Pornhub, the world’s most popular porn site, has been under fire in recent months for featuring videos of sex-trafficking victims — including a 15-year-old victim from Florida, 118 confirmed cases of child abuse, as well as 22 women allegedly duped and coerced by Michael Pratt, owner of GirlsDoPorn, into performing sex acts on film that were subsequently monetized on a Pornhub partner channel (Pratt has been found civilly liable and now faces federal criminal charges).
Now add another blatant misdeed to the litany of the site’s misdeeds: While the rest of the country grapples with race and racism, Pornhub enables, monetizes and promotes content involving racism in its most extreme forms. The sexualized hatred Pornhub dishes out as masturbation material should alarm a nation that otherwise claims to condemn bigotry.
Decent Americans mourned the unjust killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Yet for Pornhub, the tragedy supplied grist for masturbation. Recently approved and uploaded titles include “I Can’t Breathe,” posted by a verified user, with search tags that include “George Floyd” and “choke-out.” A for-profit partner channel on Pornhub called Black Patrol sexualizes police brutality against African-Americans with titles such as “White Cops Track Down and F - - k Black Deadbeat Dad.”
Countless other titles on Pornhub feature variations on the N-word and “white master.” “Exploited black teens” and “black slave” are suggested search terms deliberately promoted by Pornhub to its users. If the titles repulse you, imagine what the videos do to the ever-younger eyes and minds that daily encounter hardcore, racist porn.
African-Americans aren’t the only community denigrated for pleasure and profit on Pornhub. There are also loads of anti-Semitic content on the site. Pornhub had approved and monetized with ads videos with titles such as “Nazi Rick & Morty Have Sex at Auschwitz” and “Nazi F - - k Camp” (involving “Jewish corpses”).
Wildly anti-Semitic videos such as these are uploaded by Pornhub verified users, accounts with usernames like “OvenBakedJew” and “Hitler the Jew-Slayer.” Many of these videos have remained on the site for months and years, with comments such as “Blacks, Jews and Muslims — bad seed!” and “Anne Frank was hiding, but I didn’t want to kill her, I just wanted to make a casting-couch Auschwitz edition!”
Pornhub places monetized ads all over these videos, comments and user accounts.
As Calev Myers, deputy president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, told me, “the violently aggressive nature of the anti-Semitic rhetoric on Pornhub dehumanizes the Jewish people and brutally assaults the memory of the Holocaust and all the people who were murdered in it. Those who allow these types of expressions to be broadcast publicly are essentially condoning the Holocaust and its horrors.”
The company insists it has an “extensive team” of moderators dedicated to viewing every video uploaded for illegal content. Yet a horrifying number of abuse videos have made it through, and the firm appears indifferent to racist content. Moderation or not, Pornhub is monetizing extreme forms of racism and anti-Semitism (not to mention videos of trafficking victims).
The abject reality of Pornhub — it makes this content available for 115 million visitors daily and monetizes it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year — should disturb anyone who cares about the rights of women and children to be free from exploitation and everyone who cares about equality and a society free from hatred.
America has made great strides in combating the exploitation of women and girls. We have also overcome historical slavery, legal apartheid and the horrors of anti-Semitism. This is to our credit. Yes, racism and anti-Semitism persist, but they are utterly banned from ethical society. And yet there is this underside to our society, where the same awful phenomena are promoted, broadcast, used for pleasure — and monetized for profit. That’s not progress.
Laila Mickelwait is the director of abolition for Exodus Cry, which works to abolish sex trafficking.
COVID-19 may have canceled the Pride Month parades, but LGBT activists have found another way to celebrate: vilifying J.K. Rowling.
The zillionaire “Harry Potter” author recently earned the wrath of the trans movement when she averred that biological sex is real. After reading an article that referred to “people who menstruate,” instead of “women,” Rowling took to Twitter: “ ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” She added: “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. . . . I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”
Her take launched a thousand denunciations from trans activists, who declared Rowling a transphobic, bigoted TERF (“trans-exclusionary radical feminist”). It’s tough to “cancel” a household name, but her detractors are trying their best. Several employees at Hachette, Rowling’s publishing house, have said they may refuse to work on her forthcoming book, “The Ickabog.”
Even the young actors who owe their careers and platforms to Rowling publicly condemned her. “Transgender women are women,” announced “Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe. Never mind that Rowling is, as he admits, “unquestionably responsible” for the course his life has taken and, therefore, might deserve a tad more consideration.
But Rowling was merely noting that the trans agenda — and the distortions of language it demands — is a form of misogyny, yet another means of demeaning women. Men who transition don’t share the common experience of biological females. It is an offense against women to claim that they do.
In a follow-up essay, Rowling elaborated. “ ‘Woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. . . . The ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanizing.” Brava.
The writer revealed that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault and so is particularly worried that the trans movement endangers women (Exhibit A: bathroom bills that permit men to enter female-only spaces on the basis of subjective mental states alone). Another concern: the increasing numbers of young girls who try to escape femaleness by transitioning, but then regret it and de-transition — often after they have irreparably deformed their bodies and reproductive organs.
“I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class,” she wrote, “and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
Rowling’s commonsense arguments are welcome. But the backlash is, in part, the logical terminus of her own beliefs. Since the “Potter” series’ final installment came out 13 years ago, many have called it too “heteronormative,” and Rowling has repeatedly politicized or revised her story to suit the sexual-liberationist causes du jour — whether by declaring President Trump worse than her villain Voldemort; stating that Remus Lupin’s affliction as a werewolf was an intentional metaphor for HIV; or disclosing that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay.
