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The Monopoly On Your Mind: These 6 Companies Control 90% Of What You Read, Watch, & Hear

The Monopoly On Your Mind: These 6 Companies Control 90% Of What You Read, Watch, & Hear

Authored by Rebecca Strong via ‘Down The Rabbit…

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The Monopoly On Your Mind: These 6 Companies Control 90% Of What You Read, Watch, & Hear

Authored by Rebecca Strong via 'Down The Rabbit Hole' Substack,

In a recent Twitter survey I conducted, nearly 90% of people rated their trust in mainstream media as either “very low” or “low.” And is it any surprise? Ever-mounting media consolidation has narrowed the perspectives the public is privy to, ownership and funding of these corporations are riddled with conflicts of interest, crucial stories keep suspiciously getting buried, and big tech companies are outright censoring and demonetizing independent outlets trying to break through the noise. The media is supposed to function as a power check — and a means of arming us with vital information for shaping the society we want to live in.

It’s never been a more important industry.

And it’s never been more at risk.

In this series, I’ll tackle each factor threatening the media’s ability to serve our democracy — with input from journalists, media critics and professors, and other experts.

TL;DR:

  • As regulations around ownership have continued to loosen over the last 40 years, the power over the media has become increasingly concentrated. A major culprit is the Telecommunications Act signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996, which 72% of the public didn’t even know about and no one voted on.

  • Today, Comcast, Disney, AT&T, Sony, Fox, and Paramount Global control 90% of what you watch, read, or listen to. These companies spend millions on lobbying each year to sway legislation in their favor.

  • Local news is dying out, with more than 2,000 U.S. counties (63.6%) now lacking a daily newspaper.

  • Interlocking directorates — which describe situations in which a board member at a media company also sits on the board at other companies, also create conflicts of interest. Publicly traded American newspapers are interlocked by 1,276 connections to 530 organizations, including advertisers, financial institutions, tech firms, and government/political entities. These interlocks are only disclosed to readers about half the time.

  • More than 30% of editors report experiencing some form of pressure on the newsroom from their parent company or its board of directors. Pressured editors admit to taking a more relaxed approach in reporting practices when covering interlocked individuals or organizations in the news.

  • Half of investigative journalists say newsworthy stories often or sometimes go unreported because they could hurt the financial interests of their organization, and 61% believe corporate owners exert at least a fair amount of influence on decisions about which stories to cover.

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” — Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

On a crisp November day in 2014, as I hustled through Boston’s Downtown Crossing at rush hour, I got a call that would change the course of my career: I was offered my first full-time journalism job, as a tech and startups reporter for a local online outlet called BostInno. When I look back on that moment and recall the dizzying rush of excitement that set in, I see an idealistic young woman who has yet to understand the way the media machine really works. I wish I could somehow temper her expectations. I wish I could protect her from the crushing disappointment that comes with realizing this industry she’s chosen isn’t what she naively thinks it is.

Not too long before I was hired, BostInno had been acquired by American City Business Journals, the largest publisher of metropolitan business newsweeklies in the U.S. In my early conversations with colleagues, it was apparent they were still adjusting to post-acquisition life. Sure, there were perks that came with being acquired — but the pressure to hit lofty traffic goals meant writers now had to prioritize certain clickbaity stories over others. Moreover, I distinctly remember a fixation on quantity. Writers were expected to churn out at least three or four stories a day in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible, which frustratingly, meant we often didn’t have time to cover complex topics in the depth required. Our experience, as it turns out, is not exactly a unique one.

In a recent survey I conducted, 60% of journalists said they’d worked for a publication that got bought by a larger company while they were there — and 40% of that group admitted to witnessing negative changes in their job expectations or work environment after the acquisition.

If you examine the history of countless media mergers and acquisitions over the last several decades, you’ll come to an unsettling discovery: local, independent outlets are dying out in droves. The result? The vast majority of the news you digest is tailored to serve the interests of corporations and their leaders, rather than citizens.

It may go without saying, but the media plays an almost nauseatingly prominent role in our everyday lives, especially here in the United States. In fact, Americans spend an average of 12 and a half hours per day consuming news via the television, Internet, newspapers, magazines, and radio. The media molds our society in a myriad of ways. It tells us which world events deserve our attention. It has the power to affect what we buy. In shaping our opinions on everything from immigration, healthcare, education, and the environment to individual political candidates, it can also have significant sway when it comes to elections. Studies have shown that media coverage sometimes has a strong impact on criminal court decisions, particularly for violent crimes. And by influencing consumers and investors, our current 24-hour real-time news cycle can impact our economic climate, driving the market values of certain industries and companies (this is known as “the CNN effect”).

