WordPress Yields to Erdoğan

WordPress updates its takedown policy to comply with Turkish censorship demands – four months after I blogged the story

Last year, I reported about a Turkish political blog which was geo-blocked by WordPress following a takedown request from tyrannical Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In a series of tweets, the Turkish journalist and noted Erdoğan critic, Mahir Zeynalov, questioned WordPress’ decision to censor the blog.

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The San Francisco-based blogging platform had previously stated that, without a U.S. court order, it refused to honour Turkish requests to censor content.

However, when I asked about the censored blog, a WordPress spokesperson said it had been forced to comply with demands from Turkey or face a whole WordPress.com site block in the country,” but that it would “look into making the current process clearer in our next transparency report.”

Earlier this month, WordPress updated its takedown policy via its bi-annual transparency report:

During the previous reporting period, we changed our approach for takedown demands from Azerbaijan and Turkey. We now respond to them as we do the demands from Russia, which is why the percentage of requests where some or all content was removed has increased.

According to the report, for the period July 1–December 31, WordPress received 93 court orders and 235 requests from government agencies or law enforcement.

It complied with 66 percent of the total 328 requests, but refused to comply with some of the more absurd requests including a request from Colombian authorities to suspend six websites for “insulting and dishonorable comments against political figures in Colombia and imputing unfounded charges to people who generate business at the national level.”

The Art of the Steal

Did Trump plagiarise from “fake news” network CNN and other media networks on defunct Trump University blog?

Since taking office in January, the Trump administration has repeatedly accused US cable network CNN of reporting “fake news.”

However, it appears that in 2008 Trump plagiarised articles originally published to the CNN website on his now-defunct Trump University blog, a weekly column in which Trump gave advice to budding entrepreneurs.

For instance, in February 2008 Trump copied from an article published to CNN the previous month titled – somewhat ironically – “Honestly, All of Us Are Liars” by health and lifestyle reporter Jocelyn Voo.

On the Trump University blog, Trump wrote: “Admit it. At some point it your life, you’ve lied. Maybe you tell white lies on a daily basis. Maybe you tell some all-out doozies. Whatever the case, don’t worry about it too much. You’re normal.”

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On the CNN news website the previous month, Voo had written this strikingly similar paragraph: “Admit it: At some point, you’ve lied. Maybe it was the time you told your aunt that her hand-knit holiday sweater was ‘exactly what you wanted.’ Or when you explained to human resources that you’d missed the big company meeting because your grandmother died … again. Take heart, though; you’re not Machiavellian. You’re just normal.”

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Without attribution, Trump also copied elements from another article by Voo titled “Young Women Choosing Careers Over Love” – and in two later blog entries¹ copied from articles originally published to Reuters.²

In June last year, the New York Times reported that at least 20 pages of a Trump University textbook were copied from a book in a 1997 set titled “Real Estate Mastery System.”

In November, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle a number of lawsuits brought by former Trump University students who alleged they were defrauded out of thousands of dollars in tuition fees.

On that note, here’s a rather fitting quote from Trump’s old blog:

…I think it’s nice to say, “Don’t lie,” but it’s just not realistic. We do it to save other people’s feelings. We do it to protect ourselves. We do it to get what we want.

And sometimes it works.

¹Available to read by clicking here and here.
²Available to read by clicking here and here.

The Sun on Julian Assange – Fake News or Honest Mistake?

The Sun newspaper retracts claim Julian Assange allegedly sexually assaulted two men – but not before WikiLeaks Task Force cries “fake news”

Earlier this month, The Sun newspaper published “Who is Julian Assange, why does Pamela Anderson visit him in the Ecuadorian embassy and what is Wikileaks?” about exiled Aussie journalist and founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange, who in 2010 was accused of sexually assaulting two women during a visit to Sweden.

The March 8, 2017 article, by reporter Holly Christodoulou, incorrectly stated that Assange “was in Sweden in August 2010 to speak at a conference when he met two men and had sex with them.”

