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The Year in Corruption: 2023 Edition

Dear WantToKnow.info friends,

As we close out 2023, we thought we’d share some highlights of this past year’s news. On one hand, 2023 was yet another year plagued with corruption, tragedy, social conflict, and loss of civil liberties. Law enforcement agencies have militarized US streets, conducting surveillance of US citizens engaged in constitutionally protected activities often through the use of increasingly sophisticated tools like geofence warrants. More than 1,500 police departments are now using drone technology for aerial surveillance, which led to civil action in the Michigan Supreme Court for violating the Fourth Amendment. Human rights and civil liberty groups wrote a report this year that 119,000 people have been significantly hurt by crowd-control weapons since 2015.

Yet looking back at the hundreds of news articles we’ve summarized, this year’s news was full of revelations, courageous reporting, and the liberation of alternative perspectives and news platforms. In this newsletter, we’ll take a look back and explore this year’s news on censorship issues, COVID, the US war machine, UFO disclosure, and health and food corruption.

The information we cover is often challenging, unsettling and complex. Yet we value questioning authority in healthy ways. We can’t shift the chaos we’re in until we name it. When we can recognize what’s pushing us — in our personal lives and as a society — we already have a degree of freedom from it. Facing the truth of the world heals divides and empowers constructive change. Root causes of human and environmental suffering are uncovered: the money, players, and belief systems that drive the machine. Most importantly, challenging information can paradoxically remind us of the greater good. It is the courage of the people and the love for the common good that bring these injustices to light—fueling open dialogue and constructive action.

Censorship

The unleashing of independent voices in the media landscape has empowered democracy while threatening the forces attempting to control public discourse through sophisticated propaganda techniques. These include government agencies like the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA) and military-intelligence contractors of the Cyber Threat Intelligence League (CTIL). A recent trove of whistleblower documents revealed how far the Pentagon and spy agencies like CISA and CTIL are willing to go to censor alternative voices, from cutting off financial services to individuals who organize rallies and events to “discussing ways to promote “counter-messaging,” co-opt hashtags, dilute disfavored messaging, create sock puppet accounts, and infiltrate private invite-only groups.” In one of their reports, they discuss how the ability to reach mass audiences once belonged to government and corporate media, and raised deep concern that the flow of information is becoming harder to control.

The open flow of information is crucial to a free society. Silencing alternative voices and views through media manipulation and censorship makes it easy for the powerful to hide exploitation and injustice. In the case of Biden v. Missouri, Judge Terry Doughty ruled in July that the collusion between Big Tech and the White House to censor speech was unconstitutional. And most importantly, the content being censored wasn’t necessarily misinformation or fake news. The views simply challenged mainstream narratives.

Discovery in Missouri v. Biden exposed relationships among government agencies and social-media firms and revealed an additional layer of university centers and self-styled disinformation watchdogs and fact-checking outfits. Elon Musk's release of some of Twitter's internal files revealed that up to 80 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were embedded with social-media companies. The agents mostly weren't fighting terrorism but flagging wrongthink by American citizens, including eminent scientists who suggested different paths on Covid policy. The information explosion has allowed more people to spot quickly the mistakes of officials. Those in charge feel threatened. Digital censorship is their response to this crisis of authority. True, misinformation is rampant online. But it was far worse before the internet, when myths could persist for centuries. — Excerpt from Wall Street Journal, “COVID Censorship Proved To Be Deadly"

Interestingly enough, the censorship of alternative views on COVID, Ukraine, climate change, and other issues didn’t sound the alarm bell as much as the censorship of pro-Palestinian voices in the wake of the tragic war in Gaza. Media outrage about the censorship of pro-Palestinian views led to social media companies quickly making widespread fixes to their systems. The issue of censorship calls for a deeper question: How do we uplevel our activism in ways that honor the intersectionality of all issues calling for democracy and freedom in an oppressive system?

COVID

If accepting the official COVID story was indeed the most effective way to end the pandemic, a pro-science society would still seek to understand alternative perspectives pointing to harm and injustice. Many of these harms are only beginning to come to light. We recently wrote a long-form investigative essay, “New Revelations About COVID Vaccine Injuries and Lawsuits, Examining Big Pharma Corruption, and Media Censorship,” which documents the latest news regarding COVID vaccines: landmark lawsuits, the shocking numbers of vaccine injuries and deaths, to the surveillance strategies of COVID vaccine manufacturers and their efforts to shape public discourse about vaccines.