In 2007, she revealed the wizard had an “incredibly intense” sexual relationship with another character, Gellert Grindelwald (the recent “Fantastic Beasts” films are partially based on this backstory). The 2016 screenplay “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which she co-wrote, featured a homoerotic subplot for Harry’s son Albus and the seemingly bisexual Scorpius Malfoy.
After years of working messages of queer affirmation into her stories, and retroactively revising her tales to reflect progressive causes, it should be little surprise that some expected her to take this just a step further. She has been toeing the woke line for a long time.
Still, kudos to Rowling for choosing to take a stand here. Though she remains trans-affirming — “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable” — her critics care not a whit. The mob demands total submission, even from those with a history of queer celebration; nothing less will do.
Rowling’s defense of women is cheering. More heartening still is how she is exposing the incoherence of trans ideology and its naked hostility to embodied femininity. In the name of liberation, that ideology has wrought cancellation, violence, misogyny, verbal abuse and too many girls consigned to lives of regret or painful de-transitioning.
Radical freedom, it turns out, looks a lot like bondage.
The United Nations wants you to know that coronavirus is a particular problem for women. So does Politico (“Covid’s war on women”). An article in the feminist magazine Ms. says women are shouldering the brunt of Covid-induced “emotional labor,” which is “all-consuming.”
The virus, unenlightened by this outpouring, persists in killing mostly men. The U.S. male-to-female ratio of confirmed Covid-19 deaths is running about 54 to 46, but the imbalance is much greater among younger people, meaning men are losing many more years of life. Global Health 50/50, a group devoted to equality of the sexes in health, finds that “in most countries, available data indicates that men have been upwards of 50% more likely to die following diagnosis than women.” The disparity probably has several causes. In the U.S., men have more health problems to begin with but get less medical care. And women appear to have stronger immune systems.
Pandemics tend to change the world. One overdue change is a greater focus on men’s health. Even before Covid-19, U.S. women outlived men by about five years. Most people take the difference for granted, as they once took for granted that women couldn’t do all kinds of things men can do.
Women have a tough life in much of the world, but the global longevity gap is even larger than it is in America. America’s gap was also bigger in the mid-20th century, when more men smoked, worked as coal miners or lumberjacks, and went to war. But after shrinking for a while, there are signs the gap is growing again.
Remember the opioid epidemic? Men accounted for 69% of its U.S. deaths. And 3.5 times as many American men as women die by suicide. Violence against women is the focus of much-needed attention lately. But around three quarters of U.S. homicide victims are men.
Men bear the greater lifelong burden of illness, too. They have a 20% higher chance of developing cancer, for example, but they are less likely to have health insurance or go to the doctor. In 2017, American men between 18 and 64 accounted on average for $3,979 in health-care spending, compared with $5,447 for women in the same age range.
Yet the focus—culturally, politically and medically—is unrelentingly on women’s health. Searching “men’s health center,” I got 3.8 million hits on Google. “Women’s health center” yielded 24 million. Celebrities and progressive CEOs like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey direct their donations to women’s health causes. The federal Health and Human Services Department has an Office on Women’s Health but no equivalent for men.
During the pandemic, news articles and polemics have decried the burden of coronavirus on women, how they are more likely to be interrupted on Zoom, how they are publishing fewer scientific papers, and how they may face additional domestic violence—all real concerns. The burden of fatality, unfortunately, falls quite a bit more on men.
Like so many differences between men and women, the difference in lifespans is partly biological. Females outlive males in most places and in most mammal species.
But one reason to believe we can help American men live longer is that the longevity gap is smaller in some other affluent countries—three years in the Netherlands and four in Sweden. In both those countries, men and women alike outlive their American counterparts.
“The diversity in worldwide longevity alone indicates that the difference in mortality between the sexes is not purely biological and that there are intervening social factors,” the demographic researcher Bertrand Desjardins wrote in 2004. “Women most probably have a biological advantage that allows them to live longer, but in the past—and in several places, still today—the status and life conditions of women nullified this benefit. Today, given the general progress in female life conditions, women have not only regained their biological advantage, but have gone much beyond it.”
Surely if women died five years younger than men, or if coronavirus were killing far more women than men, it would prompt an outcry. Perhaps the time has come to acknowledge the problem of men’s health—everything from declining sperm counts to suicide—and do something about it.
I regularly see public-service commercials and other advertisements aimed at improving women’s health and well-being, but I don’t see many aimed at men. That ought to change. We need to get guys to eat healthier, exercise more, smoke less and moderate their drinking. And they need to hear this message from other guys.
Men need to see the doctor more, too. That’s true for Covid-19, for which women are more likely to get tested, as well as other diseases. It might help if there were more outfits like NYU Langone’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health. There aren’t any bearskin rugs, brandy snifters or cigars. But most of the doctors are men and the name is inviting, even if patient forms ask about pregnancy (some patients are women who followed doctors to the center or simply find it convenient).
For too long, men’s deficits in health and well-being have mostly been ignored, at least compared with such sins as “mansplaining.” Perhaps the pandemic can serve as a useful reminder that men’s health, like women’s, is a matter of life and death.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t provided too many moments of levity, but one of them surely is the spectacle of New Jersey politicians arguing over the definition of “knucklehead.”
Ever since instituting lockdown rules in late March, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has used his daily press briefings to chastise those who have violated the stay-at-home orders, calling them “knuckleheads.” Taking a cue from the governor, the state’s Department of Transportation has placed a message on digital signs along some highways: “Don’t be a knucklehead, keep a safe distance.”
That didn’t sit right with Joe Pennacchio, a Republican state senator. “I strongly condemn the flippant language the Governor has used in press conferences and on these signs,” Mr. Pennacchio said in a statement, adding a lexicographical note: “Webster defines a knucklehead as a ‘stupid person.’ Is that what you think of sacrificing New Jersey citizens? Really?”
