Thursday, December 14, 2017

"Russian Influence" - How $0.97 Changed The Fate Of Britain

Moon of Alabama | Dec 14, 2017

A big bear broke into a house, allegedly. The bear trashes the interior - it is said. Enraged authors write extensive pieces about the bear and how much damage it causes. The authors and their big bear scare are amplified throughout the media. They get rewards.

There are doubters though. They point out that no one has actually seen the bear. No one listens to them.

Politicians insinuate that the bear is even bigger than is said. Experts talk of huge damage and terrible dangers. There might even be multiple bears. Finally someone is asked to open the door of the house and to look inside.

There is no bear. There is no damage. The only living thing that is found is a tiny cute mouse.

Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russia pulls strings in UK - by Carole Cadwalladr - Observer/Guardian - Nov 4 2017
But on Brexit, Facebook has said nothing. Not a word. No ads have been scrutinised. Nothing – even though Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council thinktank, asked to testify before the senate intelligence committee last week, says evidence of Russian interference online is now “incontrovertible”. He says: “It is frankly implausible to think that we weren’t targeted too.”
Intelligence watchdog urged to look at Russian influence on Brexit vote - Guardian - Nov 15 2017
Britain’s intelligence watchdog is facing demands to examine whether Russian “troll factories” interfered in UK politics, amid mounting evidence that thousands of fake accounts may have been used to influence the Brexit vote.
...
UK academics have already established that at least 419 Twitter accounts operating from the Kremlin-linked Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) tweeted about Brexit ..
Guardian and Observer scoop three prizes in British Journalism Awards - Guardian - Dec 11 2017
The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr won the technology journalism award for her investigation into Russia’s influence on the Brexit referendum...
...
Facebook says Russian-linked accounts spent just 97 cents on ads over Brexit - Reuters - Dec 14 2017
Some British lawmakers have called for an inquiry into whether Russia meddled in Britain’s vote to leave the EU after social media platforms said Russian operatives sought to interfere in the U.S. election of Donald Trump.
...
Facebook sent its findings to the Electoral Commission which is examining how digital campaigning is affecting politics in Britain, including activity funded from outside the country.
Facebook said it had examined whether any account profiles or pages linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) had funded ads during the Brexit vote. The IRA is a Russian organization that according to researchers employs hundreds of people to push pro-Kremlin content on social media.

“We have determined that these accounts associated with the IRA spent a small amount of money ($0.97) on advertisements that delivered to UK audiences during that time,” Facebook said.

“This amount resulted in three advertisements (each of which were also targeted to U.S. audiences and concerned immigration, not the EU referendum) delivering approximately 200 impressions to UK viewers over four days in May 2016.”
The above is a typical example of the nonsense that is fed to the people by the media. Neither is there evidence for a "Russian influence" campaign of any significance nor is there evidence of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and anything Russia. The "collusion" campaign was run by the Clinton campaign and the borg to politically disable Trump. The "Russian influence" scare campaign is run by the military-industrial complex to institute a profit raising Cold War 2.0.

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Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper Sued Over Misleading Diet Soda Ads

Alternet | Dec 8, 2017 | Daniel Ross

Photo Credit: DenisMArt/Shutterstock
Advertising campaigns behind diet drinks from Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper have long promoted the idea that consumers are taking the healthier, more weight-conscious option when it comes to choosing their favorite sodas. Diet Coke emphasized its drink has "no sugar, no calories." Diet Pepsi tried launching its slender "skinny" can only a handful of years ago. And Diet Dr. Pepper's "Lil Sweet" mascot is no subtle nod to the product’s supposed ability to shrink those who drink it.

But this past October, six lawsuits were filed in federal courts in New York and California arguing that the makers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are engaging in misleading and unlawful marketing practices of their diet beverages, as these drinks contain ingredients that raise the risk not only of weight gain, but of developing serious health problems.

"Some great injunctive relief would be if they would just remove the letter 't' from the word diet," said Abraham Melamed, one of the attorneys working on the three suits filed in New York, who added that branding these drinks as "diet" is "fraudulent, illegal, improper and needs to stop."

AlterNet contacted all three beverage companies involved in the lawsuits. While none of the companies responded directly, Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, which represents the U.S. non-alcoholic beverage industry, wrote in an email that the "diet beverages that contain zero or barely any calories at all have repeatedly been shown to help people manage their diets. That is why we proudly stand by our products against these meritless legal claims."

The similarly worded lawsuits focus primarily on aspartame, a low-calorie sweetener used in all three diet drinks. And while the additive—commonly appearing under the names NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin and AminoSweet—is frequently called one of the "most researched food additives in the world," there is growing scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's metabolism, causing weight gain, as well as an increased risk of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions which together elevate the risk of heart disease and strokes, among other issues).

