Octopuses Rolling on MDMA Reveal Unexpected Link to Humans

“They just embraced with multiple arms.”

When the California two-spot octopus isn’t attempting to bring more eight-legged cephalopods into this world, it prefers to be alone. Known to scientists as Octopus bimaculoides, the alien-like invertebrate spends most of its time hiding or searching for food, asocial males avoiding asocial females until their biological clocks say it’s time to partner up. That is, until they are on MDMA. In a groundbreaking study released Thursday, researchers describe how octopuses on the drug act similarly to a socially anxious human on MDMA: They open up.

Gül Dölen, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and the co-author of the new Current Biology paper. She tells Inverse that when octopuses are on MDMA, it’s like watching “an eight-armed hug.”

“They were very loose,” Dölen says. “They just embraced with multiple arms.”

While MDMA is known to trigger prosocial behavior in mice and humans, it has never been witnessed in invertebrates, animals that have no backbone. Vertebrates and invertebrates have wildly divergent bodies and brain structures, and for a long time scientists didn’t think the latter had the capacity to be social. They only recently realized invertebrates deserved a second look.

Because of improvements in molecular genetic analysis, Dölen explains, we’re beginning to understand the ways in which both groups evolved from a common ancestor. The findings of the new study add evidence to the idea that social behaviors have a long evolutionary history — going back much farther than we ever believed. The electrifying results could significantly impact what we know about the evolution of brains and why MDMA-assisted therapy seems to be such a useful tool in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

“After the MDMA, it was like an eight-armed hug.”

An octopus differs from a human in ways far beyond the obvious. A heap of no bones and 33,000 genes, octopuses are belieeved to be Earth’s first intelligent beings. They are utterly different from all other animals, with a central brain that surrounds the esophagus and two-thirds of their neurons in their arms. They’re separated from humans by more than 500 million years of evolution. But despite the differences between octopuses and humans, Dölen and her colleague Eric Edsinger, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory, choose to focus on a single crucial similarity. The brain of the California two-spot octopus contains a serotonin transporter that enables the binding of MDMA — much like human brains.

This means that serotonin — believed to help regulate mood, social behavior, sleep, and sexual desire — is an ancient neurotransmitter that’s shared across vertebrate and invertebrate species. Dölen and Edsinger hypothesized this before the octopuses were ever bathed in MDMA.

“We needed to check the genome to make sure that the genes that encode the serotonin transporter, which is the protein that MDMA binds to, was still a binding site in octopuses even despite the fact that so much evolutionary time had passed,” Dölen explains.

“We performed phylogenetic tree mapping and found that, even though their whole serotonin transporter gene is only 50 to 60 percent similar to humans, the gene was still conserved. That told us that MDMA would have a place to go in the octopus brain and suggested it could encode sociality as it does in a human brain.”

That’s a revolutionary suggestion because scientists only very recently began to accept that invertebrates are even capable of being social. After all, without MDMA, California two-spot octopuses prefer to be loners. In a 2017 study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers from Queen Mary University of of London wrote the possibility that invertebrates could have emotions has “traditionally been dismissed by many as emotions are frequently defined with reference to human subjective experience, and invertebrates are often not considered to have the neural requirements for such sophisticated abilities.”

But recent studies, illustrating a shift in thinking, have shown that invertebrates like sea slugs, bees, and crabs all display various cognitive, behavioral, and phsyiological phenomena that suggest internal states reminiscent of emotions.

This is why the fact that octopuses can bind serotonin is so important. Serotonin is a key mitigator of the emotional aspects of human behavior and sociality. That octopuses, one of the most advanced invertebrates, have a similar pathway geared toward social behavior despite the fact that their brains are organized very differently suggests that sociality is spread across the animal kingdom.

“There have been studies showing that serotonin is important for social behaviors for both invertebrates and vertebrates, and this really confirms to me that it’s true that serotonin is conserved across hundreds of millions of years of evolution,” says Dölen.

This became clear when she observed how octopuses acted after they were bathed in MDMA. Individual octopuses were put into the middle zone of a glass aquarium that was divided into three. From the middle zone, the subject octopus had the option to move into the zone on either side of it. On one side, there was another octopus in a cage, and on the other, there was a “novel toy object” (a Stormtrooper figurine). Sociality was measured by the number of seconds the subject octopus spent on the side with the caged octopus compared to the Stormtrooper side. Five octopuses were used in the control experiment, and four were used during the MDMA trial.

The study design.

Watching the individual control octopuses — those that hadn’t been bathed in MDMA — during 30-minute test sessions, the researchers found that all of the octopuses spent more time with the Stormtrooper when the social chamber contained a male. When the social chamber contained a female, both male and female octopuses tentatively explored that area.

They would “push against the wall and sort of delicately touch the container that had the octopus in it,” says Dölen.

But when these octopuses were on MDMA, they were not delicate with their movements toward the caged individuals. After being placed in a bath with MDMA for 10 minutes, and then washed with saline for 20 minutes,, and they re-entered the three-zone aquarium. This time around, they spent significantly more time with the other octopus, whether it was male or female, and the eight-armed hugging commenced.

“This paper is welcomed, as the behavioral neuroscience of cephalopods is very understudied,” Dalhousie University invertebrate behavioral physiologist Shelley Adamo, Ph.D., who was not involved with the current paper, tells Inverse. Adamo also studies the interactions between behavior and physiology in invertebrate model systems. “We know little about how their brains work. This paper breaks new ground by examining the underlying molecular basis of at least one neurotransmitter system.”

But she also cautions that it’s too early to jump to conclusions because the paper’s evidence that “the octopus were engaging in ‘social’ behaviors is not especially strong.” There could be alternative explanations for all that friendliness. Maybe the drug altered their foraging behavior and the target octopus “smelled” like food (cephalopods are occasionally cannibalistic). Maybe the MDMA changed their typical hunting behavior, and being hungry could explain why both male and female octopuses were interested in the target.

“As with most interesting papers, it raises a number of questions: What would two octopus do if they were both on MDMA and they could contact one another?” Adamo asks. “The small sample size — a necessary evil for most studies on cephalopods — means that the data is not as robust as it could be.”

Dölen has two hypotheses to explain what happened. Qualitatively, it looks like octopuses on MDMA, much like humans, could just like touching in general,, and the octopus in the cage “is the most interesting object that an octopus would want to touch.” Or it could be that the drug really does make them social. The latter, she believes, is the most robust hypothesis: MDMA affects human interest in social touch as well, and that seems to be preserved in octopuses as well.

“What this says to me is that in the brain of an octopus, the neural circuits and transmitters that are required for social behavior must exist,, and they are just suppressed most of the time,” says Dölen. “Octopuses appear to suspend their asociality during important mating periods through a suppression mechanism in their brain.”

The MDMA used in the study was provided by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the nonprofit organization that funds the FDA-approved Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in patients with severe PTSD. This research, Dölen says, has intrigued MAPS founder Rick Doblin, and with good reason. It suggests that perhaps the best way to gain insight into MDMA’s mechanisms and therapeutic importance isn’t by taking an fMRI picture of the brain and examining the regions it activates, which has been standard practice in MDMA research. From Dölen’s point of view, the fact that octopuses don’t have the the same brain regions as humans but still carry the genes that enable MDMA binding means that molecular and cellular information is going to be more useful than anatomical data.

“Octopuses don’t have the same parts of the brain that we think are important for social behavior, a region called the nucleus accumbens,” says Dölen.

“What we’re arguing is that the brain regions don’t matter. What matters is that they have the molecules, the neurotransmitters, and some configuration of neurons. They have the serotonin transporter,, and that’s enough.”

Measure
Measure

The Philippines Genocide 3 million Filipinos Killed

Philippines-genocide-3-million-killed

The Philippines Genocide is the genocide history forgot, you will find in history books the FilipinoAmerican War of 1899-1902 but they fail to mention the genocide carried out by the United States of America on the people of the Philippines.

I first came across references to the Philippines Genocide in 2009 and since then have spent a lot of time researching it. I have discussed it with many people, it seems people in the Philippines are not taught about the genocide and very few have even heard of the Philippines genocide.

The fact that it is not taught and so few know about it did make me question if it really happened. So I dug much deeper and have come to the conclusion it did happen, but as the victors write the history books they tried to cover it up because it  was so horrific.

Counting-skulls-from-the-Philippines-Genocide-275x212

Figures do not add up

What brought me to the conclusion that the Philippines genocide did happen is the figures in the history books which simply do not add up. The History books that were written by the victors claim somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 died in that period, which is still a large number considering the population of the Philippines at the time was no more than 9 million.

200,000 to 300,000 dead just can not be correct. A People’s History of the United States (1980) cites 300,000 Filipinos killed in Batangas alone, that alone proves the figures wrong, William Pomeroy’s American Neocolonialism (1970) cites 600,000 Filipinos dead in Luzon alone by 1902. This is backed up by General Bell himself, who said “we estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon—some 600,000 people.”

E. Ahmed’s wrote “The Theory and Fallacies of Counter-Insurgency,” The Nation, August 2, 1971.“the bloodiest colonial war (in proportion to population) ever fought by a white power in Asia; it cost the lives of 3,000,000 Filipinos.”

Filipina historian the late Luzviminda Francisco carried out a thorough investigation of the Philippines Genocide and documented it, she arrived at the figure of 1.4 million Filipinos dead. The End of An Illusion (London, 1973). However, this only covered the period from 1899 to 1905 it does not cover the first 2 decades of U.S. colonial rule a time when the killing might have slowed but was still happening to keep the people in order, it also does not include the thousands of Filipino Muslims (Moros) that were brutally killed.

Census figures and the Philippines Genocide

People will often ask why do Census figures not show a drop in population for that period?

There could be a few reasons for this, firstly I doubt even today population figures for the Philippines are correct as so many people live of the radar, imagine how difficult it would have been to calculate the population in the late 1890s and the early 1900s.

The methodologies used by the Spanish and the Americans were also very different. The Spaniards generally left Igorots, Aetas, Lumads, and Moro peoples alone, so it is unlikely they were included in the census.

You also have to ask if the U.S census figures showed a drop of 1.4 million or more would they publish this for the world to see?

I suspect however the U.S figures were no more than a guess based on the Spanish figures, as it was at a time of war and would have been almost impossible to collect the numbers. Or maybe the U.S did give the task of collecting the numbers but rather than going out into hostile communities that would put them in danger they made them up using the Spanish census as a guide.

The slaughter

In an article published in The Philadelphia Ledger November 1901 their Manila correspondent wrote “The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog…

Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

Major Littletown Waller a U.S. Marine that was accused of shooting 11 unarmed Filipinos on Samar. Another Marine officer described his testimony.

The major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied “everyone over ten.”

Filipino did not stand a chance against the superior and overwhelming firepower of the American troops. In the first battle Admiral Dewey was firing 500 pound shells as he steamed along the River Pasig. The bodies of dead Filipinos was so high U.S. troops used them for a defensive wall.

Writer Mark Twain best known for his book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” wrote

“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the philippines. we have gone to conquer, not to redeem… and so i am an anti-imperialist. i am opposed to having the [american] eagle put its talons on any other land.”

On 15th of October 1900 Twain wrote the New York Times.

We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag. And so, by these providences of god — and the phrase is the government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.” — Mark Twain

Mark Twain also spoke of the almost universal racism of the white American troops and politicians he called them shameless. He was deeply disturbed by the sadistic war crimes that were committed by the American troops. He suggested that the Stars and stripes on the American flag should be replaced by a skull and cross bone.

