The Disinformation Dozen on social media

Researchers have found just 12 people are responsible for the bulk of the misleading claims and outright lies about COVID-19 vaccines that proliferate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“The ‘Disinformation Dozen‘ produce 65% of the shares of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which identified the accounts.

After this story published on Thursday, Facebook said it had taken down more of the accounts run by these 12 individuals.

These figures are well-known to both researchers and the social networks. They include anti-vaccine activists, alternative health entrepreneurs and physicians. Some of them run multiple accounts across the different platforms. They often promote “natural health.” Some even sell supplements and books.

As usual, Facebook isn’t performing the simplest categories of self-checking misinformation and deception.

Trump’s EPA flunkies scrap limits on mercury from coal plants

The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule that concludes it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ to regulate mercury pollution from coal fired power plants. The agency will no longer consider public health benefits associated with reducing mercury emissions.

The 16 April decision repeals the legal basis underlying the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) that former president Barack Obama enacted in 2011. This legislation required coal and oil-fired power plants across the country to cut emissions of mercury and other heavy metal air pollutants. The Obama administration calculated that MATS would prevent roughly 11,000 premature deaths, 4700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks in the US each year.

The Environmental Working Group’s president, Ken Cook, called the rule ‘beyond stupid’, and former EPA director Gina McCarthy, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, dubbed the rule ‘an absolute abomination’. In contrast, groups such as the National Mining Association applauded the agency’s move, arguing that MATS represents a ‘destructive and illegal assault on the coal industry’…

Are there any conservatives remaining in the Republican Party who consider the well-being of the working people of America – much less our whole species – more important than the almighty dollar?

Who “owns” your cellphone service?

❝ If you are somehow under the impression that you — the customer — are in control over the security, privacy and integrity of your mobile phone service, think again…

No, a series of recent court cases and unfortunate developments highlight the sad reality that the wireless industry today has all but ceded control over this vital national resource to cybercriminals, scammers, corrupt employees and plain old corporate greed.

Just one example

❝ On Tuesday, Google announced that an unceasing deluge of automated robocalls had doomed a feature of its Google Voice service that sends transcripts of voicemails via text message.

Google said “certain carriers” are blocking the delivery of these messages because all too often the transcripts resulted from unsolicited robocalls, and that as a result the feature would be discontinued by Aug. 9. This is especially rich given that one big reason people use Google Voice in the first place is to screen unwanted communications from robocalls, mainly because the major wireless carriers have shown themselves incapable or else unwilling to do much to stem the tide of robocalls targeting their customers.

I shan’t say there are no corporations dedicated to greed over anything else. Certainly, there is nothing like the number who would claim to be such. Telcos, in particular – from the earliest operator-based services to solid state whizbangs promising the world from the imitation 5G systems we’ll be limited to in the GOUSA – would have invented corruption if the Old Testament hadn’t beaten them to it.

Truman’s economy grew more than 3 times faster than Trump’s — So What?

He didn’t waste our time patting himself on the back!

❝ Based solely on a few headline numbers, the American economy looks good. But it would be a mistake to read too much into the data — or to give too much credit to President Trump.

In fact, the most spectacular economic growth since World War II occurred nearly 70 years ago, when Harry Truman was president. But Truman didn’t cause it, and it wasn’t particularly good news.

❝ First, let’s look at where we find ourselves now. Avid supporters of Mr. Trump attribute good economic tidings to him. His policies — tax cuts, curtailment of immigration, reduction in regulations — and confidence-building talk are seen as driving faster economic growth.

But that is largely a misreading of the way modern economies work. They have a tendency to alternate between booms and recessions for reasons that are imperfectly understood but involve changing popular narratives, the contagion of ideas and emotions, and circumstances that are mostly outside a president’s control…

❝ Whatever caused it, it doesn’t seem to have been presidential magic…this president was a modest and courteous man, who did not ask to be treated as a genius, and virtually no one treated him as one. The Times, rather politely, called his speeches “down to earth.”…

❝ We have to be careful not to give too much credence to interpretations of the economy’s strength offered by the president, who focuses on his policies and ignores many other kinds of factors. Something — probably a variety of circumstances, narratives and emotions — has pushed consumption spending up a smidgen more than usual. That, from the long perspective of history, is really no big deal.

In fact, there could soon be a reversal of this strong-economy story, a sudden recession. But, if so, it won’t disprove Mr. Trump’s claims any more than the high growth of the second quarter proved him right.

Among leading economists, Bob Shiller was one of the first to point out the cracks in the investing schemes that led to the “Great Recession” we’re still climbing up and out of. We’ve inherited the inequities of class-based incomes and the power of the wealthy has increased. Politicians are as subservient to the almighty dollar as ever. Especially the thug in the White House.

Going to an “Urgent Care” facility? Question their reliance on antibiotics!

❝ Patients seen at urgent care centers for common conditions such as asthma, the flu, and the common cold are more likely to receive antibiotics unnecessarily, compared with patients treated for the same illnesses at other types of health care facilities. In fact, nearly half (46 percent) of patients in urgent care centers who were diagnosed with one of the acute respiratory conditions for which antibiotics are neither recommended nor effective received an antibiotic prescription anyway.

In retail health clinics, just 14 percent of patients did

❝ This new information is part of an ongoing collaboration between Pew and CDC to better understand and improve antibiotic prescribing in the U.S., which is key to slowing the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The findings build on previous research led by Pew and CDC using different data sources, which showed that:

High amounts of unnecessary prescribing persist across various outpatient settings in the U.S. Acute respiratory infections—such as common colds, the flu, and bronchitis—are the main source of inappropriate prescribing in outpatient settings, accounting for the largest proportion of unnecessary use.

❝ Patients with acute respiratory infections often do not receive the recommended treatment.

Ask questions, folks. Learn to say “NO” if you feel the answers aren’t made clear.

I know it’s a battle to find the right doctor – if you can find one who understands the economics of our crappy healthcare system. Unless you’re independently wealthy, of course. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to spend recent years with a young couple of physicians, husband-and-wife, who are well-educated and open-minded. Good for us! Still, there’s always a disaster imminent that requires urgent care. Keep your options open.

Trump tries to stop breast-feeding

❝ A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations…

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

❝ When that failed, they turned to threats

Trump’s swamp is deeper in greed and lies than any Republican administration since Nixon. It should end the same!

Recent Wars of the American Empire

This essay is the introduction to Tom Engelhardt’s new book, A Nation Unmade by War

❝ As I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute published an estimate of the taxpayer dollars that will have gone into America’s war on terror from September 12, 2001, through fiscal year 2018. That figure: a cool $5.6 trillion including the future costs of caring for our war vets. On average, that’s at least $23,386 per taxpayer.

Keep in mind that such figures, however eye-popping, are only the dollar costs of our wars. They don’t, for instance, include the psychic costs to the Americans mangled in one way or another in those never-ending conflicts. They don’t include the costs to this country’s infrastructure, which has been crumbling while taxpayer dollars flow copiously and in a remarkably — in these years, almost uniquely — bipartisan fashion into what’s still laughably called “national security.”

❝ That’s not, of course, what would make most of us more secure, but what would make them — the denizens of the national security state — ever more secure in Washington and elsewhere. We’re talking about the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. nuclear complex and the rest of that state-within-a-state, including its many intelligence agencies and the warrior corporations that have, by now, been fused into that vast and vastly profitable interlocking structure.

Of course this rape of the national pocketbook – in the course of building a new imperial empire to replace the failed British model – is bipartisan in Congress and throughout our government. When did you expect political standards, history-based ethics, to replace the simple profit motive driving most American politicians?