Wednesday, April 26, 2017

W is for the Watergate Scandal

Image: Watergate Complex, Washinton, D.C. Indutiomarus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The word Watergate or it's derivatives (pick your word-gate) are synonymous with secret, illegal activities.

In 1972, the Democratic National Committee had an office in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. A break-in occurred, five men were arrested, and cash found on the burglars was linked to a slush fund used to re-elect President Nixon.

Image: Tonynetone, famous image of Nixon leaving the White House, often paired with his now infamous quote, "I am not a crook."


It turned out that Nixon and his aides had abused their power, using the FBI, CIA, and IRS to investigate activist groups and their political opponents. Tapes of damaging conversations in the oval office "revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and (he used) federal officials to deflect the investigation." Nixon resigned before he could be impeached, but received a pardon from his replacement, Gerald Ford. (Source)


Image: Anti-Ford button made for 1976 presidential election, Wikipedia Commons

One of the goals of the Watergate break-in was to install listening devices into the phones. More recently, President Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Towers during the 2016 election although no evidence has been found to support his claims. Newsweek posted an article about surveillance on Trump Tower from 2011 to 2013, but this was aimed at a Russian crime ring involved in money laundering, sports gambling and extortion, not Trump. 

Have you seen the movie All The President's Men or studied the Watergate Scandal?


V is for Vaxxed, the movie

Image: Vaxxed--From Cover-Up To Catastrophe, the movie poster


The question of whether vaccines, in particular the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine, cause autism was answered, right? A CDC study published in 2004 showed no connection. In 2010, Andrew Wakefield's 1998 paper that did suggest a connection was redacted by The Lancet and his medical license was revoked. Ding, dong the witch is dead! Go ahead lads and lassies, get your shots, worry-free.

Fast forward to 2016 and there's a new independent film about MMR and autism, Vaxxed, that was kicked out of the Tribeca Film Festival. Interviews with Robert Di Niro show a man in conflict. He has a son with autism. He wanted the film to start a conversation, but it wasn't to be.



Sparked by curiosity, Vaxxed is shown to audiences willing to band together and rent theater space. A DVD is put on Amazon, and a pirate copy ends up on YouTube. It's kicked out of more film festivals. What is in this movie that has people so excited?

The film centers on two men: Brian Hooker and William Thompson. Dr. Hooker, a bioengineer at Simpson University, has an autistic son and wanted data from the CDC to try and prove vaccines were responsible. He was frustrated for 10 years before receiving phone calls from CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson. Thompson was one of the co-authors from the CDC's 2004 paper that discredited the autism/vaccine connection.

Thompson thought the statistical data did show a link between autism and African American boys who were developing normally until they got their MMR vaccine around 12 to 15 months. Thompson made sure Hooker got the data. Hooker started recording their phone calls without Thompson's knowledge. The movie Vaxxed centers on bits of these phone conversations, parents' stories of their children who developed autism after their MMR shot, and a revelation that the CDC "threw out" data to hide the link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

If such fraud is true, this would be huge! Imagine if the CDC knew that there was a risk of giving kids autism with a vaccine and decided not to say anything for over ten years as the rates of autism spiraled ever upward. And that's not all! The results from this 2004 study were used to refuse compensation to parents with autistic kids trying to sue the government in vaccine court. Massive fraud in all directions. Republican congressman Bill Posey called for a congressional investigation. President Obama granted Thompson whistleblower status. (Source) Wow, why wasn't the media all over this incredible story?

Several reasons. The director of Vaxxed is none other that Andrew Wakefield. The film was declared anti-vaccine propaganda and dismissed by critics and scientific experts. Dr. Hooker published a paper on this data, but like Wakefield's paper, it was redacted--this time due to conflict of interest (he had tried to sue to get compensation for his son's autism) and doubts about the validity of his work. (Source)

The rate of autism in the US is now at 1 in 45 kids. (Source) Whether you believe vaccines are involved or not, that's scary.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for Ultra, MKUltra

Image: Evan


The CIA has made several appearances on the A to Z of conspiracy theories from possible involvement in 9/11 (B post) and the JFK (J post) assassination to definitely using nasty weapons such as the heart-attack gun (C post).

