What Happened Today: October 19, 2022
ABC journalist raided by FBI; State Dept shrouding military turned foreign consultants; “Vaccines Never Prevented the Transmission of COVID-19”
The Big Story
A high-profile journalist who once served as a counterterrorism adviser to Congress has disappeared following a mysterious FBI raid of his apartment on April 27. According to a new Rolling Stone report on Wednesday, ABC News journalist James Gordon Meek’s Arlington, Virgina, apartment was raided for roughly 10 minutes by a team of some 10 heavily armed members of law enforcement who then departed in armored vehicles. “Federal agents allegedly found classified information on Meek’s laptop during their raid,” Rolling Stone reports, citing multiple unnamed sources. Meek has apparently not been seen by neighbors or in touch with colleagues since the raid.
Meek, 52, has made a career reporting on sensitive military and counterterrorism matters, and it would not be unusual for a journalist in his position to obtain classified documents during the news-gathering process. Far more unusual would be the potential targeting of a journalist for reporting on national security matters—though it remains to be seen whether that is the case here. If the FBI did target Meek for reasons related to his work, it would mark a break with previous statements from President Biden, who came into office vowing to temper the rampant criminal probes against leakers and journalists in recent years. Biden had said authorities seizing a reporter’s phone and digital communications was “wrong” and directed the attorney general’s office to adopt a new policy that significantly tightened the rules on how much data prosecutors could take from journalists while investigating leaks.
Since the raid, Meek’s neighbors have not seen him around the apartment complex, and he abruptly cut ties with ABC News, despite months left on his contract. “He resigned very abruptly and hasn’t worked for us for months,” according to an ABC spokesperson. Meek had been the co-author of a forthcoming book about the botched withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but he abruptly abandoned the project, because of “serious personal issues,” his co-author said. “He fell off the face of the Earth,” one ABC colleague said. “And people asked, but no one knew the answer.”
In the Back Pages: Vaccines Never Prevented the Transmission of COVID-19
→ Hundreds of former U.S. service members have taken high-paying positions as military consultants for foreign governments, and the State Department has tried to keep the identities and salaries of these men a secret, according to a Washington Post report. While Congress can approve these types of positions for retired service members, the State Department, citing security concerns, refused to disclose details of the appointments, including (1) Australia’s hiring of former U.S. Navy officials to advise the country on securing military contracts with America and (2) Saudi Arabia’s payments of more than $250,000 per year to former SEALs to train troops in the Gulf. A judge, however, ruled that the State Department must give up the information. “The public has a right to know if high-ranking military leaders are taking advantage of their stations—or might be perceived to be doing so—to create employment opportunities with foreign governments in retirement,” opined U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta.
→ Confirming that we are indeed living through a Cold War reboot, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his gratitude for Russian support of Palestine last week while meeting with President Vladimir Putin at a conference in Kazakhstan. “Russia stands by justice and international law and that is enough for us,”Abbas told Putin, which provoked the requisite retaliatory response from the United States. “We were deeply disappointed to hear President Abbas’ remarks yesterday to President Putin. Russia does not stand for justice and international law,” said a National Security Council spokesperson. The spat comes amid ongoing tension between the Palestinian Authority and the Biden administration over progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the Palestinians chiding the United States for not doing more to push things forward. The self-serving bastardization of the phrase “international law” continues.
→ A newly published preliminary study from Boston University scientists has sparked fierce debate in the world of virology and renewed questions over what experiments are not worth the danger to carry out. Just three years after a possible lab-leak of the novel coronavirus, the team at BU attempted to create a new version of SARS-CoV-2 that combined the original strain with the more infectious Omicron spike protein.
While this new version killed only 80% of lab mice compared to the 100% killed by the original virus, the addition of the Omicron spike protein would likely make it far more transmissible in a human population.
The work was conducted at a BSL3 laboratory, one step below the high-security BSL4 designation used for the world’s most deadly pathogens.
The funding came from the National Institutes of Health, but the scientists did not obtain prior approval for the project. Though not legally required, approval for such risky research is customary.
Sen. Robert Marshall (R-KS) told the Daily Mail, “This is not a risk that scientists alone should be able to take without concurrence from the American public. This research must stop immediately while the risks and benefits can be investigated.”
It is worth noting that the FDA conducted a similar experiment on a COVID-19 variant earlier this year, also in a BSL3 laboratory.
→ Quote of the Day:
When push came to shove at the end, he set me on fire and threw me in the garbage and used my reverence for the institution against me.
That’s James Bennet, former New York Times opinion-page editor, speaking in his first extensive interview since he was abruptly fired following uproar at the paper because of a column by Sen. Tom Cotton advocating for the military to quell riots sparked by the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Bennet was a rising figure at the paper in line to take over the top spot on the masthead, until he ran afoul of what had become an influential bloc within the newsroom hostile to virtually all forms of dissent, especially conservative points of view. Bennet told Semafor, a new digital publication, that the Times publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, “blew the opportunity to make clear that The New York Times doesn’t exist just to tell progressives how progressives should view reality. That was a huge mistake and a missed opportunity for him to show real strength.”
