Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) the “severity of needs is deepening”, with the number of people in acute need, a staggering 27 per cent higher than last year, when it was already the most acute crisis on the globe.
Thursday’s 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen report, shows that 14.3 million people are classified as being in acute need, with around 3.2 million requiring treatment for acute malnutrition; that includes two million children under-five, and more than one million pregnant and lactating women.
Highlighting that more than 20 million people across the country are food insecure, half of them suffering extreme levels of hunger, the report focuses on some key humanitarian issues: basic survival needs, protection of civilians and livelihoods and essential basic services.
“The escalation of the conflict since March 2015 has dramatically aggravated the protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and basic rights”, OCHA reports.
The UN agency data shows that a total of 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million lack access to adequate healthcare. Poor sanitation and waterborne diseases, including cholera, left hundreds of thousands of people ill last year.
Meanwhile, grain which could help feed millions, is still at risk of rotting in a key Red Sea storage facility because conditions are too unsafe to reach it, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and UN Emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock said earlier this week.
Death toll and displaced people
During the past four years of intense conflict between Government forces and Houthi rebels have left tens of thousands dead or injured including at least 17,700 civilians as verified by the UN.
The agency adds that an estimated 3.3 million people remain displaced, up from 2.2 million last year, including 685,000 people who fled fighting in Hudaydah and on the west coast, from June onwards. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of sites hosting displaced people has increased by almost half over the past 12 months.
The event is scheduled for 26 February in Geneva and seeks to garner support for the humanitarian response and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. At the beginning of this month, UN Emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock said that $4 billion would be needed.
A Breakthrough in the Mystery of Why Women Get So Many Autoimmune Diseases.
About 65 million years ago, shortly after the time of the dinosaurs, a new critter popped up on the evolutionary scene. This “scampering animal,” as researchers described it, was likely small, ate bugs, and had a furry tail. It looked, according to artistic renderings, like an especially aggressive New York City rat. And it had a placenta, an organ that grows deep into the maternal body in order to nourish the fetus during pregnancy.
The rodentlike thing would become the common ancestor of the world’s placental mammals, with descendants that include whales, bats, dogs, and humans, among many other species. And today, the placenta might hold the key to one of the most enduring mysteries in human medicine: Why do women suffer much higher rates of autoimmune disease than men do?
Autoimmune diseases turn people’s own immune systems against their bodies. In the United States alone, women represent 80 percent of all cases of autoimmune disease. Women are 16 times more likely than men to get Sjogren’s syndrome, in which the immune system goes after the glands that make tears and saliva, and nine times more likely to have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which it sets its sights on the thyroid. Sjogren’s forced Venus Williams to drop out of the U.S. Open in 2011. The singer Selena Gomez underwent a kidney transplant after suffering complications from lupus, which is eight times more common in women than in men.
Some scientists now think the placenta itself might be the reason why women are so disproportionately affected. In a paper published last week in the journal Trends in Genetics, Melissa Wilson, an evolutionary biologist, along with her colleagues from Arizona State University, put forward an explanation called the “pregnancy-compensation hypothesis.” It suggests that women’s immune systems are engaged in a fierce tug of war with placentas, even when the organs aren’t actually present.
Here’s how the theory goes: Women—and all other placental mammals—evolved such that they would be pregnant for many of their adult years. Before the advent of birth control, that was pretty much the fate of the female sex. In modern hunter-gatherer populations, Wilson told me, it’s not uncommon for women to have eight to 12 children each.
Though bearing so many babies might sound grueling, women’s bodies evolved to cope. When the placenta grows during pregnancy, the organ sends signals to the mother’s immune system to change its activity so that the mother’s body doesn’t eject the placenta and the fetus. This might even mean turning down the immune system in some ways, or for some periods of time. Turning down the immune system too much, though, risks leaving women sensitive to pathogens, which would also be bad for the fetus. So instead the mother’s immune system ramps up in other ways throughout adulthood, Wilson and her colleagues think, so as to remain vigilant against germs even when some of its parts become dormant during pregnancies.
