Scientists Believe They’ve Found Physical Evidence For One Of The Most Infamous Biblical Stories

Scientists believe they have found physical evidence that an exploding space rock could have inspired one of the most infamous stories in the Bible, archaeologist Christopher R. Moore wrote, Yahoo News reported.

Scientists may have found proof of an icy space rock hurtling through the atmosphere at about 38,000 mph toward the ancient Biblical city Sodom, now called Tall el-Hammam, roughly 3,600 years ago, Moore wrote. The Bible describes the destruction of an urban center near the Dead Sea, with stones and fire falling from the sky.

The discovery is the result of 15 years’ worth of excavation work, Moore wrote. Scientists suspect a firestorm led to the city’s destruction due to the presence of a roughly 5-foot-thick jumbled layer of charcoal, ash, melted mudbricks and melted pottery, called a destruction layer. (RELATED: Asteroid Flew ‘Close’ To Earth, Estimated To Be Same Size As Great Pyramid Of Giza)

The group was able to determine through analysis that the only event that could have raised temperatures enough to melt many of the materials found at the site was a cosmic impact, Moore wrote. Similar evidence was found at other suspected cosmic impacts, such as the crater created by the asteroid that triggered the dinosaur extinction.

Scientists used the Online Impact Calculator, which “allows researchers to estimate the many details of a cosmic impact event, based on known impact events and nuclear detonations,” to aid their efforts to learn about the cause.

An aerial view shows salt formations in the southern part of the Dead Sea near the Israeli Neve Zohar resort on June 17, 2021. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Scientists estimate the rock exploded about 2.5 miles above ground, creating a blast around 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Moore wrote. Air temperatures would have then skyrocketed to 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius), setting the entire city on fire.

A massive shockwave would have followed, moving at roughly 740 mph, faster than any tornado on record, demolishing every building and killing all inhabitants, Moore wrote.

There are currently more than 26,000 near-Earth asteroids and one hundred short-period near-Earth comets that could cause a cosmic impact with similar consequences, Moore wrote.

“One will inevitably crash into the Earth,” he added. “Millions more remain undetected, and some may be headed toward the Earth now.”

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Afghan women in Panjshiri share stories in fight against Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan – When the Taliban stormed to power last month, one prized province refused to cower: the Panjshir Valley, a hub of hundreds of local fighters and former Afghan Special Forces soldiers who coalesced under the umbrella known as the National Resistance Front (NRF).

But it was not only the men who seemingly hit back.

“My whole family was there fighting – my husband, brothers, cousins, father-in-law, mother-in-law and myself,” Lailuma, 24, tells me defiantly from the tattered Kabul displacement camp on Saturday, having fled Panjshir a week earlier. “I fought them with stones.”

Other young women congregate around, concurring that they too joined the fight too, wielding stones instead of firearms.

Lailuma comes from Panjshir’s Anaba district and led a quiet life as a tailor before conflict broke out last month. She says the men in the village led them to the mountains as they were being attacked from the air in their homes, where she and her extended family subsisted. Yet after 10 days, she and 20 others from various villages trundled down in surrender.

Led by 24-year-old Lailuma, a group of Panjshir women have taken to throwing stones at Taliban forces.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Only when they returned to their homes, Lailuma continues, they were not permitted by their new rulers to turn on their lights or sit next to each other. And when they tried to run away, she tells me, the Taliban would open fire and warn them to stay put.

“They (the Taliban) would point their guns toward us and tell us not to go,” Lailuma recalls, stressing that they had to sneak on-foot for two hours between the array of mud huts and homes to finally reach their homes and abscond to Kabul.

Lailuma now lives in a squalid makeshift camp alongside thousands of other Afghans in a dusty park inside Kabul’s Police 17 district. It is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe. Desperate mothers press their ill babies into your arms; dozens swarm to give out their phone numbers in the hopes some aid will come. Pink eye is evidently spreading like wildfire among the children who hack and wheeze, and countless numbers have lost limbs, parts of their face and no doubt their livelihoods at some point throughout Afghanistan’s decades of bloodshed.

According to Lailuma, Taliban forces threaten people trying to flee Panjshir by raising their guns and promising to shoot them.
According to Lailuma, Taliban forces threaten people trying to flee Panjshir by raising their guns and promising to shoot them.
Bilal Guler/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The few latrines overflow, and there is no sign of water, food or medical assistance.

Lailuma says her husband is being treated at the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, having been shot in the hand during the daring Panjshir escape, and that she too was wounded by a shell that struck the back of her head.

As a crowd begins to form during my interview, an angry Taliban guard comes by and hoists his rifle into the air, barking at the growing cluster of sad, begging Afghans to disperse.

Only Lailuma isn’t taking any of it, arguing that she is the representative of the people and not the gun-wielding Talib. The two go back and forth in a heated argument as the guard mandates no cameras are allowed and purports to silence her from speaking to me further, to which Lailuma smugly responds that she and her Panjshiri “sisters” are the ones who already decided that they would not be filmed.

Taliban forces have given Panjshir citizens an ultimatum. Either surrender to Taliban control or die.
Taliban forces have given Panjshir citizens an ultimatum. Either surrender to Taliban control or die.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Moreover, Anisa, 45, weeps as she details how she lost her 18-year-old son Sakhi – who was engaged to be married – in the conflict sixteen days earlier.

“He died and we could not collect his body for two days,” she cries.

Anisa says she spent a night in the mountain, but retreated down unharmed.

Citizens of Panjshir who have been forced to live under the harsh conditions of the Taliban since their rise to power last month.
Citizens of Panjshir who have been forced to live under the harsh conditions of the Taliban since their rise to power last month.
Jake Simkin

While it is evident – having gone through the region just over a week ago – that the Taliban has conquered at least the main artery and infrastructure through all eight districts of the picturesque Panjshir, some fighting is said to be going on in the rugged mountains above under grave humanitarian concerns for the future of those still hiding throughout the caves and crevices.

Flanked by dozens of his robed Taliban fighters from Farah province 500 miles away, Commander Mawlawy Khalid minced no words that they were giving Panjshiris an ultimatum.

“We will give them a deadline, today or tomorrow or whenever (to surrender),” Khalid said, adding that whoever does not surrender “they shoot them dead.”

The process of surrender, according to Khalid, is that once weapons have been checked and handed over, the individual is then issued “a letter” indicating that they are “free” to return home as normal. Every high-ranking Taliban you meet says that they are urging residents to resume life as normal, only that remains a hard sell for fleeing families worn down by distrust and a dire economic situation.

Eighty miles from the capital, Panjshir has earned something of a mythological reputation over the years. First, it was the triumphant hub against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and then the only Afghanistan province not to have fallen to the Taliban during its last rule from 1996 to 2001. Then, as the Taliban rapidly captured the country amid the twilight of the US withdrawal, Panjshir served as the last bastion of anti-Taliban resistance.

The Taliban enter through a gate into a main central district of Panjshir.
The Taliban enter through a gate into a main central district of Panjshir.
Jake Simkin

Almost every shop alongside the main, dusty road that snakes through the province appears intact yet shuttered.

