I want to know who funded the kidnapping

Prime suspect: this thug

As I’m sure you’ve already heard, Venezuelan migrants in Florida were rounded up an induced to take planes to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, as part of badly aimed right-wing scandal mongering. The conservatives were using these people as pawns to trigger some hypocritical liberal response (which they didn’t get — right-wingers lack the empathy required to understand that liberal perspective, so they constantly miss the mark), so they fucked around and are about to find out.

A group of Venezuelan migrants who were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week — allegedly after being falsely promised work and other services — have filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other officials who arranged the flights, saying the officials used fraud and misrepresentation to persuade them to travel across state lines.

One question keeps bouncing around in my head about this story, and I’m not seeing it answered. They made up a professional-looking, shiny brochure, purportedly listing “Massachusetts Refugee Benefits”. They chartered two planes for a 1300 mile, 6 hour flight. They gave them gift cards to trick them into boarding.

In his interview with Hannity, DeSantis said that the migrants “all signed consent forms to go.” But the lawsuit alleges that migrants suffering from food insecurity were pressured “to sign a document in order to receive a $10 McDonald’s gift card.”

That all adds up to a substantial bill.

Who paid for it?

Did this come out of the state budget for Florida, or did some wealthy donor hand the perpetrators a bucket of money? Somebody had to fork over the cash for this kidnapping scheme, and it had to have been premeditated, planned without anyone considering the ethics of their crime, which, to be honest, is typical of conservative planning and doesn’t narrow the field of suspects very much.

I’m sure someone has remembered the principle of “follow the money,” I’m just not seeing much discussion in the news about it yet. I’ll be looking forward to the inevitable revelations that the lawsuit will smoke out.

There’s no such thing as a good boss

I was suspicious (just because I’m always suspicious of good stories), but ultimately I was fooled. This Seattle CEO, Dan Price, was doing wonderful things — he slashed his own salary to $70,000, he gave all his employees a uniform raise to $70,000, he seemed to be doing all the right stuff to be a fair and just employer.

Of course it all fell apart. It turns out he was an egotistical glory hound who was doing it all to get laudatory tweets and followers. “He is definitely obsessed with how seemingly you can just become famous,” And women. He wanted lots of women. He divorced his wife.

Mr. Price told media outlets that his divorce several years earlier was amicable. But his former wife, Kristie Colón, had given a TEDx talk in October 2015 in which she described their relationship as abusive.

“He got mad at me for ignoring him and grabbed me and shook me again,” Ms. Colón read from her old journal. “He started punching me in the stomach and slapped me across the face.” She recalled once locking herself in a car, “afraid he was going to body-slam me into the ground again or waterboard me in our upstairs bathroom like he had done before.”

His activities on the dating scene were less than savory.

Mr. Price messaged Serena Jowers, a fitness coach near Seattle, in December 2020, after she liked some of his posts on Instagram. On their third date, Ms. Jowers said, he pulled up videos on Pornhub, to show her what he liked. After she resisted watching pornography, he pressured her into having sex, she said. She realized he was touching her with only one hand, then saw him holding his phone. He was recording them.

Ms. Jowers jumped up and grabbed the nearest blanket, yelled at him, and fled, she said. The next morning she texted him, saying the filming made her feel like she was not in control of her own body. “I want you to delete any video/pics you took,” she wrote.

“I’ll do that,” he immediately texted back. Three other women, two of whom he also first messaged on social media, also told me that they learned Mr. Price secretly filmed them.

Porn sites are not a good place to learn about sex, and surreptitiously recording an encounter is more than a red flag. Then there were multiple other reports.

In January, they had dinner at a restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, where she said they discussed politics. What happened next was detailed in interviews, a police report and text messages.

As the restaurant closed, her Uber app wasn’t working, and Mr. Price suggested they stay warm in his Tesla as she downloaded it again.

Sitting in the front seats, he tried to kiss her and grabbed her throat, she told the police.

