The trial, which was run in six lower-income countries, found that giving first-time mothers a daily low-dose aspirin reduced their risk of preterm birth by 11%.
The trial, which was run in six lower-income countries, found that giving first-time mothers a daily low-dose aspirin reduced their risk of preterm birth by 11%.
Their analysis of data from more than 150,000 employed adults between 2010 and 2018 also found that the rate of inadequate sleep (7 hours or less) rose from about 31% to nearly 36% during that time.
By Aaron Kesel
Desert locusts are invading and feasting on crops across Africa, and those affected are calling for international help, a new report states.
The outbreak of desert locusts is reportedly the worst that Kenya has seen in 70 years, according to the Associated Press. The insects have been flooding the country from Ethiopia and Somalia, leaving destroyed farmland in their wake in a part of the world that already suffers from hunger, drought, and flooding warned the UN.
“We must act immediately,” David Phiri of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said.
“This has become a situation of international dimensions that threatens the food security of the entire subregion. FAO is activating fast-track mechanisms that will allow us to move swiftly to support governments in mounting a collective campaign to deal with this crisis,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in a statement earlier this week.
Phiri called for aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, malnutrition.”
According to an FAO fact sheet, a swarm of locusts the size of Paris could eat the same amount of food as half the population of France in just a single day. The UN states that even a small swarm of locusts can eat through enough food for 35,000 people in a single day and can travel more than 90 miles.
The FAO estimates one swarm in Kenya to be around 930 square miles, suggesting it could contain up to as many as 200 billion locusts.
Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are all struggling with “unprecedented” and “devastating” swarms of the insects, the FAO has said. And the locusts are not only eating crops but disrupting farm animals and basic farming operations, according to the agency.
Beyond that, the locusts can even disrupt passenger planes in the region and may have already done just that. In fact, earlier this month an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Djibouti to Dire Dawa performed an emergency landing after the insects collided with it. A report states that the locusts were trapped in the engine and others hit the aircraft’s windshield.
The UN proposed a six-month emergency action plan estimated to cost $70 million. The cost would include aerial pesticide spraying, which they say is the only effective way to combat the insects. However, that task won’t be an easy effort especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group.
The United Nations said that the problem could increase in March when rainfall picks up in the region.
FAO expressed fears that if the problem is left uncontained when new vegetation grows, the swarms could grow 500 times by June of this year. If the infestation is not controlled, the agency warns that South Sudan and Uganda are also at risk.
Ethiopia and Somalia have not faced an infestation on this scale for 25 years while Kenya has not seen a locust threat this size for 70 years, the FAO said earlier this week.
In November of last year, Ethiopia issued a call for “immediate action” to deal with the problem affecting four of the country’s nine states.
In northern Amhara state some farmers have lost “nearly 100%” of their crop of the staple grain teff, the FAO said. The FAO estimate that the insects were eating 1.8 million tons of vegetation a day across 135 square miles of Ethiopia.
“The speed of the pests’ spread and the size of the infestations are so far beyond the norm that they have stretched the capacities of local and national authorities to the limit,” the FAO said.
Besides locusts in east Africa, the insects have also been breeding in India, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan which could turn into massive swarms in the spring. The locusts in East Africa are believed to have originated from Yemen last August, having traveled across the Red Sea.
A donor conference in Rome next week will be asked to pledge $70 million to deal with the plague of desert locusts that are threatening where tens of millions of people already face extreme hunger. The UN has so far released $10 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to combat the invasion according to to VOA who spoke to Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Is being sore after every workout indicative of improvement?
At just 65 calories each, these coconut flour cookies are light enough to enjoy any time of year — without the guilt.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is launching a rush program to develop a vaccine against the China coronavirus.
The goal? Have a vaccine ready for human testing in an unprecedented 90 days.
NIH is partnering with a US vaccine company, Moderna, Inc.
The vaccine is a new type called RNA. According to Reuters (“With Wuhan virus genetic code in hand, scientists begin work on a vaccine,” Jan 24, 2020), “[these are] vaccines based on ribonucleic acid (RNA)—a chemical messenger that contains instructions for making proteins.”
The PHG Foundation/University of Cambridge explains further: “Unlike a normal vaccine, RNA vaccines work by introducing an mRNA sequence (the molecule which tells cells what to build) which is coded for a disease specific antigen [virus]; once produced within the body, the antigen [virus] is recognised by the immune system, preparing it to fight the real thing.”
Let’s have a look at Moderna (Twitter), the company that will be making and testing the new RNA vaccine against the China coronavirus. Its website states, in a January 23rd press release: “Moderna Announces Funding Award from CEPI to Accelerate Development of Messenger RNA (mRNA) Vaccine Against Novel Coronavirus”.
Funded by CEPI. Who is that? (Twitter) Its website states: “CEPI is a innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations. We’re working together to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks.”
A more relevant quote: “CEPI was founded in Davos by the governments of Norway and India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum.”
Bill Gates. Doesn’t that send your trust and faith rocketing up into the sky?
