The Americans are coming! Some in a Texas county fear an Obama-led U.S. military invasion. – By Kevin Sullivan July 4 2015

BASTROP, Texas — The office of the Bastrop County Republican Party is in an old lumber mill on Main Street, with peeling brown paint and a sign out front that captures the party’s feelings about the Obama administration: “WISE UP AMERICA!”

“The Obama administration has a history of attacking Texas,” says Bastrop County Republican Chairman Albert Ellison. (Erich Schlegel/For The Washington Post)

Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had written page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”

So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states.

They are not “nuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Ellison said of his suspicious neighbors. “Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing.”

Across town at the Bastrop County Courthouse, such talk elicits a weary sigh from County Judge Paul Pape, the chief official in this county of 78,000 people. Pape said he has tried to explain to folks that the exercise, known as Jade Helm 15, is a routine training mission that poses no threat to anyone.

Article continues:


How a reviled African ruler survived a coup hatched in the United States – By Craig Whitlock and Adam Goldman May 31 at 8:46 PM

 Every other Saturday evening, the coup-plotters excused themselves from their wives and kids to join a conference call. The half-
dozen dissidents — all middle-aged men, most with military experience — dialed in from their suburban homes scattered across the South and Midwest.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, top, survived a coup attempt hatched by several plotters, including, from left to right on bottom, Njaga Jagne, Alagie Barrow and Lammin Sanneh. (Top: AP; bottom left: courtesy of the Jagne family; bottom center: Nick Strocchia; bottom right: courtesy of Jeffrey W. Meiser)

There were operational details to discuss, logistical hurdles to overcome. How would they smuggle rifles and night-vision goggles to Gambia, the tiny West African country from which they were exiled? Was their $221,000 budget enough to topple the brutal strongman who had ruled Gambia for two decades?

In the predawn hours ofDec. 30, according to court documents and interviews with people involved in the operation, the U.S.-based conspirators teamed with other dissidents to assault the Gambian presidential palace. They expected to find it lightly guarded. Instead, they ran into an ambush. Four people were killed. Those who survived fled the country.

Afterward, the Justice Department charged four U.S. residents with taking part in or supporting the failed coup, saying they had violated the Neutrality Act of 1794, an obscure law that prohibits Americans from taking up arms against countries that enjoy peaceful relations with the United States.

What the U.S. government did not disclose, however, was that it had been monitoring the plotters and had secretly tipped off West African authorities to the travel of at least one of them. In doing so, U.S. officials may have at least indirectly helped to protect the president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, who has drawn international condemnation for his dismal human rights record, his violent rhetoric against gay people and bizarre beliefs such as his claim to have concocted an herbal cure for AIDS.

Article continues:

Iran’s anti-U.S. conspiracies – By MICHAEL CROWLEY 5/1/15 4:36 PM EDT

Allegations that the U.S. staged 9/11 indicate that Iran’s hard-liners remain invested in conflict with the West.

AP Photo

America planned September 11. John McCain supports the Islamic State. Jews are sorcerers.

A top Iranian general’s recent claim that the U.S. staged the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade the Muslim world may seem crazy. But it might not be the nuttiest-sounding thing a prominent Iranian has said in recent months.

Iran’s hard-line religious and military leaders routinely make crackpot accusations against the U.S. and its allies, propagating wild theories that would be laughable if they didn’t have real implications for U.S.-Iranian relations and Barack Obama’s effort to strike a nuclear deal.

Conservatives in Washington insist that such talk reveals the true nature of the Iranian regime. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner cited the claim of Iranian general Ahmad Reza Pourdastan — that the U.S. “plan[ed] and carr[ied] out the events of 9/11, in order to justify their presence” in the Middle East — as cause for alarm.

“This should [not] be taken lightly or silently, as the Obama administration would apparently have us do,” Boehner said.

Obama officials say they don’t feel the need to respond to every off-the-wall comment from Tehran. Doing so, after all, would amount to something like a full-time job.

The creative thinking comes from Iran’s highest levels. In a 2011 speech to the United Nations, for instance, Iran’s previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also implied that the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks may have been self-inflicted, calling them “a mystery.” Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly said that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant was deliberately created by the west. The alleged goal: to divide Muslims and bomb their countries.

