The Epoch Times – Be Warned

A sample edition of The Epoch Times showed up in my mail box today. I have also noticed some other aggressive promotions recently . Some months back I did some preliminary research on the publication and I came to the conclusion this is another conspiracy publication right up there with  the Qanon and Bereitbart News.

If you still have reservations about my conclusions read the wikipedia  entry that I have posted below…….

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“The Epoch Times is a far-right[12] international multi-language newspaper and media company affiliated with the Falun Gong new religious movement, based in the United States.[17] The newspaper is part of the Epoch Media Group, which also operates New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television.[18] The Epoch Times has websites in 35 countries[19] but is blocked in mainland China.[19]

The Epoch Times opposes the Chinese Communist Party,[20] and promotes far-right politicians in Europe,[3][5] and backs President Donald Trump in the U.S.;[21] a 2019 report by NBC News showed it to be the second-largest funder of pro-Trump Facebook advertising after the Trump campaign.[18][22][23] The Epoch Media Group’s news sites and YouTube channels have spread conspiracy theories such as QAnon and anti-vaccination propaganda.[18][24][25] The organization frequently promotes other Falun Gong affiliated groups, such as the performing arts company, Shen Yun.[14][21]

History

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by John Tang and other Chinese Americans affiliated with the Falun Gong new religious movement.[26] Tang was a graduate student in Georgia at the time; he began the newspaper in his basement.[21] The founders said they were responding to censorship inside China and a lack of international understanding about the Chinese government’s repression of Falun Gong.[27][28] In May 2000, the paper was first published in the Chinese language in New York, with the web launch in August 2000.[29]

By 2003, The Epoch Times website and group of newspapers had grown into one of the largest Chinese-language news sites and newspaper groups outside China, with local editions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and major Western European countries.[30] The first English edition launched online in 2003, followed by the New York print edition in 2004.[29]

The newspaper sources its journalists from staff living in the West.[31][32][33]

Reports by Reporters Without Borders in 2019 and the Hoover Institution in 2018 called The Epoch Times one of the few Chinese-language media outlets in the United States independent from China’s control or influence.[34][35]

Finances

According to NBC News, “little is publicly known about the precise ownership, origins or influences of The Epoch Times,” and it is loosely organized into several regional tax free non-profits, under the umbrella of the Epoch Media Group, together with New Tang Dynasty Television.[18][21]

The newspaper’s revenue has increased rapidly in recent years, from $3.8 million in 2016 to $8.1 million in 2017 (with spending of $7.2 million) and $12.4 million in 2018.[36] Tax documents of the Epoch Media Group indicated that between 2012 and 2016, the group received $900,000 from a principal at Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund led by the conservative political donor Robert Mercer.[37] Chris Kitze, a former NBC executive and creator of the fake news website Before It’s News who also manages a cryptocurrency hedge fund, joined the paper’s board as vice president in 2017.[36]

A 2020 report in The New York Times called The Epoch Times‘ recent wealth “something of a mystery.” Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News who produced a documentary with NTD, said “I’d give them a number” on a project budget and “they’d come back and say, ‘We’re good for that number.'” Former employees say they were told The Epoch Times is financed by subscriptions, ads and donations from wealthy Falun Gong practitioners.[21]

Distribution

The Epoch Times says it hosts websites in 21 languages and 35 countries, and has print editions in eight languages: Chinese, English, Spanish, Hebrew, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian.[19]In April 2019, videos and ads from the Epoch Media Group including The Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty (NTD) totaled 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, according to the analytics company Tubular. That ranked it 11th among all video creators, and ahead of any other traditional news publisher, according to NBC News.[18]

Censorship

In some cases The Epoch Times operates in a hostile overseas environment, in which “overseas Chinese media companies choosing to remain independent or publish non-approved content become the targets of an aggressive campaign of elimination or control.”[38] In one instance Chinese diplomatic officials made threats against media for reporting Falun Gong-related content; in other cases, advertisers and distributors have been threatened not to support The Epoch Times. Communist Party authorities have been accused of resorting to “militant methods” against the newspaper and its staff, including attacking staff and destroying computer equipment.[38]

According to a Reporters Without Borders report, Epoch’s chief technical officer, Li Yuan, was attacked and beaten in his Atlanta, Georgia, home on February 8, 2006, by suspected Chinese government agents who took his two laptops.[34]

In 2006, the International Federation of Journalists criticized what it called a “dirty war” against The Epoch Times, citing incidents such as The Epoch Times‘s Hong Kong printing plant being broken into and damaged by unidentified men, and Epoch’s offices in Sydney and Toronto receiving suspicious mail envelopes suspected of containing toxic materials. The IFJ also noted incidences of Epoch Times staff and advertisers being intimidated, and newspapers being confiscated, in what it characterized as “a vicious witch-hunt aimed at crushing the voice of dissent.”[39]

The newspaper was briefly banned from Malaysia after coming under reported pressure by the Chinese Communist Party.[40]

In 2016, the newspaper was removed from the pharmacy of Australian National University, after the president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association confronted the pharmacist and threw out the papers. The incident drew national media coverage over questions of Chinese government sponsored overseas student organizations.[41][42]

In November 2019, Reporters Without Borders called on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to protect press freedoms after The Epoch Times said four masked arsonists with batons had damaged its printing press.[43]

Relationship to Falun Gong

In 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “three new U.S.-based, Chinese-language media outlets that provide provocative reporting about the Communist Party, government oppression and social unrest in China (namely The Epoch Times, Sound of Hope, and NTDTV) have ties to the Falun Gong spiritual movement.” When interviewed, executives at each outlet claimed they did not represent the Falun Gong movement as a whole.[20]

Associated Press reporter Nahal Toosi wrote in 2006 that it is “technically inaccurate” to say that Falun Gong owns The Epoch Times, although many of the newspaper’s staffers are Falun Gong practitioners.[44] Toosi noted “many observers” have said Falun Gong uses the newspaper for its public relations campaigns, and the paper is connected with the group and carries sympathetic coverage of it.[44][45][46][40][47]

The English Epoch Times chair Stephen Gregory denied in 2006 that Epoch Times is directly connected to Falun Gong.[44] Independent reporters in the US repeatedly confirm the connection.[18][21]

In 2003 sociologist Yuezhi Zhao wrote that the paper “displays an indisputable ideological and organizational affinity with Falun Gong” and that it strongly emphasizes negative portrayals of the Chinese government and positive portrayals of Falun Gong. Per Zhao, Epoch portrays itself as neutral, independent, and public-interest oriented.[30]

Nick Couldry and James Curran wrote in 2003 that the paper represents a “major step in the evolution of Falun Gong-related alternative media”, and may be part of a de facto media alliance with democracy activists in exile.[48]

Canadian scholar Clement Tong wrote[45][49][50][51][52] The Epoch Times “operates as a mouthpiece for” Falun Gong without an official statement of affiliation with the movement.[50]

In 2008, David Ownby, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the Université de Montréal and the author of Falun Gong and the Future of China, said the newspaper is set up by Falun Gong practitioners with their own money.[53] He described The Epoch Times as wishing to be taken seriously as a global newspaper rather than being judged on the basis of its strong association with Falun Gong.[53][54] He wrote: “Epoch Times is a newspaper with a mission, that of reporting on issues bearing on human rights throughout the world, which allows for considerable focus on China and Falun Gong.”[55]

In 2009, Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, appeared at the newspaper’s headquarters in Manhattan and called for the expansion of The Epoch Times to “become regular media.”[18] Li has referred to The Epoch Times as “our media”, along with the NTD digital production company and the Shen Yun dance troupe.[18][56] Two former employees said that top editors traveled to meet with Li at Falun Gong’s compound, Dragon Springs, where Li weighed in on editorial and strategic decisions; The Epoch Times denied that a meeting took place.[21]

