O:H header
In 2015 the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) pubished a report declaring red meat as "probably carcinogenic". Everyone assumes they had good reasons for making such a statement, backed up by rigorous scientific research utilizing the best available evidence. Everyone is wrong on that one.

Tim Rees, registered nutritionist, published an article (https://tim-rees.com/why-is-the-world...) that rigorously takes apart the science used to lead to the IARC's conclusions. Spoiler alert: that 'evidence' is super weak. It's difficult not to come to the conclusion that the IARC report was serving an agenda, and it isn't to make the world healthier through solid dietary advice. Rees details much of the history and the behind-the-scenes backroom deals that lead the WHO to declare war on meat.

Join us on this episode of Objective:Health as we highlight some of the main points in Rees' article and give the O:H take.

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Running Time: 00:44:00

Download: MP3 — 39.9 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Doug: Hello, and welcome to Objective Health; another exciting episode. I am Doug, with me today are Erica and Tiff. In the background as usual, on the ones and twos, is Damian. Today we are going to be talking about why the World Health Organisation is so anti-meat.

To put it in context, there was an article put out by a nutritionist named Tim Rees, he put it up on Medium. It's a very long, thorough analysis of this question: Why is the World Health Organisation Anti-meat? It starts off by looking at the evidence that the World Health Organisation has for their claim that meat is probably carcinogenic and tears it apart. The second half of the article is more about why. Why would they put out a statement like that given such weak evidence? Maybe I'll just read the statement. The World Health Organisation had a subgroup called the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the IARC:

"...classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect. This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer."

That's their statement. If you read through it and you emphasise certain words in it you see that it actually weakens the statement considerably. It sounds like a scary statement right? "Meat causes cancer." But what they actually say is that "classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect."

So they have hedged the whole thing, they've got a get-out clause there "We said probably. We didn't say it was for sure." They have since come out and said in a Q&A about the document that they have put out that there is no proof that.... Did they say proof? "Eating red meat has not yet been established as a cause of cancer." After putting out that statement they have already backtracked a bit and said that there is no strong evidence that it causes cancer.

Tiffany: But it probably does.

Doug: It probably causes cancer. Thanks WHO, good job.

Tiffany: That's the thing, if you come out and make this bold statement and people don't really pay attention to the whole "probably" thing that's in there anyway, so you come out and make this statement and it's put in headlines all over the world and millions of people read it and then the next day you quietly say "I didn't really mean it that way", no one is going to get that next part where you said that you didn't mean it.

Doug: For a bit of background, it came out in 2015. Was it 2015 that they put out a short summary? Then, the actual report itself which is 500 pages didn't come out until 3 years later. They snuck it out there and said "meat probably causes cancer" and then they didn't actually back it up with the evidence that they had for three years. That's a good buffer there so that everybody has forgotten about it by the time that actually comes out.

Erica: What is interesting about the IARC is that they were created by the WHO back in 1965. Their whole basis was to have international collaboration in cancer research. When you look into who these people who are doing this type of research are, it is stated that a key feature of IARC's process is transparency of its members, and that the working group must have no real or perceived conflicts of interest, and evidence must be openly available to all.

Like you said, Doug, it's interesting that it took them all these years to actually give that evidence. In the article you're talking about, at one point a statement is made that a lot of these doctors are vegetarians.

Doug: That's an interesting thing actually. One of the guys who was on that panel whose name is David Klurfeld works with the USDA in the United States. He was on that panel and he said that it was one of the most frustrating experiences of his entire life. I listened to a podcast with him on Peak Human and he was talking about it and he said that he estimated - it wasn't a formal poll or anything like that - that about one-quarter to one-third of the panel were vegetarian in some form or other, or vegan. He said that that should be declared as a conflict of interest.

Erica: Most definitely.

Doug: Essentially, these people have an ideology. One other interesting thing that he said which I think is very true was that the vegetarian people on that panel that he interacted with were all very interested in making everybody else vegetarians, but the meat eaters had no interest whatsoever in trying to convert the vegetarians to be meat eaters. That's very telling in and of itself. Part of the vegetarian ethos is that you have to convert as many people as possible. If you've got them writing dietary guidelines for the entire world then that kind of thing is a conflict of interest. It should be stated upfront that "by the way, we have a significant portion of our panel who really want you to be vegetarian."