Today they're back again, this time with another true conspiracy. MKUltra was a code name for a program using U.S. and Canadian citizens as subjects for covert mind control and interrogation research. It started in the 1950s, continued through the 1960s, and was made public in 1975 by Congress and the Rockefeller Commission. Supposedly, the program was scrapped (most of the files were destroyed in 1973), but some think the research continued.

According to Wikipedia, MKUltra experiments involved the use of drugs (in particular LSD), hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, and other forms of psychological torture. Research occurred at colleges, universities, hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies.


Candidates believed to be victims of this CIA mind control program:

1. Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinated Robert Kennedy

2. Jim Jones, leader of a cult in Jonestown, Guyana who convinced his members to commit mass suicide.



Image: Pato


3. Jim Hendrix's manager and former M16 agent, Michael Jeffrey, killed the guitar wunderkind with pills and wine while under mind control.

4. Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon

5. John Hinkley, the man who shot at president Ronald Reagan

6. Robert Bardo, who shot actress Rebecca Schaeffer

7. Lee Harvey Oswald, the man held responsible for JFK's assassination

Incidentally, Chapman, Hinkley, Bardo, and Oswald were all in possession of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye when they pulled the trigger with their fingers. Conspiracy theorists believe parts of the text were used to pull the "triggers" in their minds.



Image: DVD cover of movie version of Firestarter


MKUltra has another connection to popular fiction: inspiration for Stephen King's Firestarter. Remember the experiments that Charlie McGee's parents participated in and the sinister branch of government called The Shop?

Sources: 

New York Magazine: The 70 Greatest Conspiracy Theories in Pop-Culture History

Frank: The Most Unbelievable Conspiracy Theories

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis

Image: Participants in Tuskegee Study

Attribution: By Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Public Health Service. Health Services and Mental Health Administration. Center for Disease Control. Venereal Disease Branch (1970 - 1973). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male started with good intentions. In the 1920s, estimates of syphilis in the population at reproductive age were high--35%. The treatment at the time involved heavy metals mercury and bismuth, but the cure rate with such medicine was less than 30%. Side effects of these toxic materials were bad and sometimes fatal.

In 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression started. Funding for the original program was cut, so in 1932, the decision was made to simply study the progression of the disease with about 400 negro men with syphilis and 200 without syphilis (the control group).


Image: Doctor draws blood from participant

Attribution: Wikipedia Commons


Despite urban myths to the contrary, no one was injected with syphilis, but the subjects were promised free treatment, meals, and burial insurance without knowing their diagnosis, what treatments they would receive, or what other treatments might be available. This lead to several abuses.

Spinal taps were performed without anesthesia to study the neurological effects of the disease. When penicillin became available in the 1940s as a safe and effective treatment to replace the dangerous heavy metals, the study participants were not informed. In fact, the decision was made to deliberately keep these men from receiving penicillin in order to continue the study in 1936, 1940, and again in 1947.

Even when the ethics of the study were questioned in 1968, the CDC "reaffirmed (the) need for study and gained local medical societies' support." Which societies, you ask? Both the AMA (American Medical Association) and the NMA (the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients)!


Image: Depression Era poster 

Attribution: Wikipedia Commons


And that's not all. Since the men with syphilis were not aware of their diagnosis, they did not know they could pass the disease to their wives through sexual contact. They did not know that their children could be born with the disease.

The study lasted 40 years.

Finally, a press leak in 1972 ended the study for good, but it was too late for the victims. Besides the men who died from untreated syphilis, 40 wives contracted the disease and 19 children were born with congenital syphilis.