But have you ever noticed that so much of what you’re reading, seeing, and hearing has started to sound — well, exactly the same? You’re not imagining things. There’s even a name for this phenomenon: “the illusion of choice.” We’re presented with what feels like an endless array of options for where to get our news. But in reality, the information from most of those sources trickles down from the same few conglomerates. Year after year, economic power has become increasingly concentrated across numerous industries — including tech, healthcare, banking, airlines, and pharmaceuticals. In fact, mergers reached a record high of $5.8 trillion in 2021. If you ever took Economics 101, you’re probably well aware that monopolies are great for the providers and bad for consumers — by eliminating competition, they give corporations in control no incentive to improve, innovate, or otherwise meet our needs, desires, and expectations.

So, how did we get here? During the 1940s, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a number of rules to limit ownership of multiple local radio stations and television stations, as well as multiple national broadcast networks. Then in the ‘70s, the FCC banned one company from owning both a newspaper and TV or radio station in the same market. But during the ‘80s, major deregulatory moves made by Congress and the FCC under then-president Ronald Reagan’s administration increased the number of TV stations any single entity could own, triggering a wave of media mergers.

The real kiss of death to local news happened in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act, which allowed large corporations already dominating the media market to further expand their control via acquisitions and mergers. Only 3% of Congress voted against this bill, including then House of Representatives member Bernie Sanders. In the years following, more and more small outlets and stations either got gobbled up by the big guys or outright failed because they simply couldn’t compete with them.

Then, in 2017, the FCC reversed a regulation that opened the floodgates on consolidation even further. That regulation had prevented one company from owning multiple television stations in markets that didn’t have at least eight independent stations, and prevented one company from owning both a newspaper and broadcast station or TV and radio station in the same market. Finally, in 2021, the Supreme Court overturned an appeals ruling asking the FCC to study the potential impact on female and minority ownership in the media industry before loosening restrictions on ownership. At the time, Justice Brett Kavanaugh — who wrote the ruling — claimed that not only was there zero evidence that relaxing these rules would cause any harm, but that consolidation could benefit consumers.

As for the consequences of all this deregulation — whereas 50 companies dominated the media landscape in 1983, that dwindled to nine companies by the 1990s. It got worse from there.

Today, just six conglomerates — Comcast, Disney, AT&T, Sony, Fox, and Paramount Global (formerly known as ViacomCBS) — control 90% of what you watch, read, or listen to. To put this into perspective: that means about 232 media executives have the power to decide what information 277 million Americans are able to access. In 2021, the “big six” banked a total of more than $478 billion in revenue. That’s more than both Finland’s and Ukraine’s GDP combined.

The issue extends to print media and radio giants, too: iHeartMedia owns 863 radio stations nationwide, while Gannett owns over 100 daily U.S. newspapers and nearly 1,000 weeklies.

As the pool controlling the media keeps shrinking, so does the breadth of the information reported. Hence why today’s thousands of news outlets often churn out embarrassingly duplicative content.

One glaring issue with these sweeping regulatory changes is that they passed with little publicity, meaning citizens had little to no opportunity to push back. In fact, a 2003 Pew Research study found that a whopping 72% of Americans heard absolutely nothing at all about changing rules for media ownership. But when asked how they felt about relaxing the rules for how many media outlets corporations can own, far more Americans said they thought it would have a negative impact than a positive one.

According to Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and RootsAction and author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media,” the Telecommunications Act progressed largely under the radar.

“The public didn’t vote on it, or know about it,” he told me in an interview. “Conglomeration and the shrinkage of media diversity happened because of backroom legislation and rule-making, out of sight of the public.”

In fact, when a consumer group tried to buy ad space on CNN to criticize the Telecommunications Bill, Cohen says CNN wouldn’t sell them the time. It’s not all that surprising when you consider how powerful Big Media lobbyists are: An OpenSecrets report shows that NCTA – The Internet & Television Association (which represents more than 90% of the U.S. cable market) spent more than $14 million trying to influence government policy in 2021, while Comcast shelled out $13.38 million, putting them both in the top 15 spenders for lobbying.

Not only were Americans kept mostly in the dark about these regulatory moves, but information about their implications may have been intentionally hidden. In 2006, former FCC attorney Adam Candeub claimed the FCC allegedly buried a federal study proving more concentration of media ownership would hurt local news coverage. Senior managers ordered staff to destroy "every last piece" of the report, according to Candeub. Still, other research has since revealed the same worrisome findings: a 2019 study showed that stations newly acquired by Sinclair increased their focus on national politics by around 25% — at the expense of covering local politics.

Nowadays, there are entire cities and towns across the country with no local coverage. According to a 2018 study, more than 2,000 U.S. counties (63.6%) have no daily newspaper, while 1,449 counties (46%) only have one. Meanwhile, 171 counties — totaling 3.2 million residents — have zero newspapers whatsoever. These areas are known as “news deserts,” and studies have shown they have fewer candidates running for mayor, lower voter turnout, and more government corruption. When citizens are left with a colossal information gap, they’re forced to turn to social media to get their news.