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→ Foreshadowing the ominous possibility of a larger global conflagration with Russia and China, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) recently proposed modifying the upcoming defense-spending bill to include enough money for the Defense Department to procure advanced munitions at a staggering rate over the next two years, with $45 billion in funds to “accelerate implementation of the National Defense Strategy.” The amendment removes protections that prevented defense contractors from price-gouging the DoD, which would expedite supply, but that comes at a heavy cost to taxpayers. “Whether you want to call it wartime contracting or emergency contracting, we can’t play around anymore,” a senior congressional aide told Defense News. “We can’t pussyfoot around with minimum-sustaining-rate buys of these munitions. It’s hard to think of something as high on everybody’s list as buying a ton of munitions for the next few years, for our operational plans against China and continuing to supply Ukraine.”
→ Sebastian Junger, the award-winning author of The Perfect Storm, published a piece in National Review (the only publication that would accept it, he says) on the “stunningly unfair takedown of Jihad Rehab (now, The UnRedacted) that humanized men tortured at Gitmo.” The film, which seeks to humanely tell the story of several men imprisoned in Guantanamo for years for allegedly heinous crimes, premiered at Sundance before activists accused the film’s white female director of Islamaphobia, arguing that she had no right to tell the story of brown Muslim men. As one filmmaker put it, “The talk is all empathy, but the energy is Indiana Jones.” Shortly after the film’s premiere at Sundance, the festival’s organizers apologized for the humane depiction of other people’s suffering, and Abigail Disney—Walt’s daughter and the film’s main financial backer—wrote an open letter apologizing for the film. “A film I executive produced, Jihad Rehab, has landed like a truckload of hate on people whom I sincerely love and respect,” she wrote.
→ Tweet of the Day:
→ A side-by-side look at New York City’s subway system compared to Seoul’s. The one in Seoul costs users a buck or less to ride (and is free for seniors), includes heated seats for winter, arrives exactly on schedule 99.9% of the time, has raised bumps for the visually impaired, and costs the city $5.6 billion per year to run and maintain. For the pleasure of riding the chronically late and littered NYC system, meanwhile, a rider pays more than double, and the system’s price tag is billions above Seoul’s.
→ Igor Danchenko, a crucial source for Michael Steele’s largely disproven dossier painting former President Trump as a Russian stooge, was found not guilty yesterday of making false statements to the FBI. Danchenko had told the FBI numerous times that he received a call confirming that Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia—a claim used to justify numerous warrants against Trump’s adviser Carter Page, even after Danchenko’s claims to the FBI were proven to be lies. “The FBI mishandled the investigation at issue,” Bill Durham said in his closing arguments against Danchenko. Durham had brought the case against Danchenko after being appointed by former attorney general William Barr to look into the FBI’s handling of the allegations of collusion made against Trump in the Steele dossier.
→ Lola, a 12-year-old girl was murdered and then left in a packing box in the courtyard of her building in Paris on Friday—“an abominable and intolerable tragedy,” as Brigitte Macron, President Emmanuel Macron’s wife, put it, with the country now mourning the senseless murder. Returning from school on Friday, Lola was seen entering the building in the company of a young woman; that evening, the woman reappeared outside, speaking incoherently about an “organ-trafficking affair” and dragging the packing container. Police believe that the woman, now the lead suspect and in custody, was having a psychotic episode and that the murder was “gratuitous.”
→ Portugal has unveiled a new visa program aimed at attracting young remote workers to the country, which has grown into a destination for Americans in recent years who are drawn by the country’s rich history, natural beauty, and relatively low cost of living. Remote workers previously were unable to stay in the country for longer than several months at a time, but with the new “digital nomad visa,” as it is being called, remote workers will be able to live in Portugal for a year as long as they earn at least four times the country’s minimum wage of $689 dollars per month. The move is aimed at attracting more young remote workers to Portugal in the hopes that this can help generate more tax revenue.
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman, and Clayton Fox
TODAY IN TABLET:
A New Life for an Old Tradition by Paula Jacobs
Wimpels have been used as ritual objects by German-speaking Jews for centuries, but these days in the United States, the Torah binders have become part of new traditions in a wide variety of Jewish communities.
The Try Out by Benjamin Markovits
A Jewish kid battles a bloody nose and nipple chafe to make the basketball team.
Reevaluating ‘Jewish Jordan’ Tamir Goodman by Tablet Podcasts
Ep. 2: In the basketball-crazed ’90s, a Jewish sports hero was anointed. But looking beyond the headlines, did we get the story right?
SCROLL TIP LINE: Have a lead on a story or something going on in your workplace, school, congregation, or social scene that you want to tell us about? Send your tips, comments, questions, and suggestions to email@example.com.
