Tag Archives: Liberty

Unswayed by Data, Vaccine Skeptics Often Prize Liberty and Purity

Author: Sabrina Tavernise
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

For years, scientists and doctors have treated vaccine skepticism as a knowledge problem. If patients were hesitant to get vaccinated, the thinking went, they simply needed more information.

But as public health officials now work to convince Americans to get Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, new social science research suggests that a set of deeply held beliefs is at the heart of many people’s resistance, complicating efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

“The instinct from the medical community was, ‘If only we could educate them,’” said Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, who studies vaccine skepticism. “It was patronizing and, as it turns out, not true.”

About a third of American adults are still resisting vaccines. Polling shows that Republicans make up a substantial part of that group. Given how deeply the country is divided by politics, it is perhaps not surprising that they have dug in, particularly with a Democrat in the White House. But political polarization is only part of the story.

In recent years, epidemiologists have teamed up with social psychologists to look more deeply into the “why” behind vaccine hesitancy. They wanted to find out whether there was anything that vaccine skeptics had in common, in order to better understand how to persuade them.

They borrowed a concept from social psychology — the idea that a small set of moral intuitions form the foundations upon which complex moral worldviews are constructed — and applied it to their study of vaccine skepticism.

What they discovered was a clear set of psychological traits offering a new lens through which to understand skepticism — and potentially new tools for public health officials scrambling to try to persuade people to get vaccinated.

Dr. Omer and a team of scientists found that skeptics were much more likely than nonskeptics to have a highly developed sensitivity for liberty — the rights of individuals — and to have less deference to those in positions of power.

Skeptics were also twice as likely to care a lot about the “purity” of their bodies and their minds. They disapprove of things they consider disgusting, and the mind-set defies neat categorization: It could be religious — halal or kosher — or entirely secular, like people who care deeply about toxins in foods or in the environment.

Scientists have found similar patterns among skeptics in Australia and Israel, and in a broad sample of vaccine-hesitant people in 24 countries in 2018.

“At the root are these moral intuitions — these gut feelings — and they are very strong,” said Jeff Huntsinger, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago who studies emotion and decision-making and collaborated with Dr. Omer’s team. “It’s very hard to override them with facts and information. You can’t reason with them in that way.”

These qualities tend to predominate among conservatives but they are present among liberals too. They are also present among people with no politics at all.

Kasheem Delesbore, a warehouse worker in northeastern Pennsylvania, is neither conservative nor liberal. He does not consider himself political and has never voted. But he is skeptical of the vaccines — along with many institutions of American power.

Mr. Delesbore, 26, has seen information online that a vaccine might harm his body. He is not sure what to make of it. But his faith in God gives him confidence: Whatever happens is God’s will. There is little he can do to influence it. (Manufacturers of the three vaccines approved for emergency use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they are safe.)

The vaccines have also raised a fundamental question of power. There are many things in Mr. Delesbore’s life that he does not control. Not the schedule at the warehouse where he works. Or the way he is treated by the customers at his other job, a Burger King. The decision about whether to get vaccinated, he believes, should be one of them.

“I have that choice to decide whether I put something in my own body,” Mr. Delesbore said. “Anybody should.”

Mr. Delesbore has had many jobs, most of them through temporary agencies — at a park concession stand, at an auto parts warehouse, at a FedEx warehouse, and at a frozen food warehouse. He is sometimes overcome by a sense that he will never be able to get beyond the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. He remembers once breaking down to his parents.

“I told them, what am I supposed to do?” he said. “How are we supposed to make a living? Buy a house and start a family? How?”

Like many people interviewed for this article, Mr. Delesbore spends a lot of time online. He is hungry to make sense of the world, but it often seems rigged and it is hard to trust things. He is especially suspicious of how fast the vaccines were developed. He used to work at a factory of the drug company Sanofi, so he knows a bit about the process. He believes there is a lot that Americans are not being told. Vaccines are just one small piece of the picture.

Conspiratorial thinking is another predictor of vaccine hesitancy, according to the 2018 study. Conspiracy theories can be comforting, a way to get one’s bearings during rapid change in the culture or the economy, by providing narratives that bring order. They are finding fertile ground because of a decades-long decline in trust in government, and a sharp rise in inequality that has led to a sense, among many Americans, that the government is no longer working on their behalf.

“There’s a whole world of secrets and stuff that we don’t see in our everyday lives,” Mr. Delesbore said. “It’s politics, it’s entertainment, it’s history. Everything is a facade.”

The moral preference for liberty and individual rights that the social psychologists found to be common among skeptics has been strengthened by the country’s deepening political polarization. Branden Mirro, a Republican in Nazareth, Pa., has been skeptical of nearly everything concerning the pandemic. He believes that mask requirements impinge on his rights and does not plan to get vaccinated. In fact, he sees the very timing of the virus as suspicious.

“This whole thing was a sham,” he said. “They planned it to cause mass panic and get Trump out of office.”

Mr. Mirro, who is 30, grew up in a large Italian-American family in northeastern Pennsylvania. His father owned a landscaping business and later invested in real estate. His mother battled a yearslong addiction to methamphetamine. He said she died this year with fentanyl in her bloodstream.

From an early age, politics was an outlet that brought meaning and importance. He has volunteered for presidential campaigns, watched inaugurations, and gone to rallies for Donald J. Trump. He even went to Washington on Jan. 6, the day of the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

He said that he went because he wanted to stand up for his freedoms, and that he did not go inside the Capitol or support the violence that happened. He also said he believed that Democrats have been hypocritical in how they responded to that event, compared with the unrest in cities last summer following the murder of George Floyd.

Democrats, he said, used to fight for things that were good. He has a picture of John F. Kennedy up on his wall. But they have become dangerous, he said, “canceling” people and creating racial divisions by what he sees as a relentless emphasis on racial differences.

“This isn’t the country I grew up in,” he said. “I have a love for this country, but it’s turning into something ugly.”

Vaccine skeptics are sometimes just as wary of the medical establishment as they are about the government.

Brittany Richey, a tutor in Las Vegas, does not want to get one of the vaccines because she does not trust the drug companies that produced them. She pointed to studies that she said described pharmaceutical companies paying doctors to suppress unfavorable trial results. She keeps a folder on her computer of them.

Ms. Richey said that when she was 19, she was put into a line of girls waiting for the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical and other cancers, after a routine doctor’s appointment. She said she did not fully understand what the shot was and why she was being asked to get it.

“That’s not informed consent, that’s coercion,” said Ms. Richey, who is now 33.

Ms. Richey is also worried about the ingredients of the vaccines. She is trying to get pregnant, and she knows that pregnant women were excluded from vaccine trials. She does not want to risk it.

A portion of those who are hesitant will eventually get vaccinated. According to Drew Linzer, the director of the polling firm Civiqs, fewer people are unsure about the vaccines now than in the fall, but the percentage of hard noes has remained fairly constant. As of last week, about 7 percent say they are unsure, he said, and about 24 percent say they will never take it.

Mary Beth Sefton, a retired nurse in Wyoming, Mich., who is a moderate conservative, is not opposed to all vaccines: She usually gets a flu shot. But she worries that the Covid-19 vaccines were developed so quickly that there might be side effects that have not surfaced yet. So she has not gotten a vaccine yet despite being eligible for several months.

Ms. Sefton, who is 73 and describes herself as a person who “doesn’t like being told what to do,” says the politicization of the virus has made it hard to find information she trusts.

“The polarization makes it much harder to figure out what is real,” she said.

She thinks she might eventually get a vaccine. Her husband is bedridden and she is his primary caregiver. And she would be cut off from some in her family if she remains unvaccinated. But she is nervous.

“I still feel exceedingly cautious,” she said. “It is a basic gut feeling.”

Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton goes into rehab after turning to alcohol following severe medical issues

This post originally appeared on Showbiz – The Scottish Sun

FORMER Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton has gone into rehab as she fights a booze battle brought on by a string of severe medical issues.

Michelle, 41, is said to have struggled with the effects of a hysterectomy in 2012 and a double mastectomy in 2015 which she had to cut her high risk of cancer.


