CIA Plots To Kill Jullian Assange – WHAT?!

Jullian Assange is back in the news. And unlike the last time I covered his plight back in early 2019, I actually have some sympathy for the man. For it is through him that we now get to see how dark things really got at the upper levels of the Trump administration.

While I fully expect there to be many more frightening revelations in the coming months and years relating to the Trump Administration, this one was certainly a doozy.

 

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange in London is a Story that is Being Mistakenly Ignored

Three years ago, on 2 October 2018, a team of Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The purpose of the killing was to silence Khashoggi and to frighten critics of the Saudi regime by showing that it would pursue and punish them as though they were agents of a foreign power.

It was revealed this week that a year before the Khashoggi killing in 2017, the CIA had plotted to kidnap or assassinate Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who had taken refuge five years earlier in the Ecuador embassy in London. A senior US counter-intelligence official said that plans for the forcible rendition of Assange to the US were discussed “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration. The informant was one of more than 30 US officials – eight of whom confirmed details of the abduction proposal – quoted in a 7,500-word investigation by Yahoo News into the CIA campaign against Assange.

 

As much as this doesn’t really surprise me (given the many times that the US has resorted to underhanded tactics in order to forward its own national and/or corporate interests), it still has quite the punch when viewed from the perspective that is not even a decade ago.

 

The plan was to “break into the embassy, drag [Assange] out and bring him to where we want”, recalled a former intelligence official. Another informant said that he was briefed about a meeting in the spring of 2017 at which President Trump had asked if the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide “options” about how this could be done. Trump has denied that he did so.

The Trump-appointed head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said publicly that he would target Assange and WikiLeaks as the equivalent of “a hostile intelligence service”. Apologists for the CIA say that freedom of the press was not under threat because Assange and the WikiLeaks activists were not real journalists. Top intelligence officials intended to decide themselves who is and who is not a journalist, and lobbied the White House to redefine other high-profile journalists as “information brokers”, who were to be targeted as if they were agents of a foreign power.

Among those against whom the CIA reportedly wanted to take action were Glenn Greenwald, a founder of the Intercept magazine and a former Guardian columnist, and Laura Poitras, a documentary film-maker. The arguments for doing so were similar to those employed by the Chinese government for suppressing dissent in Hong Kong, which has been much criticised in the West. Imprisoning journalists as spies has always been the norm in authoritarian countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, while denouncing the free press as unpatriotic is a more recent hallmark of nationalist populist governments that have taken power all over the world.

 

Given the things Donald has said in full view of the public, I have no doubt that he inquired about this course of action. In a way, none of this is really news. Everyone already knew that Trump loved the ways of the authoritarian. Shocking as this instance is, it’s just more of the same.

As for Glenn Greenwald, this certainly brings an interesting twist to his new stances. While the money of a grift is certainly good, avoiding being in the bad graces of potential future authoritarian tyrants is certainly also a good incentive. Though still a futile one, since I have no doubt that they will still find a way to make him an enemy.

Wow. This just got a whole lot bleaker.

 

It is possible to give only a brief precis of the extraordinary story exposed by Yahoo News, but the journalists who wrote it – Zach Dorfman, Sean D Naylor and Michael Isikoff – ought to scoop every journalistic prize. Their disclosures should be of particular interest in Britain because it was in the streets of central London that the CIA was planning an extra-judicial assault on an embassy, the abduction of a foreign national, and his secret rendition to the US, with the alternative option of killing him. These were not the crackpot ideas of low-level intelligence officials, but were reportedly operations that Pompeo and the agency fully intended to carry out.

This riveting and important story based on multiple sources might be expected to attract extensive coverage and widespread editorial comment in the British media, not to mention in parliament. Many newspapers have dutifully carried summaries of the investigation, but there has been no furor. Striking gaps in the coverage include the BBC, which only reported it, so far as I can see, as part of its Somali service. Channel 4, normally so swift to defend freedom of expression, apparently did not mention the story at all.

In the event, the embassy attack never took place, despite the advanced planning. “There was a discussion with the Brits about turning the other cheek or looking the other way when a team of guys went inside and did a rendition,” said a former senior US counter-intelligence official, who added that the British had refused to allow the operation to take place.

 

I can’t imagine WHY the Brits would refuse to have an operation like that go down right in the heart of Britain’s largest city. I mean, talk about bad optics when that hit the press.

Imagine how many tourists would go to Turkey if it was revealed that they sanctioned the whole Kashoggi thing . . .

 

But the British government did carry out its own less melodramatic, but more effective measure against Assange, removing him from the embassy on 11 April 2019 after a new Ecuador government had revoked his asylum. He remains in Belmarsh top security prison two-and-a-half years later while the US appeals a judicial decision not to extradite him to the US on the grounds that he would be a suicide risk.

If he were to be extradited, he would face 175 years in prison. It is important, however, to understand, that only five of these would be under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, while the other 170 potential years are under the Espionage Act of 1917, passed during the height of the patriotic war fever as the US entered the First World War.

Only a single minor charge against Assange relates to the WikiLeaks disclosure in 2010 of a trove of US diplomatic cables and army reports relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars. The other 17 charges are to do with labeling normal journalistic investigation as the equivalent of spying.

 

As much loathing as I have for the man for evading justice for his alleged sexual assault in Sweeden by simply going into hiding in essentially plain sight, even I agree that 170 years (life in prison, really!) is too much.

First off, this seems like a good argument for selectively delaying the statute of limitations of sexual assault cases under some circumstances. In this case, though everyone knew where the man could be found, he was unavailable for prosecution for reasons uncontrollable by either the victims or the authorities trying the case. As such, I don’t think it unreasonable to have a clause in law wherein the statute of limitations for the crime should be put on hold until such a day that it is at least feasible to try the case. Though the Assange situation is a one-off, consider cases where a  person flees town (or even the country) in order to avoid prosecution. Given that a person can hop on a plane and be in a nation without an extradition treaty in under 24 hours, the laws of nations really should really take this into consideration when limitation timeframes are determined.

As for the Assange charges themselves, no, he should not be in prison for 170 years for espionage.

This is a hard thing to consider knowing that the data dumps did in fact put some lives in danger. However, unless there are details that we are not privy to, this does not sound like espionage. Though I touched on an instance of Assange seemingly trying to open up a backchannel with Sean Hannity in order to undermine the Democratic Party, political favouritism is hardly espionage. Treating it as such will only set a dangerous precedent for the future.

Imagine a 2ed Trump presidency (or worse!) with this precedent woven into the fabric of American law.

 

Pompeo’s determination to conflate journalistic inquiry with espionage has particular relevance in Britain, because the home secretary, Priti Patel, wants to do much the same thing. She proposes updating the Official Secrets Act so that journalists, whistle-blowers and leakers could face sentences of up to 14 years in prison. A consultative paper issued in May titled Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity) redefines espionage as “the covert process of obtaining sensitive confidential information that is not normally publicly available”.

The true reason the scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed is rather that he is unfairly shunned as a pariah by all political persuasions: left, right and centre.

 

Yeah . . . don’t do that Britan. You can do much worse than Brexit and Boris Johnson. If you thought Tony Blair was bad . . .

 

To give but two examples, the US government has gone on claiming that the disclosures by WikiLeaks in 2010 put the lives of US agents in danger. Yet the US Army admitted in a court hearing in 2013 that a team of 120 counter-intelligence officers had failed to find a single person in Iraq and Afghanistan who had died because of the disclosures by WikiLeaks. As regards the rape allegations in Sweden, many feel that these alone should deny Assange any claim to be a martyr in the cause of press freedom. Yet the Swedish prosecutor only carried out a “preliminary investigation” and no charges were brought.

Assange is a classic victim of “cancel culture”, so demonised that he can no longer get a hearing, even when a government plots to kidnap or murder him.

 

I was going to ignore the mild Assange pandering in the previous paragraph, as it was mild in comparison to other instances (not to mention that the overarching topic at hand is much more pertinent).

I was going to ignore it. But then the author turned into a rape apologist.

There was only a preliminary investigation and no charges were brought . . . no fucking kidding. There were no charges because he was not even in Sweeden at the time! He left the country and evaded the charges so as not to also deal with being potentially extradited to the United States.

One can certainly point the finger of blame at the United States for causing the whole mess in the first place. And assuming that there are no details of which we are unaware, he should not have to face a lifetime in prison in the US (or elsewhere). However, he is not a victim of cancel culture. HIS VICTIMS are victims of cancel culture, you deluded moron! 

Assange should not be a martyr, PERIOD. For the simple reason that in the eyes of the ideologically focused (or just the idiotic), a martyr can do no wrong. One step above the superstar status of people like Elon Musk, the martyr has the benefit of having even more wiggle room when it comes to curating their own public persona. Though the masses often stop associating human traits (both positive and negative) to both superstars and martyrs, martyrs often are assumed as altruistic strictly on account of the principles n which they stand for. 

I get it. There was a time back in 2016 wherein I just assumed that Jullian Assange would do what was best for the American democratic process. After all, the WikiLeaks stuff was certainly (for the most part, anyway) beneficial to the public good. However, like the human that he is, he soon proved that he did have a favourite pick to win. And also like the human that he is, he used his unique position in order to help boost his chosen political affiliation. And judging by the Hannity revelation of 2018, this behaviour is less an outlier than it is the norm.

Few flawed humans have the self-control to properly bear the title of martyr. Suffice to say, Jullian Assange is NOT one of them.

 

In reality, Khashoggi and Assange were pursued relentlessly by the state because they fulfilled the primary duty of journalists: finding out important information that the government would like to keep secret and disclosing it to the public.

 

As scathing as the last paragraph was, I can’t help but agree with this sentiment.

Allowing governing officials to dictate who and what entities are considered to be journalists is dangerous, but particularly so in the face of an ever-evolving media landscape. With many forms of what can be labelled as traditional journalism either stagnant or slowly dying due to changing media consumption habits, it’s risky to assign too much rigidity to the term.

First off, because fledgling traditional journalistic entities are going to be more vulnerable to burying inconvenient stories if pressured to do so. But also because the face of journalism is changing. Information sources (and platforms) are gradually fragmenting. Though the big powerhouses of cable and print news media still dominate the scene today, I suspect that these days are numbered. There is still much to sort out, but I’m almost certain that the media landscape will be very different some 20 or 30 years from now.

Journalism isn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) be about your employer or your job title. It should be about the information that you bring to the table. Be it in front of a TV studio broadcasting to millions, or sitting behind a laptop with a current readership in the tens, journalism comes in many forms.

Fuck Jullian Assange. Long live journalism.

The Myth Of AA – Do 12 Step Programs Harm More People Than They Help?

This piece was originally going to be a part of my Marijuana – An Exploration series of long-form posts. However, it quickly became apparent that this topic was very much worthy of its own entry. So here goes.

We will start with the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Founded by Bill Wilson back in 1935, the organization and it’s accompanying 12 step methodology has since become the primary means of dealing with addiction in North America. Borrowing tenants from both Christianity and Philosophy, AA comes together as a biblically structured guide back to sobriety.
In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 23 million people suffer with substance abuse disorders. Of those, 55,000 are said to attend AA meeting groups nationally. Others encounter the AA program though over 11,000 treatment centers of which use the 12 step approach nationwide.