Since the conflict inside the enclave gained momentum a week after the Kabul fall on August 15, claims from both sides became almost impossible to verify. Much of the information vacuum has been sucked away by an almost total media blackout, mainly due to the embattled communications situation.

The Taliban – officially termed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – denies that it is targeting civilians.

Nonetheless, NRF activists continue to raise the alarm over the fate of the famed province and fear for the fate of those on the mountains without adequate food and assistance coming in as the winter months loom, and what will become of them whether they do or do not surrender. Global human rights monitoring groups, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), have called on the Taliban to allow independent missions to carry out investigations into the allegations of abuse.

NRF leader Ahmad Massoud – the 32-year-old son of the iconic “Lion of Panjshir” rebel leader Ahmad Shah Massoud who was killed by al Qaeda two days before the September 11 attacks, continues to herald a “national uprising” against the Taliban.

Taliban forces patrol the main road into Panjshir, where they have encountered resistance to their new rule.
Taliban forces patrol the main road into Panjshir, where they have encountered resistance to their new rule.
Jake Simkin

Last week, Massoud signed a pro-bono contract with Robert Stryk of Stryk Global Diplomacy to dissuade the United States government from recognizing the Taliban – and thus securing the international funding and legitimacy they desire as the embattled country struggles with a dire economic crisis and teeters on the brink of financial collapse. While much of the international community are seeking to assist embattled Afghans, governments are deeply cautious of bankrolling a regime that waged war against the United States and its ground partners for almost twenty years.

Meanwhile, Murtaza, 27 – who owns a barbershop in the Panjshir capital of Bazark – says he and his wife and four young children survived 10 days in the mountains but were fast running out of food and water. Yet in the end, he claims, the Taliban caught them and gave them no choice but to come down and eventually flee to the overstuffed Kabul camp.

Murtaza notes he was not harmed by the Taliban fighters, but for days witnessed heavy fighting, although he did not personally participate. Despite the worry that a possible genocide is being waged against the Panjshiri population by the Taliban, he vows that is not the case.

“The fighting is on both sides,” Murtaza says.

And while the likes of Lailuma have little in the way of a home inside the sprawling bundle of tents, she insists that she will follow Massoud to her “last breath.”

“If peace comes,” she says. “We are going back.”



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CNN Pounced on Larry Elder, But Ignored Stories Against Democrats

As the California recall campaign closed, New Day and other CNN shows ignored news reflecting unfavorably on Democrats while going negative against Republican candidate Larry Elder until the very end.

New Day and other CNN shows completely ignored liberal actress Rose McGowan’s endorsement of Elder as she also accused Democratic Governor Newsom’s ex-wife of trying to protect Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein from McGowan’s charges of sexual assault.

As for the woman who made a racially-charged attack on Elder by throwing an egg at him while wearing a gorilla mask, Erin Burnett OutFront and Early Start were the only two CNN shows to give it any coverage, with Early Start burying it before 6:00 a.m. Kyung Lah even hinted that Elder was to blame for the attack as she asserted that he “draws out some hatred from people.”

By contrast. New Day‘s competitor on Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, covered both stories. On election day Tuesday, Fox showed a clip of McGowan being interviewed by Fox host Tucker Carlson discussing why a liberal like here would support Elder. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade recalled:

So Rose McGowan factored into this race over the last 48 hours — a famous actress who was attacked by Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced producer. And she sat down with Tucker Carlson for an extensive interview. But she also campaigned for Larry Elder over the last two days because of what happened to her because evidently she was approached by Gavin Newsom’s wife. “What can we do to make your accusations against Harvey Weinstein go away?” And that exercised her that he should not be governor where she went out for Larry Elder.

Then came a clip of McGowan recalling that Newsom’s wife and others had pressured her to remain silent about Weinstein:

I think my opponents do not understand my motivations at all. They’ve tried to buy me off every way. In fact, Gavin Newsom’s ex-wife, before the Weinstein story broke, they knew I was coming because I was hitting out three years in Hollywood very publicly in the press. And so people sort of acted like I just spoke up the first day they read about Weinstein.

On both Monday and Tuesday, as CNN ignored the story, New Day find time on both days to jump on Elder for suggesting “shenanigans” by Democrats might cost him the election, with CNN host Brianna Keilar calling it “the little big lie” on Monday’s show.

In contrast with Fox, when Erin Burnett OutFront was one of the few shows on CNN to cover the racist egg attack on Elder, correspondent Kyung Lah hinted at blaming Elder because he “draws out some hatred.” The CNN reporter recalled:

Well, you know, certain voters, they love him. The GOP base, draws out a lot of passion — that’s what makes him so potent a contender, but he also draws out some hatred. And we really saw that play out today. He was at a campaign stop — a scheduled stop in Venice, California. He was going to tour homeless encampments. And he was greeted by some angry people there, including a protester wearing a gorilla mask with pink hair who threw an egg at him.

The episode of Fox & Friends was sponsored in part by Trelegy. Their contact information is linked. Let them know you appreciate them covering such stories that the liberal media ignore.

Fox & Friends

September 14, 2021

6:27 a.m. Eastern

BRIAN KILMEADE: So Rose McGowan factored into this race over the last 48 hours — a famous actress who was attacked by Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced producer. And she sat down with Tucker Carlson for an extensive interview. But she also campaigned for Larry Elder over the last two days because of what happened to her because evidently she was approached by Gavin Newsom’s wife. “What can we do to make your accusations against Harvey Weinstein go away?” And that exercised her that he should not be governor where she went out for Larry Elder. Here she is talking about her experience with Gavin Newsom’s spouse.

ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTRESS: I think my opponents do not understand my motivations at all. They’ve tried to buy me off every way. In fact, Gavin Newsom’s ex-wife, before the Weinstein story broke, they knew I was coming because I was hitting out three years in Hollywood very publicly in the press. And so people sort of acted like I just spoke up the first day they read about Weinstein. 

I’m like, “No, I’ve been rattling their cages because I had to train people in the media to listen to me differently because if they just saw me as an actress the first day, this all would not have worked.” I had to set up a domino effect worldwide. I wanted to show people that if you fight and are strategic and very smart about it, you can cut off the head of rotten power instead of just biting at the ankles with picket signs.

PETE HEGSETH: You can see Tucker’s full interview with Rose McGowan tomorrow on Fox Nation at 4 p.m.?

KILMEADE: Do you think that helps?

HEGSETH: Well, it hasn’t helped when liberal actresses have come out for liberals. Maybe when they come out and are willing to say, “Hey, try something different,” maybe it does have an effect. Maybe people look up and say, “I’m used to you telling me to vote for socialists — now you’re telling me to vote for Larry Elder?”

EARHARDT: She said she doesn’t always vote for Republicans or Democrats. She says she listens to the issues. But in this case, she doesn’t like what Gavin Newsom’s wife allegedly did, and so that’s why she’s not voting for Gavin Newsom.

(…)

CNN’s New Day

September 13, 2021

8:47 a.m.

BRIANNA KEILAR: Most polls already show Newsom’s win. The leading Republican candidate, Larry Elder, has been spreading baseless claims of voter fraud. And to discuss more, let’s bring in senior political writer for The San Francisco Chronicle, Joe Garofalo. … You know, this is obviously a California story, but it’s become a national one as well. And I wonder what you’re expecting the President Joe Biden effect to be. And we should mention, this would be added to the Vice President Kamala Harris effect and the Elizabeth Warren effect, and the former President Biden — former President Obama by video effect. What do you think?

JOE GAROFOLI, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: And the Bernie Sanders effect. He also cut a video for Gavin Newsom. I expect, frankly, the Biden effect to be minimal. We already have a third of the votes have already been cast here, and most likely more after today. And, remember, Bernie Sanders won the California primary, not Joe Biden. Biden sort of coming in here at the end — he was supposed to be here a couple of weeks ago. So I expect the Biden effect to be somewhat minimal.

KEILAR: Okay, I do want to ask you — because I think one of the things — look, whatever the outcome, but one of the things that this race is going to be most remembered for is this kind of big lie, or the little big lie. I don’t know if you would call it — out of California. Larry Elder telling reporters last Saturday that there were shenanigans that he feels interfered in the 2020 presidential election. And he said that the same might happen in the recall vote. I mean, how significant is this, him saying this?

GAROFOLI: I think the only effect of that would be to depress his own vote. This is a message that Republicans eat up out here in California and across the country. Remember, there’s twice as many Democrats in California as Republicans. So I think Biden — I’m sorry — I think Larry Elder is eating his own seed corn here. It’s only going to hurt him. There’s — as you said, Brianna, there’s been no evidence of shenanigans, and Larry Elder didn’t provide any evidence of said shenanigans either.

KEILAR: No, he didn’t. And, look, maybe it depresses his vote but maybe it explains an expected loss that may be coming for him. In the same vein, though, I mean, this is something that it damaging to, you know, in California, the institution of — the election institution there.

(…)

CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront

September 8, 2021

7:59 a.m.

ERIN BURNETT: Okay, they certainly have sent in the cavalry — Democrats have — but Larry Elder who obviously you just played there, the leading GOP contender in the race, seems like he’s sort of helps and hurts Newsom because he is a firebrand — he attracts a lot of attention. Where does he stand with voters right now?

KYUNG LAH: Well, you know, certain voters, they love him. The GOP base, draws out a lot of passion — that’s what makes him so potent a contender, but he also draws out some hatred. And we really saw that play out today. He was at a campaign stop — a scheduled stop in Venice, California. He was going to tour homeless encampments. And he was greeted by some angry people there, including a protester wearing a gorilla mask with pink hair who threw an egg at him. It narrowly missed Elder, but that campaign stop, Erin, was only minutes long when it was planned to be much longer.



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FEC says Twitter acted legally in blocking Hunter Biden laptop stories, pointing to claim of intel warnings about hacking

The Federal Elections Commission said on Wednesday its members unanimously rejected complaints from the Republican National Committee and others that Twitter’s decision to block the sharing of links to articles from the New York Post related to Hunter Biden’s laptop constituted an illegal contribution to now-President Joe Biden’s candidacy.

In announcing the decision, the FEC pointed to Twitter’s assertion that part of the reason it stopped the spread of the New York Post articles in October was over concerns that foreign actors obtained the salacious materials through hacking. The social media giant claimed the U.S. Intelligence Community was warning about such an effort in the lead-up to the 2020 election. No evidence has emerged that the Hunter Biden laptop story stemmed from a foreign hacking operation.

The FEC said there was a 6-0 vote in finding “no reason to believe” that Twitter violated the law “by making corporate in-kind contributions” and “no reason to believe” that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey or Brandon Borrman, who was Twitter vice president of global communications, broke the law.

In response to reporting on the decision published on Monday, RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said the group was “weighing its options for appealing this disappointing decision from the FEC.”

An October complaint  from the RNC alleged: “Through its ad hoc, partisan oppression of media critical of Biden, [Twitter] is making illegal, corporate in-kind contributions as it provides unheard-of media services for Joe Biden’s campaign.” The RNC argued at the time that Twitter was “doing so for the clear purpose of supporting the Biden campaign.”

Robert Kelner, a lawyer who had represented retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn before Sidney Powell took over his representation, helped represent Twitter in the FEC complaint, writing in December that “Twitter undertook, for bona fide commercial reasons” actions to block potentially hacked content.

A lengthy statement from Yoel Roth, head of site integrity for Twitter, was included in Kelner’s response.

“Since 2018, I have had regular meetings with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and industry peers regarding election security,” Roth said. “During these weekly meetings, the federal law enforcement agencies communicated that they expected ‘hack-and-leak operations’ by state actors might occur in the period shortly before the 2020 presidential election, likely in October. I was told in these meetings that the intelligence community expected that individuals associated with political campaigns would be subject to hacking attacks and that material obtained through those hacking attacks would likely be disseminated over social media platforms, including Twitter… I also learned in these meetings that there were rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden.”

NYT DELETES CLAIM HUNTER BIDEN LAPTOP STORY WAS ‘UNSUBSTANTIATED’

Roth added: “The Site Integrity Team preliminarily determined that the information in the articles could have been obtained through hacking, based on, among other things, the type of material, the sourcing described in the articles, and the information security community’s initial reactions.”

The laptop was given to a computer shop in Delaware for repair in April 2019, according to John Paul Mac Isaac, the computer store’s legally blind owner, who said the hardware was never retrieved by the owner. The laptop and hard drive were reportedly seized by the FBI through a grand jury subpoena  in December 2019. One copy of the hardware’s contents was obtained by Rudy Giuliani, then a personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, and the data were shared with various media outlets.

Hunter Biden has never denied the authenticity of the computer materials that have since been published.

The New York Post reported emails showed evidence of a possible meeting between Hunter Biden  , his father, who was the vice president at the time,   and Burisma Holdings adviser Vadym Pozharskyi, which the elder Biden denies took place as described in the reporting.

The newspaper also detailed Hunter Biden’s financial dealings with shady Chinese businessmen  . Hunter Biden held a position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, from 2014 to 2019.

When the New York Post attempted to post the articles on its Twitter  account, the social media company claimed it violated its rule against sharing “hacked” materials. In fact, Twitter and Facebook limited users  from sharing it for a time.

Pozharskyi sent Hunter Biden an email on April 17, 2015, saying, “Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together.”

Biden’s presidential campaign denied the meeting took place based on “Biden’s official schedules from the time.”

Roth has a number of anti-Trump tweets from before he took his position with Twitter.

He tweeted in September 2016, “I’ve never donated to a presidential campaign before, but I just gave $100 to Hillary for America. We can’t f-ck around anymore.” He said in November that year that “we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.” In January 2017, he said Trump won partly because of “racism.” That month he also claimed that there were “ACTUAL NAZIS IN THE WHITE HOUSE.”

The Trump War Room tweeted in 2020 that Roth “has a history of tweeting terrible and vile things that show he has a very bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)!”

Borrman’s LinkedIn states that he left Twitter in June to become an adviser for the Franklin Project, and offshoot of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project .

The FEC signaled that it believed Roth’s explanation with its “factual and legal analysis” in August claiming that Twitter “has credibly explained that it acted with a commercial motivation in response to the New York Post articles rather than with an electoral purpose.” The commission said “the actions taken by Twitter in response to the October 2020 New York Post articles, i.e., blocking users from tweeting hacked or personal information … appear to reflect bona fide commercial considerations rather than an effort to influence a federal election.”

The FEC wrote “federal law enforcement agencies apparently communicated to Twitter that they expected hack-and-leak operations by state actors might occur in the period shortly before the 2020 presidential election and warned that such a hack-and-leak operation might involve Hunter Biden” and “these circumstances appear to reflect a commercial, not electoral, basis for Twitter to have blocked users from sharing this information on its platform.”

Despite offering no proof, Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and many in the media dismissed the October laptop story as part of a Russian disinformation operation. However, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe “there is no intelligence” indicating the laptop was part of a Russian disinformation effort. A senior intelligence official told the Washington Examiner that “the IC and DOJ are in lock-step on this: there is absolutely zero evidence or intel that the laptop or the information contained therein is a Russian op.”

Concerns about Hunter Biden gained broader attention in late 2020 after confirming he was under federal investigation. Multiple outlets reported he is being federally investigated in connection with his taxes and potentially related to his overseas business with China and other countries.

Joe Biden ’s son went on a media blitz this year to promote his memoir  , Beautiful Things, during which he admitted the laptop could be his. However, he said he doesn’t remember and that it could have been stolen, he could have been hacked, or Russian intelligence could have been involved, without providing any evidence. A forensic analysis of the laptop’s emails reportedly  concluded that “no evidence was found to suggest that the timestamps or data were altered or manufactured.”

The day after Twitter blocked  the New York Post’s mid-October stories on Hunter Biden, Dorsey tweeted , “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix.”

Dorsey testified   about the controversy before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November after Biden defeated Trump.

“We made a quick interpretation, using no other evidence, that the materials in the article were obtained through hacking, and, according to our policy, we blocked them from being spread,” Dorsey said. “Upon further consideration, we admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

The 50 former intelligence officials who signed a letter suggesting  Russia was involved with the Hunter Biden laptop matter  are now largely silent about why they weighed in on the story weeks before the 2020 presidential election. During a presidential debate, Joe Biden  dismissed the laptop emails as part of a “Russian plan”  and cited the letter.

Hunter Biden also falsely claimed the intelligence community publicly concluded that stories involving his laptop is “Russian disinformation.”

FEC Commissioner Sean Cooksey released remarks dated September, saying he had joined the unanimous vote but disagreed with the reasoning of his colleagues.

“I’m not so sure” that “none of the behavior at issue was for the purpose of influencing the 2020 presidential election,” Cooksey said. He called this “irrelevant,” however, arguing that “Twitter is a publisher with a First Amendment right to control the content on its platform and to favor or disfavor certain speech and speakers.”





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Children who lost parents in 9/11 attacks share their stories 20 years later

A year after 9/11, a group of Long Island schoolkids whose mom or dad died in the World Trade Center gathered to tell The Post their stories. They reunited on the 3rd, 5th and 10th anniversaries. Now, 20 years after the terror attacks, we catch up with some of these parents, homeowners and professionals who continue to grapple with their loss and to honor their parents’ legacies.

Jacquelyn Hobbs

The horror of September 11 confronts Jackie Hobbs whenever she arrives at her Manhattan workplace.

“My office is right next to the World Trade Center,” said Jackie, 32, an associate media director at an ad agency whose headquarters overlooks the void where the North Tower once stood. Her father Thomas Hobbs, 41, worked on the building’s 105th floor as a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald.

Jennifer Herold, Andrew Erker, Lauren Erker, Jackie Hobbs all lost their fathers in the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Tamara Beckwith

Unanticipated glimpses of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza from a conference room or a colleague’s office have sometimes left her reeling.

“It’s like — oh! I wasn’t expecting that,” she said. “I’ve needed to take a step back, take a breath.”

But over time, the plaza became a place of solace.

“On days when I’m really stressed, that’s where I walk,” she explained. “It reminds me that life is precious. It puts everything into perspective.”

The three Hobbs siblings all live in Long Island and remain close. Steven, now 30, is an attorney; David, 28, recently founded a business-services firm. Jackie and her husband Anthony bought a home of their own last year in Bellmore, a few miles from her mother’s house.

“My mom’s been seeing someone for years,” she said — a man who stepped up to fill a crucial role at Jackie’s November 2019 wedding reception.

“He danced with me at my wedding,” she recalled. “It was nice. But not the same.”

(Second from back row) Lyndsay Herold, 10 , Ashley Herold, 13,  Lauren Erker, 13  Center row)  Steven Hobbs, 11, Jacqueline Hobbs, 13 and Drew Erker, 10. (Front) David Hobbs, 9.
This 2002 photo shows children who lost their parents on Sept. 11, 2001: (Back row) Chris Wieman, 13, Jennifer Herold, 17, Tommy Gies, 19, Bobby Gies 15, Ronnie Gies, 17. (Second from back row) Lyndsay Herold, 10, Ashley Herold, 13, Lauren Erker, 13. (Center row) Steven Hobbs, 11, Jacqueline Hobbs, 13, Drew Erker, 10. (Front) David Hobbs, 9.
New York Post

Jennifer and Ashley Herold

“Pop-Pop was a hero. He helped people get out of the tower when bad men crashed the planes.”

That’s how Jennifer Herold explains 9/11 and their grandfather’s death to her three young children. Gary Herold, 44, a risk management supervisor at Aon Corp., worked on the 98th floor of the South Tower.

Jennifer Herold tells her children Lucas, 6, Ashlyn, 5, and Declan, 3 about their grandfather Gary's heroics on September 11, 2001.
Jennifer Herold tells her children Lucas, 6, Ashlyn, 5, and Declan, 3 about their grandfather Gary’s heroics on Sept. 11, 2001.
Tamara Beckwith

Soon after the attacks, a co-worker called the family. “She said my dad walked her to the stairwell, gave her a hug and said, ‘I’m going to go back and make sure everyone else is out.’”

Jennifer, now 36, has overcome her anger that dad didn’t escape when he could.

“In the beginning, it made me very mad. But as the years went on, I realized he wouldn’t have it any other way. He wouldn’t run away. He would have tried to save someone.”

Her father never met his grandkids — Lucas, 6, Ashlyn, 5, and Declan, 3. They lovingly hug his gravestone on visits to St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, L.I., where Herold raised Jennifer, Ashley and Lyndsey — ages 16, 13 and 9 on 9/11. “When it came to us kids, he was so funny and had such a big heart,” Ashley said.

He also gave life lessons that molded them. In the 7th grade, when her dad took Ashley to school, a girl with pink hair walked by. “I expected him to laugh and make fun of her. Instead, he said, ‘She’s trying to be who she wants to be, and doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. That’s how you should be.’” Six years ago, the sisters and their mom, Angela, all moved to Florida.

Inspired by a high-school staffer who helped her get through the trauma of 9/11, Jennifer became a guidance counselor. Ashley, 33, became a teacher, recently taking a job in West Virginia. Lyndsey, 29, who had the shortest time with her dad, works in a restaurant and still struggles with grief.

But the sisters keep their dad’s legacy alive. Five years ago, they launched the Gary Herold Memorial Scholarship in Spring Hill, Fla., raising funds to give out $1,000 and $500 to teens who write the best essays on “why it is important to never forget 9/11.”

“Students also have to demonstrate selflessness and generosity, the characteristics my father embodied,” Jennifer said.

This photo taken in 2011  shows children who lost their parents on September 11, 2001: (Back row) Chris Weiman, Jennifer Herold, Tommy Gies, Bobby Gies, Ronnie Gies (Second from back) Lyndsey Herold, Ashley Herold, Lauren Erker. (Center row) Steven Hobbs, Jacqueline Hobbs, Drew Erker (Front row) David Hobbs.
This photo taken in 2011 shows children who lost their parents on Sept. 11, 2001: (Back row) Chris Weiman, Jennifer Herold, Tommy Gies, Bobby Gies, Ronnie Gies. (Second from back) Lyndsey Herold, Ashley Herold, Lauren Erker. (Center row) Steven Hobbs, Jacqueline Hobbs, Drew Erker. (Front row) David Hobbs.
Tamara Beckwith

Chris Wieman

“They tell me I can take the day off,” Chris Wieman said of the anniversary of the terror attack that killed his mother, Mary Lenz Wieman, 43, a marketing executive at Aon Corp.

“But it’s just better if I work,” the 32-year-old said. “It’s better to keep my mind going.”

Chris has formed a “tight family” of colleagues at Greek Xpress, a Long Island-based restaurant chain. He spends six days a week at its Great Neck store, where he takes great pride in his work and doesn’t have to retell his family’s 9/11 experience.

“The owner knows my story,” he said. “The people here know my story. Everyone’s there for each other.”

The sudden loss of his mother at age 12 haunts him. “It just never leaves you,” Chris said. “You still remember where you were, what period in school you were in … you remember that moment, and the day after, as if it was yesterday.”

Healing “has been a process, year after year,” he said. “Especially when my dad got remarried” in 2009, adding two step-siblings to the family.“That was a process for me and my sisters” — Alison, 29, an attorney who announced her engagement this year, and Mary Julia, 27, a physical therapist in Boston. “Now everyone’s close as can be.”

“Mom would be happy that everyone’s working hard and doing the right thing,” Chris said. “I just know it in my heart.”


Follow our 9/11 20th Anniversary coverage here:


Lauren Erker

August is the cruelest month for Lauren Erker.

“His birthday is Aug. 7, so I remember that every year,” she said, speaking of her father Erwin Erker, 41, a vice president at Marsh & McLennan.

“And then everything about 9/11 starts,” she said. “You turn on the TV, it’s there. You turn on social media, it’s there.

“You don’t want people to forget,” she said. “But for everybody that was directly affected by it, we’re reliving it over and over, every year.”

After attending college in Rhode Island, Lauren settled in the Ocean State. She works in marketing for a major mortgage lender – a handy connection when it came time to buy a home of her own.

“I still don’t understand mortgages, but the marketing side of it I got down,” she joked.

Her cherished townhouse adjoins a 130-acre nature preserve, perfect for the athletic, outdoorsy 32-year-old. Her brother Andrew, 29, a supervisor at a large sporting-goods store, recently got a place of his own in Long Island.

Lauren, who was 12 when her father died, clings to memories of traveling with him on his meticulously planned family vacations. “My dad was all about us,” she said, tearing up.

“My mom’s my rock, and I had a lot of amazing men in my life — uncles and family friends who stepped up,” she said. “But nothing replaces Dad.”



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Police Shot a Man Driving Away, Can’t Keep Their Stories Straight, Get Qualified Immunity Anyway – Reason.com

Police violated the constitutional rights of an Alabama man when they repeatedly shot at his car, first as he inched forward in it nonthreateningly and then as he drove away, hitting him either five or six times and requiring that he receive emergency surgery, a federal court ruled last week.

The same panel found that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity and thus cannot be sued in connection with the incident. The legal doctrine allows state actors to violate your rights without fear of civil liability if the exact manner in which they misbehaved has not been declared unconstitutional in a preexisting court precedent. (A practical example: Two cops in Fresno, California, allegedly pocketed $225,000 while executing a search warrant, but the victims were not permitted to sue because no ruling on the books said that stealing under those precise circumstances is a violation of someone’s rights.)

On June 14, 2014, Bessemer Police Department (BPD) Officers Daniel Partridge and Christopher Asarisi responded to a complaint from a woman who reported what she thought was a domestic violence dispute somewhere nearby and that she thought she heard two gunshots. When the cops arrived, they found Marcus Underwood and Ray James, who appeared to be arguing.

The men immediately dispersed; Underwood, who got in his car, responded that they were just “clowning.” Both officers say they told him to stop, but Underwood inched forward with “the foot off the brake,” according to Asarisi. The officers allegedly then began shooting at his vehicle, prompting Underwood to accelerate and collide with Partridge, who was not injured. They fired a total of 20 shots and continued to shoot from behind as Underwood drove away. He ultimately crashed the vehicle into a house and needed immediate medical attention.

Analyzing the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found that the officers violated Underwood’s Fourth Amendment rights. “While Underwood was not obeying orders to stop and was evading talking to the police, Underwood was not driving aggressively or in a threatening way,” wrote Circuit Judge Charles R. Wilson. “The car was still eight feet away, [Partridge] did not warn Underwood that he would use deadly force, and there was no critical need to prevent a known dangerous person from escaping and harming others.”

The most important bit: “We conclude that under the totality of the circumstances a reasonable jury could find that the Officers’ use of deadly force was unreasonable and therefore unconstitutional.”

But Underwood won’t get that chance. It’s not because he doesn’t have a plausible case; the court acknowledges the reverse. Rather, he will not have the right to ask a jury of his peers to consider it because neither the 11th Circuit nor the Supreme Court has litigated a case with almost identical facts.

“The Officers are entitled to qualified immunity because Underwood has not demonstrated that his rights were clearly established,” wrote Wilson. “As an initial matter, Underwood does not point to a factually similar case, nor does he contend that a broader principle applies here. And probably for good reason, as this case is not directly analogous to other binding qualified immunity cases involving vehicles and the use of deadly force.”

It’s a prime example of the outsourcing of such matters to a few bigwigs on the federal judiciary as opposed to what the Constitution prescribes: jury trials. Legislated into existence by the Supreme Court, qualified immunity protects government agents from facing accountability even when the courts admit they violated the Constitution—a privilege not bestowed to anyone without government status. It has protected a cop who allegedly beat a subdued man in a brutal fashion, a cop who destroyed a man’s vehicle during an illegal search for which he lied to get consent, and more than two dozen cops who blew up an innocent 78-year-old man’s home during a SWAT raid that targeted the wrong house. It has shielded cops who have shot children, cops who assaulted and filed bogus charges against a man for standing outside his own home, and corrupt college administrators who flouted a student’s First Amendment rights on campus.