Via the Wayback Machine:

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The WikiLeaks Task Force, an official WikiLeaks Twitter account set up in October 2016 to “correct misinformation” about its namesake organisation, called the article “#FakeNews” – suggesting that WikiLeaks believes The Sun intentionally fabricated the assertion that Assange allegedly sexually assaulted two men.

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On my request, The Sun immediately corrected the error, and today added this correction notice to the bottom of the article: “A previous version of this story said that Assange had sex with two men who later accused him of rape. In actual fact they were women. The story was corrected on 10th March.”

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In my follow-up e-mail to The Sun, I asked about WikiLeaks’ fake news claim.

A Sun spokesperson said: This was an honest editorial mistake that we corrected as soon as it had been flagged, and added a note at the bottom of the article reflecting that change. This error was absolutely not deliberate – as evidenced by older articles on the Sun website about Mr Assange stating clearly the rape claimants were women.”

I’ve reached out to Assange for comment.

Blasphemy @ the BBC

The BBC issues lengthy apology for “disgraceful” tweet which asked what the “right punishment for blasphemy” should be

Last week, the BBC Asian Network – which hosts the lively Big Debate radio programme – asked Twitter users to say what they thought was the “right punishment for blasphemy.”

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Maryam Namazie, a prominent ex-Muslim and civil rights campaigner, called the question “disgraceful,” and labelled the British broadcaster the “Ayatollah BBC.”

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On Saturday, I asked the BBC – which is funded by public money – if it believed that blasphemy should be punishable.

Today, I received this lengthy apology from the BBC Complaints Team:

From: bbc_complaints_website <bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk>
To: Dean Jones <sterlingjones1989@aol.com>
Subject: BBC Complaints – Case Number CAS­-4274202­-VR2YRX
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:07

Dear Mr. Jones

Thank you for contacting us regarding our programme, Asian Network’s Big Debate. We understand that you felt it was inappropriate to pose the question ‘What is the right punishment for blasphemy?’

Asian Network’s Big Debate is a live daily news and magazine programme. The first hour of the programme poses a question that the audience discusses on the phone, over emails and on social media. We regularly ask difficult and provocative questions on a wide range of issues that are relevant to a mainly British Asian audience usually on the basis of events in the news in the UK or South Asia.

The question was prompted by reports that Pakistan had asked Facebook to help investigate ‘blasphemous content’ posted by people in the country. Despite widespread condemnation, blasphemy is illegal in Pakistan, in some cases it is punishable with the death penalty.

We apologise for the poorly worded question and the way it was posted on social media, it was never our intention to imply that blasphemy should be punished. We agree that the question should have been better phrased and put properly into context.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints Team
http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

Shortly after, I also received this separate response from the BBC Asian Network:

From: Asian Network Enquiries <asiannetwork.enquiries@bbc.co.uk>
To: sterling jones <sterlingjones1989@aol.com>
Subject: RE: Quick question regarding “clumsily worded” blasphemy tweet
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2017 13:05

Hi Dean,

The Asian Network’s Big Debate asks difficult and provocative questions every day. This programme was an engaging discussion on the subject of blasphemy, but we admit that the question could have been phrased better and have since made this clear.

Kind Regards,

The Asian Network Team

It isn’t the first time the BBC has apologised for asking “clickbait rhetorical questions” and “legitimizing an indefensible POV – as award-winning British author Joanne Harris (MBE) charged in response to this September 2016 tweet by BBC Newsbeat re: video of US reality television star Kim Kardashian being accosted by “vile” Ukrainian prankster Vitalii Sediuk.

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When I asked about the offending tweet, BBC Newsbeat said it had intended to “provoke conversation” but did not mean to legitimise Sediuk’s “prank.”

Last year, the BBC made over three billion pounds from publicly generated funding.