Former employees of The Epoch Times have noted the involvement of Falun Gong practitioners in the management and editorial process.[18] Three anonymous former employees said Epoch Times workers were encouraged to attend weekly “Fa study” sessions outside work hours to study the teachings of Li Hongzhi.[57] Former employees have said that speaking negatively about The Epoch Times amounts to disobeying Li.[21]

The Epoch Times runs frequent promotional stories about the Shen Yun dance troupe that is affiliated with Falun Gong. The New Yorker’s review of Shen Yun called The Epoch Times “the world’s foremost purveyor of Shen Yun content.”[58]

In 2019, an NBC News investigative report suggested The Epoch Times’s political coverage may be affected by Falun Gong believers’ anticipation of a judgment day in which communists are sent to hell, and Falun Gong’s allies are spared. Former Epoch Times employees told NBC News that President Donald Trump is viewed as a key anti-communist ally,[18] allegedly hastening that judgment day.[59]

Notable coverage

The paper carried an interview with outspoken Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders, wherein Anders alleged that the Chinese government used gifts and business deals in attempts to influence Canadian political decisions.[60][61]

Editorial stance

The Epoch Times is an ardent opponent of the Chinese Communist Party.[18] In recent years the newspaper has also received significant attention for its favorable coverage of the Trump administration,[18][22] the German far-right,[3][62] and the French far-right.[5]

The Epoch Times “generally stayed out of U.S. politics” before 2016, “unless they dovetailed with Chinese interests,” according to a report by NBC News. Ben Hurley, a former Epoch Times employee until 2013, stated that the newspaper was critical toward abortion and LGBT and that Falun Gong practitioners “saw communism everywhere” including in internationalist figures like Hillary Clinton and Kofi Annan, “but there was more room for disagreements in the early days.” Since 2016, according to NBC News, The Epoch Times has promoted favorable coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, and emphasized issues such as Islamic terrorism and illegal immigration to the United States. It has also emphasized “what the publication claims is a labyrinthian, global conspiracy led by [Hillary] Clinton and former President Barack Obama to tear down Trump.”[18]

A former Epoch Times reporter who covered the 2016 campaign, Steve Klett, said his editors had encouraged favorable coverage of Trump after he won the Republican nomination, and that “They seemed to have this almost messianic way of viewing Trump as the anti-Communist leader who would bring about the end of the Chinese Communist Party.”[21] After Trump was elected, The Epoch Times hired Brendan Steinhauser, a Tea Party strategist, to reach out to more conservatives and encourage the Trump administration to oppose the persecution of Falun Gong.[21]

The Epoch Times editor-in-chief Jasper Fakkert wrote in a letter to readers: “We see the Trump administration’s efforts to change socialist policies in America, as well as set policies to counter infiltration and subversion by China, as remarkable reversals from past policies, and sincere efforts that, if fully realized, will benefit America and the world as a whole.”[22]

The Epoch Times picks up mainstream newswire stories and in some places can resemble a community newspaper.[63] According to sociologist Yuezhi Zhao, “While mainstream newspapers typically treat Web versions as an extension of the already-existing print version, The Epoch Times website serves as the master for all its worldwide papers.”[30]

The Epoch Times is known for alleging conspiracies involving former Communist Party general secretary Jiang Zemin,[64] under whose administration Falun Gong was suppressed in China.

The newspaper is at odds with the Taiwanese-owned and U.S.-based Chinese language newspaper World Journal, accusing it of being a “megaphone for the evil Chinese Communist Party.”[64]

In September 2017, The German edition of the newspaper, The Epoch Times Deutschland, which became Web-only in 2012, was described by online magazine The China File as being aligned with the German far-right, and attractive to supporters of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the anti-immigrant group Pegida.[3] Stefanie Albrecht, a reporter for the German broadcaster RTL who spent several days inside the Berlin office of The Epoch Times while investigating the far right, said that The Epoch Times staffers she met had no journalistic training and did not check facts, trusting instead in the alternative sources they consulted.[5]

In France, The Epoch Times gives “an unfettered platform to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the patriarch of the French far right, and his daughter, Marine, who leads the nationalist party her father founded,” according to The New Republic.[5]

Editorials

Nine commentaries on the Communist Party

In November 2004, the Chinese version of The Epoch Times published a series of editorials titled “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party.” The editorials argued that China would not be free or prosperous until it was rid of the party, which it said was at odds with China’s cultural and spiritual values.[65]

Millions of copies of the articles circulated in China through e-mails, faxes, and underground printing houses, according to a guest opinion article in The Christian Science Monitor by Caylan Ford, a former staff writer for The Epoch Times. Ford wrote that the campaign differed from the 1989 and 2008 democracy movements in China by drawing on Buddhist and Daoist spirituality.[65]

In 2005, organizers of an associated campaign urging people to quit the Chinese Communist Party said that more than 2 million people had resigned.[66]

A report by the OpenNet Initiative said that 90% of websites mentioning the phrase “Nine Commentaries” were blocked in mainland China as of 2005.[67][68]

In 2012, a former People’s Liberation Army air force officer testified to the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China that he had been sentenced to four years of prison for distributing a “Nine Commentaries” DVD in Beijing.[69][non-primary source needed]

The “Tuidang” movement to quit the Chinese Communist Party was selected as the one of the top global events in 2011 by Russian economist Andrey Illarionov, who cited claims by The Epoch Times that over 100 million people had quit.[70]

According to China scholar David Ownby, the Nine Commentaries are a “condemnation of communism and a direct indictment of the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule in China.” While acknowledging the “unnecessary violence” the Chinese Communist Party has inflicted, Ownby finds that the lack of balance and nuance in tone and style makes the editorials resemble “anti-Communist propaganda written in Taiwan in the 1950s.”[55]

Controversies

The Epoch Times has championed President Donald Trump’s Spygate conspiracy theory in its news coverage and advertising, and the Epoch Media Group’s Edge of Wonder videos on YouTube have spread the far-right, pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.[18]

The Edge of Wonder hosts, according to The Daily Dot, “embrace QAnon completely” even though “almost nothing QAnon has foretold has actually taken place.”[71] An NBC News report found that two of Edge of Wonder’s hosts have been a creative director and chief photo editor at The Epoch Times respectively. The newspaper promoted Edge of Wonder videos in dozens of Facebook posts through 2019.[18]

During the February 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucuses, The Epoch Times shared viral disinformation from the conservative group Judicial Watch that falsely alleged inflated voter rolls.[72] The claim, which went viral on Facebook, was debunked by fact checkers and the Iowa secretary of state.[73][74] A Harvard media expert quoted by NBC News said The Epoch Times employed a “classic disinformation tactic” known as “trading up the chain,” in which false stories are repackaged and shared.[72]

In September 2018, The Epoch Times photographer Samira Bouaou broke White House protocol and handed Trump a folder during an official event.[75]

On August 13, 2020, The White House invited reporters from The Epoch Times and the right-wing news outlet Gateway Pundit to a press briefing. According to a report by The Washington Post, the “Gateway Pundit and Epoch Times both jumped the line with the White House’s blessing starting on Thursday”, prompting objections from the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.[76][77]

During a six-month period in 2019, The Epoch Times spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 Facebook ads that NBC News said were “pro-Trump advertisements.” NBC said the amount spent was more than any group except the Trump campaign itself.[18][23] Political ad spending on Facebook in April 2019 through an account called “Coverage of the Trump Presidency by The Epoch Times” exceeded any politician’s spending except Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.[78] Journalist Judd Legum wrote in May 2019 that The Epoch Times ads were “boosting Donald Trump and floating conspiracy theories about Joe Biden.”[78]