Michelle Heaton has gone into rehab after turning to alcohol following a hysterectomy and a double mastectomyCredit: Paul Edwards – The Sun

An early menopause before the isolation of lockdown then hit the married mum of two hard, and she began rehab treatment yesterday.

An insider said: “She realised she needed to get help when she’d increasingly turned to alcohol as a crutch as she couldn’t cope with the effects of her operations.

“Michelle was left feeling like she had lost so much of what made her a woman and when she went into early menopause that brought with it a whole other collection of problems.

“She was just about coping when lockdown hit last year, but the effect of being at home and being unable to distract herself, saw her hit rock bottom.”

Michelle was also deeply affected by the shock death of her friend Nikki Grahame this month.


The singer shot to fame on ITV talent show Popstars in 2001Credit: Rex

In a tribute post online to the former Big Brother star she said: “I was scared to see you . . . to say anything that may be a trigger to lose you . . . I was a coward and I’m so sorry.”

Michelle has often appeared on TV to discuss her mutated BRCA2 gene, which meant she had an 80 per cent chance of developing breast cancer, as well as a 30 per cent chance of getting ovarian cancer.

Michelle is married to Irish businessman Hugh Hanley and they have a daughter Faith, nine, and son AJ, seven.

She has also spoken of how an early menopause — brought on by the hysterectomy — put a strain on her marriage, particularly as she had few female friends who were going through the same changes.

She added: “With us being so young and going through it and with the kids being so young as well, I don’t have that group of women around me who are going through it at the same time. So, it’s really hard.”

Hugh said at the time: “Michelle really struggles to get hold of herself. She’s lost a bit of herself.”


Michelle was also deeply affected by the death of her friend Nikki GrahameCredit: Rex

She shot to fame on ITV talent show Popstars in 2001 and went on to join the chart-topping group Liberty X, who split in 2007.

She also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and The Real Full Monty.

A spokeswoman for Michelle confirmed that she had entered a rehab facility, adding: “She has the love and support of her family and friends.”


Michelle is married to Irish businessman Hugh HanleyCredit: Getty Images – Getty


She has also spoken of how an early menopause — brought on by the hysterectomy — put a strain on her marriageCredit: PA

NHS guidelines on drinking alcohol

According to the NHS, regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week risks damaging your health.

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis 
  • spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
  • if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week

If you’re pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

You read more on the NHS website.

Michelle Heaton fears over son AJ’s learning difficulties over lockdown

Liberty University Sues Jerry Falwell Jr. for $10 Million

Liberty University has sued Jerry Falwell Jr. for $ 10 million, exacerbating the messy divorce between the Christian university and its former president whose family name has been synonymous with the university since its founding.

The suit, filed on Thursday, alleges breach of contract and fiduciary duty. It claims that Mr. Falwell withheld scandalous and potentially damaging information from Liberty’s board of trustees, while negotiating a generous new contract for himself in 2019 under false pretenses. Mr. Falwell also failed to disclose and address “his personal impairment by alcohol,” the suit alleges.

Last August, Mr. Falwell claimed that he was being threatened with extortion by a man who had a yearslong sexual relationship with Mr. Falwell’s wife, Becki. The suit claims that by keeping the sexual entanglement and resulting “extortion” a secret, Mr. Falwell endangered and later damaged Liberty’s reputation. Instead of divulging the active threat to Liberty’s board, “Falwell Jr. chose personal protection,” the suit claims.

A spokesman for Liberty University, Scott Lamb, said the school had no comment on the suit. Mr. Falwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday morning.

The university filed the suit on the same day that its board of trustees arrived in Lynchburg, Va., for its semiannual meeting, at which they are set to discuss the university’s future, including its search for a permanent leader. Jerry Prevo, a close associate of Mr. Falwell’s father and the former pastor of a large church in Alaska, has been serving as interim president since August. Mr. Prevo is also a member of the board’s powerful executive committee.

The suit is likely to rattle that normally placid gathering, which Mr. Falwell had used to dazzle the board with flashy presentations about Liberty’s growth and influence under his leadership. The suit alleges that Mr. Falwell deceived the board’s executive committee into redesigning his contract to include a higher severance payout if he resigned for “good reason” or if Liberty terminated his contract without cause. Mr. Falwell claimed to the committee that this would serve as a “safety valve” for both him and the university if his full-throated support of former President Donald J. Trump proved damaging to the school’s reputation.