One of the media giants responsible for this trend is Sinclair Broadcast Group, which now owns or operates 185 television stations across 620 channels in 86 U.S. markets. In the above compilation video, the anchors parroting the same exact script about the dangers of “fake news” all worked for Sinclair-owned stations. While expressing concerns about the negative effects of media consolidation in a 2017 interview with Democracy Now!, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps called Sinclair the “most dangerous company out there that people have never heard of” due not only to the scope of its control but also its well-known ideological agenda.

In his book “The New Media Monopoly,” the late author Ben Bagdikian asserts that today’s big six have amassed more communications power than was ever wielded by any dictatorship in history. Worse yet, he notes that close-knit hierarchies like these find ways to “cooperate” to keep expanding their power.

“They jointly invest in the same ventures, and they even go through motions that, in effect, lend each other money and swap properties when it is mutually advantageous,” Bagdikian writes.

Christopher Terry, an assistant professor of media law at the University of Minnesota, started his career in the radio industry as a producer for Hearst and ClearChannel in the mid-’90s — during the height of this consolidation frenzy.

“I saw what it did for the stations that I worked for, and I didn’t like it,” he told me in an interview.

Terry had been working for a conservative talk station in Milwaukee when it was acquired by ClearChannel, triggering drastic staff cuts.

“Prior to consolidation, we were a legitimate source with a fully operational newsroom,” he explained. “I didn’t necessarily agree with our politics all the time, but I liked that it was focused on the things people need information about, and it had local ties. It was an operation that was contributing to the public good.”

Experts like Terry and Cohen will tell you there are numerous reasons why media consolidation is bad for our democracy. In the documentary “Is The Press Really Free?” sociology professor and former Project Censored director Dr. Peter Phillips points out that as a direct result of the staff cuts caused by consolidation, reporters often become increasingly dependent on PR people for stories. He calls this a form of structural censorship — when a large portion of the news has been pre-written by a PR professional who works for a public or private bureaucracy, that means the stories are spun to meet the needs of corporations or the government in advance.

Nolan Higdon, a media studies and history lecturer and author of “The Anatomy of Fake News,” also notes that this concentration of power has meant fewer checks and balances — without the pressure that comes with competition, conglomerates aren’t likely to be challenged for their questionable practices.

“When most of the news is controlled by six corporations, and Internet traffic is controlled by five or six companies that privilege those companies under the auspices of fighting ‘fake news,’ you can lie with impunity,” Higdon told me. “And worse, because we’re a fragmented audience, if I’m being lied to every single day by The Washington Post, I’m not going to turn on Fox or read The Wall Street Journal to hear I’m being lied to. I’m going to be in my little information bubble.”

As these media corporations continue to expand their power, they rake in ever-growing profits — which then translates to more political influence. Not only do owners of media giants contribute money directly to campaigns, but their outlets control the discourse around them. And the larger the conglomerate, the more easily and effectively they can lobby to kill regulations and pass laws that further their domination.

But this consolidation of power extends beyond just monopolies and mergers galore — compounding the issue are shared board members. All media corporations have a board of directors, which is responsible for making decisions that support the interests of stakeholders. When someone sits on the board at multiple companies, that creates an “interlock.” Scroll through The New York Times board of directors, for example, and you’ll find a certain member is also on the board for McDonald’s and Nike and is chairman of Ariel Investments. Up until last year, a Disney chairwoman happened to be on the board for private equity giant The Carlyle Group.

2021 study published in Mass Communication & Society (MCS) revealed that publicly traded American newspaper companies were interlocked by 1,276 connections to 530 organizations. The data showed that about 36% of these connections were to other media organizations, 20% to advertisers, 16% to financial institutions, 12% to tech firms, and 2% to government and political entities.

More specifically, a 2012 list compiled by FAIR revealed the following interlocks:

  • CBS/Viacom: Amazon, Pfizer, CVS, Dell, Cardinal Health, and Verizon

  • Fox/News Corp: Rothschild Investment Corporation, Phillip Morris, British Airways, and New York Stock Exchange

  • ABC/Disney: Boeing, City National Bank, FedEx, and HCA Healthcare

  • NBC: Anheuser-Busch, Morgan Chase & Co., Coca-Cola, and Chase Manhattan

  • CNN/TimeWarner: Citigroup, American Express, Fannie Mae, Colgate-Palmolive, Hilton Hotels, PepsiCo, Sears, and Pfizer

  • The New York Times Co: Johnson & Johnson, Ford, Texaco, Alcoa, Avon, Campbell Soup, Metropolitan Life, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts

(And those are just a few examples of the more than 300 crossovers FAIR discovered.)