Hate Mail Volume 1: Alt-Med Madness

Homeopaths are mad at BuzzFeed for article about “pseudo-scientific events” being held at a prestigious London university + Read the angry e-mails I received from a proponent of criminal doctor Ryke Geerd Hamer’s discredited theory of disease

Last week, BuzzFeed UK published a superb article based partly on my investigation of the International Meta-Medicine Association (IMMA), a US integrative medicine organisation that has been blamed for the death of three cancer sufferers.

Science journalist Tom Chivers (formerly a writer for The Telegraph) reported that Regent’s University London – a prestigious private university and registered charity – had allowed its premises to be used for a series of events and programmes which promote pseudo-scientific treatments.

Earlier this month, Regent’s leased space for a conference by the Lifestyle Prescriptions Foundation, whose founder Johannes Fisslinger – a student of ghoulish German ex-doctor Ryke Geerd Hamer, originator of the discredited Germanic New Medicine – previously ran the disreputable IMMA.

Via “This London University Keeps Holding Pseudoscientific Events” by Tom Chivers, BuzzFeed UK, March 15, 2017:

Lifestyle Prescriptions was founded by Johannes Fisslinger in 2016; on its website, practitioners of the “lifestyle medicine” it promotes claim to be able to teach how to “prevent and heal diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune disease, cancer and many other health issues”, and a practitioner claims to be able to “heal cancer”.

The blogger Dean Sterling Jones, who has investigated Fisslinger, claims that “lifestyle medicine” is based on “meta-medicine”, a scientifically unfounded practice that says there are links between psychological traumas and specific illnesses – for instance, a woman seeing her child in danger might get breast cancer.

Previously, Fisslinger ran the International Meta-Medicine Association (IMMA). A 2009 report by a Norwegian TV station said three cancer sufferers died after being advised by IMMA practitioners to stop taking conventional treatment.

Chivers also reported that Regent’s was scheduled to host a talk by Samir Chaukkar – an Indian homeopath who believes vaccines cause autism and that autism can be treated with homeopathy – and that last month the university held a screening of Vaxxed, a controversial anti-vaccination film by the disgraced, struck-off doctor Andrew Wakefield.

Via Chivers’ article:

Homeopathy is a pseudoscientific treatment that claims diseases can be treated by enormously diluted preparations of substances that cause the symptoms of those diseases – so onion juice, which causes runny eyes and sniffles, might treat the common cold.

The preparations are usually so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain. A 2010 House of Commons investigation found that homeopathy was not effective for any diseases and described its purported mechanism as “scientifically implausible”.

…Chaukkar’s talk, “Kingdoms in Homeopathy”, was cancelled by Regent’s after an autism rights activist, Fiona Pettit O’Leary, rang to ask the university about it. He also spoke at the university last year, in a two-day, £140-a-ticket seminar on how to treat addiction and skin diseases with homeopathy.

In the comments section, proponents of homeopathy criticised Chivers’ article, claiming it was “very biased” and that homeopathy “is effective medicine used by MD’s and hospitals around the world.”

Denis MacEoin, a prominent analyst/writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland (coincidentally where I’m from), claimed that research into homeopathy had yielded positive results – a claim refuted by Quackometer blogger Andy Lewis:

Homeopathy proponent Rosyln Ross wrote that “pseudo-science” is a derogatory label used by evidence-based science “for things which it cannot explain, cannot exploit and so wishes to discredit” – a claim rebutted by chemistry student/author Dr. Elliot Mabeuse:

The Canadian homeopath Fernando Gigliotti simply wrote, “Buzzfeed=FakeNews”:

Earlier this month, I received more angry comments by a proponent of the Germanic New Medicine, Ryke Geerd Hamer’s widely discredited theory which posits that specific traumas correlate with specific physical illnesses – for instance, a woman seeing her child in danger might get breast cancer.

