The title of the study is, “Oxytocin-enforced norm compliance reduces xenophobic outgroup rejection.”
See American Psychological Assn article:
By Dr. Mercola
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in nearly every cell of your body and is essential to good health. Your body uses it to make hormones, protect your cell membranes, digest food and manufacture vitamin D after exposure to the sun. Your liver manufactures most of the cholesterol your body requires from nutrients extracted from your food.
Animals use cholesterol in much the same way. This means the meats from beef, pork or chicken have similar levels of cholesterol. Even fat cells in animal meat have the same amount of cholesterol as other cells. All meat averages 25 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce.1 Dietary cholesterol is absorbed at different rates, between 20 and 60 percent, depending upon the individual.2
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans3 addressed past vilification of dietary cholesterol, announcing4 “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” These same guidelines also advise limiting sugar to no more than 10 percent of your diet,5 which is approximately 50 grams of sugar, or 200 calories, in a diet consuming 2,000 calories each day. This level is still far higher than what is healthy as net carbohydrates are a prime factor in the development of inflammation.
Recently published research from a clinical trial sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals demonstrates a reduction in recurring heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths in participants who took a targeted anti-inflammatory medication that did not lower cholesterol levels.6
Although the results of the study were encouraging as they scientifically demonstrate the association between inflammation and cardiac disease, I do not recommend using a pharmaceutical intervention to achieve what lifestyle choices can easily accomplish.
Lowering Inflammation Helps Lower Cardiac Risk
This study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital was the culmination of a nearly 25-year cardiovascular research work. The trial was designed to test if reducing the amount of inflammation in the body would also reduce the risk of a recurrent heart attack or stroke. The researchers enrolled 10,000 people who had previously had a heart attack and had persistently elevated levels of C-reactive proteins, a strong biomarker of inflammation.
The participants were split into four groups, all of which received aggressive standard health care. Three groups were administered the drug canakinumab at various levels and the fourth placebo group received no drug. The drug, currently priced at $200,000 a year by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, demonstrated an ability to reduce inflammation with a reduced risk of cardiac events and reduced the need for interventional procedures, such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.7
The hypothesis of whether an intervention that reduces inflammation could potentially reduce your risk of a recurrent heart attack was tested using a medication already approved for use to target the immune system without affecting your lipid level.8 While the drug demonstrated a reduced risk in some patients, one of the side effects was a higher risk of fatal infection.
Once the researchers identified the results as they related to cardiac health, they also did an investigative analysis and found participants taking the medication had a reduced risk of lung cancer rates and deaths.9 The lead researcher in this study is also involved in another evaluating the effectiveness of low dose methotrexate — an inexpensive common cancer and rheumatoid arthritis drug — in cardiovascular disease. These results are due to be completed in two to three years.10
Though there may be positive effects using methotrexate, it must be noted this drug also comes with a laundry list of side effects, including intestinal bleeding, sepsis, reduced blood platelets and liver damage.11 The idea that inflammation is important in the development of disease and in the importance of cardiac health is not new, but it has now found an avenue for exploration in the pharmaceutical industry.
Inflammation Linked to Cardiac Disease, Cancer and Other Health Conditions
Studies such as these confirm the hypothesis that inflammation is one of the major underlying factors behind cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes and many other conditions. Chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy and migraines are also rooted in the inflammatory process in your body. Unfortunately, while many are suffering from these types of conditions, understanding how to eliminate the inflammation is not generally understood. Many physicians simply turn to pharmaceuticals that carry a significant number of side effects.
The source of inflammation in your body is usually driven by your lifestyle choices, especially those that affect your intestinal tract. Interestingly, the surface of your gut may cover two tennis courts when laid out flat. This is an amazing amount of surface area that resides in your abdomen and is responsible for protecting your health. The degree of permeability, or how much your intestines will allow through breaks in the cell wall, is dependent on a variety of factors, including the food you eat and the stress you’re under.
This disruption in the interconnections between the cells in your intestines may result in small holes that allow food particles and bacteria to enter your blood stream and trigger an immune response, also called leaky gut syndrome. This is a serious problem that triggers inflammation in your body and increases your potential risk for illness. With repeated damage to the microvilli of your intestinal walls, they begin to lose the ability to do their job.
This impairs your ability to digest food properly or absorb nutrients. One of the food groups that factor into the development of leaky guy syndrome is grains. Although advertising often touts the health benefits of eating whole grains, a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that whole grains, lectins and legumes are responsible for the development of leaky gut syndrome and the resulting inflammation.