There is more. Going back to the Moderna Inc. website — at the bottom of the press release referenced above, we find a VERY interesting statement, in a section titled, “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements”: “…there has never been a commercial product utilizing mRNA technology approved for use…”
And there you have it. The vaccine that is being tapped by the US government… under its National Institutes of Health…through drug company Moderna…HAS NEVER BEEN USED ON THE PUBLIC BEFORE. IT IS NOT LICENSED FOR PUBLIC USE.
RNA VACCINES AND THE TECHNOLOGY THEY USE ARE ENTIRELY EXPERIMENTAL.
AND THIS IS THE TYPE OF VACCINE BEING RUSHED INTO EXISTENCE IN 90 DAYS.
What in the world could possibly go wrong?
One way to find out is to unleash it on millions of people, stand back, and see.
The PHG Foundation at the University of Cambridge gives us a substantial clue: “… better understanding of [RNA] vaccine adverse effects is needed – these can include inflammation or autoimmune reactions.”
Autoimmune reactions—the human immune system attacks healthy elements and processes of the body itself. The body goes to war with itself.
I’m sure you would volunteer for a test run of the vaccine, right? You would certainly offer up your child for a grand experiment, wouldn’t you?
And if you’re a doctor reading this, you’ll definitely inject the vaccine into unsuspecting patients, won’t you? Conscience is such an annoyance, isn’t it?
Don’t you want to have the whole world as your guinea pig?
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The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.
Dr. Mercola Interviews the Experts
This article is part of a weekly series in which Dr. Mercola interviews various experts on a variety of health issues. To see more expert interviews, click here.
Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in how to use food and simple lifestyle strategies to improve health. This is also the topic of his new book, “Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases.”
Ornish is well-known for arguing that high-protein and high-fat diets contribute to America’s ever-growing waistline and incidence of chronic disease. We obviously share different positions on this issue.
Since critiques of Ornish’s diet can be found in various places on the internet,1 I decided to focus on what, in my view, is his major contribution to health, which is facilitating an aggressive lifestyle modification program to lower the risk of disease and have it paid for by insurance companies.
It is virtually impossible for most to have the foundational cause of their disease process reverse in the typical 10- to 15-minutes’ doctor visit. So, he took 16 years to get his lifestyle program approved by Medicare and many insurance companies, which allows access to the tools necessary to change the causes of most disease.
Once a person has the foundation in place, it will be easy for them to research the high versus low-fat debate and try it for themselves and let their body tell them which position is correct. But the important point is that most of their destructive health habits will be changed at that point.
For the past four decades, Ornish has directed clinical research showing you can reverse not only Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure but also coronary heart disease — even severe cases — through lifestyle changes that can be boiled down to “Eat well, move more, stress less and love more.”
“We found that these same lifestyle changes actually change your genes, turning on the good genes and turning off the bad genes, specifically the genes that promote heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer,” he says.
“We did a study with Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., who received the Nobel Prize for her pioneering work with telomeres. We found that these lifestyle changes could actually increase the enzyme telomerase in just three months that repairs and lengthens telomeres. Over a five-year period, we found that these lifestyle changes could actually lengthen telomeres.
When The Lancet sent out a press release announcing this study, they called it ‘reversing aging at a cellular level.’ We have just begun the first randomized trial to see if this program can reverse the progression of men and women who have early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
The more diseases we study and the more mechanisms we look at, the more reasons we have to explain why these changes are so powerful and how quickly people can often get better in ways we can measure.”
Since the early 90s, Ornish, through the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a nonprofit organization, has been training hospitals, clinics and physician groups around the U.S. Despite the program’s early success, many sites ended up closing down due to lack of insurance reimbursement. As noted by Ornish, “If it’s not reimbursable, it’s not sustainable.”
To address this problem, they started reaching out to insurance companies. A few, including Mutual of Omaha and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield agreed to cover the program but, by and large, it was difficult to get the insurance industry onboard.
“I thought, ‘Well, if Medicare would pay for it, then that would really change the whole paradigm. Because doctors do what we get paid to do, and we get trained to do what we get paid to do.’ If you change reimbursement, you change not only medical practice but also medical education.”
It took 16 years, but Medicare approved and started covering the program in 2010 — officially referred to as “Dr. Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease” under its intensive cardiac rehabilitation (ICR) program2 — which allows for 72 hours of training on how to address the foundational causes of heart disease. According to Ornish, it was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done.
“At one point, halfway through this whole process, they said, ‘Well, we’ll do a demonstration project, but you have to get a letter from the head of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, that your program is safe for older Americans.’
I said, ‘Safe compared to having your chest cut open?’ They said, ‘No. Just [that it’s] safe for older people to walk, meditate, eat vegetables, quit smoking and love more.’ I said, ‘You must be kidding.’ They said, ‘No. We’re not.’ So, the Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute actually did a literature review, and concluded, ‘Guess what? These are not high-risk behaviors’ …
Anyway, after 16 years, we finally did receive Medicare approval … Now that Medicare is paying for it, most of the major insurance companies are covering it as well … I didn’t want this to be concierge medicine. I wanted this to be available to everybody. Now, it is.”
The program, currently offered in 18 states by Sharecare, is divided into 18 four-hour sessions, which include supervised exercise, meditation and stress management, a support group (which Ornish says is part of why they’re getting unprecedented levels of adherence to the program) and more.