The real reason for negotiating the deal, the suit claims, was to protect against the possibility that Giancarlo Granda, the former pool attendant who had the affair with Ms. Falwell, would publicly reveal his relationship with the family.

The suit says Falwell “improperly and errantly” told the press he was owed $ 10.5 million after his departure in August. His severance should have been $ 2.5 million, or two years’ salary under the higher salary he negotiated in 2019, the suit claims. “Liberty was unsure if Falwell Jr.’s representation to the media was just puffery and bragging or some attempt to set up a claim for additional compensation,” the suit says.

The suit also claims that Mr. Falwell used a non-Liberty email address and personal devices to conduct university business. Although Liberty paid for the devices and confidential university information is stored on them, Mr. Falwell has refused to return them or to provide access codes, the university alleges. The school is working with an independent forensic accounting firm to investigate its operations under Mr. Falwell; that investigation is ongoing.

The suit includes new details about the family yacht outing in 2020 that led to Mr. Falwell’s suspension before his resignation.

In early August, Mr. Falwell posted a photo to his Instagram account in which his pants were unbuttoned and he had his arm around a pregnant Liberty employee who had her belly exposed. Mr. Falwell was holding what appeared to be an alcoholic beverage; his caption joked that it was “just black water.” The suit claims that Ms. Falwell took the photograph against the objections of the employee and her husband, Mr. Falwell’s personal assistant. Mr. Falwell promised not to show the photo to others, but later posted it to his public Instagram account.

After Mr. Falwell embarked on a disastrous attempt to explain himself in the media, Ms. Falwell privately contacted three members of the executive committee to express concerns about her husband’s excessive drinking, the suit alleges. Her “heartfelt appeal” convinced Liberty’s leaders to look sympathetically on Mr. Falwell’s erratic behavior, and to allow him to take a sabbatical, with a stint in rehab to be paid for by the university.

But Mr. Falwell resisted the idea of residential treatment, the suit claims. Liberty also says that Mr. Falwell had begun “drinking significantly” to manage his stress over the Granda situation. “There were concerns that he smelled of alcohol during work interactions,” the suit alleges.

The suit against Mr. Falwell also criticizes what it characterizes as his broader failure to uphold the spiritual and moral responsibilities of his role as president of the Christian college founded by his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., in 1971. The school’s bylaws, which Mr. Falwell affirmed in 2019, state that the school’s president “provides spiritual and worldview leadership to the University in pursuit of excellence.”

Liberty students pledge to avoid alcohol, immodest behavior and sex outside of heterosexual marriage. By contrast, the suit points out, the Falwells “frequented Miami-area clubs” and socialized in “high-energy social establishments.”

The university also has a pending libel suit against The New York Times over a 2020 story about the university’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since his tumultuous departure in August, Mr. Falwell has suggested to reporters that he plans to have a continuing presence at Liberty. Last month, he posted photographs to his Instagram account showing his family attending a Liberty lacrosse game.

But Liberty has made some moves to distance itself from Mr. Falwell and his family. Mr. Falwell’s oldest son, a vice president, departed the school earlier this month. Around the same time, Mr. Prevo emailed employees to remind them that “no Liberty University employee at any level is permitted to communicate with Jerry Falwell Jr. or Becki Falwell about university matters,” unless it is related to the Falwells’ daughter, a current student.

Meanwhile, Mr. Falwell’s brother has taken a larger role on campus. Jonathan Falwell is the senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, which was founded by Jerry Falwell Sr. In Lynchburg, he has a reputation for having a greater interest in spiritual matters than in politics, a contrast with his older brother, who trained as a lawyer and seems to enjoy engaging in public combat over political and cultural disputes.

Mr. Falwell filed his own suit against the university in October, claiming the university damaged his reputation in its public statements after his resignation. That suit, too, was filed the same week that the board of trustees gathered in Lynchburg. Mr. Falwell dropped it in December.

Ruth Graham

This article originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News