June 24, 2021
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“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.” ― Gabriel García Márquez
“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ― Maya Angelou
Software Pioneer Found Dead
Controversial antivirus software magnate and fugitive, John McAfee, apparently chose suicide over extradition to the U.S., where he faced multiple charges including tax evasion. The 75-year-old was found dead Wednesday in his prison cell near Barcelona, just hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition.
McAfee was arrested in Spain in October 2020, where he’d fled after being indicted in the U.S. He faced charges of failing to file taxes from 2014 to 2018, despite earning millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary. He was indicted again in March 2021 on separate fraud and money laundering charges. McAfee argued the charges against him were politically motivated.
McAfee was born in the U.K. in 1945 and grew up in Virginia. He was 15 when his alcoholic father committed suicide. In college, McAfee began drinking and experimenting with drugs. In the late 1960s, he started work at a company where he learned the basics of early computing. From there he moved to Missouri Pacific Railroad (MPR), helping them calibrate train schedules with the use of the newly introduced IBM computer system. At MPR he began using LSD and other psychedelic drugs. In the 1970s he moved to Silicon Valley, working for various tech companies and using more drugs and alcohol.
In the 1980s McAfee worked at NASA and Lockheed Martin. When the first computer virus hit PCs in 1986, he decided to start his own antivirus software company. He founded McAfee Associates in 1987 and achieved early success, earning millions as the creator of McAfee’s first commercial antivirus software; he ran the company until 1994. In 1996 he sold his remaining shares for about $100 million, but after the market collapse in 2008 he was left with only about $4 million. A year later he liquidated his U.S. holdings and moved to a remote island off the coast of Belize, where he started another company, and became more erratic and unhinged.
McAfee was leading a paranoid, sex and drug-fuelled, jungle-dwelling lifestyle, complete with a harem of local prostitutes and gun-toting bodyguards. In 2012 he became a “person of interest” in the death of a neighbor. His mansion was raided by police who suspected him of illegal drug manufacturing and weapons possession. McAfee fled to Guatemala where he asked for political asylum, but he was deported back to the U.S.
McAfee lived in Portland and started another company, but relocated to Montreal after claiming he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. A March 2014 article quoted him as saying “Running a company while on the run is not easy.” In 2016 McAfee was a candidate for president on the Libertarian ticket. After his indictment in 2020 he escaped again, this time to Spain. He never believed the 2019 death of Jeffrey Epstein was suicide and told his social media followers that if he died in prison it wouldn’t be by suicide. He said “know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine.” (CNN, Insider, BBC, Crime Museum, Independent)
- Less than a week ago Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, vowed to keep reporting despite having its offices raided, its assets frozen, and its top editors arrested. The newspaper had persevered and thrived, even faced with advertising boycotts, assaults on journalists, and firebomb attacks. It remained one of the most widely read newspapers in the city, living proof of the freedoms Hong Kong enjoyed even after its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
- But the relentless, ever-increasing crackdown by government forces finally overtook the scrappy little publication and forced it to close its doors. As a former pro-democracy lawmaker said: “It shows that when the Chinese government decides to act, it can be very swift and sometimes exceedingly brutal.” The final edition of Apple Daily will be put out Thursday. Staff is calling it the “obituary issue.” (NYT)
Taking A Stab At Mandatory Vaccines
- On June 17, a management notice put out by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned that “Covid-19 is surging in the Mission.” It noted that there were 114 people with coronavirus and in isolation, one death, and several medical evacuations. According to the notice: “95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.” It called for those coming to the embassy to be vaccinated before arrival, noting that “failure to do this puts everyone in the community at risk.”
- The embassy was put under immediate lockdown to try stemming the spread of the virus. However, by June 22 the outbreak had grown to 159 cases, prompting frustration among some in the diplomatic community over the lack of a vaccine mandate for those posted abroad. This is the third devastating wave of coronavirus to hit Afghanistan, and the surge in cases is fueling tensions in Kabul.
- The American Foreign Service Association called for “the Biden Administration to take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad … direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace.” (CNN)
Additional World News
- Hungary’s PM uses soccer to push vision of right-wing Europe (AP)
- Both parties pounce on China as midterms issue (Axios)
- US government seizes dozens of US website domains connected to Iran (CNN)
- Settlement Is Reached Over Stuck Ship That Blocked Suez Canal in Egypt (NYT, $)
- Medical official: air strike kills at least 43 in Ethiopia’s Tigray (Reuters)
- Russia says warning shots deter UK warship; London denies it (AP)
Dating Violence Education Shot Down
- Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott vetoed bipartisan legislation last Friday that called for public schools in Texas to provide age-appropriate education on domestic and dating violence. The bill was named the Christine Blubaugh Act in honor of a 16-year-old Grand Prairie teenager killed in 2000 by her abusive ex-boyfriend.