Each lawsuit claims that the three companies are, "or reasonably should have been," aware that promoting their products as "diet" was false and misleading, and cite a number of studies published over the past decade to help explain why the plaintiffs in the suits, who all drink large quantities of diet sodas, have struggled with obesity for years.

The San Antonia Heart Study, for example, found that the consumption of more than 21 artificially sweetened beverages a week almost doubled the risk of weight gain or obesity compared to those who drink none. A 2013 review of 30 studies involving some 450,000 participants found a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, how exactly could the consumption of aspartame lead to weight gain?

Sweet-tasting foods and drinks send a signal to the brain, and the body responds to metabolize the corresponding amount of calories. But, as one recent study from Yale University suggests, when a product is sweetened with artificial additives that are either too high or too low for the number of calories present, the brain gets confused, prompting a metabolic response out of tune with the amount of sugars present. Therefore, the researchers concluded, an artificially sweet tasting product with very few calories can trigger a greater metabolic response than needed, which can bring on health issues like type 2 diabetes.

"In other words, the assumption that more calories trigger greater metabolic and brain response is wrong," Dana Small, a professor of psychiatry at Yale and a senior author of the study, told YaleNews in August. "Calories are only half of the equation; sweet taste perception is the other half."

But according to Vasanti Malik, a nutrition research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, while the results from the recent Yale study are "really interesting," the science is still unclear whether diet sodas trigger a metabolic response. "There’s a handful of studies that say they do. There's a handful of studies that say they don't," she said. "We don't know enough either way to say."

Malik has been involved with a number of long-term studies into the way diet drinks affect the human body. The findings of her work suggest that, while weight gain is commonplace over time, drinking diet sodas can lead to less weight gain compared to drinking regular sugared beverages. And she hasn't observed positive associations between diet sodas and diabetes.

However, there are still many holes in the scientific literature surrounding all artificial sweeteners, she said. "The question that hasn't been answered is what is the lifetime impact of consuming these artificial sweeteners." That explains why she doesn't agree with the way in which diet sodas are marketed currently to consumers. "Drinking water is definitely going to be your best option because it doesn't have this intense sweet flavor that we're worrying about," she said. "I wouldn't consider [diet beverages] the healthy option."

The lawsuits aren't the first time beverage companies have come under fire for their labeling of diet sodas. In 2015, food industry watchdog U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking the department to stop Pepsi and Coca-Cola from using the word "diet" to label and market their products, and to conduct a "sweeping investigation of products containing artificial sweeteners" to determine whether any brand labels are false or misleading. The FDA recently denied the petition on grounds that the requests "are outside the scope of our citizen petition regulations."

The agency's reasoning for the denial is "so weak," said Gary Ruskin, founder and co-director of USRTK. "It was plainly just an effort to avoid protecting public health." That's because the weight of the scientific literature contradicts the way "diet" sodas are widely marketed as healthy alternatives to regular sugary drinks, he said. "Evidence only keeps getting stronger and stronger. We think this could be one of the greatest consumer frauds of modern times."

The lawsuits are still in the early stages of litigation, but Melamed is hopeful that the cases, if successful, could set an important new benchmark in how the food industry, especially bottled beverage companies, market their products. "Our expectations are that this will lead to more significant changes across the industry," he said.

Others are more circumspect about the prospect of going up against three behemoths of the bottled beverage industry. While the lawsuits are "strong" on the law and on the facts, said Ruskin, "sadly in America right now, that doesn’t necessarily get you too far."

Daniel Ross is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in AlterNet, The Guardian, FairWarning, Newsweek, and a number of other publications.
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Israel Invites Saudis to Broker Peace While Terror-Bombing Gaza

Global Research | Dec 14, 2017 | Stephen Lendman

Truth is stranger than fiction. Israel and Saudi Arabia deplore peace and stability – perhaps a tie that binds them, along with uniting against Iran, the main reason for their alliance.

According to Saudi state-run media, Israel invited militant crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to broker peace talks with Palestinians – dead-on-arrival each time initiated, further out-of-reach following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, igniting a firestorm in Occupied Palestine.

Last month, Abbas met with MBS in Riyadh. He received an offer designed to be rejected – statehood without sovereignty, comprised of isolated bantustans on worthless scrubland, surrounded by expanding settlements encroaching on their land, stealing it, barriers they’re forbidden to approach, ghettoizing them.

Netanayhu and Salman
 Jerusalem would become Israel’s exclusive capital, East Jerusalem increasingly off-limits to them. Diaspora Palestinians would have no right of return.

Israel would be free to exploit Palestinian resources, they way things are today. MBS’ proposal reflects Palestinian impotence under longtime Israeli collaborator Abbas.

Yet the idea of Riyadh involvement in peace talks adds an implausible element to the fraudulent process, Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz, saying:

“This is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to take the initiative upon itself and come to the Palestinians and offer its sponsorship,” adding:
“In such a situation of Saudi leadership, I’m ready to have negotiations. I’m calling on King Salman to invite Netanyahu for a visit and for the Saudi crown prince to come here for a visit in Israel.”
The Saudis can “lead processes and make decisions for the region, as well as for the Palestinians.” They’re “weak and unable to make decisions.”