After 2 decades of intensive study both in the fields of medicine and theology, everything would come together while Bill Wilson was laid up in a hospital room back in 1934. Having watched various members of his own family struggle to control their addictions to various substances, Bill had been pondering a new way of tackling substance abuse in his bedridden state. Upon running some of his ideas by NYU’s Dr. Ebby Thacher (addiction specialist), the program they designed and curated would become one of the most well-known treatment programs on the planet.

The only program, according to some doctors.

In my 20 years, I have not seen anything that comes even close to the 12 steps. In my world, if someone says they don’t want to do the 12 steps, I know they aren’t going to get better.

Dr. Drew Pinsky

https://www.wired.com/2010/06/ff-alcoholics-anonymous/

Unfortunately, what I just said was fiction.

Not the Drew Pinsky quote. Rather, the entire backstory regarding the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous. The truth is far more colourful than the bland lie that I just fed you.
Bill Wilson was layed up in a hospital room back in 1934. And he was indeed visited by a man named Eddy Thacher. Rather than a doctor at NYU, however, Eddy was instead Bill’s old drinking buddy. Ebby had found Christ and given up alcohol, and he thought his friend Bill would benefit from such an epiphany, as well. Since Bill was agnostic at the time, however, he declined his friend’s attempt at help. The thought of devoting himself to a higher power was not at all appealing.

Well, until it was.

In aiding his detox regiment, Bill’s physician (William Silkworth) subjected him to the Belladonna Cure. In a nutshell, he was delivered hourly doses of a poisonous plant called Belladonna (alongside a few other compounds). The rest . . . is history.

But later, as he writhed in his hospital bed, still heavily under the influence of belladonna, Wilson decided to give God a try. “If there is a God, let Him show Himself!” he cried out. “I am ready to do anything. Anything!”

What happened next is an essential piece of AA lore: A white light filled Wilson’s hospital room, and God revealed himself to the shattered stockbroker. “It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing,” he later said. “And then it burst upon me that I was a free man.” Wilson would never drink again.

https://www.wired.com/2010/06/ff-alcoholics-anonymous/

So, this was how the AA program got its start. A man tripping balls on god knows what . . . came to Jesus. Or, Jesus came to him?

Either way, given the typical prognosis of alcoholics at the time, the fact that this happened is not all that surprising.

At that time, the conventional wisdom was that alcoholics simply lacked moral fortitude. The best science could offer was detoxification with an array of purgatives, followed by earnest pleas for the drinker to think of his loved ones. When this approach failed, alcoholics were often consigned to bleak state hospitals.

This also holds true of Bill Wilson. As this was not his first round of Belladonna. It was his 4th.

Perhaps the most famous patient was William Griffith Wilson, better known as Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the early 1930s, Mr. Wilson was consuming more than two quarts of rotgut whiskey daily, a definite health risk according to Alexander Lambert, who found in his copious research that consumers of cheap or bootlegged alcohol were far more prone to seizures, delirium tremens and brain damage than those who drank the expensive stuff. Between 1933 and 1934, at his wife’s urging and on his wealthy brother-in-law’s dime, Mr. Wilson was admitted to Towns four times. The cost upon admission was steep: up to $350 (roughly $5,610 today) for a four- to five-day stay.

Although Mr. Wilson made some progress in temporarily abstaining, he relapsed after each of the first three hospitalizations. It was around this time that he reunited with a drinking buddy named Ebby Thacher. Unlike previous times, when they went out on wild binges, Mr. Thacher told him that he quit booze and was a member of the Oxford Group, a church-based association devoted to living on a higher spiritual plane guided by Christianity. As a demonstration, on Dec. 7, 1934, Mr. Thacher took Mr. Wilson to the Calvary Mission on East 23rd Street and Second Avenue, where the most drunken of New York’s Depression-era down-and-outers went to be fed and, it was hoped, “saved.”

A few days later, a drunken Wilson staggered back into the Towns Hospital. There, his physician, William D. Silkworth, sedated him with chloral hydrate and paraldehyde, two agents guaranteed to help an agitated drunk to sleep, albeit lightly. This was especially important because the medical staff members had to wake patients every hour for at least two days to take the various pills, cathartics and tinctures of the belladonna regime.

On the second or third day of his treatment, Mr. Wilson had his now famous spiritual awakening. Earlier that evening, Mr. Thacher had visited and tried to persuade Mr. Wilson to turn himself over to the care of a Christian deity who would liberate him from the ravages of alcohol. Hours later, depressed and delirious, Mr. Wilson cried out: “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!” He then witnessed a blinding light and felt an ecstatic sense of freedom and peace. When Mr. Wilson told Dr. Silkworth about the event, the physician responded: “Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it.”

Hang on to it he did. Indeed, this experience ultimately led Mr. Wilson to abstain from alcohol for the remaining 36 years of his life and to co-create the novel program whereby one alcoholic helps another through a commitment to absolute honesty and a belief that a higher power can help one achieve sobriety.

 We also learn something about his background that wasn’t obvious before. He came from a background of wealth.
Either way, as you now know, Ebby Thacher lead Wilson to attend meetings of the Oxford group. However, it was only after meeting Bob Smith during an Oxford group meeting in Akron, Ohio that Alcoholics Anonymous as we know it today, was born.

In May 1935, while on an extended business trip to Akron, Ohio, Wilson began attending Oxford Group meetings at the home of a local industrialist. It was through the group that he met a surgeon and closet alcoholic named Robert Smith. For weeks, Wilson urged the oft-soused doctor to admit that only God could eliminate his compulsion to drink. Finally, on June 10, 1935, Smith (known to millions today as Dr. Bob) gave in. The date of Dr. Bob’s surrender became the official founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In its earliest days, AA existed within the confines of the Oxford Group, offering special meetings for members who wished to end their dependence on alcohol. But Wilson and his followers quickly broke away, in large part because Wilson dreamed of creating a truly mass movement, not one confined to the elites Buchman targeted. To spread his message of salvation, Wilson started writing what would become AA’s sacred text: Alcoholics Anonymous, now better known as the Big Book.

The core of AA is found in chapter five, entitled “How It Works.” It is here that Wilson lists the 12 steps, which he first scrawled out in pencil in 1939. Wilson settled on the number 12 because there were 12 apostles.

In writing the steps, Wilson drew on the Oxford Group’s precepts and borrowed heavily from William James’ classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, which Wilson read shortly after his belladonna-fueled revelation at Towns Hospital. He was deeply affected by an observation that James made regarding alcoholism: that the only cure for the affliction is “religiomania.” The steps were thus designed to induce an intense commitment, because Wilson wanted his system to be every bit as habit-forming as booze.

Suddenly, I find myself thinking of James Fry’s controversial memoir titled A Million Little Pieces. Interestingly enough, the title was also released as a movie adaptation last year. Though the ratings are fairly low, I’ll be my own judge.

Of all the problems that exist with the book, however, I can’t help but think that James didn’t embellish his disdain for the 12 step recovery program prescribed by the treatment center in Minnesota. To borrow a quote from the now infamous book (of which I still own a copy):

“I’d rather have that (relapse and death) than spend my life in Church basements listening to people whine and bitch and complain. That’s not productivity to me, nor is it progress. It is the replacement of one addiction with another.”

“I know I won’t ever believe in the Twelve Steps. People like you keep saying it’s the only way, so I’m thinking that I might as well just put myself out of my misery now and save myself and my family the pain.”

“Addiction is not a disease…Diseases are destructive medical conditions that human beings do not control…I don’t think it does me any good to accept anything other than myself and my own weakness as a root cause.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/addiction-in-society/201401/you-remember-james-frey

Though James Fry has not been immune to controversies even following the first book (as per the above link), one thing that seems not to have changed is his sobriety status. An accomplishment that was not achieved through the typical AA 12 step regiment. Not only were the 12 steps not effective in his case, it can be (and is) argued that the program actively undercut his attempts at bettering himself.

The value of his book was his search for a solution for his problems consistent with his own beliefs.

Frey was not religious. Yet he was force fed AA’s Twelve Step philosophy at every turn in his treatment. Frey rejected AA and its whole redemptive approach: “I’d rather have that (relapse and death) than spend my life in Church basements listening to People whine and bitch and complain. That’s not productivity to me, nor is it progress. It is the replacement of one addiction with another.”

The treatment he received actually impeded his efforts to recover: “I know I won’t ever believe in the Twelve Steps. People like you keep saying it’s the only way, so I’m thinking that I might as well just put myself out of my misery now and save myself and my Family the pain.”

Although American treatment programs (including the Betty Ford Center, Hazelden, and virtually every drug and alcohol treatment program in the U.S.) are all predicated on the Twelve Steps, this approach has never been demonstrated to be particularly effective. Among Frey’s true statements was his report that the success rate – “Patients who are sober for a year after they leave here” – was 17 percent at the hospital where he was treated.

https://peele.net/lib/frey.html

Is the AA program an active affront to religious freedom?

In itself, no. As a tool for reform as prescribed by the justice system, potentially.

AA acolytes and others who support the Twelve Steps argue that the steps are not really religiously-oriented. This, although “God,” “Him,” or a “higher power,” is mentioned in half of the Twelve Steps. The third step in particular: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,” is often justified by the claim that God can be understood as being anything!

However, every state supreme and federal appeals court which has adjudicated the issue has concluded that AA and its Twelve Steps are religious. Thus, it is illegal – a violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state – for courts to “sentence” people to attend Twelve Step programs. This ruling is consistently violated around the United States, while rarely being challenged.

Frey was “not gonna believe in AA or the Twelve Steps. The whole thing is based on belief in God. I don’t have that, and I never will.” Being forced in a supposedly medical treatment to accept God would be a violation of a patient’s rights in anything other than American substance abuse treatment. Aside from violating the principle of informed consent, discounting people’s core beliefs does not enhance their motivation to change.

American society has always been about fitting millions of squared, triangled, hexagonal, and every other shape under the sun into round holes. Standardization is good for the industries that keep America thriving. Or should I say, standardization was good for the industries that kept America thriving until it became cheaper to outsource to cheaper territories of operation.

Now all that remains is but a shell of what once was. Dilapidated factories in depopulated towns and cities. And hundreds of thousands of displaced and obsoleted former workers. Conditioned for a lifetime on the virtues, sense of purpose and accomplishment that a hard-working life brings a person, they now wander aimlessly and jobless, everywhere.
Some take this anger out on their family members (domestic abuse). Others attack whatever minorities the elites in power choose as their scapegoat this era. And others still (including some in the aforementioned groups) self-abuse in various ways, including self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

As it stands, 23 million Americans are said to struggle with substance abuse issues currently. Taking into account the after-effects of the COVID 19 pandemic (how many people will be out of work even after it’s over?), this number may well grow.
If I look even further down the road and take the next automation revolution into consideration, is it possible that the current 23 million number could double (or even triple)?

Addiction is now such a factor of everyday life in America that addiction treatment is now its own industry, valued at 42 Billion dollars. With the alcohol industry alone taking in 260 billion back in 2018, that is no small figure.

However, everyone knows that there is much money to be made in exploiting the downtrodden (most notably A&E). While that is problematic in itself, it represents an arguably small part of the problem. Only around 3 million people have the resources to come into contact with treatment centers, to begin with. Almost every single one of those people will encounter the 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, however.