On Monday, Mr. Murphy pushed back. “I was criticized by someone, a legislator, for using the word ‘knucklehead,’” he said in his press briefing. “So I looked it up for myself, and the definition is ‘a stupid, bumbling, inept person,’” which he found to be “quite consistent with some of the behavior” he has seen from scofflaws. He had considered two alternatives, “blockhead” and “numbskull,” but said he opted for “knucklehead” because “it’s got three syllables and it’s got a little bit more oomph.”
Before it was an insult, ‘knucklehead’ had a more prosaic meaning.
Is there anything really objectionable about using the word? (One local radio personality joked that it’s “not even in the top ten” of insults hurled by New Jersey politicians.) It has a bit of an old-fashioned ring to it, evoking The Three Stooges and Moe’s neverending consternation with the antics of Larry and Curly (or Shemp). Moe used “knucklehead” more or less interchangeably with “imbecile” and “lamebrain.”
Before it was an insult, “knucklehead” had a more prosaic meaning. While “knuckle” chiefly refers to the joint of a finger, it can also be used for things resembling a joint, such as the part of a hinge that a pin or rivet passes through. A “knuckle head,” then, could designate the top of a hinged device, such as in an 1868 patent for a horse hay fork.
Soon enough, however, “knucklehead” joined other “head” epithets already slung at foolish people for generations, like “blockhead” (first evidence of use in 1549), “dunderhead” (1630), and the rhyming “chucklehead” (1726). “Knucklehead” could suggest the hardness of knuckles bent in a fist—or, as slang lexicographer Jonathon Greensurmises, “knuckles pressed to the forehead imply the intensity of thought for one who is not overly bright.”
In 1890, Charles H. Shinn, a forest ranger in California, used the word in a widely syndicated story, “The Quicksands of Toro.” One character, a cattle rancher on the Pacific Coast, thinks to himself, “That infernal knuckle-head at the camp ought to have reported before now.”
As an insult, “knucklehead” did not start showing up frequently in American slang for a few more decades. A woman wrote to the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1936 to say that “for years my husband has called an ignorant, careless or reckless driver a ‘knucklehead.’”
But it was World War II that truly popularized the word, thanks largely to the cartoon character Cadet R.F. Knucklehead, used on Army Air Force posters as a cautionary tale. As the New York Herald Tribune explained in September 1941, the character “received his name because ‘knucklehead’ has long been a term to describe individuals who fail to obey elementary flight rules, officers of the Air Forces reveal.” Whatever Knucklehead did, the air cadets were implored not to do.
While Cadet Knucklehead is largely forgotten, the word is still associated in the public imagination with The Three Stooges and their short slapstick films. In fact, “knucklehead” was rarer than other insults in the Stooges’ dialogue. Gary Lassin, proprietor of The Stoogeum, a memorabilia museum outside of Philadelphia, told me that, much like pie fights, “‘knucklehead’ is actually less prevalent than perceived” in the Stooges’ oeuvre.
Still, when Mr. Murphy or others use “knucklehead” now, they likely have the Stooges in mind—perhaps helped along by Curly’s signature laugh, “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.”
Most Western countries have been in lockdown for more than a month to slow the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus. Schools have been emptied and all businesses deemed nonessential have been closed by government order.
This is an enormously expensive strategy. Our governments are basically printing money to keep this system of forced unemployment going. While we have no idea what the final economic cost will be, we already know that we are saddling the next generation with crushing debt.
Social costs such as depression, suicide, spousal abuse, and other pathologies might be even worse than the financial cost.
The rationale behind these extraordinary measures has been to “flatten the curve”—in plainspeak, to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by a surge in admissions. The theory of the experts is that all of the social distancing measures and closures will accomplish that task. We have all lived with these new restrictions on our liberties, and the spirit of cooperation and goodwill is high. We are a resilient species.
Yet there are questions that should be asked. Those of us lucky enough to live in a free society should exercise our right to do so.
It’s now apparent that hospital systems haven’t been overwhelmed by the feared surge in admissions. In fact, even in the worst-affected areas, the hospital systems have held up. In some lightly affected areas, hospitals are actually underused because normal procedures have been rescheduled to accommodate a surge that never came. The social distancing measures adopted by most people have no doubt contributed to keeping those numbers low.
However, there is less evidence that the draconian measures, such as closing schools and most small businesses, were necessary in the first place.
Not every country has adopted extreme lockdown measures. Sweden is an example of a country—acting on scientific advice that it found compelling—that advised its citizens to take sensible social distancing steps, but didn’t close most of its primary schools and small businesses. Most restaurants remain open, as do most small businesses. Its hospital system remains intact, and it doesn’t appear that the death rate is much different than in countries that are locked down.
The experts who warned Swedish leaders that they must close their schools and businesses or face catastrophic deaths have so far been proven wrong.
The World Health Organization insisted that Sweden follow its “advice” and enter lockdown along with the rest of Europe, but Sweden prefered to follow its own course. It’s probable that when the virus has run its course there, the Swedes will have a much easier time getting their country back to normal. It’s also likely that the Swedes will be immune from the next wave of the disease—having achieved “herd immunity”—while citizens of locked down countries remain susceptible to the virus.
Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan are some of the other countries that took sensible steps, but didn’t close their primary schools or businesses. Their hospital systems and economies remain intact. It’s also probable that their citizens are now largely immune to the virus.
And it’s beginning to look like those countries got it right, and we, the lockdown countries, got it wrong. Many experts make a compelling case that although social distancing is an excellent way for individuals to avoid catching the virus, nationwide shutdowns of the economy and school closures simply prolong the life of the virus in a community and make no difference in the overall number of deaths.