In case the point wasn’t clear enough, Iranian state television recently claimed that Sen. John McCain met personally with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Sunni militant group’s self-declared caliph. The television network broadcast doctored images of the hawkish Republican last September, as an announcer declared: “These say more than a thousand words regarding the links between the United States and this group.”

In an address last September, Khamenei added that the West also created Al Qaeda and the Taliban, groups he called “the handicraft of colonialists,” in order to counter Iran.

Article continues:

How the CIA gets away with it: Our democracy is their real enemy – SCOTT HORTON SATURDAY, FEB 21, 2015 11:30 AM UTC

How the CIA gets away with it: Our democracy is their real enemy

On March 11, 2014, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein stepped to the well of the Senate to deliver a speech exposing in stark terms a struggle between congressional investigators and their oversight subject: the Central Intelligence Agency. Feinstein was an unlikely critic of the practices of the intelligence community. The wife of investment banker Richard C. Blum, who managed enormous capital investments in corporations serving the American defense and intelligence communities, Feinstein had distinguished herself among Senate Democrats as a staunch CIA defender. In her long service on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she had chaired since 2009, Feinstein established close personal ties with key senior agency figures—championing the candidacy of former deputy director Stephen Kappes to head the agency after Barack Obama was elected.

Patiently and meticulously, Feinstein unfolded the string of events that led her committee to launch the most exhaustive congressional probe of a single CIA program in the nation’s history. “On December 6, 2007, a New York Times article revealed the troubling fact that the CIA had destroyed video tapes of some of the CIA’s first interrogations using so-called enhanced techniques,” she stated.

CIA director Michael Hayden had assured congressional overseers that they had no reason to be concerned: routine written field reports, what Hayden called CIA operational cables, had been retained. These documents, Hayden said, described “the detention conditions” of prisoners held by the CIA before it decided to shut down the program as well as the “day-to-day CIA interrogations.” Hayden offered the senators access to these cables to prove to them that the destruction of the tapes was not a serious issue. Moreover, he reminded them that the CIA program was a historical relic: in the fall of 2006 the Bush administration ended the CIA’s role as a jailer and sharply curtailed its program of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs)—specifically eliminating techniques that most of the international community, including the United States in the period before and after the Bush presidency, had viewed as torture, such as waterboarding.

Nevertheless, the Senate committee had never looked deeply into this program, and Hayden’s decision to offer access to the cables opened the door to a careful study, which was accepted by then-chair Jay Rockefeller. Early in 2007, two Senate staffers spent many months reading the cables. By the time they had finished in early 2009, Feinstein had replaced Rockefeller as committee chair, and Barack Obama had replaced George W. Bush as president. Feinstein received the first staff report. It was “chilling,” she said. “The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us.”

This first exploration of the dark side of CIA prisons and torture led committee members to recognize a serious failure in its oversight responsibilities. The committee resolved with near-unanimity (on a 14–1 vote) to launch a comprehensive investigation of the CIA program involving black sites and torture.

But the CIA was not simply going to acquiesce to a congressional probe into the single darkest and most controversial program in the organization’s history. Since it could not openly do battle with its congressional overseers, the agency turned to a series of tactics that it had honed over the difficult decades following the Church Committee inquiries of the mid-1970s. Throughout the subsequent decades, the CIA complained loudly about the burdens of oversight and accountability—while almost always getting its way.

Article continues:

Anti-Vaccine Movements Not Unique to the U.S. – By Teresa Welsh Feb. 18, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EST

Skepticism about vaccinations abounds in other countries as well.

A long-debunked study linking the measles vaccine to autism appears to still have some people spooked.

A long-debunked study linking the measles vaccine to autism appears to still have some people spooked.

A long-debunked study linking the measles vaccine to autism appears to still have some people spooked.

With widespread access to medical care and immunizations, the U.S. typically doesn’t see massive outbreaks of preventable diseases like the measles. But American anti-vaxxers – parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated and seek exemptions from immunization requirements – aren’t alone in their misgivings: Skepticism abounds in many other countries about the safety and effectiveness of disease-fighting injections.