“He did not let go of my throat right away,” she recalled.

“After I rejected him,” she said, “he transformed.”

Ms. Hayne called her boyfriend, pretending he was her brother, and asked him to rush and get her. Mr. Price sped north, driving her to a Park N Ride.

She was scared because he was “very drunk,” the police report said.

“Hurryyyyyyy,” she texted her boyfriend.

Mr. Price raced up to the top floor of the parking lot, drove the car in doughnut circles and pulled into a spot, she told the police. He reached over to kiss her and grabbed her throat again, his hand pulsing in and out “for minutes,” the police report said.

“SQUEEZING HARD,” she would text a friend the next morning.

And then, he let go. “I’m too drunk,” Ms. Hayne recalled him saying, as he went into the back seat to pass out.

Well, now he’s front page news in the New York Times. He definitely figured out how to become famous.

How to undermine Alzheimer’s research

Stop smiling already.

Uh-oh. As I get older, I’d like to think science will come up with treatments for cognitive decline (don’t worry, I’m not showing any symptoms…yet. I don’t think. How would I know?), and Alzheimer’s is serious problem. Judging by the fact that we always get a couple of seminars on Alzheimer’s from our graduating seniors, it’s of concern to even young people. Unfortunately, every prospective drug against the disease seems to flop in clinical trials. It’s entirely possible that 16 years of research has been misled by one study that identified a candidate amyloid protein as the causal agent.

The first author of that influential study, published in Nature in 2006, was an ascending neuroscientist: Sylvain Lesné of the University of Minnesota (UMN), Twin Cities. His work underpins a key element of the dominant yet controversial amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer’s, which holds that Aβ clumps, known as plaques, in brain tissue are a primary cause of the devastating illness, which afflicts tens of millions globally. In what looked like a smoking gun for the theory and a lead to possible therapies, Lesné and his colleagues discovered an Aβ subtype and seemed to prove it caused dementia in rats.

Why did it have to be the University of Minnesota?

That initial paper that set the field charging off in a specific direction seems to have been fraudulent.

A 6-month investigation by Science provided strong support for Schrag’s suspicions and raised questions about Lesné’s research. A leading independent image analyst and several top Alzheimer’s researchers—including George Perry of the University of Texas, San Antonio, and John Forsayeth of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—reviewed most of Schrag’s findings at Science’s request. They concurred with his overall conclusions, which cast doubt on hundreds of images, including more than 70 in Lesné’s papers. Some look like “shockingly blatant” examples of image tampering, says Donna Wilcock, an Alzheimer’s expert at the University of Kentucky.

The authors “appeared to have composed figures by piecing together parts of photos from different experiments,” says Elisabeth Bik, a molecular biologist and well-known forensic image consultant. “The obtained experimental results might not have been the desired results, and that data might have been changed to … better fit a hypothesis.”

Lesné has gone silent. The university is investigating. Lawyers are, I’m sure, standing by with bated breath.

The evidence is built around Western blots, which are used to resolve individual proteins from a sample. A bunch of the published (and some of the unpublished) data show unmistakeable, unambiguous evidence of tampering, and someone in that lab was clearly going into the data and patching it up to look more convincing. Human eyes aren’t very good at detecting slight variations in a semi-random smear of pixels, but computers excel at it, and the evidence of copy/pasting and merging jump out at you.

Why does anyone pull this kind of crap with their data? If the raw data doesn’t show it, if it can’t be extracted with a statistical analysis of the original image, it doesn’t exist. You can’t compensate for a negative result by artificially pasting the result you wanted in place.

This is a catastrophe. One ambitious researcher faked data in order to get a paper in Nature, and now it’s a quarter billion dollar industry built on a false foundation.

The Nature paper has been cited in about 2300 scholarly articles—more than all but four other Alzheimer’s basic research reports published since 2006, according to the Web of Science database. Since then, annual NIH support for studies labeled “amyloid, oligomer, and Alzheimer’s” has risen from near zero to $287 million in 2021. Lesné and Ashe helped spark that explosion, experts say.