One such expert is Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University. He’s one of a number who argue convincingly that regardless of whether a country locks down or remains open, the coronavirus peaks and subsides in exactly the same way. Put simply, Sweden won’t have a higher mortality rate than Britain—despite the fact that Britain shut its economy down at enormous cost. Knut Wittkowski, a former biostatistician at Rockefeller University, makes the same argument.
Is it possible that the leaders of most of the world’s nations have made a colossal mistake by shutting down economies, causing the biggest worldwide depression since the 1930s?
Our leaders need to come clean with us. What is their game plan? Why did they close our schools and businesses? Why didn’t they do what Taiwan or Sweden have done? They said they wanted to “flatten the curve.” The curve has been “flattened.” Do they now have some magic plan to stop the virus from making its way through the community, as every virus has done since the dawn of time?
Do they have some plan to make the virus disappear? If so, they should tell us what it is.
If not, they should begin the painful process of getting the economy moving again. The first step should be reopening the schools and selected businesses. As with any flu, schoolchildren will get sick, but most won’t. Yes, they will infect parents and others, but all viruses do that. It is a normal part of a school year. Did closing the schools ever make sense, or did it just prolong the life of the virus in the community? Did our leaders close the schools just because everyone else was doing it?
The available evidence already shows that the overwhelming percentage of healthy people infected will get sick and recover—or not get sick at all. Nature has designed healthy bodies to cope with respiratory illnesses. We also know that this virus seems to go mainly after elderly people with compromised health. This pandemic has starkly revealed how ill-prepared our nursing and home care system—and indeed, our entire medical system—are to protect the most vulnerable from infectious disease.
Clearly, changes must be made that reflect the new reality.
But we need to protect the elderly and infirm without compromising our children’s future. As a grandfather, I’m thankful that this particular virus goes after us and not the young. I don’t want to catch this virus, and I plan to voluntarily do as much social distancing and hand washing as practical to avoid getting it. But shouldn’t those steps be left to the individual and not mandated by government? And most importantly, isn’t keeping the country strong for our children our most important obligation?
If I do get sick, I know that the vast majority of healthy people recover from viral respiratory illnesses—even this nasty one. Could it be that we are giving in to irrational fears? Is it possible that some combination of a highly politicized media and our social media addiction has amplified this pandemic beyond all reason? It’s worth noting that the last significant pandemic, the 2009 swine flu, killed far more people worldwide than the CCP virus has, but generated nowhere near the level of media coverage or sheer panic as this one.
Do we even remember that pandemic?
And shouldn’t we keep in mind the distinct possibility that the next virus might single out our young? Don’t we need to rebuild a strong economy to prepare for that awful possibility? An economy in shreds will leave us hopelessly unprepared. Don’t we need to do that now, and not in a year or two, when every last virus has left the country?
If the plan is to wait for a vaccine, that appears to be at least a year or two away. Is it reasonable to live in lockdown for a year or two years? Would even seniors in compromised health want to spend the last stage of their life in isolation from their families? Even if a vaccine is found in a year or so, anyone who gets a flu shot knows that it may or may not be effective. Is it reasonable to put our lives in suspended animation while we wait for a new drug to be discovered?
So unless our leaders have some secret plan to somehow make this virus disappear, shouldn’t we protect the vulnerable as best we can, but start reopening schools and businesses now? Don’t we need to get our kids back to school, and people back to work?
And doesn’t it make sense to take a close look at how Sweden and the other countries that didn’t resort to these draconian, freedom-crushing strategies remained open, so we can learn from them? Are we not simply delaying the inevitable when we adopt knee-jerk measures such as school closures that simply keep the virus around longer?
And finally, are we capable of learning from this experience so we can do better when the next horrid little bug comes along?
Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Singer Alanis Morissette has made an explosive claim about the music industry by saying that almost every woman in the industry has been assaulted, harassed, or raped.
Speaking with U.K. publication The Sunday Times, Morissette, who began her music career in the 1990s when she was just a teenager, talked about the need for “female rage” in the times we live in.
“Female rage gets such a bad rap, but it’s part of being human,” Morissette said. “Not punching someone in the face, but anger channeled into activism or — heaven forbid — raising your voice, or saying no, or protecting your kids, or being a feminist.”
Morissette, who claims to have suffered sexual abuse going back to the age of three, also chastised the stigma that women face for “waiting” to come forward with an allegation.
“First of all, they didn’t wait,” she said. “Second, they face the threat of losing their job, reputation, or not being believed. At best it’s swept under the rug, at worst you are admonished or fired.”
When it comes to the #MeToo movement’s influence on the music industry, Morissette made her most explosive claim, alleging that a majority of women have suffered abuse in one form or another.
“It hasn’t even begun in the music industry. Almost every woman in the music industry has been assaulted, harassed, raped. It’s ubiquitous — more in music, even, than film,” Morissette said, as reported by Variety. “What, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll? By definition it’s crass, sweaty, and aggressive. But it’s only a matter of time before it has its own explosion of stories.”
Indeed, of all the industries to get hit by #MeToo, the music industry seems to have the least amount of bombshell allegations against top industry figures. Other than Russell Simmons, and to some extent, R. Kelly and Michael Jackson, the industry avoided the kind of earth-shattering shakeups as seen by the film and fashion industries. Writing in Forbes this past January, Shannon Lee even wondered if the music industry would ever have its #MeToo moment.
“Despite a fickle reverence for Kesha, and other pop stars that share their experience of sexual assault, the American public has shown little interest in holding high-profile sex criminals in the music industry accountable,” wrote Lee. “R. Kelly retains a loyal fan base, and rapper and convicted child rapist Tekashi 6ix9ine just signed a new $10M record deal while serving time for racketeering.But, will new rape allegations spark an outpouring of testimonies from other survivors — emboldened by the Me Too Movement years after it caught fire — forcing us to finally pay attention?”
