Monday, August 17, 2020


Axios has a disturbing story today about another alleged COVID-19 miracle cure being touted by the president.
To the alarm of some government health officials, President Trump has expressed enthusiasm for the Food and Drug Administration to permit an extract from the oleander plant to be marketed as a dietary supplement or, alternatively, approved as a drug to cure COVID-19, despite lack of proof that it works.

... The experimental botanical extract, oleandrin, was promoted to Trump during an Oval Office meeting in July. It's embraced by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and MyPillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell, a big Trump backer, who recently took a financial stake in the company that develops the product.

Lindell told Axios that in the meeting, Trump "basically said: ...'The FDA should be approving it.'"

... There is no public data showing oleandrin has ever been tested in animals or humans for its efficacy against COVID-19, but the extract has shown some evidence of inhibiting the virus in a non-peer reviewed laboratory study.

... HUD Secretary Carson has enthusiastically promoted oleandrin to Trump administration officials and to the president himself.
You may recall that in 2015, when he was running for president, Carson promoted a dubious nutritional supplement manufacturer:
During Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, Ben Carson put in a plug for Mannatech (MTEX), even while dismissing as "propaganda" the suggestion he had ties to the seller of nutritional supplements, which has a questionable track record that included claims its products could cure Downs syndrome, cystic fibrosis and cancer.
Axios reports that Lindell, who's very close to the president, arranged a White House meeting with Trump for Andrew Whitney of Phoenix Biotechnology, who's promoting oleandrin. Lindell, we're told, has "said he has been taking the unapproved botanical and has shared it with his family and friends. He said he believes it has kept him from getting COVID-19 and has cured other people. (No published clinical studies show the botanical cures or prevents COVID-19. Nor has the FDA said the product is safe or fit for this purpose.)"

To be fair, this isn't as crazy as what Trump's second ex-wife has been saying lately:
Thursday afternoon, Marla Maples, the television personality best known as Donald Trump’s second wife, shared an Instagram photo from notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates cracking up like a cartoon villain. “We get rid of cash and coins,” the overlaid text reads. “We give you a chip. We put all your money in your chip. If you refuse a vaccine, we turn off the chip and you starve!”

“Education is key...Ask questions...Dig deeper...,” Maples wrote over the Instagram Story, which bore the vague header: “The digitalized economy?” ...

Maples, who dabbles in wellness influencing, has periodically mentioned the global pandemic to her Instagram following of 114,000—recommending Vitamin C IV drips, morning prayer, and an idiosyncratic hand-washing method in which she pours a mug of water on her hands without soap.
Maples's ex also appears to be a fan of Robert Kennedy Jr., according to Bill Gates in a recent interview.
The irony is that this is a president who is a vaccine skeptic. Every meeting I have with him he is like, “Hey, I don’t know about vaccines, and you have to meet with this guy Robert Kennedy Jr. who hates vaccines and spreads crazy stuff about them.”
I think it's possible that alternative medicine has something to offer, but it can lead people in dangerous directions -- and, naturally, Facebook is assisting in that process. Last week, NBC News told us the story of a woman in an anti-mask video that went viral:
In February, five months before she became known as "QAnon Karen," there was no one more terrified of the coming pandemic than Melissa Rein Lively.

"I bought the N-95 masks. I bought the hazmat suit," she said. "In my mind, a zombie movie was imminent."

At the time, Rein Lively said her career was at its peak. Her self-owned marketing company had just helped launch the high-end restaurant Nobu in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hyatt Hotels had signed on for marketing help.

By July 5, she had gone into a Target store and trashed the mask section, streaming her rage in a viral post that drew over 10 million views. Before the police closed in on her garage, she livestreamed her own mental breakdown on her company's Instagram account, telling police to "call Donald Trump and ask him" why she shouldn't be arrested for her actions.

She was, she told the police, the "QAnon spokesperson."
How does something like this happen?
While QAnon bubbled on the fringes of the internet for years, researchers and experts say it has emerged in recent months as a sort of centralized hub for conspiracy and alternative health communities....

Users like Rein Lively who started off in wellness communities, religious groups and new-age groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the pandemic were then introduced to extremist groups like QAnon, aided by shared beliefs about energy, healing or God — and often by recommendation algorithms....

Rein Lively followed a similar path as a growing community of conspiracy theorists, radicalization experts told NBC News.

Cooped up inside her home and losing work due to the pandemic in the weeks before her outburst, Rein Lively filled the time she would've spent hanging out with friends and emailing clients by diving down conspiracy-fueled rabbit holes on Facebook and Instagram, worsening her feelings of isolation and fear.

Some find themselves believing in elaborate conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, 5G wireless technology, vaccines and masks, which researchers say are in part pushed by an algorithm and shared community members that group all of the theories together.
In May, a Yahoo/YouGov poll found that "44 percent of Republicans believe that Bill Gates is plotting to use a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a pretext to implant microchips in billions of people and monitor their movements."

I don't want to believe that we're doomed as a society, but crackpottery is rapidly becoming the new mainstream.

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