Underwood’s version of events was corroborated by testimony from Elizabeth Harrington, the woman who called 911 and watched from her porch as it unfolded. Meanwhile, the officers contend that Partridge only began shooting after Underwood accelerated. But the court highlights a problem: Partridge’s testimony contradicts itself at certain turns and also fails to line up with Asarisi’s statement.

“The district court should have recognized the inconsistencies within Officer Partridge’s own testimony and between the Officers’ testimony,” said Wilson. “Of course, a jury could instead credit some of the Officers’ testimony and come to the same conclusion as the district court—that the Officers’ actions were reasonable. But these sorts of issues should not be decided [by the judiciary].” They should be up to a jury.

Underwood won’t go before one. But could he file a suit against the city? He has to contend with Monell, a legal doctrine that shields municipalities from civil suits unless they had a concrete policy that directly led to the alleged misbehavior. In some ways, it’s a standard even more rigorous than qualified immunity.

He lost there too. “Underwood does not provide evidence of either a pattern or knowledge of improper training,” noted Wilson. “He only claims that both Officers were in ‘cowboy mode’ on the night of the incident.” Whether or not a jury would have agreed such behavior merited a settlement for Underwood’s injuries will remain a mystery.



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Politico Published 20 Stories About Trump’s Taxes But 1 About Joe Biden’s

Last week, the Medicare trustees finally released their long-delayed annual report into that program’s finances. It confirmed the program remains on shaky fiscal footing, concluding the Medicare trust fund that pays for hospital inpatient expenses will become insolvent in 2026, just five short years from now.

President Joe Biden helped contribute to the deterioration in Medicare’s finances. By using a questionable tax loophole to avoid payroll taxes on more than $13.5 million in income from 2017 through 2020, Biden and his wife Jill dodged nearly $395,000 in Medicare taxes, along with more than $122,000 in taxes that fund Obamacare.

But you won’t find any mention of this in corporate media, so I decided to do a little digging to find out how and why.

Saturation About Trump’s Taxes, Little About Biden’s

I examined Politico, a publication many “inside-the-Beltway” types read. It showed a yawning gap between coverage of Joe Biden’s tax affairs compared to coverage of his predecessor.

Between January 21 and August 9 of this year, Politico ran at least 20 separate stories about Donald Trump’s taxes. By contrast, during the same period this year, Politico appears to have run only a single story related to Biden’s taxes, when the Bidens released their returns in May.

That story spent many more paragraphs talking about Trump not releasing his taxes (seven) than it did about Biden’s questionable use of this tax loophole (one). Therefore, some may consider what initially looks like a 20-to-1 disparity of stories about Trump’s taxes vis-à-vis Biden’s more like a 21-to-1, or 21-to-0, gap.

The May story on Biden’s taxes mentioned the Biden administration now wants to close the tax loophole the Bidens recently exploited, but only in passing. As best I can tell, no one from Politico has explored this issue in any depth when discussing the president’s proposed tax increases.

Politico has published articles noting Republicans promoted provisions in the COVID bill even though they voted against the measure. But I have yet to find a single instance of a reporter pointing out that Biden takes credit for Obamacare all the time, even though he went out of his way to avoid paying the taxes that fund that law.

I won’t argue the legal controversies about Trump’s taxes aren’t newsworthy—they clearly are. I have also previously stated that Trump should have released his taxes as president, and should get held to the same legal standard as everyone else if he did in fact violate any tax laws.

But Biden’s taxes are just as relevant as Trump’s, if not more so, given a combination of factors. Those include that Biden is the current president, as opposed to the former president. Also, unlike Trump, Biden has publicly advertised himself as a paragon of virtue regarding his taxes and financial affairs.

In February, Politico published an Associated Press article recounting how “Biden told [People] magazine a folksy story about rejecting the advice of an accountant who had told him years ago that he could bill the Senate for some of the gasoline he pumped into the family car. Biden said he told the accountant: ‘Here’s how I look at it: The foul line is 15 feet away from the basket. Never get me closer than 17 feet, because it really is a matter of the public trust.’” Politico’s reporters know information that would directly rebut Biden’s claims about the propriety of his taxes, but have largely ignored such information.

The Treasury secretary Biden nominated, Janet Yellen, pointedly did not use the loophole the Bidens did to dodge payroll taxes the millions she received in speaking fees. It again raises an obvious question—Why did Biden use a loophole his own Treasury secretary thought improper to use?—that Politico, and corporate media in general, refuse to ask.

Biden also wants to raise taxes by trillions by demanding “the rich pay their fair share,” yet arguably did not do so himself. In fact, the (leftist) Tax Policy Center has described his tactics as “pretty aggressive” and legally questionable.

As noted above, the budget Biden released in April proposed closing the loophole Biden and his wife Jill spent the past four years exploiting—and the Politico reporters who covered the release of Biden’s taxes know that fact. Yet what kinds of articles has Politico chosen to focus its energies on instead? Hard-hitting stories like these:

Incompetence, Or Double Standards?

There are only two seeming possibilities to the disparity in Politico’s coverage. The first is that the reporters don’t know a newsworthy story when it hits them in the face. This scenario doesn’t really add up, however, given that 1) Politico’s reporters know Biden wants to close the loophole he exploited and 2) Politico has shown a willingness to cover politicians’ alleged double-standards, as in the case of Republican lawmakers and Democrats’ “COVID relief” bill this spring.

The other, more likely, explanation lies in applying double standards to Republicans and Democrats. Recall that Politico is the same publication whose employees went into a full-on meltdown when Ben Shapiro wrote for its Playbook newsletter earlier this year. Given the seething rancor in its newsroom when Politico gave a platform to a conservative, it’s entirely possible that ideological bias, and a desire to protect the left’s “Dear Leader,” has led its reporters to overlook Biden’s tax problems in a way that they haven’t for Trump.

Ironically enough, at the time of the Shapiro kerfuffle in January, Politico staffers called the decision to let him write for Playbook “especially confusing given the newsroom’s welcome efforts over the last year to cover issues related to race in a more intentional, elevated, thoughtful way.” Yet, for all its supposed focus on “equity,” Politico wouldn’t run a story on how Biden stiffed paying Obamacare taxes that fund health coverage for poor black kids because he was too busy renting this mansion outside Washington:

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Funny that.

Politico Provides Answers—But Not a Response

I asked Politico to comment on my findings and received a response from Brad Dayspring, the paper’s vice president for marketing and communications. (Disclosure: More than a decade ago, Dayspring and I worked in the same Capitol Hill office for roughly one year.)

Dayspring referred me to several articles that in his view constitute examples of “stories holding President Biden and his Administration accountable to their words and actions.” Some of those articles, such as an August piece on immigration, focused on policy, while some focused more on process, Beltway gossip, and personalities.

But as to the specific concerns I raised regarding the disparity between coverage of Trump’s taxes and coverage of Biden’s, Dayspring would say only the following: “As I’m sure you understand, coverage decisions made by editors and the editorial process to report out stories is an internal matter, but I have passed along your opinion to relevant editors for their consideration.”