Important aspects of our immune system have gone overlooked within the current dominant practice of allopathic medicine. One of these aspects is fever. Sometimes we need a different way of looking at something to recognize its value.
So with that in mind, let’s look at what an “externally-induced fever” can do for the body, according to modern science. Understanding this might help us pause before seeking treatments to suppress a fever that is not actually threatening our well-being. In fact, it could be preserving it.
So what do I mean by an externally-induced fever? It’s a fever that comes from outside the body rather than inside. Basically, it means we heat up the body, like in a sauna. Remarkably, these two types of fever have very similar impacts on our health. And these benefits are something people have known for generations.
The Finnish sauna, Russian banya, Japanese mushi-buro, and Korean jimjilbang are all examples of traditional practices with solid scientific backing. In these similar traditions, a person is exposed to extreme hot temperatures followed by a rapid cooling. Both the heating aspect and the cooling aspect have unique impacts on our immune system. Research has found that imposing dramatic body temperature changes can improve immune function, specifically the type of immune function which many viruses including COVID-19 are known to attack.
Immunity: Learning a Disease
We have two broad categories to our immune systems: the acquired and innate. The acquired immune system comes into play after a new infection comes on the scene and “surprises” us. Since this new bug has never been encountered before, our immune system has not had time to recruit immune cells to mount an adequate defense. However, once the infection has run its course, the acquired immune system will remember that particular pathogen and we will be protected for many years into the future.
So why do we get that feeling of malaise, fatigue, fever and all the other symptoms of a cold and flu? Those symptoms come from the innate immune system. This branch of the immune system is not specific to the particular pathogen and basically reacts to certain pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). The immune system recognizes a PAMP as dangerous and immediately mounts an attack—regardless of whether it is familiar with the pathogen or not.
Some PAMPs are recognized sequences of RNA in COVID-19 and influenza viruses, as well as unique components in the cell walls of yeasts and chains of sugars strung together outside pathogenic bacteria, called lipopolysaccharide.
These unique microbial identifiers are all recognized as PAMPs by our innate immune system.
It is this non-specific early response to a variety of invaders which determines the severity of symptoms we may experience early in the course of infection. Generally speaking, the younger and healthier the individual is, the more aggressive their innate immune response will be and the more likely they will successfully fight off the invader.
An Unknown Virus
I need to preface this discussion with a little science, so bear with me.
There are no randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials specifically dealing with treatments for COVID-19 though one study did find the flu vaccine could make one more susceptible to the virus.
These studies take time and while they are sure to emerge shortly, the rapid development of this pandemic has just not given us this time. Further studies are needed for everything specifically relating to COVID-19.
But that doesn’t mean there are not some important lessons we have learned generally about dealing with viruses or how our immune system functions.
One of our primary defenses against viruses is Type 1 interferon, a cytokine, or immune protein. It is responsible for activating our non-specific innate immunity when the genetic material of PAMPs, such as COVID-19, are identified. When infected cells secrete interferon, this protein signals the healthy cells around the infected cell to prepare to take on the invader.
We know of many similarities between COVID-19 and the other novel coronaviruses of the 21st century such as SARS and MERS. In a review performed in March 2020 at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, researchers found that this group of viruses actually interfered with activation of our innate immune systems by suppressing interferon secretion early in the course of disease.
This means no immediate immune response and all those symptoms created by our immune response. This explains the high rate of asymptomatic carriers, those that don’t show symptoms, who later experience a full-blown case of the disease. It also explains the overall mild nature of the disease in children and young adults.
Children and young adults tend to have a more aggressive innate immune response but this response wanes with age and chronic disease. An analysis of MERS patients who died revealed they had a significantly lower innate immune response due to lower interferon levels than patients who recovered.
The cells that make the compounds that activate our innate immunity are called monocytes and natural killer cells or NK cells. Both of these immunity cell types appear to be depressed and deficient early in the disease course of COVID-19 infected patients.
Hot and Cold
One of the key features of our innate immune response is increased body temperature or fever. Fever burns off pathogens. Fevers of 39.5C (103.1F) were linked to better survival and quicker recovery. Researchers found that a fever could activate monocytes.
And, despite popular belief, short periods of cold exposure did not actually lower immune response. On the contrary, a 1999 study found that cold exposure could stimulate immunity in much the same way fever does.
So when your immune system mounts that fever early in the course of an infection, it is doing exactly what it has been designed for millions of years to do. That means the best thing you can do is not get in its way.
There are always exceptions to every statement and only you and your doctor will know the nuances of your particular metabolism. There are specific signs and symptoms associated with fever which require immediate medical attention. What I am trying to dissuade you from is the knee jerk reaction to treat the fever. You’re not necessarily treating the illness, instead you are blunting your immune response. In most cases, fever is one of the best tools in our immune toolbox.
Unfortunately, many of us have been conditioned to immediately reduce our temperatures at first sign of an increase. We’ve even included the quasi-medical terminology of “low-grade fever” which generously includes any temperature deviation between 98.7F up to 100.4F. The accepted medical definition of a fever is a body temperature of greater than 100.4F. Normal body temperature is defined as a static 98.6F but this is a dynamic number which may deviate for a variety of reasons—an activated immune system being only one possible explanation.
Also, I should make an important disclaimer: This article isn’t intended to guide you in how to treat yourself if you think you are sick—particularly in today’s world of pandemic viruses. I don’t know you or your general health. If you are seeking medical advice, get it from your doctor, preferably one who also understands and incorporates the important role of your body’s immune system.