Data show 85 to 90 percent of patients going through the program are still adhering to it after one year, and have better clinical outcomes, which results in significant cost savings. According to Ornish, in the first year of the program, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s costs were 50 percent lower than that of a matched control group, and Mutual Omaha cut their cost by nearly $30,000 per patient in the first year.
What really motivates people to make sustainable changes is not fear of dying; it’s the joy of living, Ornish says, and his program acknowledges and in fact leverages this knowledge.
“When they change their lifestyle, most people feel so much better so quickly in ways that really matter to them. For example, people with heart disease often have angina or chest pain … [W]ithin, usually, a few days or a few weeks, they’re essentially pain-free. They … say things like, ‘Well, I like eating junk food, but not that much. Because what I gain is so much more than what I give up.’
That’s really the key. It’s that we’re always making choices … These are choices worth making. You feel so much better so quickly that it really reframes the reason for making these changes — from fear of dying or fear of a bad thing happening, to joy, pleasure, love and feeling good. The bigger changes in lifestyle are a big part of that.
The support groups we have are not really the classical support group of exchanging recipes and shopping tips and types of running shoes, but rather creating a safe environment where people can connect in a deep and authentic love for each other.
You know, 50 years ago, people had an extended family they saw regularly. They had a job that felt secure. They had a church or synagogue they went to regularly, a club they belonged to, a neighborhood with two or three generations of people. Today most people don’t have any of those.”
Twenty years ago, Ornish wrote the book “Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health,” which reviewed evidence from what are now tens of thousands of studies showing that people who are lonely, depressed and isolated are three to 10 times more likely to get sick and die prematurely than those who have a sense of love and connection in community. “I don’t know anything in medicine that has that big an impact,” Ornish says.
Through his studies, Ornish has also learned that most harmful behaviors and habits are adaptive ways to deal with emotional pain. “I’ve had patients say things like, ‘I’ve got 20 friends in this pack of cigarettes. They’re always there for me, and nobody else is. You want to take away my 20 friends. What are you going to give me?'” Ornish says. So, while information is important, it’s not usually enough to motivate people to make permanent changes.
As noted by Ornish, “Love is one of those four-letter words that you’re not really supposed to talk about as a scientist or as a doctor.” Instead, terms like psychosocial support or bonding are used, but regardless of the terms, Ornish’s program is a love-based one.
“Forty years ago, when I was a freshman in college at Rice University in Houston, I got suicidally depressed,” he says. “That was my doorway into learning about this. Creating an environment that feels nurturing and loving, like the support group, is the part of our work that some people make the most fun of …
That’s why in this book, “love more” is the fourth component of, ‘Eat well, move more, stress less, love more,’ because love is really what enables people to make these other changes. It has healing benefits in its own right. Even the word ‘healing’ comes from the root ‘to make whole.’ Yoga comes from the Sanskrit meaning ‘to yoke, unite,’ ‘union.’ These are really old ideas that have been rediscovered …
More money is spent on antidepressants, as well as cholesterol-lowering drugs, than pretty much anything else. We need to address this. Because what I learned when I was so depressed when I was in college is that if you tell someone who’s lonely and depressed that they’re going to live longer if they just change their diet, or move more, or eat well or stress less … it doesn’t work for them.
They say, ‘I’m just trying to survive. I’m just trying to get through the day. I don’t know if I want to live longer’ … I think just the act of knowing that we’re mortal, and understanding what really brings happiness … choosing not to do something that you otherwise could do imbues those choices with meaning. And if they’re meaningful, then they’re sustainable.”
Ornish also discusses the benefits of meditation, which is part of the program. Among those benefits is finding your center so that you can empower yourself without adding stress. “My whole approach is really about addressing the underlying cause of why people get sick,” he says, and a major part of the problem is that we’re doing something to disturb our innate peace and well-being.
The answer then is simply to stop doing that which causes the disturbance. Meditation can give you the direct experience of this part of you that is undisturbed and not stressed, and provide the mental clarity to actually notice what it is that you’re doing that’s causing you to feel uneasy or “dis-eased.”
“I would encourage anyone watching this, when you meditate, at the end of a meditation, when you’re feeling more peaceful, just ask yourself a simple question: ‘What am I not paying attention to that would be helpful? … Then just listen. You’ll be amazed at what comes up,” Ornish says.
“If you want to learn how to meditate, we can do it right now. It takes all of 30 seconds. Close your eyes, assuming you’re not in a car or some place that you need to be looking, and take a deep breath. Bring your awareness to one of these mantra sounds. Let’s use the word ‘one,’ because it’s secular and it wouldn’t offend anyone.
[Just intone] ‘One’ … When you run out of air, do it again. Over and over again. What invariably will happen is your mind will start to wander. You’ll start to think about 1,000 things you should be doing or forgot to do or whatever. That’s normal. Everybody’s mind wanders. If you become aware that you’re thinking about something else, just bring it back to the sound. Then your mind really begins to quiet down in a very deep way …
What I find is that the consistency is more important than the duration … Just a few minutes at the beginning of the day or the end of the day can really make a huge difference. If you can do more, even better.”
