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Conspiracy theories about the pandemic are spreading offline as well as through social media

Activists are using a traditional newspaper format to spread misinformation and promote real-world harms.

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A consistent feature of the pandemic has been the presence of a relatively small but vocal number of conspiracy theorists who resist attempts to tackle COVID-19. Their views might seem marginal and extreme but recent research suggests that we should take them seriously.

Survey data shows that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with a lack of confidence in steps aimed at addressing the pandemic and risky health behaviours and that conspiracy adherents are more likely to refuse to socially distance, wear a mask or get vaccinated.

One reason for this is that conspiracy theories work differently to other forms of misinformation. Rather than simply trading in inaccurate or misleading information, conspiracy theorists believe they have discovered the hidden truth that world events result from the deliberate actions of unseen, malevolent actors.

This might mean blaming the emergence of COVID-19 on “big pharma” or believing that social distancing measures form part of an attempt by a hidden “world government” to restrict civil liberties. This kind of thinking provides a simple explanation for complex and unpredictable events. In a time of widespread uncertainty and fear it is easy to see the appeal in claims that the pandemic is deliberate and controlled.

When we think about how conspiracy theories like these spread, there is a tendency to focus on the role of social media. We’ve become accustomed to seeing fact checking and moderators working in these spaces to manage to problem.

But with colleagues, I’ve been exploring the offline space through an analysis of the Light, a monthly newspaper (and self-described “truthpaper”) delivered free of charge across the UK. It provides sceptical coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and we’ve concluded that a significant proportion of its content can be seen as conspiracist in nature.

What is a ‘truthpaper’?

In terms of style and layout, the Light looks like a conventional newspaper. It has a masthead and banner headlines and each article is laid out in columns. The content varies in both style and topic, with opinion pieces and interviews appearing alongside news items.

Conspiracist articles are presented alongside other, unrelated material, so that overall, readers experience the variety of content that might be expected in a mainstream source of news. For instance, the same issue might include an article suggesting COVID vaccines could be used for mind control and a more conventional news item on Russian shipping.

As an example of the offline dissemination of conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, the Light is important for a number of reasons. It seemingly has a wide reach, with claims of a print run of over 100,000 copies for each issue. It is produced and distributed by a network of activists, drawing on a closed Facebook group of more than 8,000 members.

A front cover of an issue of The Light. Author provided

Conspiracy and activism

However, the Light’s real significance is that it appears to be encouraging a highly participatory engagement with its content. Readers are encouraged to seek out, disseminate and act on the issues they are reading about rather than simply passively receiving the information. This approach means that the Light doesn’t just aim to broaden readers’ knowledge but to engage them in a process of discovery, revelation and action.

We found this happens in a number of ways. There are direct calls for action, for example, through articles encouraging readers to attend rallies and events, or promoting the refusal to wear face coverings.

Other articles promote the importance of “doing your own research”, directing readers to seek out content that challenges mainstream opinion on the pandemic. There are even puzzle features that require the reader to conduct research into conspiratorial content in order to be successfully completed.

Being “awake” is a central theme in conspiracist content. Readers are invited to join an in-group of conspiracy adherents who refute the “official narrative”. The state of being “awake” is often put across as being virtuous and exceptional, and readers are frequently encouraged to view their knowledge of the pandemic’s “true” nature as a motivating factor to action.

Alongside this are frequent moral appeals to action which play upon readers’ emotions to drive them to act. This includes content written in language that draws on themes of war and conflict and emotive articles warning of the effects of public health measures on children.

Why it matters

These calls to action are taking place in the context of an increasingly dangerous atmosphere. We already know that conspiracy theories have the potential to promote political polarisation, extremism and violence. Recent months have seen numerous examples of COVID-19 conspiracy theories influencing real-world activism.

Some of these might seem relatively trivial, such as sticker campaigns disputing the safety of the vaccination programme, or leaflets promoting unproven treatments posted through letterboxes. But there have also been protests at media organisations’ offices, attempts to disrupt the work of vaccination centres and even footage of threats of violence being made against public figures associated with the pandemic response.

Offline material like the Light is highly potent because readers experience a sense of agency when they pick it up. They are being offered a way to actively engage in public issues which is outside of mainstream forms of political participation. And it’s all happening without the automated warnings and links to more reliable sources which are now a mainstay of social media sites.