Drugs Are Not the Answer
In many cases your physician has an insufficient understanding of the dangers of using pharmaceutical interventions to treat inflammation and disease. They often prescribe a quick pill, possibly believing patients may be more willing to take a pill than to change their eating habits or lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, each of those prescriptions come with side effects, some of which are more dangerous than the original condition they were intended to treat.
This was amply demonstrated in the featured study where one of the side effects from the medication tested was a higher risk of death due to infection. Side effects from other anti-inflammatory medications have resulted in the medication being pulled from use, such as Vioxx, taken off the market after it was found the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Statins are another medication prescribed with the mistaken idea that reducing your cholesterol levels will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.12
Dr. Dwight Lundell, former chief of staff and chief of surgery at Banner Heart Hospital in Arizona, took a stand against statin medications, believing they were doing cardiology patients more harm than good.13
This goes against years of physicians prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and strongly recommending diets that severely restrict any fat intake. Practicing physicians have been bombarded with pharmaceutically sponsored literature and seminars insisting heart disease is the result of one factor — elevated cholesterol levels.
This has led to large numbers of individuals experiencing the side effects of statins, as these drugs reduce your ability to absorb CoQ10, necessary for energy production in every cell in your body. The drug also reduces your ability to absorb vitamin K2, stimulating atherosclerosis and heart failure.14 Studies have also linked the use of statin drugs to cancer,15,16 diabetes,17 neurodegenerative disease,18 musculoskeletal disorders19 and cataracts.20
Statins not only have dangerous side effects, but they are not effective against preventing heart disease. You may assume falling cholesterol levels are proof you’re getting healthier, but you would be wrong.
Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy
The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a study performed between 1968 and 1973 that examined the relationship between diet and heart health.21 The researchers used a double-blind randomized trial to evaluate the effect of vegetable oil versus saturated fats in coronary heart disease and death.
The results were left unpublished until 2016, when they appeared in the BMJ. An analysis of the collected data revealed lowering your cholesterol levels through dietary intervention did not reduce your risk of death from coronary heart disease. The researchers concluded:22
“Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes.
Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid.”
The researchers found that for every 30-point drop in total cholesterol, there was a 22 percent increase in the risk of death from cardiac disease. On autopsy, the group eating vegetable oil and the group eating saturated fat had the same amount of atherosclerotic plaques in their arteries, but the group eating saturated fat experienced nearly half the number of heart attacks as the group eating vegetable oil.
After scientists recommended Americans stop eating meat, eggs and saturated fats, intake of sugar and other carbohydrates spiked. In response, the obesity rate in the country exploded, as did the number of people who suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Over 50 years of research point to another culprit in the advancement of disease, and it isn’t cholesterol.
Instead, cholesterol is a response mechanism activated by your body when a blood vessel is injured through an inflammatory process.23 Once the lesion occurs, your body sends cholesterol to cover the area and prevent further damage, much like a scab after you cut your skin.
Beverly Teter, lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, has spent years studying how different types of fat in your food affects your long-term health. Over the years she has found that people with higher levels of cholesterol live longer. She has a personal story that bears witness to this belief:24
“I come from a family that has, my mother’s side, had naturally high cholesterol. Her cholesterol was between 380 and 420 when I started watching her medical records, and she died at 97. So I don’t think that cholesterol was too bad for her.”
It is the inflammatory process in your body that first triggers an injury to your arterial walls. No matter how low your cholesterol numbers go, your body will still use the cholesterol it has to repair the arterial wall. On the other hand, cholesterol plays other protective roles against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems and in the production of vitamin D.
However, without inflammation, your arterial walls do not become injured and there are no atherosclerotic plaques laid down that may eventually block the artery. Statins work to lower your total cholesterol number, but cannot stop the injuries to your arteries from inflammation. So, this artificial reduction in total cholesterol has little to do with your overall risk of cardiac disease.
Better Assessment of Heart Disease Risk Found in Evaluating Other Tests and Cholesterol Ratios
As you evaluate your risk of cardiovascular disease, there are specific ratios and blood level values that will tell you much more than your total cholesterol number. The size of your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, for example, is more important than your overall total LDL level. Large particle LDLs are not harmful to your health while the smaller, denser LDL particles may create problems as they squeeze through the lining of your arteries, oxidize and trigger inflammation.
An NMR LipoProfile that measures the size of your LDL particles is a better assessment of your risk of heart disease than total cholesterol or total LDL. The following tests will also give you a better assessment of your potential risk for heart attack or coronary artery disease:
•HS-CRP. High sensitivity C Reactive Protein is one of the best overall measures of inflammation. Since we now understand that inflammation, not cholesterol, is the primary cause of heart disease, this would be an excellent screening test. The lower the number the better. Ideally your level should be below 0.7. Mine typically ranges from <0.2 to 0.3.