The anonymous commenter claimed that my September 14, 2016 item, “The Death of Itziar Orube,” contained “false information”; that Hamer didn’t have his medical licence revoked after his patients died; and that ninety percent of Hamer’s patients actually survived.

Here are the unedited e-mails:

You have a lot of false information in your note. Hamer did€t loss their medical license for cancer patients death. There are youtube interviews with the “dead patients who say that are alive thanks to their medica practice. In fact 90% of their patients lived 6 years after their treatments when the Dr. Hamer case was in the Germany courts.

You also ignore the causes of the Itziar Urebe´s death, that can be explained with the 5 laws discovered by Dr. Hamer.

You and all of the people who make false claims about the new germanic medicine should apply the science principle of: You cannot deny a scientific knowledge “a priori” but “a posteriori”.

If you did´t evaluate this knowledge, you can´t make any assumption about it.

This commenter didn’t provide evidence for their claims, and I was unable to find the video interviews with Hamer’s surviving patients, but here’s a scan of a long-forgotten November 1983 Stern article about Hamer titled “Corpses Pave His Way,” which I grabbed before it disappeared from the Internet.

The translated report reads:

The table is laid, but the female patient has no appetite. Pork roast is served in “Haus Dammersmoor” and pineapple for dessert. She has been yellow for weeks, the female patient with liver, lung, and colon cancer. But that does not matter, says the tall, wiry doctor with the pleasant voice, this will go away. “Today we already feel much better.” The patient tries to laugh. The pineapple slice on the plate is not quite as yellow as she is.

“This is completely normal,” says Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, “even if the cancer is stopped, the injured liver must now work hard.” Her hands are so cozily warm, an unmistakable sign for her being out of the woods.

Liver, lung, and colon cancer. The others at the lunch table nod. Believing. Or devoted. Or just merely mechanically. All are dying of cancer.

A year ago we witnessed the same scene. Only the house at that time was not called “Dammersmoor” but “Rosenhof.” And it was in the German south, in Bad Krozingen, and not in the village Gyhum near Bremen. The same people sat around the table of Dr. Hamer: yellow in the face, emaciated or with swollen body.

The same deathly sick. Only, it is not the same. Because of those in Rosenhof nearly no one is alive anymore. And not a single one is cured by the man, who calls his colleagues Medi-Cynics and for his method of healing, the “iron rule of cancer,” without batting an eye lid, [claims] a success rate of 80 percent.

According to numerous German news sources, Hamer was stripped of his medical licence in 1986, and in 1989 a Koblenz court ruled that Hamer did not possess the mental capacity to grasp the ethical ramifications of treating patients using an unproven therapy.

In 2001, a Swiss study found “no evidence” to support Hamer’s New Medicine, describing it as “dangerous, especially as it lulls the patients into a false sense of security so that they are deprived of other effective treatments.”

In 2004, The German Cancer Society offered its “expert opinion”: Hamer’s hypothesis lacked “any scientific or empirical justification.”

The final nail came from Dr. Michael Reusch, president of the German Medical Association, who in a 2006 interview called it “a tragedy” that vulnerable cancer patients had been taken in by Hamer’s “charlatanism.”

If anyone else feels the need to explain why they think Hamer is a misunderstood genius, or why conventional medicine is a Jewish conspiracy, there’s a great website called WordPress where you can start your own blog. Good luck!

Creating a Buzz

“There’s no excuse for blurring the boundaries between rigorously researched scientific work and pseudoscientific claims about unproven quack cures” – Read BuzzFeed UK’s superb article based partly on my investigation of freaky US alt-med organisation

For the past year I’ve written extensively about the International Meta-Medicine Association (IMMA), a US integrative medicine organisation that teaches the widely discredited theories of Ryke Geerd Hamer, a notorious German ex-doctor who lost his medical licence in 1986 after a number of patients in his care died.