The paper provided an “important boost” to the amyloid and toxic oligomer hypotheses when they faced rising doubts, Südhof says. “Proponents loved it, because it seemed to be an independent validation of what they have been proposing for a long time.”

Great. Forgery and confirmation bias make a terrific pairing.

The grift continues!

Oh boy! They’re making “NFT the Movie”, which I presume is going to be something like the emoji movie, only with lower production values and more obfuscation. For example…

Although the video is titled “What’s an NFT?” they never quite get around to explaining it. It has a couple of crypto bros rattling off bizarre buzzwords, with a narration by Brittany Kaiser, “award winning documentarist/NFT expert”. I had to look her up. She was the former business director for Cambridge Analytica (alarm bells should be ringing). IMDB doesn’t find any documentaries made by Kaiser, but she was a central figure in one of them, The Great Hack. I haven’t seen it, so I’ll have to go by the reviewers’ comments.

Interesting to see how it all works, but my beef with the flick is the one-sided view of one of the main characters in Kaiser.

Plain to see that this is a person with little to no moral compass, that happily did what she did to hobnob and feel important/to make an impact. When it was apparent that the sky was falling, she happily turned “whistleblower” and spilled everything she could on operations. I failed to see her show any remorse for the work she did in setting up the whole infrastructure over 3.5+ years. Yet throughout the film she is portrayed as being free from blame and just a source of information, when she clearly sold her soul to make money and for other purposes known only to her. The film-makers almost portray her as a victim and instead of asking the hard questions, appear to be content to play best friend.

She’s promoting NFTs — lack of moral compass confirmed!

When will people wise up? It doesn’t help that people are making “movies” about this grift, but maybe it’ll help that the movie will be cheesy and incomprehensible, and will bomb.

Cancel Culture! Yargleargleblarlgle! Justice!

Y’all know Louis CK was awarded a Grammy the other night, right? Boy, he sure was canceled. He won’t be whipping out his tallywacker in front of unsuspecting women from now on, will he? They might punish him with a Netflix special or something horrible like that.

But here’s something even worse: He Jiankui has been set free. He Jiankui is the guy I called a self-aggrandizing mad scientist for his reckless, selfish experiment in which he modified human embryos with CRISPR/Cas9 and brought them to term. He claimed he was trying to prevent HIV/AIDS by deleting an immune system protein that the virus uses to bind to cells, but we know nothing about potential side effects or new susceptibilities it might confer, nor do we know how safe the procedure is, or even how effective this deletion would be. He charged ahead and ignored all ethical guidelines to make genetically modified babies, and then announced it as a big surprise at a conference. I bet he was surprised when the Chinese police arrested him and put him in prison for a few years.

But that’s all! And now he’s out.

The daring Chinese biophysicist who created the world’s first gene-edited children has been set free after three years in a Chinese prison.

Wait, wait, wait. “Daring”? You went with “daring”? What’s wrong with the editors at the MIT Technology Review? I would have suggested “unethical” or “criminal” or “incompetent”, and “biophysicist” sounds too complementary: “hack” would have been more accurate.

Then it goes on with this tripe:

It’s unclear whether He has plans to return to scientific research in China or another country. People who know him have described the biophysicist, who was trained at Rice University and Stanford, as idealistic, naïve, and ambitious.

Why are they flattering this guy? Why are there any doubts about his return to scientific research? There ought to be no question that He Jiankui should never be permitted to participate in any biomedical research ever again.

Unfortunately, he’s apparently part of a “network” of evil mad scientists who haven’t been hampered by the arrest of just one capo and are set to get back to work.

The researcher spent around three years in China’s prison system, including a period spent in detention as he awaited trial. Since his release, he has been in contact with members of his scientific network in China and abroad.

While responsibility for the experiment fell on He and other Chinese team members, many other scientists knew of the project and encouraged it. These include Michael Deem, a former professor at Rice University who participated in the experiment, and John Zhang, head of a large IVF clinic in New York who had plans to commercialize the technology.