•Cholesterol ratios: Your HDL/cholesterol ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio is a strong indicator of your risk. For your HDL/cholesterol ratio divide your HDL by your total cholesterol and multiply by 100. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. For your triglyceride/HDL ratio divide your triglyceride total by your HDL and multiply by 100. The ideal percentage is below 2 percent.
•Fasting insulin level. Sugar and carbohydrates increase inflammation. Once eaten, these chemicals trigger a release of insulin, promoting the accumulation of fat and creation of triglycerides, making it more difficult for you to lose weight or maintain your normal weight. Excess fat around your midsection is one of the major contributors to heart disease.25
Your fasting insulin level can be determined by a simple, inexpensive blood test. A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5 microunits per milliliter (mcU/ml), but ideally, you’ll want it below 3 mcU/ml. If your insulin level is higher than 3 to 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce net carbs.
•Fasting blood sugar level. Studies have demonstrated people with higher fasting blood sugar levels have a higher risk of having coronary heart disease.26 In fact, when your fasting blood sugar is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, your risk of coronary artery disease increases to 300 percent more than those whose level is below 79 mg/dl.
•Iron level. Iron creates an environment for oxidative stress, so excess iron may increase your inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease. An ideal iron level for adult men and non-menstruating women is between 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). You do not want to be below 20 ng/ml or above 80 ng/ml.
Magnesium Plays Substantial Role in Reducing Inflammation
Magnesium is vital for your optimal health, biological function and mitochondrial health. There are more than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins and more than 500 enzymes in your body rely on magnesium to function properly. Low levels of magnesium are associated with migraines, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular disease and death from all causes.
Low levels of magnesium are a culprit in the development of inflammation and may play a role in hardening of your arteries as they inhibit the deposit of lipids on your arterials walls and plaque formation.27 Use of the mineral also has significantly positive effects when administered intravenously (IV) as soon as possible after a heart attack.28 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, IV magnesium or normal saline was administered to 2,000 patients within 24 hours of their heart attack.
Those who received the magnesium experienced 24 percent fewer deaths and within the following five years, the death rate was also 21 percent lower than those not treated with magnesium. IV magnesium has been used to treat patients with congestive heart failure and arrhythmias.29 Low levels have been found to be an important predictor of sudden cardiac death30 and IV magnesium has been used to treat the onset of atrial fibrillation. 31
The use of magnesium during an immediate cardiac event demonstrates the significant health benefits of the mineral. However, ensuring an adequate level of magnesium on a daily basis may help to prevent these cardiac events as the mineral is also closely associated with reducing the inflammatory response. A recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition32 determined there was an inverse relationship between levels of magnesium in the body of participants and the level of c-reactive proteins.
The researchers concluded the beneficial effect of magnesium intake on chronic diseases could potentially be explained by the effect the mineral has on inhibiting inflammation.33
Many researchers and physicians believe recent studies demonstrate chronic low-grade inflammation is linked to heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.34 Following the release of another study demonstrating the role inflammation plays in chronic disease,35 Dr. Carolyn Dean, magnesium expert and author of “The Magnesium Miracle,” stated:36
“Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease and the decades-long attempt to treat this condition with statin drugs has failed, because the true cause is inflammation.”
Dean went on to comment on another study that demonstrated magnesium deficiency contributes to an exaggerated response to oxidative stress and inflammation, saying:37
“This study shows that at the cellular level, magnesium reduces inflammation. In the animal model used, magnesium deficiency is created when an inflammatory condition is produced. Increasing magnesium intake decreases the inflammation.
With magnesium being actively required by 600 to 700 enzyme systems in the human body, internal functions that reduce inflammation with the help of magnesium are being newly discovered every year. For example, magnesium has been found to be a natural calcium channel blocker, which is crucial because calcium in excess is one of the most pro-inflammatory substances in the body.”
Natural Methods to Reduce Inflammation
There are multiple factors that affect the inflammatory process in your body. Some of the more significant include:
•Hyperinsulinemia: An excess of insulin in your blood triggered by a diet high in net carbohydrates increases your level of inflammation. What you eat tends to be the deal-breaker in how much insulin your body secretes. However, there are other factors that contribute to your insulin levels, such as smoking, sleep quality and level of vitamin D.
You can read more about how to reduce your insulin and fasting blood sugar levels to reduce inflammation in my previous article, “Insulin, Not Cholesterol, Is the True Culprit in Heart Disease.”
•Unbalanced fatty acids: Your body needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Unfortunately, most diets have an overabundance of omega-6 fats leading to greater amounts of inflammation. Strive for a 1-to-1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats to reduce inflammation and your risk of heart disease.
