Thinning the Herd

…So what on earth is going on here? How is our advanced medical system, our technology, our renowned computational capacity failing us?

I think I know, and here is where political correctness heads out the window. We find ourselves here because we humans, not Corona or Clostridia or Cholera, are the actual pathogens on this planet. We propagate uncontrollably and exponentially, injecting our industrial genetic code into our host to force creation of more of our kind, stripping away vital organs and connective matrix, and leaving nothing behind but our toxic waste. I’m sorry to say it, but we have met the virus, and it is us.

Anyway, that is my theory. Humanity is simply another herd to be thinned from time to time, and this is one such time. Presumably this will not be at the meteor/dinosaur level, at least not yet, perhaps because Mother Nature actually possesses some strange affection for us, and hopes we might see the error of our arrogant ways and manage to make better choices (personally, I am not as hopeful, but I am merely a pathogen without the wisdom of eternity to draw from).

The question is, will we ever come to accept the truth about our place on this planet? Deprived of our frontal cortex and opposable thumbs, we become slow, clumsy, hair and toothless creatures who can’t see in the dark; in other words, food. Other animals are far more intrinsically intelligent. “In a world older and more complete than ours,” says Henry Beston, “they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.” We are only at the top of the chain because we have created technology, but technology is not part of Nature’s plan. If it was, she would have created it.

So we are a part of Nature; she is not a part of us. We have become spoiled, recalcitrant children, used to getting our way through bullying the planet and its creatures. But bullies stop when someone larger stands up to them. Enter Corona.

Bill Benda, MD

Huge hack reveals who’s behind Proud Boys and other far-right nutballs

Epik long has been the favorite Internet company of the far-right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys and other instigators of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity.

But that veil abruptly vanished last week when a huge breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped into public view more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data — including user names, passwords and other identifying information of Epik’s customers…

“It’s massive. It may be the biggest domain-style leak I’ve seen and, as an extremism researcher, it’s certainly the most interesting,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies right-wing extremism. “It’s an embarrassment of riches — stress on the embarrassment.”

Epik, based in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, has made its name in the Internet world by providing critical Web services to sites that have run afoul of other companies’ policies against hate speech, misinformation and advocating violence. Its client list is a roll-call of sites known for permitting extreme posts and that have been rejected by other companies for their failure to moderate what their users post.

“The company played such a major role in keeping far-right terrorist cesspools alive,” said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which studies online extremism. “Without Epik, many extremist communities — from QAnon and white nationalists to accelerationist neo-Nazis — would have had far less oxygen to spread harm, whether that be building toward the Jan. 6 Capitol riots or sowing the misinformation and conspiracy theories chipping away at democracy.”

Extremism researchers urge careful fact-checking to protect credibility, but the data remains tantalizing for its potential to unmask extremists in public-facing jobs.

“A lot of research begins with naming names,” Emma Best said. “There’s a lot of optimism and feeling of being overwhelmed, and people knowing they’re in for the long haul with some of this data.”

A serious act of intelligence and political will has cracked open what turned out to be a not-very-well-defended chunk of right-wing record keeping. This article doesn’t display much individual data; but, provides the links and guidance to check it out on your own. Which is likely to be what a number of dedicated fans of democracy will be doing for months and years to come.

No doubt they will discover much. And publish it. One of the things a Free Press is for.

Full COVID coverage from your insurance company is over in most states

…Most insurers have reinstated co-pays and deductibles for covid patients, in many cases even before vaccines became widely available. The companies imposed the costs as industry profits remained strong or grew in 2020, with insurers paying out less to cover elective procedures that hospitals suspended during the crisis.

Now the financial burden of covid is falling unevenly on patients across the country, varying widely by health-care plan and geography, according to a survey of the two largest health plans in every state by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in Vermont or New Mexico, for instance, state mandates require insurance companies to cover 100 percent of treatment. But most Americans with covid are now exposed to the uncertainty, confusion and expense of business-as-usual medical billing and insurance practices — joining those with cancer, diabetes and other serious, costly illnesses….

The reintroduction of cost-sharing mainly affects people with private or employer-based insurance. Patients with no insurance can have 100 percent of their expenses covered by the federal government, under a special program set up by the government for the pandemic, with hospitals reimbursed for care at Medicare rates…

Covid patients with Medicaid, the government plan for lower-income people that is paid for by states and the federal government, continue to be protected from cost-sharing, insurance specialists said. Patients on Medicare, the federal plan for the elderly, could face out-of-pocket costs if they do not have supplemental insurance.

Not a lot of rhyme or reason to the inequality of cost from one patient to another. Not in the land billing itself as the strongest in the world. That mostly applies to killing folks identified as “enemies. As for modern healthcare, a very few local politicians may have sorted it out for you. Mostly they did nothing!

New Jersey supports Israel’s policies – sanctions Ben & Jerry’s

After the company said it would no longer sell its ice cream in the occupied territories, New Jersey invoked a law that prohibits public investments in companies that engage in boycotts…

The state’s Division of Investment sent a letter this week to Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s whose American headquarters are in New Jersey, explaining that a state law passed in 2016 prohibited the investment of state pension funds in businesses that engaged in boycotts.

To my knowledge, all of the states with similar laws have only used it against firms boycotting Israel.

The move came as a response to Ben & Jerry’s announcement in mid-July that it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognised illegal occupation,” the company said on its website.

I’m only a still small voice and my healthful regimen doesn’t include ice cream. Nevertheless, next grocery shopping, I will buy some Ben & Jerry’s. I will enjoy it. And maybe I’ll email an iPhone snap of the empty container to the Attorney General of the Garden State.

Professional killers have a new weapon as an option

Iran’s top nuclear scientist woke up an hour before dawn, as he did most days, to study Islamic philosophy before his day began…

Iran’s intelligence service had warned him of a possible assassination plot, but the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, had brushed it off…Israel had wanted to kill him for at least 14 years. But there had been so many threats and plots that he no longer paid them much attention.

Reports of a Killing

Friday, Nov.27th, 2020…The news reports from Iran that afternoon were confusing, contradictory and mostly wrong.

Several Iranian news organizations reported that the assassin was a killer robot, and that the entire operation was conducted by remote control. These reports directly contradicted the supposedly eyewitness accounts of a gun battle between teams of assassins and bodyguards and reports that some of the assassins had been arrested or killed.

Except this time there really was a killer robot…it was also the debut test of a high-tech, computerized sharpshooter kitted out with artificial intelligence and multiple-camera eyes, operated via satellite and capable of firing 600 rounds a minute…

The entire operation took less than a minute. Fifteen bullets were fired.

Iranian investigators noted that not one of them hit Ms. Ghasemi, seated inches away, accuracy that they attributed to the use of facial recognition software…

Hamed Fakhrizadeh was at the family home in Absard when he received a distress call from his mother. He arrived within minutes to what he described as a scene of “full-on war.”…

“It was not a simple terrorist attack for someone to come and fire a bullet and run,” he said later on state television. “His assassination was far more complicated than what you know and think. He was unknown to the Iranian public, but he was very well known to those who are the enemy of Iran’s development.”

For some few, murder is the tool of choice for those who fail at politics. There’s probably some cowboy rhetoric that would provide the same defense of assassination. It would be equally popular in Israel or the United States.

Regardless, it is likely that the number of such nations continues to narrow with equivalent shrinking in the number of those who prefer guns over butter, profits over peace.