In response to the issues raised by this article, the Light provided the following comment:

We absolutely defend people’s freedom to choose for themselves, and not live in a dictatorship.

This is clearly a lame and propagandist attempt to link reporting the truth which you would never dare to, with somehow calling for violence, when no sane link can be made, even stretching.

Obviously this is exactly the kind of Orwellian lies, deceit and control of thought and language employed by totalitarians, supported by propaganda rags.

Rod Dacombe receives funding from Keble College, Oxford.

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Spread & Containment

TV Show Mysteriously Deletes Poll After Vast Majority Oppose Mandatory Vaccination

TV Show Mysteriously Deletes Poll After Vast Majority Oppose Mandatory Vaccination

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A major morning television show in the UK deleted a Twitter poll asking if vaccines should be made mandatory..

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TV Show Mysteriously Deletes Poll After Vast Majority Oppose Mandatory Vaccination

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A major morning television show in the UK deleted a Twitter poll asking if vaccines should be made mandatory after the results showed that 89% of respondents oppose compulsory shots.

Yes, really.

Good Morning Britain, which often tries to set the news agenda, posted the poll which asked the public, “With Omicron cases doubling every two days, is it time to make vaccines mandatory?”

The last screenshots Twitter users were able to obtain before the poll was wiped showed 89% oppose mandatory vaccinations, with just 11% in favor after a total of over 42,000 votes.

People demanded to know why the poll had been pulled, although it wasn’t exactly hard to guess.

Why did you delete this poll, is it because you were asked? Or because it shows the people don’t support this s**t, this tyrannical future your colleagues seem to want. We see you,” commented one respondent.

“Guess that wasn’t the answer they were looking for,” remarked another.

Good Morning Britain has failed to explain why it removed the poll.

However, it’s unsurprising given that the broadcast has been a vehicle for pushing pro-lockdown messaging since the start of the pandemic.

For most of that time, it was hosted by Piers Morgan, an aggressive proponent of lockdowns, mandatory vaccines and face masks.

The show also regularly features Dr. Hillary Jones, someone who at the start of the pandemic warned that face masks could make the spread of the virus worse, before getting the memo and doing a complete 180.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Thu, 12/09/2021 - 03:30

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Science

Life Sciences Expansions Take Off as 2021 Wraps Up

Several life sciences companies and life science-focused real estate firms announced expansion plans as 2021 comes to an end.

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Life Sciences Expansions Take Off as 2021 Wraps Up

Several life sciences companies and life science-focused real estate firms have announced expansion plans as 2021 comes to an end. Here’s a look.

Novavax to Expand Maryland Campus

Novavax, on the cusp of getting its COVID-19 vaccine authorized in numerous countries around the world, is expanding its footprint in Gaithersburg, Md., where it is headquartered. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to authorize the company’s vaccine soon, and so is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Czechia has already ordered 370,000 doses, with deliveries expected at the beginning of 2022. The company also has a deal with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies to manufacture millions of doses of the Novavax vaccines at its facilities in Billingham, U.K., with a £400 million investment in expansion.

Four Corners Acquired 150,000-Square-Foot Complex in Belmont, Calif.

Four Corners Properties acquired a 150,000-square-foot office building in Belmont, Calif., called the Shoreway Innovation Center. The seller was Westlake Group. Westlake bought it in 2016 for $61 million. The company plans to expand its use for life sciences, noting that 82% of it is currently leased to a mix of tenants with an average of less than three years lease term remaining.

“Shoreway Innovation Center offers the opportunity to bring office and life sciences space to a market where tenant demand is far outpacing available supply,” said Mike Taquino, executive vice president of CBRE’s Northern California Capital Markets team.

Genentech Leases Building Under Construction in South San Francisco

Source: BioSpace

Boston Properties and Alexandria Real Estate Equities are leasing a building under construction in South San Francisco to Genentech. It will be the first phase of a life sciences campus. The building is at 751 Gateway and is 229,000 square feet. The campus will be called Gateway Commons and is a joint venture between the two real estate firms. They expect initial occupancy toward the end of 2024. Genentech has been headquartered in South San Francisco for forty years, with a large corporate headquarters made up of 4.7 million square feet of five neighborhood hubs. The new site is about one mile’s distance from their main campus.

