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Countering Censorship With Free Speech And Facts

Countering Censorship With Free Speech And Facts

Authored by Dr. Carl Heneghan and Dr. Tom Jefferson via The Daily Sceptic,

At the centre…



Countering Censorship With Free Speech And Facts

Authored by Dr. Carl Heneghan and Dr. Tom Jefferson via The Daily Sceptic,

At the centre of democracy is free speech. But everywhere you look it is under attack. There has been a surge in concerns about the creeping censorship that fills the airwaves and the increasing suppression on various media platforms.

Our work has been targeted by those who aim to silence and limit our right to free speech. Therefore, we consider it vital to understand the tactics of censorship to exercise your right to freedom of expression and contribute to the fight for free speech.

The Instant Emotional Outburst  

This usually is an abusive attack that uses swear words (‘you stupid asshole‘) or seeks to defame you somehow: you’re a murderer, you have blood on your hands. It typically is an instantaneous reaction that seeks to shut down the debate immediately. Everyone should know you’re such a bad person, and therefore equally, your opinions are …..

We find this strategy impossible to engage with and should be ignored.     

The Labelling Technique 

This will pigeonhole you as an ‘anti’ something, a ‘phobic’ or an ‘-ist’. It may paint you as a Right-winger or a Left-winger. The aim is to put you in your place: you’re someone with a fixed ideology and, consequently, a terrible person. Therefore, your views aren’t worth engaging with. This is a common tactic as it doesn’t address the message you portray but instead attacks you, the messenger

It’s a tactic that academics often use: Jeremy Farrar used it in his book. Somehow there are “serious scientists”, and therefore there are those that lack the ability to be serious.

As a strategy, it is impossible to deal with and is a certain ender of debate. However, when this happens, it generally means you are on the right track, so don’t be fazed by these disturbing actions; it shows the attacker has lost his way and cannot formulate a coherent argument; he has run out of options. 

The Takedown 

Increasingly this is the tactic of social media sites. Driven by certain positions that suit the status quo or the government of the day, you’ll be removed from social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Or your message will come with a warning.

Often underpinned by fact-checking sites, this strategy requires action to overcome any ban. We think it is necessary to regulate such sites if they act like news outlets. While the latter have editorial controls, the former should be clear about the process of what it should and shouldn’t allow and how it deals with disputes.  

We also learned some politicians favour this tactic. For example, the Lockdown Files based on Leaked WhatsApp messages showed that attacks were partly orchestrated by Matt Hancock, who harnessed the full power of the state to silence ‘dissenters’. As far as Hancock was concerned, anyone who fundamentally disagreed with his approach was mad and dangerous and needed to be shut down.

One of the answers is to create multiple channels for your outlets, and increasingly, we’re finding Substack a valuable outlet for explainers about the problems. 

The Undermining Publication.

While the emotional outburst, the labelling and the takedown undermine your credibility, a fourth approach is to produce a website or a publication that seeks to destroy your reputation. 

In January 2021, a website called ‘Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ’ was created by a group unknown to us, including a sitting MP. Its sole purpose was to debunk messages that disagreed with mainstream Government policies — the website list “myths” about Covid and names “sceptics”, including us. If you click on names, you will be introduced to a series of capital charges against us. We were no longer evidence-based if we questioned the evidence for policies such as the Rule of Six.

The website was “dedicated to debunking common Covid Sceptic arguments and highlighting the track record of some of the most influential and consistently-wrong Covid Sceptics”.

However, the truth will emerge over the long term, and the proponents of such sites will end up wishing they had never embarked on such a foolhardy strategy. 

But beware of being called out for making an error. Undertaking research is fraught with dangers; mistakes are common and can occur at all stages, even at the point of publication. An overzealous editor can change one word, and the whole meaning of your text can go out the window. Of course, mistakes made should be acknowledged and corrected. But beware of the censorship zealots who will seek to taint all your work going forward as error-strewn.

The complaints

An insidious approach that seeks to get your boss and your organisation to shut you up. The complainant hasn’t got the means or the argument to take you on directly. Instead, he or she goes behind your back, puts you and your family under pressure, and, in some circumstances, threatens your livelihood. In doing so, he accepts his inability to debate and discuss the issues directly. 