“There is opposition to vaccine I think in every country around the world, and the nature of the opposition varies from place to place,” says Dr. Alan Hinman, a senior public health scientist with The Task Force for Global Health.

Vaccine hesitancy, according to a World Health Organization working groupcreated to study the phenomenon, is a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services.” The group studied the issue for more than two years and found that it is “complex and context-specific, varying across time, place and vaccines.”

“It can be due to religious beliefs, it can be through personal beliefs or it can just be through misinformation on the need and importance of vaccination,” says Hayatee Hasan, a technical officer in the WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.

In the U.S., where a recent measles outbreak has renewed calls for parents to vaccinate their children, some parents are still hesitant to do so because of a 1998 study linking the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella to autism, even though that study has long since been debunked. Similarly, misconceptions about the potentially adverse effects of vaccinations also impact the rates at which certain communities abroad vaccinate their children.

Article continues:

Debunking vaccine junk science won’t change people’s minds. Here’s what will. – Updated by Julia Belluz on February 7, 2015, 8:10 a.m. ET

We know that vaccines aren’t a partisan issue. There are pro- and anti-vaxxers on both sides of the political spectrum. Even the science-minded President has, at times, equivocated on the issue. But as the vaccine debate took on a political pitch this week — with Republicans firing back at Obama’s suggestion that parents “get your kids vaccinated” — how and why people believe what they do about immunizations was on the minds of many.

Rand Paul vaccineRand Paul getting vaccinated after causing an uproar with comments that vaccines can cause “profound mental disorders.” (Via Twitter)

I called Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth who specializes in the sometimes magical thinking people have in politics and health care. In a study on perceptions of flu shots, he found correcting myths had the opposite of the desired effect on the most vaccine-skeptical among us. In another study on the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, he found that myth-busting actually increased some parents’ wariness about the shot. In his political research, he has demonstrated that giving people corrective information can deepen their misperceptions —  findings that dishearten any debunker.

Here’s our interview about why it’s so hard to get people to change their minds about vaccines, why corrective information fails, and how to prevent vaccine denialism in the first place. What follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

Julia Belluz: If I had to briefly sum up your research findings, I’d say: it’s near impossible to change peoples’ minds. Are vaccine beliefs any different from other types of beliefs? 

Brendan Nyhan: Vaccine beliefs are a lot like the political beliefs my co-author [Jason Reifler] and I study. People feel passionately, they are not inclined to hear contradictory messages, and there are all sorts of myths circulating. The way people reason about vaccines, it’s the same as the way people reason about other controversial topics.

Vaccines are  a victim of their own success here.JB: And yet the evidence on the benefits of vaccines is overwhelming. Why is it so hard to get some parents on side? 

BN: The benefit is not tangible in any way. It’s not a case where your child is sick, you get a medicine, they get better, and you can see it. With vaccines, your child is well, you give them a vaccine, they stay well. The only potential downside is the perspective of certain parents who focus on these myths about side effects. That’s really tough.

That’s part of the reason vaccines historically have been so controversial. It goes back to the very first vaccines, not just the MMR-autism scare in 1998. People have always been suspicious of vaccines. There has always been an instinctive response to the idea of using a disease to protect yourself against the disease. It gives people the heebie jeebies. Finally, many of the diseases that vaccines prevent today are essentially invisible in the US. Vaccines are a victim of their own success here.

JB: Who most influences parents’ thinking about vaccination? 

BN: Parents rate their child’s doctor as their most-trusted source on vaccines by far. For all the coverage of Jenny McCarthy, parents tell us their pediatrician is who they trust and listen to. That’s why providers are so important. For similar reasons, we should promote vaccines from the bottom up within communities that are at risk of not getting vaccinated.

For all the coverage of Jenny McCarthy, parents tell us they listen to their pediatrician. 

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there was a moment when the medical teams were trying to fight the epidemic by communicating the science of how to prevent the spread of the diseases. But they weren’t trusted. When they started working with community leaders and using those leaders in turn to work with people within communities, that’s when they started changing peoples’ practices.

In the US, most places have very good levels of vaccination. The US doesn’t have a vaccine crisis. We have pockets of un- and under-vaccinated people that create potential hotspots. It’s important to be targeted in our approach. In all those places where people are vaccinating, we don’t want to scare them.