In his book, Ornish also suggests making breakfast and lunch the main meals of your day, and then eating a much smaller dinner or nothing at all, so that you’re intermittently fasting for at least 12 to 14 hours every day. This is similar to the kind of meal timing schedule as my peak fasting regimen.
I personally believe a six- to eight-hour eating window is better, and I typically maintain a daily five- to six-hour eating window. The primary reason, from my review of the literature, is the shortened eating window is a more effective activator of autophagy and removal of cellular debris that will contribute to deadly chronic inflammation.
“First of all, you sleep better because your body’s not trying to work, process and digest your food while you’re trying to rest and sleep. Also, there’s a lot of evidence that [intermittent fasting] gives your body a chance to detoxify and clean itself out.
It’s one of the reasons why when you eat a healthier diet, not just what you eat but how you eat and when you eat, will make a difference as well. The challenge with that is … that most of us in our culture tend to connect with our family or loved ones over dinner.
When you’re pushing back that window to three hours before bed time, that could be a challenge. But, it’s just an opportunity for exploring some novel approaches, I guess.”
In his book, Ornish presents what is essentially a unifying theory of chronic disease. He explains:
“We tend to think of heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s as being fundamentally different diseases. I’m putting forth a radically new unifying theory, which is that they’re really not different diseases.
They’re different manifestations of the same underlying biological mechanisms that are disordered, such as chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, changes in the microbiome, immune function, gene expression, telomeres, chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, autophagy and angiogenesis.
Each one of these, in turn, is directly influenced by what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much exercise we get and how much love and support we have. Because these underlying mechanisms are so dynamic, most people feel so much better …”
Indeed, Ornish’s work reveals these diseases do not require different sets of diets and lifestyle programs. It’s the same for all. According to Ornish, this is also one of the reasons why so many of these diseases are comorbidities. People who have heart disease often also have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and/or other chronic inflammation, for example.
This makes sense if they’re all different manifestations of the same underlying cause. What this means too is that by implementing these healthy lifestyle strategies, you’re not just preventing or reversing one particular disease, you protect yourself against all of them simultaneously.
For example, Ornish completed a randomized trial with Dr. Peter Carroll, chair of urology at the University of California, San Francisco and a leading urologist, and the late Dr. Bill Fair, then-chair of urology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, showing that the same lifestyle changes that reverse heart disease also can often stop and even reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer.
And contrary to conventional therapies, there are no serious side effects of these lifestyle strategies. As mentioned earlier, Ornish is now also studying the impact of these lifestyle modifications on Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re interested in Dr. Ornish’s program, you can get all the information you need from his book, “Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases.”
If you would like further guidance, you can find a listing of all the sites that have been trained and certified to teach the program on Ornish.com, along with support groups you can attend free of charge.
At present, there are facilities offering the program in 18 states. Ornish.com also lists about 100 video testimonials, including one by Dr. Robert Treuherz, an internist whose heart disease was so severe he was on the waiting list for a heart transplant. While waiting for a donor to appear, he went through Ornish’s program at UCLA.
“After nine weeks, he improved so much he didn’t need a heart transplant anymore,” Ornish says. “What’s the more radical intervention here? A heart transplant, which costs $1.5 million and a lifetime of immunosuppressive drugs, or ‘Eat Well, Move More, Stress Less, Love More?’ We have over a dozen cases like that.”
If you’re a health care provider — be it a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, meditation/yoga teacher, exercise physiologist, registered dietitian or psychologist — his site also provides information on how to become a certified provider of the Ornish program.
“Medicare and many insurance companies will pay the same reimbursement, whether it’s offered in a physician’s office or in a hospital or in a large academic institution,” he says.
“We’re creating a new paradigm of health care rather than sick care … Medicare currently only pays for reversing heart disease. Some of the other insurance companies cover it not only for heart disease but also for Type 2 diabetes, or even two or more risk factors like obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and so on. Most people with heart disease will be covered if they can go to one of our programs.”
The training, given in the Bay Area, is a combination of didactic and experiential learning where you go through the program from start to finish, just as if you were a patient. In addition to that, you attend lectures by Ornish and others to learn the scientific basis for all of the modalities, and how to incorporate the knowledge into your day-to-day life.
Further ongoing training is provided both on-site and through video technologies. To maintain the quality of the program, providers are required to go through reaccreditation on an annual basis.
“Most people who do it say, ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is why I went into health care.’ If we’re just a collection of algorithms, we’re going to get replaced by artificial intelligence and probably an iPhone app before long … For me, at least, it’s part of our conspiracy of love. When you go through this program, you can really experience the difference it can make.
We so often think that advances in medicine have to be something really high-tech or expensive … I think our unique contribution has been to use these very high-tech, expensive state-of-the-art scientific measures to prove how powerful this very simple and low-tech and low-cost program can be …
Even in three and a half days, people often find that they have life-transforming experiences, which make them that much more passionate and committed and effective in training their patients who they ultimately will be working with.”
Robert Epstein, who received his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard in 1981 and served as the former editor in chief at Psychology Today, is now a senior research psychologist for the American Institute of Behavioral Research and Technology, where for the last decade he has helped expose Google’s manipulative and deceptive practices. He explains what got him interested in investigating the internet search monopoly in the first place:
“In 2012, January 1st, I received some emails from Google saying my website contained malware and that they were somehow blocking access. This means I had gotten onto one of Google’s blacklists.
My website did contain some malware. It was pretty easy to get rid of, but it turns out it’s hard to get off of a Google blacklist. That’s a big problem. I started looking at Google just a little bit differently.
I wondered, first of all, why they were notifying me about this rather than some government agency or some nonprofit organization? Why was a private company notifying me?
In other words, who made Google sheriff of the internet? Second, I learned they had no customer service department, which seemed very strange, so if you have a problem with Google, then you have a problem because they don’t help you solve the problem.
I learned also that although you can get onto a blacklist in a split second, it can take weeks to get off a blacklist. There have been businesses that have gotten onto their blacklists and have gone out of business while they’re trying to straighten out the problem.
The thing that really caught my eye — because I’ve been a programmer my whole life — was I couldn’t figure out how they were blocking access to my website, not just through their own products … Google.com, the search engine, or through Chrome, which is their browser, but through Safari, which is an Apple product, through Firefox, which is a browser run by Mozilla, a nonprofit organization.
How was Google blocking access through so many different means? The point is I just started to get more curious about the company, and later in 2012, I happened to be looking at a growing literature, which was about the power of search rankings to impact sales.
This was in the marketing field and it just was astonishing. In other words, if you could push yourself up one more notch in their search results, that could make the difference between success or failure for your company; it could mean a lot more income.
It turns out that this initial research was saying that people really trust those higher ranked search results. I simply asked a question. I wondered whether, if people trust those higher rank search results, I could use search results to influence people’s opinions, maybe even their votes.”
What Epstein discovered through his subsequent research, which began in 2013, is that yes, biased search results can indeed be used to influence public opinion and sway undecided voters. What’s more, the strength of that influence was shocking.
He also eventually discovered how Google is able to block website access on browsers other than their own. His findings were published in 2016 in U.S. News & World Report.1
Google’s powers pose three specific threats to society:
1. They’re a surveillance agency with significant yet hidden surveillance powers. As noted by Epstein:
“The search engine … Google Wallet, Google Docs, Google Drive, YouTube, these are surveillance platforms. In other words, from their perspective, the value these tools have is they give them more information about you. Surveillance is what they do.”
2. They’re a censoring agency with the ability to restrict or block access to websites across the internet, thus deciding what people can and cannot see. They even have the ability to block access to entire countries and the internet as a whole.
The most crushing problem with this kind of internet censorship is that you don’t know what you don’t know. If a certain type of information is removed from search, and you don’t know it should exist somewhere, you’ll never go looking for it. And, when searching for information online, how would you know that certain websites or pages have been removed from the search results in the first place? The answer is, you don’t.
For example, Google has been investing in DNA repositories for quite a long time, and are adding DNA information to our profiles. According to Epstein, Google has taken over the national DNA repository, but articles about that — which he has cited in his own writings — have all vanished.
3. They have the power to manipulate public opinion through search rankings and other means.
“To me, that’s the scariest area,” Epstein says, “because Google is shaping the opinions, thinking, beliefs, attitudes, purchases and votes of billions of people around the world without anyone knowing that they’re doing so … and perhaps even more shocking, without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.
They’re using new techniques of manipulation that have never existed before in human history and they are for the most part, subliminal … but they don’t produce tiny shifts.
They produce enormous shifts in people’s thinking, very rapidly. Some of the techniques I’ve discovered are among the largest behavioral effects ever discovered in the behavioral sciences.”
While surveillance is Google’s primary business, their revenue — which exceeds $130 billion a year — comes almost exclusively from advertising. All that personal information you’ve provided them through their various products is sold to advertisers looking for a specific target audience.
Epstein’s controlled, randomized, double-blind and counterbalanced experiments have revealed a number of different ways in which Google can shift public perception. The first effect he discovered is called SEME, which stands for search engine manipulation effect. For a full description of the basic experiment used to identify this effect, please listen to the interview.
In summary, the aim of his experiment was to see whether search results biased toward a particular political candidate would be capable of shifting users’ political opinion and leanings.
“I had predicted, when we first did this, that we would get a shift,” Epstein says, “because … people do trust higher ranked search results, and of course we had biased the search results so that, if in that first group, someone was clicking on a high-ranking search result, that would connect them to a webpage which made one candidate look much better than the other …
I predicted we could get a shift in voting preferences of 2% to 3%. I was way off. We got … a shift of 48%, which I thought must be an error because that’s crazy …
I should note that in almost all of our experiments, especially those early ones, we deliberately used undecided voters. That’s the key. You can’t easily push the opinions or voting preferences of people who are partisan, who are strongly committed to one party or another, but people who are undecided, those are the people who are very vulnerable. In our experiments, we always find a way to use undecided voters.
In these early experiments, the way we guaranteed that our voters were undecided was by using people from the U.S. as our participants, but the election we chose was the 2010 election for the prime minister of Australia.
They’re real candidates, a real election, real search results, real webpages, and of course, because our participants were from the U.S. they were not familiar with the candidates.
In fact, that’s why, before they do the search, we get this almost perfect 50/50 split regarding who they’re going to vote for, because they don’t know these candidates. The information they’re getting from the search, that, presumably, is why we get a shift.”
Another thing Epstein noticed was that very few seemed to realize they were seeing biased search results. In other words, the manipulation went virtually undetected.
In a second experiment, they were able to achieve a 63% shift in voter preference, and by masking the bias — simply by inserting a pro-opponent result here and there — they were able to hide the bias from almost everyone.
“In other words, we could get enormous shifts in opinions and voting preferences with no one being able to detect the bias in the search results we were showing them,” Epstein says. “This is where, again, it starts to get scary. Scarier still is when we moved on to do a national study of more than 2,000 people in all 50 states.”
What this large-scale investigation revealed is that the few who actually notice the bias are not protected from its effects. Curiously, they actually shift even further toward the bias, rather than away from it.
As evidenced by other studies, the pattern of clicks is a key factor that makes search bias so powerful: 50% of all search selections go to the top two items and 95% of all clicks go to the first page of search results.
“In other words, people spend most of their time clicking on and reading content that comes from high-ranking search results. If those high-ranking search results favor one candidate, that’s pretty much all they see and that impacts their opinions and their voting preferences,” Epstein says.
Subsequent experiments revealed that this click pattern is the result of conditioning. Most of the things people search for are simple matters such as local weather or the capital of a country. The most appropriate and correct answer is always at the very top. This conditions them to assume that the best and truest answer is always the most high-ranked listing.
The ramifications of the search engine manipulation effect can be immense. Of course, having power to shift public opinion is one thing; actually using that power is another. So, Epstein’s next target was to determine whether Google is using its power of influence or not.
“Early 2016, I set up the first-ever monitoring system, which allowed me to look over the shoulders of people as they were conducting election-related searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. I had 95 field agents (as we call them), in 24 states.
We kept their identities secret, which took a lot of work. And this is exactly, by the way, what the Nielsen company does to generate ratings for television shows. They have several thousand families. Their identities are secret. They equip the families with special boxes, which allow Nielsen to tabulate what programs they’re watching …
Inspired by the Nielsen model, we recruited our field agents, we equipped them with custom passive software. In other words, no one could detect the fact that they have the software in their computers. But that software allowed us to look over their shoulders as they conducted election related searches …
We ended up preserving 13,207 election-related searches and the nearly 100,000 webpages to which the search results linked … After the election, we rated the webpages for bias, either pro-Clinton or pro-Trump … and then we did an analysis to see whether there was any bias in the search results people were seeing.
The results we got were crystal clear, highly significant statistically … at the 0.001 level. What that says is we can be confident the bias we were seeing was real, and it didn’t occur because of some random factors. We found a pro-Clinton bias in all 10 search positions on the first page of Google search results, but not on Bing or Yahoo.
That’s very important. So, there was a significant pro-Clinton bias on Google. Because of the experiments I had been doing since 2013, I was also able to calculate how many votes could have been shifted with that level of bias… At bare minimum, about 2.6 million [undecided] votes would have shifted to Hillary Clinton.”
On the high end, Google’s biased search results may have shifted as many as 10.4 million undecided voters toward Clinton, which is no small feat — all without anyone realizing they’d been influenced, and without leaving a trace for the authorities to follow.
According to Epstein’s calculations, tech companies, Google being the main one, can shift 15 million votes leading up to the 2020 election, which means they have the potential to select the next president of United States.
Many who look at Epstein’s work end up focusing on Google’s ability to influence U.S. politics, but the problem is much bigger than that.
“As I explained when I testified before Congress, the reason why I’m speaking out about these issues is because, first of all, I … think it’s important that we preserve democracy and preserve the free and fair election. To me, it’s pretty straight forward.
But the problem is much bigger than elections or democracy or the United States. Because I calculated back in 2015 that … Google’s search engine — because more than 90% of searches worldwide are conducted on Google — was determining the outcomes of upwards of 25% of the national elections in the world.
How can that be? Well, it’s because a lot of elections are very close. And that’s the key to understanding this. In other words, we actually looked at the win margins in national elections around the world, which tend to be very close. In that 2010 Australian election, for example, the win margin was something like 0.2% …
If the results they’re getting on Google are biased toward one candidate, that shifts a lot of votes among undecided people. And it’s very, very simple for them to flip an election or … rig an election … It’s very, very simple for Google to do that.
They can do it deliberately, which is kind of scary. In other words, some top executives at Google could decide who they want to win an election in South Africa or the U.K. or anywhere. It could be just a rogue employee at Google who does it. You may think that’s impossible … [but] it’s incredibly simple …
[A] senior software engineer at Google, Shumeet Baluja, who’s been at Google almost since the very beginning, published a novel that no one’s ever heard of called ‘The Silicon Jungle’ … It’s fictional, but it’s about Google, and the power that individual employees at Google have to make or break any company or any individual.