IMMA was founded in 2004 by Johannes Fisslinger, inventor of the “Aura Video Station.” According to IMMA Master Trainer Richard Flook, Fisslinger is a former student of Hamer. Hamer’s Canadian representative Ilsedora Laker has even accused Fisslinger of plagiarising Hamer’s work.

IMMA founder Johannes Fisslinger (source)

Last year, I interviewed Fisslinger about reports that three or more cancer sufferers died after being advised by IMMA practitioners to abandon conventional treatments. Fisslinger said the conduct of practitioners Dagfrid Kolås and Bent Madsen, both former members of IMMA’s Advisory Council, was “absolutely irresponsible” and “absolutely unacceptable.”

Fisslinger recently started the Lifestyle Prescriptions Foundation, an integrative medicine organisation which, like IMMA, teaches the discredited theories of the notorious Hamer.

Last week, the foundation held its inaugural meeting at Regent’s University London, a prestigious private university.

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Via “This London University Keeps Holding Pseudoscientific Events” by Tom Chivers, BuzzFeed UK, March 15, 2017:

Regent’s University London, an independent university and registered charity, has allowed its premises to be used to host a series of events and programmes which promote “pseudoscientific” treatments.

A member of the House of Commons science and technology committee told BuzzFeed News that any universities “lending their good name” to such events risked giving credibility to “unproven quack cures”.

On Saturday, Regent’s leased space for a conference by Lifestyle Prescriptions (LP). Proponents of “lifestyle medicine” claim on the LP website to teach people how to “stop or reverse” cancer and other illnesses. Practitioners of another health programme linked to LP’s founder have been blamed for the deaths of three cancer patients in Norway who stopped taking conventional treatments.

Lifestyle Prescriptions was founded by Johannes Fisslinger in 2016; on its website, practitioners of the “lifestyle medicine” it promotes claim to be able to teach how to “prevent and heal diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune disease, cancer and many other health issues”, and a practitioner claims to be able to “heal cancer”.

The blogger Dean Sterling Jones, who has investigated Fisslinger, claims that “lifestyle medicine” is based on “meta-medicine”, a scientifically unfounded practice that says there are links between psychological traumas and specific illnesses – for instance, a woman seeing her child in danger might get breast cancer.

Previously, Fisslinger ran the International Meta-Medicine Association (IMMA). A 2009 report by a Norwegian TV station said three cancer sufferers died after being advised by IMMA practitioners to stop taking conventional treatment.

Science reporter Tom Chivers (previously the Assistant Comment Editor for British broadsheet newspaper The Telegraph) did a fantastic job reporting about the foundation’s weird but not-so-wonderful background, including getting some revealing comments from Fisslinger.

Fisslinger denies that LP promotes any treatments, says LP is not based on meta-medicine, and says it is “totally irresponsible” to tell patients to stop any conventional treatment. He said “it’s a scientific fact that traumatic life events and negative emotions affect our health – nobody would deny that”. He also says he has not been involved with IMMA for several years.

There’s lots to debunk here, starting with Fisslinger’s claim that his foundation does not promote any treatments.

Via my August 12, 2016 blog post re: IMMA’s treatment methods, students at Fisslinger’s Meta-Health University – which provides “the world’s only lifestyle prescriptions training” – guide patients through the so-called “self-healing process using techniques derived from other popular complementary therapies, including: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Time Line Therapy (TLT), Matrix Reimprinting (MP), Advanced Clearing Energetics (ACE), Dianetics (Scientology), and Hamer’s discredited Germanic New Medicine.

Per the below excerpt from the university’s lengthy three-part “Meta-Health Therapy Plan,” students give advice intended to benefit patients’ mental, physical (including their “organ & energy” health) and social well-being. Recommendations range from benign platitudes such as follow your heart, to advice regarding emergency medical treatment.

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Fisslinger’s claim that Lifestyle Prescriptions is not based on meta-medicine is easily debunked via the university’s website, which clearly states that students “will be accredited by the Intl. META-Medicine Association, which is the worldwide standards and certification organization for META-Health [ie. Lifestyle Prescriptions] Professionals and Trainers.”