Actually, I don’t understand. If a government agency had a 20-to-1 gap in the way it treated a particular issue, no reporter in his right mind would accept that agency brushing off inquiries about the gap as “an internal matter.”

So why did Dayspring think he could avoid tough questions about this tangible gap in Politico’s reporting by sloughing it off as “an internal matter?” Does Politico think the transparency and accountability it claims to apply to government agencies should not apply to its own coverage?

More to the point: I raised the issue of Biden’s taxes—and specifically Politico’s lack of coverage of it—with two senior Politico editors last October 11. More than 11 months later, exactly nothing has changed, as my research demonstrates. So I don’t understand why my former colleague Dayspring would suggest I should think “passing along my opinion” to editors might matter now when it quite obviously hasn’t for months.

Just a few days ago, in a story discussing Biden’s response to the disappointing August jobs report, Politico once again exhibited open preferences for leftists. The reporter duly noted the president’s comments about the need for the rich to “pay their fair share”—without saying a word about how Biden refused to pay his “fair share.” It demonstrates how remarks like “we’ll pass along your opinion” amount to a patronizing dismissal of conservative viewpoints—and, for that matter, anyone with the temerity to challenge the accuracy and tone of Politico’s “reporting.”

Don’t Treat Readers as Fools

Dayspring’s response epitomizes why large swathes of the country hate the media. I empathize, because nothing sticks in my craw more than people who hide behind power to avoid admitting their own screw-ups—which is exactly what Dayspring, and Politico, chose to do. I’ve said it before in other contexts, and I will repeat it here: If you make a mistake, own it. But Politico and its editors pointedly refused to do just that, which could create bigger problems.

Much of Politico’s revenue comes from the sale of its “Politico Pro” content, for which lobbying firms and other Beltway-type organizations pay thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars per year. Regardless of their political affiliations, these firms may find it difficult to justify that kind of expenditure if Politico deliberately ignores important issues like Biden’s taxes, and the implications of the same.

More to the point: I don’t believe these types of sophisticated institutions will much tolerate a publication that treats their customers as suckers—much as Politico seems to assume. This means the institutional arrogance Politico appears willing to display could end up becoming its undoing.

Photo DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen





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The media is struggling with ivermectin stories – HotAir

You’ve probably noticed lately that the media is going all in on stories about people using ivermectin to treat themselves for COVID. Last Wednesday, a local station in Oklahoma published a report in which a doctor named Jason McElyea claimed so many people were using the drug without prescriptions that the emergency rooms in parts of the state were clogged with people experiencing serious side effects.

Dr. McElyea said patients are packing his eastern and southeastern Oklahoma hospitals after taking ivermectin doses meant for a full-sized horse, because they believed false claims the horse de-wormer could fight COVID-19.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” he said…

“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” said Dr. McElyea. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”…

“The scariest one that I’ve heard of and seen is people coming in with vision loss,” he said.

As you can imagine, this story went viral on Twitter. Rachel Maddow sent it to her 10 million followers:

Fox News points out a list of other progressives also highlighted the story:

MSNBC left-wing anchor Joy Reid also promoted the story during her show on Friday, repeating McElyea’s claims.

“An emergency in one rural Oklahoma town is being overwhelmed by people overdosing on ivermectin, the horse deworming medication. It’s gotten so bad that gunshot victims, gunshot victims are having to wait to be treated,” she said.

The story was also shared by New York Daily NewsNewsweekThe Guardian and Insider.

But Saturday, a hospital in eastern Oklahoma where Dr. McElyea has worked issued a statement saying that nothing like what he had described was happening in their ER.

Hospital administrator Stephanie Six said today that this is simply not the case in Sallisaw.

“We at NHS-Sequoyah have not seen or had any patients in our ER or hospital with ivermectin overdose,” Six said. “We have not had any patients with complaints or issues related to ivermectin.”…

Six stated that Dr. McElyea has treated patients in the Sallisaw emergency room but not in the past several months.

“I can’t speak for what he has witnessed at other facilities but this in not true for ours,” Six said. “We certainly have not turned any patients away due to an overload of ivermectin related cases. All patients who have come into our ER have been treated as appropriate.”

At first glance it definitely appears that what Dr. McElyea claimed to be the case wasn’t actually happening. However, there is a wrinkle here which is worth mentioning. I verified that Stephanie Six is a real person and is an administrator at NHS-Sequoyah as you can see here. Also, Dr. McElyea has worked at this hospital in the past. The wrinkle is that the original report about this never said where this was happening.

Although Dr. McElyea never specified a hospital by name he did say that it was something he’d seen himself. So presumably this is happening at a hospital where he has worked. The other hospital where he apparently works is Integris Grove Hospital. I made a call to Integris and left a message for someone there to see if they had any comment about the claim that people with ivermectin side-effects were clogging up their ER. I haven’t heard back yet. All of that to say, it’s still possible there is some truth to this story and that still needs to be ruled out. If I get a response I’ll add it below.

As I was looking into all of this yesterday I noticed that it wasn’t the first time that a story suggested widespread ivermectin side-effects which later had to be corrected. Two weeks ago, the Associated Press published a story claiming that 70% of calls to the Mississippi Poison Control Center were from people who’d taken ivermectin. Two days later the AP ran this correction:

In an article published Aug. 23, 2021, about people taking livestock medicine to try to treat coronavirus, The Associated Press erroneously reported based on information provided by the Mississippi Department of Health that 70% of recent calls to the Mississippi Poison Control Center were from people who had ingested ivermectin to try to treat COVID-19. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Wednesday the number of calls to poison control about ivermectin was about 2%. He said of the calls that were about ivermectin, 70% were by people who had ingested the veterinary version of the medicine.

Oops! That’s a big difference.

So the bottom line seems to be that there really are some people in rural areas who are taking ivermectin without a doctor’s prescription, though it’s not clear how widespread that is. But we do know it’s happening because of stories like this where the owner of a farm supply store says the ivermectin he usually keeps in stock for horses has been selling out. “It’s for livestock; we’re not livestock,” he said.





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Conflicting stories about the standoff at Mazar-e-Sharif airport – HotAir

When Allahpundit unleashed the story about the potential hostage situation at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport in Afghanistan yesterday, pretty much everyone in the media was being caught off guard. Six planes with at least some American citizens and permanent residents were ready to take off, but the Taliban was allegedly blocking them from leaving. The suggestion was made that the Taliban wanted to do some bargaining before the planes might be allowed to lift off. At first glance, it certainly sounded like a hostage crisis.

Remember that this was all initially coming from Texas Republican representative Mike McCaul. How he got the information before everyone else remains a mystery, but there have been enough confirmations in the past 24 hours to make it clear that the Biden administration knew about the situation but was keeping it from the public. We can (and will) discuss what the motivation for that decision was, but additional reporting in the following 12 hours has muddied the water a bit. The problem is, as is the case with so many bits of news leaking out of Afghanistan these days, that conflicting reports tell very different stories about who is stuck in Mazar-e-Sharif, how many there are, and why they aren’t being allowed to depart. The Associated Press analysis offers a few competing scenarios, but none of their sources sound particularly bulletproof.