In August 2019, Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising on its platform, after finding that the newspaper broke Facebook’s political transparency rules by publishing pro-Trump subscription ads through sockpuppet pages such as “Honest Paper” and “Pure American Journalism.”[59][25] A Facebook representative told NBC: “Over the past year we removed accounts associated with The Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems.”[59]

The Epoch Times publisher, Stephen Gregory, wrote in response that the paper did not intend to violate Facebook’s rules. The video ads, he wrote, “are overtly Epoch Times advertisements for our subscriptions,” and “discuss The Epoch Times’ editorial and feature content and encourage people to subscribe to our print newspaper.”[59]

As Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising, the newspaper shifted its spending to YouTube. The Epoch Times has spent more than $1.8 million on YouTube ads, some promoting conspiracy theories, since May 2018.[57][21]

In October 2019, the fact-checking website Snopes reported that The Epoch Times is closely linked to a large network of Facebook pages and groups called The BL (The Beauty of Life) that shares pro-Trump views and conspiracy theories such as QAnon. The BL has spent at least $510,698 on Facebook advertising. Hundreds of the ads were removed for violations of Facebook’s advertising rules. The BL network of pages has 28 million followers on Facebook in total, according to Snopes. The editor-in-chief of The BL recently worked as editor-in-chief of The Epoch Times, and several other BL employees are listed as current or former employees of The Epoch Times. The BL is registered in Middletown, New York, to an address that also is registered to Falun Gong’s Sound of Hope Radio Network and is associated with the YouTube series Beyond Science, but Snopes found “the outlet as a whole is literally the English-language edition of Epoch Times Vietnam.”[79][80] Snopes found that The BL uses more than 300 fake Facebook profiles based in Vietnam and other countries, using names, stock photos and celebrity photos in their profiles to emulate Americans, to administer more than 150 pro-Trump Facebook groups amplifying its content.[80][81]

An unnamed representative of The BL wrote to Snopes that “The BL has NO connection with The Epoch Times,” and a “few of our staff has job experience … working in The Epoch Times, but now they are working full time in The BL.” The Epoch Times’ publisher, Stephen Gregory, said “The Epoch Times is not affiliated with the BL.”[79]

In December 2019, Facebook announced it removed a large network of accounts, pages, and groups linked to The BL and Epoch Media Group for coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign actor. The network had 55 million followers on Facebook and Instagram, and $9.5 million had been spent on Facebook ads through its accounts.[82]

The New York Times reported that The BL had used fake profile photos generated by artificial intelligence. The Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab director Graham Brookie said the coordinated network of fake accounts demonstrated “an eerie, tech-enabled future of disinformation.” Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said, “What’s new here is that this is purportedly a U.S.-based media company leveraging foreign actors posing as Americans to push political content. We’ve seen it a lot with state actors in the past.”[83][84]

COVID-19 MISINFORMATION

The Epoch Times is identified as spreading misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic in print and via social media including Facebook and YouTube.[85][86] It has promoted anti-China rhetoric and conspiracy theories around the coronavirus outbreak, for example through an 8-page special edition called “How the Chinese Communist Party Endangered the World”, which was distributed unsolicited in April 2020 to mail customers in areas of the United States, Canada, and Australia.[87][88] In the newspaper, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is known as the “CCP virus”, and a commentary in the newspaper posed the question, “is the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan an accident occasioned by weaponizing the virus at that [Wuhan P4 virology] lab?”[85][87] The paper’s editorial board also claimed that COVID-19 patients can potentially be cured by “condemning the CCP.”[36]

The misinformation tracker NewsGuard called the French page of The Epoch Times one of the “super-spreaders” of COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook, citing an Epoch Times article that suggested the virus was artificially created.[89][90]

A story in The Epoch Times on February 17, 2020, shared a map from the internet that falsely alleged massive sulfur dioxide releases from crematoriums during the COVID-19 pandemic in China, speculating that 14,000 bodies may have been burned.[91] A fact check by AFP reported that the map was a NASA forecast taken out of context.[91]

A widely viewed video released by The Epoch Times on April 7, 2020, was flagged by Facebook as “partly false” for “the unsupported hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 is a bioengineered virus released from a Wuhan research laboratory.” The video featured Judy Mikovits, an anti-vaccination activist.[92][93] The fact-checker Health Feedback said of the video that “several of its core scientific claims are false and its facts, even when accurate, are often presented in a misleading way.”[86]

A story by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on April 29, 2020, reported that some Canadians were upset to receive a special edition of The Epoch Times that called COVID-19 the “CCP virus”. Later the CBC retracted a headline on its story that had quoted a recipient saying the special edition was “racist and inflammatory”, and the CBC also retracted a claim that The Epoch Times edition had concluded that COVID-19 was a bioweapon.[87][94] Opinion columns published by The Toronto Sun accused the CBC of bias against The Epoch Times[95][96] and said the CBC’s report may have misled readers into thinking The Epoch Times was spreading anti-Asian sentiment.[96]

Removal of TruthMedia from Facebook

On August 6, 2020, Facebook removed hundreds of fake accounts by a digital company called TruthMedia that promoted Epoch Times and NTD content and pro-Trump conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and protests in the United States.[97][98] The operation included 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts,[99] which in total were followed by more than 2 million people.[98] Snopes and NBC News reported that TruthMedia had ties to the Epoch Media Group,[100][98] but Stephen Gregory, publisher of The Epoch Times, denied this.[98]

TruthMedia, now banned from Facebook, continues to operate YouTube channels in Chinese, English, Japanese, and Vietnamese, and has accounts on Pinterest and Twitter.[97] It appears to have begun a petition to the White House to “start calling the novel coronavirus the CCP virus.”[98][97]

Assessments

Ming Xia, a political science professor at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, wrote in 2007 that The Epoch Times represents part of Falun Gong‘s effort to expand to non-practitioners, and “is part of the Falun Gong strategy to embed itself into the large civil society for influence and legitimacy.”[101] In 2018 he described The Epoch Times staff as largely part-time and volunteer, and said they “do not follow the protocols professional journalists abide by.”[75]

The misinformation tracker NewsGuard said The Epoch Times “fails to meet several basic standards of credibility and transparency.”[19]

The Epoch Times has been criticized by some scholars for biases, particularly regarding the Chinese Communist Party and mainland China issues, as well as for being a “mouthpiece” of the Falun Gong movement.[45][49][51][46][40][47] James To, a New Zealand political scientist, described The Epoch Times as the “primary mouthpiece” of Falun Gong, writing that it “lacks credibility”, despite the newspaper posing a “viable threat to the CCP” by publishing articles about the party’s negative aspects.[102] In his book Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China’s Version of Twitter and Why, University of Toronto research fellow Jason Q. Ng referred to the paper’s coverage of mainland China issues as “heavily biased against the Communist Party” and thus its reportage “should be viewed skeptically.”[103]

A 2018 report by conservative think-tank the Hoover Institution called The Epoch Times one of the few independent Chinese-language media outlets in the United States not taken over by businessmen sympathetic to the Chinese government. The report also said that reports on China by The Epoch Times and other outlets affiliated with Falun Gong, which is banned from China, are “uneven.”[35]

Seth Hettna wrote in The New Republic that The Epoch Times “has built a global propaganda machine, similar to Russia’s Sputnik or RT, that pushes a mix of alternative facts and conspiracy theories that has won it far-right acolytes around the world.”[5]

Joan Donovan of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University called The Epoch Times “a known disinformation operation.”[72]

Ben Collins of NBC News called The Epoch Times a “pro-Trump conspiracy website.”[84]