Erica: Another ironic thing that happened in 2015 was that the IARC also said that glyphosate was probably a carcinogen as well. For those that are interested, you can read about it on SOTT.net, just type in "IARC" and you can read several articles about how they were deemed corrupt or not scientifically based for going against a corporation like Monsanto (who are now Bayer).

Again, with the vegetarian thing if you are eating vegetables there is a really good chance you are eating vegetables that were produced using roundup, or glyphosate. It's very interesting that that doesn't get a lot of attention or that it gets pooh-poohed a lot, but yet the meat thing just sticks.

Doug: We are going to get into it more here but I think it really has to do with money. We will get into it later, but first off we should state that meat is actually really good for you and it's probably the most nutritious food that you can have. Eliminating it from your diet for ideological reasons or health reasons - the health reasons are bunk, well the ideological reasons are bunk too.

It's really in vogue to slam meat and blame everybody's health problems on meat, it's because of too much meat. Really, there isn't any basis for that despite that fact that the WHO has come out and said that it's probably carcinogenic there really isn't any evidence for that.

One of the things that's great about the Tim Rees article is that he really goes through and shows you that. He shows you the different studies that they are relying on. First off, they mention that they looked at 800 studies which sounds really impressive, but further on they tell you that they actually whittled that down to 14 studies. They started with 800, whittled it down to 14 and of those 14, seven showed an association with meat consumption and cancer and seven did not. Already, you are looking at 50/50 here.

On top of that, one thing that Rees does a very good job of going through is the quality of evidence that they are looking at. All of those studies are observational studies. I don't want to get too much into it, but observational studies are where you just look at people and you look at what they are eating and what kind of diseases that they had and then they say "there are some associations here, we found that in one given study the people who eat meat were more likely to get cancer."

The problem with that is that they haven't controlled for anything, they are just doing an observation. There could literally be a million co-founding factors that could come in there that could be the reason that these people who were eating meat were more likely to get cancer. It could just be that people who eat meat are generally ignoring dietary guidance and maybe those people are more likely to ignore all health guidance so they're not exercising, they're eating junk food and drinking a lot of sodas. There could be any number of different things that could be causing that thing.

This is why they say that observational studies can't lead you to causation. You can't look at an observational study and say "meat causes cancer". It doesn't work that way. It's very weak evidence. The only way that you can really get good evidence for something like that is if you actually control a person's diet and you control all the inputs as much as you possibly can and you feed them a particular thing, then you can say "since we were feeding these people meat and we didn't feed it to the control group, and since the people in the meat group got cancer there's a pretty good chance that meat is actually the causative factor there because we controlled for everything else." It's very weak evidence.

Tiffany: Not only did they not do a proper study, they relied on self report of the people that were in these so-called studies to recall and then honestly report what they had eaten. Now first, people are not going to recall everything that they have eaten. I have a hard time even recalling everything I ate the day before.

Secondly, people are going to lie about what they are eating. Say I ate a pack of Oreos and I drank a 2-litre of Dr. Pepper, people inherently know that that kind of thing is not the healthiest thing to eat so what's the likelihood of them properly writing out everything that they've eaten, and remembering everything that they've eaten. It's not possible.

Doug: In one of the studies that they looked at it was actually stated - this part was hilarious - that "puzzlingly, meat does not promote carcinogenesis in rat studies". Okay, hold on. What they did is they poisoned the rats with something called azoxymethane which is a carcinogenic neurotoxin, and they removed calcium and vitamin E from their diets which are apparently things that will buffer this poison from causing colon cancer. Then they say "surprisingly, the rats developed colon cancer."

How is that a useful study? It means that if you poison yourself with azoxymethane, make sure there is no calcium or vitamin E in your diet, and you eat meat then you are going to get colon cancer. Thanks science! Good one, I guess I won't do that then.