- It was introduced by Dallas Democratic Senator Royce West, who said that dating violence is a pervasive issue that is not often discussed in classrooms, leaving teenagers ill-equipped to deal with such situations. The bill had the unanimous approval of the Republican-led Senate Education Committee.
- Had the governor signed it, the law would have provided students with instruction on how to identify signs of abuse and how to report it. Lessons surrounding these topics would be mandated at least once in the middle school curriculum and twice at the high school level. In his official veto proclamation, Abbott said he rejected the legislation on the grounds that it didn’t offer parents a choice. “I have vetoed similar legislation before on this ground, because we must safeguard parental rights regarding this type of instruction,” he wrote. (The Hill, Dallas News)
- A 49-year-old Indiana grandmother who had gone to the Capitol Building to support President Trump described January 6, saying it was “the most exciting day of my life.” But Wednesday, as she stood before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, she was singing a different tune along with her guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of demonstrating inside the Capitol. “I went there to support . . . President Trump peacefully,” she said. “I’m ashamed that it became a savage display of violence that day. . . . It was never my intent to be a part of something that’s so disgraceful to our American people and so disgraceful to our country. I just want to apologize to the court, the American people and my family.”
- For her early cooperation, admission of guilt, and tearful apologies, the judge sentenced the Midwesterner to three years of probation, $500 in restitution, and 120 hours of community service. But he warned other defendants who had not been as cooperative or contrite as she had been not to expect the same punishment.
- Lamberth, a Republican himself, also took time to castigate Republican lawmakers for downplaying what happened in January and for equating mob violence to “just a day of tourists walking through the Capitol,” adding, “I don’t know what planet they were on, but there were millions of people in this country that saw what happened.” (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Nearly every new Covid-19 death is now entirely preventable, CDC director says (CNN)
- White House to announce strategy to tackle gun violence amid sharp increase in crime (NBC)
- With Progress Toward Infrastructure Deal, Biden Invites Senators For New Talks (NPR)
- US life expectancy decreased by an ‘alarming’ amount during pandemic (NBC)
- Michigan Republicans Debunk Voter Fraud Claims in Unsparing Report (NYT, $)
- Supreme Court restricts union access to farmworkers (NBC)
Those Who Can’t Do, Bleach
One of the more jaw-dropping moments of the Trump presidency came on April 23, 2020 as the pandemic was raging around the country. At a White House press conference that day, the president extolled the virtue of bleach as a potential cure for Covid, saying it “knocks it out in a minute, one minute.” Looking over at Dr. Deborah Birx, his Coronavirus Response Coordinator who looked like a deer in the headlights, Trump went on to muse whether “we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.” His comments caused astonishment in scientific circles and attracted widespread ridicule.
Why Trump suddenly embraced bleach as a possible Covid treatment has remained one of the mysteries of his presidency. Now we may have an answer. Mark Grenon, self-styled “archbishop” of the Genesis II “church” claims he provided Trump with his product, marketed as Miracle Mineral Solution, or MMS, and that the president drank it before going out to give his remarks.
Afterward, the use of bleach as a miracle cure proliferated across Latin America during the pandemic. MMS peddlers used Trump’s comments on disinfectant in marketing the solution, which the FDA describes as a “powerful bleach typically used for industrial water treatment or bleaching textiles, pulp and paper.” The FDA warns that consumption can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and low-blood pressure that can be life-threatening.
In April, a federal grand jury in Miami indicted Grenon and his three sons on charges of fraudulently marketing and selling industrial bleach as a cure for Covid, cancer, malaria, and a host of other serious medical conditions. A criminal trial is expected later this year. (Guardian)
- The very venomous caterpillar (Phys.org)
- Clues to how birds migrate using Earth’s magnetic field (BBC)
- Forget Rockets. This Insane Space Balloon Will Start Flying Passengers Into the Heavens in 2024 (Yahoo)
- Scientists identify 29 planets where aliens could observe Earth (Guardian)
- French Spyware Executives Are Indicted for Aiding Torture (Wired)
- Climate-driven coastal flooding in the US likely to get worse suddenly (Ars Technica)
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