•High iron stores: Ensure your ferritin blood levels are below 80 ng/ml. If they are elevated this can increase your level of inflammation. The simplest and most efficient way to lower your iron level if elevated is to donate blood. If you can’t donate, then therapeutic phlebotomy will effectively eliminate the excess iron. Heavy metal detoxification will also naturally reduce high iron.
•Leaky gut: Food particles and bacteria leaking from your intestines increase your level of inflammation and your risk of heart disease. By eliminating grains, sugars and lectin-rich legumes, while adding fermented foods, you may heal your gut and reduce your level of inflammation.
•Inadequate levels of magnesium: A century ago your diet provided nearly 500 mg of magnesium per day. Today, courtesy of nutrient-depleted soil you may be getting only 150 mg per day. Dean suggests using your intestinal reaction as a marker for your ideal dose of supplementation.
Your body flushes excess magnesium through your stool, so you may determine your own individual needs using magnesium citrate. Start by taking 200 mg of oral magnesium citrate each day, gradually increasing this dose until you develop slightly loose stools.
I now believe many may benefit from as much as 1 to 2 grams of magnesium per day, although you’d need to gradually work your way up to that amount and pay attention to your body’s response, especially if you use magnesium citrate, which causes loose stools.
My personal preference for magnesium supplementation is magnesium threonate as it appears to more efficiently penetrate cell membranes, including your mitochondria. It penetrates your blood-brain barrier and may help improve memory and it may be a good alternative to reduce migraine headaches.
By Dr. Mercola
I’ve written about the dangers of monopolies within the drug and agricultural industries on numerous occasions, but Google is perhaps one of the greatest monopolies that ever existed on the planet. The reason why I’ve decided to address Google here is because the technology giant is injecting itself ever deeper into our day-to-day lives, from childhood education to patented meat substitutes1,2 and health care, and with its internet monopoly and personal information tracking and sharing,
Google poses a very unique threat. Anyone concerned about their health and food and their ability to obtain truthful information about both needs to understand the role Google plays, and whose side Google is really on.
Starting with the issue of health care, the company recently partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and is getting deeper into the drug promotion business with its launch of a depression self-assessment quiz.3,4 Just like WebMD before it, this test funnels you toward a drug solution. No matter how you answered WebMD’s questions, you were diagnosed as being at risk for major depression and urged to discuss treatment with your doctor.
That test, it turns out, was sponsored by drugmaker Eli Lilly, maker of the antidepressant Cymbalta. Now, any time you use the search term “clinical depression” in the Google mobile search engine, you will find a link to a page to “check if you’re clinically depressed.” The quiz is part of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHG-9), “a clinically validated screening questionnaire” according to MedicalXpress.5
Beware of ‘Patient’s Rights Groups’ Working on Behalf of Drug Makers
While it may seem like an altruistic ideal to raise awareness about mental illness, the “stop the stigma” campaign is actually funded and driven by the drug industry itself, under the guise of various front groups, of which NAMI is one. As noted by PsychCentral, nearly 75 percent of the organization’s funding comes from drug companies.6 Evidence also shows that drug companies have instructed NAMI to “resist state efforts to limit access to mental health drugs” and “how to advocate forcefully for issues that affect industry profits.”
As noted by CCHR International,7 the “next time you see an ad promoting ‘stop the stigma’ see it for what it is, a pharmaceutical marketing campaign.” While CCHR was started by the Church of Scientology, which does not believe in conventional psychiatry to begin with, the group has some valid points. What they forgot or failed to include is the fact that the insurance industry has also played a significant role in creating the trend of over-prescriptions by favoring reimbursement for drug treatment over other forms of treatment.
The article goes on to discuss how the drug industry created “patient’s rights groups” for the mentally ill. In reality, these so-called advocacy groups are part of the drug industry’s marketing and lobbying machine. According to CCHR, front groups like NAMI and Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) “have consistently lobbied for legislation that benefits the mental health and pharmaceutical industries which fund them, and not patients they claim to represent,” adding:
“A patients’ rights group for the mentally ill would never endorse something as absurd and obviously dangerous as giving electroshock to pregnant women, nor condone schools being able to require children to take a psychiatric drug as a condition of attending school.
Furthermore, they would never be opposed to the FDA actually doing its job and finally issuing long overdue warnings that antidepressants can cause children to commit suicide, or issue warnings that ADHD drugs have serious and even deadly side effects. Yet these are just some of the actions condoned and promoted by these so-called patients’ rights groups.