While AA’s success rate tends to be hard to pin down on account of the anonymous fluidity of the overall organization, it is thought to be around 5 to 10 percent. While it is considered to be better than no recovery program at all, does AA deserve its status as the unofficial gold standard in treatment programs?

Let’s consider some of the alternatives. Though there are many more than I had previously realized, I’m going to stick to the most common ones (though you can find many more HERE). The most well-known alternatives appear to be:

SMART Recovery

LifeRing

SOS

Women For Sobriety

Again, that list is far from exhaustive in terms of the options available, both online and IRL. Though all options are likely not available where everyone resides, one would hope at least one or 2 exist. At the very least, the online communities are available wherever you are.

Let’s start with SMART Recovery. They appear to employ what they call a four-point program which helps guide there members to continued abstinence-based sobriety. From their website:

Key Areas of Awareness and Change

SMART Recovery’s approach to behavioral change is built around our 4-Point Program®: (1) Building and maintaining the motivation to change. (2) Coping with urges to use. (3) Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors. (4) Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life.

Motives and Goals

Motivation is a key element in nearly all you do. Consider that all human beings share several primary goals: survival, the avoidance of pain, happiness. Any addictive behaviors you engage in are to pursue these primary goals. We can help you see that you may be meeting these goals short-term but impairing your ability to meet them in the long-term.

Beliefs

What you believe about addiction is important, and there are many beliefs to choose from. You may believe, for example, that you’re powerless, or that after the first drink you lose all control and can’t stop. These beliefs may actually be damaging to you. Similar examples include, “I’ve tried and failed, so I can’t do it. I need alcohol to cope.” Or, “Because I’ve tried to quit and failed, I’m no good.” Those beliefs, and many like them, can’t be justified because the evidence just doesn’t support them. We will help you identify, examine, and modify your beliefs about yourself, your problems, and how to change.

Emotions

People often engage in addictive behavior to cope with emotional problems, including anger, guilt, anxiety, and low self-esteem. SMART Recovery teaches you how to diminish your emotional disturbances and increase self-acceptance. Then you can have greater motivation and the ability to change and to live more happily.

Behaviors

Changes in thinking and emotions alone are not enough. Commitment and follow-through are essential. We encourage participants to become involved in enjoyable activities that replace their problematic addictive behaviors.

How SMART Provides Help

Our meeting format is straightforward and organized. Our facilitators are trained to follow the SMART Recovery program and principles to help participants change their behavior. Some of them have had addictive problems, and some haven’t. That doesn’t seem to make any difference. Remember, SMART Recovery is a mental health and educational program, focused on changing human behavior. SMART Recovery meetings are serious but often fun. We don’t dredge up the past, about which we can do nothing. We can do something about the present and the future. Our meeting discussions focus on how to apply SMART’s tools for change so that you can go on to lead a more productive and connected life. Near the end of the meeting, the “hat” is passed for donations, which are encouraged but not required.

https://www.smartrecovery.org/about-us/

I like what I see, so far. But more importantly, is it effective?

According to a study (which I learned of HERE, in the name of full disclosure), the answer appears to be yes.

Background: Overcoming Addictions (OA) is an abstinence-oriented, cognitive behavioral, Web application based on the program of SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery is an organization that has adapted empirically supported treatment strategies for use in a mutual help framework with in-person meetings, online meetings, a forum, and other resources.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of OA and SMART Recovery (SR) with problem drinkers who were new to SMART Recovery. Our experimental hypotheses were: (1) all groups will reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug-related consequences at follow-up compared to their baseline levels, (2) the OA condition will reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug-related consequences more than the control group (SR), and (3) the OA+SR condition will reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug-related consequences more than the control group (SR only).

Methods: We recruited 189 heavy problem drinkers primarily through SMART Recovery’s website and in-person meetings throughout the United States. We randomly assigned participants to (1) OA alone, (2) OA+attend SMART Recovery (SR) meetings (OA+SR), or (3) attend SR only. Baseline and follow-ups were conducted via GoToMeeting sessions with a Research Assistant (RA) and the study participant. We interviewed significant others to corroborate the participant’s self-report. Primary outcome measures included percent days abstinent (PDA), mean drinks per drinking day (DDD), and alcohol/drug-related consequences.

Results: The intent-to-treat analysis of the 3-month outcomes supported the first hypothesis but not the others. Participants in all groups significantly increased their percent days abstinent from 44% to 72% (P<.001), decreased their mean drinks per drinking day from 8.0 to 4.6 (P<.001), and decreased their alcohol/drug-related problems (P<.001). Actual use relationships were found for the OA groups, between SR online meetings and improvement in PDA (r=.261, P=.033). In addition in the OA groups, the number of total sessions of support (including SR & other meetings, counselor visits) was significantly related to PDA (r=.306, P=012) and amount of improvement in alcohol-related problems (r=.305, P=.012). In the SR only group, the number of face-to-face meetings was significantly related to all three dependent variables, and predicted increased PDA (r=.358, P=.003), fewer mean DDD (r=.250, P=.039), and fewer alcohol-related problems (r=-.244, P=.045), as well as to the amount of improvement in all three of these variables. Six-month follow-ups have been completed, and the results are currently being analyzed.

Conclusions: These results support our first experimental hypothesis but not the second or third. All groups significantly increased their PDA and decreased both their mean DDD and their alcohol-related problems, which indicates that both interventions being investigated were equally effective in helping people recover from their problem drinking.

https://www.jmir.org/2013/7/e134/

Since that comes across as rather self-serving, how does SMART compare to other alternatives (AA included?).

A Longitudinal Study of the Comparative Efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step Groups for Those With AUD

Background: Despite the effectiveness of 12-step groups, most people reporting a prior alcohol use disorder (AUD) do not sustain involvement in such groups at beneficial levels. This highlights the need for research on other mutual help groups that address alcohol problems and may attract those who avoid 12-step groups. The current study addresses this need, offering outcome data from the first longitudinal, comparative study of 12-step groups and their alternatives: The Peer ALlternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study.

Methods: Adults with a lifetime AUD were surveyed at baseline (N=647), 6months (81% response rate) and 12months (83% response rate). Members of the largest known secular mutual help alternatives, namely Women for Sobriety (WFS), LifeRing, and SMART, were recruited in collaboration with group directors; current 12-step attendees were recruited from an online meeting hub. Online surveys assessed demographic and clinical variables; mutual help involvement; and alcohol and drug use and severity. Analyses involved multivariate logistic GEEs separately modelling alcohol abstinence, alcohol problems, and total abstinence across 6 and 12months. Key predictors were baseline primary group affiliation (PGA); primary group involvement (PGI) at both baseline and 6months; and the interaction between baseline PGA and 6-month PGI. The critical effects of interest were the interactions, expressing whether associations between changes in PGI from baseline to 6months and substance use outcomes differed by primary group.

Results: None of the interactions between baseline PGA and 6-month PGI were significant, suggesting no differences in the efficacy of WFS, LifeRing, or SMART, vs. 12-step groups. Nevertheless, some PGA main effects emerged. Compared to 12-step members, those identifying SMART as their primary group at baseline fared worse across outcomes, and those affiliating with LifeRing showed lower odds of total abstinence. Still, these effects became nonsignificant when controlling for baseline alcohol recovery goal, suggesting that any group differences may be explained by selection of those with weaker abstinence motivation into LifeRing and (especially) SMART.

Conclusions: This study makes a valuable contribution in view of the extremely limited evidence on mutual help alternatives. Results tentatively suggest that WFS, LifeRing, and SMART are as effective as 12-step groups for those with AUDs, and that this population has the best odds of success when committing to lifetime total abstinence. An optimal care plan may thus involve facilitating involvement in a broad array of mutual help groups and supporting abstinence motivation

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29606223/

While one could read this and come away with the message that SMART is no better than any of the other options, the final paragraph above makes me think that I may be approaching this the wrong way. Frankly, in the one size fits all fashion of the pro-AA proponents I am arguing against.

In the realm of addiction (or substance misuse management, to borrow a term from Russell Brand), there will be no clear winners (in terms of best recovery options). And even if I do end up eating that statement at some point later, it should be less about crowning a king and more about acknowledging options for an incredibly diverse populace.

Since many of these programs call themselves abstinence-based, it also makes me wonder if that must be the only option for a population as diverse as . . . the world.

The expectation of total abstinence from something one considers pleasurable has always struck me as a tall order. Don’t get me wrong, people get there in various ways. But it seems that is an incredibly high expectation to hold any person to, considering that most of us engage in some form of habit that could cause us grief if we tried to go abstinent cold turkey. Whether or not the habit (or addiction) is harmful is not the point.

It all boils down to guilt.

I’m reminded of 13 years ago when I decided to quit smoking. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a heavy smoker. None the less, close friends introduced me to flavoured cigarillos. And a job at a c-store introduced me to initially menthol cigarettes, than regular cigarettes. Though you never think you can’t quit, it seems that you don’t know until you try.
With the expectation of abstinence comes an inevitable feeling of guilt if you happen to be human and fall off the wagon. Thus begins the vicious cycle.

I remember going through it when I quit smoking. Though I was far from a 50 year 3 pack a day smoker, it was still a struggle. Looking back, had I known not to feel guilty every time I relapsed, I may have kicked the habit even sooner.

Even though this all happened over a decade ago, I still get the occasional craving for a cigarette. It has nothing to do with stress or situation, it’s more time of year. Involving a seemingly innocuous memory of all things.
A close friend of mine had planned a Halloween party, which was to occur in 2 or 3 days. I was walking home from either his place or my job (at the time), both of which had me use the same route. All I remember is looking forward to that party as I smoked a menthol cigarette. It was around 11pm. The moon was out, the air was cool and crisp, and the leaves were falling all around me.

In the years since, pumpkin spice season has always marked my most difficult period to stay smoke-free. Don’t get me wrong . . . now that menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigarillos are illegal in Canada, it’s easier. But it’s still an interesting reoccurring phenomenon.

Interestingly enough, we’re still catching up in terms of the flavoured vaping juices that were used to addict a whole new generation to nicotine. 

Either way, I have gotten off-topic.

In the same way that expecting every addict to conform their recovery around the tenants of AA and the 12 steps are harming some people’s chances of recovery, the expectation that recovery is defined as abstinence may well also be doing more harm than good.

While this argument would seem asinine to the purveyors of an ideology that grounds itself on the concept that is “You are not strong. You need *Insert Deity Here*”, this ideology would seem to provide a terribly limited path forward. Particularly if ignorant or disingenuous people on your journey convince you that this is the only way to go forward. If this won’t work, then what chance do I have?

It makes one wonder how many family members or friends have washed their hands of problematic friends or relatives based on their failure to take to a ridiculously hard to maintain future lifestyle. A liftstyle that is almost certainly primed for failure.

Interestingly enough, such recovery programs do exist.

What is Moderation Management?

Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who desire to make positive lifestyle changes. MM empowers individuals to accept personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence. MM promotes early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal. MM is run by lay members who came to the organization to resolve personal issues and stayed to help others.

https://www.moderation.org/about_mm/whatismm.html

From the same website, I like this particularly honest and helpful entry.

Is MM for every person with a drinking problem?

No. Research suggests that no one solution is best for all people with drinking problems. There are many possible solutions available to each individual, and MM suggests the each person finds the solution that is best for him or her.