The paper has also been lauded by some political commentators and media experts. Ethan Gutmann of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative think tank, has characterized The Epoch Times as a leader in political analysis of the Chinese regime, writing: “With the “Chinese Regime in Crisis” series, Epoch Times has finally and indisputably arrived. Any China expert who wants to save face by pretending the paper doesn’t exist can continue to do so—for a little while anyway—but they had better be reading it in secret.”[104]

Hong Kong Economic Journal‘s former editor-in-chief and scholar Lian Yi-zheng [zh] argued that that while The Epoch Times’s connections to Falun Gong and its organ harvesting claims are controversial, the paper has often been correct in its analysis of power plays in Beijing,[105] and that it often receives high level leaks from informants inside mainland China[verification needed].[106]

James Bettinger, a professor of communications at Stanford University and the director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, said “Even if Epoch Times is not associated with Falun Gong, if they consistently write about Falun Gong in the same perspective, or if there are no articles examining Falun Gong, people would perceive it as being not credible.”[63] Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley, said in 2005 that “It’s hard to vouch for their quality because it’s difficult to corroborate, but it’s not something to be dismissed as pure propaganda.”[32]

In his 2008 book on Falun Gong, David Ownby wrote that The Epoch Times articles are “well written and interesting, if occasionally idiosyncratic in their coverage.”[55][107][108] According to Ownby, the newspaper has been praised and also criticized for a perceived bias against the CCP, and support of Falun Gong practitioners and other dissidents such as Tibetans, Taiwanese independence advocates, democracy activists, Uyghurs and others. The paper, therefore, is often assessed in light of its connection to Falun Gong, rather than a thorough analysis of its editorial content.[109]

Jiao Guobiao, a former Beijing University journalism professor who was dismissed after criticizing the Propaganda Department, proposed that even if The Epoch Times published only negative information highly critical of the CCP, the weight of their attacks could never begin to counterbalance the positive propaganda the party publishes about itself. In addressing media balance, Jiao noted that the Chinese public lacked negative, critical information regarding their country. As such, he noted for a need of media balance based on the principles of freedom, equality, and legality, and that media balance “is the result of the collective imbalances of all.”[49]

In 2010, The Epoch Times successfully defended its reporting in the Canadian court system,[110] when a publisher it had reported on, Crescent Chau of Les Presses Chinoises, sued for libel and lost at the Superior Court of Quebec.[111][112] In examining the case, John Gordon Miller, a Canadian journalist and media professor, noted that articles in question “appear to be thoroughly and professionally reported.”[113][112]

Hayes Brown of Buzzfeed News called The Epoch Times “one of the staunchest defenders of Donald Trump‘s presidency.”[22]

U.S. Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, called The Epoch Times “our favorite paper.”[57]

Haifeng Huang, a professor of political science, said, “I’m not exactly clear why they have become such a major pro-Trump voice” but “part of it is perhaps because they regard President Trump as tough on the Chinese government and therefore a natural ally for them.”[57]

The web-only, German edition of the paper, Epoch Times Deutschland, has been criticized by media analysts[114] for its favorable coverage of far right populist groups such as the Alternative for Germany and Pegida, both of which proclaim anti-immigrant views, and promote skepticism towards mainstream German media and politicians.[3] A German media report described the outlet as a “favorite” of Pegida supporters, along with Sputnik News and Kopp Report; and found that its articles which were critical of immigration have been shared almost daily.[62]

A report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank, said the German edition of The Epoch Times “primarily runs anti-West, anti-American and pro-Kremlin content—a high proportion of this content is based on unverified information.”[5][115]

In December 2019, the English Wikipedia deprecated the English and Chinese online versions of The Epoch Times as an “unreliable source” to use as a reference in Wikipedia. The publication has been described as “an advocacy group for the Falun Gong, and… a biased or opinionated source that frequently publishes conspiracy theories.”[116] “

THIS IS NOT A CREDIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION AND ANYTHING THAT IS PUBLISHED IN THIS NEWSPAPER SHOULD BE VIEWED WITH A HIGH DEGREE OF SUSPICION.

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW CORRUPTING SUCH PUBLICATIONS CAN BE……. THEY RELY ON A KERNEL OF TRUTH

“The most effective disinformation is that which has a kernel of truth to it, is that which kind of flies under the radar, doesn’t really break any guidelines,” said Claire Wardle of First Draft, which educates journalists and others about what misinformation is and how to spot it. “It’s much more hyper-partisan. It’s much more misleading than completely outright-false falsehoods.” The Epoch Times has shared misinformation and conspiracy theories in the past, and was banned from advertising on Facebook for trying to bypass political spending rules — though it is not alone in accusing China of coronavirus coverup.

Wardle says people who read the special edition of the Epoch Times may not be completely convinced about its findings, but will have been left with questions about what their governments are telling them. That is a technique of disinformation actors who want people to question as much as possible authoritative sources,” she said.  “Ultimately, you’re no longer going to your trusted news site or the WHO or your government even for information. You’re left thinking, ‘I can’t trust anybody.'”

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The Pandemic – Been There , Done That

Some one , some where at some time said  “those who forget their history are doomed to relive it”. A case in point is the great “Spanish Flu Pandemic” of  one hundred years ago.  Despite a monumental growth in the knowledge of viral diseases and the use of Public Health measures  to combat them, the roll out of the current Covid-19 pandemic is a virtual replay of 100 years ago. From a readily defined ground zero infection  both pandemics have spread across the world infecting and killing millions of people. Against very similar backgrounds of disorganization, lack of political will, disinformation and the unwillingness of the general population to play by some very basic public health rules both pandemics have played out in remarkably similar fashion. This video review of “The   Spanish Flu” of the early part of the 20th century is well worth watching to clear our heads and get a grip on how to deal with the current pandemic.

