HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

January 15th marks the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929). The airwaves are filled with timid and at best nostalgic tributes to the great man. Except for WBAI and other non-commercial stations, only Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — and even there but a tiny snippet of it — makes it onto the airwaves.

Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

Nothing about Dr. King’s analysis in which he castigates the United States as being “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Nothing about Dr. King’s brilliant and courageous insights into the social and economic calamities of capitalism and the congruence of the oppression of people in Vietnam with that of people of color in the United States.

And, nothing about what it really means to be “Non-Violent”. Dr. King castigates those who praised him and the Civil Rights movement for being non-violent in the face of white supremacists in the South but who condemned him for calling on his country to be non-violent in its dealings with the rest of the world.

“In international conflicts the truth is hard to come by  because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for our superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the Truth. Ye shall know the Truth, says Jesus, and the Truth shall set you free.

“Now I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam today because I agree with Dante that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Ever hear any of that on mainstream media?

All of that placed — and continue to place — Dr. King at odds with many of his key advisers in the Civil Rights movement, and with the President of the United States — then … and now.

His life — and keep in mind that he was assassinated when he was just 39 years old! — is thus relegated more-or-less “safe,” for those in power.  The hallowed if troubling days happened back then, which (they say) no longer exist. And so, Dr. King’s complex analysis is distorted and rendered almost meaningless today (even though it applies so vividly to our society!), and offered in a sense as a paean to  “Isn’t America great? Look at how far we have come.” Who now hears the entirety of any of Dr. King’s speeches? What insights could this ancient man actually hold for us today, and for our own movements for freedom?

My answer is, “a great deal”. Yes, it’s about the need to pass once again legislation supporting voting rights and the rights of all people to vote. But much much more is needed, and a deeper understanding of the role of the United States in the world and its relation to both the liberal leadership of the then-civil rights leaders, the Democratic Party, as well as the Republican Party and the Slave-ocracy.

Listen here to Dr. King’s entire “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

We remember Dr. King, and his powerful thoughts, words, actions, internationalism, and leadership.

 

REMEMBERING FRIENDS AND MEANINGFUL LIVES

Mitchel Cohen (19) in 1968 at SUNY Stony Brook

Hi folks,

I’m having a rough time of it today as I remember the close friends and acquaintances who died this year and last. I was just wondering if anyone else is feeling that way too ….

I’m still in shock over many of folks, snatched away and disappeared from our lives.

I thought of Mark Rausher today, as I often have done — “Computer Mark” was a longtime friend, living in Sheepshead Bay and later in New Paltz. We’d typeset at The Nation together (where we met) in the early 1980s. When my computer crashed today, I instantly thought “Call Mark!”, my go-to guy in everything computer related, and time glitched, a breathless gasp when I realized he’d died on New Years Day this year.

Hard to catch my breath.

So I’ll just list here some others, mostly friends and comrades meaningful to me, and maybe some of them to you, along with a few famous people who’ve died since 2020. For me, there are personal stories that go with each of them (like somehow I ended up with my friend Saralee Hamilton (RIP Saralee) at Barbara Ehrenreich’s wedding at her house somewhere in the 80s). Hard to believe that I am actually older than were a number of those listed here, most of whom I knew personally ….

Annette Averette
Day Star Chou
Frank Carr
Kevin Zeese
Glen Ford
Seth Farber
Patricia Logan
Ricardo Alarcon
Doug Appel
Stanley Aronowitz
Mickey Aronson
Ed Asner
Marty Balin
Kathy Boudin
Bari Boone
Alan Canfora
Ernesto Cardenal
Bob Carpenter
Harold Channer
Therese Chorun
Ramsey Clark
Colia Clark
Fritzi Cohen
Cecil Corbin-Mark
Binny Ipcar Corell
David Crowe
Chandler Davis
Diane DiPrima
Bruce Dixon
Barbara Ehrenreich
Toby Emmer
Bob Fass
Anne Feeney
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Milton Fisk
Arly Fox-Daly
Carol Friedman Russell
Todd Gitlin
Barbara Goldberg
Dr. Seymour Goldstein
David Graeber
David Ray Griffin
Connie Hogarth
Wadiya Jamal
Jim Johnson
Danny Kalb
Paul Kantner
Chuck Kaufman
Charlotte Koons
Sheldon Krimsky
Michael Lardner
Faith Legier
Thomas Lord
Mort McKlosky
Gerald Meyer
Helena Miele (Earthmum)
Charlene Mitchell
Dr. Luc Montagnier
John Molyneux
John Moran
Bob Moses Parish
Marilyn Naparst
Leo Panitch
Pele
Dorothy Williams-Pereira*
Daryll Williams-Pereira*
Delores Perri
Jeff Perry
Cecile Pineda
Sidney Poitier
William Pleasant
Frank Polanski
Louis Proyect
Arpad Pusztai
Joan Rausnitz Heymont
Peter Roman
Betty Garman Robinson
Bill Ross
Bill Russell
Vic Sadot
Tom Seaver
Bernice Silver
Patrick Sky
Kent Smith
Ann Snitow
Meredith Tax
Tania Temkin
Peter Lamborn Wilson
Holly Yasui
Sally Zinman