Tiffany: The fact that they use the word "puzzlingly" means that they started off with a bias in the first place. Like you said earlier, a large number of the scientists on this panel were actually vegetarian or vegan so they're starting off with an assumption right up front that they think that meat is carcinogenic so they are going to do whatever they can to actually prove what they already believe.

Doug: Exactly.

Erica: Then, they are going to bury it in 500 pages of reading so you don't find it.

Tiffany: Even with all of that, they still can't prove it! You have to poison rats and deprive them of calcium in order to show any kind of correlation.

Doug: And how does that translate to anything in the real world? In any sense? That study was undoubtedly splashed across headlines "scientists find that meat causes colon cancer". No they didn't. They found out that poisoned rats with a nutrient deficient diet who ate meat got colon cancer. That's the extent of it, that's not translatable to the real world in any sense at all. That tells you nothing about what you should be eating.

Erica: If you keep inundating people with that idea again and again and again then it sticks. A couple of weeks ago we did a show about Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and one of the things that he says is "one believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them". If you keep pounding people over the head with this false narrative then whenever they see the word "meat" they think "carcinogen".

Doug: It's true. In the original statement which I read at the top they talk about "strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect of meat." Their strong evidence is anything but strong essentially. First off, they talk about nitrates "nitrates cause cancer" but it's another similar thing where if you overfeed rats nitrates then yes they are going to get cancer.

Another study that Rees quoted said "normal dietary nitrate and nitrite showed no harm to harm to human health, and no confirmed evidence stated the explicit association of dietary nitrate and cancer. Most existing research on nitrate and tumors ignored the complicated compounds and target foods resulting in contradictory conclusions amongst researchers."

This is some of the "strong mechanistic evidence" that they are talking about. Another thing that they talked about was heme iron. Heme iron is a vital nutrient that we all need, is it possible to overdose on it? Yes it is. Do you need to be careful about eating meat because of heme iron? For most people, no. Not at all. Maybe if they have severe hemochromatosis which is a condition where people are super-absorbers of iron. Those people probably have to be careful. For everybody else, the idea that you are going to overdose on heme iron because you are eating meat is highly, highly unlikely.

There were other ones: heterocyclic aromatic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In the IARC report they said that these chemicals cause DNA damage but little direct evidence exists that this occurs following meat consumption. They even said right there. Essentially, that's their "strong mechanistic evidence" it's these compounds, nitrates, for one, it's all contradictory and it probably doesn't hurt. Interestingly, you get way more nitrates from vegetables than you do from meat. It's 80% more from vegetables than you do from meat, and you produce it in your saliva. There are a lot of problems with that nitrate thing.

Then, you have got the heme iron. Iron deficiency is a problem, worldwide. It's not that people are getting too much iron, it's very low on the scale of dangers. People suffering from low iron is much more likely. I'm not liking that "strong mechanistic evidence". I wouldn't call it strong, in fact.

Tiffany: I wouldn't even call it evidence either. One thing that they conveniently left out which the author of this article gets into, is the things that actually are shown to cause carcinogenic effects when they talked about sugar. The Sugar Association didn't take too kindly to that because they just like to say that people are too lazy and don't exercise enough and that's the reason why people are getting obese. Plenty of sugar is okay, just exercise more.

Doug: Apparently, they recommended keeping sugar to less than 10% of daily calories which is already pretty damn high if you ask me. Ten percent of your total calories coming from sugar?! That's a lot! There was a Guardian article that stated that The Sugar Association basically threatened them saying that "we are going to come up with laws that say that you can't make these unscientific claims". What they thought was that people should be able to have 25% of their diet from sugar. That was their line, 25%. They thought that was perfectly healthy and perfectly safe. A quarter of your diet coming from sugar. That's just insane!

Then, the WHO was all in a fluster and they decided to have a sit-down with a dozen or so CEOs and senior executives from different food processing companies like Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, Pepsi Co, Cadbury, Schweppes, Compass, McDonalds, Yum! Brands and a bunch of others. When they came out of that they had basically changed their tune.

Tiffany: Of course.

Doug: After that they were like "we are going to work together with these companies now and they're going to take a close look at their ingredients and maybe change some stuff and they're going to give us money to do more research, blah, blah, blah." Essentially, they came out with these recommendations, these companies didn't like that, they had a sit-down which was probably more like a threat, and they came out of it saying "We have decided to work together" and they were all holding hands and everything is fine.