Here is my take on the video and and the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Ground Zero. In both instances the ground zero infections have been more or less identified. Despite its name the Spanish Flu did not originate in Spain. Its origins can be traced to a Military camp in Fort Riley in Kansas in the USA . Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan China. In both instances international travel played a part in the spread of the disease. In the first instance troops moving between the US and Europe and their involvement in various theaters of war was a major spreader of the virus. In the second instance international air travel in the modern world was a major contributing factor in the rapid spread of Covid-19.
  • Racial slanders. A virus does not have a race. The Spanish Flu was not Spanish and only became so named because of wide spread reporting of the disease in Spain. This reporting was due to the war time press restrictions in the countries at war. Spain was neutral with no press restrictions on the reporting of the disease. In 2020 attempts to tag the Covid-19 as a Chinese virus are misplaced political attempts to shift blame away from failed local policies.  Accusations that China suppressed knowledge of the virus are not strictly true. At the beginning there were some minor missteps by the Chinese but once the  disease was recognized the Chinese were very quick to get the word out and disseminate the genetic knowledge of the virus. This action and the rapid response of a number of nations is responsible for the slowing the spread of the virus in a number of jurisdictions.
  • Denial. In both pandemics there were serious attempts to dismiss the viruses as nothing worse than the common cold or flu. Six months into the Covid-19 pandemics the notions that it is no worse than a cold or flu are still being circulated.
  • Waves of infection. In the Spanish Flue Pandemic there were at least three waves of infection. The second wave was complicated by a mutation of the virus into a more  virulent form. Although there are no indications (yet) of a deadly mutation of Covid-19 there is every indication that a second wave and possibly a third wave is on the way. There is also no knowledge of the long term effects of the infection and viruses do have a nasty way of coming up with surprises that are easily overlooked at the beginning. Look how long it took to recognize the relationship between the “harmless”  childhood disease German Measles and the birth defects in children born from infected pregnant women?
  • Social Distancing and treatment. In both pandemics there was (is) no natural immunity and treatment options were (are) limited and there were (are) no developed vaccines. In the absence of a vaccine the most effective means of restricting the spread of viruses relies on public health measures such as face masks, social distancing and contract tracing. Jurisdictions with the most success in slowing the spread of the virus in both pandemics were the ones that went into hard and fast lock downs of local populations. By restricting travel and social gatherings, the promotion of the wearing of masks and improved hygiene protocols, the “locked down” jurisdictions fared much better in controlling the diseases and resulted in better economic outcomes. In the current pandemic the urge to hastily end lock downs and get life back to “normal” should be resisted. The old story “short term gain that leads to long term pain” needs  to be remembered.
  • Immunity and Vaccines.  President Donald Trump has almost got it right. Without a vaccine the Covid-19 virus it will probably “disappear”, not exactly the right word to use,  in a couple of years but the question is at what cost?. The population of the USA in 1919 was roughly 106 million and over the two year plus time span of the pandemic the death toll in the USA from the virus was 675,000. The current population of the USA is around 328 million. That is three times the population of 1919 and three times more potential infections. Over the current ten months of the Covid-19 pandemic the death toll in the USA  is 230,000.   There was no vaccine available during the Spanish Flu pandemic and the virus “ran it’s course”. The situation with Covid-19 is similar. Although there are vaccines on the horizon it may take several years to roll them out to the general population and, given the current political climate, there are significant sections of the population who may be unwilling to use the vaccines. Even if accepted the potential effectiveness of any  vaccine is unknown. Without effective public health measures and the public’s compliance with “the rules” the total deaths in the USA over the next twelve months could go well beyond 400,000.  For the Covid-19 virus we do have a bit of a head start in vaccine development. The actual viral cause of the Spanish Flu was not really identified until the 1930s. At the beginning they did not even know it was a viral disease. The first potential causative agent was a bacteria eventually identified as Hemophilus influenzae. Although no longer considered the agent  causing Spanish Flu  Hemophilus influenzae remains a significant  cause of bacterial infections. The final identification of the causative agent of Spanish Flu occurred years after the pandemic had run its course. The Covid-19 virus was identified within weeks of the first infections and the genetic mapping of the virus was rapidly shared around the world. This mapping is an essential tool in developing appropriate vaccines.  So vaccine development will probably advance very quickly but there are still many unknowns that need to be investigated. The earliest roll out of a vaccine is at least another year, possibly two, into the future. Will it be effective? Will it be a one shot dose or will it require follow up shots every year? These are only a few of the unknowns out there.
  • Disorganization and political turmoil. One hundred years ago, given  the lack of knowledge of viral infections and the havoc of World War I an organized response to the pandemic was less than satisfactory. In 1919 that was understandable. In 2020 the same excuse cannot be made and yet the response in some highly developed and normally well organized counties is a virtual replay of what happened 100 years ago. Various jurisdictions implemented conflicting  policies and procedures, or failed to implement policies that could  slow the spread of the virus. Responses have become politicized and even the simple wearing of masks has become a political issue. This has impeded the implementation of a very simple tool for slowing the spread of the virus.  The shame of it all is that Public Health Authorities had been warning governments around the world for years that it wasn’t a case of  “If” but rather “when” the next pandemic would hit. They were ignored and in some instances pandemic planning was dismissed and even dismantled.

Every body wants to get back to “normal”. That is, the way it was before the pandemic struck. That is not going to happen. We have to recognize there are now two worlds. The world before Covid-19 and the world after Covid-19. They are two very different worlds and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. As my buddy Douglas Francis Mitchell would say “Better get used to it folks”.

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Read any Good Books lately? (#16) – The Surfing Years

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

This book was included in President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List 
 
“Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. 
Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships forged in challenging waves.
 
Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only gang in a tough school in Honolulu. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he discovers the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissects the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, and navigates the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.
 
Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little-understood art.” ……….. Amazon Books.

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In reading this book I recall my early years in Australia. This book is a reminder of the golden years of surfing that was such a significant part of my youth. Australia has the reputation of being the driest continent on the planet and at 59,736 km it also has the sixth longest coastline in the world. While the country’s cultural mythology is dominated by “the Outback” the ocean is the country’s playground.  Like most youth living within reach of the Australian coast I grew up in and around the ocean. In my early teen years I learnt to body surf while on summer vacations with my family at East’s Beach just south of Sydney. In my later teen years I started surf board riding at Freshwater Beach in Sydney. That beach is the spiritual home of surf board riding in Australia. When the Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku visited Australia in December 24, 1914 he gave an exhibition of surf board riding at Freshwater Beach. That was a hell of a Christmas present for Australia.The board that Duke Kahanamoku used for the demonstration was built from a piece of pine purchased from a local hardware store. In my early surfing days at Freshwater Beach the local lads from time to time would haul this massive eight foot / sixty pound surfboard out of storage and try to surf on it. At the time I don’t recall any of the local surfers being all that successful but it did put us in touch with a real slice of history.  Over the years the true value of this surfing artifact was recognized and is now under glass in the Freshwater surf club. There is also a statue of Duke Kahanamoku on the Northern headland over looking the beach.

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From that time on Australian surfing developed independently from the Hawaiian and Californian influences. That started to change in the 1950s and 1960s when the latest innovations in design and techniques once again reached Australia.

I was part of the generation that was susceptible to the new innovations. My surfboards at the time reflected the early days of this new era. At over nine feet long with a single fin my boards are large compared to the under 7 foot multiple finned “Thrusters” of today.

                    

 

My surfing life largely coincided with the beginning and end of the 1960s. When I emigrated to Canada my surfing years were behind me and mountain life styles came to dominate my recreational endeavors. From time to time the latest surfing magazines would show  up in the local book shops and images of sun light on water would still fill my mind and tickle my consciousness. Like the author of the book postulates, Surfing is an addiction that you never truly leave behind. The book, with it’s stroll down the author’s  surfing years, refreshed my memories of many great days, great waves and youthful camaraderie. Admittedly my adventures probably were not of the same magnitude of magnificence as the author’s but while reading the book it was still good to wander through the lands of “what if”, rediscover old stories, old locations and new countries with bigger, better and sometimes scarier surf spots.

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Enough about me and more about the book. When we talk about “sport” we are usually talking about team sports with all the hype and hoopla associated with the entertainment industry.  So in that sense surfing is not a sport. It is a recreational activity. It has more in common with Skiing, Mountaineering, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hangliding and Rock Climbing than any of the sports we are likely to see on TV. The book is a memoir of William Finnegan’s involvement with surfing and the addictive nature of the activity.  For any one who has had even a passing interest in surfing this is a must read book. For others it is a look at “coming of age” experiences and youthful, and not so youthful adventures around the world. There is a distinct lack of jargon and hype that makes it possible for the average reader to get a real feel for the activity known as surfing. For those of us who have lived through any of the surfing eras of the past forty plus years, either as a participant or voyeur, it is a very pleasant reminder of the things we may still miss from those bygone days.

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POSTSCRIPT – Reading List

  1. The Big Drop: Classic Big Wave Surfing Stories. by John Long – “32 classic big wave surfing stories from the sport’s pioneers John Long’s classic collection of big wave surfing stories heralded a new era in surfing literature. Focusing on those elite athletes who live to challenge the ocean’s fury, The Big Drop is more than just another surfing book. It is both an extraordinary collection of thirty-two true tales and a treasure-trove of insight into the evolution of big-wave surfing―with particular focus on the pioneers of the 1950s and 1960s and the skills necessary to challenge huge waves. Providing a comprehensive look at the sport’s eras, locations, and legends, with a host of stunning images and a glossary of surfing terms, it is a truly unforgettable look at the obsession of those who face down monstrous waves. Revealing the tantalizing and terrifying truth about riding big waves, The Big Drop is a must for any surfer inclined to tackle large surf in thought or in fact.” My favorite story in this collection is the one about the “accidental” surfing of a Tidal Wave off the coast of Peru in 1974.