Washington and Riyadh lack credibility in negotiating peace. Both countries reject equity in justice for Palestinians, their own populations, and elsewhere.

They’re warrior nations, rogue terror states. Regional peace and stability defeat their agendas.

Days earlier, Netanyahu turned truth on its head, defying reality, saying “(t)he sooner Palestinians (recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital), the sooner we will move towards peace” – his notion pushing for unconditional Palestinian surrender and subjugation under endless occupation.

Separately, in response to rockets fired from Gaza, injuring no one, one alone causing minor damage, Israeli warplanes have been terror-bombing Gaza for days, including overnight, targeting Hamas positions even though its military wing had nothing to do with what’s happening.

Israel waged three wars of aggression on Gaza since December 2008. The risk of a fourth looms.

According to an IDF spokesman, “(a)nything less than total calm (in Gaza) is simply unacceptable…We will not allow (rocket) fire to continue.”

Sderot major Alon Davidi said he expects Netanyahu, defense minister Lieberman, “and the IDF commander to strike (Gaza) without mercy.”

In the wake of Palestinian rage in response to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, Mike Pence postponed his visit to Israel, scheduled for early next week.

Abbas’ diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khaldi said “(t)here will be no meeting with (him) in Palestine. The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem declaration.”

Palestinian UN envoy Yiyad Mansour said he’s working on a draft resolution to “reaffirm the positions of the Security Council (on Jerusalem) and asks the Americans to rescind” Trump’s declaration.

US veto power assures nothing adversely affecting Israeli interests becomes a Security Council adopted resolution.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the CRG, Correspondent of Global Research based in Chicago.

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
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China Backs Independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as Capital

Fars News Agency | Dec 14, 2017

TEHRAN (FNA)- China's foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said Thursday Beijing supported an independent Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Speaking after an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Istanbul on Wednesday, Kang said Beijing understood the concerns of Muslim countries over the status of Jerusalem, Daily Sabah reported.

OIC countries issued a declaration recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

Kang called on the two sides to resume dialogue in order to find a "comprehensive and fair" solution to the long-standing crisis between Palestine and Israel.

The Istanbul declaration called on "the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of Palestine".

The declaration also rejected and condemned the "unlawful" decision of the US president.

Last week, Donald Trump announced his decision, despite widespread opposition across the Middle East, to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocate Washington's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem remains at the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967, might eventually serve as the capital of a future state.

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Phone addiction can mess up brain chemistry, study finds

RT | Dec 14, 2017

© press.rsna.org
Being addicted to smartphones can create chemical changes in the brain, which may be linked to depression and anxiety in young people, a study suggests.

Scientists at Korea University found that teenagers who obsessively used their mobile devices scored higher on standardized tests that detect mental disorders. The test measured how much internet and smartphone use affected daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns and feelings.

The researchers have recently presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

The team documented the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (Gaba), a chemical messenger in the brain that slows down brain signals, and of glutamate-glutamine (Glx) a neurotransmitter that causes the brain’s nerve cells to become excited.

The experiment involved 38 young people with an average age of 15.5, half of whom were diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction, while the rest formed a healthy control group.

Out of the 19 teenagers addicted to smartphones, 12 were receiving cognitive behavioral therapy to treat addiction, as part of the study.

The results showed teenagers with smartphone addiction have higher ratios of Gaba-to-Glx in the part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex, prior to therapy, as compared to the healthy control group. The anterior cingulate cortex is the region which involves executive function, cognitive process, and emotional regulation.

The lead author of the study, Hyung Suk Seo, a professor of neuroradiology at Korea University, said this ratio correlates to depression and anxiety. The study also found that Gaba-to-Glx ratios decreased after cognitive therapy.

“The increased Gaba levels, and disrupted balance between Gaba and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex, may contribute to our understanding of the pathophysiology of -and treatment for- addictions,” Dr Seo said.

The team also found that addicted teens had “significantly higher scores of depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity.”

“The higher the score, the more severe the addiction,” Dr Seo concluded.

The team from Korea University, in Seoul, took 3D images of participants’ brains using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), to measure their brain chemical composition. MRS is a non-invasive diagnostic test often used to detect the presence of tumors. It works by comparing the chemical composition of normal brain tissue with abnormal brain tissue.

The scientists say further research is needed to understand the clinical implications of their findings but add that high levels of Gaba in the brain could be related to “functional loss’ in certain areas of the brain.

A recent study found 46 percent of Americans stay they could not live without their smartphone, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Scientists are increasingly looking at disruptions in the glutamate/Gaba-glutamine cycle because of a variety of neurological disorders and conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and autism.

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