MM is good place to begin to address a drinking problem. If MM proves to be an ineffective solution, the individual is encouraged to progress to a more radical solution.

I may as well conclude this entry here.

When I started this entry, I asked the question Do 12 step programs harm more people than they help?. If I am perfectly honest, I thought I know the answers before I even started my research. I know . . . someone with a non-theistic point of view would approach this topic from a biased point of view. Shocker!

In reality, however, there are many nuances to be considered. As such, the answer to that question would have to be Yes and No.

Should the un-medicine based regiment that is Alcoholics Anonymous be the standard of rehabilitation (as is often the case)?
No.

Should the success stories of the AA regiment (be they because of, or in spite of) be disregarded on account of its abysmal overall success rate?
No.

If this research has taught me anything, it’s that the word recovery may mean many different things for many different people. In fact, it SHOULD mean many different things to many different people, if the personal welfare of the person is really the end goal.

Am I highly amused by the fact that the most common recovery regiment in North America was the result of a drug-induced hallucination brought on by a 4th attempt at attaining the incredibly difficult?

Yes.

If it works for you . . . you do you. Just remember that the rest of us are not necessarily like you.

 

 

I Hate Bryan Adams – Part 2

Way back in February of 2015, I wrote a piece about my hatred of Bryan Adams. I don’t slash didn’t hate the man himself, per se. I just hated much of his overplayed music library. Soft rock or Pop tunes that are palatable enough to find a permanent home on contemporary music stations nationwide.
At this point, even the few songs that do dare tread away from the safety of soft rock are overplayed, and thus irritating.

While Bryan Adams is just one name on a laundry list of boomer pablum pedlers one hears on a daily basis on contemporary stations and in retail playlists all over Canada (James Cunt, Micheal Boobless, Phil Collins), Adams particularly irks me because of his Canadian-ness.
Not because he is FROM Canada. More, BECAUSE he is from Canada, he is ensured a place on the radio by law since many stations must ensure at least 40% of all musical content played daily is Canadian. I had said 30% in the 2015 post, but there were some nuances to the answer that I apparently overlooked.
No, there is no law guaranteeing Bryan Adams a spot in the rotation. It’s more a case of his catalogue being so bloody conformist that it can fit perfectly into any playlist, from retail to radio. Thus ensuring my ears get assaulted whether I’m in a car with an old person with terrible music taste OR at work trying to do my job.

Though I am also not quick to jump on the Tragically Hip bandwagon (why are Canadians such bandwagon hoppers?! Do you LIKE being a marketer’s dream cohort?!), I have to acknowledge that they did bring an air of authenticity to the table. Authenticity which has been bleached out of much of the contemporary music scene by this point.
I still don’t particularly like their music. But given the choice between an hour of the Hip and one hour of Canadian contemporary radio, I’ll take the Hip any day of the week. 

Uh . . . I said The Hip.

ANYWAY, I thought I was alone in hating Bryan Adams. I thought I was irrational to hate Bryan Adams. Kind of like . . . hating a waterfall.

How can you hate Enya? It’s just silence, coloured in. It’s like being mad at a waterfall” ~Steve Hughes

As it turns out, unlike Enya, Bryan Adams now gave me a good reason to hate him. And managed to say something dumber than Don Cherry did earlier this year. Oh Canada . . . we are doing ourselves proud in 2020, aren’t we?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bryan-adams-instagram-apology-1.5565996?ref=mobilerss&cmp=newsletter_CBC%20News%20Top%20Headlines%20%20%E2%80%93%20Evening_717_27194

Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams has apologized for an Instagram post widely condemned Monday as crass, racist and inflammatory.

Adams posted the apology Tuesday “to any and all that took offence” to his post.

“No excuse, I just wanted to have a rant about the horrible animal cruelty in these wet-markets being the possible source of the virus, and promote veganism. I have love for all people and my thoughts are with everyone dealing with this pandemic around the world,” he wrote.

The original post on Monday blamed the global COVID-19 pandemic on “some f–king bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards.”

“My message to them other than ‘thanks a f–king lot’ is go vegan,” the caption read.

 

There you have it, folks. The perfect reason to hate Bryan Adams. He’s a VEGAN! A veggie sucking soy boy. 

Just kidding!

I like vegans. I don’t embrace their lifestyle (although it is better for the environment and would likely be VERY beneficial to my health. Give me time), and some of their more notable members tend to cast a dark shadow over the entirety of the cohort. None the less, they represent the future of the human species (even if most of us don’t know it yet). Even Gordon Ramsay takes their cuisine seriously, now.

No, I don’t hate Bryan Adams for not eating meat. I don’t even hate Bryan Adams for being a terrible representative of the vegan movement. I hate his pussy music, and I hate him because he’s a racist idiot. All of which makes me wonder how many of these instances happened in the past that we don’t know about.

Either way, I should thank Bryan Adams. I am no longer the weirdo for hating a waterfall!

Well, if that waterfall was part of a fountain display in a shopping center.

 

In Defense of Jessica Allen

Many of my early posts were commentaries on wider society and popular culture annoyances which drove me nuts. Though I  had some focus areas, everything from Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil controversies, to Gene Simmon’s latest ban from Canadian radio (always after saying something stupid about suicide victims after the lastest overdose) would elicit a response from me. For a while, it seemed that there was not enough free time in a week to keep up with all the nonsense.

But eventually, I became much less interested in the trivial. As is very visible in the number of pieces that I have published in the last few years. One would think that POTUS #45 would be worthy of weeks worth of material in one single day. On one hand, yes. But on the other hand, everyone else has it covered. For a play by play, you need look no further than Twitter or any news outlet.
This particularity of what I cover had only increased when I started doing more focused long forms. And my attention span for this stuff is even thinner on account of me being in the process of writing a manuscript. All this, plus working 30 to 40 hours a week, doesn’t leave much time for nonsense.

This is why this deviation of the norm (and use of my valuable time) is surprising, even for me. Why has an issue centred at the crossroads of 3 different areas that I don’t normally care about (Hockey, popular culture and The Social) garnered so much of my attention? Why do I give a shit?

Annoying people have that effect on me. Particularly annoying hypocrites.

First off, let’s consider Jessica Allen. More so, what exactly she had the balls to say on national tv that got the masses knickers tied up into such a knot.

This nicely ties together the whole clusterfuck that brought this to my attention in the first place. It started with Don Cherries’ last stupid comment on the Rogers platform. Actually, I suppose those are both 1 and 2. Then there was the reaction to this interview.

First off, the obvious. Sure, how people spend their money is their business. But there is nothing here that I haven’t been saying for years. There is nothing here that other people haven’t been saying for years. Canadian hockey fans are akin to American evangelical zealots. Hockey culture in this country is toxically masculine and, overall, fucking annoying.

Since I am here anyway, I may as well do a clusterfuck play by play. Starting with #1.

You people . . .

First off, I was rather amused to find no less than 2 of the so-called sacred plastic poppies left discarded in dirty puddles around the city 2 days ago. Reminded me of my internal struggle to dot this I when I was a child. Poppies gradually come into the picture after Halloween is done. Then there is the start line for when every single Canadian TV personality (from pop culture personality to news anchor) has one. As though it’s a law.
But after . . . I never knew when was when. How long are you supposed to keep wearing this thing? And when you are done with it, what do you do with it? People buy new ones every year, yet do they throw out a sacred symbol of 3 days ago?

I am a natural-born Canadian citizen. I don’t wear a poppy. I haven’t for years. And in that same timeframe, I’ve seen Canadians that prioritize the symbol only grow more ridiculous. My longtime observation has been non-existent religious entities getting more respect than war hero’s just going by business hours. Here in Manitoba anyway, nothing is open on most holidays, but November 11th remembrance ends at 1pm. And people line up to get in the door.

Then there are the political implications of post-2016. As foreigners get even more skilled at using social media to manipulate the electorate of the western world, we see the whole of the world shifting ever more to the right. Authoritarianism and fascism are starting to make a comeback.

But as this all unfolds before our eyes, the seeming reversal of history, of course, the biggest story of the day is the neglected use of symbols. Whether it’s bigoted idiots calling out You people not wearing them, or getting pissy over people now wearing them in general.
Poppies are not the reason. Poppies are the symbolism to the reason.

You CAN have poppies and fascism, hand in hand. However, when you get to that point, you have missed the boat. And all that you thought you were defending, was for nothing.

The Firing

Before all of this, I really had no opinion of Donald Cherry.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. He proved himself a moron back in 2012 when he came out against science in terms of his Cold FX endorsement.

Aside from that though, the man was never on my radar. Not surprising, since the man occupied a completely different cultural space than I.

He was not without controversy, even before. How much harm this inflicted depends on whom you ask, but the man had overall been shown no boundaries. Until Rogers finally decided that enough was enough. So goes the so-called Canadian tradition that is Coaches Corner. Retired in disgrace. Much like half of its duo.

Of course, the disgrace part is disputed by long-time Cherry fans (and hockey fans alike). Like many other aspects of the world today, this is seen as yet another instance of oversensitivity poking its nose into the rest of culture. Rogers shouldn’t have cowered to those SJW bullies pushing their weight around. Poor Don Cherry.

Naturally. Every attempt at evening out the playing field in a distorted landscape is going to elicit this reaction. Equality means someone is going to lose power and privilege, and few are willing to part with longheld power and privilege quietly.
And then there is the freedom of expression angle. Another clusterfuck within a clusterfuck.

1.) Not wearing a poppy is a freedom of expression that was fought for. Remember that next time you start running your mouth off about what was fought for.

2.) Don Cherry has freedom of expression.

3.) Rogers has the freedom of saying “You’re OUT!” when it comes to his place on their platform

That is all there is to it. Tradition, freedom of speech, SJW’s . . . none of it matters. He toed the line too far, and it finally caught up with him.

Worry not, fans. We do live in the age of the podcast, after all. I would be VERY surprised if Don Cherry doesn’t make a comeback VIA a podcast or youtube channel sometime next year (likely in time for NHL season 2020). Your beloved segment isn’t going to disappear . . . just move to a new medium.

This shouldn’t be a worry since Hockey Night In Canada is run on a cable channel, to begin with (most cable subscribers also have broadband). I am inclined to highlight unfairness in that (hockey ONLY on cable?!), but I’m sure this point has already been raised.

Jessica Allen’s Controversy

Compared to what Cherry has in his past backlog of commentary, what Jessica had to say was tame. For many people existing outside of the hockey bubble, this is hardly controversial at all. The audience reaction alone was noteworthy. Of course, anyone in that audience is of a more like mind than not. However, the point still stands.

Someone finally had the balls to call out Canadian Hockey culture on a national media platform. And as expected, the bubble completely lost its shit.

First off, the hypocrisy.

“Rogers should not have fired Cherry!” one day. Then “Bell (CTV) should fire Jessica Allen!” the next. Is it too much to expect consistency from you bandwagon jumpers?
Think before you post. I’ve been saying it for years.

And then there is this.

https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/family-of-humboldt-broncos-crash-survivor-blacklists-ctv-over-comments-on-the-social-1.4686510

First of all, the fact that a Humboldt family can dangle interview privileges in the face of a news organization (how Trumpian, might I add) is asinine. Why do I care whether or not you want to be interviewed? Why should ANYONE care?

Being front and center to a mass casualty situation is one thing. Though I was more annoyed with the fact that the media descended on the town like a vulture onto a carcass, the fact that the town welcomed it was their choice. However, this screams milking the situation for all one can get.

The bus accident was a tragedy. But it only became what it became because of who was on board.

They were not the only victims of that very intersection, or even of bad semi driver training. They just happened to be from one of the most beloved groups in this country (hockey players!).
This would not be still in the cultural white noise if the semi had struck Greyhound bus. And few of us would know about this AT ALL if it had struck a smaller vehicle. It was and is a traffic accident.

Though the overall reaction to this was generally useless limelight toward Humboldt AND racism directed at the driver, not everyone let their emotions get the better of them. Some focused on truck driver training, which was found to be lacking pretty much everywhere aside from Ontario. Another area of focus was seatbelts in buses (should they be added?).

Whilst the jury is out on whether or not seatbelts will help in the case of busses or (in particular) school buses, many provinces have stepped up their training requirements. Alberta recently backpedalled somewhat on their original post-crash requirements, but not without getting an earful from Humboldt families.

Which is in fact, a good thing. If the publicity ends up being the driver of much-needed improvement, then so be it. It won’t bring back who was lost, but their legacies are not in vain.

Moving on from THAT and back to Jessica Allen, do I think she should apologize?

No.

I don’t know if CTV released this (or if someone crafted it for their benefit), but this pretty much sums it up.

On one side, you have this crowd:

https://www.thepostmillennial.com/the-don-cherry-jess-allen-double-standard-is-awakening-canadas-silent-majority/

And on the other side, you have anyone with a functioning brain.

Of course, the ears of the so-called silent majority (as noted in the post-millennial article above) perk up when they hear racism and bigotry they perceive is directed at them. How DARE someone talks about White boys and their culture of sports and meanness. How DARE Jessica!

All the while, every divisive thing that Don Cherry every said. . . that’s just the way he is. Every division that he ever sowed, excusable. All the toxicity that he has ever introduced into the fandom of the sport that Canada loves . . . what toxicity?

Double standards . . . did I just find another one?

An old guy with the privilege of longevity in the public eye is allowed to say whatever he wants without having to show remorse, but a young women must be fired for stating what amounts to an obvious but painful truth. Seems legit.

Jessica need not have apologized. CTV made the right decision (for once, Bell doesn’t disappoint me. Unlike HERE). And I hope not to ever feel the need to write about any of this trivial nonsense ever again.

 

“Diabetes Shocker Has Medical World Up In Arms”

I recently received a promotional email from the platform Patheos (I am on a few of their mailing lists) which was interesting to me.
This has happened before (also on patheos) when I saw an ad for a product that allegedly had the cure for dementia. This latest addition brings up another so-called medical marvel.

This time, however, for diabetics. Sent on behalf of a company called Constitutional Health, let’s get into it.

Here is the video link:

https://constitutionalhealth.com/secret/blueprint/webinar-pr1/?utm_campaign=2942018_Patheos&utm_medium=email&AFID=1&SID=2942018_Patheos&utm_source=dedicated

Interestingly, though they use proprietary Youtube logo’s both in the email and within the link, I couldn’t open the link in youtube itself (and therefore directly embed the video here). Possibly explainable legitimately. But also a red flag, since universally recognized logos can lend legitimacy to the material they are associated with.

The video is essentially a testimonial of a man named Jacob’s experience with this so-called miracle diabetes reversal method called The DWD Protocol (DWD meaning Done With Diabetes).
I use the word miracle because of the nature of the video, obviously aimed at those of faithful sensibilities (the main Patheos userbase). And yes, yet another tri-acronym protocol.
This is aparently brought to us by a physician named Dr. Roy Taylor (more on the aparently later). According to the video, the protocol reboots the pancreas to quote do what God intended it to do, aka keep your blood sugar levels healthy and reverse insulin resistance.

This new protocol allegedly sharply reduces the need (or even eliminates!) the necessity of medication.

Though I would normally watch the provided video webinar to its conclusion, I just . . . couldn’t. Though these things always beat around the bush right to the very last second, this one had no end in sight. With a healthy dose of fearmongering, conspiratorial allegations against drug companies and the American Diabetes Association, AND promotion of distrust in people’s personal physicians, I couldn’t hear it any longer.

I already have extracted the most important details that I needed.

The DWD (Done With Diabetes) protocol.

https://dwdprotocol.com/

The DWD Lifestyle Blueprint focuses not on treating symptoms but addressing the lifestyle factors which lead to type 2 diabetes in the first place—the same factors that ensure it remains a chronic, ongoing disease. With step-by-step guides, natural nutritional support, and behavioral strategies firmly grounded in psychology, the Lifestyle Blueprint provides the tools people need to achieve long-term healthy change.

The four-module Success Blueprint addresses the most important lifestyle factors for type 2 diabetics, fostering healthy habits by giving them the education they’re missing and the tools for consistent success. Community support ensures that users stay on target. And the powerful DWDX3 supplement, clinically-proven to support insulin sensitivity, offers physical support for recovery from the damage done by type 2 diabetes.

So it looks like we’re dealing with a sort of educational and nutritional manual in combination with a proprietary supplement.

The core of the program is the very low calorie DWD reversal diet, based on groundbreaking studies 1,2,3 showing that very low calorie diets of 600 to 800 calories per day can reverse type 2 diabetes. But where other such diets employ meal-replacement shakes to achieve their goal, the DWD diet takes users through eight weeks of very low calorie eating based on real food. For the duration of the program, users will prepare their own healthy low-calorie meals, aided by the dedicated cookbook included with each module. They will also learn to calculate their unique energy and macronutrient needs. By the end of the program will have all the tools they need to maintain a healthy weight—and blood glucose–long-term.

But diet is only one factor affecting the development of type 2 diabetes. Each of the four modules addresses one important aspect of lifestyle and is designed to bring about positive change in that area. Each day, users will be given education, activities, and exercises intended to highlight the behaviors which contribute to type 2 diabetes and modify those behaviors organically.

I can’t see all that much wrong with this so far. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health and well being. There are other ways to get this information than paying these guys for it but to each his own.

Hint: Use a search engine. The vast library that is the resources of the internet is a godsend to almost anyone inquiring into almost anything.

The final component is the concentrated DWDX3 supplement. This proprietary formula is comprised entirely of vitamins, minerals, and botanicals clinically proven* to support healthy blood sugar levels and protect against the damage caused by type 2 diabetes.

This is the part that has me curious. The supplement.

As a rule, I don’t trust supplements because they are regulated differently than other food and drugs (at least in the US and Canada), so you are often at the mercy of seller honesty when you are purchasing this type of stuff. Consider the Alex Jones example. Or for that matter, that it’s not all that uncommon for supplements to claim to contain ingredients that they don’t actually have.

From frozen dinners to vitamins, the labels on our foods are sometimes incorrect. Earlier this month, the attorney general of New York accused GNC GNC, -2.47%  , Target TGT, -0.34%  , Walgreens and Wal-Mart WMT, +1.34%   of selling herbal supplements that claimed to contain ingredients they didn’t actually contain; indeed, DNA tests of some of these stores’ supplements found that just 21% contained DNA from the herbs and plants listed on the label.

The New York review wasn’t the first to reach such conclusions. A study released in 2013 in the journal BMC Medicine — in which 44 bottles of herbal supplements from 12 companies were tested — found that one-third of the supplements tested didn’t contain the supplement advertised (so, for example, a bottle of St. John’s wort didn’t actually have any St. John’s wort herb in it). Many other supplements contained ingredients like wheat and rice that weren’t even listed on the label—even though they can cause allergic reactions in some consumers.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/margin-of-error-on-food-labels-20-2013-11-07

The final sentence is particularly disturbing. Allergies can literally be a death sentence for some people. Making this problem far worse than a simple issue of deceiving a consumer for profit.

Let me be clear . . . I am not making any claims of certainty about the DWDX3 supplement. All I am telling readers of this blog is that they should exercise caution in terms of supplements because not all participants consider your wellbeing as their top priority.

Consider this legal disclaimer that was prominently displayed on the webinar video I referred to earlier.

Either way, time to look into this.

Interestingly enough, the first link I found was to a Medium article reviewing a book (and process) called the diabetes protocol, which is entirely different than the one I am looking into. That protocol and book were created by Dr. Kenneth Pullman. Interestingly, the links to materials on Pullman’s official site are now broken. The review was written back in September 2014.

Though the link went dead sometime in 2016, thanks to the way back machine, we can have some insight into what the page looked like.

Where have I seen this before . . .

Next on the docket is . . . a review of Done With Diabetes. Here, however, the product is credited to a Dr. Eugene Koprowski (as opposed to Dr. Roy Taylor). Interestingly, most of the references I found in the wilds of the search engine results also credit a Dr. Koprowski. Only the video and email distributed to Patheo’s users seems to credit Dr. Roy Taylor from Newcastle, England.

https://www.organicsupplementsreview.com/done-with-diabetes/

I found this link through a video testimonial that came up with my first search query.

Here, I suspect yet another common form of digital marketing trickery. This time, I will pass the baton to CBC’s Marketplace. Allow them to highlight why you should be careful of these everyday person type reviews and testimonials.

And for this matter, online reviews in general.

Next, we have . . . yet another book by yet another doctor (Dr. Neal B. Barnard). Given your newfound education in analyzing online reviews, did anything seem amiss?

It seems that there is no shortage of doctors promoting different diabetes fixes. A regular cottage industry, it seems.

The most obvious question that comes to my mind is can diabetes be reversed, PERIOD? Seems like a good jumping off point (being that it covers everything past and present, DWD included).

A Time magazine article from September 2017 claims that the answer is yes, based on a newly released paper.

An analysis published in The BMJ aims to let doctors and the public in on a little-known secret: Type 2 diabetes, in many cases, is curable.

People can reverse their diabetes by losing about 33 pounds, say the authors of the new paper, despite popular belief that the diagnosis is always a permanent one. If more people were striving for this goal, and if more doctors were documenting instances of diabetes remission, complication rates and health-care costs could both be reduced dramatically, the authors say.

The analysis is based on evidence from recent clinical trials. In one from 2011, people who were recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes returned their blood sugar levels to normal when they lost weight on a calorie-restrictive diet. In a 2016 follow-up study, people who had been diabetic for up to 10 years were able to reverse their condition when they lost about 33 pounds.

Mike Lean, professor of human nutrition at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, is an author of both the new analysis and of those earlier trials. He says a person’s likelihood of remission from diabetes is greatest in the first five years after being diagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes, he wrote in an email, is a disease “best avoided by avoiding the weight gain that drives it.” For people who do develop it, he believes that evidence-based weight-loss programs could help them achieve lasting remission.

“Not all can do it, but they should all be given the chance with good support,” Lean writes. “Taking tablets or injections for life to reduce blood sugar is a poor second rate treatment.”

Current guidelines for the management of type 2 diabetes include reducing blood sugar levels and lowering risks for heart disease, primarily with medications and general lifestyle advice about diet and exercise.

But many people don’t attempt to lose weight and keep it off, Lean says—and that may be because because they don’t realize they can become non-diabetic again. Many doctors don’t know this either, he says, so they don’t give patients the proper guidance and encouragement.

So, a probable yes?

I hesitate to go all in based on this for a couple reasons. First off, it looks like it’s a fairly small sample size. And secondly, the media is known for misrepresenting the findings of scientific studies, often times unintentionally. I’ll again let John Oliver explain this phenomenon to you.

Imagine that . . . a reference to Time Magazine.

Moving on, when it comes to the big question (can diabetes be reversed?), I found a small panel of experts that have various answers to that question, but the majority lead to the same ultimate answer (No).

There is no reversing of type 1 diabetes, period. It is an autoimmune disease. The pancreas, in this case, has never produced any insulin, so there is no treating that without taking insulin.
Type 2 on the other hand, is caused by the body developing a resistance to insulin due to the overproduction of it on account to constantly high blood sugar levels. This constant overworking of the pancreas can eventually lead to it slowing (or even ceasing) production of insulin. Being that it’s driven largely by lifestyle, type 2 can generally be managed by making good diet and lifestyle choices. Obesity tends to be associated with this disease (they see the most benefit from exercise), however, one doesn’t need to be obese to develop the disease.
Interestingly, this was something I warned a family member about (I know they consume ALOT of sugar in a day). But it was a warning they didn’t heed until their doctor warned them that their blood glucose was higher than it should be.

https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/can-diabetes-type-2-be-reversed/

Once a person enters pre-diabetes where their hemoglobin HbA1c starts rising above 5.7% they have entered the disease process. The patient – if made aware that they have pre-diabetes and has access to educational support – has the opportunity to prevent the pre-diabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes.

They will always have the pre-diabetes diagnosis and have the potential to develop type 2 diabetes if aggressive dietary, exercise and or medication is not followed. It is possible to achieve a normal non-diabetic HbA1c after this – virtually not having any clinical evidence of the pre-diabetes, however the disease process is still there and being held at bay.

If the person stops the interventions or is predisposed to having diabetes due to risk factors out of their control, they can and will develop type 2 diabetes. It’s worth noting that there are genetic and other non-adjustable risk factors (ethnicity for example) that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

It is also worth noting and all of this advice can be followed and a person can still develop type 2 diabetes. Following strict guidelines and taking medications is not a 100% promise that type 2 diabetes will be prevented.

A patient diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (HbA1c of 6.5% or above) will always have type 2 diabetes. Interventions such as medication (including insulin), staying active and making good diet choices must be maintained to prevent the disease from progressing further. However, even if the patient undergoes strict medication, diet and exercise adherence and manages to lower the HbA1c they will still have type 2 diabetes.

The idea of “reversing” is describing the well managed type 2 diabetes that can be maintained without the outcome of complications (eye disease, kidney disease, etc.). And it is totally possible to have type 2 (or type 1 diabetes for that matter) and have no complications – however, this takes careful management and is largely driven by the patient and their access to quality healthcare.

So, can you “reverse” diabetes? No – but you can manage it very well with the help of a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a knowledgeable primary care physician or endocrinologist. There are even prescription apps available to bridge the care that your clinicians can give you between visits and apps that offer virtual CDE’s for greater assistance.

Molly McElwee-Malloy, RN, CDE

This one, while similar, offers a word of warning to all those seeking help from miracle protocols. Though one can theoretically achieve remission enough to allow the discontinuation of diabetic medications, you still can not let your guard down. Likely why none of these proposed protocols ever use the word cure. Because despite being able to reverse many of the worst symptoms, there is no going back to square one.

From my professional experience as an inpatient diabetes educator, many patients are able to reduce or stop their diabetic medications through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. Through these adjustments their A1C improves, they lose weight, and do not require the same interventions as when they were diagnosed.

Many of my patients with several comorbidities elect to have weight loss surgery, such as gastric banding, in order to lose the amount of weight needed to improve their diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risks that follow obesity.

However, once someone has a tremendous improvement and no longer needs to take diabetes medications they do not need to assume it is “gone for good.” Different factors can cause their glucose to rise again, such as gaining weight or not following a diabetic diet.

Therefore, once a person has been diagnosed with diabetes they need to always check their glucose at home and follow-up with their PCP to have their A1C monitored regularly.

Amanda L. Gilbert, RN, MSN

I pulled that one to let anyone looking into any diabetes protocol (past or future!) know to be careful of words like reversing, in the context of type 2 diabetes. The video that drove me to write this piece didn’t overly emphasize the importance of monitoring one’s condition even AFTER the protocol seems to be kicking in (or at least that wasn’t what I came away with, anyway).

To conclude, I never came around to any solid conclusions about what I first set out exploring, the Done With Diabetes protocol. Really, I don’t have to.

If I were in such a situation, I would not purchase it. For one, the price.

https://www.easybodyfit.com/done-with-diabetes-reviews/

What is the price of freedom? $60 a bottle apparently.

While I am at it, I may as well show you another thing to watch for in terms of these kinds of sites. First off are the ads for CBD oil that are front and center. If not CBD oil, than any substance. I don’t have to do a long form to tell you that laundry list of cured ailments is a load of scheiße.

Is a website that pushes this kind of nonsense a place where you want to be purchasing ANYTHING, let alone medical necessities? I know my answer.
Yes, this is just one independent retailer of this product (likely unaffiliated with its manufacturer). But the fact that one would need to resort to a place like this says a lot.

The second is the language. The presence of many errors that a native English speaker would not make tells me that this wasn’t written by someone with English as their native tongue. Though it is hosted in Las Angeles (I dug up the IP Address and checked), you can’t go by that.
Take this blog.  It is run by a content creator in Canada but hosted by a company called Automattic in San Francisco.

Either way, if you are type 2 diabetic or prediabetic, no matter what the true status of the supplements in the Done With Diabetes protocol, they are not necessary. Frankly, neither is the protocol itself if you are to be paying for it. First and foremost, your doctor should be your first stop in your quest. If they are uninterested in much more than pulling out the prescription pad (it happens. Burnout or greed can affect members of any profession), consider a second opinion from another doctor.

As for implementing a healthy lifestyle, consider how you got here. Chances are you were looking into some supposed diabetes protocol or other easy solution to a terrifying health problem. Instead of looking for something to buy, consider looking for advice. Try terms like “healthy living with diabetes” or “living with diabetes”.

By the looks of many of these protocols, you will likely be following many of the same steps anyway. Only without the added expense of the literature and questionable additional supplements.

After polishing this off, I found a reference to Dr. Roy Toylor buried in the hyperlinks of the Time magazine article I utilized above. The man is indeed a legitmaite doctor that ran a legitamite study. I suspect that his work being refrenced as sales material for a supliment is not with his permission (possibly even knowledge). 

I also have some concerns about his findings as described even on his Universities website, because they seem to contradict with other medical literature. Namely that a pancreas that has been dysfunctional for as long as 2 decades can start working as normal just with the removal of excess fatty tissue.

Indeed, I am not the doctor here. None the less . . . the claim seems a bit premature. Particularly from a physition.

DNA Genology Services, Baby Pictures On Social Media, And Other Privacy Issues In Today’s World

It’s interesting when something you were pondering in your mind suddenly makes an appearance in the media. Though it hasn’t happened for awhile (a few years), it did today.

In Hunt For Golden State Killer, Investigators Uploaded His DNA To Genealogy Site

Recently, advertising and popularity for services that help map out your ancestry by way of your DNA have been more prominent in the cultural matrix. I have been critical of these services from day 1 due to the prospect of a private company retaining a copy of your DNA profile. Though I have had naysayers question this conclusion (“What could they possibly use it for?!”), I was steadfast. Even if a use hasn’t been developed YET, we live in a rapidly technologically advancing world. I figured that if ever this DNA data was usable in terms of marketing data, then these private entities are sitting on a goldmine.
Do they have the right to sell or share your DNA profile as part of the agreement in using the service? Did you check that fine print?

Though that was my mid to long-term concern of such services, a story about law enforcement subpoenaing such services in looking for matches to samples they had come across opened a whole new avenue of concern. A concern that we don’t have to wait around for either.

Some years back, my family went through a genealogy tracking phase of sorts. Some family member had opened an account on some genealogy tracing platform, and most of my relations with digital access (me included. I was a teenager) contributed things like information and photos. Though the tree that we built is gone (the person paying decided not to renew), you can still find bits and pieces of information archived all over the public domain. When you combine these breadcrumbs with other breadcrumbs publicly (and likely unknowingly!) shared by family members on social media, you can build an accurate picture.
It’s the main reason why I was annoyed when may in my family were taken in after a medium childhood friend of one of my aunts claimed that my dead grandfather dropped by during a session. So strange that someone with a memorial Facebook page dedicated to him should drop by in a session by one of its main contributors. I chronicled this 2013 experience HERE.

A realization of all of this was that even if you are extremely careful at managing your information, photo’s etc, that is only half the battle. You can lock down and keep things under wraps, but it can easily be undone if friends and close relations either don’t know (or don’t care) about sharing these details publicly.

It occurred to me that this type of situation could also occur when it comes to these DNA sharing services. Since relations have DNA profiles that are fairly similar, then law enforcement could (in theory) find a close enough match VIA a family member, allowing them to force you to submit a sample (VIA a subpoena or warrant).
Of course, a common reaction may be “Well, if you didn’t do anything wrong, then what are you worried about?”.
Indeed, there will be a net benefit in some cases. However, because humans are humans, there will be inevitable cases where this is abused. Possibly to falsely imprison someone for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s happened many times already, even with so-called sophisticated forensic techniques.

Many (most?) law enforcement agencies still use the Polygraph. If that doesn’t give you some pause than I don’t know what will.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-doug-williams-war-on-lie-detector/

In terms of my future DNA as a marketing toolkit hypothesis, these libraries are likely to be even more useful. Owing simply to the fact that marketing does not necessarily have to be about individual targeting (though that is certainly the most ideal). You can also effectively market to large cohorts.
These days, such blocks that come to mind could be based on geolocation (based on your IP address) or other metadata as collected from social media (gender, interests, hobbies, etc). In the future, you may be able to create cohorts from anything from ancestral information to character (or other) traits.

Another thing that I have been contemplating of late which goes hand in hand with the previous topic, is the sharing of information, photographs, and other personal material without the explicit consent of the people involved. People that don’t consent because they can not consent.

The dead come to mind. I have doubts that my grandfather would approve of his image and name being used so frivolously online. Much like his living siblings, as evidenced by the brick wall they put up when my families ancestry inquiries reached them.

The bigger concern for me, however, are among the living. That is, parents and family members of babies and children that share these images far and wide before the child is even cogent of their native launguage (let alone the possible far reaching consequences). Also worth noting is this annoying trend of opening social media accounts for these children.
We all likely see examples of this on a daily basis. A child of only 3 weeks can now get more public exposure than many past individuals could over their entire lifetime. Though most social media platforms have rules against underage accounts in their terms of service, this only covers those questionable acounts (and only if they are brought to their attention). But babies and children shared on legitimate profiles are generally of no concern.

This is a fairly new issue, yet another that has sprung up with the growth of social media’s prevalence in everyday life. Though social media has been around for a decade, like many other implications, I suspect this one has not yet been fully realized.

When someone brings up the age of consent, they are generally talking about when a young adult is considered old enough to willfully agree to sexual activity. This age varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
I wonder if it is time to take a similar step, only in terms of information and media. Since babies and children are young or too immature to fully comprehend the complexities of having their information and photos floating around online (and there is no reversing it by the time they DO come of age), is it time to restrict such public displays of the information?
Note that I am not saying that someone shouldn’t be allowed to share family photos between friends and family. Just that this stuff should not be made public (even inadvertently!) before the concerned individual has a say in the matter.

In most cases, I doubt that much will come out of this. None the less, however, it is only right that autonomous individuals have full control of their information. If we don’t tackle this issue now, could it result in future lawsuits down the road?

“Are Palestinian Journalists Being Censored by Murder?” – (Truthdig)

First of all, an admission. I don’t know what (if any) agenda may be in the mind of the author of this article,  David Palumbo-Liu. A quick search shows that he is certainly an interesting man, having been labeled a terrorist by the right-wing media only this February. All this for helping to set up (not long after the Trump victory) and being a member of an anti-fascist network on campus (I assume Stanford). He is even controversial on his own campus, with the Stanford Review taking him on directly. Twice.

When dealing with divisive material as we are with the geopolitics involved here, it dosesn’t hurt to be careful. Though everyone has a story to tell, the issue is whether or not it is a mere reiteration or a guided journey for your benefit.

I am not sure what the answer is in this case. None the less, the material is worth exploring.

On April 25, Ahmad Abu Hussein became the second Palestinian journalist Israeli snipers shot to death while covering the Great March of Return demonstrations, a series of weekly, massive Palestinian demonstrations demanding the right to return to their lands. Abu Hussein was 24 years old. Just days before, Israeli live ammunition killed 30-year-old Yasser Mourtaja. Like Abu Hussein, he was wearing a large, bright “Press” jacket that made clear he was a reporter.

The organization Reporters Sans Frontieres asserts that the Israeli Occupying Forces’ targeting of journalists is deliberate and systemic. This would be in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2222 (2015), which states: “impunity for crimes committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflict remains a significant challenge to their protection and that ensuring accountability for crimes committed against them is a key element in preventing future attacks.”

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/are-israeli-snipers-censoring-palestinian-journalists-by-murder/

Here is some information surrounding both listed reporters deaths.

A Palestinian journalist who died on Wednesday “needed a miracle to save his life” after being shot by Israeli forces and made to wait two days to be transferred out of the Gaza Strip, health officials said.

Ahmad Abu Hussein succumbed to his wounds nearly two weeks after having been shot by Israeli forces while covering the “Great March of Return” in the besieged Gaza Strip.

A 24-year-old freelance photographer and correspondent for Al-Shaab radio station, Abu Hussein was shot in the abdomen with an expanding “dum-dum” bullet on 13 April east of the town of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, while standing several hundred meters away from the fence separating Gaza from Israel, according to witnesses.

He was transferred to the occupied West Bank for treatment in a Ramallah hospital two days later, only to be later admitted to Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel on 19 April. The ministry said the journalist died in Tel Hashomer.

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for Gaza’s Ministry of Health, blamed Israel for delaying Abu Hussein’s transfer to the West Bank, saying it further endangered his life.

“He was supposed to be transferred to the hospital in Ramallah immediately, as his situation was very critical,” Qidra told Middle East Eye. “Unfortunately he was transferred two days after being injured, due to complications with Israeli security forces.”

Osama al-Najjar, spokesman for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health, told MEE that Abu Hussein “needed a miracle to save his life” by the time he arrived at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, adding that the journalist had parts of his pancreas and liver removed during surgery due to the damage inflicted by the dum-dum bullet.

Israeli authorities only authorised Abu Hussein’s mother Rajaa to accompany her son to the hospital in Israel, denying a permit to his younger brother despite Rajaa being diabetic and in need of assistance, relatives said.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/ahmad-abu-hussein-gaza-journalist-killed-israeli-army-march-return

And Yasser Mourtaja.

A Palestinian reporter killed last week by Israeli fire was detained and beaten by Hamas security forces in 2015, a global journalist body said Wednesday, after Israel accused him of being a member of the Islamist group.

Yasser Murtaja was shot dead along with eight other Palestinians during clashes on the Gaza border Friday while, witnesses said, wearing a press vest, leading to criticism of Israel’s open-fire policy.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday said the photojournalist had served for years as a Hamas officer with the rank of Nakib (equivalent to Captain A) in the Gaza Strip.

Lieberman claimed the 30-year-old had received a salary since 2011, but provided no evidence for the claims.

A case file from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) documented how Murtaja was detained and beaten by Hamas security forces in 2015 while filming.

The file, seen by AFP, said Murtaja and three other colleagues were filming the demolition of a home near the Israeli border when a man demanded to see their documents.

After they refused, a jeep belonging to the Hamas security forces arrived and “pulled the photographer Yasser Murtaja into their jeep without explaining what was going on.”

It said inside the van he was beaten by Hamas police, leading to his eventual hospitalization. After an interrogation, his photographs were eventually seized.

Murtaja and the other journalists were interviewed by an IFJ researcher at the time, the file said.

Indeed, it’s hard to shake the notion that we are being led by both pieces, the 2ed of which really illustrates a mess.

Original piece:

Any proper inquiry into the shooting should take into account that the demonstrations are not a matter of “armed conflict.” The protests have been largely nonviolent, even celebratory. But Israel is determined to take brutal, punitive measures toward anyone who even approaches the border fence, which marks off its illegally occupied territory. An Israeli investigation into a December 2017 shooting reveals that Israeli soldiers are ordered to shoot anyone who is approaching the border fence, regardless of whether or not they are armed. This military posture has led to hundreds of unarmed Palestinians being hit with live ammunition, including several children.

According to Diana Buttu, a political analyst and Palestinian citizen of Israel, Israel’s targeting of journalists is not new and not accidental:

For years the Israeli censorship office, as it is called, has used tactics to try to punish journalists covering Israel’s occupation of Palestine. For example, Israel threatened to close down the BBC for its airing of a documentary on Israel’s nuclear weapons. Israel is now threatening to close down the offices of Al Jazeera for doing their job: reporting critically on Israel’s denial of freedom. The targeting of Palestinian journalists in Gaza is an extension of this: in the eyes of Israel’s military establishment there ‘are no innocents in Gaza’ including journalists.

One might even say, “especially journalists,” or indeed, anyone documenting the military’s actions. The Middle East Monitor notes a new law that punishes anyone who documents army personnel in action: “The draft law calls for anyone who films soldiers during their military service to be handed a -year [sic] jail term which would increase to ten years if the content is classified as ‘detrimental to Israeli security.’ The bill also prohibits the publication of video recordings on social media or disseminating them to the media.”

Human rights activist and law professor Noura Erakat sums up the situation thus: “It is both an effort to ensure that the Palestinian story is not told to the world and to tell Palestinians themselves that no one is safe.”

Certainly a bold accusation there.

To understand the significance of Israel’s attacks on journalists, it is crucial to understand how their professional lives are inextricable from their private lives under Israeli occupation. Doing journalism under these material, political and military conditions is nearly impossible, in any conventional sense. To try to get the story of what doing journalism is like, I contacted Issam Adwan, a freelance journalist in Gaza. He agreed to listen to my questions, pose them to a few of his colleagues and then translate the interviews. As one begins to learn more about the situation of Palestinian journalists, one understands the particular difficulties of working under not only Israeli censorship and repression, but also under the complexities of the Palestinian political world.

It is not only the Israeli state that is targeting journalists—the Palestinian Authority does so as well. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports the case of Hazem Naser, who was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces in the middle of the night at his house. Anas Dahode, a 26-year-old journalist with Al-Aqsa TV, vividly describes the result of these pressures. He told Truthdig:

Being a journalist in Gaza only means death. Either you die trying to cover the massacres of Israeli Occupation forces as what happened to my friends like Yasser Mourtaja and others before him who were killed with cold-blood despite showing their identity as press personnel, or you die of watching others dying, it’s deadly any way. On one hand you face the political disputes between Hamas and Fatah which are derived from different ideologies and affect our media focus and the future or our jobs. On the other hand, the Israeli occupation that violates human rights almost every single day here in Gaza.

A nothing like being caught between a wall, a sea, and 2 terrorist organizations.

Mohammed Shaheen, 24, from the Voice of Palestine spoke about both the material and psychological challenges of doing his work:

We live in an open-air prison, we have few resources to live daily lives. In terms of my job as journalist, the Israeli authorities occasionally ban cameras, photographic materials, the use of safety gear that we need to do our jobs.

In normal cases, working as journalist omits the normalcy of your life. You should be always ready to work on breaking news to be a successful journalist. Imagine trying to do all this hard work when we are living in Gaza, a place we have martyrs and injuries almost every day. We have drones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You live the war—feeling every single moment of your life, not only because you fear to die in any moment or losing someone you always loved but also that you can wake up at dawn for a call from your agency to start working on some cases that related to Israeli massacres.

Shaheen added a striking, terrible afterword:

It is unfortunate that world community turned a blind eye and deaf ears to the Israeli massacres on Gaza. We have had three deadly wars, with Israel vastly armed against a people with few resources, military and otherwise. Thousands are killed and injured when all they wanted was to return their homes and villages, where their grandparents expelled from. We have been calling for the world community for 70 years—even when they know the truth, do you think it care? Israel always has the support of U.S., which will use the veto in any Palestinian-related voting. This is futile.

Despite this sense of futility, he and others still try to carry on their work. It is our responsibility to read and listen and watch the news that is brought to us at such a high cost.

 

Pope Francis Lied To A Child About Whether His Dead Atheist Father Was In Heaven – (Patheos)

Today we’re looking at an article that made me raise an eyebrow because of its implications. It was written and published by Hemant Mehta on his Friendly Atheist platform on Patheos, April 18th, 2018.

Note that the article is using a quote in itself (a quote within my quote). To help avert confusion, I underlined all quoted material in the article.

By all accounts, there was a touching moment outside of Rome this week when Pope Francis consoled a little boy who recently lost his father.

The boy, Emanuele, stepped up to the microphone during a Q&A session but had trouble getting his question out. The Pope told him to come whisper it in his ear, which the boy did, and the situation was later shared with the audience (with the child’s permission):

He revealed that Emanuele was crying for his father, who had recently died. The boy told the pontiff that his dad was an atheist, but a good man who had all four of his children baptized.

“Is Dad in heaven?’” the boy asked the pope.

Your heart has to go out to that poor child, and the pope said what you’d expect the Catholic leader to say: He told the audience that anyone who gave birth to a child like that, one who has the “courage to cry in front of all of us,” must have been a good man. The Pope added that he must have had a good heart, too, since he baptized his children.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/04/18/pope-francis-lied-to-a-child-about-whether-his-dead-atheist-father-was-in-heaven/#fwDuWtbqv5OeoMOQ.99

I don’t much object to the answer anything so far. If anything, the boy’s father has been given more respect by the pope than I have seen given to many friends and relatives at funeral services held in their honor. Normally, Jesus is always front and center, with the life and accomplishments of the deceased almost an afterthought.  Likely because goddonit anyway, right?

But what about Heaven? That answer generated a lot of positive headlines but deserves closer inspection:

“What do you think? A father’s heart. God has a dad’s heart. And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptized his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?”

“Does God abandon his children?” the pope asked. “Does God abandon his children when they are good?”

The children shouted, “No.”

“There, Emanuele, that is the answer,” the pope told the boy. “God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.

That’s a beautiful response… and a complete dodge of Catholic teachings.

Yeah . . . and, so what?

I was under the impression that it was a GOOD thing that people didn’t take this dogma so seriously. Even if it is because of the audience (children), what is there to criticize?

Pick your battles.

Catholics believe you must accept Christ’s divinity in order to get to Heaven. The Catechism also says the window of Heaven is also open to those “who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart.”

What about atheists who are aware of Catholic teachings but still reject them? What about people like the boy’s father, who may live in a culturally Catholic society but who has no use for irrational dogma?

They’re. Screwed.

Nein.

They’re. Dead.

Am I really defending the pope against an atheist being ridiculous?!

It doesn’t matter if you went through the ritual of baptizing your kids (and we have no idea why Emanuele’s father did that). It doesn’t matter if you were a good person. If you actively rejected the Church’s teachings, Catholics say you’re not in Heaven.

Barring a deathbed conversion — the sort of thing that only ever exists in the minds of religious apologists — the boy’s father, according to the Catholic faith, is now in Hell. That’s why the kid was freaking out in the first place; ever since his father died, he’s been under the assumption daddy’s getting tortured. That’s what Catholicism did to him.

What Pope Francis did, then, was protect a child from the actual teachings of the Catholic faith.

Yes. He did.

What was he supposed to do? Say “He’s burning in HELL for all eternity!”, laugh maniacally, and walk off into the sunset?

So call it beautiful. Call it heartwarming. But don’t forget to also call it dishonest.

The boy’s father isn’t in Heaven. But here’s the good news: He’s not in Hell, either. However, if the kid grows up to be a kind, decent person — the sort of man his father apparently was — that’s a way of letting his legacy live on. In that way, his father is never truly gone.

The Pope could’ve said something like that without being a hypocrite and without really answering the question. Instead, he offered a platitude that may have sounded nice on paper but isn’t even accurate by his own religious rules.

I call it a nice middle ground between “He’s pushing up daisies and nothing more!” and “He’s burning for all eternity!”. If anything, I see an issue with YOUR attitude. If you grow up to be a decent person, he will live on through you.

In life, there are beginnings and there are endings. People live, and people die. Sometimes it may seem like their time came earlier than it should have. But it is what it is.
Indeed, THAT criticism may not be fair. Grief is a personal process, and however the person best handles the situation is their prerogative.

Either way, an Atheist telling the Pope that he is lying because he skirts his supposedly false book of rules, is asinine. For one, this could be seen as lending the teachings credibility. And for another . . . WHO CARES?!

Vatican City has orchestrated and gotten away with more crimes than has justified the invasion of other sovereign nations before. You have ALL OF THAT to pick from.

Stop making me defend the Pope for not going full-on ideologically driven psychopath on a grieving child.

 

 

 

“Big Telcos Set To Hit Many Canadians With Internet Price Hikes” – (CBC News)

As a forward, this piece is less about complaining about the price increases than it is about exploring the reasoning behind it. Being that an undiscussed part of both net neutrality and an ever more interconnected world are bandwidth and bandwidth infrastructure costs. The 2 are not inherently connected, but ignoring this aspect can often time lead to that end.

Let’s begin.

Canadians’ thirst for fast, reliable internet service has surged in recent years, and so has the amount we’re paying to stay connected.

For many customers, the cost of home internet is about to get even more pricey as the big telecom companies hike rates once again.

“Internet is expensive enough,” said Rogers customer Eric Polsinelli of Oshawa, Ont. “There’s nothing I see on my end that justifies that extra $8.”

On March 12, Rogers will raise prices for all its current internet plans by $8 a month, with the exception of its cheapest package, which will rise by $4 a month.

On April 1, Bell will increase internet prices by $5 a month for customers in Ontario and by $3 a month for Quebecers. In both provinces, charges for exceeding one’s internet data limit will also go up by $1 to $4 per extra gigabyte.

Rival Telus says it has no current plans to raise internet prices. However, some customers are still feeling the pinch after the company ended its bundle discount in late January, which provided customers who signed up for multiple services a monthly discount of $3 per service.

Rogers, Bell and Telus also hiked prices on some internet plans in 2017.

Though I don’t subscribe to any of the above 3 for any home services (my communities cable company is a co-operative with far superior service), my costs for both cable tv and internet have gone up about 3 bucks a month as of April 1st. Bell is the only provider of the 3 that one can access where I live (thanks to their acquisition of regional telco MTS, creating BellMTS).

If memory serves, the cost also went up at this time last year. It’s not something I pay much attention to (inflation and other costs do change prices on an ongoing basis).

News of the latest round of price increases didn’t sit well with some customers.

“I would rather not pay more, but what can I do?” said Bell customer Larry McLean of Toronto, who also got hit with the same $5 internet price hike in 2017.

“I’m tired of price gouging,” Polsinelli tweeted to Rogers after learning his current $70 internet bill is going up by $8 a month.

I feel for these people. Money is tight, and $8 does seem a bit much.
However, I really wish that the first interviews of news organizations on stories like this (prices on commodity X are rising) were not with ordinary folks annoyed with the price increase. It’s a fact that many people demand a certain level of access or privilege in many contexts even if they don’t want to pay for it. As such, it be nice to have an explanation of WHY these costs are going up before you start giving every angry nobody a megaphone.

Yes, in the days of social media, the media has to incorporate your voice. None the less, there is a reason why these people weren’t given a spot on the screen in past years.

Rogers, Bell and Telus all said they need to raise internet prices — or in Telus’s case, end the bundle discount — to generate the funds required to upgrade their networks and keep up with growing demand for their services.

“We’re continually investing to deliver great value and fast, reliable internet for our customers now and in the future as demand continues to grow,” Rogers spokesperson Michelle Kelly said in an email.

Telecommunications consultant Lawrence Surtees says telcos do have added costs when they expand their networks. However, he’s not certain that explains why internet prices have continued to creep up over the past couple of years.

“They budget that, they figure out how much it’s going to cost, then they do an increase. I’m not quite sure why they need to do second or third increases,” said Surtees, with market intelligence firm IDC Canada.

“I’m a bit skeptical.”

When it comes to corporations, it’s good to have a healthy dose of skepticism towards almost anything that they publicly say. Particularly in relation to the costs of business. However, I do have to wonder if there might be some justification for these expenses due to the sheer number of both telephone and cable cord cutters driven by cheaper online alternatives in recent years.
Both telecom and cable providers (though the distinction is almost nil at this point being that both offer the same services in most markets) lose revenue when consumers cut off phone and/or cable services, yet they still end up delivering both services (VIA broadband channels) despite this revenue loss. Cord cutters tend to use more bandwidth, which then has to be accounted for on top of the other loss of revenue.

Polsinelli says his family uses the internet for everything from their phone service to watching Netflix.

Still, he says he’s not prepared to pay more for what he’s getting.

“I rely on the internet, but I need to be realistic as a consumer here.”

To make his point, Polsinelli informed Rogers on Twitter that he’s considering moving to upstart internet service provider TekSavvy.

“If they’re not going to at least match the prices I can get somewhere else, I will just abandon ship,” he said.

And there you have it, the all for nothing mentality on perfect display.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against people shopping around for the best bang for their buck. And I am certainly not going to come to Roger’s defense (in a nutshell, they are Canada’s Comcast). None the less however, this is a perfect example of what I see as the opposite extreme in terms of the net neutrality debate. On one side, are ISP excuses. But on the other, are those that seem to demand EVERYTHING, but for nothing.

I have to be careful not to look like I am taking a side on this. Because the only thing I can truly say that I am is unsure. It is a benefit for us to do this cost analysis independently because even if we choose not to, the ISP’s will continue to run the numbers for us. Which is almost NEVER EVER going to be for our benefit.

I have already delved into this hypothetical in some detail in my piece Should There Be A General Internet Tax? – An Exploration.
In a nutshell, yes.
Privatization of this all-important infrastructure has created numerous issues with its transition into an all-important public space. From increasing costs on private companies hesitant to make the required large commitments to the so-called Free Speech Crisis of the social media realm.

To conclude, I decided to reference this CBC article because of it’s highlighting of an issue that will only become more prevalent in upcoming years.

We MUST keep our eyes on the ball, because even if we don’t, the ISP’s most certainly will be.

Net Neutrality

Thirty-seven Democratic senators, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), sent a letter (pdf) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday, urging the panel to abandon its “reckless plan to radically alter the free and open Internet as we know it.”

If pushed through, the letter warns, the move, spearheaded by Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai, “would amount to the largest abdication of [the agency’s] statutory responsibilities in history.”

This is an exert of an article titled Warning Against Abdication Of Duty, Senators Demand FCC Abandon Net Neutrality Vote, published yesterday by common dreams. 39 senators attempting to stop the seemingly inevitable implementation of corporate governance over the infrastructure that makes up the internet (at least in the US).

That is what we all have heard on the news by now. How those platforms with money will likely be able to afford the regular tiers whilst everyone else falls by the wayside into the unpaid tunnel. And you thought the free speech situation online was ALREADY bad!

One question that I found myself asking was, what does this mean to me? For my content? And by extension, for everyone else that shares the platform of WordPress?

Being that I am not exactly a niche writer, I tend to draw in search engine traffic that originates in far more corners of the globe than I could ever hope to visit. My most popular posts to date are What On Earth Is The European Brotherhood? and Apistevist – A Term With Potential.  One has become infamous due to world affairs of the last 2 or so years (despite predating them), and the other due to continued waves of interest in the term.
Another of my recent works that have been viewed quite a bit lately is The Cure For Dementia – A Beverage?. This one was inspired by an ad I kept coming across in my travels to web platforms tailored to mainly to an older crowd. While I hate snake oil to begin with, knowing people that have had the misfortune of dealing with elderly parents suffering from dementia made looking into the ad a priority. No one is more vulnerable to manipulation than those who would likely give almost anything to spare a loved one from the nightmare.

Anyway, as the 3 posts outlined alone showcase, I have content that is utilized by for any number of reasons. A fair bit of the traffic to each is from the US. Could that change?
While I make no money from my platform, for those that do, how much effect could that have?

First off, we must consider the dynamics involved. WordPress is the brand we deal with, it is owned and hosted by a company named Automattic. So, the state of your content’s availability may well be tied to how much Automattic is willing to shell out. Being that the option of upgrading to a paid Go Daddy domain is both available and fairly effortless, I doubt it will be much in the interest of Automattic to concede to the various ISP’s extortion demands (Go Daddy can likely fork it over easily). And if I am wrong, then we may either find WAY more ad’s on our blogs or be no longer able to use them for free.

What does that mean for us?

For me, not a whole lot really. While some of my material is relevant to Americans at this point in time, losing that audience will not be the end of the world. Would all the work I have put in here over the years be worth paying into to ensure its continued availability?
I am unsure.
Is it worth it if the price is being used as a billboard of sorts? Yes.

Despite the fact that Americans are staring down the barrel of net neutrality, it seems that STILL, few have truly grasped the potential implications. Thus, it’s likely safe to say that many users of this very platform haven’t given it much thought.

So now that I have your attention, do you know what this will mean for you?