Things get complicated, however, when those pregnancies don’t actually occur. Women today tend to have far fewer children—fewer than two on average in the United States, according to the CDC. Wilson reasons that without a more or less constant pushback from placentas during pregnancies—the pushback that women’s immune systems have evolved to anticipate—the immune system can get too aggressive, too ramped up. It starts looking for things to attack that aren’t dangerous, which is how autoimmune diseases set in.
For millions of years, minus the past 100, “the immune system was expecting to have exposure to a placenta,” Wilson says. Imagine if you’re pulling on something heavy, and then the rope snaps. “If you suddenly don’t have that heavy thing anymore,” she says, “you’re gonna go off the moon.”
This is certainly not the first theory for why women suffer from more autoimmune disease than men do. One has to do with a protein called BAFF; another has to do with the fact that women have two X chromosomes instead of one. The way Wilson sees it, the pregnancy-compensation hypothesis synthesizes many of the previous theories into one and provides the evolutionary explanation behind them. “They were all right,” she says. “But everyone was looking under their own streetlight, and we just waited for it to be daytime.”
Wilson says that so far, no one has come forward to attack her for being wrong, despite the seeming boldness of this theory. Several experts I spoke with—even those who have competing theories for the sex difference in autoimmune disease—say Wilson’s theory might fit with what we already know. “I would say there’s not one theory that explains all [autoimmune diseases],” says Nikolaos Patsopoulos, an assistant professor of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This isn’t Lord of the Rings.” Still, he says, “this theory puts together a lot of things we know that are true and some that we’re still trying to understand.”
Johann E. Gudjonsson, a professor of skin molecular immunology at the University of Michigan, found that women have more of a molecular switch called VGLL3 in their skin than men do, and that all this VGLL3 might be what causes a heightened immune response in women. In this case, then, the VGLL3 might be how the body ramps up the immune system, but the pregnancy-compensation hypothesis might be why it does so.
Similarly, Hal Scofield, a professor of pathology and medicine at the University of Oklahoma, says that it appears there are lots of genes involved in the immune response on the X chromosome, and because women have two X chromosomes while men have only one, women have more of those immune genes. The placental theory that Wilson’s team devised could be the reason this happens. Because women have to have strong immune systems that buck against the placenta, they evolved to produce more genes involved in the immune response. “I don’t think there’s any way out of thinking that placental pregnancy has to have influenced the evolutionary immune system,” Scofield told me.
Not everyone I reached was impressed by the paper. David Hafler, a professor of neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, told me, “Ideas are cheap. It’s data which is hard to get.” In other words, sure, the pregnancy-compensation hypothesis is an interesting idea, but it still has to be tested.
Wilson says there are opportunities to do just that. Scientists could try to determine whether the number of pregnancies a woman has is predictive of her risk of autoimmune disease. If Wilson’s theory holds, women who have more pregnancies should have a lower risk. Or scientists could study the differences between mammals in the wild and zoo animals, which are sometimes on birth control, to determine whether they have differences in their autoimmune function.
Some people might take Wilson’s findings to mean that women should simply be pregnant all the time, but that’s far from the takeaway here. Pregnancy, after all, also carries major health risks, and not all women want to have 12 kids. And Wilson’s findings suggest that women’s extra-strong immune systems might protect them in some cases. Women are less likely than men to get certain kinds of nonreproductive cancers, for example.
Wilson says that the hope is to eventually learn what it is in the immune system that’s trying to respond to the placenta, and to target that thing with vaccines or treatments. More research could mean major improvements in the way women’s autoimmune diseases are treated. “I’ve never been more excited about an idea than I am about this,” Wilson told me. “This is the first time that I can see my work having a direct impact in the next 10 years on human health.”
Iranian lawyer who defended women’s right to remove hijab gets 38 years, 148 lashes.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer jailed in Iran, has been handed a new sentence that her husband said was 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.
Sotoudeh, who has represented opposition activists including women prosecuted for removing their mandatory headscarf, was arrested in June and charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader, her lawyer said.
She was jailed in 2010 for spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security – charges she denied – and was released after serving half of her six-year term. The European parliament awarded her the Sakharov human rights prize.
Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, wrote on Facebook that the sentence was decades in jail and 148 lashes, unusually harsh even for Iran, which cracks down hard on dissent and regularly imposes death sentences for some crimes.
The news comes days after Iran appointed a hardline new head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, who is a protege of Ali Khamenei. The appointment is seen as weakening the political influence of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate.