 

  1. All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora by David Rensin. “For twenty years, Miki “Da Cat” Dora was the king of Malibu surfers—a dashing, enigmatic rebel who dominated the waves, ruled his peers’ imaginations, and who still inspires the fantasies of wannabes to this day. And yet, Dora railed against surfing’s sudden post-Gidget popularity and the overcrowding of his once empty waves, even after this avid sportsman, iconoclast, and scammer of wide repute ran afoul of the law and led the FBI on a remarkable seven-year chase around the globe in 1974. The New York Times named him “the most renegade spirit the sport has yet to produce” and Vanity Fair called him “a dark prince of the beach.” To fully capture Dora’s never-before-told story, David Rensin spent four years interviewing hundreds of Dora’s friends, enemies, family members, lovers, and fellow surfers to uncover the untold truth about surfing’s most outrageous practitioner, charismatic antihero, committed loner, and enduring mystery.”

 

  1. Storm – Stories of Survival from Land and Sea, edited by Clint Willis. “Storm” reveals first-hand accounts of battling with the elements: hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes and sand storms – in mountains, seas, plains, and jungles. Included are contributions from sailors, climbers, adventures, and other hardy souls; people like Patrick O’Brian, Stephen Venables, Chris Bonnington, Sebastian Junger, Joseph Conrad and Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Full of harrowing adventures that test human endurance, this volume contains stories of individuals who must fight to stay alive. Barry Lopez is trapped among arctic floes by a sudden squall; Art Davidson’s team freezes in a wind storm on Mount McKinley as the temperature hits 148 degrees below zero; an idyllic sail turns tragic when Gordon Chaplin loses his ship and his lover in a South Pacific typhoon. My favorite story in my 2000 edition is Jack London’s THE HOUSE OF MAPUHI, the story of survival during a typhoon on a Polynesian island. Note: my edition appears to be different from the one reviewed and for sale on Amazon.

POSTSCRIPT – Videos

  1. BUSTIN’ DOWN THE DOOR. There are a “million” surfing movies out there but this  is a  surfing documentary to end all surfing documentaries. It is largely focused on the “Free Ride” generation of the early ’70s, Bustin’ Down the Door reveals the true stories behind the uprising of some of the most influential surfers to have graced the water.Narrated by Edward Norton and featuring intimate interviews with Shaun Tomson, Rabbit Bartholomew, Mark Richards(MR), Ian Cairns, Peter Townend and Mark Warren, talking of the infamous waves along Oahu’s legendary North Shore which they rode with a style, aggression, and raw courage unseen prior to their arrival. Collectively, these surfers changed the face of surfing and were the first to really apply themselves as serious professional surfers.Packed with beautifully shot footage of these masters at work it tells the truly inspirational tale of how they moved over from Australia and South Africa to pioneer a sport that, at the time, was only seen as a past time for “beach bums”.
    However, this is no surfing fairy tale! Enduring incredibly hard times, from confrontations with Da Hui (a group of “locals” in Hawaii dedicated to promoting respect and equality in the lineup) to having contracts put out on their lives, this is a testament to how far these young men were willing to go to make surfing what it is today! Some of the information is not that flattering to some of the participants. The achievements of this group of Australian and South African surfers was a game changer. But there was a price. The arrogance and aggression of the group alienated many of the localHawaiians who felt that tradition and respect was being trampled and they reacted accordingly..
  2.  THE ENDLESS SUMMER by Bruce Brown. This is the iconic surf movie of the late 1960s.The Endless Summer was 1966  when filmmaker and narrator Bruce Brown follows two surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August on a surfing trip around the world. Despite the balmy climate of their native California, cold ocean currents make local beaches inhospitable during the winter. They travel to the coasts of  Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana and South Africa in a quest for new surf spots and introduce locals to the sport. Other important surfers of the time, such as Miki Dora, Phil Edwards and Butch Van Artsdalen also appear in the film. Its title comes from the idea, expressed at both the beginning and end of the film, that if one had enough time and money it would be possible to follow the summer up and down the world (northern to southern hemisphere and back), making it endless. The concept of the film was born through the suggestion of a travel agent to Bruce Brown during the planning stages of the film. The travel agent suggested that the flight from Los Angeles to Cape Town, South Africa and back would cost $50 more than a trip circumnavigating the world. After which, Bruce came up with the idea of following the summer season by traveling up and down the world.The narrative presentation eases from the stiff and formal documentary of the 1950s and early 1960s to a more casual and fun-loving personal style filled with sly humor. The surf rock soundtrack to the film was provided by The Sandals. The “Theme to the Endless Summer” was written by Gaston Georis and John Blakeley of the Sandals. It has become one of the best known film themes in the surf movie genre.]When the movie was first shown, it encouraged many surfers to go abroad, giving birth to the “surf-and-travel” culture, with prizes for finding “uncrowded surf”, meeting new people and riding the perfect wave. It also introduced the sport, which had become popular outside of  Hawaii and the Polynesian Islands Islands in places like California and Australia, to a broader audience…….. Wikipedia.The iconography portrayed in the film is not strictly correct. The premise of an endless summer with perfect waves is contrary to the facts. The best waves to surf are generated by storms in the winter months. So to pursue the “perfect wave” one must essentially indulge in an “endless winter” . The biggest and best waves occur in the winter.

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A Touch of Humor – A Lesson in Grammar

Sent to me by Douglas Francis Mitchell – Thanks Doug

LESSON IN GRAMMAR

IS IT “COMPLETE”, “FINISHED” OR “COMPLETELY FINISHED” ? No English dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between these two words – “Complete” or “Finished”.

In a recent linguistic competition held in London and attended by, supposedly, the best in the world, Samdar Balgobin, a Guyanese man, was the clear winner with a standing ovation which lasted over 5 minutes. The final question was: ‘How do you explain the difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED in a way that is easy to understand? Some people say there is no difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED.’

Here is his astute answer:

“When you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE. When you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are:

COMPLETELY FINISHED!

He won a trip around the world and a case of 25 year old Scotch

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Something to look forward to………

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A Suitable Boy is a massive (approximately 1500 pages) monumental novel written by Vikram Seth way back in 1993 and is now about to be released as a six part TV mini-series. I can hardly wait. In a nutshell ….

“A Suitable Boy is set in the newly post-independence, post partition India of the 1950s. The novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, and centers on Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s efforts to arrange the marriage of her younger daughter, Lata, to a “suitable boy”. Lata is a 19-year-old university student who refuses to be influenced by her domineering mother or opinionated brother, Arun. Her story revolves around the choice she is forced to make between her suitors Kabir, Haresh, and Amit.”

Way back then I read the closing of the dedication ….

“Buy me before good sense insists / you’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists”

With a dedication like I had to take him at his word. I could not simply put the book aside without reading it. Sometimes a big novel can turn out to be chore. But not this one It turned out to be a magnificent read about complex family, racial, political and cultural issues set in the newly independent India.  Added to that there were healthy doses of background material to feed my long standing interest in Indian music.

The book is still sitting on my bookshelf just begging me to take it down again and re-engage in that wonderful world created by the author Virkram Seth. I might just do that before the mini-series hits the airways.

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Covidiots – Keith Baldry (BC Global News Commentator 2020/07/19)

“HOW CAN ONE SO CLEVER BE SO STUPID?” – The Dark Demon in Good Omens

I think it is a good question that should be  right up there with “have good citizens taken leave of their senses?” Or is it just the mass hysteria of people trying to deal with incredible circumstances?. These questions were all prompted by the spectacle on the evening news of public demonstrations against the wearing of masks.