Undisclosed safety risks and harms must be investigated, even if those investigations produce inconvenient findings. Yet instead, it’s becoming increasingly likely that COVID vaccine manufacturers and high-level government officials were aware of vaccine harms, from covering up significant adverse cardiac events to Pfizer delaying the reporting of vaccine-associated deaths during their clinical trials.

COVID news this year went beyond vaccine concerns. Mainstream media outlets and renowned medical journals like The Lancet admitted that natural immunity is just as effective (if not more) than vaccine-induced immunity. SARS-CoV2 was likely engineered in the context of bioweapons research with US funding and Chinese military involvement at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. A whistleblower testimony from a senior-level CIA officer recently alleged that the CIA attempted to skew its COVID origins review by offering significant financial incentives to six analysts in order to change their conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a Wuhan lab. In January of 2024, former chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci will testify before Congress on COVID origins.

Concerns that COVID death counts and hospitalization rates were heavily inflated also surfaced this past year:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is experiencing around 400 covid deaths every day. At that rate, there would be nearly 150,000 deaths a year. But are these Americans dying from covid or with covid? Robin Dretler ... the former president of Georgia's chapter of Infectious Diseases Society of America, estimates that at his hospital, 90 percent of patients diagnosed with covid are actually in the hospital for some other illness. "Since every hospitalized patient gets tested for covid, many are incidentally positive," he said. A gunshot victim or someone who had a heart attack, for example, could test positive for the virus, but the infection has no bearing on why they sought medical care. If these patients die, covid might get added to their death certificate. But the coronavirus was not the primary contributor to their death and often played no role at all. — Excerpt from Washington Post, “We are overcounting covid deaths and hospitalizations. That's a problem.

US War Machine

Meanwhile, the US war machine has continued to fuel conflicts all over the world. US arms manufacturers are raking it in and profiting heavily from Israel-Palestine violence. The US continues to delay a United Nations vote for humanitarian aid to Gaza at least eight times. Media censorship and the stifling culture of silence about the issue within government halls diminish open dialogue and the shared sense of humanity that connects us across our (often vast) differences. 

A new analysis in March revealed that the US sold weapons to nearly 60% of the world’s authorization nations in 2022. A Tax Day analysis reported that defense contractors like Lockheed Martin got $106 from the average taxpayer in 2022, which is 4x as much money as primary and secondary education.

More information also came to light about the shocking lack of oversight of money and equipment sent to Afghanistan. When the US military retreated from Afghanistan two years ago, huge amounts of equipment left behind have now turned the Taliban into a major arms dealer in the Middle East, which has fueled violence and division in the region. According to a Taliban official, they took possession of “more than 300,000 light arms, 26,000 heavy weapons, and about 61,000 military vehicles.”

This month, we launched our new Military-Intelligence Corruption Information Center, which provides a comprehensive and sobering look into the US military-intelligence apparatus behind America’s endless wars: what it is, who benefits, and who pays the price. The true impacts of US military-intelligence activities in countries all over the world are examined, from World War II to our present moment in time.

UFO Disclosure

The US government finally acknowledged the existence of UFOs/UAPs on a mainstream level. This is progress, but there's clearly much more that we aren't being told with their heavily sanitized narratives about the phenomenon. Still, it came to light that US troops have reported on hundreds of UFO sightings. Compelling testimonies by high-level military and intelligence officials illustrate the likelihood that the US government has secretly recovered non-human spacecrafts for decades and conducted “Roswell-style UFO crash retrieval and reverse engineering programs”. There is also an interesting inquiry into a CIA top secret operation that has allegedly played a role since 2003 in collecting what could be alien spacecraft.

Health and Food Corruption

This year, we saw significant reporting about the appalling rates of chronic illness and disease, and its root causes. In other words, we're swimming in a toxic soup and our government leaders are failing to appropriately address these public health challenges. At the heart of this public health crisis are massive corporate entities: Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Chemical, and other powerful industries. By relentlessly pursuing profits from the technologies, medicines, and genetically modified foods they produce, these entities also downplay the significant risks these products have on human and environmental health.