It’s a fantastic novel. I asked Baluja how Google let him get away with publishing it and he said, ‘Well, they made me promise I would never promote it.’ That’s why no one’s ever heard of this book.”
Another, and even more frightening possibility, is that Google could allow its biased algorithm to favor one candidate over another without caring about which candidate is being favored.
“That’s the scariest possibility,” Epstein says, “because now you’ve got an algorithm, a computer program, which is an idiot … deciding who rules us. It’s crazy.”
While this sounds like it should be illegal, it’s not, because there are no laws or regulations that restrict or dictate how Google must rank its search results. Courts have actually concluded that Google is simply exercising its right to free speech, even if that means destroying the businesses they demote in their search listings or black listings.
The only way to protect ourselves from this kind of hidden influence is by setting up monitoring programs such as Epstein’s all over the world. “As a species, it’s the only way we can protect ourselves from new types of online technologies that can be used to influence us,” he says. “No dictator anywhere has ever had even a tiny fraction of the power that this company has.”
Epstein is also pushing for government to make the Google search index a public commons, which would allow other companies to create competing search platforms using Google’s database. While Google’s search engine cannot be broken up, its monopoly would be thwarted by forcing it to hand over its index to other search platform developers.
In 2016, Epstein also discovered the remarkable influence of search suggestions — the suggested searches shown in a drop-down menu when you begin to type a search term. This effect is now known as the search suggestion effect or SSE. Epstein explains:
“Initially the idea was they were going to save you time. That’s the way they presented this new feature. They were going to anticipate, based on your history, or based on what other people are searching for, what it is you’re looking for so you don’t have to type the whole thing. Just click on one of the suggestions. But then it changed into something else. It changed into a tool for manipulation.
In June 2016, a small news organization … discovered that it was virtually impossible to get negative search suggestions related to Hillary Clinton, but easy to get them for other people including Donald Trump. They were very concerned about this because maybe that could influence people somehow.
So, I tried this myself, and I have a wonderful image that I preserved showing this. I typed in ‘Hillary Clinton is’ on Bing and on Yahoo, and I got those long lists, eight and 10 items, saying, ‘Hillary Clinton is the devil. Hillary Clinton is sick’ … all negative things that people were actually searching for.
How do I know that? Because we checked Google trends. Google trends shows you what people are actually searching for. Sure enough, people were actually searching for all these negative things related to Hillary Clinton. Those [were] the most popular search terms.
So, we tried it on Google and we got, ‘Hillary Clinton is winning, Hillary Clinton is awesome.’ Now you check those phrases on Google trends and you find no one is searching for ‘Hillary Clinton is awesome.’ Nobody. Not one. But that’s what they’re showing you in their search suggestions.
That again got my research gears running. I started doing experiments because I said, ‘Wait a minute, why would they do this? What is the point?’
Here’s what I found in a series of experiments: Just by manipulating search suggestions, I could turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split — with no one having the slightest idea that they’ve been manipulated.”
YouTube, which is owned by Google, also has enormous influence on public opinion. According to Epstein, 70% of the videos people view on YouTube are suggested by Google’s top secret Up Next algorithm, which recommends videos for you to view whenever you’re watching a video.
Just like the search suggestions, this is a phenomenally effective ephemeral manipulation tool. There’s no record of the videos recommended by the algorithm, yet it can take you down the proverbial rabbit hole by feeding you one video after another.
“There are documented cases now in which people have been converted to extreme Islam or to white supremacy, literally because they’d been pulled down a rabbit hole by a sequence of videos on YouTube,” Epstein says.
“Think of that power. Again, it’s not powerful for people who already have strong opinions. It’s powerful for the people who don’t, the people who are vulnerable, the people who are undecided or uncommitted. And that’s a lot of people.”
Most people now have Amazon Prime. If you are one of those who do, you can watch the following documentary for free on Prime. It is well worth your time to do so. Epstein and many other experts provide a very compelling overview of the dangers that we discuss in our interview. In my view, this is a must-watch and one to recommend to your friends and family.
A question Epstein raises is, “Who gave this private company, which is not accountable to any of us, the ability to determine what billions of people around the world will see or will not see?”
That is perhaps one of the biggest issues. Epstein and others attempt to answer this question in this documentary, “The Creepy Line,” which is a direct quote from Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
“Traditional media have very serious constraints placed on them, but Google, which is far more penetrating and far more effective at influencing people, has none of these constraints,” Epstein says.
“There are lots of good people in [‘The Creepy Line’], lots of good data, and it explains my research very clearly, which is wonderful. It explains my research better than I explain my research. ‘The Creepy Line’ is available on iTunes and on Amazon. I think it costs $3 or $4 to watch … If you’re an Amazon Prime Member it’s free. It’s an excellent film.”
In his article2 “Seven Simple Steps Toward Online Privacy,” Epstein outlines his recommendations for protecting your privacy while surfing the web, most of which don’t cost anything. You can access the article at: MySevenSimpleSteps.com
“My first sentence is ‘I have not received a targeted ad on my computer or mobile phone since 2014.’ Most people are shocked by that because they’re bombarded with targeted ads constantly.