I don’t understand it. Over the years we have spent buckets of money, time and energy on accumulating knowledge and the attendant education and training of experts to evaluate and interpret the data we have accumulated. We ask the experts to step up to the plate and offer guidance on dealing with such an event as a pandemic and when they do we react by throwing a hissy fit and behaving like children. It’s like a roomful of children wanting to go out and play in a dangerous situation and when restrained screaming “I’m going outside to play and you can’t stop me.” On top of that, as adults, they are not only screaming their objections to reasonable advice and precautions  but sprouting ridiculous conspiracy theories and equating reasonable public health measures to dictatorships and fascism. All because they can’t stop for a minute, take a breath, evaluate the reality of the situation and behave in a calm rational manner.

The wearing of masks is the case in point. The simple precaution of wearing masks in crowded situations is not an onerous request or task. It is not a hoax. It’s not a devious political plot. It is not even difficult. It is just a simple, wise precaution aimed at slowing the spread of the covid-19 virus.

So smarten up people and get with the program and wear a mask. The life you save may just be mine.

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A Touch of Humor

A photographer on vacation was inside a church taking photographs when he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read ‘$10,000 per call’.

The American, being intrigued, asked a priest who was strolling by what the telephone was used for.

The priest replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God.

The American thanked the priest and went along his way.

Next stop was in Atlanta . There, at a very large cathedral, he saw the same golden telephone with the same sign under it.

He wondered if this was the same kind of telephone he saw in Orlando and he asked a nearby nun what its purpose was.

She told him that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 he could talk to God.

‘O.K., thank you,’ said the American.

He then traveled to Indianapolis , Washington DC , Philadelphia , Boston and New York .

In every church he saw the same golden telephone
With the same ‘$10,000 per call’ sign under it.

The American, upon leaving Vermont decided to travel up to Canada to see if Canadians had the same phone.

He arrived in Canada , and again, in the first church he entered, there was the same golden telephone, but this time the sign under it read ’40 cents per call.’

The American was surprised so he asked the priest about the sign.  ‘Father, I’ve traveled all over America and I’ve seen this same golden telephone in many churches. I’m told that it is a direct line to Heaven, but in the US the price was $10,000 per call.

Why is it so cheap here?’

The priest smiled and answered, ‘You’re in Canada now, son … it’s a local call.’

KEEP SMILING

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Are we just a little confused?

The Emancipation Proclamation, or Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln  on September 22, 1862, during the American Civil War. It changed the legal status under federal law of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from slave to free. As soon as a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, either by running away across Union lines or through the advance of federal troops, the slave was permanently free. Ultimately, the Union victory  brought the proclamation into effect in all of the former Confederacy. The remaining slaves, those in the areas not in revolt, were freed by state action during the war, or by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in December 1865″………… Wikipedia

This was a bench mark step forward in the long struggle to abolish slavery and it is a very important date in American History. It needs to be remembered, honored and celebrated. Particularly in the USA. What impact did it have on black slaves in Canada? Now hang on  a minute……..  September 1862.    Correct me if I am wrong but it is my understanding that at that time there were no slaves, black or otherwise, in Canada. In fact there probably hadn’t been slaves in Canada for around 60 years. So The Emancipation Proclamation had little or no meaning in Canada. The date Canadians should be remembering and celebrating is the 1793 Act Against Slavery.

To once again quote Wikipedia…………

“By 1783, an anti-slavery movement to abolish the slave trade throughout the Empire had begun among the British public. Spurred by an incident involving Chloe Cooley, a slave brought to Canada by an American Loyalist, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada John Graves Simcoe tabled the Act Against Slavery in 1793. Passed by the local Legislative Assembly, it was the first legislation to outlaw the slave trade in a part of the British Empire.  Later the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73) abolished slavery in parts of the British Empire. This Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom expanded the jurisdiction of the Slave Trade Act 1807 and made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of “the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company”, Ceylon, and Saint Helena.The Act was repealed in 1997 as a part of wider rationalization of English statute law; however, later anti-slavery legislation remains in force.”

So once again Canadians are confused and have assumed the mantle of American history. We have forgotten that slavery in the British Empire and Canada was  long gone way before the American Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The current demonstrations in Canadian cities are further examples of hysterical theater that distracts from real Canadian issues. In addition massive, inappropriate demonstrations do not help in controlling the current Covid-19 pandemic. So, as Canadians we should get the American Emancipation Proclamation into perspective and the date and event we should be celebrating is The Act Against Slavery  tabled in 1793 by John Graves Simcoe.

On a related issue here is an interesting little side bar to the Abolition of Slavery story.

It’s hard to believe but it was only in 2015 that, according to the Treasury, British taxpayers finished ‘paying off’ the debt which the British government incurred in order to compensate British slave owners in 1835 because of the abolition of slavery. Abolition meant their profiteering from human misery would (gradually) come to an end. Not a penny was paid to those who were enslaved and brutalized. The British government borrowed £20 million to compensate slave owners, which amounted to a massive 40 percent of the Treasury’s annual income or about 5 percent of British GDP. The loan was one of the largest in history.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion.

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A LOVE SUPREME

ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER ……….

Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91.

New York Time Obituary, March 7, 2020 – McCoy Tyner, Jazz Piano Powerhouse, Is Dead at 81

Jimmy Cobb’s passing was a reminder of the classic Miles Davis album KIND OF BLUE recorded and released in late 1959. This album started jazz musicians down the modal path of musical improvisation and innovation.

Like wise McCoy Tyner’s passing was a reminder of that other jazz modal master piece –  John Coltrane’s  A LOVE SUPREME. This was a four part jazz suite recorded during December 1964 with John Coltrane on Tenor Sax, Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano.

As described in wikipedia: A Love Supreme is a suite with four parts: “Acknowledgement” (which includes the oral chant that gives the album its name), “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm”. Coltrane plays tenor saxophone on all parts. One critic has written that the album was intended to represent a struggle for purity, an expression of gratitude, and an acknowledgement that the musician’s talent comes from a higher power. Coltrane’s home Dix Hills, Long Island, may have inspired the album. Another influence may have been Ahmadiyya Islam.

The album begins with the bang of a gong (tam-tam) and cymbal washes. Jimmy Garrison enters on double bass with the four-note motif that lays the foundation of the movement. Coltrane begins a solo. He plays variations on the motif until he repeats the four notes thirty-six times. The motif then becomes the titular vocal chant “A Love Supreme”, sung by Coltrane accompanying himself through overdubs nineteen times. In the fourth and final movement, “Psalm”, Coltrane performs what he calls a “musical narration”. Lewis Porter calls it a “wordless recitation”. The devotional is included in the liner notes. Coltrane “plays” the words of the poem on saxophone but doesn’t speak them. Some scholars have suggested that this performance is an homage to the sermons of African-American preachers. The poem (and, in his own way, Coltrane’s solo) ends with the cry, “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.”

To my knowledge there is no videos available of a complete Coltrane performance but there are fragments of performances scattered across YouTube. In place of that there is the excellent complete performance by the Bradford Marsalis Quartet recorded in Amsterdam in 2003.

Brandon Marsalis – Tenor Saxophone
Joey Calderazzo – Piano
Jeff Tain Watts – Drums
Eric Revis – Doublebass

This performance and the original Coltrane performance is not light weight music. It is a deeply spiritual composition and calling it intense is not an understatement. The music  would not be to everyone taste. But having said that for anyone interested in jazz it is a classic recording and should be on every jazz fan’s shelf

For anyone interested in information about the music and the recording I suggest the publication A LOVE SUPREME – The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Recording by Ashley Kahn published in 2002.

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So What!!

While surfing the web the following item caught my eye….

Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91. He was the last surviving member of that landmark album’s sextet, he was a master of understatement, propelling his band mates with a quiet persistence.