Erica: And they are taking money.

Tiffany: That's so strange. On what world does a major health body, an institution that's committed to protecting the public health, decide to hold a meeting with food companies that manufacture unhealthy foods? We're going to work with them and make things better. If you're a doctor, I'm going to meet with these - I guess this is probably not the best analogy {laughter} because doctors are drug dealers too. Say you're the health department in your local city and you are going to meet with the local meth dealer to see what recommendations he would have for making the population of your town more healthy. {laughter}

Doug: You should be only doing meth once a week. After that meeting "you should limit your meth".

Tiffany: Limit it to 25% of your daily intake.

Erica: As long as you are exercising. {laughter}

Doug: You're dying because you don't get off the couch enough, it has nothing to do with the meth that you're smoking. So, one interesting thing is that after that meeting Reuters did an investigation of the WHO. The WHO mandates that they don't take money from companies, but Reuters did an investigation.

Erica: Uh-huh.

Doug: Exactly, you should be sceptical. Basically, what they uncovered is that there is an offshoot of the WHO called The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and they do take money from these companies! Lo and behold! The WHO keep their hands completely clean, but PAHO has taken $50,000 from Coca-Cola, $150,000 from Nestle, $150,000 from Unilever and probably more. Those were the big ones that they uncovered. After the Reuters investigation, the WHO put out a statement saying "No, that doesn't matter because PAHO is a different legal entity than the World Health Organisation". Oh, okay.

Erica: It's a CYA - Cover your arshe.

Doug: It's like a slam dunk, they're a different legal entity. I guess there is nothing to be worried about there then. [sighs] It seems pretty obvious that this seems like the answer to the question stated in our title and the title of the article: Why is the WHO Anti-meat?" It seems like they're basically being influenced by the industry who don't want them slamming their processed foods so they had to look for something. They needed a bad guy right? The bad guy becomes meat. There are a lot of precedents for this with the long history of anti-fat, anti-animal fat in particular. It was like a foregone conclusion that that would be what they would focus on. If it's not the sugar and it's not the processed food, what are we left with?

Rees even points out that when you go to the WHO pages they don't even make recommendations on protein because they've worked themselves into a corner. They've got nothing to say. They can't recommend any animal product because they have already said that it probably causes cancer, so what are they left with? Beans and rice?

Erica: They are going to start pushing the Impossible Burger. It's opening the way for schmeat guys.

Tiffany: Aside from the United States, the United States is supposed to be the biggest funder of the World Health Organisation, and Bill Gates is second. We all know that Bill Gates has his nasty little fingers deep down into the whole fake meat phenomenon. He's heavily invested in it, so of course the company or the legal... what is the WHO anyway? We didn't vote for these people, not that it matters if we voted for them or not. This health authority is going to do what the master dictates.

Doug: Exactly. I'm sure that good old Billy has some say in what they're saying.

Tiffany: It's not even that I think that money has a lot to do with any of this because who's to say that the big beef manufacturers can't bribe companies to go along and say that "meat's really healthy" which is what people claim that they do. Even outside of the money, they always promote the things that really are not healthy for you no matter how much money is involved. It's not that they're so greedy. I can't think of anything else other than they don't want us to be healthy.

Doug: It's an interesting thing. From the World Health Organisation's report - this just goes to show what they have managed to accomplish - "Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults 18-years and older were overweight. Of these, over 650 million were obese. 39% of adults aged 18-years and over were overweight in 2016 and 13% were obese.

Most of the world's population live in countries where being overweight and obesity kills more than underweight. 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 15-19 were overweight or obese in 2016." Just to finish things off they say "obesity is preventable".

Erica: But not by our dietary guidelines. {laughter}

Doug: Exactly! The fundamental thing about this is that nobody is getting fat by overeating meat. You can't do it, try it.

Tiffany: I've tried it and it didn't work. I did an experiment for an entire month and it was just basically "all I could eat" meat. Usually I would only eat meat twice a day, but this experiment was three meals a day, all the meat you can eat. At the end of the 30 days my weight was exactly the same.