Was it American policy to kill as many Filipinos as possible? Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell wrote “With a very few exceptions, practically the entire population has been hostile to us at heart,” so there is no doubt the Americans saw every Filipino as the enemy.

The USA carried out a scorched earth campaign in burning and destroying villages, they also tuned villages into concentration camps where they burnt the land around them and built watch towers that looked over the free-fire zones, anyone trying to leave the village was shot. They called these concentration camps reconcentrados.

The reconcentrados (concentration camps) were full of disease which caused a very high death rate the death rate in some camps was as high as 20%. One camp was 2 miles long by 1 mile wide and was the prison for 8,000 filipinos. Men were often rounded up to be questioned using torture if they gave the Americans the information they wanted or not did not matter as they were still shot.

A soldier from New York wrote

The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger”

Corporal Sam Gillis wrote “We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now.” 

British eye witness in the Philippines said:

“This is not war; it is simply massacre and murderous butchery.”

Why the Philippines Genocide happened

It all happened because of a prayer to god.

President McKinley was in the Whitehouse praying when he claimed it came to him that he could not give the Philippines back to Spain as that would look cowardly.

McKinley said he did not want the Philippines. But then one night in the White House, when he was down on his knees praying to God, it came to him:

That we could not give them back to Spain – that would be cowardly.

He could not let France and Germany have the Philippines as that would be bad for business.

He could not let the Filipinos rule themselves as he considered them incapable.

So he decided America should take the whole Philippines rather than just Manila which is all they had at the time, educate the people and Christianise them, something the Spanish had already done to many of the people.

So in 1899 the U.S.A. declared war on the Philippines as a way to educate, Christianise and civilise the people and the Philippines Genocide began.

Conclusion

While we can not be sure of the figure of 3 million that some historians claim We can be pretty sure from research that the figure of 1.4 million killed in the Philippines Genocide between 1899 to 1905 is correct, it is unlikely the killings just suddenly stopped, the reports from the time show how racist towards the Filipinos many of the American troops had become, they also show that many of the troops had come to enjoy the killing. Could you get men that had become brutal killers to suddenly stop killing? It is very unlikely, you only have to look at wars today that are nowhere near as brutal and in an age where people are more educated to realise how war affects some people. We also know the fighting with the Moros carried on.

So did the numbers killed reach 3 million? We will never know but it probably did between 1899 to 1942 when the Japanese arrived.

The quiet evangelical campaign to help Republicans hold onto the House and Senate

Rev. Franklin Graham Brings Evangelical Message To California Before Primary

Nation Sep 17, 2018 5:19 PM EDT
In 2016, evangelical voters turned out to support Donald Trump at the polls in overwhelming numbers. The twice divorced real estate mogul-turned-reality television star may not have been the Christian right’s ideal candidate, but he promised to promote conservative social beliefs in Washington and that was enough.
Two years later, a majority of evangelicals believe President Trump has upheld his promise, and they’ve continued supporting him despite the growing list of scandals and investigations facing the White House. This November, that support could be more crucial than ever.
With control of Congress up for grabs and Republicans trying to fight off a “blue wave,” evangelical groups in recent months have quietly stepped up their political activity to help the GOP hold onto the House and Senate.
Evangelical political leaders said Christian grassroots voters are more engaged this year than they were in the last two midterm cycles, 2010 and 2014, when Republicans made large gains in Congress.
This year, evangelical groups are planning to spending more money and deploy new strategies to reach voters.
“What we’ve seen from 2010 until now is that the number of Christians is basically the same as it’s always been. But they are much more politically engaged and organized,” said Tim Head, the executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
This year, evangelical groups are planning to spending more money and deploy new strategies to reach voters.
Faith and Freedom Coalition launched a campaign this month targeting Senate, House and governor’s races in 19 states. The group plans to spend $18 million, according to Head, which would nearly double the $10 million it spent in 2016.
The group’s volunteers plan to knock on over 2 million doors of micro-targeted social conservatives before Election Day, Head said. In contrast, the group only targeted 11 states and knocked on 1.2 million doors in 2016, Head said.
The organization is also planning to contact over 17 million social conservative voters this fall through phone calls, mail and e-mails urging them to vote.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition has also partnered with 30,000 churches to distribute voter guides at their Sunday services throughout October.
President Trump And First Lady Host Dinner With Evangelical Leadership
President Donald Trump bows his head as Pastor Paula White, right, delivers a prayer before dinner for guests celebrating evangelical leadership at the White House August 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Evangelical voters played a key role in Trump’s presidential election in 2016. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Family Policy Alliance, the campaign arm of Focus on the Family, has operations in 40 states and expects to raise nearly $3 million this election cycle, a slight increase from 2016.
Already, the organization has contacted close to 850,000 voters to support 39 candidates in eight states. Paul Weber, the group’s CEO, said the grassroots work was based on relationships with churches and communities that are nurtured throughout the year, before election season is in full swing.
“We don’t want to swoop in and out,” Weber said.
In 2016, 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump. But while many evangelical leaders argued that the support hasn’t changed through Trump’s first 20 months in office, others noted polling showing some cracks in the voting bloc.
Only 10 percent of white evangelicals reported a high likelihood that all of their friends would turn out on Election Day, according to a poll taken this year by Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization that tracks how religion influences politics.
Still, the poll also found that among evangelicals with favorable views of Trump, 40 percent said there was virtually nothing he could do to change their minds about him. And overall, 75 percent of respondents said they supported Trump.
In 2016, 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump.
Robert Jones, the institute’s CEO and founder, conceded that for many evangelical voters, supporting Trump is built-in by now. “It’s a part of their DNA at this point,” Jones said.
This fall, evangelical groups are focusing on Democrats who are defending seats in states that Trump won in 2016. At the same time, they’ve also built teams to help defend Republicans running for reelection in blue districts.
Religious organizations have partnered with churches to send field organizers to states including North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, West Virginia and Florida — states where Republicans have a good chance to flip seats in the Senate.
The outreach has largely focused on Trump’s appointment of conservative judges.
For many faith voters, appointing judges with conservative views on abortion, religious freedom and other issues is a top political priority.
Evangelical voters care about the economy and national security like anyone else, but their focus social issues — and abortion in particular — set them apart, Head said. “The number one issue has always been the question of life,” he said.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies in Washington
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies during his confirmation hearing earlier this month. For many evangelical voters, placing conservatives on the federal bench is a top priorty. File photo by REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski
Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, said judicial appointments were the “high calling of a bloc of voters who see the bench as critical to policy making.”
The Supreme Court vacancy resulting from Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016 rallied conservatives to the polls. Under Trump, the Senate has appointed dozens of lower court judges, as well as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced Scalia on the high court last year.
And before the election, the Senate could confirm a second Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, which would give Trump and Republicans another major win.
The appointments remind evangelicals why they voted for Trump in the first place, and could energize them to keep supporting him even as the president faces mounting pressure from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and other legal challenges.
The more the president is criticized and scrutinized by Mueller’s team, the more faith voters will dig in and support for him, Daly said.
Since taking office, Trump has hosted numerous events with faith leaders, including a recent meeting of 100 evangelical pastors at the White House in late August. In a leaked audio tape of the meeting, Trump urged the pastors to persuade their constituents to vote, and warned that a wave election for Democrats in November would usher in a “violent” and “miserable” era for evangelicals.
Some evangelical leaders downplayed Trump’s warning, saying they didn’t think Democrats would win back control of Congress.
“I do not think it’s going to be an overwhelming blue wave at all,” Weber said. “Pro-family voters will show up, and they will vote their values.”
Left: Attendees sing God Bless America during a rally in California in May organized by Rev. Franklin Graham, who toured the state urging evangelicals to vote. Evangelical groups are planning to spend millions to support Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Fuckbonnet For Our Time.