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The claim that traumatic experiences can negatively affect health isn’t controversial. However, Fisslinger’s foundation goes much further, asserting that specific emotionally traumatic experiences correspond with specific physical symptoms. For instance, Lifestyle Prescriptions practitioner Annie Gedye claims she treated a woman who developed swollen lymph nodes upon discovering her boyfriend had cheated on her. Gedye’s interpretation is that the woman had experienced psychological trauma and literally became unable to swallow the information.

As for Fisslinger’s claim that he has not been involved with IMMA “for several years, not only does his foundation’s university website state a clear connection to IMMA, Fisslinger himself is listed as being IMMA’s designated Agent for Process on the organisation’s December 2016 Statement of Information declaration to the State of California.

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Via Chivers’ article, Fisslinger says he will “personally distance” himself from “anyone claiming to heal any diseases, especially cancer,” and said “lifestyle medicine is helping people to be healthier”:

“We don’t make any of these claims,” he said. “These are statements from leading lifestyle medicines featured in the lifestyle medicine summit.

“We make it very clear to anyone using Lifestyle Prescriptions to follow the legal requirements for their profession, and especially always work with their local doctor and never tell or even suggest clients stop any form of treatment or making any claims to heal anything.”

He added: “It’s not about treating something, but rather prevention and healthy living.”

Chivers’ article also includes incisive comments from Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness and a member of the House of Commons science and technology committee:

[Warman] told BuzzFeed News: “Universities, private or otherwise, should take care when promoting or lending their good name to events which promote scientifically unfounded claims, as the use of their premises can add legitimacy to such claims and may serve to mislead attendees or observers.

“There’s no excuse for blurring the boundaries between rigorously researched scientific work and pseudoscientific claims about unproven quack cures.”

On June 1, 2017, Lifestyle Prescriptions will host a week-long online “lifestyle medicine” summit. Speakers include: Sayer Ji, founder of the highly dubious natural medicine website GreenMedInfo; Christa Krahnert, a “natural Medicine Doctor specialized in cancer, micro-biome and enhancing the body’s natural self-healing mechanism”; and prominent EFT proponents Dawson Church and Karl Dawson, among others.

Headlining the summit is nutritionist/Forbes columnist Dr. David Katz, alongside his True Health Initiative colleague Dr. Rob Lawson – who also spoke at the Regent’s conference.

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Last year, I asked Dr. Katz about his years-long association with Fisslinger/meta-medicine, and the damaging claim made by German blogger Aribert Deckers that by speaking at the 2013 Meta-Health Summit he was supporting “a lethal cancer fraud.”

Dr. Katz insisted that outside of his 2013 talk, he “has no relationship with any of these people and have never endorsed any program or product of theirs.”

When I asked Dr. Katz if he profited from the sale of videos of his 2013 talk, which were being sold via the Lifestyle Prescriptions TV website at a price of ninety-seven dollars per year, he called me a “cartoon character” and accused me of harassing him.

Click here to read more about IMMA and Lifestyle Prescriptions.

Abbey Road

…a mysterious place where the rules of the road don’t apply

During our recent trip to London, my girlfriend Kelsi and I paid a visit to Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles made many of their best recordings.

Just outside the studios is the crossing immortalised on the Abbey Road album cover. There we watched Beatles fans line up to walk in the footsteps of their heroes, even pausing in the middle of the crossing to take holiday snaps.

A coupla punks stop on the famous Abbey Road crossing

All to the total bemusement of drivers, some of whom stopped to graciously allow fans to complete their pilgrimage, while others simply ignored those waiting to cross, speeding by without so much as a “ello, guv’na!”

With Kelsi’s family on standby in Australia, we took a more novel approach. Via the Abbey Road Crossing Cam:

Big thanks to Marilyn and Aaron White for the screengrab!