Iran, often accused of human rights abuses, said it had allowed the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, Kate Gilmore, to visit last week at the head of a “technical mission”.
The visit, confirmed by a UN official, appeared to be the first in many years by UN human rights investigators, who have been denied access by the government.
The UN investigator on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, raised Sotoudeh’s case at the UN human rights council in Geneva on Monday, saying that last week that she “was reportedly convicted of charges relating to her work and could face a lengthy prison sentence”.
He added: “Worrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers and labour rights activists signal an increasingly severe state response.”
Pros and cons of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets.
Michael Pollan’s famous advice — “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — has become an oft-repeated mantra of the modern era. The first part is a reminder to eat actual food, not the processed chemistry dominating supermarket shelves. The second is personal responsibility: eat until you’re full, not until your plate is clean. Don’t snack so much. Recognize the link between emotional problems and binge eating, and address them simultaneously.
Now what does “mostly plants” actually entail?
Every month an onslaught of new nutrition news dominates the health blogosphere. Fish will kill you. Fish are heart-healthy. Coconut oil is like manna from heaven. Coconut oil will definitely give you a heart attack. Red meat is the devil, unless it’s raw, in which case you can survive solely from it. Kelp. And so on.
Part of the challenge of reading the studies this news is based on — and, often, not based on at all — is recognizing that small sample groups do not always make for solid science. This is especially true with our diets, as environment, activity level, and genetics all play a role in how we interact with our food choices. Some people simply process certain foods better than others. There is no singular ideal diet.
A team of Austrian researchers based at the Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Medical University Graz, wanted to find out. Their meta-analysis of over 15,000 Austrians, age 15 and older, revealed important insights into what all-plant, mostly plant, and occasional-plant diets mean for our health.
Of those 15,000+ Austrian citizens, the team analyzed the data of 1,320 individuals: 330 vegetarians, 330 carnivores who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, 330 carnivores who do not eat much meat and an equal number who eat a lot of meat. They took age, sex, and socioeconomic factors into consideration when matching groups. In the end 76.4 percent of this group were female, with 40 percent being under age 30. Another 35 percent fell between the ages of 30 and 50.
Interestingly, while there were positive benefits associated with vegetarianism, the group concludes the following:
Overall, our findings reveal that vegetarians report poorer health, follow medical treatment more frequently, have worse preventive health care practices, and have a lower quality of life… Our results have shown that vegetarians report chronic conditions and poorer subjective health more frequently.
They also discovered “significantly higher” incidences of cancer in vegetarians, as well as increased rates of anxiety disorder and depression, although they note that this is inconsistent with other research. They did point out another study which shows an increased risk of mental disorders in vegetarians. In general, vegetarians suffer from more chronic conditions and take more medication than even occasional meat eaters.
Data source: Austrian Health Interview Survey (AT-HIS) 2006/07. Percentage of subjects suffering from the different chronic conditions. p (x2): probability value of Chi-Square-Test. Analyses were calculated with subjects matched according to their age, sex, and socio-economic status (N = 1320).
It’s not all bad news. Vegetarians have a lower body-mass index and suffer less from cholesterol problems, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians enjoy a higher socioeconomic status, though correlation might not equal causation: a lot of lower income workers might not be able to afford high-quality plant products. Vegetarians also treat their bodies better: they exercise more and smoke and drink alcohol less.
The correlation between BMI and meat is clear in this study. Carnivores who eat a lot of meat have the highest BMI while pure vegetarians have the lowest. Again, correlation and causation are not clear, as meat eaters also show a much higher rate of alcohol consumption, which is one of the quickest and surest ways to pack on pounds.
Interestingly, vegetarians are vaccinated and visit the doctor less often than the other groups, which could play into the chronic conditions data. Given the questionable marketing tactics by “health food” brands that claim that “food is medicine” and call their products “superfoods,” it’s no surprise that some vegetarians believe their diet to be a panacea. Factor in that this group vaccinates less often and it’s easy to understand how one conspiracy rolls into the next, a pattern that could prove detrimental to their health.
The team’s conclusion is stark:
Our study has shown that Austrian adults who consume a vegetarian diet are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment.