Hey, @jack.
I thought, Mr. Dorsey, that we had an understanding. I would not ever concede that telling you or anyone else they ought to die of boils was unjustifiable after their own rhetoric lapsed into abject slander, dishonesty or dishonor, and you — pretending that I had somehow threatened the actual well-being of another human, or that my words were measurably more cruel than telling someone to, say, take a long walk off a short pier or grow like an onion with his head in the ground — would continue to bar me from the demagogue-encrusted, Nazi-profiteering national agora that you call a social-media platform.
I was more than content with this bargain.
For one thing, leaving intact on Twitter my threaded suggestion that boils are your deserved fate for your civic performance in this moment would make clear why I departed months ago. No one had actually been threatened or harassed, and the rhetoric itself was purposed as a precise critique of your incompetent attempts at algorithmic censorship, which routinely ban people for the most casual sarcasm while leaving intact organized slander and disinformation. This seemed to me fair payment for my exile.  For another, I was able to use the time I had previously spent on Twitter jabbering with Russian bots and assorted meme-spewing deplorati to much greater accomplishment, such as deworming my neighbor’s dog and rearranging the books on my shelves by color.
At that point, we were good, and our ways, well parted.
Imagine my renewed contempt for you and all your public works when I find out from a third party that even though I declined to delete the tweet in question — which was number 10 on an 18-tweet thread explaining exactly why Twitter has managed to embrace censorship on matters of mere decorum, without having the slightest effect on any of the grave and actual offenses perpetrated on your site — your shitsquib, basement-dwelling minions simply went behind my back and unilaterally removed item #10 from the string.  And get this — they did so while continuing to present me with the insistent demand that I delete the item myself in order to be reinstated.
That’s right, you took it down yourself, quietly, secretly — and all the while kept pretending that until I did so you couldn’t possibly return me to your platform. You gutless, cheese-eating, back-dooring fuckbonnet.
And what was this offending tweet?  The one that so convulsed you into a conniption of self-regarding censorship? Well, here we go:
10) So, die of boils, @jack. Yup. There it is. The sum total of my crime against Twitter. I’ve told you to drop dead, as I told libelers and liars to drop dead. You can say that constitutes a threat, but that would be empty and embarrassing. I hold no dominion over life & death.
That was the winner. Imagine my amusement to revisit my rusting hulk of thread on the old Twitter battleground and see that I have been studiously denying every one of your entreaties for me to remove this savage affront to the personhood of Jack Dorsey, only to discover that no, Twitter and Mr. Dorsey could bear it no longer. The waspish knob-polishers of marginal internet decorum have already scrubbed the record clean. That thread, on your site, now goes from #9 to #11.
Die of boils, Mr. Dorsey.  Seriously.
*         *         *
And here’s the thing, you are not a fascist. You are not conspiring to use your platform as a petri dish of political derangement and organized disinformation. You would prefer to be thought responsible and dignified and worthy of our trust. I watched your Congressional testimony. I get that you think you are trying to get a handle on the problem. I can easily concede your goodwill.
But by the hand of God, you and the people running your shop are the most ahistorical, smegmatically incompetent and fuckstumbling stewards of an essential informational resource since, well, since Wall Street analysts and their slobbering chain-newspaper fetch-monkeys drove mainstream journalism into a ditch. My god, you tech boys suck at just about anything but tech. It is remarkable, really, and fascinating to me that you can be so good at the hardware and so deadbrained lethal with morality and ethos.
Here’s the truth, Jack:
What you witnessed on my Twitter account for a time was not someone losing their temper or equipoise. It wasn’t me with foam at the mouth corners, resorting at last to simple name-calling of some wounded, humanistic Other with their own worthy hearts and minds and opinions.  It was entirely purposed and, dare I say it, the tactics of someone who had given a lot of thought to this new, dystopic culture of social media.
I know there are rules of logic and rhetoric and that ad hominem is, of course, a cul de sac for any serious discourse. The key question, though, for all of us is this: What is deserving of serious discourse?  You come at me correct, with an argument and devoid of your own indulgent affronts, you get an argument. You get angry and talk shit, then the same comes back.  You make a dick joke, your mama is fair play. You talk about my mama, I’m all about your straying sister. You can’t pull up from the rhetorical tailspin, you get blocked. I’ll play any game worth playing. Much of what arrives on my feed is decidedly not that.
Which brings us to the white supremacists, the anti-Semites, the Nazis, the professional ideological trolls and the bot army:
Every fucking day, Jack, sentient and otherwise commited people interested in participating in the national agora that now rests in social media wake themselves up, sign on to their screens, and begin mowing their digital lawn of abuse, bigotry and organized lying. It’s quotidian and you can’t stop it. I know you can’t. You admit as much when you quickly abdicate your role as a gatekeeper of information by declaring — as you did — that it isn’t up to Twitter to decide if something is true or false, slander or agitprop. No, you assert, that is the job of trained journalists, of the mainstream media, of reporters who arbitrate and investigate fact. Let them sort wheat from chaff. You, sir, are merely an impartial bulletin board for the world.
I hear you.
Your model creates profit from a neutral platform which can be used or misused by each according to their purposes and needs. And for us to ask you to create any standard for objectivity, for fact-checking, for any legal failsafe against even the worst internet sociopaths is to endanger you and Twitter legally.  That’s what the lawyers are telling you, right, Jack? If you intervene once anywhere with any qualitative judgment as to the basic accuracy of any claim made on Twitter, then you become liable for all claims. If you prevent one slander, then you become responsible for them all.
And of course you won’t pay for the resources to fact-check the substance of what appears on Twitter. Those resources, to be effective, would be human and numerous and costly. You would in effect become a responsible gatekeeper for the content of your website, which is an almost impossible undertaking given the speed and magnitude of the minute-by-minute content. You can’t vet the accuracy, integrity or morality of what is said on Twitter. That would be journalistic, in the most basic sense of the word.  At best, you can try to create an algorithmic reply that snares what you think is not-niceness, that separates real threat from sarcasm, that maintains a surface decorum while allowing the brutalities of racism and personal slander and blood libel to gambol freely. You can also fail at this miserably, which is, as we know, the current state of things.
I get all of that. I get what you can’t do. And I get what creates a disastrous legal miasma for your platform if you even try to do it. And so your complete abdication on the greater matters of disinformation and libel are expected and inevitable. You can’t ban Alex Jones because he’s a vicious, lying shitfactory. He can be such for years. You can ban him when he slips and hurts some other Twitterite’s feelings with the sharp edge of some random rhetoric.
But see, I’m not one of those baying for the removal of anyone’s voice on your platform — save perhaps for the electronic army that doesn’t correspond to actual humanity; if you can algorithmically determine that a voice is not actually a voice, but rather manufactured agitprop, then block away. But human beings? No. I’m with Mill and Voltaire and the other absolutists. Would Twitter’s problems be entirely solved if it demanded attribution, if we all had to venture our opinions under our own identities? Of course. If it were so, existing libel law would actually return to its place as a viable bulwark against the worst and most reckless affronts against the truth. But okay, we know there is no profit in something as civil and responsible as a platform in which people are obliged to stand by the legitimacy of their facts and the dignity of their opinions. Shit, that would be as dry as a responsibly published newspaper’s letters column.
So okay, the Nazis and the white supremacists and the libelers — bless their hearts — they get to safely reside on Twitter. But if that is the case, then it is 1935 and this is the Weimar and you are suddenly the Von Papen of the moment. That’s right. Because if you can’t police your platform for the ethical substance of its content — if you can’t demand standards for what actually matters to the health of the republic — then this pretend-game of policing politeness or sarcasm-as-real-threat is not merely abdication, it is instead an effective block of the only intelligent and effective response to that which is so dishonorable and disgusting on Twitter.
You tell us, Jack, that it is imperative that you be permitted to be a neutral bulletin board for any idea no matter how unfactual or revolting and that it is then up to trained journalists to come behind the social-media discussion and parse fact from fiction. No, Jack, just fucking no.
First of all, speed matters. The digital lies are marching into Poland before mainstream-media truths have boots on; shit, it’s that fundamental reality that finally brought me to an experiment with your platform — the sense that American political demeanor was being shaped long before any professional, fact-based response could be mustered. Second of all, even a crude reading of the last, failed century’s history will show you that your premise is, I’m sorry, submoronic.
The correct 1935 reply to Streicher or Goebbels asserting that Jews secretly drink the blood of baptized Christian babies was not, “We have looked into this claim and found that there is no evidence to support the lie that Jews drink Christian baby blood.” For fuck’s sake, Jack, don’t you understand? Whether such a refutation comes on Twitter or from a mainstream news organization, it succeeds only in granting rhetorical equanimity and status to any and every vile assertion that evil sees fit to utter.
Nor is the correct response to simply ignore such filth when it arrives on one’s digital doorstep. To do so simply allows it to stand in public view tacitly as plausible opinion in the marketplace of ideas. Silence is also 1935, Jack.
The correct response to racism, to white supremacy, to anti-Semitism, to slander and libel is to:
  1. Tell the fucker he’s a piece of shit and should die of throat clap.
  2. Block him. And in doing 1. and 2. you have marked the spot for the sane and sentient on Twitter, much as any good infantryman who wanders into a minefield marks the Claymores for the rest of the platoon. It’s just good soldiering, Jack.
But you’re down on the correct response here. You won’t and can’t police fact and libel on your own. You won’t impair the profitable anonymity that protects lies and slander. And in order for you to employ even the most pathetic and haphazard standards of politeness, you must then demand that fascism and racism and organized depravity be allowed the same protections against the only sane reply that doesn’t grant these horrors a real measure of instant credibility.  You’ve brought those vile forces into the daylight and asked that they be treated as worthy of serious consideration. And now, those forces are threatening the American experiment.
You suck, Jack. Seriously. Having had your platform misused against democratic ideals, you’ve now, amid political pressure, embraced censorship as a means to a quick and simple end. But of course as is always the case with censorship, you’ve done so incompetently and without regard to the ethical cost and inevitable blowback. You’ve butchered it. Badly.
And me? I was ready to walk, brother. I said my piece and signed off. And now the neighbor’s pup has a bright, shiny asshole and my bookshelf looks like a Rothko and I’ve learned to play first-position blues harmonica like Jimmy Reed. Life was good and my hours were my own. But now I find that even my last, little treatise about why Twitter has failed us was too much for your butthurt, sensitive self. You broke the bargain and deleted the centerpiece of my last argument all by your lonesome, quietly, furtively, in the dark.
So, no harm in me now deleting a tweet that isn’t there and posting a link to this little essay on that festering shitpile that you pretend is in service of something more than cash.
Jesus, @jack. You should really be ashamed.

My Wrist Is Glowing:

At Business Events, Shorter Lines and Less PrivacyMy Wrist Is Glowing: At Business Events, Shorter Lines and Less Privacy

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Klik makes wristbands that glow the same color when event participants who have agreed to meet are near each other.
CreditCreditScott McIntyre for The New York Times
By Julie Weed
Sept. 10, 2018
The corporate event has gone digital. Paper tickets and itineraries have given way to badge swipes and electronic agendas. Chance meetings have been replaced by automatically curated networking. And there’s no need to take notes for colleagues who can’t be there — they can watch a live stream of the event and use their phones to submit questions.
Technology is changing corporate events, and the pace of change is accelerating, according to Brent Turner, a senior vice president at the event marketing agency Cramer. And for better or worse, tracking abilities are a significant part of that change.
Mr. Turner’s agency creates events for clients like IBM, the German industrial company Siemens and the investing giant Fidelity that host a few hundred to more than 10,000 people. Organizers, exhibitors and attendees use technology to wring more value out of the event, he said, whether that is finding new customers, making better professional connections or reaching people outside the event.
Event management software began as simple tools to register, view the agenda and find out who else was attending. But new features are continually being added, said Karen Shackman, whose company, Shackman Associates New York, produces about 150 corporate events a year. A variety of vendors offer organizers the ability to create a custom mobile app that includes ticketing, maps, connections to social media feeds and ways for attendees to connect with speakers.
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A platform called Splash connects marketing and registration with a company’s customer information database so the sales force can follow up with attendees. Managers using the app can keep track of metrics, like how many attendee names have been added to the list of potential customers. (The New York Times is a client of Splash for subscriber events.)
DoubleDutch, an event management software company in San Francisco, has been introducing one or two new features a month, said Taylor McLoughlin, the company’s director of marketing. The company recently introduced a feature called Safety Check. In the event of a mass shooting or other emergency, organizers can send information to attendees, and attendees can mark themselves as “safe” or “not safe.”
Apps that can consolidate tasks like registration, messaging, security, data collection and follow-up have been a big efficiency boon to organizers, said Deanna Ting, who follows the hospitality industry for the travel industry news and research site Skift. At the same time, “rolling out new technology at a high-stakes event can be nerve-racking,” she said, so some planners are embracing the changes faster than others.
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Shane Eastridge and Jessica Stancil tapped their Klik bracelets at the thINK conference in Boca Raton, Fla.CreditScott McIntyre for The New York Times
Rich Tong, director of strategy for the automotive software company Xevo, attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. So did 182,000 other people. The most important thing to do each day is plan, Mr. Tong said, because at such a large event, “you don’t just ‘run into’ people.” Using the mobile event app, Mr. Tong tagged the presentations he wanted to attend and the company booths he wanted to visit and searched the online directory for people he wanted to meet.
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“The whole process has changed dramatically and for the better,” he said. “It used to be long lines and business cards.”
Susan Stark Schall, a real estate agent who works in the Bay Area for Venture Sotheby’s International Realty, attended a company event last year in Las Vegas with 2,400 others. She said she appreciated the ability to send messages and share photos with other agents there using a mobile app. If a client was looking for a property in another city, “you could post your need and you’d get a lot of responses,” she said. Ms. Schall said she also liked the ability in the app to see which classes were full and which ones still had space.
Ms. Shackman said technology offerings need to be intuitive. “Boomers, millennials, everyone needs to understand how to use it with a minimum of effort.”
Some organizers prefer to use social media rather than a special app. Jonathan Meyers, general manager of events at CNBC, said that asking people to download and figure out how to use a special phone app for a one-day conference could be a challenge, so he prefers to connect with attendees on the platforms they are already using, like LinkedIn and Facebook.
“We can invite attendees into social media groups to communicate with them and use hashtags for social posts,” he said.
Mr. Meyers said he had also found that event-specific apps were rarely opened after the event. “It’s easier to continue the conversation,” he said, through groups created using popular social media platforms.
Connections can be as important as content at an event, and networking tools are designed to help attendees find new customers, suppliers or partners. An app called Braindate lets participants share topics they would like to discuss and then meet in person at a Braindate Lounge, where facilitators act as hosts. A recommendation algorithm also offers suggestions of whom to meet. Eventgoers who are using the networking app Klik, and who have agreed to meet, will see their wristbands light up the same color when they are near each other.
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Hiver, a start-up in London, is one of several companies offering a tracking beacon for event attendees. The Hiver beacons can be attached to a lanyard or placed in a badge holder and, when paired with a phone app, will track whom the wearer has interacted with at the event and for how long. Attendees can view the list of interactions they have had and the LinkedIn profiles of the people they have met.
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Companies are offering event organizers the ability to build custom apps that include ticketing, maps, connections to social media feeds and other services.CreditScott McIntyre for The New York Times
Exhibitors can use attendee beacon data to see who stopped by their booth, how long visitors stayed on average and the busiest times. That information can help companies adjust plans for that conference or other events. Other crowd-measuring devices include tracking mats that count how many people step on them and cameras at charging stations.
Organizers can also use beacon data to produce heat maps showing crowd flow through the day. That data helps organizers factor in foot traffic when they price future booth location space.
There could be a downside to such uses, though, said Mr. Tong of Xevo. Privacy and security are issues, he said, “because you don’t want your competitors seeing who you are meeting with.”
At lectures and panels, audience members can sometimes submit questions electronically. The moderator can choose which ones to answer and in what order.
“Long gone are the days where you have staff running around a big audience with microphones,” said Mr. Meyers of CNBC. At some events, people listening in from outside can tune in to a live stream and ask questions as well.
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Technology is used to engage attendees in other ways. Answers to quick electronic polls can be displayed in graphs and charts on screens throughout the day. Mr. Meyers said that attendees found it interesting to see what their peers were thinking and that the graphs offered fodder for conversations.
Text messages can invite people to “hot spots” where eventgoers with similar interests can meet. “That, in turn, leads to off-site engagement and networking at convention-sponsored events or at other off-hours venues,” Ms. Shackman said.
Ben Hindman, chief executive of Splash, said that the industry had begun to attract more technical people in addition to event managers and party planners.
“They want to deliver the right experience to the right person at the right time,” he said.
It takes time and money to create or attend events, and, Mr. Hindman said, “companies want to understand if that investment is paying off.”
A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 10, 2018, on Page B4 of the New York edition with the headline: Making Old-Fashioned Connections the Newfangled Way.