A new report in January concluded that the US spends most on health care than any other high-income country, yet has the worst health outcomes among other high-income countries. A JAMA Psychiatry study found that 8 in 10 people will be hospitalized for mental health issues or will receive psychiatric drugs. Yet worst off, the study found that their lives are worse in many ways after receiving diagnosis and treatment. Cancer cases for young people and individuals under 50 are growing at alarming rates. Research by the World Obesity Foundation projects that more than half of humans are on track to be overweight or obese by 2035. Nearly 1 in 10 kids are diagnosed with a developmental disability.

Toxic forever chemicals are now found in almost half of US tap water, and the chemical industry’s tactics to downplay the harms mirror Big Tobacco’s tactics. Unprecedented levels of wireless radiation are leading to “brain damage, memory loss, decline in reproductive function, DNA damage and harm to insects.” Even in the face of valid health concerns regarding wireless radiation exposure, the FCC continues to restrict local government control over the rollout of cell towers and new “small cell” transmitters, which greatly benefits Big Telecom.

Recent studies and analyses show how pesticides have reduced sperm count worldwide and how the commonly used herbicide glyphosate is linked to severe depression and cognitive decline. This year, we witnessed some wins and losses with the regulation of chemicals and pesticides in our food and environment. In June, New York became the first state in the US to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) that are toxic to bees, other pollinators, and wildlife. In October, California became the first state to ban 4 food additives that have been linked to disease and cancer.

However, in November, a federal appeals court tossed the EPA’s ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that was originally developed by Nazis during World War II as a nerve gas and is linked to brain damage in children. The European Commission has decided to renew the license for glyphosate, approving its use for 10 more years.

Big Pharma corruption received decent media attention this year. A study published in JAMA found that Big Pharma spends more money on advertising for drugs that have lower health benefits for patients. Pharmaceutical drugmakers paid social media influencers to promote their products, with some of them earning up to a few thousand dollars per social media post. Many of these influencers promoted weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, while poison centers saw a 1,500% increase in calls related to these weight-loss drugs.

The money behind the makers of weight-loss drugs is staggering, with the economic value of Wegovy's Novo Nordisk soaring to over $420 billion and exceeding the entire GDP of Denmark, its home country. Read more on the significant adverse effects associated with these drugs.

Tremendous financial conflicts of interests resulted in the FDA protecting the pharmaceutical industry first. Merck’s asthma and allergy drug Singulair has resulted in allegations that many children have died by suicide or experienced neuropsychiatric problems after taking the drug. After a family sued Merck when their mentally healthy son shot himself in the head after taking Singulair, US courts protected Big Pharma.

It was also reported that National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which Congress relied on to help shape the federal response to the opioid crisis, received roughly $19 million in donations from the owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the drug OxyContin responsible for fueling the deadly opioid epidemic. A recent study found that the OxyContin reformulation was associated with rising suicides among children and teenagers. Meanwhile, the more than $50 billion from national opioid settlements are being used to purchase surveillance cameras, vehicles, body scanners, and other equipment for law enforcement agencies.

Internal pharmaceutical industry documents recently obtained through litigation revealed widespread corruption within the medical field, from bribery to ghost management strategies.

The pharmaceutical industry is driven by commercial interests, not public health, and this problem is compounded by a lack of transparency, conflicts of interests, manipulation of clinical trials, and undue corporate influence across the government. Marketing companies ghostwrite pharmaceutical studies for academics who sometimes barely read the papers that get submitted to medical journals, and drug makers then cite these ghostwritten studies as peer-reviewed proof of their products’ safety and efficacy. The revolving door between Big Pharma and the FDA spins faster than the one between the Pentagon and the defense industry. — Kim Witczack, member of a FDA advisory committee and advocate for pharmaceutical drug safety and FDA reform (Excerpt from the Disinformation Chronicle on Substack, “Americans are Fools for Pharma")

As we move into the new year, may we transform 2023’s learning curves into constructive action. It will be fascinating to see what comes to light this coming year. While society’s challenges often produce a sense of helplessness and despair, the most important thing we have control over is how we choose to engage with these issues. We can choose to become more polarized, angry, and divisive. Or, we can choose to stay curious, humble, and committed to the greater good and what’s possible. Outcomes are not in our control, but our commitment is ours to make.

A while back, I came across a powerful quote: “Challenge your fears and ego for inner peace. Challenge the media and the two-party system for world peace.”

Wishing you insight, joy, and health for 2024, WTK community.

With faith in a transforming world,
Amber Yang for PEERS and WantToKnow.info

Special note: Don't forget out recent newsletter with our top inspiring stories of 2023!


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