*I just learned a few days ago of Dorothy and Daryll’s deaths last year. Former Manhattan Boro President Gale Brewer wrote a note regarding these Green activists saying that Bellevue hospital was negligent in their treatment! Need to learn more.

Still sinking in ….. Thanks for listening – CLICK HERE

Mitchel

THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM VS. THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: TOWARDS A GREEN APPROACH TO FREE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IN THE U.S.

 

by Mitchel Cohen

The following was written a decade-and-a-half before the outbreak of the SARS COV2 Covid-19 pandemic.

THE FIGHT FOR FREE, UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE is even more critical today than it was a decade ago when Hillary and Bill Clinton sacrificed it to the greed of the insurance companies and HMOs. Yes, health care must be made a right, not a privilege. But we would be remiss if we were to limit our platform to the fight to equalize access to health care delivery in the United States without also addressing the quality of that care, and what is causing so many people to be sick to begin with.

Public hospitals are reeling from the whip of privati­za­tion, and we must of course stay the hand that wields the whip; but, in reality, hospitals are little more than assem­bly-line butcher shops in which drugs and invasive surgi­cal procedures are prescribed as a matter of course by al­leged experts schooled only in the reductionist constructs of western industrial medicine — helpful in acute emergen­cies, but devastating in terms of general public health.

As a result,

  • hysterectomies and episiotomies are unnecessarily carving up women at rates three or four times higher than in Europe.

  • infant mortality in the U.S. is worse than in any industrialized country in the world.

  • frontal lobotomies and Electro-Shock Therapy for treating depression and other ailments are making a comeback.

  • chemotherapy and radiation remain the preferred treatment for cancer despite showing no percentage increase in cancer cures for forty years.

  • twenty-one percent of Black American children have harmful quantities of lead in their blood, compared with 8.9 percent of all U.S. children, according to The NY Times (Feb. 7, 1996).

  • and, studies show what AIDS activists have long known — that early intervention with AZT, which is extremely toxic, has no beneficial, and quite likely severe deleterious effects that further compromise the immune system and cause unnecessary deaths.

On the other hand, acupuncture clinics have among the highest success rates in treating people for various drug ad­dictions (including tobacco and heroin), as well as in safely an­aesthetizing patients without the use of drugs. And all sorts of non-invasive herbal and botanical treat­ments offer suc­cessful, natural and cheap remedies to many condi­tions.

Yet none of the proposed national health legislation — not even the much needed “single payer” proposals (the Canadian model) — covers any of them.

Acupuncture, air and water filtration, a toxic-free envi­ron­ment, herbal, botanical and homeopathic remedies, free abortion and contraception on demand (including con­doms), midwifery and homebirth, organically-based foods and nutrient supplementation, chiropractic, Ibogaine (which cures heroin addiction), medical marijuana, clean need­le exchanges, powerful alternative cancer treatments, yoga and stress reduction, and massive non-toxic, holistic treatments for AIDS and multiple chemical sensitivities all are driven to the margins of acceptability. Most alternative therapies are viciously opposed by drug companies (which see them as a potential threat to their profits), the Ameri­can Medical Association and their hip-pocket congres­sion­al representatives.

All of the legislation that has come before Congress — including single payer — would further entrench today’s medical orthodoxy and suppress alternative programs and im­mune-boosting, non-invasive therapies. The Food and Drug Administration’s raids and arrests of legitimate al­ter­na­tive medicine providers and outlets, and its ongoing at­tempts to make vitamins and other nutrient supplements av­ail­able only by prescription, are the latest attacks on green medicine on behalf of the established orthodoxy.