To put it simply, these groups are not what they appear to be. Yet their influence over legislation, lobbying, drug regulation (or lack thereof), and public relations campaigns is substantial and effects the entire nation,” CCHR warns. “[T]hese groups … frenetically lobby Congress and state governments to channel billions more taxpayers’ dollars into mental health programs that benefit the industry that funds them — not the patients they claim to represent.”
Tech-Driven Mental Health Diagnostics
In 2015, Google hired former National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director8 Dr. Tom Insel as senior researcher for the Google Life Sciences (GLS) unit.9 (GLS was later rebranded as Verily, partially owned by Alphabet, the parent company that now also owns Google.) At the time, Insel told The Register his job at GLS would entail identifying technology to “help with earlier detection, better prevention and more effective management of serious health conditions.”
Insel served as director for NIMH between 2002 and 2015.10 In 2010, Insel — who led efforts to tighten ethics rules — got caught up in a conflicts of interest scandal and was accused of having a longstanding “quid pro quo” relationship with Charles B. Nemeroff, a psychiatrist and researcher at Emory University found guilty of failing to disclose pharmaceutical funds totaling $1.2 million.11 According to The Chronicle of Higher Education:12
“In 2003, the journal Nature toughened its policies for author disclosures after Dr. Nemeroff used an article in Nature Neuroscience to praise treatments for depression in which he had an unreported financial interest. In 2004, Emory issued a report citing him for multiple ‘serious’ violations of its conflict-of-interest policies for protecting patients.
He quit as editor of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2006 after he was reported to have endorsed an implantable device for treating depression without disclosing payments from its manufacturer. And he finally left Emory … after U.S. Senate investigators found he received $2.8 million from GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical companies between 2000 and 2007 and failed to disclose at least $1.2 million of it.”
Insel initially denied the charge outright,13 but weeks later expressed regret in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, admitting that helping Nemeroff get a job at the University of Miami was inappropriate.14 In May of this year, Insel left Verily (formerly GLS) to join another technology startup called Mindstrong. Interestingly, Mindstrong is doing more or less exactly what Verily is doing — creating smartphone and computer app technologies to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. According to Wired:15
“[A]combination of your medical records … and how you use your gadgets … could be a Big Data bonanza for predicting and treating health issues … In fact, mood is one of the things that Verily’s $100 million Baseline study will track among its 10,000 eventual participants. At Mindstrong, one of the first tests of the concept will be a study of how 600 people use their mobile phones, attempting to correlate keyboard use patterns with outcomes like depression, psychosis, or mania.”
I don’t know about you, but the idea that your electronic medical records might eventually be linked to your use of the internet and social media to assess your risk of mental health problems and/or other health issues does not make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Google has repeatedly been caught infringing on privacy rights and misrepresenting the type and amount of data it collects on its users.
It’s now become clear that Google catches every single thing you do online if you’re using a Google-based feature. It’s also clear that capturing user data is Google’s primary business.16 The fact that it provides services while doing so is really beside the point and serves as a convenient distraction from the fact that obnoxious privacy violations are taking place. As reported by Gawker:17
“Every word of every email sent through Gmail and every click made on a Chrome browser is watched by the company. ‘We don’t need you to type at all,’ [Google co-founder Eric] Schmidt once said. ‘We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.'”
Today’s youth, and their parents, need to be particularly vigilant and aware of what Google is doing. Over the past five years, Google has taken over classrooms across the U.S. As noted by The New York Times,18 more than 30 million American children now use Google-based education apps such as Gmail, Google docs, Google classroom apps and Google-powered Chromebooks.
Once out of school, these youngsters are encouraged to convert their school accounts into personal accounts, allowing Google to build exceptionally powerful personality profiles of them as they grow into young adults. If these profiles are used for marketing purposes only, that would be bad enough. But what if they’re used for other types of profiling? Google’s data harvesting is particularly concerning in light of its military connections.19
A recent Activist Post article reveals how YouTube is censoring Ron Paul, former congressman and 2011 Republican GOP presidential candidate, for promoting peace.20 Paul has also been a tireless defender of health freedom throughout his long career. In other words, Google is now actively controlling the public narrative — also known as social engineering — and, as noted in the article:
“When standing up against an illegal war with a message of peace and liberty becomes a censorable ‘offense’ it’s time to start paying attention … Make no mistake, what we are witnessing on YouTube and Facebook right now is a move to silence the peaceful opposition …
[T]his crackdown is also coinciding with a massive push by the mainstream media to stoke divide among the people … [D]ivisive identity politics are shoved down the collective throats of the masses in order to create an atmosphere so divided that people never look up at who’s controlling them. Disagreeing with the status quo is the new hate speech — speak out and you will be mowed down.”