Some say it would be naive not to suspect that interlocking directorates don’t cause a major conflict of interest — allowing news content to potentially be shaped by profit-driven motives. As former Walt Disney chief executive Michael Eisner put it in an infamous leaked internal memo: "We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective."

As it turns out, there’s evidence to legitimaze this concern. In a 2021 MCS study, more than 30% of editors reported experiencing some form of pressure on the newsroom from their parent company or its board of directors. And 29% said they knew reporters had "self-censored" due to such interference. Pressured editors admitted to taking a more relaxed approach in reporting practices when interlocked individuals or organizations were the topics of news coverage. They also admitted to lowering their expectations for balance in coverage of board members.

Higdon noted that it can be especially problematic when media board members also happen to sit on the boards of defense companies — because such an interlock can lead to an increasing push for pro-war narratives. (As of 2011, before U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, Raytheon interlocked with The New York Times, and Lockheed Martin interlocked with The Washington Post). The Intercept’s recent video of a White House Press briefing on the Ukraine-Russia conflict illustrates this perfectly. In the video, members of the media are shown repeatedly asking questions framed around why President Biden isn’t providing Ukraine with more military support. If you know what questions they’re asking, you can pretty much guess what angle their story will be taking. And in this case, every journalist is laser-focused on what needs to happen to escalate this into U.S. war involvement with Russia. The Intercept’s Ryan Grim is quite literally the only member of the media asking what the U.S. is doing to encourage negotiations for peace.

What makes all this particularly troublesome is the lack of transparency.

2021 MCS study found that interlocks between newspapers and other companies were only disclosed to readers about half of the time, and never appeared in articles published by certain conglomerates, like Gannett and Digital First.

The Society of Professional Journalists, along with most respectable media organizations, has a code of ethics. That includes avoiding conflicts of interest whenever possible and revealing them when they’re unavoidable. Sometimes, when a writer initially neglects to do this and they’re called out for it, they’ll update the article after publication. For instance, a 2016 Business Insider article singing Jeff Bezos’ praises for “revitalizing” The Washington Post now includes an important addition: “Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions. An earlier version of this article failed to disclose this in an editorial error.” (While we’re on the subject of transparency — a disclosure: I write for Insider.)

But that particular case seems to be an exception to the rule. According to Higdon, the outlets at large don’t typically disclose conflicts of interest in the way writers are expected to.

“When you hear that the title of a channel is ‘Russia Today,’ it’s very clear that the Russian government is funding it,” Higdon explained. “It’s right in your face. But when I turn on CNN, I don’t know who’s funding that network. I have to do some digging to figure it out.”

In a 2003 Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) report, author Aaron Moore expressed concerns that independent reporting could be undermined when a board member is linked to other businesses that its newsrooms cover. According to Higdon, most journalists adamantly claim no one tells what to write and what not to write. But whether they know it or not, he says many may engage in a form of self-censorship: skipping certain stories in order to avoid getting fired.

In a 2000 Pew Research and CJR survey of more than 300 journalists at local and national outlets, 41% admitted to either purposely avoiding newsworthy stories, "softening the tone" of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations, or both. Half of investigative journalists said newsworthy stories often or sometimes go unreported because they could hurt the financial interests of their organization, and 61% stated they believe corporate owners exert at least a fair amount of influence on decisions about which stories to cover.

Here’s how this form of self-censorship works. Say you work for ABC, but you want to pursue an investigative report on the labor practices of Disney — which owns ABC.

“You know you’re risking your job at ABC, so you may stay away from it,” explained Higdon. “Also, there are organizational studies on the ways that they institutionalize these policies. So, it’s not that ABC says, ‘you can’t report on that story about Disney.’ It’s that once you pitch the story on Disney or collect initial interviews, the editor says something like, ‘yeah, we don’t think that story is interesting enough. We’d rather have you cover this instead.’”

While some intervention from media owners is direct, most of it is subtle and subconscious, according to Bagdikian — like when writers learn to conform to their owner’s ideologies in order to ensure they aren’t overlooked for a raise or a promotion.

“Corporations have multimillion-dollar budgets to dissect and attack news reports they dislike,” writes Bagdikian. “But with each passing year, they have yet another power: They are not only hostile to independent journalists. They are their employers.”

Case in point: A 1991 FAIR investigation revealed that General Electric (GE) — which owned NBC from 1986 to 2009 — designed, manufactured, or supplied parts for essentially every major weapon system the U.S. military used during the Gulf War. In other words, as the authors stated, when NBC brought on correspondents and consultants to praise the performance of U.S. missiles, bombers, and spy satellites, they were applauding products made by the corporation cutting their paychecks. During the time that GE owned NBC, there was plenty of evidence that the news outlet was underplaying big stories about its parent company — particularly around GE plants dumping hazardous chemicals into the Hudson River, and safety issues in GE-designed nuclear power plants.