JB: You’ve written about the “backfire effects” of being too hard in trying to convince people to see another point of view. How does that relate to vaccines and how should we address the vaccine-hesitant? 

BN: My co-authors and I have found that corrective information about controversial issues like vaccines is often ineffective and can even have counterproductive effects. In this case, we found that debunking myths about the MMR vaccine and the flu shot can make people who have the least positive views of vaccines less likely to intend to vaccinate rather than more.

A better approach is to help healthcare providers communicate more effectively. There are too many providers who are too accommodating in their language about alternative schedules or selective vaccination. When my son was born, we went to a pediatric practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the first thing they said to us was: ‘We’re willing to work with you on vaccines.’ I interpreted that as meaning, ‘We’re open to negotiating vaccines with you.’ We said, ‘No, no, we want everything.’ But the danger is that if that’s your opening offer as a doctor, parents may take it.

JB: How does the language doctors use impact whether people vaccinate their kids or not? 

BN: Studies have found that providers who use presumptive language, saying, ‘It’s time for some shots,’ are much more likely to have successful vaccine compliance than providers who use participatory language like, ‘What do you think about shots?’ It’s of course important to respect patient autonomy but I think, at the same time, the language providers use gives patients a cue about the strength of the medical evidence.

If you roll into the emergency room on a stretcher with a gun shot wound, no one says, ‘How do you feel about getting bullets out of you?’ They say, ‘We need to get this out of you now.’ There is a move in medicine toward participatory approaches in contexts in which the benefits are less clear. But this is an area where the science is very clear and the language we use should reflect that.

We need to create conditions where we don’t have to change as many minds about vaccines in first place.

Articcle continues:

Half Of Americans Believe One Of These 6 Medical Conspiracy Theories By Tara Culp-Ressler July 16, 2014 at 1:47 pm Updated: July 16, 2014 at 4:29 pm


CREDIT: Shutterstock

Are companies dumping large quantities of dangerous chemicals into our water supply under the guise of fluoridation? Did a U.S. spy agency infect African Americans with HIV? Does the government tell parents to give vaccines to their children even though that could increase their risk of developing autism? Are U.S. health officials withholding information about natural cures for cancer so that pharmaceutical companies can continue to profit, or pretending they don’t know that cell phones can cause cancer? Are genetically modified foods a plot to shrink the global population?

About half of the American public believes at least one of those medical conspiracy theories, according to a study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. The greatest proportion of respondents, 37 percent, believes that the FDA is deliberately suppressing information about natural treatments for cancer. On top of that, less than a third of participants were willing to say they actively disagreed with this theory, leaving everyone else somewhere in the middle.

Study participants were also asked if they’ve ever heard about the conspiracies, even if they don’t personally believe them. Researchers found that the most well-known medical conspiracy is the myth that vaccines are linked to autism. Although a large body of scientific research has thoroughly debunked that claim, it’s been given a wide platform thanks to several prominent celebrities. Nearly 70 percent of people said they’ve heard heard of that theory, and 20 percent reported they believe it’s true.

“When it comes to a lot of issues of health, there are a lot of issues of uncertainty,” the study’s lead researcher, Eric Oliver, explained in an interview with HuffPost Live this week. For instance, people may be worried about whether they’ll get cancer or be able to conceive a child, and there’s often no way for them to know for sure. “We don’t deal with uncertainty very well as a species. It makes us nervous. When we’re looking for resolution for our anxiety, we try to find what might be the most intuitively plausible explanation for something. For a lot of people, these conspiratorial narratives really do have a strong intuitive resonance.”

But conspiracy theories aren’t just a coping mechanism on a theoretical level; Oliver found they ultimately correlate to behavior, and could even contribute to some people’s decisions about how to manage their health. For instance, the people who believe in conspiracies are more likely to take herbal supplements and seek out alternative medicine, and less likely to use sunscreen or get flu shots.

“Although it is common to disparage adherents of conspiracy theories as a delusional fringe of paranoid cranks, our data suggest that medical conspiracy theories are widely known, broadly endorsed, and highly predictive of many common health behaviors,” the study concludes.

Article continues: