Two Senators Sold A Bunch Of Stock After Being Briefed About COVID-19; While Telling The World Things Were Going To Be Fine

from the all-grifting-all-the-time dept

Senator Richard Burr is a real piece of work. In 2012 he was one of only three Senators to vote against the STOCK Act. This was a law put in place following a 60 Minutes expose about how Congress was getting filthy stinkin’ rich off of insider trading, since Congress was exempt from insider trading laws. The bill did pass — Burr’s vote against notwithstanding — and President Obama signed into law. Unfortunately, the next year, Congress passed (and Obama signed) an amendment that rolled the rules back for staffers, though it still does apply to elected officials themselves.

So, it’s quite interesting to see the news that Senator Burr just sold off a “significant percentage” of his stock holdings, according to a ProPublica article detailing the sale. A big chunk of that stock sale? In the hospitality industry that has been so hard hit. He had a big chunk of stock in Wyndam Hotels and Extended Stay America, but sold those off just before everything went bad. The timing is interesting:

Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government?s most highly classified information about threats to America?s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

Now, you might say that there might be another reason why he sold stuff off, but it certainly appears that Burr knew full well what was coming. And that’s because in another news bombshell from just a few hours earlier, a recording was leaked of Burr telling a private luncheon gathering that things were going to be bad — all at the same time he was insisting that the US was totally prepared for COVID-19. A month after he sold all that stock, and a few weeks after he told the private luncheon that the coronavirus was “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history” and compared it “to the 1918 pandemic” he publicly was claiming that we had everything under control:

?Luckily, we have a framework in place that has put us in a better position than any other country to respond to a public health threat, like the coronavirus.”

He also said the same thing just days before selling all that stock:

Thankfully, the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump Administration.

That op-ed also said:

The public health preparedness and response framework that Congress has put in place and that the Trump Administration is actively implementing today is helping to protect Americans. Over the years, this framework has been designed to be flexible and innovative so that we are not only ready to face the coronavirus today but new public health threats in the future.

And then he sold most of his stock earning somewhere between half a million and a million and a half dollars — most of which would have plunged in value if he’d kept it invested. And, the fact that such a large chunk was in the hospitality industry is telling: he would have likely realized were going to be hit hard by any form of lock down and the expected decline in travel due to the pandemic.

Hours after the Burr story broke, The Daily Beast highlighted how another Senator, the new Senator from Georgia, Kelly Loefler, sold off millions of dollars of stock the very day she was briefed about the COVID-19 threat. She literally tweeted that day:

And then she dumped tons of stock:

Loeffler assumed office on Jan. 6 after having been appointed to the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson. Between then and Jan. 23 she did not report a single stock transaction from accounts owned by her individually or by her and her husband jointly.

Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 14, by contrast, Loeffler reported selling stock jointly owned with her husband worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000, according to transaction reports filed with Senate ethics officials.

For what it’s worth, it’s probably worth noting that Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. The stock sales included a bunch of retailers: Ross Stores, TJX (owners of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and a bunch of similar brands), and Autozone. All of those are struggling — TJX just announced it’s closing all its stores for at least two weeks.

Like Burr, Loeffler toed the Trumpian line that the country was all set to handle this pandemic that (spoiler alert!) it’s still not ready to handle:

Some might argue that while she didn’t have any transactions in the weeks leading up to that coronavirus briefing, and then sold a bunch of stock, she did make two purchases of stock in that period. But those really don’t help her case:

One of Loeffler?s two purchases was stock worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software…

Yes, sold a bunch of other stock, but purchased stock in a company that enables telework, just weeks before practically the whole country moved to telework. The other purchase? Oracle. While Oracle stock has declined along with most of the rest of the market, given how much Oracle pushes itself as a “cloud” provider, you could see someone thinking it might get a boost as well.

Given all, a little other spelunking through the newly released financial disclosures for stocks sales in this period from three other Senators as well: Ron Johnson, Dianne Feinstein, and Jim Inhofe. The details of those sales don’t look quite as suspicious as the other two, but still might raise some eyebrows. Inhofe sold a bunch of Paypal, Intuit, and Apple stock. Feinstein sold a bunch of Allogene Therapeutics stock, a biotech firm doing cancer research — so it’s not clear that that’s related to pandemic info. Johnson made a bundle: between $5 million and $25 million in selling all of his share of a plastic extrusion company, Pacur, but that’s a private family company that he ran before becoming a Senator (his brother now runs the firm), and the sale was made to a private equity firm, and shows no evidence of being connected in any way to the pandemic (indeed, the company does plastic extrusion for medical devices, and you can see why that might suddenly be in more demand these days).

In a just world, someone would be looking into the Burr and Loeffler sales as insider trading. I’m not convinced that we’re in that world right now, though. In the meantime, as many of us are isolated at home, we can rest safe, knowing that Senator Burr and Senator Loeffler socked away a bunch of money while the rest of us suffer. The only surprising thing I will note, is that Burr, at least, is now receiving heavy criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, and even Tucker Carlson — usually a trusty voice repeating Trumpian talking points, has called for Burr to resign.

Of course, it’s worth highlighting one more point: profiting off the coming disaster is horrible and disgusting and awful. But it’s much, much worse to have spent weeks or even months knowing what disaster was about to befall the country and lying to the public about it.

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Comments on “Two Senators Sold A Bunch Of Stock After Being Briefed About COVID-19; While Telling The World Things Were Going To Be Fine”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Degadzu (profile) says:

Re: IANAL, but…

Usually someone doing insider trading knows ahead of time a significant piece of info that will be revealed at a future but unchangeable time. They typically don’t control the release date of that information, nor can they put out deliberate false information which endangers lives.
I’m no legal expert but there’s probably more charges besides "insider trading" to be put on the ledger here.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: IANAL, but…

The argument that it’s not insider trading, is that there was enough publicly available information coming out of Italy and China, such that a well-informed layperson could have reasonably predicted the crash just as well.

I don’t personally buy it, given that the magnitude of the crash was dependent on knowing what the government response to the crisis would be (which is not publicly available information), and given that the people selling off stocks were actively spreading disinformation about the crisis. But the argument is there to be made.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: IANAL, but…

I don’t personally buy it, given that the magnitude of the crash was dependent on knowing what the government response to the crisis would be (which is not publicly available information)

Honestly, it wasn’t terribly hard to predict that partisan bickering would prevent a quick response. Look through what Trump and administration officials were saying in the early days, what people from both major parties and the TV hosts on their side were saying, how people reacted to SARS. Plus, a lot of information on thing like government stockpiles of important supplies would be public to one who knows where to look. The inequitable state of US health care and the precarious state of workers in certain industries isn’t much of a surprise; and we knew from China and Europe which industrties would be impacted.

It doesn’t look good for the senator, but any decent lawyer will point out the above and more to establish reasonable doubt. It’s hard for me to believe they’d be convicted.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: IANAL, but…

"isn’t this textbook insider trading?"

Yup. And good luck proving it unless the senators are on record with their broker, disclosing that their actions are because of privileged information gained as part of their government jobs.

All they have to do is try to look smart and say "Look, any idiot could see that a pandemic going global would hurt travel agencies, hotels and restaurants"

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

When your actions shoot your words in the back

‘Everything is fine, this administration has everything under control’ said the people selling off stock in companies that were about to take a beating.

Tough times seem to have a tendency to bring out the best in some people, while exposing just how utterly vile other people are.

ryuugami says:

Re: When your actions shoot your words in the back

‘Everything is fine, this administration has everything under control’ said the people selling off stock in companies that were about to take a beating.

I remember a certain sketch, I think it was by Jon Stewart in the Daily Show quite a few years back… Shows some clip with a similar situation — there’s a crisis, someone at the top is saying all’s fine but privately bailing out. Camera cuts to Stewart playing a ship captain, in a life vest. He assures us everything’s fine and that the ship isn’t sinking, then slowly blows some air into the life vest, while maintaining eye contact.

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JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Same as the Dems and everyone in this country…"

No, just no. There are shit people on both sides and there always have been, but the modern incarnation of the GOP has taken taken this sort of behavior to a whole new level. There is simply no genuine ‘both sides’ argument to be made here.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Same as the Dems and everyone in this country who talks about how good they are while their actions prove the opposite."

No. Just no.

The democratic party is as bought and corrupt as they come. The republican party used to be more or less the same.

These days the average republican politician is either a diehard frothing-at-the-mouth fanatic who thinks Jesus communicates his wishes to him by making pictures in his morning cereal…or an utterly unscrupulous pretend libertarian who’d shake the hand of Kim Jong-Un and give him his daughter if he thought there was a thousand dollar bill or a few votes in it for him.

The last credible republican may have been John McCain who i may not have agreed much with, but have to pity for seeing his party’s turn into a complete shit-show of conmanship and malice within a few measly years.