The End Of Our Innocence

The Facts:

Donald Trump’s comments on 9/11 suggest that bombs were involved in taking down the World Trade towers. He joins a long and growing list of people suggesting that this was actually a controlled demolition.
Reflect On:
Why does the US continue to hide truth about 9/11? Why do they refuse to do a proper investigation?
The destruction of the World Trade Towers on 9/11 is an event that continues to spark our awakening to the malice contained at the heart of several governments. These governments are dangled from a string by the corporations who sit above them, who are in turn dangled by the financial elite who sit above them.
This is important to know. Prominent politicians have referenced this ‘secret government’ for decades, but when a topic like the ‘deep state‘ is presented on mainstream media, it’s pushed as a conspiracy theory. While this can get frustrating, a growing number of people are seeing through the veil more than ever.

The End Of Our Innocence

Prior to 9/11, many global citizens, especially American citizens, could not fathom that their government could do anything so barbaric, so unethical, and so destructive. It’s quite ironic that for years, Western media has falsely accused several politicians of other nations of murdering their own people, the latest example being the chemical gas attacks blamed on Syrian president Bashar al Assad. But many people are seeing through this, and coming to understand how false flag terrorism has been used a lot throughout history, both prior to and post 9/11. That said,  no event has had the awakening effect that 9/11 had and continues to have.
Today, we have thousands of architects and engineers, many academicians and even peer-reviewed studies that show there is no possible way that planes could have brought down the two towers, as well as the official story about the collapse of building number seven, which wasn’t even hit by a plane. This is why the global citizenry, and judging by the latest polls, the American citizenry, do not believe the official story put out by the government regarding what really happened on that day. It’s not because we are stupid, it’s not because we are ‘conspiracy theorists,’ it’s simply because we questioned what was being told to us via mainstream media, and decided to investigate for ourselves.

Donald Trump Weighs In

U. S. Politicians and others within government have not really questioned what happening on 9/11–except for Donald Trump. One of his engineers was the architect of the building. Here’s what he had to say, taken from this interview:
It wasn’t architectural defect…The World Trade Center was always known as a very very strong building…Don’t forget that building took a bomb in the basement (1993). Now the basement is the most vulnerable place because that’s your foundation, and it withstood that…I got to see that area, about three or four days after it too place because one of my structural engineers actually took me for a tour, because he did the building and I said “I can’t believe it.” The building was standing solid and half of the columns were blown out…So, this was an unbelievably powerful building.
After talking about the structure of the building, and the way it was built with the steel on the outside (first building ever to do so for structural purposes …), and how it’s not possible for a plane to destroy that, he went on to say:
How could a plane, even a 767 or a 747 or whatever it might have been, how could it possibly go through the steel? I happen to think they had not only a plane but they had bombs that exploded almost simultaneously because I just can’t imagine anything being able to go through that wall….I just think that there was a plane with more than just fuel. Obviously they were very big planes, they were going very rapidly…You’re talking about taking out steel, the heaviest caliber steel that was used on the building. These buildings were rock solid.
Trump also stated the fact that the US government had knowledge before the attack before it happened, and they still did not stop it. He also mentioned that he saw a big hole some of the steel, hinting to explosions.
Trump has been quite outspoken regarding corporate control over the government,  as well as all of the deceit that goes on as to how our government has been hijacked by rogue groups within the government. It’s easy to see why he was and is completely vilified. It had nothing to do with racism or sexism, and if you think this, you’re simply regurgitating what you get from television programming, and have no understanding of how politics works. We go into it deeper here:

Other Commentators On The Deep State

Below is a great quote from Robert W. Welch Jr, given way back in 1958, addressing the Deep State.
“So brush the insiders dust out of your eyes, my friends, and the communist soap suds out of your Brain, and ask yourselves in all honesty, what on Earth is wrong with the United States simply minding its own business, or with having its foreign policy function primarily for the safety and benefit of the American people? Which is exactly what we had done for the first 140 years of our existence as a nation, to the incredible advantage of ourselves and everybody else, everybody, that is, except a numerically small clique of power-lusting conspirators who have somehow inflicted themselves on a gullible world.”
The American empire has had a history of infiltrating and destroying other countries through unethical means (terrorism) and then stepping in to be a ‘savior,’ imposing their will on others. This has been done through the most savage means, with 9/11 being one small example compared to what they’ve done overseas.
The real menace of our Republic is the invisible government, which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy legs over our cities, states and nation … The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes. They practically control both parties … [and] control the majority of the newspapers and magazines in this country. – John F. Hylan was Mayor of New York City from 1918-1925 (source)(source)
But it is not representative of America, but rather the corruption within politics and the deep state that in no way represents the will of the American people.
Steve R. Pieczenik is one of many people from ‘within’ these ranks who is currently speaking about this. He’s a former United States Department of State official and has been involved with the intelligence community for years. He’s been through and worked within multiple administrations. He has been providing updates on what is happening, the deep state that exists within the American government and how there is currently a ‘battle’ between the Trump administration and the deep state. You can find those interviews online everywhere, he conducted most of them with Alex Jones. He’s also been outspoken and addressed that Trump has already commented on 9/11, and referenced the interview below.

Trump Survived The Attacks

This is why Trump has been vilified. I’ll leave you with this great quote from author Richard Dolan, taken from one of his 2016 articles.
For sure, the power elite closed ranks and did everything possible to ensure a victory for Clinton. This included not only the Democratic party (which previously played dirty pool against Bernie Sanders), but the entire mainstream media machine, the financial community, the EU, and even the Republican party itself. If nothing else, I had concluded that the media alone had done a sufficient job of demonizing Trump – multiple negative headlines daily for more than a year – to make him unelectable to the American people.
For more than a year, we have been told that Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobe, liar, cheat, and narcissist. The attack bears all the marks of a coordinated effort among the major news outlets: CNN, NYT, WaPo, HuffPo, USA Today, and the rest. It reminded me very much of the concerted media attack against Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff which culminated earlier in 2016 in her impeachment and removal from power. In the case of Rousseff, we see what has been alternately described as a soft coup or a Wall Street coup, rather along the lines of the “color revolutions” of a few years earlier (which are now largely understood as CIA-NGO orchestrated). In both cases, pretexts were created and hammered home by an insistent media that whipped up public opinion. In Brazil, it worked. It seemed like it would work in the U.S.
It is important to understand why Trump was demonized. To be sure, his character makes it easy. There is no shortage of narcissistic, sexist, or otherwise offensive statements in his repertoire from which to draw. But I have never and will never believe this is why he was demonized. Ultimately, Trump is a disruptor, and his disruption falls squarely against the two key pillars of the American ruling elite’s ideology: neoliberalism and neoconservatism.
There are many reasons to believe that Trump’s survival is a sign that the deep state is losing its power, and that the battle that Steve Pieczenik talks about is going in favor of the Trump administration and their allies. If so, 2018 might be the last year we have to pass through 9/11 without the full and incontestable knowledge about what actually happened.