In their book “Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media,” Martin Lee and Norton Solomon detailed how GE insisted that an NBC program remove any references to GE in reports on substandard products. NBC also seemed to shy away from exposing GE's poor environmental record and banned televised commercials urging a boycott of GE products. NBC also remained mysteriously silent on the bombshell story that GE didn’t pay federal taxes in 2010. Apparently, the network thought the addition of “OMG” and “muffin top” to the Oxford English Dictionary was more of a newsworthy priority at the time.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has been an early and frequent critic of media consolidation. Like Sanders, Victor Pickard — a professor of media policy and political economy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and author of “Democracy Without Journalism?: Confronting the Misinformation Society”, argues that as a result of this consolidation, we may miss out on pivotal issues because we’re only exposed to topics that serve those corporations in control.

“There are a number of important issues that are given too little attention in our mainstream news media,” Pickard told me in an interview. “Oftentimes this isn’t a direct consequence of corporate censorship but instead what might be called ‘market censorship.’ These issues do not attract the eyeballs that advertisers covet or generate the revenues that owners and investors privilege above all else. Consequently, issues like climate change, mass incarceration, and other structural inequalities do not get nearly as much coverage as, say, the latest celebrity scandal.”

Cohen adds that for all the discussion of systemic racism, there’s very little exploration or analysis of the actual system in place fueling the exploitation — especially when the finger of blame might point to powerful corporate forces.

“That’s why coverage of racial injustice is so often victims, without victimizers,” he said. “Not surprisingly, victimizers are often powerful sponsors of the news — banks, big pharma and healthcare, and oil and gas corporations. If Sanders had not run for president twice, how often do you think class inequality would have been in the news? Or CEO compensation compared to the average worker? Or the fact that roughly 70 or 80 million people in our country were uninsured or underinsured even when Obamacare was at its peak performance? Or the wealth of big pharma execs while people can’t afford medicines?”

The mission of Project Censored, a media watchdog nonprofit founded at Sonoma State University in 1976, is to shed a much-needed spotlight on these underreported issues. Since 1993, the organization has published an annual book of the top stories that were ignored or misrepresented that year titled “Censored: The News That Didn’t Make the News.” The 2021 edition includes the following:

  • YouTube inexplicably demonetized independent news sources or removed entire videos or channels without any explanation as to how/why they violated community guidelines.

  • A study showed that corporate media consistently sidelined independent health experts during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead featuring mostly government appointees as guests.

  • report revealed journalists investigating financial crimes are being threatened by global political and business elites.

  • study found that more than 1.1 million seniors on Medicare could die prematurely over the next decade simply because of the astronomical costs of prescription medications. This would make unaffordable drugs a leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, and kidney disease by 2030.

  • report alleged that Google hired an outside firm to collect personal data on its employees — a surveillance effort that was aimed at preventing them from unionizing.

  • Dangerous newly proposed domestic terrorism laws could be used to “repress legitimate political protest and to target activists and religious or ethnic minorities.”

  • An investigation is uncovering mounting evidence that Black men are being specifically targeted by police dogs.

If none of these stories ring a bell, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why the corporate media didn’t deem them worthy of coverage. Mainstream outlets will often cite time constraints as an excuse for why they’re failing to tackle crucial stories. But is it possible that maybe their silence is by design? After all, in 2021, they apparently had ample time to report on the murder investigation for a travel blogger, gossip about Melania Trump, and a maskless Rudy Giuliani leaving a New Year’s Eve party. (And don’t get me started on the Oscars #SlapGate).

In 2017, Senator Sanders wrote that the more important the issue is to the working class masses, the less interesting it is to corporate media. But if we aren’t leveraging the press to put pressure on the legal system, how can it ever fulfill its potential for driving positive change? That’s the question Mickey Huff — director of Project Censored, president of the Media Freedom Foundation, and co-author of “United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America (and what we can do about it)” — asked me toward the end of our interview. “How do we get people informed? And to understand the problems? That’s why journalism matters. It does matter what they do and don’t report.”

Reversing the aggressive media consolidation would require undoing decades of legislation that loosened restrictions on ownership. That probably won’t happen in the immediate future. So, as journalist and media commentator Jim Fallows wrote in 2005: “The remaining hope is to acknowledge the existence of this disorder and use that knowledge to offset or limit its most damaging effects.”

As with any problem, recognizing that it exists is the first step to handling it. And all hope is not lost, because remember: you get to choose where you get your information. Across the board, experts recommend deliberately seeking out independent, nonprofit news channels. Just a few of these organizations that don’t accept corporate backing or funding from advertising include: Democracy Now!FAIRProPublicaMedia RootsThe LeverMintPress NewsTruthoutThe ConversationThe NationThe InterceptThe GrayzoneCitizen Truth, and Common Dreams.