However, sometimes they will also make a big deal over the investigation. Your work is tainted because the organisation deems you worthy of an investigation. The vast majority of complaints are disagreements, but organisations seem ill-equipped to tell the difference between a valid complaint and someone employing the tactics of censorship and suppression. 

Editorial Bias

We have increasingly seen several journals and news outlets take a particular stance and only report or accept articles based on their ideological views. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to counter this problem; however, it is worth understanding those outlets that take such fixed views. Beware of those that seek to slander you editorially. 

We’ve been surprised by some of the medical journals’ one-sided approaches – including the commissioning of biased and Teflon editorials and the deviation from usual editorial processes that seek to undermine the research output. Teflon is when the uncomfortable message cannot stick to you, the editor, because you are hiding behind an editorial undermining the research you do not like. In fact, with Teflon, nothing sticks.

Some editors cannot withstand the pressure of the social media posse, who circle their prey like vultures. The worst thing an editor can do is give in to these bullies: unelected, relentless and often overnight experts. Give in once to the posse, and you may perish, or even worse, you might find your work retracted. Be ready for the onslaught and prepare well. In your fightback, take the emotion out of your responses and turn to the evidence. 

But beware of those editors who choose peer reviewers to support their one-sided views using anonymous attacks to suppress research outputs that don’t meet their predetermined opinions. Ultimately though, it will be to their discredit as they should be built on impartiality and fairness: it’s fair to say that journals have had a lousy pandemic. However, there’s little to do here but move on to the next journal; there’s plenty of them. 

Comments Cartel

This is a brilliant tactic. It consists of an organised onslaught on a piece of published research work. You can see this in the comments to A122. The underlying message is that the research is unsound because so many people post negative comments; hence, science is democratic, and the Noes have it, which is nonsense. We recommend databasing the addresses of the senders if they exist and checking the text for style patterns, as most of the comments are repetitions passed along from one member of the cartel to the next.

It’s worth reminding yourself of some laws that protect you if you decide to speak out.

The 1986 Education Act (No.2) states: “Persons concerned in the Government of any establishment… shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.” The 1988 Education Reform Act references the right of U.K. academics “to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have at their institution”. The European Convention on Human Rights Article 10 states that “protection extends to the expression of views that may shock, disturb or offend the deeply held beliefs of others”. UNESCO’s 1997 Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel states that institutions should be accountable for effectively supporting academic freedom and fundamental human rights.

It comes down to this: no single idea or belief should be privileged. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. If we elicit an emotional response or find that folk disagree or are disappointed by our answers, we have done our job. However, emotions that lead to the tactics of suppression and censorship fail to engage critically with the issues of the day. 

Reflecting uncertainty is a central tenet of free speech. However, the current pursuit of truth is a path filled with hazards. Learning to approach matters of debate critically and with confidence will ensure our democratic values remain intact.

*  *  *

Dr. Carl Heneghan is the Oxford Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Dr. Tom Jefferson is an epidemiologist based in Rome who works with Professor Heneghan on the Cochrane Collaboration. This article was first published on their Substack blog, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.

Tyler Durden Thu, 05/25/2023 - 17:00

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DNAmFitAge: Biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”…



“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

Credit: 2023 McGreevy et al.

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

BUFFALO, NY- June 7, 2023 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 10, entitled, “DNAmFitAge: biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness.”

Physical fitness is a well-known correlate of health and the aging process and DNA methylation (DNAm) data can capture aging via epigenetic clocks. However, current epigenetic clocks did not yet use measures of mobility, strength, lung, or endurance fitness in their construction. 

In this new study, researchers Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Ferenc Torma, Matyas Jokai, Ake T. Lu, Daniel W. Belsky, Alexandra Binder, Riccardo E. Marioni, Luigi Ferrucci, Ewelina Pośpiech, Wojciech Branicki, Andrzej Ossowski, Aneta Sitek, Magdalena Spólnicka, Laura M. Raffield, Alex P. Reiner, Simon Cox, Michael Kobor, David L. Corcoran, and Steve Horvath from the University of California Los Angeles, University of Physical Education, Altos Labs, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, University of Edinburgh, National Institute on Aging, Jagiellonian University, Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, University of Łódź, Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police in Warsaw, Poland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia develop blood-based DNAm biomarkers for fitness parameters including gait speed (walking speed), maximum handgrip strength, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) which have modest correlation with fitness parameters in five large-scale validation datasets (average r between 0.16–0.48). 