More and more people are telling me that they’re just having a conversation with someone, so they’re not even doing anything online per se, but their phone is nearby — or they’re having a conversation in their home and they have Amazon Alexa or Google Home, these personal assistants — and the next thing they know they start getting targeted ads related to what they were talking about.
This is the surveillance problem … The point is that there are ways to use the internet, tablets and mobile phones, to preserve or protect your privacy, but almost no one does that. So, the fact is that we’re now being surveilled 24/7, generally speaking, with no awareness that we’re even being surveilled.
Maybe some people are aware that when they do searches on Google the search history is preserved forever … But it goes so far beyond that because now we’re being surveilled through personal assistants, so that when we speak, we’re being [surveilled].
It goes even beyond that, because a few years ago Google bought the Nest company, which makes a smart thermostat. After they bought the company, they put microphones into the smart thermostats, and the latest versions of the smart thermostats have microphones and cameras.
Google has been issued patents in recent years, which give them, basically, ownership rights over ways of analyzing sounds that are picked up by microphones in people’s homes.
They can hook you up with dentists, they can hook you up with sex therapists, with mental health services, relationship coaches, et cetera. So, there’s that. Location tracking has also gotten completely out of hand. We’ve learned in recent months that even when you disable location tracking … on your mobile phone, you’re still being tracked.”
This is one of the reasons I strongly recommend that you use a VPN on your cellphone and computer, as this will prevent virtually anyone from tracking and targeting you. There are many out there but I am using the one Epstein recommends, Nord VPN, which is only about $3 per month and you can use it on up to six devices. In my view, this is a must if you seek to preserve your privacy.
You can learn a lot about a person by tracking their movements and whereabouts. Most of us are very naïve about these things. As explained by Epstein, location tracking technology has become incredibly sophisticated and aggressive.
Android cellphones, for example, which are a Google-owned operating system, can track you even when you’re not connected to the internet, whether you have geo tracking enabled or not.
“It just gets creepier and creepier,” Epstein says. “Let’s say you pull out your SIM card. Let’s say you disconnect from your mobile service provider, so you’re absolutely isolated. You’re not connected to the internet. Guess what? Your phone is still tracking everything you do on that phone and it’s still tracking your location.”
As soon as you reconnect to the internet, all that information stored in your phone is sent to Google. So, even though you may think you’ve just spent the day incognito, the moment you reconnect, every step you’ve made is shared (provided you had your phone with you).
In terms of online tracking, it’s also important to realize that Google is tracking your movements online even if you’re not using their products, because most websites use Google Analytics, which tracks everything you do on that website. And, you have no way of knowing whether a website uses Google Analytics or not.
To protect your privacy, Epstein recommends taking the following steps, seven of which are outlined in “Seven Simple Steps Toward Online Privacy.” The last one, Fitbit, is a more recent concern.
Use a virtual private network (VPN) such as Nord, which is only about $3 per month and can be used on up to six devices. In my view, this is a must if you seek to preserve your privacy. Epstein explains:
Nord, when used on your cellphone, will also mask your identity when using apps like Google Maps.
Do not use Gmail, as every email you write is permanently stored. It becomes part of your profile and is used to build digital models of you, which allows them to make predictions about your line of thinking and every want and desire.
Many other older email systems such as AOL and Yahoo are also being used as surveillance platforms in the same way as Gmail. ProtonMail.com, which uses end-to-end encryption, is a great alternative and the basic account is free.
Don’t use Google’s Chrome browser, as everything you do on there is surveilled, including keystrokes and every web page you’ve ever visited. Brave is a great alternative that takes privacy seriously.
Brave is also faster than Chrome, and suppresses ads. It’s based on Chromium, the same software infrastructure that Chrome is based on, so you can easily transfer your extensions, favorites and bookmarks.
Don’t use Google as your search engine, or any extension of Google, such as Bing or Yahoo, both of which draw search results from Google. The same goes for the iPhone’s personal assistant Siri, which draws all of its answers from Google.
Alternative search engines suggested by Epstein include SwissCows and Qwant. He recommends avoiding StartPage, as it was recently bought by an aggressive online marketing company, which, like Google, depends on surveillance.
Don’t use an Android cellphone, for all the reasons discussed earlier. Epstein uses a Blackberry, which is more secure than Android phones or the iPhone. Blackberry’s upcoming model, the Key3, will be one of the most secure cellphones in the world, he says.
Don’t use Google Home devices in your house or apartment. These devices record everything that occurs in your home, both speech and sounds such as brushing your teeth and boiling water, even when they appear to be inactive, and send that information back to Google. Android phones are also always listening and recording, as are Google’s home thermostat Nest, and Amazon’s Alexa.
Clear your cache and cookies. As Epstein explains in his article:3
Don’t use Fitbit, as it was recently purchased by Google and will provide them with all your physiological information and activity levels, in addition to everything else that Google already has on you.
An immune system that’s not functioning normally may lead to lung cancer in patients who don’t smoke, a new study suggests.
The CDC confirmed the Washington state resident’s diagnosis Tuesday. By Wednesday, state public health officials had identified 16 close contacts. By late Thursday, the total was 43, said Kathy Lofy, MD, the state health officer for the Washington State Department of Health.