“It’s not healthy to be so cynical about it that you give up,” added Huff. “And turning off corporate media is only one step. But I would argue that once you’re media literate, you need to watch it to understand why everyone else is walking around like a zombie repeating the same thing.”

As Jim Morrison once said, “whoever controls the media controls the mind.” Taking that into consideration, it’s high time to ask yourself: who are you granting the power to control your mind? And given that any profit-making company’s ultimate goal is to make money, how might their motives mean keeping you distracted or in the dark?

[…to be continued.]

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Mon, 04/18/2022 - 18:25

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GSK and IQVIA launch platform of US vaccination data, showing drop in adult rates

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of vaccine uptake has been a point of contention, but a new platform from GSK and IQVIA is hoping to shed more…

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Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of vaccine uptake has been a point of contention, but a new platform from GSK and IQVIA is hoping to shed more light on vaccine data, via new transparency and general awareness.

The two companies have launched Vaccine Track, a platform intended to be used by public health officials, medical professionals and others to strengthen data transparency and display vaccination trends. According to the companies, the platform is intended to aid in increasing vaccine rates and will provide data on trends to assist public health efforts.

Judy Stewart

The platform will also allow users to identify vaccination trends for adults in the US across multiple vaccine types. Users will also be able to scan claims data nationally to track trends alongside pre-Covid metrics.

“For the first time, Vaccine Track brings quarterly data tracking and trends together in a comprehensive platform for immunization partners, decision-makers and stakeholders. Our goal for Vaccine Track is to support the return to pre-pandemic vaccination rates for adults and to go beyond by empowering the vaccine and public health community with frequently updated, actionable information to get ahead of disease together,” said Judy Stewart, GSK’s head of vaccines in a statement.

This move comes as vaccination rates in adults were already low even before the pandemic, with a CDC report stressing that vaccine coverage in adults was low across all age groups.

So far the platform’s data show a decline in adult immunizations, excluding flu vaccinations, across the country during the pandemic. The platform currently only has information from January 2019 to December 2021 on hand but will be updated every quarter.

The data itself observed that rates were especially low in minority populations, which were already showing lower rates of immunization pre-pandemic.

The platform also showed that national trends for adults aged 19 and older are still low, with an average decrease of 18% through last year in overall claims. Average monthly claims through 2021 for recommended vaccines were between 12% and 42% below 2019 rates, with nearly half of the states in the US facing greater than 30% reductions in overall claims for recommended vaccines from pre-pandemic levels.

In Medicare patients, the platform’s analysis found a more than 30% reduction in overall claims for recommended vaccines among Black and Hispanic populations between 2019 and 2021.

The information itself is sourced from medical claims data and longitudinal prescription data, the companies said.

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Prevalence of gender-diverse youth in rural Appalachia exceeds previous estimates, WVU study shows

Gender-diverse youth are at an increased risk of suicide and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the prevalence…

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Gender-diverse youth are at an increased risk of suicide and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the prevalence of gender diversity is largely unknown—especially in rural areas, where studies of the topic are rare. 

Credit: WVU Photo/Sean Hines

Gender-diverse youth are at an increased risk of suicide and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the prevalence of gender diversity is largely unknown—especially in rural areas, where studies of the topic are rare. 

To fill that knowledge gap, researchers at West Virginia University— along with their colleagues at the University of Washington and Boise State University — surveyed junior high and high school students in rural Appalachia about their gender identity. They asked about the students’ internal sense of being male, being female or having another identity, like nonbinary. They found that more than 7% of young people surveyed shared a gender identity that did not fully align with the sex they were assigned at birth.  

These findings were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Being gender diverse, including being transgender, nonbinary or having another gender identity that doesn’t match the sex assigned at birth, is not a medical concern and is considered a normal part of human experience, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Even though gender diversity isn’t an illness, some young people who are gender diverse experience distress when their gender doesn’t align with their physical characteristics or treatment in society. This distress, called “gender dysphoria,” can be associated with higher rates of depression or even thoughts of self-harm, prior research suggests.

“We have a lot of studies that suggest gender-diverse youth are two to four times as likely to experience depression and thoughts of self-harm as their cisgender peers, or young people whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity fully align,” said WVU School of Medicine researcher Dr. Kacie Kidd, who co-authored the study. “This is an area where we need to do more research. We need to better understand how to support these young people, especially now that we are increasingly recognizing that they are here and would likely benefit from the support.”

Other study authors include Alfgeir Kristjansson, an associate professor with the WVU School of Public Health; Brandon Benton, a nurse with WVU Medicine; Gina Sequeira, of the University of Washington; and Michael Mann and Megan Smith, of Boise State University. 

Few studies have asked young people directly about their gender identity. 

A 2017 study suggested that West Virginia had the highest per capita rate of transgender youth in the country at just over 1%. 

“Prior studies have used less inclusive questions when asking young people about their identity,” said Kidd, an assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine. “We suspected that this underestimated the prevalence of gender-diverse youth.” 