Google’s catchphrase used to be “Don’t be evil,” but that’s exactly what it is. When Google became Alphabet, it dropped the “don’t be evil” slogan for a more comprehensive motto, which begins with doing “the right thing — follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”21 Yet the company continues to act as if it’s above the law and really struggles when it comes to doing what’s right. In fact, Google seems to think its actions are righteous and justifiable simply by the fact that they’re doing them.
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
All of this brings us to the issue of monopolization and the corruption that inevitably follows. At this point, I cannot think of any company operating in breach of antitrust rules as blatantly as Google. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this adage certainly fits when describing Google. As reported by The Washington Post:22
“Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point … The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent … Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said, ‘Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.’ Those with too much power cannot help but be evil.
Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony… [I]n recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google has recruited and cultivated law professors who support its views.”
This includes funding research papers “that appear to support the technology company’s business interests and defend against regulatory challenges such as antitrust and anti-piracy.” Some of these academics have not declared the source of their funding, even though payments have reached as high as $400,000. As noted by The Times:26
“On one occasion Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, cited a Google-funded author in written answers to Congress to back his claim that his company was not a monopoly — without mentioning that it had paid for the paper …”
Europe Fines Google Nearly $3 Billion for Antitrust Violations
Power can be assessed by looking at lobbying expenditures and, so far this year, Google is leading the pack when it comes to corporate spending on lobbying — efforts primarily aimed at eliminating competitors and gaining power over others. Google also appears to take full advantage of its power over organizations that it helps fund.
A recent example of this was when the Open Markets team at the New America think tank published a statement praising the EU’s decision to levy a $2.7 billion fine against Google for antitrust violations. In summary, Google gave preference to its own shopping subsidiaries over competitors in its search results, which the EU deemed to be a violation of antitrust rules (see the featured video above).
The Open Markets team also called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice (DOJ) and state attorneys general to apply American monopoly law to Google’s business in the U.S. Google’s response to the Open Markets statement was swift, and within three days, the New America think tank — which has received more than $21 million from Google over the years — ousted the entire Open Markets team.27
Zephyr Teachout, associate professor of law at Fordham University, writes in her Washington Post article, “Google Is Coming After Critics in Academia and Journalism. It’s Time to Stop Them:”‘ 28
“The imperial overreach of Google in trying to shut down a group of five researchers proves the point that the initial release from Open Markets was trying to make: When companies get too much power, they become a threat to democratic free speech and to the liberty of citizens at large …
Google is forming into a government of itself, and it seems incapable of even seeing its own overreach. We, as citizens, must respond in two ways. First, support the brave researchers and journalists who stand up to overreaching power; and second, support traditional antimonopoly laws that will allow us to have great, innovative companies — but not allow them to govern us.
Google’s actions forced the Open Markets team to leave New America. But, thankfully, it did not succeed in silencing them entirely. Open Markets will continue on as a separate organization, which I will chair. Their work exposing corporate monopolies and advocating for regulation is more important than ever. Google shows us why.”
New America Faces Backlash
The fact that New America was coddling Google and doing the company’s bidding did not go unnoticed, however, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the Google-funded think tank is now accused of jeopardizing New America’s reputation with her decision to kick Open Markets out.
Scholars affiliated with New America have also been “quietly comparing notes on past instances in which they contend she placed donors’ interests over ideology.” According to The New York Times,29 Slaughter has “pledged to re-examine her group’s policies for dealing with donors while defending the organization’s intellectual integrity.” Whatever might come of that “re-examination” remains to be seen.
Former business journalist Barry Lynn, director of Open Markets, who spent over a decade with the New America Foundation before being ousted by Slaughter, has been a longtime advocate against monopolies such as Google, and his work is now gaining traction in what some have called an “antitrust revival.”30 As noted by The Daily Beast:31
“For years, Lynn has been warning about the pernicious effect monopolies have on all facets of American life: from the food one eats, to the financial system one uses, to the forms of communications on which one depends. And for years, his work has been restricted to the usual confines of advocacy and academia …
On [July 24, 2017], that changed. [Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)] … outlined an agenda that put heavy emphasis on cracking down on corporate monopolies.
The topic occupies the first four pages of a 10-page document and includes placing new standards on the consolidation of corporate power, giving new tools to regulators to confirm and review mergers, and creating a new consumer competition advocate to tackle ‘anti-competitive behavior.’ Lynn, who estimates that he has been working on this stuff for 15 years, called the new agenda ‘fantastic.'”