So the “mostly” part of Pollan’s creed appears valid. Diet is a balancing act only in an era of excess. Protein and fat was, for most of our evolutionary history, scarce and harder to secure. We had to eat “mostly” plants. Choosing to overload on meat today, while ignoring plant carbohydrates (and the fiber that goes along with it) appears to be just as dangerous as avoiding meat altogether. During a time when so much is available, the inherent — and necessary, given they didn’t have a choice — wisdom of our ancestors stands up. We do have a choice today, and must always remember that when deciding what we put into our mouths.
Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Protesters Flee After Counter-Protesters Strip Down To Bras.
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with police in Jerusalem over the weekend in protest of the Eurovision Song Contest final, which was held on Shabbat.
The impassioned crowd blocked Haneviim Street and stopped traffic on Saturday, The Times of Israel reported. Protesters attacked officers responding to the demonstration, and one was arrested.
Scores of police in Jerusalem backed up by officers on horseback trying to break up an ultra-Orthodox street protest Saturday got some help from an unexpected quarter — women who took their tops off, driving away the protesters, who are religiously forbidden from looking at them.
The protestors, shouting “Shabbes” in Yiddish, claimed the scheduling of the international contest was a “desecration” of the Jewish day of rest, the BBC reported. A small group of women held a counter-protest by taking off their shirts, revealing their bras and causing the protesters to go elsewhere. Orthodox Jews live by strict modesty codes and are forbidden from looking on immodestly-dressed women.
Eurovision was held in Tel Aviv this year. The final began after Shabbat ended at sundown, but preparation took place throughout the day.
Militia leader Ammon Bundy, famous for leading an armed standoff in Oregon, had a tender moment in November of last year. He recorded a Facebook post saying that perhaps President Trump’s characterization of the migrant caravan on the U.S.-Mexico border was somewhat broad. Maybe they weren’t all criminals, he said. “What about those who have come here for reasons of need?”
Bundy did not say he was breaking with Trump. He just asked his followers to put themselves in the shoes of “the fathers, the mothers, the children” who came to escape violence. It was a call for a truce grounded in empathy, the kind you might hear in a war zone, say, or an Easter Sunday sermon. Still, it was met with a swift and rageful response from his followers, so overwhelming that within days, Bundy decided to quit Facebook.
In an earlier era, Bundy’s appeal might have resonated. But he failed to tune in to a critical shift in American culture — one that a handful of researchers have been tracking, with some alarm, for the past decade or so. Americans these days seem to be losing their appetite for empathy, especially the walk-a-mile-in-someone’s-shoes Easter Sunday morning kind.
When I was growing up in the ’70s, empathy was all the rage. The term was coined in 1908; then, social scientists and psychologists started more aggressively pushing the concept into the culture after World War II, basically out of fear. The idea was that we were all going to kill each other with nuclear weapons — or learn to see the world through each other’s eyes. In my elementary school in the 1970s, which was not progressive or mushy in any way, we wrote letters to pretend Russian pen pals to teach us to open our hearts to our enemies.
And not just enemies. Civil rights activists had also picked up on the idea. Kenneth Clark, a social scientist and civil rights activist, half-jokingly proposed that people in power all be required to take an “empathy pill” so they could make better decisions. His hope was that people with power and privilege would one day inhabit the realities of people without power, not from the safe, noblesse oblige distance of pity, but from the inside. An evolved person was an empathetic person, choosing understanding over fear.
Then, more than a decade ago, a certain suspicion of empathy started to creep in, particularly among young people. One of the first people to notice was Sara Konrath, an associate professor and researcher at Indiana University. Since the late 1960s, researchers have surveyed young people on their levels of empathy, testing their agreement with statements such as: “It’s not really my problem if others are in trouble and need help” or “Before criticizing somebody I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.”
Konrath collected decades of studies and noticed a very obvious pattern. Starting around 2000, the line starts to slide. More students say it’s not their problem to help people in trouble, not their job to see the world from someone else’s perspective. By 2009, on all the standard measures, Konrath found, young people on average measure 40 percent less empathetic than my own generation — 40 percent!
It’s strange to think of empathy – a natural human impulse — as fluctuating in this way, moving up and down like consumer confidence. But that’s what happened. Young people just started questioning what my elementary school teachers had taught me.