Data guru living with ALS modernizes industries by typing with his eyes

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By Susanna Ray 10 September, 2018
The self-proclaimed “oldest nerd of Guatemala,” Otto Knoke is an admitted workaholic, glued to his computer screen from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. as he analyzes data and creates business-intelligence dashboards for customers ranging from restaurants to hotels and real-estate companies.
The 60-year-old data analyst is well-known in Guatemala’s business community, especially after he helped modernize the banking industry by bringing ATMs to the country 20 years ago. But even as the then-40-year-old’s career was blossoming, his muscles were beginning to fail him. In 1998, Knoke (pronounced kuh-NO-kuh) was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and was told he had two years to live.
Always an early adopter of new technology, Knoke persistently researched ways tech advances could help him thrive even as the disease has progressed. Two decades later, he has become the first person in Guatemala to use Microsoft’s new eye-tracking software for Windows 10, called Eye Control. That’s given him access to pivotal tools, helping his mind overcome the restrictions of his body, and his business is booming.
“Technology has permitted me to work and communicate with my loved ones, with the people who help me and with my friends,” Knoke said in an interview conducted over email, his responses typed using his eyes. “And now that I’ve learned to use Eye Control and a foot mouse at the same time, my productivity at work has skyrocketed and my relationships have improved.”
Otto Knoke, who has lived with ALS for 20 years, “always has a big smile on his face, because he’s got his independence back” thanks to new technology that helps him communicate, says his wife Pamela Knoke.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, erodes muscular functions until a person is unable to walk, talk or breathe. There’s no known cause or cure, and it usually results in death within five years, according to the ALS Association, although physicist Stephen Hawking lived with the disease for 55 years until he died earlier this year – one of just 5 percent of patients, including Knoke, to survive for more than 20 years.
Once an avid cyclist, weightlifter and tennis player, Knoke lost use of his hands and arms first, which meant he couldn’t hold a cane to support his weakening legs. So he’d tuck his arm under his wife’s, and she propelled him forward. His symptoms progressed slowly, allowing him to keep his job as a chief executive officer in the banking industry for 12 years. He retired in 2010 when he began losing his voice, making it difficult to communicate with his board of directors.
But he didn’t stop working; he simply moved his office home and became a data analyst, helping nonprofits and small- to medium-sized companies use new business intelligence tools to get value from their data.
“He’s not retired – he doesn’t know the meaning of that word – he just doesn’t go to the office anymore,” said his wife of 32 years, Pamela Knoke, who quit her job as a bank process manager to become his business partner – and his voice.
The couple remodeled their two-story townhouse near Guatemala City so he had everything he needed on the first floor and didn’t have to navigate stairs. Otto learned to use a trackball mouse with his foot to type with an on-screen keyboard. But it was cumbersome, and he needed Pamela nearby to move the cursor from one corner of his two 32-inch screens to another as he navigated Excel spreadsheets and Power BI dashboards.
A tracheotomy was put in his throat to help him breathe, taking away his limited speech and increasing his isolation. But when Knoke, who spends two hours a day reading blogs and researching, saw his friend Juan Alvarado’s post about the new Eye Control feature in Windows 10, he let loose with his version of a shout and immediately ordered the Tobii Eye Tracker hardware to use with the software.
Otto Knoke with his wife, daughters and sons-in-law. Photo provided by Pamela Knoke.
Alvarado, who met Knoke as a database consultant working on the ATM system Knoke had implemented, hadn’t known about Knoke’s condition until he suddenly saw him in a wheelchair one day. And fittingly, Eye Control itself began with a wheelchair.
Microsoft employees, inspired by former pro football player Steve Gleason, who had lost the use of his limbs to ALS, outfitted a wheelchair with  electronic gadgets to help him drive with his eyes during the company’s first Hackathon, in 2014. The project was so popular that a new Microsoft Research team was formed to explore the potential of eye-tracking technology to help people with disabilities, leading to last year’s release of Eye Control for Windows 10.
Knoke said it was “a joy” to learn how to type with his eyes, getting the feel of having sensors track his eye movements as he navigated around the screen and rested his gaze on the elements he wanted to click. Using Eye Control and the on-screen keyboard, he now can type 12 words a minute and creates spreadsheets, Power BI dashboards and even PowerPoint presentations. Combined with his foot-operated mouse, his productivity has doubled. He plans to expand his services to the U.S., where he spent six years studying and working in the 1970s. He no longer relies on his wife’s voice, because Eye Control offers a text-to-speech function as well.
“It was frustrating trying to be understood,” Knoke said in the email interview. “After a few days of using Eye Control I became so independent that I did not need someone to interact with clients when there were questions or I needed to explain something. We have a remote session to the client’s computer, and we open Notepad and interact with each other that way.”
His wife and his nurse had learned to understand the sounds he was able to make, even with the tracheotomy restricting his vocal chords. But now he can communicate with his three grown daughters, his friends and all his customers.
Using a foot-operated mouse, Eye Control for Windows 10 and the text-to-speech function, Otto Knoke is able to communicate with his family — including his daughter, seen here — as well as with clients.
“Now when our children visit, he can be not just nodding at what they say, but he can be inside the conversation, too,” Pamela Knoke said. “He always has a big smile on his face, because he’s got his independence back.”
He’s also started texting jokes to friends again.
“It’s kind of like it brought my friend back, and it’s amazing,” Alvarado said. “Otto told me that for him, it was like eye tracking meant his arms can move again.”
Being able to text message with Eye Control has helped his business as well.
Grupo Tir, a real-estate development and telecommunications business in Guatemala, hired Knoke for several projects, including streamlining its sales team’s tracking of travel expenses with Power BI.
“Working with Otto has been amazing,” said Grupo Tir Chief Financial Officer Cristina Martinez. “We can’t really meet with him, so we usually work with texts, and it’s like a normal conversation.
“He really has no limitations, and he always is looking for new ways to improve and to help companies.”
Otto Knoke uses Eye Control in Windows 10 to create spreadsheets and interactive Power BI reports, such as this one, for his clients.
Knoke’s ready feedback on the Microsoft products he works with every day, such as Power BI, led to improvements in the software’s features, along with a job offer that he calls “a dream come true.” The company hired him as a contractor this month to serve as a community manager for Power BI’s customer advisory team.
“I was really inspired,” said Cesar Cernuda, the president of Microsoft Latin America, who visited Knoke at his home earlier this year. “And it’s not that we’re helping him, but that he’s helping all of his customers, as an expert on Power BI.”
Knoke’s pioneering use of Eye Control in Guatemala and the way he’s been able to harness technology to enrich his personal life spoke volumes to Mario Ibarguen, the general manager of Taco Bell Guatemala. The fast-food franchisee has been growing in the country, opening 54 restaurants including the world’s largest Taco Bell, housed in a former bank in Guatemala City. When Ibarguen needed a tool for the restaurant managers to measure growth and sales in real time, he knew Knoke would have the answer.
“All these tools that Otto has have helped him a lot, so it’s good to have someone like Otto helping us,” Ibarguen said.
Knoke credits his family, work, faith and attitude as the “winning ticket” that has sustained him as his disease progressed over the past two decades. And with his renewed ability to communicate, he said, “I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think about my disease.”

Top photo: Otto Knoke and Juan Alvarado discuss a Power BI report Knoke created using eye-tracking software for Windows 10.

The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet

William T. Vollmann’s latest opus is brilliant, but it offers no comfort to its readers.

 
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Authors like to flatter themselves by imagining for their work an “ideal reader,” a cherubic presence endowed with bottomless generosity, the sympathy of a parent, and the wisdom of, well, the authors themselves. In Carbon Ideologies, William T. Vollmann imagines for himself the opposite: a murderously hostile reader who sneers at his arguments, ridicules his feeblemindedness, scorns his pathetic attempts at ingratiation. Vollmann can’t blame this reader, whom he addresses regularly throughout Carbon Ideologies, because she lives in the future, under radically different circumstances—inhabiting a “hotter, more dangerous and biologically diminished planet.” He envisions her turning the pages of his climate-change opus within the darkened recesses of an underground cave in which she has sought shelter from the unendurable heat; the plagues, droughts, and floods; the methane fireballs racing across boiling oceans. Because the soil is radioactive, she subsists on insects and recycled urine, and regards with implacable contempt her ancestors, who, as Vollmann tells her, “enjoyed the world we possessed, and deserved the world we left you.
Carbon Ideologies is a single work published in two parts, No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative, the bifurcation due to the insistence of Vollmann’s weary publisher and the limitations of modern bookbinding. Of all the writers working today, Vollmann must be the most free: He writes fiction, essays, monographs, criticism, memoir, and history, usually merging several forms at once, taking on subjects as diverse as Japanese Noh theater, train hopping, and the Nez Perce War, all the while dilating to whatever length suits him. (After 25 books, his career word count now rivals Zane Grey’s.)
No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies
By William T. Vollman
As is often the case with Vollmann, his decades-long war of attrition with his editors spills over into the pages of the finished book. Carbon Ideologies begins with the confession that the original manuscript was “several times longer than its contractually stipulated maximum”; after “anxious negotiations,” his publisher “finally agreed to indulge me once more.” Not, mind you, his nonfiction publisher—which he walked away from after it proposed an advance that was less than the amount of money he had already spent on research—but his fiction publisher. (“I sincerely hope that someday all this will be worth it to you,” he writes in a loving acknowledgment.) Viking did hold the line when it came to the endnotes, which run to 129,000 words and can be examined online or in Vollmann’s archive at Ohio State University.
No Good Alternative: Volume Two of Carbon Ideologies
By William T. Vollmann
The 1,268 pages that remain are as gloriously and maddeningly unclassifiable as most of Vollmann’s work. The closest analogue is Rising Up and Rising Down, his seven-volume, 3,300-page treatise on violence, which Vollmann calls a companion text. Carbon Ideologies is about another kind of violence, the violence inflicted by the production of coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear energy. The victims of these carbon ideologies are not only the species of fauna and flora that are going extinct, the fragile ecosystems that will collapse, and the future generations of humans who will have to subsist on insects. The victims are us—we who are now living and who deny, to varying extents, the degree of damage we are inflicting upon ourselves. Carbon Ideologies is a chronicle of self-harm.
It is also an almanac of global energy use. The initial volume opens with a 200-page primer busy with tables, lists, and data (“I assure you that there will be no harm in skipping to page 217”) and concludes with 80 pages of definitions, units, and conversions (“Readers should feel free to skip this section”). It is a travelogue to natural landscapes riven by energy production, most prominently Fukushima (nuclear), West Virginia (coal), Colorado (natural gas), and the United Arab Emirates (oil). It is a work of oral history, containing dozens of interviews with laborers who toil in or live beside nuclear reactors, caves, and oil refineries, paired with Vollmann’s own snapshots. And it is a compassionate work of anthropology that tries to make sense of man’s inability to weigh future cataclysm against short-term comfort. Carbon Ideologies is most fascinating, however, for what it is not: a polemic.
Nearly every book about climate change that has been written for a general audience contains within it a message of hope, and often a prod toward action. Vollmann declares from the outset that he will not offer any solutions, because he does not believe any are possible: “Nothing can be done to save [the world as we know it]; therefore, nothing need be done.” This makes Carbon Ideologies, for all its merits and flaws, one of the most honest books yet written on climate change. Vollmann’s undertaking is in the vanguard of the coming second wave of climate literature, books written not to diagnose or solve the problem, but to grapple with its moral consequences.
It is also a deeply idiosyncratic project: Vollmann’s idiolect is obsessive, punctilious, twitchy, hyperobservational, and proudly amateurish. The data he presents are at times revelatory. A homeless person in America uses twice as much energy as the average global citizen; 61 percent of the energy generated in the United States in 2012 “accomplished no useful work whatsoever”; from 1980 to 2011, global energy use nearly tripled. Elsewhere the data are impossibly arcane (“Power Wastage by Group-Driven Machine Tools, ca. 1945 [Deducting Idle Machines]”) or defiantly unscientific (“I am sorry that I could not make my table simple, complete or accurate”). His insatiable appetite for detail yields both irrelevant trivia (“Embarking on the Super Limited Hitachi Express, which was also known as the Super Hitachi 23 Limited Express”) and magisterial portraits of landscapes befouled by poking and prodding and, in the case of West Virginia’s mountains, decapitating.
The Fukushima section is especially uncanny in its evocation of a sublime coastal landscape vibrating with gamma rays. Vollmann breathes a cool wind “whose degree of particulate contamination was of course unknown,” hears on a silent street at night the grunting of a radioactive wild boar, and walks on broken glass through an abandoned clothing store advertising a 50 percent–off sale and peopled by headless mannequins. Though nuclear fission does not produce greenhouse-gas emissions, its horrors come to stand for those of climate change, a vast terror invisible to those victimized by it—at least in the short term. Though Vollmann refers to the Fukushima chapters when he writes that his project is sustained on “little more than blindness, uneasiness, helplessness and ignorance,” he is describing all of Carbon Ideologies.
These qualities reach their fullest expression in the statements made by government and industry officials against charges of environmental menace. In Fukushima, objects in the fallout zone are not radiated but “contaminated.” In West Virginia, mountains do not have their summits chopped off but are granted “removal of overburden.” Fracking “is safer and has less environmental impact than driving a car,” a marketing director from Shale Crescent USA claims, while coal miners, according to the president of the West Virginia Coal Association, “are the greatest practicing environmentalists in the world.” Vollmann records such inanities alongside observations from figures such as Buddha (“People are ignorant and selfish”), Edmund Spenser (“Worse is the danger hidden than descried”), and Loren Eiseley (“Just as instincts may fail an animal under some shift of environmental conditions, so man’s cultural beliefs may prove inadequate to meet a new situation”). Vollmann longs to prove Buddha, Spenser, and Eiseley wrong, and submits softball questions to every industry executive he encounters; but outside of Japan, almost nobody in a position of authority agrees to comment.
Most of the extensive interviews that dominate Carbon Ideologies are thus conducted with men who work in caves or pits to produce the energy we waste. If “nothing is more frightful than to see ignorance in action” (Goethe), these encounters are a waking nightmare. Oil-refinery workers in Mexico, coal miners in Bangladesh, and fracking commissioners in Colorado are united in their shaky apprehension of the environmental damage they do, not to mention the basic facts of climate change and its ramifications. “Mostly their replies came out calm and bland,” Vollmann reports, though this doesn’t prevent him from recording them at length, nearly verbatim. On occasion his questions do elicit a gem of accidental lyricism, as when an Indian steelworker at a UAE oil company, asked for his views on climate change, replies, “Now a little bit okay, but in future it’s very danger.” It’s hard to improve on that.
Vollmann doesn’t blame the migrant steelworker for his complacency or ignorance, of course. He blames himself—often and profusely. He takes special delight in quantifying, in painstaking detail, the energy he burns in such activities as writing a draft of Carbon Ideologies, walking around the corner from his Tokyo hotel to buy a tray of convenience-store tonkatsu, and making a milkshake for his daughter. These passages are as instructive as they are tedious. They dramatize not only the tenacity of our reliance on fossil fuels, but the impossibility of truly comprehending our own culpability in our planet’s fate. How often do you pause to think about the amount of coal burned every time you take an elevator, charge your phone, or operate your blender? Even extravagant acts of self-denial are powerless in the face of such profligate consumption. Vollmann likens our most ambitious energy-conservation efforts to “a dieter who keeps eating his daily fill of cheese, pastries and ice cream … despite the laudable fact that he put broccoli on his lunch plate last Thursday.”
The global hunger for pastries grows more ravenous each year. Whatever Good Samaritan savings we can make by improving infrastructure or bicycling to work will be dwarfed by the billions who will leap onto the grid in the coming decades. About a third of the human population cooks meals over biomass—wood, charcoal, farm scraps, and animal dung. Nearly 1 billion people have no access to electricity. It will not take all of India’s adopting “the American way of life” to trigger gargantuan increases in global emissions. India’s ascending to the Namibian way of life will be enough.
The demand problem, the growth problem, the complexity problem, the cost-benefit problem, the industry problem, the political problem, the generational-delay problem, the denial problem—Vollmann scrupulously catalogs all the major unsolved problems that contribute to the colossus of climate change. “Whatever ‘solution’ I could have proposed in 2017,” he writes, “would have been found wanting before the oceans rose even one more inch!” (The title of a late chapter, “A Ray of Hope,” is to be read sarcastically.) Nor have his six years of traveling the world, tabulating data, and interviewing experts changed his mind about any major aspect of the issue. The reader who begins Carbon Ideologies hopeless will finish it hopeless. So will the hopeful reader.
But there exist other kinds of readers—those who do not read for advice or encouragement or comfort. Those who are sick of dishonesty crusading as optimism. Those who seek to understand human nature, and themselves. Because human nature is Vollmann’s true subject—as it must be. The story of climate change hangs on human behavior, not geophysics. Vollmann seeks to understand how “we could not only sustain, but accelerate the rise of atmospheric carbon levels, all the while expressing confusion, powerlessness and resentment.” Why did we take such insane risks? Could we have behaved any other way? Can we behave any other way? If not, what conclusions must we draw about our lives and our futures? Vollmann admits that even he has shied away from fully comprehending the damage we’ve done. “I had never loathed myself sufficiently to craft the punishment of full understanding,” he writes. “How could I? No one person could.” He’s right, though books like Carbon Ideologies will bring us closer.
The planet’s atmosphere will change but human nature won’t. Vollmann’s meager wish is for future readers to appreciate that they would have made the same mistakes we have. This might seem a humble ambition for a project of this scope, but only if you mistake Carbon Ideologies for a work of activism. Vollmann’s project is nothing so conventional. His “letter to the future” is a suicide note. He does not seek an intervention—only acceptance. If not forgiveness, then at least acceptance.

