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Debunking the Viral Russian Disinformation Campaign About Secret American Bioweapon Labs in Ukraine



Ukraine’s President, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department have all debunked the claim.

Russian Propaganda Spreads in U.S.

A particularly insidious piece of Russian misinformation claiming that the U.S. is funding secret bioweapons labs in Ukraine has taken root among Americans in recent days after being propagated by multiple public figures.

Propagandists were recorded on social media spreading the claim as early as Feb. 24, when Russia officially invaded Ukraine, in an attempt to justify the move. Shortly after, the misinformation was amplified by InfoWars and began to take hold in fringe, far-right conspiracy groups including QAnon.

The false claim, however, really began to gain traction after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) asked Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, whether Ukraine has biological or chemical weapons during a congressional hearing Tuesday

“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of,” she responded. “So we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”

The State Department later clarified that Nuland was referring to diagnostic and biodefense laboratories, which are different from biological weapons facilities and intended to counter biological threats.

Rubio also made the same distinction in another hearing Thursday, where he noted that “there’s a difference between a bioweapons facility and one that’s doing research.”

Still, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman quickly used Nuland’s remarks to claim the comment was proof of America’s “illegal and criminal activity on Ukrainian soil.”

That claim was then rapidly spread by numerous conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who echoed the Russian talking point the same night on his show.

“Nuland just confirmed that the Russian disinformation they’ve been telling us for days is a lie and a conspiracy theory and crazy and immoral to believe is, in fact, totally and completely true,” he said.

Carlson even noted that numerous fact checks had debunked this claim, but still embraced the Russian propaganda as truth. The next day, Russian state TV featured Carlson’s segment.

Former congresswoman and 2020 presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard also went on Carlson’s show to discuss the matter, suggesting at one point that there is possibly a cover-up aimed at hiding dangerous pathogens in the Ukrainian labs.

She later doubled down on those claims on Twitter Sunday, claiming there were “US-funded biolabs in Ukraine which if breached would release & spread deadly pathogens to US/world.”

Donald Trump Jr. also tweeted out the conspiracy to his 7.4 million followers, as did sitting U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky).

Misinformation Debunked

As the propaganda began to spread, it was quickly debunked by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department.

The officials noted that, like most other countries, Ukraine has public health laboratories that work to research and prevent the spread of dangerous diseases. Some of those labs receive funding from the U.S., the European Union, and the World Health Organization — as is the case with many other nations.

According to a factsheet from the Department of Defense released Friday, in 2005, the agency, under the Republican George W. Bush administration, began providing backing for institutions in Ukraine to “support peaceful and safe biological detection and diagnostic capabilities and to reduce the threats posed by pathogens.”

The factsheet noted that since then, the U.S. “has invested approximately $200 million […] supporting 46 Ukrainian laboratories, health facilities, and diagnostic sites.”

The agency also debunked Gabbard’s assertion that pathogens had been removed from labs as part of a coverup by pointing out that when Russia declared war, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health ordered “the safe and secure disposal of samples” limiting “the danger of an accidental release of pathogens should Russia’s military attack laboratories.”

Other officials also noted that the same year the U.S. began the lab-funding effort, the Pentagon signed an agreement to assist the Health Ministry to make sure the country’s labs studying diseases would not be used to make biological weapons.

The idea that these U.S.-backed labs are somehow secret and hidden from the public is also untrue. The laboratories are part of the Biological Threat Reduction Program, an initiative with the goal of reducing deadly outbreaks. The program has and continues to be a matter of public knowledge, including on the official webpage for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

This latest Russian misinformation campaign does not come as a shock given the country’s continued efforts to spread propaganda about the ongoings in its war on Ukraine. While members of the public have expressed astonishment over how firm a grip this particular false claim has had on Americans, experts in the field are unsurprised.

For years, Russia has been planting seeds for the claim that former Soviet Union nations are making biological weapons at U.S.-funded labs, despite the fact that experts and journalists have never found evidence. Still, the rapid proliferation of this misinformation underscores the power Russian propaganda has to influence Americans, and how those Americans are willing to believe it above numerous government sources.

See what others are saying: (Snopes) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)


YouTuber Accused of Murder After Using Livestream as Alibi



Stephen McCullagh may have eluded the authority’s suspicion if not for CCTV footage that allegedly puts him near the scene of the crime.

Police Peer Behind the Veil

A Northern Ireland YouTuber was charged with murdering a pregnant woman last week, and police told the court he used his livestream as an alibi.

On Dec. 18, 32-year-old Natalie McNally was stabbed to death in her Silverwood Green home in Lurgan. She was 15 weeks pregnant.

Police initially arrested Stephen McCullagh, also 32 years old, but soon released him after he persuaded them he was livestreaming the night the murder happened.

McCullagh, from Woodland Gardens in Lisburn, is a part-time assistant audience editor for the Belfast Telegraph and has a YouTube channel with over 30,000 subscribers.

His livestream was indeed active on the night McNally was murdered, but the footage of him playing the video game Grand Theft Auto was pre-recorded days earlier, according to a technical examination of his devices by cyber experts.

Senior detective Neil McGuinness told district judge Rosie Watters that McCullagh denied any involvement in the crime but admitted that the livestream was faked in a written statement.

The YouTuber later revised his story from that night to claim he drank alone at home then fell asleep.

Prosecutors alleged the suspect had devised a “sophisticated, calculated and cool-headed plot” and was “capable of deception beyond imagination.”

Damning Evidence Comes to Light

Police told the court they can trace McCullagh’s movements from the crime scene back to his home on Dec. 18 using CCTV footage from a bus and an account from a taxi driver.

A man police believe to be McCullagh is seen boarding the bus with his hood pulled down and scarf pulled up.

According to the statement, the man removes a black glove to accept his change from the driver, revealing a second yellow glove underneath.

McGuinness said it was consistent with the print of a Marigold glove found in a blood stain at the crime scene.

Police also believe the same man boarded a taxi. Based on an analysis of GPS data, authorities say the cab allegedly stopped at McCullagh’s address.

At the beginning of McCullagh’s pre-recorded stream, he told his audience that he couldn’t respond to their live chat messages because of technical difficulties.

“I could use my phone to dip in every now and again and check it, but I’ve decided that I kind of hate livestreams where people just sit and read comments and go, ‘oh my God, yes, ask me questions,’” he added.

Police allege he deliberately referred to the time and said “I’m not leaving the house tonight” to reinforce his alibi.

At one point, he expresses fear about rising crime and underfunded police.

“That’s why I love sticking to just doing crimes in a video game,” he said. “Keeps things simple, mate.”

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (Irish Mirror)

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200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing 



The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16. 

Children Missing From Hotels

There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.

When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.

In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.

Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.

Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”

Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing. 

However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.”  The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.” 

Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline. 

The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)

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100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History



Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”

The NHS Grinds to a Halt

Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.

The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.

Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.

When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.

In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”

Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.

The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.

During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.

Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament

Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.

“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”

“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”

Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”

Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”

“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”

While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.

Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.

If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.

Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)

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