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Vaccines Never Prevented the Transmission of COVID-19
Allowing zealots to censor news in the name of “science” is a danger to public health
By Alex Gutentag
In late 2021 and early 2022, it was commonplace for journalists and public intellectuals to demonize and shame “the unvaccinated,” a group that in the United States was disproportionately low income. The New York Times ran pieces like “I’m Furious at the Unvaccinated,” and “Unvaxxed, Unmasked and Putting Our Kids at Risk.” The Los Angeles Times published a column titled “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes—but may be necessary.” An opinion piece called “The Unvaccinated Are a Risk to All of Us” appeared in Bloomberg, and The Washington Post printed a piece called “Macron is right: It’s time to make life a living hell for anti-vaxxers.”
CNN’s Don Lemon commented that people refusing the vaccines were being “idiotic and nonsensical.” He argued that it was time to “start shaming them” or “leave them behind.” Noam Chomsky, a self-described libertarian socialist, said unvaccinated people should remove themselves from society and be “isolated.” Asked how they would get food that way, he answered, “Well, actually, that’s their problem.”
In Canada, columnists for the Toronto Star proclaimed, “Vaccine resisters are lazy and irresponsible—we need vaccine passports now to protect the rest of us” and “The unvaccinated cherish their freedom to harm others. How can we ever forgive them?” In the United Kingdom, the Daily Mail contended, “It’s time to punish Britain’s 5 million vaccine refuseniks,” and Piers Morgan, a British presenter on TalkTV, suggested that unvaccinated people should not be allowed access to the country’s National Health Service.
Internationally, several politicians threatened to reimplement restrictions and told the public that “the unvaccinated” were at fault. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said unvaccinated people “are very often misogynistic and racist,” and asked, “Do we tolerate these people?” President Joe Biden said that his “patience [was] wearing thin” and that we needed to “protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers.” Michael Gunner, chief minister of the Northern Territory in Australia, stated that even if you are vaccinated, “if you are anti-mandate, you are absolutely anti-vax.” French President Emmanuel Macron declared that 5 million French people who remained unvaccinated were “not citizens.”
Across parts of the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, unvaccinated people were fired from their jobs, excluded from higher education, banned from many sectors of public life, denied organ transplants, and even punished by judges in probation hearings and child custody cases. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continued to rise in many highly vaccinated countries with vaccine passports and other restrictions in place.
Vaccine mandates were mainly rationalized through the belief that the higher the rate of vaccination, the less the virus would spread. For example, during oral arguments for Biden’s healthcare worker mandate, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Elena Kagan claimed that healthcare workers had to get vaccinated “so that you’re not transmitting the disease.” But recently, on Oct. 10, 2022, a Pfizer spokesperson told the European Parliament that the vaccines had never actually been tested for preventing transmission. While this fact was presented on social media as “breaking news,” it has been documented extensively ever since Pfizer and Moderna received their original Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
During the Dec. 10, 2020, FDA meeting when the first mRNA vaccines were authorized, FDA adviser Dr. Patrick Moore stated, “Pfizer has presented no evidence in its data today that the vaccine has any effect on virus carriage or shedding, which is the fundamental basis for herd immunity.” Despite the data presented for individual efficacy, he continued, “we really, as of right now, do not have any evidence that it will have an impact, social-wide, on the epidemic.” The FDA EUA press release from December 2020 also confirms that there was no “evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-COV-2 from person to person.”
Simply put, the reason many people believed the vaccines stopped transmission was because government officials and media outlets across the Western world were either careless with their words or did not tell the truth. In 2021, for instance, Director of the CDC Rochelle Walensky claimed that vaccinated people “do not carry the virus,” and Dr. Anthony Fauci said they would become “dead ends” for the virus. Any speculation that the vaccines significantly reduced transmission was based on limited results from independent studies and the false assumption that the vaccine would prevent infection. Without adequate evidence, vaccination campaigns called on people to get vaccinated not just for their own protection, but to help “protect others” and “save lives.”
Meanwhile, social media companies coordinated with the Biden administration to censor dissent. Many people who asked questions about efficacy or safety risked banishment from Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. Now, however, as more and more studies come out, it is increasingly clear that some of the information these companies censored was true.
For anyone content with their vaccination status, this may not be a big deal. Yes, the vaccine information that was provided in 2021 wasn’t entirely accurate, but you may still feel that getting vaccinated was the right decision. However, being misinformed about potential benefits and risks is an enormous deal for, say, a male college athlete who got vaccinated because he wanted to protect his elderly family members but then developed myocarditis. Telling him that this is fine because “there was so much unknown” is probably not much of a consolation, especially since his decision to get vaccinated was never going to protect his family members in the first place, and the vaccine manufacturers were given blanket immunity from liability.
It is one thing for the pharmaceutical companies, the Biden administration, the CDC, and the media to intentionally or unintentionally mislead the public; but it is another thing entirely for them to do this while government agencies actively coordinate to suppress alternative views or inconvenient data. While executives and bureaucrats may excuse their errors by claiming that “the science changed,” the public has every right to demand better. Science is the process of discovery through observation and experimentation; of course it changes. That’s why “settled science” is obviously a political, not a scientific term, and why anyone should be able to publicly question scientific consensus at any time. Instead of allowing for debate, political and bureaucratic officials conducted a campaign of mass censorship and coercion. This effectively undermined the principle of informed consent and has resulted in a scandal affecting millions of people.
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