Welcome to capitalism’s Brave New World Order: As­sem­bly line health care, where we shall be medicated, bio-genetically altered, pesticided, toxicated and guinea-pigged by the experts, all duly recorded in computer chips now being experimentally implanted under the skin of hu­man beings, along with all other information about our lives deemed relevant by the powers that be — our arrest records, travel logs, and so forth — to be accessed at the whim of police or medical officials controlling a scanning device.

Sedition or Sedation?

The most widespread successes in reducing disease earlier in this century were accomplished not by medical intervention but primarily by providing access to decent sanitation, clean water and healthy food. Only when the acute need arose did the administration of antibiotics make a difference.

Despite — and maybe because of — the huge levels of antibiotics used in the U.S. today (not only for medication in people but, especially, in animal feed), diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia are making a comeback. Residents of poor areas which have suffered inordinate government cutbacks in sanitation and social services, and prisoners are the most susceptible. Infections such as en­ceph­alitis and influenza have skyrocketed in the general population for periods of a few months at a time im­me­di­ately following nuclear bomb tests and mass spraying of pesticides; high rates of leukemia and thyroid disease are the norm in the proximity of regularly-functioning nuclear power plants, and afflict great numbers of people for hun­dreds of miles following accidents like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima.*

Hunger and malnutrition in children, lead poisoning, AIDS, cancer, chronic fatigue, breast cancer, multiple scle­­rosis, multiple chemical sensitivities, and occupational diseases like brown lung are rampant. These diseases are all systemic in origin, caused by intensive industrial pro­duc­tion’s ravaging of the environment and, cons­equently, our immune systems. Our bodies are increasingly sus­cep­ti­ble to diseases that in previous times it would have been a snap to fight off. Increasingly, we are forced to choose between the capitalist system and the immune system.

The alarming situation in the U.S. cries out for a radical anti-reductionist approach to what it means to be healthy and a no-holds-barred attack on everything destroying our health today. We must immediately:

  • put an end to the poisoning of our food, air, water.

  • shut down all nuclear power plants and urban waste incinerators.

  • force companies to do massive environmental clean-ups, especially in high-lead, mercury, PCBs and asbestos areas.

  • relocate sewage treatment facilities out of the inner cities.

  • end all toxic dumping, both at home and abroad. Clean up the primarily Black, Latino, American Indian and working class areas that receive the brunt of U.S.-generated industrial wastes.

  • in populated areas, shut down all factories that generate toxic wastes, and severely regulate them elsewhere.

  • ban most pesticides, herbicides, additives, non-organic fertilizer and antibiotics in agriculture and in animal feed.

  • nip Bovine Growth Hormone in the bud, and throw its criminal manufacturers in prison.

  • shut down all genetic engineering facilities.

  • end cash-crop agriculture around the world. This has destroyed people’s self-sufficiency and nutritional basis, in exchange for creating centralized, privatized ownership of land by giant multinational corporations, strip-mining the land to produce cash-crops for ex-port. Tens of millions of children starve to death each year, as a result.

  • support massive land redistribution  (in the U.S. as well as elsewhere) and efforts to develop sustainable organic agriculture, which would give rise to new and more healthy patterns of consumption as well as production. And, and this is added today,

  • end all so-called “Gain-of-Function” experimentation, and shut down all U.S.-funded biowarfare labs around the world.

Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

The deaths of people who have Acquired Im­mun­o­deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) continue to wrack our communities. We are among the many activists who continue to demand the federal government vastly increase spending on AIDS research and treatment, in addition to increasing funding to fight cancers, heart dis­ease, and so forth.

But we are also concerned about how this research is be­ing done, and its narrow focus on so-called “genetic predispositions” to particular diseases. The first and fore­most avenue of research and treatment for all diseases is to repair the toxicity of the polluted environment.

Strangely, too many of those who routinely criticize governmental economic and foreign policies fail to chal­lenge capitalism’s scientific policies as well, which are sim­­ilarly awash in hidden assumptions and drenched in ide­ology. Those assumptions guide the research into which we demand public funds be allocated. Much of the actual scientific understanding (or lack thereof) of the AIDS, cancer and heart disease epidemics is severely lim­i­ted or even skewed by the hidden ways in which cap­i­tal­ist ideology shapes researchers’ approach to disease.

As Stephen Jay Gould wrote more than two decades ago in “Ever Since Darwin”:

“Science is no inexorable march to truth, medi­a­ted by the collection of objective information and the destruction of ancient superstition. Sci­en­tists, as ordinary human beings, un­con­scious­ly reflect in their theories the social and political constraints of their times. As privileged mem­bers of society, more often than not they end up defending existing social arrangements as bio­lo­gic­ally foreordained.”