“These parameters were chosen because handgrip strength and VO2max provide insight into the two main categories of fitness: strength and endurance [23], and gait speed and FEV1 provide insight into fitness-related organ function: mobility and lung function [8, 24].”

The researchers then used these DNAm fitness parameter biomarkers with DNAmGrimAge, a DNAm mortality risk estimate, to construct DNAmFitAge, a new biological age indicator that incorporates physical fitness. DNAmFitAge was associated with low-intermediate physical activity levels across validation datasets (p = 6.4E-13), and younger/fitter DNAmFitAge corresponds to stronger DNAm fitness parameters in both males and females. 

DNAmFitAge was lower (p = 0.046) and DNAmVO2max is higher (p = 0.023) in male body builders compared to controls. Physically fit people had a younger DNAmFitAge and experienced better age-related outcomes: lower mortality risk (p = 7.2E-51), coronary heart disease risk (p = 2.6E-8), and increased disease-free status (p = 1.1E-7). These new DNAm biomarkers provide researchers a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks.

“Our newly constructed DNAm biomarkers and DNAmFitAge provide researchers and physicians a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks and emphasizes the effect lifestyle has on the aging methylome.”

Read the full study: DOI: 

Corresponding Authors: Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Steve Horvath

Corresponding Emails:,, 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, physical fitness, biological age, DNA methylation

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About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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Martha Stewart Has a Spicy Take on Americans Who Want to Work From Home

This half-baked take might need to stay in the oven a little longer.



Lifestyle icon Martha Stewart has been on a roll when it comes to representing vivacious women over 60. Whether she's teaming up to charm audiences alongside her BFF Snoop Dogg, poking fun at Elon Musk, or starring as Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue cover model, Martha stays busy. 

Her most recent publicity moment, however, doesn't have the same wholesome feeling Stewart brings to the table. In an interview with Footwear News, the DIY-queen had some choice words about Americans who want to continue working from home after covid-19 lockdown shut down offices.

“You can’t possibly get everything done working three days a week in the office and two days remotely," the cozy-home guru said. "Look at the success of France with their stupid … you know, off for August, blah blah blah. That’s not a very thriving country. Should America go down the drain because people don’t want to go back to work?”

Well, that's certainly a viewpoint. A lot to unpack there. Many online were confused--after all, didn't Stewart basically make her career by "working from home?"

Sitting down with The Today Show, Stewart elaborated on her controversial stance. It seems she's confusing "work from home" with a three-day workweek. 

"I'm having this argument with so many people these days. It's just that my kind of work is very creative and is very collaborative. And I cannot really stomach another zoom. [...But] I hate going to an office, it's empty. During COVID I took every precaution. We [...] set up an office at [...] my home[...] Now we're our offices and our three day work week, I just don't agree with it," Stewart tells viewers. 

"It's frightening because if you read the economic news and look at what's happening everywhere in the world, a three-day workweek doesn't get the work done, doesn't get the productivity up. It doesn't help with the economy and I think that's very important."

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How cashless societies can boost financial inclusion — with the right safeguards

The UK could learn a lot from developing economies about using digital payments to boost financial inclusion.




Accepting digital payments. WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS/Shutterstock

Cashless societies, where transactions are entirely digital, are gaining traction in many parts of the world, particularly after a pandemic-era boom in demand for online banking.

Improvements in digital payment infrastructure such as mobile payments, digital currencies and online banking, make it more convenient for people and businesses to buy and sell things without using cash. Even the Bank of England is looking into how a digital pound might work, showing the potential for a significant shift from physical cash to digital payments in the UK.