This article appears in the October 2018 print edition with the headline “The Brutal Truth About Climate Change.”
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.
Measure
Measure

Conspiracy Theories Made Alex Jones Very Rich. They May Bring Him Down.Conspiracy Theories Made Alex Jones Very Rich. They May Bring Him Down.

 

Inside Alex Jones’s ‘Tangy Tangerine’-Fueled Empire
Fans of Infowars don’t just buy in to the conspiracy theories peddled by Alex Jones, they actually buy. Mr. Jones has amassed a fortune by pitching health products and weapons components as antidotes to the frightening worldview he broadcasts.Published OnSept. 7, 2018CreditCreditImage by Natalie Reneau for The New York Times
AUSTIN — More than ever before in his two-decade career built on baseless conspiracy theories, angry nativist rants and end-of-days fearmongering, Alex Jones is being called to account.
In a Texas courthouse, his lawyers are battling defamation claims resulting from one of his most infamous acts: spreading false reports that the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 first graders and six adults was an elaborate hoax.
In Silicon Valley, Facebook, YouTube and, as of Thursday, Twitter, under pressure to better curb hate speech and incendiary misinformation, have largely cut him off. On Friday, Apple removed the Infowars app from its App Store, eliminating one of the final avenues for Mr. Jones to reach a mainstream audience.
Mr. Jones’s latest stunt — turning up on Capitol Hill this week to call attention to his claim that he is being unfairly silenced on ideological grounds — led to an embarrassing rebuff by a conservative Republican senator.
The big question for him now is whether his bluster — and the implicit support he has received from President Trump, who has channeled bogus or misleading claims promoted by Mr. Jones and echoed his complaints of anticonservatism by technology companies — will be sufficient to see him past his current peril. He is facing a legal, public opinion and social media reckoning that poses the most serious threat yet not just to his ability to inject the outlandish into the mainstream, but also to the lucrative business he has built.
Mr. Jones likes to portray his digital channel, Infowars, as a media outlet, and he is quick to wrap himself in the First Amendment. But in business terms, it is more accurate to describe Infowars as an online store that uses Mr. Jones’s commentary to move merchandise. Its revenue comes primarily from the sale of a grab-bag of health-enhancement and survivalist products that Mr. Jones hawks constantly.
A close look at his career shows that he has been as much a canny if unconventional entrepreneur as an ideological agitator. He has adapted to — and profited from — changes in both the political climate and the media business even as he has tested, and regularly crossed, the boundaries of acceptable public discourse.
For more than two decades, Mr. Jones, who is 44, has built a substantial following appealing to an angry, largely white, majority male audience that can choose simply to be entertained or to internalize his rendering of their worst fears: that the government and other big institutions are out to get them, that some form of apocalypse is frighteningly close and that they must become more virile, and better-armed, to survive.
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“I’m not a business guy, I’m a revolutionary,” he said in an interview in August.
If it is a revolution, it is one that he has skillfully monetized. His fundamental insight was that his audience is also a nearly captive market for the variety of goods he peddles via Infowars’ website and his syndicated radio show — products intended to assuage the same fears he stokes.
Alex Jones spoke to the media on Tuesday as officials from Facebook and Twitter testified on Capitol Hill.CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times
Infowars and its affiliated companies are private and do not have to report financial results publicly. But by 2014, according to testimony Mr. Jones gave in a court case, his operations were bringing in more than $20 million a year in revenue. Records viewed by The New York Times show that most of his revenue that year came from the sale of products like supplements such as the Super Male Vitality, which purports to boost testosterone, or Brain Force Plus, which promises to “supercharge” cognitive functions.
Court records in a divorce case show that Mr. Jones’s businesses netted more than $5 million in 2014. Court proceedings show that he and his then-wife, Kelly Jones, embarked on plans to build a swimming pool complex around that time featuring a waterfall and dining cabana with a stone fireplace. Mr. Jones bought four Rolex watches in one day in 2014, and spent $40,000 on a saltwater aquarium; the couple’s assets at the time included a $70,000 grand piano, $50,000 in firearms and $752,000 in silver, gold and precious metals, in a safe deposit box, court documents say.
People who have worked with him or studied his business said his revenues had probably continued to grow in recent years.
But his problems are mounting. At least five defamation suits against Mr. Jones, including three filed by Sandy Hook families, are moving forward. Last month, a Texas judge ordered Mr. Jones and officers in his web of limited-liability companies to provide depositions to lawyers for the parent of a Sandy Hook victim in coming weeks, testimony that could shed new light on Mr. Jones’s operation.
He is also facing complaints of workplace discrimination from two ex-employees, a fraud and product liability case and a nasty court battle with Ms. Jones, now his ex-wife. She says that the couple have spent a combined $4 million on their four-year battle over custody of their three children and disputes over the business.
At the same time, the crackdown on Mr. Jones in August by the social media giants — he has been largely banned by Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Spotify and even Pinterest — poses a severe test by limiting his access to his audience. The early evidence is that the bans have substantially reduced his reach — and that was before a double blow this week when Twitter imposed a permanent ban on his account and the account for Infowars and Apple removed the Infowars app from its store.
Apple had already removed Mr. Jones’s show from its podcast service on Aug. 5. On Friday, an Apple spokeswoman said the app was removed under company policies that prohibit apps from including content that is “offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, or in exceptionally poor taste.”
Mr. Jones will be forced to rely even more on his Infowars site and his radio show, which is heard on more than 100 stations nationwide.
True to form, Mr. Jones is using the challenge to move more product.
For several days in August, after the ban by the social media companies, his online Infowars Store offered deep discounts under an all-caps banner that read, “FIGHT THE BULLIES, SAVE THE INTERNET, SAVE INFOWARS.”
A man working for Infowars speaks to gun rights activists in Dallas.CreditAdrees Latif/Reuters
The best-selling Survival Shield X-2 nascent iodine drops were discounted 40 percent, to $23.95, while Alpha Power, a product marketed as boosting testosterone and vitality to “push back in the fight against the globalist agenda,” was half off, at $34.95.
“The enemy wants to cut off our funding to destroy us,” Mr. Jones said on his broadcast, concluding a segment about being banned by the social media companies with a sales pitch for another product. “If you don’t fund us, we’ll be shut down.”
Mr. Jones operates from behind bulletproof glass at an Austin industrial park, in a dimly lit hive of studios and cluttered, open-plan desks. He invited a New York Times reporter there for an interview on two conditions: that the location of his headquarters not be specified and that he would record audio of the interview.
There are no identifying signs outside. Inside, there are split-screen security camera monitors throughout, which Mr. Jones checks as he passes by. There are guns in the building for protection, he said. He added that armed snipers are positioned on the roof, then in a phone call the next day said that he had made that up. He wouldn’t say how many employees he has, but in 2017 court testimony he said he employed 75 people, plus 10 contractors.
Mr. Jones talked for nearly three hours, bouncing around the room, raising his voice, feigning menace, replaying themes and entire riffs from his show.
“I am here giving you the unfiltered truth of my soul,” he said.
He insisted that his troubles are proof that a globalist, leftist cabal aims to silence him.
He claimed advance knowledge that technology companies, Chinese communists, Democrats and the mainstream media would “try to use me as a 2018, 2020 campaign issue — to hurt Trump, to misrepresent what I’ve said, to project it on Trump, and to go after the First Amendment and legitimize the censorship of all the Republican congresspeople.”
It was classic Alex Jones: a nonstop mix of flimsy fact, grievance, paranoia, ideology, combativeness and solipsism.
Mr. Jones often exhorts his listeners to “investigate” the hoaxes and theories he advances, pleas that may have inspired criminal acts by some of his followers.
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Mr. Jones’s ex-wife, Kelly Jones.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
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In 2000, Mr. Jones and his cameraman, Mike Hanson, infiltrated Bohemian Grove, an annual camping retreat for global business and political leaders near Monte Rio, Calif. The pair shot dim video of a pyrotechnic spectacle that Mr. Jones wrongly claimed was an “occult ritual.”
Early in 2002, a heavily armed man entered the grounds and set a fire. Citing Mr. Jones’s reports, he said he was convinced that child abuse and human sacrifices were taking place at the retreat.
A similar scenario unfolded more than a decade later, when during the 2016 campaign Mr. Jones helped spread the “Pizzagate” hoax, that Hillary Clinton and Democratic operatives were running a child sex ring from a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.
An Infowars listener, Edgar Maddison Welch, entered the pizzeria in late 2016 armed with a military-style rifle to investigate and rescue children he believed were being held captive, firing the gun inside the restaurant as patrons fled. He is serving a four-year jail term.
Mr. Jones for years spread the false claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a fraud, and that the victims’ relatives were actors in a hoax planned by government “gun grabbers.”
In 2015, after Leonard Pozner, whose son Noah died at Sandy Hook, got one of Mr. Jones’s Sandy Hook hoax broadcasts removed from YouTube, Mr. Jones showed viewers Mr. Pozner’s personal information, and maps to addresses associated with his family, according to court documents.
Lucy Richards, an avowed Infowars listener, subsequently went to prison for issuing repeated death threats against Mr. Pozner. The Pozner family lives in hiding, and is suing Mr. Jones for defamation.
