those infected – that is all. It does not cause, as was claimed by sensationalists in the media and various self-serving “scientists”, birth defects like microcephaly.

We told you so.

In February we wrote: The Zika Virus Is Harmless – Who Then Benefits From This Media Panic?.

The piece refereed to a Congressional Research Service report and various sound scientific papers. It concluded:

There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

The artificial media panic continued and huge amounts of money were poured into dangerous insecticides to kill mosquitoes (and important pollinators) that did not do any harm. Indeed, generous use of some of these insecticides likely were the very cause of a blip in microencephaly cases in northeastern Brazil.



In March we wrote: Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain.

We listed 35 sensational “news” headlines about potential catastrophes related to a Zika epidemic. The common factor of those panic creating media wave – all those headlines included the miraculous little word may. The pieces were pure speculations with some quoting this or that “expert” who was hunting for research funds or lobbying for some pharmaceutical or pesticide conglomerate.

In June we added: Zika Virus Does Not Cause Birth Defects – Fighting It Probably Does.

New serious research found what some people in Brazil had suspected from the very start of the small and strictly locally limited jump in microencephaly cases in Brazil:

[D]octors in the Zika affected areas in Brazil pointed out that the real cause of somewhat increased microcephaly in the region was probably the insecticide pyriproxyfen, used to kill mosquito larvae in drinking water:

The Brazilian doctors noted that the areas of northeast Brazil that had witnessed the greatest number of microcephaly cases match with areas where pyriproxyfen is added to drinking water in an effort to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Pyriproxyfen is reported to cause malformations in mosquito larvae, and has been added to drinking water in the region for the past 18 months.

Pyriproxyfen is produced by a Sumitomo Chemical – an important Japanese poison giant. It was therefore unsurprising that the New York Times and others called the Brazilian doctors’ report a “conspiracy theory” and trotted out some “experts” to debunk it.

But [s]cientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute also researched the pyriproxyfen thesis. They found:

Pyriproxifen is an analog of juvenile hormone, which corresponds in mammals to regulatory molecules including retinoic acid, a vitamin A metabolite, with which it has cross-reactivity and whose application during development causes microcephaly.

[T]ests of pyriproxyfen by the manufacturer, Sumitomo, widely quoted as giving no evidence for developmental toxicity, actually found some evidence for such an effect, including low brain mass and arhinencephaly—incomplete formation of the anterior cerebral hemispheres—in rat pups. Finally, the pyriproxyfen use in Brazil is unprecedented—it has never before been applied to a water supply on such a scale.

Given this combination of information we strongly recommend that the use of pyriproxyfen in Brazil be suspended pending further investigation.

Today the Washington Post finally admits that the Zika virus does not cause birth defects:

[T]o the great bewilderment of scientists, the epidemic has not produced the wave of fetal deformities so widely feared when the images of misshapen infants first emerged from Brazil.Instead, Zika has left a puzzling and distinctly uneven pattern of damage across the Americas. According to the latest U.N. figures, of the 2,175 babies born in the past year with undersize heads or other congenital neurological damage linked to Zika, more than 75 percent have been clustered in a single region: northeastern Brazil.

The wide areas where the flue virus occurred outside of the small area in Brazil saw no increase in birth defect numbers. The number of (naturally occurring) microcephality cases stayed constant despite a very large increase in (harmless) Zika virus infections. The numbers in Brazil also turned out to be partially inflated because of a lack of standard diagnosis criteria and unreliable statistics. A factor we had pointed to in our very first piece.

The WaPo piece today muses about several “possible” causes for the local increase in cases in northeastern Brazil that indeed happened. It quotes some of the very “experts”, like from the pharmaceutical industry influenced CDC, that were wrong on the issue since the very first panic headline. It strenuously avoids to even mention the most likely cause – the excessive local use of an insecticide that is supposed to cause birth defects – in developing mosquitoes. Thus the reporting is still void of journalistic ethics and irresponsible in its conclusions.

It did not take much effort to get this right. An hour or two of skimming through publicly available sources of good standing, some basic higher education and sound reasoning was enough. But instead of doing such basic inquiries “journalists” and media “served” panic and speculations by biased “experts”. Keep this story in mind for the next sensationalist onslaught of panic headline. There surely will be some “interests” behind those; just don’t expect unbiased facts and basic logic reasoning.


Related Topics:

Are the Birth Defects of Zika virus Caused by Tdap Vaccine?

Known Neurotoxin Injected into “Zika” Infected Mothers in Brazil*

Microcephaly Cases in Brazil Predate Zika Virus Outbreak*

Zika the Genocidal Mega Hoax

Deadly Chemicals Sprayed on Florida Residents to Eliminate Zika*

Failed Weapons Systems Cost Pentagon $58bn over Two Decades*

Failed Weapons Systems Cost Pentagon $58bn over Two Decades*

The Pentagon loves to throw good [tax-payers] money after bad ‒ to the tune of nearly $60 billion on failed big-ticket weapons systems over the last two decades, according to a new internal Department of Defense review.

From the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) that focused on fighting the last war to its RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopters that never quite got off the ground, between 1997 and October 2016, the Pentagon invested $58 billion on weapons technology it never received. That doesn’t include the boondoggle that is the F-35 jet, which was finally declared“ready for combat” at the beginning of August.

The FCS ($20 billion) and the Comanche ($9.8 billion) are just two of 23 major weapons programs that were canceled before they were finished, and together the two Army projects made up more than 50 percent of the “sunk costs” outlined in the Pentagon’s annual internal acquisitions performance review. The 224-page report by Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall was published earlier this week.