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PaulT (profile) says:

So, Republicans lied to the public, tried to pretend that any truthful criticism of them was a Democratic hoax, doing so to enrich themselves personally, all while failing to do the job they were elected to do and potentially putting their constituents in danger?

The only surprise here is that anyone is shocked by this standard operating procedure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

O no you don’t. All 4 of them are guilty. Guilty as hell and they know it.. even the one Democrat involved. All 4 of them need to be in prison. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how all 3 of the Republicans are guilty, but the one Democrat has excuses and reasons… They are all guilty as hell.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how all 3 of the Republicans are guilty, but the one Democrat has excuses and reasons"

Good, because you won’t hear that from me. But, out of 4 things listed, you ignored half of them. The Democrat is guilty of profiteering, if they did indeed do that, and may be lying in order to do that. They are, however, not guilty of the administration they run failing to act, while pretending that factual information is a Democratic hoax.

Yes, 1/4 of the people accused of these crimes was a Democrat. Yet, their crime was lesser than what the Republicans committed.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how all 3 of the Republicans are guilty, but the one Democrat has excuses and reasons…"

Oh, they’re all guilty and in any system of justice they’d be spending their golden years in Leavenworth…

But those of them who lied through their teeth to calm the public while quietly enriching themselves? They need to be locked up and the key thrown away.

I can’t say that a democrat, under a sitting democratic administration, might not do the same. But that is not what happened here.

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David says:

You got it all wrong.

See, the Trump administration is and was perfectly prepared for dealing with the Corona crisis. Those senators knew that perfectly well. But what they couldn’t know (though they had a hunch) is that the fake-media press under Democratic control would make such a scare out of the perfect 10-of-10 handling of the crisis that the stock market would drop like a rock.

Now the are not insiders to how Democrats and fake media will manipulate the stock market to serve their narrative, so this was not insider trading.

They were just working from experience, like any stock trader, of what kind of manipulations forces not under their control and oversight would wreak on the stocks.

Predicting how Democrats and fake media would cause a stock crash is not insider-trading.

And I am sure that if we found crooked Hillary’s mail server, we could prove that she planned all of this.

If Obama hadn’t dissolved the pandemic response team (and he must have impersonated Trump to do so given the timing, imagine this outrage), all this could have been prevented.

Where’s my cheque from Fox?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Tucker Carlson thinks it’s shameful that Burr failed to prepare the citizens he serves for the epidemic, and that Burr should resign.

If Burr failed to do his job, then the entire Trump administration also failed. Even more so, since they were the ones at the helm.

Will Carlson also call for the resignation of Trump, Pence and others? Or is Burr just a scapegoat, useful to deflect attention? I wonder.

Anonymous Coward says:

FYI there was a Democrat senator implicated in this scandal as well: the one from California who hates encryption, loves surveillance, and rubber stamps any copyright maximalist agenda. She is blaming her husband and denies any knowledge of what trades are made, but even if that is true, she had access to the inside info, and could well have influenced his decision to dump stock.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. Hang anyone found to have been taking advantage of this for personal gain, especially while misinforming the public in the process. Political affiliation should not be a shield against consequences.

However, this does seem to be much more regular behaviour on the Republican side. Plus, given that they are not only the ones in charge right now, but also using it as a way to score political points by attacking Democrats for essentially telling the truth about the situation, they deserve greater criticism.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"However, this does seem to be much more regular behaviour on the Republican side."

It is, mainly because libertarianism is heavier in representation in the GOP.

Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the democrats are much better. Biden spent most of his career being the well-paid lobbyist of anyone willing to toss some campaign funds his way and his flexible allegiance is the primary reason he’s being held up as the democratic presidential candidate of choice, the actual incorruptible menace – Bernie – being opposed at every turn.

Frankly, I don’t see much hope for the US no matter which party wins.

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Whoever says:

Re: Feinstein must go.

She claims that her assets are in a blind trust, but that trust is managed by her husband. Was the briefing classified? Did she disclose it to her husband?

A blind trust run by someone’s husband simply isn’t blind. Just as Trump’s family run his company, Feinstein should move management of her assets to someone independent of her family. Actually, she should really go, since she is a reactionary who no longer represents the values of Californians.

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Since you didn’t link to your ‘pummeling’ it is hard to know what your ‘pummeling’ was actually about. Context matters. If your comment about corrupt government had nothing to do with the article in question then it could be viewed as deserved.

If you have been around here for any length of time then you should know that neither the article writers nor the commenter’s are afraid to mention government corruption, and without regard for which party they are a part of. However, if you were ranting about government corruption on an article that had nothing to do with the government, well, learn to pick the articles where your rant will be appropriate, and then make sure it is relevant to that article rather than just an out of place screed.

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David says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sure, we may have corruption in our government, but it’s less than if we’d have voted for crooked Hillary or will vote for nepotist Biden instead of Trump and his whole hard-working family working their ass off in government jobs that are so arduous that nobody really can deign to understand what they are being paid for. If it weren’t for Chinese trademark deals for her side business to go through for Ivanka incidentally before important bilateral trade conferences, she’d be starving.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"nepotist Biden"

You know you’re dealing with a moron when they defend Trump, the guy who inherited most of his wealth and power and has regularly installed friends and family into government positions for which they are woefully unqualified, by attacking his opponents as nepotists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It’s not that the audience is US. It’s that nothing can be put past our current administration. It’s not possible to go over the top far enough as to be obvious sarcasm. Our government is a shitshow and everything they do is outrageous.

Your non-American education is showing if you’re clueless about how to address your audience.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"Tell me whether read my complete original post before replying."

I read it, at least. It came across as an unofficial white house press briefing. We’ve seen Trump make even more insane claims, usually three times a day.

You need to read up on Poe’s Law. You really can’t say anything insane enough to sound as "sarcasm" where the rabbit hole known as the Trump white house is concerned.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"Actually, it isn’t even contradiction. It is just incoherent foaming off the mouth."

Which is why there is no argument, no matter how insane, which couldn’t be identified as the genuine opinion of a Trump devotee.
Hell, some of those insane rants are actually on par with what Trump himself has tweeted out every now and then.

"Mery" above, stating that the tell that it was sarcasm was that it didn’t contain typos? That’s about it.

Hence the need for the /s sarcasm tag.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You forgot your /s

"Well, I consider it sort of an insult to the readers’ intelligence."

Problem is that you could quote half of "Mein Kampf" and still come off as a bona fide Trump supporter. It’s no longer a question of intelligence but simply very sad recognition that Poe’s Law has become default reality on this forum.

Hell, the only tell you gave was that the insanity was packaged in proper grammar and syntax.

Anonymous Coward says:

Doublespeak

he publicly was claiming that we had everything under control:

> Luckily, we have a framework in place that has put us in a better position than any other country to respond to a public health threat, like the coronavirus."

Not quite. He was engaging in typical politician double-speak. The United States can be in a better position than anyone else, while still being in a bad position overall. In the land of the blind, the man with 20-200 vision is still better positioned than the man who is actually blind, but you wouldn’t trust either of them to drive.

His next two quotes are likewise carefully constructed as comparisons versus a hypothetical alternate United States, and make no assurance that the actual US will do well.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Doublespeak

"The United States can be in a better position than anyone else, while still being in a bad position overall."

And the US, frankly, isn’t really in a good position overall. The US readiness against a pandemic and the associated social cost is…low.

Too many american workers aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits at all or have to struggle through a completely overloaded system to get them. That’s where european social security nets shine.

In general the senatorial speech was just the usual packet of lies meant to make the sheeple believe the system has their backs. Knowing he’s just fed them a load of horseshit he then turns around and takes steps to make sure he won’t get hit too badly once the broken system bellyflops completely.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Treason??

One could say that through the incalculably inept responses of, refusal to acknowledge the threat of the disease by, and outright lying to the public by, the President, his staff and those senators and congress-critters that, in mocking-bird-like fashion, mimic’d the PotUS’s line, did in fact commit acts of treason.

Their refusal to acknowledge the severity of the virus was a direct attack on this nation and the government’s ability to protect its citizens.

Their decisions to ignore the threat, and failure to act to bring resources to bear on detection, diagnosing, containment of the disease, all while grand-standing to the press have led to incalculable harm to the people of this nation.

The fact that they then went on to profit through knowledge that should have been distributed to the nation as soon as it was known is just the icing on the treason cake that they’ve baked together.

tom (profile) says:

Bet there are a lot of Congress critters and staffers doing CYA on this. Doubt that these few outed so far are the last. Now that blood is in the water, the press will have a field day. Normal ‘these are our guys/gals’ rules are probably gone as many of the press have watched their own retirement/investment accounts lose a lot of value. They are not going to be in a mode to ignore ‘their guy’ avoiding losses or worse, profiting on the info obtained in those briefings.

That this is a few months/weeks before filing for office season is a bonus.

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Anonymous Coward says:

A Different Point of View?

I admit that my first impulse was to call insider trading when I heard the news. However, I read the article at the link below and it raised some valid points worth considering. For those of you who don’t want to bother looking at the article, it brings up issues related to automated trading (as in whether the person made the decision to sell or was it some algorithm or remote manager doing it?), the amount of the selloff vs. the amount of wealth in holding (it may seem a large amount to us, but it might be a small amount to them), and the exact timing of the sale. I am not saying they are NOT guilty of insider trading, but rather that it MIGHT be possible that some might be innocent.

[Link] (https://www.redstate.com/elizabeth-vaughn/2020/03/20/1-2-3-4-senators-dump-stock-after-wuhan-virus-briefing-its-not-as-simple-as-that/)

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A Different Point of View?

Sorry, the redstate website is not a credible source.

Perhaps if you found corroborating stories at other sites then it may be worth looking at, otherwise no thanks.

From what I have read on various websites (both lib and con) what these five (so far) congress critterz did was act upon privileged information associated with the performance of their duties as government employees, which resulted in significant financial benefit to them personally.

It used to be legal for congressional member to do such abhorrent things, but then there was a law that will probably be ignored because why not.

Not sure why anyone would make excuses for these folk, perhaps you are a frustrated millionaire?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A Different Point of View?

Gee, I wish I was a frustrated millionaire, but sadly no. However, I like to try to keep an open mind about subjects and I thought some of the counter arguments had some value. As I said at the beginning of my post, my leanings are more in alignment with many of the other comments posted here. I was not aware that the RedState site was not a credible source. But I thought the counter arguments are worthy of bringing to the forum for discussion and response. Since I am not a normal reader of RedState, I was not aware that citing might be a waste of everyone’s time. Lesson learned. Thanks.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: A Different Point of View?

"I was not aware that the RedState site was not a credible source."

It doesn’t necessarily impact the credibility of the specific article you linked, but it’s not credible at all. Even a cursory search on their name should reveal that while they’ve always had a conservative slant, they’ve been heavily criticised over the last few years for a hard pro-Trump swing, with many established writers either being fired or quit for not wishing to toe that particular line. Any outlet that is actively culling writers who don’t conform to a particular ideal must be deemed suspect in the area of objective news reporting.

"But I thought the counter arguments are worthy of bringing to the forum for discussion and response"

Reasoned counter arguments, sure. Arguments which only have the support of outlets known to distort or fabricate stories, no.

"Since I am not a normal reader of RedState…"

…you should be vetting your sources rather than believing anything a random article you stumble across is claiming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A Different Point of View?

I obtained the link from a source that is normally fairly reliable. I think it highlights the issue than ANY reader is likely to encounter which is "How do I know if I can trust this news?" One does not know until you put it out there for discussion. The debate will let the truth emerge. That is the power of free speech.

I stand by original decision to share this. Whether the facts are true or not, the article makes you question the validity of what news services are spreading. We should ALWAYS do this; particularly before you grab your pitchfork.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A Different Point of View?

"One does not know until you put it out there for discussion."

This is not true. I found the above information in a short amount of googling their name, most of the information coming from venues with a wide known good reputation. Granted, the reason I searched is primarily because I have known their name and reputation for years, but the information is easily available.

"Whether the facts are true or not, the article makes you question the validity of what news services are spreading"

…and your reaction to that was immediately share the known false ones. That’s the problem. Whether the article itself had any valid points, you freely and thoughtlessly shared a known false propaganda venue.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A Different Point of View?

"Whether the facts are true or not, the article makes you question the validity of what news services are spreading."

and this is why it is advisable to seek sources from various points of view and see what they agree upon and disagree upon. What they do not say can be more revealing than what they do say.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

One does not know until you put it out there for discussion.

Or you could use Google. Google is a thing that exists.

The debate will let the truth emerge. That is the power of free speech.

Ah, you’re one of those “view from nowhere”, “the right answer is in the middle” types of people.

Between “get your kids vaccinated if you can, it saves lives” and “don’t give kids any vaccines, they cause autism”, which one has more credibility behind it? And if the “right answer” is between the two ideas, what is between those two extremes that is more correct than the first idea?

I stand by original decision to share this.

Hey, your funeral, dig your grave all you like.

Whether the facts are true or not, the article makes you question the validity of what news services are spreading.

Did you ever question the validity of the article itself, or did you accept it at face value because it conformed to your personal biases?

We should ALWAYS do this

And you should’ve done it with that article, but, well, here we are.

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