Many sacred cows are being toppled these days; yet Big Science, somehow, has managed to appear above it all. Greens and other progressives can no longer afford to relinquish the field of science and scientific research to the obviously self-interested assertions of the American Medi­cal Association, the pharmaceutical industry, the tobacco in­dustry and the federal government.

Let us look anew at some of those unasked as­sump­tions in light of our growing understanding of how capitalism operates:

  • Is fluoridation of water beneficial for our health, now that we know from Congressional testimony that that program was developed as a means for the aluminum industry to dispose of its toxic wastes in the late 1940s?

  • Are nuclear power plants and genetic-engineering factories necessary and desirable, now that we have seen the massive evidence proving the former’s deva­stating effects on our immune system and the latter’s con­centration on genetically increasing the tolerance of crops for pesticides, the better to poison us?

  • Should we give blanket endorsement to the govern­ment’s push to vaccinate all children, now that — at least for some vaccines like measles, whooping cough and chicken pox — epidemiological statistics call into question the pharmaceutical manufacturers’ claims about their safety and efficacy, and for others the link to autism, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and other serious health conditions in children? If it were left to the AMA we’d never even know of scientific studies that disprove or at least seriously contradict claims for vaccination and mass dispensation of antibiotics.

Clearly, the magic bullet approach to medicine — which tries to artificially stimulate the immune system into zapping a germ causing a disease (and, along with it, much of the body’s other microorganisms which it needs to function properly) — is not applicable to many of the diseases we face today which break down the overall im­mune system. Misuse of yesterday’s advances has helped bring on today’s nightmares. The astronomical quantities of antibiotics fed and injected into animals grown and slaughtered for mass-consumption, along with mandatory vac­cinations in humans, has helped generate resistant strains of germs and, at the same time, may have so com­promised our immune systems over a long period that we are suddenly susceptible to diseases that people in prior generations had been able to ward off.

Many studies that document that hypothesis are, like the immune system they discuss, systematically suppressed; they threaten the profits of the giant drug companies. Gen­etic research is too lucrative, both monetarily and ideo­lo­gically, for capitalism to fund and promote holistic ap­proaches to health care. Bovine Growth Hormone, a dan­ger­ous genetically-engineered drug injected into cows, increases the amount of other hormones in drinking milk and dairy products by 1,000 percent. Yet it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration with scant testing under pressure from the Monsanto corporation which owns the patent, and the milk is now sold on the market without even requiring so much as a label. Companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s, which refuse to use BGH milk and label their products to that effect, have been sued by Mon­santo and pressured by the federal government to remove their labels.

More and more, parents are being blamed for their child­ren’s diseases. (They’ve passed along bad genes, we’re told.) Genetic screening tests are not used to correct dan­gerous conditions on-the-job but to fire workers who are said to be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses that could be brought on by the chemicals involved in production. Many companies now try to ascertain a work­er’s genetic suitability for work in a cancer-causing en­vi­ron­ment instead of cleaning up the workplace to avoid ex­posing any  workers to cadmium and other carcinogens.

It has been more than 18 years since DuPont began screen­ing workers for an alleged genetic predisposition to sickle-cell anemia. The result? An increase in the number of unemployed Black DuPont workers, fired from jobs that, the company claimed, might bring on the disease, based solely on their inherited genetic characteristics. In­crea­singly, we’re taught that it’s our own fault, as the system tries to elude responsibility for its environmental devastation and poisoning of the earth and tries to get us to blame the victim — in this case, ourselves.

Creating a New Scientific Method

Even the Science section of The NY Times has finally begun to challenge some of the reductionist meth­od­ology of western medicine and look again at correlative relationships that had been incorrectly certified as causal ones. On December 24, 1991, a front page article by Natalie Angier, drawing on work which had been printed in a recent issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology by Dr. George C. Williams, an evolutionary biologist at SUNY Stony Brook, and Dr. Randolph M. Nesse, a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, recounts new calls for physicians to heed the wisdom of Darwin, and to take the principles of evolution and natural selection into account as they seek to cure their patients. Just because a fever occurs when a person is sick, the researchers point out, doesn’t mean that the fever is necessarily a negative symptom of the disease. Just the opposite. Biologists argue that clin­i­cians often ignore the fundamental concepts of ev­o­lu­tion, as when they treat a fever with aspirin, even though fever is a highly effective method that mammals have evolved for combating invasive bacteria.