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It was this “blast from the past” that prompted me to revisit the album. Most Jazz fans “have the moment” imprinted on their memory of when they first heard KIND OF BLUE. For me it was during a lunch time break in a record store (remember those) in down town Sydney, Australia. In those days there were head phones or listening booths available to check out the latest releases. The radio in those days was awash with top Forty Tunes and Jazz wasn’t all that popular. Apart from late night smooth jazz radio  to get one’s jazz fix you had to get it when ever and where ever you could. For me it was those lunch times listening sessions in a record store. The opening track on the album,  SO WHAT,  became my all time favorite Jazz composition and performance. Here is that opening track from the classic album followed by a live clip from a TV show.

While the tune in both instances is the same a discerning ear can detect distinct differences between the performances. The first clip from the recording is the classic Miles Davis Sextet of Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (Tenor Sax), Julian Adderley (Alto Sax), Paul Chambers (Bass), Jimmy Cobb (Drums) and Bill Evans (piano). The contours of the solos played by John Coltrane (tenor sax) and Miles Davis (trumpet) in both clips are similar but demonstrate the variety available within jazz performances of the same material.

The album KIND OF BLUE was recorded recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959, at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City. It was released on August 17 of that year by Columbia Records and in the past 60 years has never been out of print. It is regarded as the best selling jazz album of all time and because of its unique approach to composition and performance  it has been deemed as one of the most influential records of all times. On this album Davis followed up on his modal experimentation on his earlier Milestones album. By basing Kind of Blue entirely on modality he departed even further from his earlier work in the hard bop jazz style.

Why the recording is so important in the Jazz repertoire is that it was a radical departure from the way jazz musicians normally approached performances. Throughout the early history of Jazz up until the 50s and even later, the main stay of the Jazz repertoire was what was called THE GREAT AMERICAN SONG BOOK. It was a standard repertoire  filled with the songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin etc. Generally a performance of these songs included an instrumental statement of the tune, sometimes with variations followed by individual solos by various instrumentalists. The underlying chord structures and melody line  were the basis for the improvisations that applied time honored musical devices to shape individual performances.  The songs may have had mundane lyrics (moon, June, love, spoon, etc)  but the melodies and the harmonic structures were (are) pretty sophisticated. Jazz musicians often ditched the standard melody and made up ones of their own. Sometimes they just used the chord progressions and  came up with completely different compositions. KIND OF BLUE changed that. Instead of using chord progressions for the improvisations Miles Davis came up with a Modal approach. It was no longer necessary to play in a specific key, rather the composer could dictate a series of modes to act as basic scales for the improvisation.

“So What is one of the best examples of modal jazz music. Although improvisation takes up the majority of the piece, it does have a compelling riff that sets the piece in motion and sets up the stage harmonically for the improvisations. This riff is notable in that involves the interplay between the upright bass and the rest of the band. The antecedent phrase is played by the bass, which plays an ascending line of notes that begin with a fourth leap starting from the root note. This is followed by the “response” by the piano or rest of the band, which consists two chords that move in parallel motion downwards in answer to the bass. These chords are a whole step apart and are made up of a root, fourth, minor seventh, minor third, and fifth. The second chord-and final statement of the phrase-is an altered  minor chord. This establishes the harmonic center of the piece.

Harmonically speaking, this piece is fairly simple. It is centered around the D Dorian mode, and there are no harmonic progressions other than the modulation from D Dorian to Eb Dorian, which occurs throughout the piece. The piece follows a 32 bar AABA structure, both during the melodic line and during the solos. This translates to 16 bars in D Dorian, 8 bars in Eb Dorian, and 8 bars again in D Dorian. The piece begins with a piano and bass opening with a slower tempo than the rest of piece. After this bass and piano alone play the melodic line with the drum as accompaniment. The drums serve to get the atmosphere going with a laid back, ‘cool’ atmosphere. The other instruments join in and after one chorus, each performer takes an extended solo in the following order: trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax, and piano. After the solos, the melody line is played for a chorus. The piece ends with the melody being just played with the bass and piano (with drums for accompaniment) before fading out.

The harmonic simplicity of So What gives the instrumentalists a certain freedom in their improvisations not found in other forms of jazz music. The differing creative approaches are evident in each of the different solos; for example, Miles Davis’ solo can be characterized as very melodic which is mainly focused on thoughtful phrasing whereas Coltrane uses a harder and often scalar approach, playing faster and leaving less space between his phrasings. Despite this, the atmosphere throughout So What remains mostly unchanged thanks to the vamping of the rhythm section and the careful upholding of the structure of the piece. The composition and the performance is a Jazz Masterpiece. Miles Davis was famous for approaching recording sessions with no set agenda. Just a sketch of some scales or chord progressions to be played with very loose instructions to the participants about tempo, structure and what he wanted to achieve. KIND OF BLUE and SO WHAT conform to Miles’ general approach to recording. In his later electronic explorations (BITCHES BREW, etc)  he even took it further using the recording studio as a compositional tool. Literally editing, cutting and pasting and shaping the final product (I find it hard to call it a performance) to his compositional needs. Miles never dwelled on his musical past and in later years when asked about the recording he tended to be dismissive of the effort and basically had the attitude “been there done that and I have moved on”.

Modal Jazz, in some ways reaches back to earlier classical and folk music ways of playing music. It did not replace the time honored Great American Song Book, rather it opened the door to different ways of composing, playing and improvisation. FREE JAZZ, a later development in jazz performance ,  was another way of organizing (some would say disorganizing)  the music …. no prepared structure, no set key, rhythm etc. Here in 2020 Free Jazz has been around for 50 years and while is still has a significant following it remains controversial.

I have this uncalled, and I dare say sometimes unwelcome urge to educate my peer musicians in some of the finest recordings out there. I sent these clips out to friends and one response astounded me. The composition and performance was described as and interesting “song” and it kind of illustrates the difficulties modern audiences have with instrumental music. Calling SO WHAT  a song is like calling Beethoven’s A minor STRING QUARTET #15 a song. We are all used to listening to “songs” but most of us have little or no educated experience with listening to instrumental compositions. As a result a large percentage of audiences have no sign posts to help them understand the music. Instrumental music is about the architecture of the piece; the use of melody, harmonic invention, rhythm and variations within all of those elements. Songs, as typified by the normal singer/song writer, and instrumental compositions in the Jazz and Classical traditions operate at two different levels and there is no way to really compare the two. Songs tend to be (not always of course) factual and concrete and generally touches our humanity with portrayals of every day circumstances and emotions. Instrumental music on the other hand tends to be more abstract and puts us in touch with music at a more mystical level.

Each musical style or school has a specific, and often unique, way of composition and performance. For instance,  Arab and Middle Eastern music is based on completely different concepts of harmony, melody and rhythmic rules to  western music. To understand and appreciate that music requires a re-education in the rules of the game. Similarly, Northern and Southern Indian Classical Indian that, to some extent , came from the Arabs is different again. In fact Northern and Southern Indian traditions are sufficiently different to require another re-think when moving from one tradition to the other.

Closer to home, Celtic Music is based on time honored airs and dance tunes with a large component of modal methods and a different feel to the music. Blue Grass had its origins in Celtic music but the feel is different. To my ears Blue Grass musicians do terrible things to Celtic tunes. At a Celtic music session in Dublin I once  asked my daughter in law what she thought of the music. Her response was “it all sounds the same to me”. For most people that is the response to most, if not all, instrumental music ……  “It all sounds the same to me”.

But with a little bit of effort it does not all have to “sound the same to me”

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Post Script. Over the years there must be thousands and thousands of words examining, defining and analyzing the album KIND OF BLUE. One book of note that I can recommend is KIND OF BLUE – THE MAKING OF THE MILES DAVIS MASTERPIECE, by Ashley Kahn, Da Capo Press Books, 2000.

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