Doug: No kidding! I did some time on the carnivore diet and before that it was keto which is also quite meat-heavy shall we say. I lost weight, and I was eating to full satiety. I was not starving myself, I was eating lots of meat. It's too satiating, it's too nutritious. You can't actually overeat it. You can to an extent, I guess. If you are sitting there with a great big huge steak on your plate then you might be able to say "I'm finishing this, I'm going for it." But on average, on a day-to-day basis you just can't regularly overeat meat.

You compare that to all this other junk food crap that these companies are promoting and selling and producing, that stuff you can very easily overeat. It's nutrient deficient, it's not satiating at all. You can sit there and you can eat an entire bag of Doritos, and you feel like crap afterwards too. It just seems so obvious that meat is not what the problem is, even leaving aside the fact that we've been eating it for 2 million years.

Tiffany: I think that if they wanted to lend even the tiniest speck of credibility to any of their studies - and they never do this and they've done this - then why don't you just have people eat just meat and see what happens because the problem with so many of these studies or these epidemiological studies in which they are just asking people what they ate, "Okay I ate bacon today and then for dinner I had a piece of chicken, but what are you having with the bacon and what are you having with the chicken? Are you having pancakes and bacon? Are you having chicken and waffles? What are you eating to go along with this meat that you are eating? You are blaming everything on the meat.

Doug: Are you washing it down with a Coke?

Erica: Or some other sugary beverage?

Doug: Even orange juice. It's true. I haven't seen any studies like that but it would actually be really good, especially taking people who have some kind of metabolic condition or something like that. Take a couple of hundred of them and throw them on a carnivore diet. Say "ok, that's it. That's all you can eat, just meat" and see what happens.

Tiffany: I think that these people are so religiously preoccupied with veganism and vegetarianism, people think that if they were to do a study like that then that would be unethical because "there is no way that anybody could just eat meat and that's it".

Doug: It's true, I think that is exactly what they would say. I think that they would get complaints about unethical practices or something along those lines.

Erica: Or, they're worried that their biases will be revealed and the study would support meat eating.

Doug: That's possible too, especially an institution like the WHO or the IARC. Considering what our good friend Klurfeld reported about that; a quarter to a third vegetarian? You are not going to see an organisation like that even glancing at these kinds of things. One of the things that Klurfeld complained about is that there were two studies that he brought to the table that were actually intervention studies which were studies where the scientists took a population and did something to them. I think one of them was a rat study and one of them was a human study.

They were brushed aside because they weren't specifically about red meat. They were looking more at diet in general as opposed to specifically about red meat, so they said "no, we are not going to look at those ones". His complaint was that lots of the studies that they did use were the same thing where they were doing a more broad look at diet and they focused on the data specific to red meat.

He was like why couldn't' they do that with these studies, but they just brushed it aside because - surprise, surprise - those studies did not show the results that they were looking for. They didn't show that meat caused cancer.

Tiffany: I think that this is all part - we have done a show or two on this before - of not necessarily so much the vegan push, because I'm sure there are probably people out there who are fully aware that veganism is not the healthiest diet for human beings to take part in, but this whole "meat is evil" thing that's going on, that seems to be the agenda that they want to push as far as reducing the amount of meat that people eat and having people eat crickets and other bugs for protein sources. Then, the whole fake meat thing or the Impossible Burgers and those kinds of things to spread. I think this is all part of that ongoing war against meat.

It seems like it has ticked up a notch since the whole Coronavirus thing happened what with all the people who work in slaughterhouses or abattoirs so conveniently testing positive in such large numbers all over the world; in European slaughterhouses, and American slaughterhouses where they're blaming the conditions in the meat processing plants for all of these people allegedly testing positive. We know that these tests are not valid, they can have at least as high as an 80% false positive rate. It's just so convenient that so many of these meat plant workers are testing positive for Coronavirus and these plants are having to be shut down or operating at half capacity.

