The Deadly Tobacco Drug War Down Under

by Jacob Grier, Reason, June 17, 2024.


Since March of last year, the Australian state of Victoria has been rocked by a series of arsons and firebombings. Some of the targets are victims of extortion; others are caught in an escalating turf war between rival gangs. Two men with links to organized crime have been publicly murdered, one in a broad-daylight shooting at a shopping mall in a Melbourne suburb. Violent conflict is not unexpected in organized crime, but what is unusual is the drug at the center of this conflict: nicotine.


DRH comment: The Australian government could respond by getting rid of the regulations that led to the problem in the first place, but instead decides to go the Saudi route:

A new bill expected to pass the Australian Senate would take even more drastic measures, threatening imprisonment for importing, manufacturing, supplying, or even possessing commercial quantities of vaping goods without authorization. Health Minister Mark Butler explained that penalties will include up to seven years imprisonment and fines up to $2.2 million. “We are serious about stamping this public health menace of recreational vaping out,” said Butler. The bill includes an exemption for personal use, but as it is currently written possession of even noncommercial quantities of vaping products could be punished with up to one year in prison.


Fauci Was Just a Symptom

By Jeffrey H. Anderson, Thomas D. Klingenstein, June 20, 2024.

HHS now brazenly asserts that PEPFAR has saved “over 25 million lives.” The sole basis for this dubious claim seems to be that over 25 million people (counting babies in the womb) have been given antiviral drugs. HHS’s apparent dual assumption is that every one of those people would have died without the drugs, and every one of them has subsequently survived because of the drugs. This is what passes for scientific rigor at HHS.

Both during AIDS and during Covid-19, Fauci and company fought the use of inexpensive, repurposed drugs to help people’s immune systems fight off the threats. Kennedy argues that they were motivated by a desire to bring pharmaceutical products to market—both antivirals and vaccines—without facing cheap competition, as a portion of Big Pharma’s profits would make their way into the public health officials’ pockets. Indeed, NBC News reports that NIH researchers have personally collected up to $150,000 a year in royalty payments for drugs they have helped develop at taxpayer expense. NBC says that in 2004 NIH researchers pocketed a total of $8.9 million. That’s in addition to their taxpayer-funded salaries. More recently, royalties from Covid vaccines appear to have been quite a boon to NIH, as in 2022 the agency’s overall royalties (not just the portion paid out to employees) skyrocketed to nine times what they were in the pre-Covid year of 2019.

Rather than debate Duesberg or provide persuasive evidence to debunk him, the public health establishment simply ostracized him. Kennedy writes that both Larry King and Good Morning America scheduled joint appearances with Fauci and Duesberg only to cancel on Duesberg at the last minute and give Fauci the stage to himself (presumably at Fauci’s insistence). He writes that, when Reagan wanted the two to have a “friendly debate” in front of him, the idea was called off because, in the words of a member of the Reagan administration, Fauci “threw a ‘small fit’…and demanded to know why the White House was interfering in scientific matters.” (Imagine the gall of a president wanting an executive branch employee to defend his theory on one of the most pressing issues of the day!)

DRH note: My quoting from this review does NOT mean that I endorse everything that RFK Jr. says. I do think that he and the reviewer have good insights.

Federal Budget Deficit Forecast Jumps $400 Billion, Fueled by Student Debt Forgiveness

by Emma Camp, Reason, June 21, 2014.


In 2024, the federal budget deficit is estimated to reach nearly $2 trillion, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week. In February, the agency predicted that the deficit would only be $1.58 trillion. However, spending increases have caused the projected deficit to increase by $400 billion, a staggering 27 percent hike.

According to the CBO, 80 percent of the spike in the deficit can be blamed on four sources of government spending.

The largest source, responsible for $145 billion of the increase, is changes to the federal student loan program that have resulted in massive waves of federal student loan forgiveness and increased forgiveness going forward.


How 3M Executives Convinced a Scientist the Forever Chemicals She Found in Human Blood Were Safe

by Sharon Lerner, ProPublica, May 20, 2024.


Kris Hansen had worked as a chemist at the 3M Corporation for about a year when her boss, an affable senior scientist named Jim Johnson, gave her a strange assignment. 3M had invented Scotch Tape and Post-­it notes; it sold everything from sandpaper to kitchen sponges. But on this day, in 1997, Johnson wanted Hansen to test human blood for chemical contamination.

Several of 3M’s most successful products contained man-made compounds called fluorochemicals. In a spray called Scotchgard, fluorochemicals protected leather and fabric from stains. In a coating known as Scotchban, they prevented food packaging from getting soggy. In a soapy foam used by firefighters, they helped extinguish jet-fuel fires. Johnson explained to Hansen that one of the company’s fluorochemicals, PFOS — short for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid — often found its way into the bodies of 3M factory workers. Although he said that they were unharmed, he had recently hired an outside lab to measure the levels in their blood. The lab had just reported something odd, however. For the sake of comparison, it had tested blood samples from the American Red Cross, which came from the general population and should have been free of fluorochemicals. Instead, it kept finding a contaminant in the blood.

DRH note: This is the first time I’ve linked to a ProPublica story without making a critical comment. While I think their ethics on revealing people’s taxes were shoddy, as was their analytic ability, I found this piece persuasive.

With respect to the last 2 items above, as Arnold Kling would say, “Have a nice day.”