On Father’s Day 2017, Mr. Jones went on Infowars in a brief broadcast to offer the Sandy Hook parents “my sincere condolences” for the loss of their children in “the horrible tragedy” in Newtown, Conn. He said he wanted to “open a dialogue” with the families because it was essential for the nation to come together rather than “letting the MSM misrepresent things,” referring to the mainstream media.
In the Times interview, Mr. Jones suggested that blame for the pain of the Sandy Hook families rests not with him but with the media and inconsistencies in coverage of the shooting.
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Mr. Jones operates from behind bullet-proof glass doors at an Austin industrial park, in a dimly lit hive of studios and cluttered, open-plan desks.CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
“I was covering a giant phenomenon of people not believing media anymore because they’ve been caught in governments’ lying so much,” he said.
Alex Jones grew up in a conservative, upper-middle-class family in the Dallas suburb of Rockwall, the son of a dentist.
There was nothing particularly unusual about him during those days, except a conspiratorial nature and, from high school on, as he put it in court testimony, a commitment to “seeking out ways to get on air.”
Mr. Jones was inspired, he has said, by “None Dare Call It Conspiracy,” a 1971 book by Gary Allen that advanced the conservative theory that domestic decision making is not guided by elected officials, but international bankers and politicians. Mr. Allen also sold similarly-themed recordings by mail order.
While a community college student in Austin, Mr. Jones landed a show on Austin community access cable hawking outlandish conspiracy theories.
When Kelly Jones met him in Austin in the late 1990s, Mr. Jones was wearing a bumblebee costume in the Texas heat, doing promotional stunts for a local radio station.
He dropped out of community college, and with money from his father, produced “documentary” videos, starring himself, about 9/11 being an inside job, “police state” abuses and the “new world order” he claimed was being engineered by the Bilderberg Group, an annual gathering of prominent financiers, economists and political leaders.
He bought airtime on shortwave radio, and broadcast his theories out of an unused nursery in his house with “choo-choo” train wallpaper, Ms. Jones said in an interview.
To the extent that his early shows were informed by coherent political thought, he was a libertarian, suspicious of Republicans and Democrats alike; Ron Paul, the three-time presidential candidate and libertarian icon, was an occasional guest.
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Mr. Jones with Roger Stone during the Republican National Convention in 2016.CreditBen Jackson/Getty Images
But with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, Mr. Jones discovered that nasty partisanship was a moneymaker.
In court in 2014, he said, “We have had company meetings in the last two years preparing for the eventuality of a Republican takeover,” which he considered a threat to his business, because when attacking Democrats in power, conservatives could “be more provocative, more interesting and so it gets more viewers.”
Mr. Trump, who entered electoral politics spreading the false assertion that Mr. Obama might not have been born in the United States, was a welcome surprise for Mr. Jones. He found in Mr. Trump a kindred anti-intellectual with an outsider’s perspective and a willingness to entertain conspiracy theories and disseminate fact-challenged assertions.
The two men were connected by Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump who is a paid host on Infowars. In December 2015 Mr. Stone arranged for Mr. Trump to do a 30-minute interview with Mr. Jones.
The themes promoted by Mr. Jones sometimes make their way through the media ecosystem and win the attention of Mr. Trump, like a bogus assertion about the slaughter of white farmers in South Africa that the president invoked last month. In the wake of steps by the social media companies to ban Mr. Jones, the president has also repeatedly voiced concerns nearly identical to those expressed by Mr. Jones about efforts by technology companies to silence voices from the right.
On Infowars last month, Mr. Jones suggested that he is coordinating his message with Mr. Trump.
“We advise the president,” Mr. Jones said. “We’ve got all the documents. We’ve got the proof. Other people are scared to tell him what’s going on.”
Two White House officials said they were not aware of any recent contacts between Mr. Jones and the president.
Infowars operates through a series of interlocking companies, none of which publicly reports its results. But a rough picture of the operation’s scale can be gleaned from the documents detailing its financial condition in 2014.
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One entity — created to house the supplements business — generated sales of $15.6 million and net income of $5 million from October 2013 through September 2014, according to an unaudited profit and loss statement viewed by The Times. During the same period, another entity, possibly recording overlapping revenues, listed net income of $2.9 million and sales of $14.3 million, with merchandise sales accounting for $10 million, advertising for nearly $2 million and $53,350.66 in donations, according to an unaudited company statement.
A supplement called “Advanced Liver Cleanse Pack” sold by Infowars.CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times
Since then, current and former business associates said, the Infowars empire has continued to thrive.
The heart of the business is sales of lightly regulated nutritional supplements that purport to improve health or virility or both.
“Supplements are popular,” Mr. Jones said in the interview. “They’re good. They’re a fast-growing market. I use it to fund the operation. Other revolutionaries rob banks and kidnap people, O.K.? I don’t do that.”
By late 2012, Mr. Jones decided to create a supplement line of his own, a move that would allow him to reap more of the profits. The next summer, he recruited his father, David R. Jones, to leave his dental practice and help manage the family business, negotiating a deal for Dr. Jones to be paid what he was making previously — $300,000 to $500,000 a year — plus an additional bonus of 20 percent of the profits from the entities he created.
When Dr. Jones came on board, the business was in disarray. In court testimony, he said he found a series of “green notebooks stuck in a cabinet” outlining a number of entities that had been established over the years.
Dr. Jones set about evaluating the business, getting the corporate entities sorted out, and creating opportunities to expand the supplement business.
The company struck deals with a number of manufacturers, slapping its Infowars Life label on a range of products. A 2014 agreement with one of its most prominent suppliers, Global Healing Center, shows that the manufacturer made at least eight products for the brand, including “Super Male Vitality” a private label of Global Health’s Androtrex, purchased wholesale for $14.99 and advertised on the Infowars Store for $69.95.
Kelly Jones compared Mr. Jones’s marketing to that of a televangelist, preaching to his faithful, selling cures and soliciting donations. His customers buy in — and then they buy. For every threat he raises, there is a solution for sale.
Matt Redhawk is the founder of My Patriot Supply. The company sells water filtration systems, emergency survival food and other products on Infowars targeting consumers in the preparedness movement, “from someone who is preparing for a job loss or a weekend without power, up to the full blown Armageddon,” Mr. Redhawk said in an interview.
“Controversy sells. You can’t ignore the fact that there is a method there,” he said.
“Preppers” are an important market segment for Infowars, and ads on its website bring better response than on other conservative media shows, said Chad Cooper, who owns Infidel Body Armor, based in San Tan Valley, Ariz. He spent about $5,000 a month on Infowars advertising for his civilian body armor line until recently, when he suspended his advertising because Infowars started selling ads to too many of his competitors.
While he does not take in Mr. Jones’s show — “he’s a nutter,” he says — “I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the phone with these Alex Jones people who order from me,” and described them.
“They’re nonbelievers in what the media tells them. They think there’s more to the story,” he said. “They think there’s aliens, and the government knows about that and they’re not telling them. They’re all religious, and they’re very concerned about the direction the government is going.”
“He’s really good at scaring people,” Mr. Cooper said of Mr. Jones. “He gives them that sense of urgency — they need to hurry up and do something. Now.”
Last February, two former employees came forward with allegations that they faced discrimination at Infowars. In interviews, they depicted Mr. Jones as the leader of a racially charged workplace.
Robert A. Jacobson, 43, started working with Mr. Jones in 2004 as a video editor, and said that over the years he was taunted for being Jewish. He said that the harassment escalated after August 2015 when Mr. Jones interviewed David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.
Ashley L. Beckford, who was hired as a production assistant in June 2016, said that she was called racial slurs, paid less because of the color of her skin and forced to fend off unwanted sexual advances, including from Mr. Jones. Ms. Beckford, 32, said that an employee once called her a “coon,” that she was shown swastikas in the office, that Mr. Jones once grabbed her buttocks, and that staff members repeatedly used the term “fat black bitch” around her.
On his show, Mr. Jones denied the allegations and called both former employees liars.
Mr. Jones’s image and credibility as a provocateur are closely linked to his credibility as a marketer of supplements and other products.
Consequently, sales of the fluoride-free toothpaste he promotes might decline if he recants his bogus claim that fluoridated water causes cancer and stunts the brains of children. Demand for Infowars-branded gun components that can be purchased without a firearms permit might fall if he backs off his predictions of a looming civil war.
Mr. Jones had cited a desire to express contrition to the Sandy Hook parents as a reason for agreeing to be interviewed. But many times during the interview, his efforts at apology morphed into new theories.
“The idea they’re pushing is that you can’t ever question anything,” he said, “they” referring to anyone who criticizes his twisting of the truth. “I don’t think you can establish that anything is 100 percent fact.”
Jack Nicas and Kitty Bennett contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 7, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Reckoning Imperils Infowars Founder’s Soapbox, and His Empire.

China Is Detaining Muslims in Vast Numbers. The Goal: ‘Transformation.’China Is Detaining Muslims in Vast Numbers. The Goal: ‘Transformation.’