That said, just as fever is a critical way your body fights infection, the Finnish sauna and its other cultural equivalents reveal another treatment course, though one largely unavailable to people in the United States, especially during the pandemic. (Hot baths can work as well, but because water is on the skin, getting it too hot can cause burns. This makes it is not as effective at raising body temperature safely.)
This practice involves spending time in an extremely hot sauna with temperatures upwards of 200F followed by a rapid cool down by plunging into cold water or even snow in some cases.
This practice has long been considered beneficial to health in the Finnish culture. While similar practices are also followed in Russia, Japan, and Korea, I am focusing on the Finnish sauna simply because of its high rate of use by its people. In a nation of about 5.5 million people, there are roughly 2 million saunas.
A thirty-year-old study from the Annals of Medicine looked at sauna bathing and the incidence of common cold, which non-COVID-19 varieties of coronavirus are frequently responsible for. They found that the group of people who regularly used saunas had half the incidence of the common cold over the three month period that they followed them for in the study than the non-sauna users.
In a study from 1999 in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that acute cold exposure also had an immune-stimulating effect. That effect was specifically seen on monocytes, NK cells and other immune cells and proteins that are all known to be key players in the innate immune response.
Looking at the latest COVID-19 data, Finland has far more favorable COVID-19 numbers than its other Nordic counterparts of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Finland’s total COVID-19 caseload per million people at nearly half and its death rate per million people is nearly one third when compared to other Nordic countries. Interestingly, when we look at these same epidemiological metrics for Russia, Japan, and Korea, they are also more favorable than their geographic neighbors.
My comparison here is far from a scientific study. There are many confounding factors that could explain these differences. But it is food for thought. The scientific data on immune response from increasing core body temperature clearly shows improvements in the particular immune cell which the COVID-19 virus is known to suppress early in its disease course. Whether that increase in core temperature is produced internally from fever or externally from sauna, the effect is essentially the same. When compounded by the additional immune-stimulating effect of acute cold exposure, the impact of spurring the immune system to action can be even more pronounced.
So the next time you think you may be coming down with something, don’t fight against your own immune system. That fever may actually be helping you. From a preventative lifestyle perspective, you can replicate this elegant immune response. This seems to be something the Finns, Russians, Japanese, and Koreans have known for centuries. This might even partly explain why many of us crave a hot bath when we’re under the weather.
Armen Nikogosian, M.D., practices functional and integrative medicine at Southwest Functional Medicine in Henderson, Nev. He is board-certified in internal medicine and a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs. His practice focuses on the treatment of complex medical conditions with a special emphasis on autism spectrum disorder in children, as well as chronic gut issues and autoimmune conditions in adults.
Recent reporting from multiple sources indicates an increase in financial fraud schemes, as scammers have seized upon the ever-growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)a to target healthcare providers and the general public. Many of the schemes attempt to capitalize on high demand, low supply PPE such as N95 (NIOSH)-approved respirator masks, which are among the required PPE for healthcare personnel responding to COVID-19.
When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of a security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised
Consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) NIOSH website to view a list of all NIOSH approved manufacturers of N95 respirator masks and validate approval and certification numbers.
Confirm N95 respirator mask approval status and certification numbers using the NIOSH flyer (Figure 1), the NIOSH website, or the CDC website, which includes examples of identified counterfeit or unapproved N95 respirator masks.
As of 11 March 2020, many large U.S. retailers and suppliers have sold out of their N95 respirator mask inventories and are now warning consumers against the rise of counterfeit versions. A survey of safety masks and respirators on one U.S. e-commerce platform found at least one hundred product listings that were counterfeit or unapproved.
If you believe your organization has purchased counterfeit PPE or COVID-19 testing kits, or were the victim of a fraud or scam, please contact your local FBI Field Office and report details regarding this incident to the Internet Crimes Complaints Center at IC3.gov and/or the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at IPRCenter.gov.
WASHINGTON—An innocuous encounter with a polite young man at a local movie theater was the unknown beginning step toward being sex trafficked for a young Virginian teen.
Susan Young said her daughter had just celebrated her 15th birthday when she met a boy who was “close in age, polite, and well-mannered” while at the movies with friends.
They swapped phone numbers and Facebook information.
“With this seemingly small exchange of information, Courtney had no way of knowing that her life and the life of her family would change forever,” Young said during a recent Justice Department (DOJ) anti-trafficking event.
“The boy was not who he appeared to be. Rather than a sweet, innocent young man, he was an MS-13 gang member. His job was to recruit young girls under the false pretense of friendship, luring them into the dark world of human trafficking.”
“One of the most disturbing but rapidly emerging trends is that of gang-controlled sex trafficking,” Woolf said during a congressional hearing on Dec. 11, 2019.
“Gangs have learned that sex trafficking, particularly of minors, is a low-risk, high-yield criminal enterprise that adequately funds their gang operations throughout the United States and around the world.”
Woolf said gangs, “glorified through Hollywood,” often use violence or threats of violence to control their victims.
Young said that once the MS-13 gang members, who attended her daughter’s high school, found out Courtney was trying to break away from them, they took her to a secluded part of the school’s property and gang-raped her.
“They videotaped that, and told her if she ever told anyone what was happening, they would share the video on social media, and with her friends and family,” Young told The Epoch Times.
“And that episode right there is really what started her whole trafficking. Following that, she was immediately trafficked every day after school. She would tell me that she was staying after school for homework club or yoga club. In fact, the gang was taking her to a nearby house and trafficking her, where eight to 10 gentlemen were waiting. And she had to pretend as if nothing had happened.”
As Courtney was being sex-trafficked by the gang, Young said she found out later that her three younger children— two boys, aged 12 and 11, and a girl who was almost 3 at the time—were also victimized.
On Saturday afternoons, Young and her husband would go for a bike ride at a local park for an hour or so. Little did they know that their house was under constant surveillance and, as they walked out the front door, gang members would enter through the back door.
