Saturday, 11 April 2020

covid conspiracy theories

courtesy of The Times

Prominent British academics have been sharing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus online, The Times can disclose.
They included suggestions from other social media users that Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) that meets in Davos may be involved in plots to exploit the illness and speculation that it was a biological weapon.
The academics include Tim Hayward, a professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh, and Piers Robinson, co-founder of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS), which uses the University of Bristol as an address.
Richard Benyon, a former Conservative MP who served on the home affairs select committee, said: “These are Russell Group, internationally respected universities. These people have access to the next generation of young people and are able to cast doubt about the clear realities of modern life.”
The OPS tweeted a YouTube interview last week headlined “Is Coronavirus The New 9/11?”, where Dr Robinson said it was now obvious the official story of the World Trade Centre attacks was incorrect. “The question is who was involved in influencing, arranging, and which states, including from within the US political system. And if that’s the case with 9/11 it’s perfectly possible that there are actors at play in relation to this. Some people have talked about bioweapons.”
He described Covid-19 as “a low fatality virus . . . There’s no indication that it’s significantly different from what we see with major flu outbreaks every year”, but “propagandistic information” had created “so much hype around it, there is so much fear”.
The OPS has given Companies House the address of the School of Policy Studies at Bristol, where one of its directors, David Miller, is professor of political sociology. A university spokesman said it had not been aware its premises were listed.
Another director, Mark Crispin Miller, a professor at New York University, has written that the coronavirus “may be an artificially created bioweapon”. Professor Crispin Miller was approached for comment.
Professor David Miller issued a statement from the OPS saying it “includes a range of academic and expert contributors with independent views.
“Its function is to scrutinise propaganda and intelligence campaigns, specifically examining the role of British media organisations in amplifying those state propaganda campaigns.”
On Monday Professor Hayward retweeted to his 13,000 followers a Canadian environmentalist’s claim that the WEF, United Nations and Imperial College London might be part of a scheme to exploit the pandemic by promoting vaccines and creating gene-modified flu-resistant chickens.
Professor Hayward and Dr Robinson retweeted a YouTube interview with Ernst Wolff, a fringe author, who suggested the lockdown was a way to facilitate a fascistic financial coup. Professor Hayward tweeted: “Your attention may be drawn away from the bigger picture. According to Ernst Wolff, they’re banking on it. They? Well, who’s reporting, who’s funding, who’s profiting?”
Professor Hayward retweeted the film-maker Oliver Stone speculating on whether the virus could have been a biological attack on China.
Professor Hayward told The Times: “The implications of the virus’s effects and the policy response to it on economy, culture, society, order and every aspect of life in the UK require people to have greater access to information, not less. If I retweet interesting tweets by an influential public figure, I think it is up to other people what they make of it. If controversial ideas are not discussed, mistakes cannot be revealed.”
Dr Robinson, with 12,000 Twitter followers, retweeted the blogger Vanessa Beeley claiming Gates had links with Imperial College and asking: “Is UK government working for Bill Gates?”
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Professor Hayward, Dr Robinson, Professor David Miller and Ms Beeley are members of an academic working group on Syria that was challenging western claims that President Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. Professor Crispin Miller has served on their advisory board.
Dr Robinson denied spreading conspiracies and said his interview “concerned the danger of events such as 9/11 and the coronavirus being exploited by political actors for political, military and economic purposes. It is essential in a democratic system that people are alert to these matters.”
Network sets out to fight ‘propaganda’
Academics have formed networks to combat what they see as western propaganda spread by the media on behalf of governments. None of the three groups has issued coronavirus studies but have looked at contentious issues on war and peace.
Academics previously challenged western claims about the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime
Piers Robinson, a former professor of politics, society and political journalism at the University of Sheffield, belongs to all of the organisations. The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media produces papers that contradict what “western narratives” about atrocities attributed to President Assad.
It claimed that White Helmets rescuers committed mass murder to provide bodies for a faked chemical attack on civilians that led to the bombing of Assad’s military. It also cast doubt on Russia’s responsibility for the Salisbury poisonings.
Paul McKeigue, professor of genetic epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, a co-author of its research, has said that as an NHS public health consultant he was now working “flat out” on coronavirus.
The Working Group on Propaganda and the 9/11 Global “War on Terror” is sceptical that the Twin Towers attack was the sole work of al-Qaeda. The Organisation for Propaganda Studies says it aims to conduct research of propaganda.
Strange, but untrueMasts for the new 5G mobile phone technology were set alight in Britain after unfounded fears that the radio waves damage resistance to the virus. Woody Harrelson, the Hollywood actor, and the British hip-hop artist MIA fuelled the story.
Pepper soup was suggested as a cure for the virus in Nigeria. “Give a patient hot meals rich in pepper and in less than 24 hours he or she will be fine,” a Twitter hoaxer advised.
An orgy involving 500 Belgians left 380 infected with the virus, leading the health minister to ban group sex, according to a nationalist newspaper in Russia. The journal, illustrating its account with a photograph of nuns walking past a mural of naked women, mistook a Canadian spoof article for a factual report.
Drinking water every 15 minutes was wrongly suggested as a way to wash any traces of the virus from the mouth to the stomach, where it was claimed that acid would kill the germs.
Holding your breath easily for ten seconds is a test that proves that you are free of coronavirus, a false rumour claimed.
Same-sex marriage is one of the most appalling causes of the pandemic, Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi cleric, told his million followers online. He called on governments to ban gay weddings.
Covid-19 was created five years ago in a laboratory by Bill Gates, according to a bogus internet conspiracy theory.
In reality, a patent for a different virus was granted for vaccine research to a British institute that has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but not for that particular project.
A Hindu nationalist group held a cow urine-drinking event in Delhi to highlight the purported powers of the liquid against the virus.