 

“That was a place that will breed vengeful feelings,” Abdusalam Muhemet said of the internment camp in Xinjiang, in western China, where he and other Muslims were held for months.CreditCreditErin Trieb for The New York Times
HOTAN, China — On the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.
Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination program, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to detainees who have been released.
The goal is to remove any devotion to Islam.
Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, said the police detained him for reciting a verse of the Quran at a funeral. After two months in a nearby camp, he and more than 30 others were ordered to renounce their past lives. Mr. Muhemet said he went along but quietly seethed.
“That was not a place for getting rid of extremism,” he recalled. “That was a place that will breed vengeful feelings and erase Uighur identity.”
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This camp outside Hotan, an ancient oasis town in the Taklamakan Desert, is one of hundreds that China has built in the past few years. It is part of a campaign of breathtaking scale and ferocity that has swept up hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims for weeks or months of what critics describe as brainwashing, usually without criminal charges.
Though limited to China’s western region of Xinjiang, it is the country’s most sweeping internment program since the Mao era — and the focus of a growing chorus of international criticism.
China has sought for decades to restrict the practice of Islam and maintain an iron grip in Xinjiang, a region almost as big as Alaska where more than half the population of 24 million belongs to Muslim ethnic minority groups. Most are Uighurs, whose religion, language and culture, along with a history of independence movements and resistance to Chinese rule, have long unnerved Beijing.
After a succession of violent antigovernment attacks reached a peak in 2014, the Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping, sharply escalated the crackdown, orchestrating an unforgiving drive to turn ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities into loyal citizens and supporters of the party.
A sign describes this facility on the edge of Hotan, a city in Xinjiang, as a “concentrated transformation-through-education center.”
“Xinjiang is in an active period of terrorist activities, intense struggle against separatism and painful intervention to treat this,” Mr. Xi told officials, according to reports in the state news media last year.
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In addition to the mass detentions, the authorities have intensified the use of informers and expanded police surveillance, even installing cameras in some people’s homes. Human rights activists and experts say the campaign has traumatized Uighur society, leaving behind fractured communities and families.
“Penetration of everyday life is almost really total now,” said Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at Australian National University in Canberra. “You have ethnic identity, Uighur identity in particular, being singled out as this kind of pathology.”
China has categorically denied reports of abuses in Xinjiang. At a meeting of a United Nations panel in Geneva last month, it said it does not operate re-education camps and described the facilities in question as mild corrective institutions that provide job training.
“There is no arbitrary detention,” Hu Lianhe, an official with a role in Xinjiang policy, told the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. “There is no such thing as re-education centers.”
The committee pressed Beijing to disclose how many people have been detained and free them, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the demand as having “no factual basis” and said China’s security measures were comparable to those of other countries.
The government’s business-as-usual defense, however, is contradicted by overwhelming evidence, including official directives, studies, news reports and construction plans that have surfaced online, as well as the eyewitness accounts of a growing number of former detainees who have fled to countries such as Turkey and Kazakhstan.
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The government’s own documents describe a vast network of camps — usually called “transformation through education” centers — that has expanded without public debate, specific legislative authority or any system of appeal for those detained.
The New York Times interviewed four recent camp inmates from Xinjiang who described physical and verbal abuse by guards; grinding routines of singing, lectures and self-criticism meetings; and the gnawing anxiety of not knowing when they would be released. Their accounts were echoed in interviews with more than a dozen Uighurs with relatives who were in the camps or had disappeared, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid government retaliation.
The Times also discovered reports online written by teams of Chinese officials who were assigned to monitor families with detained relatives, and a study published last year that said officials in some places were indiscriminately sending ethnic Uighurs to the camps to meet numerical quotas.
The study, by Qiu Yuanyuan, a scholar at the Xinjiang Party School, where officials are trained, warned that the detentions could backfire and fan radicalism. “Recklessly setting quantitative goals for transformation through education has been erroneously used” in some areas, she wrote. “The targeting is imprecise, and the scope has been expanding.”
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A satellite image taken over Hotan in late August showed that the internment camp, center, had expanded. CreditPlanet Labs Inc.

Eradicating a ‘Virus’

The long days in the re-education camp usually began with a jog.
Nearly every morning, Mr. Muhemet recalled, he and dozens of others — college graduates, businessmen, farmers — were told to run around an assembly ground. Impatient guards sometimes slapped and shoved the older, slower inmates, he said.
Then they were made to sing rousing patriotic hymns in Chinese, such as “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.” Those who could not remember the words were denied breakfast, and they all learned the words quickly.
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Mr. Muhemet, a stocky man who ran a restaurant in Hotan before fleeing China this year, said he spent seven months in a police cell and more than two months in the camp in 2015 without ever being charged with a crime. Most days, he said, the camp inmates assembled to hear long lectures by officials who warned them not to embrace Islamic radicalism, support Uighur independence or defy the Communist Party.
The officials did not ban Islam but dictated very narrow limits for how it should be practiced, including a prohibition against praying at home if there were friends or guests present, he said. In other sessions, the inmates were forced to memorize laws and write essays criticizing themselves.
“In the end, all the officials had one key point,” he said. “The greatness of the Chinese Communist Party, the backwardness of Uighur culture and the advanced nature of Chinese culture.”
After two months, Mr. Muhemet’s family was finally allowed to visit the camp, located near “New Harmony Village,” a settlement built as a symbol of friendship between ethnic Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese. “I couldn’t say anything,” he recalled. “I just held my two sons and wife, and cried and cried.”
The Xinjiang government issued “deradicalization” rules last year that gave vague authorization for the camps, and many counties now run several of them, according to government documents, including requests for bids from construction companies to build them.
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Police outposts and checkpoints dot the streets of Hotan every few hundred yards. President Xi Jinping, seen on the screen above, has overseen a security crackdown across Xinjiang.CreditNg Han Guan/Associated Press
Some facilities are designed for inmates who are allowed to go home at night. Others can house thousands around the clock. One camp outside Hotan has grown in the past two years from a few small buildings to facilities on at least 36 acres, larger than Alcatraz Island, and work appears to be underway to expand it further, according to satellite photos.
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In government documents, local officials sometimes liken inmates to patients requiring isolation and emergency intervention.
“Anyone infected with an ideological ‘virus’ must be swiftly sent for the ‘residential care’ of transformation-through-education classes before illness arises,” a document issued by party authorities in Hotan said.
The number of Uighurs, as well as Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities, who have been detained in the camps is unclear. Estimates range from several hundred thousand to perhaps a million, with exile Uighur groups saying the number is even higher.
About 1.5 percent of China’s total population lives in Xinjiang. But the region accounted for more than 20 percent of arrests nationwide last year, according to official data compiled by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group. Those figures do not include people in the re-education camps.
Residents said people have been sent to the camps for visiting relatives abroad; for possessing books about religion and Uighur culture; and even for wearing a T-shirt with a Muslim crescent. Women are sometimes detained because of transgressions by their husbands or sons.
One official directive warns people to look for 75 signs of “religious extremism,” including behavior that would be considered unremarkable in other countries: growing a beard as a young man, praying in public places outside mosques or even abruptly trying to give up smoking or drinking.
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Chinese military police at a rally last year in Hotan. Schools, hospitals and other facilities in the city are ringed by barbed wire.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images
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‘We Are in Trouble’

Hotan feels as if under siege by an invisible enemy. Fortified police outposts and checkpoints dot the streets every few hundred yards. Schools, kindergartens, gas stations and hospitals are garlanded in barbed wire. Surveillance cameras sprout from shops, apartment entrances and metal poles.
“It’s very tense here,” a police officer said. “We haven’t rested for three years.”
This city of 390,000 underwent a Muslim revival about a decade ago. Most Uighurs have adhered to relatively relaxed forms of Sunni Islam, and a significant number are secular. But budding prosperity and growing interaction with the Middle East fueled interest in stricter Islamic traditions. Men grew long beards, while women wore hijabs that were not a part of traditional Uighur dress.
Now the beards and hijabs are gone, and posters warn against them. Mosques appear poorly attended; people must register to enter and worship under the watch of surveillance cameras.
The government shifted to harsher policies in 2009 after protests in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, spiraled into rioting and left nearly 200 people dead. Mr. Xi and his regional functionaries went further, adopting methods reminiscent of Mao’s draconian rule — mass rallies, public confessions and “work teams” assigned to ferret out dissent.
They have also wired dusty towns across Xinjiang with an array of technology that has put the region on the cutting edge of programs for surveillance cameras as well as facial and voice recognition. Spending on security in Xinjiang has soared, with nearly $8.5 billion allocated for the police, courts and other law enforcement agencies last year, nearly double the previous year’s amount.
The campaign has polarized Uighur society. Many of the ground-level enforcers are Uighurs themselves, including police officers and officials who staff the camps and security checkpoints.
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Ordinary Uighurs moving about Hotan sometimes shuffle on and off buses several times to pass through metal detectors, swipe their identity cards or hand over and unlock their mobile phones for inspection.
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On patrol in Hotan. “It’s very tense here,” one police officer said. “We haven’t rested for three years.”CreditBen Dooley/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A resident or local cadre is assigned to monitor every 10 families in Xinjiang, reporting on comings and goings and activities deemed suspicious, including praying and visits to mosques, according to residents and government reports. Residents said the police sometimes search homes for forbidden books and suspect items such as prayer mats, using special equipment to check walls and floors for hidden caches.
The authorities are also gathering biometric data and DNA. Two Uighurs, a former official and a student, said they were ordered to show up at police buildings where officers recorded their voices, took pictures of their heads at different angles and collected hair and blood samples.
The pressure on Uighur villages intensifies when party “work teams” arrive and take up residence, sometimes living in local homes. The teams ask villagers to inform on relatives, friends and neighbors, and they investigate residents’ attitudes and activities, according to government reports published online.
One account published last year described how the authorities in one village arranged for detainees accused of “religious extremism” to be denounced by their relatives at a public rally, and encouraged other families to report similar activities.
“More and more people are coming forward with information,” Cao Lihai, an editor for a party journal, wrote in the report. “Some parents have personally brought in their children to give themselves up.”
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A Uighur woman in her 20s who asked to be identified only by her surname, Gul, said she came under scrutiny after wearing an Islamic head wrap and reading books about religion and Uighur history. Local officials installed cameras at her family’s door — and inside their living room.
“We would always have to be careful what we said and what we did and what we read,” she said.
Every week, Ms. Gul added, a neighborhood official visited and spent at least two hours interrogating her. Eventually, the authorities sent her to a full-time re-education camp.
Ms. Gul, who fled China after being released, later tried to contact her brother to find out if he was in trouble. He sent a wordless reply, an emoticon face in tears.
Afterward, Ms. Gul’s mother sent her another message: “Please don’t call us again. We are in trouble.”
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Walking past a mosque in the city of Kashgar. Muslims throughout Xinjiang are under intense scrutiny. “Penetration of everyday life is almost really total now,” one expert said.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Broken Families

The Chinese government says it is winning a war against Islamic extremism and separatism, which it blames for attacks that have killed hundreds in recent years. Information about such violence is censored and incomplete, but incidents appear to have fallen off sharply since 2014, when the “deradicalization” push began.
Still, many who have emerged from the indoctrination program say it has hardened public attitudes against Beijing.
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“It was of absolutely no use,” said Omurbek Eli, a Kazakh businessman, of his time held in a camp in 2017. “The outcome will be the opposite. They will become even more resistant to Chinese influence.”
For many families, the disappearance of a loved one into the camps can be devastating, both emotionally and economically — a point reflected in reports posted online by the party’s “work teams.”
Some of these reports describe Uighur families unable to harvest crops on their own because so many members have been taken away, and one mentioned a mother left to care for five children. In another report, an official near Hotan described holding a village meeting to calm distraught relatives of those sent to the camps.
The mass internments also break Uighur families by forcing members to disown their kin or by separating small children from their parents. So many parents have been detained in Kashgar, a city in western Xinjiang, that it has expanded boarding schools to take custody of older, “troubled” children.
“Whether consciously or unconsciously, authorities in Xinjiang have recognized the power of families as an alternative source of authority,” said Rian Thum, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who has followed the detentions. “The kind of extreme party loyalty they want has no room for that.”
Ms. Gul said the camp she was in was ramshackle enough that children who lived nearby sometimes crept up to a window late at night and called out to their mothers inside. “Their children would come and say, ‘Mother, I miss you,’” she said.
“We didn’t say anything,” she added, “because there was a camera inside the cell.”
Austin Ramzy contributed reporting from Hong Kong.
A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 8, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Anti-Islam Detention Camps in China. Order Reprints | Today’s