“The boys were threatened at gunpoint. They both were raped at gunpoint, to keep them silent. They even injected our youngest daughter with drugs. They really used the kids very much against each other to make sure no one talked to the parents, or anyone,” Young said.
The gang members would force Courtney out of the house with them by pointing a gun at her younger sister and saying, “Come with us, or we’re going to shoot your sister right now.”
Young said she and her husband didn’t find out that their sons and younger daughter were abused until a year after Courtney’s situation came to light, “because they were still too scared to speak up and afraid that the gang members were going to come back and get them,” she said.
Young, now the director for Just Ask’s Parent Coalition to End Human Trafficking, said her family fell through the cracks.
She said Courtney tried to seek help 22 times with her school resource officer and school counselor. “They didn’t get back to her once.”
“She did not feel safe to talk to my husband and I—at that time, the gang was threatening her, ‘If you do speak with anybody, we’ll kill your parents, we’ll hurt your little brothers, your sister,’” Young said.
“No one knew how to help our family or how to navigate this delicate situation. The failsafes established to protect families and their children did little to nothing for ours—from the school system to law enforcement, court systems, therapists, doctors.”
Courtney went missing twice over a six-month period—the first time for four days and the second time for two weeks, said Young. Both times, Young said they notified law enforcement and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
“It wasn’t until she was recovered the second time by a law enforcement officer who was trained in the area of human trafficking that we began to fully understand the magnitude of our situation,” she said.
The family moved, and Courtney spent 4 1/2 years in inpatient residential therapy, trying to recover from the trauma, Young said.
“Oftentimes for victims, one of the hardest things for them to do is to reintegrate back into society. And we need to create programs that teach them to do so, how to live a normal life,” she said.
She said it can be daunting for survivors to carry out everyday tasks such as picking out a shirt or deciding what to eat.
“These traffickers have manipulated them and gained so much control over them that they actually lose the ability to think for themselves,” Young said.
Experts say the average lifespan for a child who is pulled into sex trafficking is seven years. Very few get out and even fewer stay out. Drug addiction and violence are par for the course and the trauma bond created by the trafficker can entice a victim back in, even after they’ve been rescued.
Foster Care, Homelessness, and Trafficking
The 2019 State Department trafficking report said children in the U.S. foster care system are at high risk of becoming trafficked.
“Recent reports have consistently indicated that a large number of victims of child sex trafficking were at one time in the foster care system,” the 2019 Trafficking In Persons report states.
In 2019, more than 437,000 children were in foster care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Bill Bedrossian is the CEO of Covenant House in California, which provides residential programs and services to children and youth facing homelessness in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America.
He said that 30 percent to 50 percent of the human trafficking victims that Convenant House works with come from the foster care system, and that traffickers deliberately target foster kids.
“We see traffickers get young victims to try to victimize others through group homes, through foster care networks,” he said.
Bedrossian stressed that child sex trafficking is predominantly a domestic issue. He said 90 percent of the young women who have been trafficked that come through Covenant House are from the United States.
Another group of vulnerable children who are targeted by traffickers are the homeless, including runaways.
Of the more than 23,500 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2019, 1 in 6 were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
Bedrossian cited a recent study directed by Convenant House that showed that 20 percent of young people who experience homelessness also experienced human trafficking.
“And so, by default, we’ve been doing victim services for human trafficking victims over the last 50 years,” Bedrossian said. “But in the last five to 10 years, the victimology has become much different. The sophistication of the traffickers has become much different. The insidiousness of the course of this has become much different.”
Young homeless people are “relatively easy” to lure from the streets with promises of love, protection, food, and financial security, the Covenant House website states.
“For a lot of these young people, they literally have begun being trafficked at 8, 9 years old by their family members, by the gangs, by the street life that they’ve been exposed to,” Bedrossian said.
Convictions and New Challenges
The DOJ convicted 501 sex traffickers in fiscal 2018, up from 471 in fiscal 2017. It took down Backpage.com in 2018, the largest internet site that advertised the sex trafficking of minors and adults. But other sites have since sprung up, including those hosted overseas, which presents an extra challenge for law enforcement.
The NCMEC CyberTipline received 1.1 million reports of child online sexual exploitation in 2014; in 2019, it received 16.9 million reports.
But the challenges with technology remain the most complex for law enforcement to contend with. Tech companies are providing users with more applications that have end-to-end encryption; cryptocurrency hides the money trail; and advertising sites are hosted overseas or on the dark web.
The DOJ has said end-to-end encryption without a backdoor for law enforcement stymies criminal investigations. Tech companies say a backdoor presents a security risk for users.
Victim Services and Moving Forward
While the Youngs slipped through the cracks years ago, more organizations have since sprung up to support survivors and their families.
The DOJ has also poured more funding into victim support services, which are becoming a more integral component of the law enforcement side of trafficking.
During fiscal 2018, the DOJ provided $31.2 million for 45 victim service providers—a significant increase from 18 providers receiving $16.2 million in fiscal 2017.
But, as Young said, gangs have also proliferated.
“It was really hard for us to find a safe place to go and kind of hide the family, so to speak, after our situation,” she said. She said they moved to an area that doesn’t have an MS-13 presence, to their knowledge. However, the surrounding areas do.
“We feel as safe as we can be from our situation,” she said. “We just try to stay in the shadows and not draw any attention to ourselves or to our family.”
Even now, she is learning more about what happened. Recently, she found out that her eldest son was also trafficked with Courtney.
“So he and Courtney, life will always be different for them, it will always move at a much slower pace. They will have to deal with complex PTSD and anxiety and depression—the fear that someone will always come back to get them or will be waiting for them—that will never leave them. I’m always looking for new therapies to try for PTSD and try to help them,” she said.