After the study was made public, laws were put into place to protect participants in medical studies so that they would have informed consent, knowledge about the treatments received, and knowledge about alternative treatments. A settlement of ten million dollars was awarded to the victims for lifetime medical benefits and burial services. President Bill Clinton issued an apology. The Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care was established.

Have you ever heard of this study? What bit surprised you the most? That the men didn't even know they had syphilis? That penicillin was denied to them? Or that the CDC supported the study even as late as 1969?

Sources:

Wikipedia, Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

The New Social Worker: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Its Implications for the 21st Century

CDC: The Tuskegee Timeline


Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Snowden--Big Brother is Real

Image: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward Joseph Snowden, former CIA and NSA computer analyst, leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing global surveillance programs watching cell phone records and cell phone location, keyscore analysis of things people did on the internet including their email, Google, and Yahoo. Gamers using Second LifeXbox Live and World of Warcraft were monitored as they "attempted to recruit would-be informants from the sites". "The NSA was shown to be tracking the online sexual activity of people they termed "radicalizers" in order to discredit them." They even spied on their own "love interests", businesses like major oil companies, and charities like UNICEF. There was a special budget to pay U.S. technical companies for secret access to their communication networks. And that's just scratching the surface.


After releasing thousands of documents to three journalists in Hong Kong, Snowden went into hiding, eventually ending up in Russia where he was granted asylum through 2020. (Wikipedia)

Do you think about surveillance when you surf the web or while talking on your phone? Do you cover up your electronic devices's camera in case someone's watching? If you haven't seen the film, Snowden, I highly recommend it (once you adjust to Joseph Gordon-Levitt assuming a deep accent, that is.)


Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for the Reptilian Elite

Image: Schristia


In 1988, Paula Abdul released Forever Your Girl including the song, "Cold Hearted", with the lyrics "He's a cold-hearted snake, look into his eyes..."

Reptile are cold-blooded, slithery, alien things. They eat sweet, cuddly mice whole. It was a snake that tempted Eve with the apple.




Then came David Icke, who released his book in 1998 called The Biggest Secret, claiming that "many prominent figures belong to the Babylonian Brotherhood, a group of shapeshifting reptilian humanoids who are propelling humanity toward a global fascist state, or New World Order. The reptilians use the rings of Saturn and the Moon, all reptilian constructs, to broadcast our "five-sense prison": an "artificial sense of self and the world" that humans perceive as reality." (Wikipedia)

It's The Matrix meets Men in Black meets V. Whoa!

Image: still shot of Jane Badler as Diana, queen of the alien badies from V, the 1984 TV series

Hey, am I crazy or does she kinda look like Paula Abdul? Hm...

So who are the reptile elite among us? Trump? Queen Elizabeth? Justin Beiber? You tell me.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Quintinshill Rail Disaster



On May 22, 1915 an error with the Quintinshill signal box (pink) near Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, Scotland caused a southbound troop train (green) to smash into a stationary train (orange) and then a northbound sleeper train (purple) to hit the southbound one. Trains holding goods (grey and blue) were also nearby. Gas from the lighting system of the troop train ignited and set all the trains on fire. Around two hundred died, mostly men in the troop train. It was the worst rail disaster in British history at the time.


Image: Gif from By Emoscopes, Tevildo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



So what's the conspiracy angle? The signalmen present that day were tried and convicted for culpable homicide, released from jail the following year, and re-employed by the same railway company (though not as signalmen). This led to speculation that the railway company and the government (who was running the railways in war time) used the signalmen as scapegoats, letting them take the fall for what was actually the rail company and government's responsibility. (Wikipedia)

Another controversy was that some of the troops trapped in the blaze were either shot (mercy killings) and/or committed suicide. A BBC documentary was released that confirmed the mercy killings in 2015. 

Quite a sad story, no matter who was responsible.

Q is one of the hardest letters during the A to Z challenge. What's your Q today?