Monopolies Threaten Public Liberties and Democracy
In a recent interview by The Verge,32 Lynn discusses his plans to continue fighting monopolies in America. Open Markets still has most of its funders and the organization is “already up and running” as an independent institution. They also have new funding sources lined up. When asked why it’s so important to dialogue about monopoly power, Lynn replies:
“[M]onopolies are a threat to our democracy and to our basic liberties and to our communities. Monopolization, this concentration of wealth and power, is a threat to everything that is America … So, Open Markets is built to fight the environment of law and regulation that currently promotes unrestrained monopoly. America today has a monopoly problem.
We’re seeing basically a second wave of consolidation and monopolization because of the digital revolution. These companies are just as bad as Newscorp or Walmart or Citibank was in 2005. Google, Facebook, and Amazon: the danger they pose is on a vastly different level.The first issue is consumer protection and potential consumer harm. We created antitrust laws originally to protect our liberties, often as producers of stuff …
My liberty to bring my wheat, my ideas, the product of my labor to market. That’s liberty. The second purpose was to protect our democracy against huge concentrations of wealth and power. To protect our democratic institutions. And the third purpose [was] to protect your community.
If I’m living out in Peoria, do I want the city of Peoria to be run by a couple corporations based on Wall Street, or do I want it to be run by the citizens of Peoria? So you use anti-monopoly law to ensure that.”
Tech Monopolies Merge to Create Ultimate AI World
Last year, The Register33 published an article pointing out the revolving door between Google and EU policy advisers; 16 Google employees have joined the government ranks in the EU while 64 policy advisers left to join Google. We see this revolving door phenomenon so often these days, it’s become quite cliché. Unfortunately, it is highly effective, which is why industry abuses it. Google is running such a clear monopoly, it’s quite astounding the U.S. has not nailed it on antitrust charges similar to those raised in the EU.
Then again, Music Technology Policy published a long article34 last year describing how Google managed to install one of its own lawyers in the DOJ antitrust division, thereby protecting its own interests. These revolving doors between government and corporations exist for a reason, and it is not to benefit the public in any way.
As we look to the future, we also have Google’s sights on artificial intelligence (AI) to contend with. Already, two large monopolies have joined forces to bring about the ultimate AI world. As reported by The New York Times,35 Amazon and Microsoft are now working together, merging their voice-controlled digital assistants — Alexa and Cortana — in order to enlarge the capabilities of both by building on each other’s strengths and abilities.
“In an interview … [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos predicted that over time people would turn to different digital assistants … the same way they turn to one friend for advice about hiking and another for restaurant recommendations. ‘I want them to have access to as many of those A.I.s as possible.’ Mr. Bezos said.”36
Ultimately, the goal is to create self-learning AIs capable of imitating human thought processes. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair reports that Elon Musk is raising a “billion-dollar crusade” to prevent the AI apocalypse, calling for regulations on the technology “before it’s too late.” According to Musk, AIs are improving at a far greater pace than most people realize, and there’s no telling what they might ultimately be used for. Vanity Fair writes:37
“In a startling public reproach to his friends and fellow techies, Musk warned that they could be creating the means of their own destruction. He told Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance … that he was afraid that his friend Larry Page, a co-founder of Google and now the C.E.O. of its parent company, Alphabet, could have perfectly good intentions but still ‘produce something evil by accident’ — including, possibly, ‘a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.’
It’s in Larry Page’s blood and Google’s DNA to believe that A.I. is the company’s inevitable destiny — think of that destiny as you will. (‘If evil A.I. lights up,’ Ashlee Vance told me, ‘it will light up first at Google.’)”
Take Action — Here’s What You Can Do
As you can see, Google (or more accurately, Alphabet, the rebranded parent company that houses all of the various divisions) is turning into a gigantic octopus-like super entity, the tentacles of which reach into government, food production, health care, education, military applications and the creation of AIs that may run more or less independently.
A key component of many of these enterprises is data — your personal usage data; the tracking of every webpage you’ve ever visited and every single thought you’ve ever written on a Google-enabled device, along with geo tracking tracing your every move.
Ultimately, what can be done with that kind of information, besides personalized advertising? How might it be used in combination with military AI-equipped robots? How might it be used to influence your health care decisions? How might it be used to influence your lifestyle decisions? How might (or is) it used to shape politics and society at large?
Today, being a conscious consumer includes making wise, informed decisions about technology. Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time pondering the ramifications of Google’s ever-growing monopoly over our day-to-day lives is likely to shudder at the possibilities and agree that we cannot allow this to continue. To be part of the solution, I encourage you to take the following actions:
- Sign the “Don’t be evil” petition created by Citizens Against Monopoly
- Avoid any and all Google products. If you have a Gmail account, close it and open an account with a non-Google affiliated email service. Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends recently published an article suggesting a number of alternatives.38 If you’re a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts
- Don’t use Google search engine. So far, one of the best alternatives I’ve found is DuckDuckGo.39 It is now my primary search engine and I avoid Gmail and all of Google products whenever possible
Recently, during a radio show on which I appeared as a guest, a caller posed a question I frequently get asked: “Do the administration of cross-gender hormones and genital surgery change a boy into a girl or a girl into a boy?”