Read more: How a digital pound could work alongside cryptocurrencies

Fintech companies have accelerated the transition towards cashless payments with innovations including mobile payment apps, digital wallets, cryptocurrencies and online banking services. The COVID pandemic was also a tipping point that created unprecedented appetite for digital transactions. Fintechs emerged as a life line for many during lockdowns, particularly vulnerable populations that needed emergency lines of credit and ways to make and receive payments.

By 2021, approximately 71% of adults in developing countries had bank accounts. But this leaves nearly 30% of the population still needing access to essential financial products and services. Fintechs can provide more affordable and accessible financial services and products. This helps boost financial inclusion, particularly for the “unbanked”, or those without a bank account.

In the UK, around 1.3 million people, roughly 4% of the population, lack access to banking services. The government and financial institutions have worked together to promote the adoption of digital payments, and the UK’s Request to Pay service allows people and businesses to request and make payments using digital channels such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

But other countries are moving faster towards a cashless society. In Sweden, only about 10% of all payments were made in cash in 2020. This move towards cashless payments in the country has been facilitated by mobile payment solutions like Swish, which people can use to send and receive money via mobile phone.

Boosting financial inclusion

India has gone even further. In less than a decade, the country has become a digital finance leader. It has also made significant progress in promoting digital financial inclusion, mainly through the government’s flagship programme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).

India’s banks also participate in mobile payment solutions like Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which can connect multiple accounts via one app. India’s digital infrastructure, known as the India Stack also aims to expand financial inclusion by encouraging companies to develop fintech solutions.

Many developing economies are using digitalisation to boost financial inclusion in this way. Kenya introduced its M-Pesa mobile money service in 2007. While microfinance institutions that provide small loans to low-income individuals and small businesses were first introduced in Bangladesh in the 1970s via the Grameen Bank project.

Digital lending has also grown in India in recent years. Its fintechs use algorithms and data analytics to assess creditworthiness and provide loans quickly and at a lower cost than traditional banks.

These innovative platforms have helped to bridge the gap between the formal financial system and underserved populations – those with low or no income – providing fast access to financial services. By removing barriers such as high transaction costs, lack of physical branches and some credit history requirements, fintech companies can reach a wider range of customers and provide financial services that are tailored to their needs.

It’s the tech behind these systems that helps fintechs connect with their customers. The increased use of digital payment methods generates a wealth of data to gain insights into consumer behaviour, spending patterns and other relevant information that can be used to further support a cashless society.

Helping the UK’s unbanked

Countries like the UK could also promote digital financial inclusion to help unbanked people. But this would require a combination of government support, innovation and the widespread adoption of mobile payment solutions.

There are some significant challenges to overcome to create a true – and truly fair – cashless economy. For example, a cashless system could exclude people who do not have access to digital payment methods, such as the elderly or low-income populations. According to a recent study by Age UK, 75% of over 65s with a bank account said they wanted to conduct at least one banking task in person at a bank branch, building society or post office.

Providing more cashless options could also increase the risk of cybercrime, digital fraud such as phishing scams and data breaches – particularly among people that aren’t as financially literate.

There is a dark side to fintech: algorithm biases and predatory lending practices negatively affect vulnerable and minority groups as well as women. Even major financial firms such as Equifax, Visa and Mastercard can get compromised by data breaches, creating valid concerns about data security for many people.

Cross-border transfer of personal data by fintech companies also concerns regulators, but there is still a lack of internationally recognised data protection standards. This should be addressed as the trend towards cashless societies continues.

Two hands hold a fan of GBP banknotes: £5, £10, £20, £50.
Paying with cash. Nieves Mares/Shutterstock

Building guardrails

Regulations affect how fintech companies can provide financial services but ensure they operate within the law. Since fintech companies generally aim to disrupt markets, however, this can create a complex relationship with regulators.

Collaboration between regulators and fintech companies will boost understanding of these innovative business models and help shape future regulatory frameworks. Countries like India have shown the way in this respect. An innovation hub run by UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority is a good start. It supports product and service launches and offers access to synthetic data sets for testing and development.

Fintech can help finance become more inclusive. But it needs policies and regulations that support innovation, promote competition, ensure financial stability and – most importantly – to help protect the citizens of these new cashless societies.

Thankom Arun does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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