Deem left his post at Rice in 2020, but the university has never released any findings or explanation about its involvement in the creation of the babies. Deem’s LinkedIn profile now lists employment with an energy consulting company he started.

“It is extraordinary and unusual that [He Jiankui] and some of his colleagues were imprisoned for this experiment,” says Eben Kirksey, an associate professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute, in Australia, and the author of The Mutant Project, a book about He’s experiment that includes interviews with some of the participants. “At the same time many of [his] international collaborators—like Michael Deem and John Zhang—were never sanctioned or formally censured for involvement.”

“In many ways justice has not been served,” says Kirksey.

I’m getting a little tired of “justice has not been served” stories, but that seems to be all we get anymore. Hey, how’s Donald Trump’s presidential campaign going?

The rotten heart of the story

Here’s a painfully long story about a mass murderer, the wretched guy who went on a shooting spree in Denver. It doesn’t need to be so long. We can get the gist of the story from three short paragraphs in the middle.

“He was a dick to women, and he just didn’t really like women at all. He didn’t like women having any kind of say,” said Costilow. “He just did not think a woman should really even speak most of the time; he was just such an asshole.”

The manosphere works as a well-known pipeline to extremist groups, and hatred of women is an entry point for many extremists.

“He actually hated, openly hated women… I never experienced a man who openly showed that he held no respect whatsoever for women,” said Andre Thiele, a German onetime fan of McLeod who interacted with him online and who eventually was turned off by him in late 2020 because of his increasingly extremist views. “And yet he was surrounded by women. He had women supporting him in every horrible situation that he created. He couldn’t have made it one single month in his life without a whole bunch of women constantly supporting him with everything he needed.”

You can stop right there. I’ve got enough information already to understand his twisted motivation. He wasn’t a complex character at all.

Oh, one other piece of information is good to know. He’s dead now, shot by a woman police officer. Somehow, that’s a rare cop killing that seems just.

Despair

We had another mass shooting in a school in Michigan. It was carried out with premeditation by a dumb kid with gun nut parents; he got his gun from his father. This keeps happening, again and again.

There isn’t a plan by politicians to change our gun laws. This one isn’t even on the radar.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have learned an important lesson from the last election: cheat more. They’re gerrymandering districts aggressively. In Wisconsin, for instance, they’re working hard to finagle the next vote in advance to lock them into guaranteed victories.

All is quiet in the Democratic party while they watch themselves get maneuvered into extinction. Some Democrats are just trying to gerrymander their own districts.

Meanwhile, our disgraced ex-president, the criminal and con man, is getting ready to run for the presidency in 2024. The coup isn’t over, it’s just getting started.

Hey, why isn’t the traitor who fomented an insurrection at least indicted, if not held in jail? I don’t know. There’s a strange lack of urgency or concern in the halls of power.

Meanwhile, the Republican plan to pack the courts is paying off. The Supreme Court was stuffed with right wing ideologues by the aforementioned criminal president, and now they’re poised to overthrow Roe v. Wade. Remember when there were all those hearings to review their appointment to the court, and they were all asked if they were planning to tear down a woman’s right to choose, and they all said “No sir, I’d never do that”? They lied.

The court shouldn’t have even heard that Mississippi case; that they did tells us all we need to know about their intent. What are the Democrats going to do? Nothing. The senate rules are stacked against them, but they’ll do nothing to change those rules.

This is all an awful, terrible trend, a slow-motion destruction of the country engineered by conservatives backed by billionaires. It’s being carried out in the absence of any significant, principled opposition by the other party. It’s the Senate Democrats who filled me with the most despair, though, with this insipid tweet:

Yeah? We did. What did you accomplish? Why should we vote for you again when you do so little?

There’s a point where being slightly less toxic than the other party is not good enough, and the Democrats seem to be happy enough to ride that line.