The answer is simple: biologically, not at all.
Underneath all the cosmetic procedures, vocal training, and hair growth or hair removal lies a physical reality. Biologically, the person has not changed from a man into a woman or vice versa.
Sex is an indelible fact of a person’s biology. Specifically, it describes one’s biological makeup with respect to its organization for reproduction. As Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh explain in The New Atlantis:
In biology, an organism is male or female if it is structured to perform one of the respective roles in reproduction. This definition does not require any arbitrary measurable or quantifiable physical characteristics or behaviors; it requires understanding the reproductive system and the reproduction process.
The authors go on to note that “[t]here is no other widely accepted biological classification for the sexes.” Sex pertains to the two different ways males and females are structured for reproduction, and these structures are permanently engrained in one’s biology. They cannot be chosen at will.
A man can mutilate his body, but he can never transform it to be organized as a female—and vice versa for the woman.
This makes sense of the head-snapping (and false) headline many of us saw about a man having a baby. The “man” featured in the story is simply a biological woman who kept her childbearing anatomy intact.
My Sex Change Fiction
My “sex change” surgery from male to female was performed by Dr. Stanley Biber in Trinidad, Colorado.
His unusual field of expertise drew clients from around the world and earned the small mountain town the nickname “Sex Change Capital of the World.” The surgeon estimated that he performed over 5,000 such surgeries during his career.
I lived legally and socially as a female for eight years, but I came to the realization that I wanted to go back to living as a man. To legally change my gender back to male, I needed to file a petition with the California Superior Court that verified I met certain criteria. (The process has since changed.)
My surgeon wrote a letter to the court stating that I met the medical criteria for the courts to legally change my birth certificate back to male. The very surgeon who earlier said that hormones and surgery had changed me to female, now admitted that it did not.
In the letter, he testified that the surgery and cross-gender hormones had the effect of neutering my external appearance and genitalia, but my internal biological structure and my genetics were still male.
That’s the key to understand: Hormones and surgical changes can affect one’s external appearance, but no innate biological change of sex occurs.
This truth should seem obvious, but discontented trans women contact me who say they didn’t know that they could never become a “real” woman. They are unhappy and opting to go back to the gender of their birth.
False Hope Could Lead to More Suicide
A 2004 U.K. Guardian article, “Sex Changes Not Effective,” points out: “While no doubt great care is taken to ensure that appropriate patients undergo gender reassignment, there’s still a large number of people who have the surgery but remain traumatized—often to the point of committing suicide.”
Too many post-surgical patients contact me to report they deeply regret the gender change surgery and that the false hope of surgical outcomes was a factor. For children, the focus on encouraging, assisting, and affirming them toward changing genders at earlier and earlier ages, with no research showing the outcomes, may lead to more suicides.
Others Advocate Less Surgery
A growing number of people like me, 50 years after the first surgery at Johns Hopkins University Gender Clinic in 1966, are advocating the scaling back of the radical, irreversible, often unnecessary genital mutilation surgeries.
Rene Jax, in his 2016 book, “DON’T Get on The Plane!” says, “Sex change surgery will ruin your life.”
Jax and I have had similar experiences. Both of us were approved for hormones and surgery to resolve our gender dysphoria, and after following the medically prescribed full regimen of hormones and genitalia surgery, and living as women, both of us came away with the same conclusions:
- Gender change surgery was a destructive body mutilation and a waste of time and money.
- After the medically-certified gender change, life didn’t improve.
- Gender dysphoria, that feeling of unease with one’s gender, persisted, and was not relieved as promised.
Surgery as a Last Resort
Based on the emails I receive, I would urge the person who thinks that gender change is the answer in their situation to delay any surgical changes, or at the very least to restrict any physical changes to ones that are reversible.
This is especially important for younger people who may want to have children one day.
Today in 10 states, only a verbal declaration and a doctor’s letter supporting the change are needed to legally change the gender on a birth certificate. Cross-gender hormones or surgery are not required. Only 10 states affirm that surgery and hormones do not change biology.
Studies show that two-thirds of people with gender dysphoria have co-existing disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
I’ve become an outspoken critic of gender reassignment surgeries because many people are not being treated for other co-existing problems first. Instead, they are quickly prescribed cross-gender hormones and shuttled on a path toward surgery.
But as noted earlier, this surgery cannot succeed in delivering what it promises. It will only mutilate the body, a far cry from the promised “sex change.”