Courtney is now almost 24 and lives close by, while studying to be a veterinarian. The boys are 20 and 19; one is at college working toward a degree in cybersecurity and the other is about to start college. And the youngest daughter is nearly 12.
The traffickers haven’t faced justice.
Young wants people to understand that they shouldn’t wait until they know of a victim before they take notice of the problem.
“I really just want to empower the public, for them to understand and educate themselves that human trafficking is real. It’s happening every single day.”
A 23-year-old woman who is taking legal action against an NHS gender clinic says she should have been challenged more by medical staff over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.
A judge gave the go-ahead for a full hearing of the case against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.
Lawyers will argue children cannot give informed consent to treatment delaying puberty or helping them to transition.
The Tavistock said it always took a cautious approach to treatment.
Gender identity charity Mermaids said that people face a long wait for access to such services, that they can save lives and that very few people regret their decision.
The clinic based in Hampstead, north-west London, which runs the UK’s only gender-identity development service (GIDS), added that it welcomed an examination of the evidence in this contentious area.
Keira Bell is one of the claimants and will give evidence in the judicial review, which is likely to be heard in early summer.
The second claimant, known only as Mum A, is the mother of a 15-year-old girl with autism, who is awaiting treatment at the clinic.
Keira describes being a tomboy as a child. When asked how strongly she felt the need to change her gender identity, she replied that it gradually built up as she found out more about transitioning online.
Then as she went down the medical route, she said “one step led to another”.
She was referred to the Tavistock GIDS clinic at the age of 16. She said after three one-hour-long appointments she was prescribed puberty blockers, which delay the development of signs of puberty, like periods or facial hair.
She felt there wasn’t enough investigation or therapy before she reached that stage.
“I should have been challenged on the proposals or the claims that I was making for myself,” she said. “And I think that would have made a big difference as well. If I was just challenged on the things I was saying.”
What are puberty blockers?
They are drugs which can pause the development of things like breasts, periods, facial hair and voice breaking
They can be prescribed to children with gender dysphoria who feel their sex at birth doesn’t match up with their gender.
This is meant to give them more time to weigh up their options before they go through the physical changes of puberty.
A year after starting the puberty-blockers she said she was prescribed the male hormone testosterone, which developed male characteristics like facial hair and a deep voice. Three years ago, she had an operation to remove her breasts.
“Initially I felt very relieved and happy about things, but I think as the years go on you start to feel less and less enthusiastic or even happy about things.
“You can continue and dig yourself deeper into this hole or you can choose to come out of it and have the weight lifted off your shoulders.”
She decided to stop taking cross-sex hormones last year and said she was now accepting of her sex as a female. But she was also angry about what had happened to her in the last decade.
“I was allowed to run with this idea that I had, almost like a fantasy, as a teenager…. and it has affected me in the long run as an adult.
“I’m very young. I’ve only just stepped into adulthood and I have to deal with this kind of burden or radical difference – in comparison to others at least.”
Keira’s lawyers will argue that children cannot weigh up the impact such a treatment might have on their future life, including for instance, on their fertility.
Former staff at the clinic have raised concerns that teenagers who want to transition to a different gender are being given puberty blockers without adequate assessment or psychological work.
It has been claimed that children as young as 12 have received the drugs, which block the hormones that lead to puberty-related changes like periods or facial hair.
But she also understands why teenagers arrive at the clinic deeply distressed and desperate to change their gender.
“I did say the same thing years ago when I went to the clinic. I would say it was saving me from suicidal ideation and depression in general and at the time I felt it relieved all those mental health issues I was feeling, alongside gender dysphoria.”
She described her family life as difficult. She also believes if she had felt more accepted by society as she was then, she might not have wanted to change her gender. She added that she wouldn’t have wanted to listen to voices of caution when she was younger.
“I feel I could say anything to my 16-year-old self and I might not necessarily listen at that time. And that’s the point of this case, when you are that young you don’t really want to listen.
“So I think it’s up to these institutions, like the Tavistock, to step in and make children reconsider what they are saying, because it is a life-altering path.”
Dr Polly Carmichael is the consultant clinical psychologist who runs the Gender Identity Development Service. She praised Keira for speaking out, but insisted the clinic did have a thorough assessment process.
She described their approach as cautious and said they work closely with children and their families to reach the right decisions for them, with fewer than half of those seen going onto take puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones.
“This is a really complex area with strong feelings on all sides. And at its centre, the young people we work with – they come to us in often really great distress around their sense of themselves.
“We’re talking about identity here, their identity, and a feeling that their gender identity does not match that body.”
She believes the judicial review, when it happens, will be an important opportunity to ensure the evidence around treatment and a child’s ability to consent is thoroughly examined.
“This is a heated debate at the moment. And I think taking a step back – and having an external considered review of the evidence and people’s feelings about the most appropriate way to support young people – can be nothing but beneficial at this point.”
Gender identity charity Mermaids provides support to trans and gender-diverse young people and their families.
Its chief executive, Susie Green, has defended the current process, which she said was based on years of research, and said she hoped the judicial review would “shine a light” on young people’s experiences.
She told BBC News that many people who approached the charity were “very distressed” and that research had suggested puberty blockers could help reduce rates of self-harm and suicide.
And she said it was “not proportionate” to take away services because of “a very small number” of people who regretted undergoing medical intervention.
“In the first instance the waiting time is well over two years and when young people get into the service there is then a process which takes well into a year before medical intervention is considered,” she told BBC News.
“The process is very detailed they get a lot of information about the benefits, the pitfalls and the projected outcomes of what comes of any kind of medication. So they make informed consent and that underpins the NHS.”