At least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to escape the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan have been unable to leave the country for days, officials said Sunday, with conflicting accounts emerging about why the flights weren’t able to take off as pressure ramps up on the United States to help those left behind to flee.

An Afghan official at the airport in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif said that the would-be passengers were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas, and thus were unable to leave the country. He said they had left the airport while the situation was sorted out.

The top Republican on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, however, said that the group included Americans and they were sitting on the planes, but the Taliban were not letting them take off, effectively “holding them hostage.” He did not say where that information came from. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the accounts.

So there are reports that either four or six planes are involved. They are all private charter planes being used as part of an effort not being run by Washington to get people out. McCaul was saying the stranded people were sitting on the planes, waiting for their chance to leave. Local residents and at least one Taliban spokesperson (speaking off the record) said that the people had been moved to hotels in the area while this situation gets sorted out. Both of those stories may have been true at various points because this situation has been developing for several days rather than just cropping up on Sunday.

As to who they are, McCaul says the passenger list includes American citizens and green cardholders. The Taliban is saying that they are Afghans who are mostly lacking passports and visas, preventing them from being able to leave. Local residents described the passengers as people who had “worked for companies allied with the U.S. or German military.”

If this situation has been brewing since at least Friday, if not before, what was the point of the Biden administration keeping a lid on it? Were they hoping to tamp down the impression that we’re negotiating with terrorists over the fate of American citizens or lawful residents? Or were they attempting to hide the reality that this is what’s been going on? Frankly, I doubt many of you would find the idea of the Taliban trying to negotiate even more pallets of cash and/or American recognition of them as a valid government entity surprising. If those negotiations are ongoing, we don’t know about it yet because, yet again, the Biden administration is holding secret talks with the Taliban and not informing the public as to how such negotiations are proceeding or what’s on the table.

I’m almost positive I heard somebody once saying something about the most transparent administration ever. Or something like that, anyway. It’s easy to lose track these days.

Meanwhile, an update from the Free Beacon shows the Biden administration essentially admitting that their hands are tied.

“We do not have personnel on the ground, we do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace—whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region,” a State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. “We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan.”

That’s certainly a refreshing if depressing bit of honesty out of the White House. Of course, we already know why we don’t have “personnel on the ground” or “air assets in the country.” It’s because we pulled out entirely before we’d gotten everyone out. And now the Taliban holds all of the cards and, at least potentially, a plethora of hostages they can take to ensure that we open the treasure vault for them. I realize that the White House wants to put this all behind them and get Afghanistan off of the front pages so they can focus on passing massive spending bills. But that’s not going to happen, folks. As the drama currently playing out in Mazar-e-Sharif demonstrates, this crisis is far from over. And there are hundreds (or more likely thousands) of other people who will be seeking rescue and escape in the weeks to come.



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Stories To Chew On – Washington Free Beacon

Thousands of book titles start with “The Secret History of… .” It’s dishy. When they finish the phrase with something we can stuff in our pieholes, a hungry audience is almost guaranteed. But is it secrets that Matt Siegel divulges in The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat? And, for that matter, how does it manage to chronicle the edible universe at a thickness less than a Cuban sandwich?

Both questions can be answered at once. This is Siegel’s selective take on what conscientious eaters ought to know about common comestibles—things that are not so much kept under wraps as they are perhaps under-acknowledged or just plain incorrect. He wisely unpacks his exposition per foodstuff and its related human behavior rather than by era or geographic location, which allows the author to pepper a single page with references to, say, Sanskrit text and genetic fruit fly research.

The approach certainly keeps things interesting, whether the topic is tomatoes, corn, convenience foods, holiday entrées, fast food chains, chilies, spices, olive oil, vanilla, or herbal supplements—all of which are served up in the book. Siegel charts his course early on, with a quote from the late British historian Reay Tannahill (Food in History): “The pursuit of more and better food has helped to direct—sometimes decisively, more often subtly—the movement of history itself.”

We are generally aware that honey is hygroscopic and antibacterial, for example; we ought to understand that the particular type of honey as labeled on any jar might not completely describe the viscous substance inside it. In his “Honey Laundering” chapter, Siegel is not talking clover vs. buckwheat, but about the traces of lead and antibiotics found in some imported filtered honeys, and the traces of poison ivy nectar and industrial waste found in some honeys commercially produced in the United States. (Pollinating bees really get around.)

We learn that the ancients used honey to cast out evil spirits. Hitler’s wounded troops received a gift of “honey” from their Führer—albeit an imitation made from beet syrup and food coloring. As of 2007, honey was FDA-approved to help heal first-degree burns and surgical wounds.

Such revelations are not intended as turnoffs, but to prove the author’s point: that honey, and its history, are “not as wholesome as one might think,” he writes. “For every connotation of love or godliness in its sugarcoated history, there’s an opposite connotation of death, pain, or the macabre.”

The tone of this former English professor with a marketing background is intentionally anti-academic, even with his obvious diligence to documentation and sourcing, i.e., copious footnotes and a fat bibliography. He relies on a certain rhythm of punchlines and supposition that at times warrants a rim shot. Extracted from his “Children of the Corn” chapter:

Yet for some reason our ancestors saw potential in this lowly grass and kept replanting it, choosing only the seeds with the most attractive traits—say, height, girth, tenderness, and disease resistance—until it grew into a tall and dependable grain they could live on. So it was a lot like dating in high school.

Ba-dum bum. “There is a ton of irony in history,” he explained to me in a phone interview. “We need a dose of comic relief from what we are currently facing. I couldn’t help but smirk and laugh out loud when I made these connections.”

Some of those associations are indeed amusing. In pre-colonial England: pie as greasy vessel for preserving meat. Colonists in America: pie as handy treat, filled with apples. Insults were exchanged across the Atlantic, in print! Other connections are downright disturbing. Siegel finds similarities of rage against the Industrial Revolution in the writings of 19th century dietary reformer Sylvester Graham (of graham cracker and whole-wheat flour fame) and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. A few breakfast-focused pages later, the author suggests that John Harvey Kellogg (of eugenicist, Corn Flakes fame) could have been London’s Jack the Ripper.

As lively as the text is, old photos and infographics would have enriched the effort. Siegel has plenty in hand, he says, should a future printing provide extra space. And in describing the methods of modern food stylists, he might have fallen into the same “truthiness” trap that prompted him to set the record straight elsewhere. Personal lubricants “to make foods look glossy” and shaving cream as an ice cream stand-in are not used by anyone who’s styling for editorial or commercial publication these days. Real food is required, and in demand. Where a touch of shine is needed, an application of edible oil does the trick.

Siegel’s passion for his subject is definitely real. An initial thread of research on ice cream’s role in wartime led to this creation of savory stories, with a side of tongue in cheek. Pull up a chair and dig in.

The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat
By Matt Siegel
Ecco, 288 pp., $27.99

Bonnie S. Benwick is a Washington freelance editor and recipe tester. She retired as deputy editor and recipes editor of the Washington Post food section in 2019.





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