Nostradamus was wrongly hailed for having predicted the crisis with a prophecy about a queen (which could be interpreted as “corona”) rising from the east in a twin year (such as 2020) to spread plague in a country with seven hills (which could be Italy) to destroy the world. He never wrote this.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Short History of Chenin Blanc

Understanding the history of Chenin Blanc is understanding the history of Cape wine and for prominent international critics it is nigh on South Africa’s signature white variety and symbolic of South Africa’s rising above its burden of history.
Chenin has also overcome one of its greatest attributes – versatility – to stand as one of the most internationally lauded South African varieties. Leading wine critics are comparing Chenin-based blends with white Burgundy which surely ranks as the best value for money – anywhere?
Although there is an accurate recording of when the first wine was made in the Cape – 2 February 1659 – there is less certainty surrounding the early varieties. However, we know that during that first century there were important contributions by Chenin, Semillon, Palamino, a few muscats and Pontac, which saw the beginnings of the Cape tradition of producing more whites than reds.
While they all waxed and waned, Chenin – while never as widely planted as Semillon (Groendruif) under British rule – remained a feature and was one of the grapes grown at Constantia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As recently as 1990, Chenin Blanc comprised more than 35% of plantings and currently comprises around 18% of plantings and over 30% of white-wine varieties.
The rise in brandy production saw yet another increase in plantings. However, Chenin’s real emergence – though anonymously in keeping with its Cinderella image – was Lieberstein, the first brand marketed nationally by creators Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery (SFW), triggering a revolution in the drinking habits of South Africans and yet another spate of plantings. In 1964, Lieberstein was the largest-selling bottled wine in the world.

It was only a year earlier, in 1963, that Professor Orffer at the University of Stellenbosch matched the Loire variety with what had been known here as Steen or Stein, both of which have since fallen out of common usage.
Another of Chenin’s earlier successes was under a nom de plume, this time as Nederburg’s Edelkeur, the Cape’s first unfortified botrytised dessert wine. In 1972, Nederburg entered the 1969 Edelkeur in an international wine competition in Budapest – and it was judged the best wine at the show. Edelkeur became one of the calling cards of the Nederburg Auction (now in its 44th year) and went on to win many international awards.
Depending on who you ask, Chenin’s shattering of its fa├žade arose from Michael Fridjhon’s campaign in the early 1990s, co-opting Wine Magazine’s Harold Eedes to launch, in 1996, the Chenin Blanc Challenge. Others attribute Irina von Holdts' 1995 launch of her Blue White Chenin Blanc, apparently the first to champion old Chenin vines. Irina was the 1st chair of the Chenin Blanc Association (CBA) in 2000, while Rosa Kruger is the undisputed current champion, along with the likes of Ken Forrester, Eben Sadie, Bruwer Raats, Mullineux and more.
Earlier this year, Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Chenin Blanc 2017 – from a vineyard planted in 1974 -  became the first wine to be launched bearing the Certified Heritage Vineyards seal of the Old Vines Project, the first wine in the world to bear the certified - by a national authority - date of a vineyard.
As recently as 1993 white grapes occupied 81% of the total vineyard area, much of which was destined for distillation and brandy. With the lifting of sanctions, international demand required more international red varieties and Chenin was once again to bear the brunt, particularly (and tragically) the now treasured older vines.
The Cape, however, still has more Chenin than any other wine-growing country with some 2700 ha (of 17 700) more than 30 years old, while there are 3467 ha of more than 20 years old. The un-irrigated old bush or un-trellised vines often produce among the best examples.
As the Cape reinvents itself, Chenin each year tends to be the most frequently uprooted as well as newly planted variety, particularly from the 1990s with the shift to red varieties. In 2016 – the latest available stats - more than one third of new white plantings comprised Chenin Blanc.
The first ever International Chenin Blanc Conference will be held in Angers, France 1-3 July 2019, with the CBA part of the Steering Committee.
For more info www.chenin.co.za

Thursday, 21 July 2016

National wine tourism strategy to be unveiled at The Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference




The inaugural “The Business of Wine and Food Tourism” Conference will be held in the heart of the Cape winelands, South Africa, in November of this year. The conference will be opened by Minister Derek Hanekom, and features a list of international and local experts who will share their knowledge on various aspects of regional food and wine travel. Minister Hanekom will also be presenting the first-ever national wine tourism strategy, as developed from the South African Wine Industry strategic exercise (WISE).

The conference marks the first time that industry players and government from national and provincial level will come together to discuss the promotion of South Africa as an international wine and food tourism destination.


“South Africa can become a key player in the food and wine tourism arena. Our wineries can already compete with the best in the world, and it is time that these gems are discovered by national and international visitors. We’re very excited by this venture”, said Siobhan Thompson, CEO of Wines of South Africa.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Seriously Fabulous Cinsault


 Red wines have got bigger and bigger in the last few decades to the point where one 'sukkels om dit in jou lyf te kry' * my legendary viticulture lecturer Vitis van der Westhuizen once said.

They often lack poise and finnesse, can have gloopy textures and finishing a glass, particularly without food, can be challenging. Not nearly so with Waterkloof's Seriously Cool Cinsault.

One of the most remarkable things about this wine is the sensuous texture at only 12,5% alcohol - that's easily 2% lower alcohol than so many modern reds without loss of intensity, weight or texture - it also means you can drink more of it but it's the sheer drinkability that's intoxicating.   

On the nose expect plumbs and purple flowers, some spice,  meatiness and earthiness. The palate is juicy with lively acidity and elegant tannins in support of those delightful aromatics. It's also ridiculously good value for money - only R105 ex cellar.

95/100 on sheer drinkability scale. 

* 'struggle to get it into your body'