Their feeling was: Why should they put themselves in the shoes of someone who was not them, much less someone they thought was harmful? In fact, cutting someone off from empathy was the positive value, a way to make a stand.
So, for example, when the wife of white nationalist Richard Spencer recently told BuzzFeed he had abused her, the question debated on the lefty Internet was: Why should we care that some woman who chose to ally herself with a nasty racist got herself hurt? Why waste empathy on that? (Spencer, in a court filing, denies all her allegations.)
The new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your “enemies,” but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team. And empathizing with the other team? That’s practically a taboo.
And it turns out that this brand of selective empathy is a powerful force.
In the past 20 years, psychologists and neurologists have started to look at how empathy actually works, in our brains and our hearts, when we’re not thinking about it. And one thing they’ve found is that “one of the strongest triggers for human empathy is observing some kind of conflict between two other parties,” says Fritz Breithaupt, a professor at Indiana University who studies empathy. “Once they take the side, they’re drawn into that perspective. And that can lead to very strong empathy and too strong polarization with something you only see this one side and not the other side any longer.”
A classic example is the Super Bowl, or any Auburn, Alabama game.
But these days in the news, examples come up every day: the Kavanaugh hearings, emergency funding for a wall, Spike Lee walking out of the Oscars, the Barr report, Kirstjen Nielsen, every third thing on Twitter.
Researchers who study empathy have noticed that it’s actually really hard to do what we were striving for in my generation: empathize with people who are different than you are, much less people you don’t like. But if researchers set up a conflict, people get into automatic empathy overdrive, with their own team. This new research has scrambled notions of how empathy works as a force in the world. For example, we often think of terrorists as shockingly blind to the suffering of innocents. But Breithaupt and other researchers think of them as classic examples of people afflicted with an “excess of empathy. They feel the suffering of their people.”
Breithaupt called his new book The Dark Sides of Empathy, because there’s a point at which empathy doesn’t even look like the kind of universal empathy I was taught in school. There is a natural way that empathy gets triggered in the brain — your pain centers light up when you see another person suffering. But out in the world it starts to look more like tribalism, a way to keep reinforcing your own point of view and blocking out any others.
Breithaupt is alarmed at the apparent new virus of selective empathy and how it’s deepening divisions. If we embrace it, he says, then “basically you give up on civil society at that point. You give up on democracy. Because if you feed into this division more and you let it happen, it will become so strong that it becomes dangerous.”
We can’t return to my generation’s era of empathy innocence, because we now know too much about how the force actually works. But we can’t give up on empathy either, because empathy is “90 percent what our life is all about,” Breithaupt says. “Without it, we would be just alone.”
In his book Breithaupt proposes an ingenious solution: give up on the idea that when we are “empathizing” we are being altruistic, or helping the less fortunate, or in any way doing good. What we can do when we do empathy, proposes Fritz, is help ourselves. We can learn to see the world through the eyes of a migrant child and a militia leader and a Russian pen pal purely so we can expand our own imaginations, and make our own minds richer. It’s selfish empathy. Not saintly, but better than being alone.
Investigation reveals troll factory with hundreds working in rotating shifts.
Slaying online trolls can be a lonely business. Just ask Russia’s Lyudmila Savchuk, who first exposed the story of Russia’s disinformation campaign back in 2014.
The journalist and 33-year-old mother of two, Savchuk started noticing websites and social media accounts attacking local opposition activists in her hometown of Saint Petersburg with a frequency she hadn’t seen before.
The posts were all too similar. The verbal assaults too coordinated. So, when Savchuk later heard that an organization rumored to be behind the campaign — the Internet Research Agency or IRA — was hiring writers, she went for it.
“I wanted to get in there to see how it works, of course,” says Savchuk. “But the most important thing was to see if there was some way to stop it.”
She was hired as a blogger and told to report to Savushkina 55, a nondescript four-story office building on the outskirts of town.
There was a group dedicated to producing visual memes known as “demotivators.”
Once on the inside, Savchuk was stunned to see hundreds of mostly younger Russians working as paid trolls in rotating shifts.
Roaming the halls when she could — cameras were everywhere — Savchuk discovered the IRA was full of different “departments.” There was the “news division,” the “social media seeders”, and a group dedicated to producing visual memes known as “ demotivators.”