She and her colleagues had previously asked these more inclusive questions to young people in Pittsburgh, a city in Appalachia. Nearly 10% of youth in that sample reported having a gender-diverse identity. 

“Despite the high prevalence of gender-diverse identities found in our Pittsburgh study, information about rural areas was still unknown,” Kidd said. “We suspect that many of the young people in rural Appalachia who shared their gender-diverse identities with us in this study may benefit from additional support, especially if they do not feel seen and supported at home and in their community.” 

This new study is one of many to recognize that researchers interested in gender diversity face a dearth of data when it comes to rural areas.  

It’s also one of many studies to recognize that gender-diverse individuals can face a scarcity of health care options, affirming social networks and other forms of support in those same rural areas.

For example, in a recent study led by Megan Gandy, BSW program director and assistant professor at the WVU School of Social Work, up to 61% of participants said they had to travel out of West Virginia to access gender-related care.

And another recent study conducted by Zachary Ramsey, a doctoral candidate in the WVU School of Public Health, found that rural areas could present unique barriers to sexual and gender minorities. 

Those barriers included discrimination and heteronormativity — or, the belief that a heterosexual and cisgender identity is the only “normal” one. They also included a lack of training for health care providers in handling LGBTQ concerns.

“Adolescent mental health is at a crisis point, according to the Centers for Disease Control,” Kidd said. “We have an access concern because so many young people need mental health services nationwide and we just don’t have enough mental health professionals to meet that need. It’s a growing problem and certainly gender-diverse youth are at an even greater risk.” 

In CDC data, the number of adolescents reporting poor mental health has increased, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Support from parents, schools, communities and health care providers has been associated with improved mental health outcomes, especially for gender-diverse youth.  

“Gender-diverse youth are incredible young people, and — as our study found — many of them live in rural areas,” Kidd said. “It is important that we ensure they have access to support so that they are able to thrive.”

Citation: The prevalence of gender-diverse youth in a rural Appalachian region”

Research reported in this publication was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Award Number U48DP006391 and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality under Award Number 5K12HS02693-03. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of CDC or AHRQ.


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Best Penny Stocks To Buy: 4 Short Squeeze Stocks To Watch Now

Penny stocks to buy: Here’s what short interest traders think
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Penny Stocks To Buy: What To Look For

This article will discuss a handful of penny stocks to buy according to those looking for short squeeze stocks. If you’ve seen our other articles about cheap stocks with high short interest, you know that there are a lot of risks that go along with potential rewards. A quick yield means everything to traders looking to catch a short squeeze. The moves up can be legendary, but the moves lower can bring crushing blows to anyway caught on the wrong side of the trade.

The last few weeks have shown the market exactly how massive short squeezes can grow. AMTD Digital (NYSE:HKD) was the fuse that sparked the snowball effect for these trading trends. This week that continued with the latest penny stock to squeeze: Intelligent Living (NASDAQ:ILAG).

In most cases, there is very little news, if any, to act as a fundamental catalyst. With the majority of short-interest stocks, technical aspects of trading take precedence. Case in point, ILAG stock exploded 260% within about a day’s worth of time and the company didn’t release a shred of news or a single corporate filing. But it does have a tiny float and bullish momentum heading into the Monday session, which set the stage for the latest move.

Penny Stocks To Buy With High Short Interest

Does this mean all penny stocks with high short interest are destined for massive breakouts? No, and there’s usually a reason for high short interest. It usually doesn’t coincide with companies doing record revenues or experiencing ongoing growth.

Short interest grows based on traders betting the stock will fail. They’ll short it by borrowing shares from a broker, selling them, then repurchasing them later when prices are lower to return the borrow.

How To Find Short Squeeze Stocks

When a short squeeze triggers, prices move in the opposite direction, forcing shorts to cover their positions early and either break even or take a loss. This short covering, paired with high levels of retail buying, triggers a more significant move in the stock.

Let’s look at a handful of penny stocks with higher short interest. Data we’ve found using resources like TrueTradingGroup.com’s Unusual Options & Short Data Tool.

  1. Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:KPTI)
  2. Helbiz Inc. (NASDAQ:HLBZ)
  3. Purple Innovation Inc. (NASDAQ:PRPL)
  4. Ostin Technology Group (NASDAQ:OST)

1. Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: KPTI)

KPTI Stock Price as of this Article: $4.85

What Does Karyopharm Therapeutics Do?

The commercial stage pharmaceutical company develops cancer therapies, including multiple myeloma, endometrial cancer, myelodysplastic syndromes and myelofibrosis. Its lead SINE compound and XPOVIO platform is approved in the US in three oncology indications. Last quarter, the company achieved net product revenue 44% higher than Q2 2021 at $29 million. It also received full marketing authorization by the European Commission Expanding Indication for NEXPOVIO (trade name in Europe) for adults with multiple myeloma.