Mispro Biotech to Open New Facility in North Carolina in Early 2022

Mispro Biotech Services plans to open a new facility in Research Triangle Park (RTP), N.C., in early 2022. Mispro is a leading contract vivarium organization (CVO). The new facility, a full-service vivarium research facility, will be central to one of RTP’s biopark campuses.

“Since we first opened our doors here in 2013, we have seen incredible growth in the RTP cluster,” said Philippe Lamarre, chief executive officer of Mispro. “The time was right to expand into a new facility with more space and modern amenities where we can support the influx of biotechs who are seeking in vivo lab space.”

Laura Gunter, president of NCBIO, representing the life sciences industry in North Carolina, noted, “Mispro has become a cornerstone of the Triangle ecosystem as contract research and support companies are finding increased favor. Biotechs of all sizes and therapeutic disciplines are focusing more on their core competencies, which is opening the door to innovation like Mispro’s contract vivarium option. We are pleased to see their decision to expand here and support more North Carolina companies.”

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/life-science-companies-announce-expansion-plans-as-they-wrap-up-2021

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Government

Over 170 companies delisted from major U.S. stock exchanges in 12 months

  Over the years, United States-based exchanges have remained an attractive destination for most companies aiming to go public. With businesses jostling to join the trading platforms, the exchanges have also delisted a significant number of companies….

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Over the years, United States-based exchanges have remained an attractive destination for most companies aiming to go public. With businesses jostling to join the trading platforms, the exchanges have also delisted a significant number of companies.

According to data acquired by Finbold, a total of 179 companies have been delisted from the major United States exchanges between 2020 and 2021. In 2021, the number of companies on Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands at 6,000, dropping 2.89% from last year’s figure of 6,179. In 2019, the listed companies stood at 5,454.

NYSE recorded the highest delisting with companies on the platform, dropping 15.28% year-over-year from 2,873 to 2,434. Elsewhere, Nasdaq listed companies grew 7.86% from 3,306 to 3,566. Data on the number of listed companies on NASDAQ and NYSE is provided by The World Federation of Exchanges.

The delisting of the companies is potentially guided by basic factors such as violating listing regulations and failing to meet minimum financial standards like the inability to maintain a minimum share price, financial ratios, and sales levels. Additionally, some companies might opt for voluntary delisting motivated by the desire to trade on other exchanges.

Furthermore, the delisting on U.S. major exchanges might be due to the emergence of new alternative markets, especially in Asia. China and Hong Kong markets have become more appealing, with regulators making local listings more attractive. Over the years, exchanges in the region have strived to emerge as key players amid dominance by U.S. equity markets. As per a previous report, the U.S. controls 56% of the global stock market value.

A significant portion of the delisted companies also stems from the regulatory perspective pitting U.S. agencies and their Chinese counterparts. For instance, China Mobile Ltd, China Unicom, and China Telecom Corp announced their delisting from NYSE, citing investment restrictions dating from 2020.

Worth noting is that the delisting of firms was initiated due to strict measures put in place by the Trump administration. The current administration has left the regulations in place while proposing additional regulations. For instance, a recent regulation update by the Securities Exchange Commission requiring US-listed Chinese companies to disclose their ownership structure has led to the exit of cab-hailing company Didi from the NYSE.

Impact of pandemic on the listing of companies

The delisting also comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that resulted in economic turmoil. With the shutdown of the economy, most companies entered into bankruptcies as the stock market crashed to historical lows.

Lower stock prices translate to less wealth for businesses, pension funds, and individual investors, and listed companies could not get the much-needed funding for their normal operations.

At the same time, the focus on more companies going public over the last year can be highlighted by firms on the Nasdaq exchange. Worth noting is that in 2020, there was tremendous growth in special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), mainly driven by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. With the uncertainty of raising money through the traditional means, SPACs found a perfect role to inject more funds into capital-starving companies to go public.

From the data, foreign companies listing in the United States have grown steadily, with the business aiming to leverage the benefits of operating in the country. Notably, listing on U.S. exchanges guarantees companies liquidity and high potential to raise capital. Furthermore, listing on either NYSE or Nasdaq comes with the needed credibility to attract more investors. The companies are generally viewed as a home for established, respected, and successful global companies.

In general, over the past year, factors like the pandemic have altered the face of stock exchanges to some point threatening the continued dominance of major U.S. exchanges. Tensions between the US and China are contributing to the crisis which will eventually impact the number of listed companies.

 

Courtesy of Finbold.

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