Doug: Totally. We've talked about this a lot on this show and the EAT-Lancet study and all that kind of stuff. It really does seem like there is a very organised agenda behind all this push. The World Health Organisation, does it get bigger than that? EAT-Lancet, the sponsors behind that... Probably all those guys who sat down with the IARC were involved in the EAT-Lancet study. It wouldn't surprise me anyway.

It's just too bad too, because I was thinking about this earlier today. Say you are just a guy whose kind of starting to come to the conclusion that what he is eating is making him feel not so hot. Maybe some of his health issues that he has got have something to do with his diet, so he starts doing some research and rather than actually getting some good solid information, he's going to go with the authorities, of course. He's going to find the WHO, he's going to find the EAT-Lancet stuff and he is going to decide that what he needs to do is become a vegan.

He is going to eat as much sugar as he wants to but as long as he gets rid of that meat that's going to be what's doing him good. It makes me mad that they are swindling well-meaning people, people who are actually trying to do the right thing are so easily diverted just because of the prevalence of the propaganda. They're so easily diverted into straight up bullshit, essentially. It's something that is going to tank their health.

They might do well for a little while right? If they get rid of some of the processed food, though it depends because a lot of that vegan processed food is not going to be any better. It just makes me mad that the real information is out there but it is harder to find than the World Health Organisation.

Tiffany: One thing that makes me mad is that say you're just a regular guy...

Doug: Same guy.

Tiffany: ...who has discovered that what they are eating is not good for them and they decide that "Hey, I think I'm going to try and go carnivore" but then all of this Corona craziness has come up and meat prices have gone through the roof, there are shortages, and empty shelves where you never saw empty shelves before. Now, this guy with all his new research to back him up on how meat is healthy, can't get the meat that he needs just because people want to have a new world order. {Laughter} That's the part that really makes me mad.

It seems like there should be some kind of way out. I'm sure there are ways out and ways around this kind of thing for people who really, really want meat. Of course, you can always try to hook up with some local ranchers, go in on a cow with people that you know and just find people around you who might need some help. If they have some cattle on their farm see if you can help them out and get some free hamburger or something. Support local butcher shops and don't just get your meat from Walmart. There are ways around it for now, but they really just don't want us to eat meat.

Doug: One of the things that was interesting about this whole corona craziness thing is that it emphasised how important it is to have those small-scale operations, direct to consumer kind of stuff. I think Joel Salatin on the Joe Rogan podcast not too long ago was talking about exactly that. He said that he and his fellow farmers who were doing direct to consumer stuff were having the best business ever because suddenly the massive distribution networks were all but shut down and suddenly they were getting customers from all over the place.

It really shows that these massive distribution networks are actually quite fragile. If you needed any more evidence or more reason to go to the farmer, get that direct to consumer stuff going on. For one thing, it seems a lot safer on multiple levels and it's kind of recession proof, kind of. Obviously everything has got its limits.

Tiffany: I'm not sure how many farmers actually did that "direct to consumer" thing, but the way the mainstream news had it was "Okay, our governing body told us to dump all of our milk, so okay I'm just going to dump all of my milk." [makes derp noise] Why didn't more people not think of this "I'm just going to kill all of my cattle because the USDA says that I have to."

Doug: I think that part of the problem was also that the abattoirs were shut down, but there are alternatives.

Tiffany: It seems like there is always a way. You just have to be crafty and creative and inventive.

Erica: In the US, the Weston Price Foundation had information on every single state where you can support farmers like Joel Salatin. The information is out there.

Doug: Especially somebody who is on the ball enough to decide they are going to attempt the carnivore diet. I think they are probably on the ball enough to find their meat. I think we have covered this topic, unless you guys had anything else to add?

Tiffany: I don't even know why we even pay attention to what the WHO says any more. There comes a time when you are just like "whatever". I'm not listening to you, I'm not even going to pay attention to you anymore because you have proven yourself to be wholly unreliable.

Erica: Again and again.

Doug: So, our advice for this week is: Ignore the WHO, eat your meat, and live your life.

Erica: Exercise.

Doug: And exercise. Don't forget to exercise. Thanks very much for joining us on this episode. Thanks to my hosts, thanks to Damian. Be sure to "like" and subscribe should you be so inclined. We will see you next week for another exciting episode, talk to you soon.