The report noted how much money was spent on each canceled program, how far along in the process they were before they were killed, and if any of the technology was rolled up into new programs. For example, although the FCS was canceled, parts of it ‒ including many of the manned ground vehicles and the Intelligent Munitions System ‒ were swept up into a current program called the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization Program.

Most of the programs were killed before they blew through their budgets, but eight of them spent all the money allotted to them before the Pentagon canceled them, the report found.

The Government Accountability Office, a Congressional watchdog, conducted an audit of Pentagon spending in 2011 and found $70 billion in waste, the New York Times reported at the time. Much of the overspending happened because the DOD started building weapons systems  before the designs were fully tested, the auditors said.

With acquisitions overruns long being a thorn in the side of the Pentagon’s budget, in March the Air Force enlisted IBM’s Jeopardy!-winning cognitive computer, Watson. Two contractors are currently working to create programs that would enable Watson to navigate the 1,897-page Federal Acquisition Regulation, helping potential government vendors actually bid for military contracts. The project is expected to become operational by 2018.

Another way the Pentagon has sought to cut down wasted spending is through the latest update to its acquisitions program, called ‘Better Buying Power 3.0’, which was announced in April 2015. The program was designed to have “a stronger emphasis on innovation, technical excellence, and the quality of our products,” Kendall wrote in a memo ordering the program’s implementation. It calls on the military-industrial complex to make projects more affordable in terms of funding, schedule and manpower throughout the entire lifespan of their products. It will also reward contractors for successful expense management, and ask them to eliminate unproductive processes and unnecessary bureaucracy.

Of course, holding contractors accountable for their failures when it comes to major cost overruns or weapons systems that don’t work is easier said than done. And it doesn’t help when someone at the Pentagon thinks it’s a good idea to spend money on bomb-sniffing elephants.


Related Topics:

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard Plan is Failing*

Pentagon Paid $540mn to Bell Pottinger to Produce Fake Terrorist Videos*

U.S. Wasted $231mn on Failed Missile Defence Program*

U.S. Military is Building a $100mn Drone Base in Africa*

U.S. Navy Just Spent $2.1bn on a Fancy Transport Fleet That Sinks*

The U.S. Spent a Half Billion on Mining in Afghanistan with ‘Limited Progress’*

Google Removes Wall to Anonymous Online Advertising Tracking and User’s Names*

Google Removes Wall to Anonymous Online Advertising Tracking and User’s Names*

By Julia Angwin

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”

And, for nearly a decade, Google did, in fact, keep DoubleClick’s massive database of Web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand — literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer.

The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick advertisements that follow people around on the Web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit, and the searches they conduct.

The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry’s longstanding contention that Web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers, and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of Web tracking data with people’s real names. But, until this summer, Google held the line.

“The fact that DoubleClick data wasn’t being regularly connected to personally identifiable information was a really significant last stand,” said Paul Ohm, faculty director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law.

“It was a border wall between being watched everywhere and maintaining a tiny semblance of privacy,” he said. “That wall has just fallen.”

Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville emailed a statement describing Google’s change in privacy policy as an update to adjust to the “smartphone revolution”

“We updated our ads system, and the associated user controls, to match the way people use Google today: across many different devices,” Faville wrote. She added that the change “is 100% optional—if users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged.”

Existing Google users were prompted to opt-into the new tracking this summer through a request with titles such as “Some new features for your Google account.”

The “new features” received little scrutiny at the time. Wired wrote that it “gives you more granular control over how ads work across devices.” In a personal technology column, the New York Times also described the change as “new controls for the types of advertisements you see around the web.”

Connecting Web browsing habits to personally identifiable information has long been controversial.

3fcd8-zbigniew_brezinski-between_two_ages_americas_role_in_the_technotronic_era_1970Privacy advocates raised a ruckus in 1999 when DoubleClick purchased a data broker that assembled people’s names, addresses, and offline interests. The merger could have allowed DoubleClick to combine its Web browsing information with people’s names. After an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, DoubleClick sold the broker at a loss.

In response to the controversy, the nascent online advertising industry formed the Network Advertising Initiative in 2000 to establish ethical codes. The industry promised to provide consumers with notice when their data was being collected, and options to opt out.

Most online ad tracking remained essentially anonymous for some time after that. When Google bought DoubleClick in 2007, for instance, the company’s privacy policy stated: “DoubleClick’s ad-serving technology will be targeted based only on the non-personally-identifiable information.”

In 2012, Google changed its privacy policy to allow it to share data about users between different Google services — such as Gmail and search. But it kept data from DoubleClick — whose tracking technology is enabled on half of the top one million websites — separate.

But the era of social networking has ushered in a new wave of identifiable tracking, in which services such as Facebook and Twitter have been able to track logged-in users when they shared an item from another website.

Two years ago, Facebook announced that it would track its users by name across the Internet when they visit websites containing Facebook buttons such as “Share” and “Like” — even when users don’t click on the button. (Here’s how you can opt out of the targeted ads generated by that tracking.)

Offline data brokers also started to merge their mailing lists with online shoppers.

“The marriage of online and offline is the ad targeting of the last 10 years on steroids,” said Scott Howe, chief executive of broker firm Acxiom.

To opt-out of Google’s identified tracking, visit the Activity controls on Google’s My Account page, and uncheck the box next to “Include Chrome browsing history and activity from websites and apps that use Google services.” You can also delete past activity from your account.


Related Topics:

France’s CNIL fines Google 100,000 euros over ‘right to be forgotten’*

Google and Facebook in the MENA Region*

Israel to Coordinate With Google, YouTube, to Censor Palestinian Videos of Conflict*

Google to Pay $8.5mn for Illegally Sharing Users Data*

Google, the NSA & DHS are Creating a Global DNA Database*

Google Fined for Spying on Wi-Fi Users*