[Read More] Best Penny Stocks To Buy In August According To Insiders, 1 Bet Over $2 Million

A sales and earnings beat has helped build back some optimism that was lost over the last few months. It was also enough to raise the eyebrows of HC Wainwright analysts, who reiterated a Buy on KPTI stock and paired it with an $18 target.

KPTI Stock: A Short Squeeze Stock To Watch?

According to data from TrueTradingGroup.com’s Unusual Options & Short Data Tool, the current short float on KPTI stock is 25.11%.

2. Helbiz Inc. (NASDAQ: HLBZ)

HLBZ Stock Price as of this Article: $1.31

What Does Helbiz Do?

Another one of the names on this list of penny stocks is Helbiz Inc. The company specializes in “micro-mobility,” which is a fancy word for things like eScooters, eBikes, and eMopeds. Its fleet management technology uses artificial intelligence and environmental mapping to sustainably scale and manage its assets.

A recent partnership with Logan City Council in Australia will see Helbiz operate up to 400 eScooters and 400 eBikes later this month. “This latest partnership marks a significant step towards bringing safe, sustainable transportation alternatives to Australia. This announcement follows the plan to introduce 500 e-bikes in Sydney and 100 e-scooters in Alloggio resorts later this year,” said Mitchell Price, Helbiz Australia Managing Director.

HLBZ Stock: A Short Squeeze Stock To Watch?

According to data from TrueTradingGroup.com’s Unusual Options & Short Data Tool, the current short float on HLBZ stock is 32.64%.

3. Purple Innovation Inc. (NASDAQ: PRPL)

PRPL Stock Price as of this Article: $4.22

What Does Purple Innovation Do?

Purple Innovation is a slower and steadier mover compared to other names on this list of penny stocks. Shares have climbed from lows of $2.90 to highs of $4.40 over the last few weeks as PRPL stock attempts to reclaim some of this year’s losses.

[Read More] Best Penny Stocks To Buy? 3 To Watch After MEGL Stock Hits 5798%

You may have seen Purple advertised on social media for its “no pressure mattress” technology. The company offers “comfort solutions” ranging from mattresses and pillows to bedding and frames. This week investors are likely waiting to see if Purple can turn things around. The next round of earnings comes on August 9th, and guidance will probably be on the menu. Last quarter, Purple management cut its guidance.

Chief Executive Officer Rob DeMartini explained, “We remain in the early stages of creating the framework for strong operational execution. While we are making progress and believe we will see sequential improvements, including second-half profitability during this year, evolving economic and post-pandemic headwinds such as a shift in consumer buying behavior from online to in-stores and away from home related categories toward experiences and travel, has caused us to adopt a more conservative view on the remainder of 2022.”

PRPL Stock: A Short Squeeze Stock To Watch?

According to data from TrueTradingGroup.com’s Unusual Options & Short Data Tool, the current short float on PRPL stock is 25.24%.

4. Ostin Technology Group (NASDAQ:OST)

OST Stock Price as of this Article: $3.12

What Does Ostin Technology Do?

Ostin Technology supplies display modules and polarizers in China. It recently secured a $2.6 million deal for a purchase order of LCD/TP display modules expected for use in iGame G-ONE Plus gaming PCs.

CEO Tao Ling said in a July update, “We believe our products are able to power the iGame G-ONE Plus AIO gaming PC and provide an unrivaled gaming experience for gamers. We are dedicated to meet our customers’ evolving needs and have focused on establishing and maintaining long term relationships with our customers, in an effort to ensure our sustained development and improved profitability.”

OST Stock: A Short Squeeze Stock To Watch?

Other than the short float percentage, the borrow fee rate is something that traders look at. This is a fee that a broker charges for borrowing shares. Typically, the higher the fee, the more difficult it is to borrow the stock. According to data from TrueTradingGroup.com’s Unusual Options & Short Data Tool, the current borrow fee rate on OST stock is 56.71%.

Penny Stocks To Buy For Beginners

If you’re brand new to trading penny stocks in 2022, here are a few good articles to check out and some extra info on the best way to learn how to day trade, swing trade, or invest for the long-term:

If you’re interested in learning more about penny stocks, the stock market, and how to trade, check out True Trading Group, the fastest growing & highest-rated online premium educational platform available today. True Trading Group offers a 7-day Trial of its platform for $3 (non-autorenewing, nonrecurring): To Learn More Click Here.

If you enjoyed this article and you’re interested in learning how to trade so you can have the best chance to profit consistently then you need to checkout this YouTube channel. CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW!!

The post Best Penny Stocks To Buy: 4 Short Squeeze Stocks To Watch Now appeared first on Penny Stocks to Buy, Picks, News and Information | PennyStocks.com.

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