Each worker had a quota to fill every day and every night.
Despite the division of labor, the content was remarkably uniform. The US, the EU, Ukraine’s pro-European government, and Russia’s opposition were regular targets for scorn. And then there was Russian President Vladimir Putin — seemingly no Russian triumph under his rule was too small to warrant a celebratory tweet, meme or post.
“Each worker has a quota to fill every day and every night,” Savchuk says. “Because the factory works around the clock. It never stops. Not for a second.”
At one point she pedaled pro-Kremlin talking points under the guise of a fortune teller.
The work occasionally dipped into the absurd: at one point, Savchuk had to pretend to be a fortune teller named “Cantadora” — mixing blog musings on astrology, crystals, and rare gemstones with pro-Kremlin talking points. (One of Cantadora’s more accurate predictions was Vladimir Putin’s victory in Russia’s then-future 2018 presidential elections.)
This kind of soft-pedal trolling, Savchuk says, seemed to prove that the IRA was bent on reaching even the most marginal and apolitical of Russia’s expanding online audience.
In total, Savchuk spent just two and a half months at the IRA before she went public about the troll factory in a local newspaper.
The operation was run by a local restaurateur who was placed under US sanctions for attempting to interfere with US elections.
Her conclusion: The troll farm was a Kremlin project, run by a shadowy local restaurateur named Evgeny Prigozhin.
While Prigozhin has denied those charges, his name may sound familiar to American audiences. Often called “Putin’s Chef” for his close ties to the Russian President, Prigozhin was placed under US sanctions in 2018 for what American officials say was a coordinated attempt to interfere with the US elections.
But that? That would all come later.
Even before the local troll exposé spread into a full-blown international scandal, Savchuk shifted to activism: lecturing on disinformation and trying to name and shame participants in the troll farm.
“I acted like any journalist would,” she says. “Only, then I went further. I realized an article wasn’t enough.”
She even sued the IRA in a Russian court in 2015 — winning a symbolic 1 ruble victory over the troll farm for labor code violations.
The court ruling brought the work of the Internet Research Agency “out of the shadows,” says Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer who represented Savchuk in the case.
“I can make comparisons to Al Capone. The US government couldn’t get him for being a gangster but they could get him for tax evasion,” he tells The World.
Meanwhile, Savchuk continued to publish her thoughts on countering disinformation to her main online outlet: her Facebook feed. And this is where Savchuk’s weird troll-slaying story takes an even weirder turn.
After returning home from a disinformation conference in Washington, DC, in November, Savchuk found her Facebook account inexplicably blocked.
Repeated attempts to restore her account and verify her identity with her passport went nowhere. Finally, in mid-February — boom. With no explanation, her profile was back.
Why this happened at all is still a mystery. Facebook did not respond to questions from The World about Savchuk’s access.
But Savchuk posits that IRA trolls may have flooded the platform with complaints about her account. Her problems with Facebook, she notes, started only after she talked openly about threats she’d received from people affiliated with Evgeny Prigozhin.
The possibility is not far-fetched. Last October, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an investigation claiming that people affiliated with Progizhin were behind attacks on opposition figures and bloggers.
Another possibility: Savchuk was swept up by a Facebook campaign to weed out fake Russian troll accounts. Company executives have touted those efforts amid increased congressional scrutiny after the 2016 election. And some western media outlets have mistakenly identified Savchuk as a “former troll.”
Either way, Savchuk feels burned by the experience. She says she thought her work against the IRA was helping Facebook understand how its platform could be gamed.
“When Facebook blocked me,” she says. “I couldn’t do that anymore.”
This “troll slayer” doesn’t regret the fight but is no longer convinced she could win.
Meanwhile, the stress and online isolation have taken a toll. Savchuk doesn’t hide that she had a breakdown since blowing the whistle on the IRA.
And while she doesn’t regret taking on the fight, this troll slayer — now 37 — is no longer convinced she can win.
Even though he was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team last year, “Putin’s Chef” is doing just fine, Savchuk notes.
A recent investigation into Prigozhin suggests his media empire and government contracts have grown exponentially since the IRA was cast out of the shadows.
Despite — or maybe because of — attention from the US, good things keep coming Prigozhin’s way.