In fact, The Times continues, a moderate fever is among the most impressive mechanisms in the body’s defense repertory. Not only does a higher temperature stimulate the activity of the body’s warrior white blood cells, al­low­ing them to race to the site of an infection more rapidly and consume microbes more readily; a fever also inhibits the growth of many strains of interloping bacteria, which, unlike white blood cells, become torpid in the heat and be­gin to die off. According to one researcher, Dr. Matthew Kluger (University of Michigan), there have been no comprehensive studies exploring the possibility that asp­i­rin, when used effectively to reduce fevers, may prolong a patient’s illness as a result.

Correlations are often mistaken for causes, in health care as much as in politics. We need to challenge assump­tions that lead us to err in that manner. Angier explains:

“Dar­winists argue, for example, that the wretched morning sickness familiar to pregnant women is not an unfortunate hormonal side effect of child­bearing, as had long been be­lieved, but the best pos­sible thing that can happen to a woman and her baby. … Dr. Margie Profet of the Uni­ver­sity of California at Berk­eley, suggests that morning sick­­ness has great adaptive value, and that it ev­olved to protect the growing embryo against any toxins in the mother’s diet. She points out that most women suffer from nausea and vom­it­ing during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is exactly when the embryo’s organs are forming and hence when the developing infant is most vulnerable to even trace poisons in the diet.

‘Pregnancy sickness is an adaptation that evolved to protect the embryo against toxins that cause malformations or abortions,’ she said. `Toxins that are easy for an adult to handle can be dangerous for an early embryo.’

In another instance, Darwinists say that when a patient with an infectious illness suffers a seem­ingly dangerous dip in iron levels, a symptom some doctors find alarming and frantically try to treat, the patient’s body may in fact be working at peak performance to recover. … The [iron dip] response is not an aberration, but rather another potent defense against microbial foes. Scientists have learned that bacteria, fungi and parasites need iron to survive and divide, so that the body labors to keep the pre­cious metal from them. After infection, a chain of enzymatic reactions sops up most of the iron from the bloodstream and sequesters it in the liver, beyond the grasp of the bacteria, mak­ing it very difficult for most pathogens to sur­vive. There it remains until the infection is through.

And when the body’s iron-withholding re­sponse is combined with a fever, reports Dr. Eugene D. Weinberg, a microbiologist at Indi­ana University in Bloomington, the tactic be­comes a sort of one-two punch: an elevated tem­per­ature blocks a microbe’s ability to snatch away iron packets from the host enzymes that are ferrying the nutrient to the liver.

Clearly, correlations  between disease and fever, mic­robes and iron-level dips, and estrogen levels in pregnant women and morning sickness can no longer be translated into simplistic cause and effect thinking. Fever is not a symptom of a bacterial disease, but one way the body responds to infection to restore its health; low iron levels during some illnesses should not be met with iron sup­ple­ments, for that would compromise a natural body defense mechanism to the disease.

Take sickle-cell anemia, for example: Although the ex­act molecular basis for that disease has been known for more than 30 years, scientists still don’t understand why people afflicted with the condition became seriously ill as young children, while others are affected much later and to a far less serious degree. Carrying the sickle-cell gene from both parents produces an increased possibility of dev­eloping sickle-cell anemia at some point. But — and here’s an interesting and unpredicted fact — carrying the gene for sickle-cell anemia from just one parent gen­er­ates a natural resistance to malaria — a totally different disease!

It is impossible to predict the impact of isolated nu­tri­ents or genetic material on the development of the entire organism, for at each level of complexity and organization new relationships and interactions emerge that do not exist at more elemental levels. Any understanding of an indi­vid­u­al’s relationship to the ecosystem in which they live, and at the same time to the ecosystem within each of us, re­quires new ways of seeing that carry us beyond the iso­la­ted cause and effect linearity to which we are ac­cus­tomed and upon which capitalist science is based.

Cause and effect is limited to events that take place with­in one particular level of organization (and even there only in part). The implications of events upon a higher or low­er level of organization cannot be deciphered through lin­ear cause and effect reasoning any more than, according to the physicist Werner Heisenberg, one can predict both the location and the momentum of a single electron at any moment, however rational it might seem that we be able to do so. “Natural science,” Heisenberg wrote, “does not simply describe or explain nature. It is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as ex­posed to our method of questioning.”

Such a dialectical (or holistic) approach to science and health care is essential to understanding our own bodies in the context of industrial capitalism’s assault upon them, as we strive to become our own experts. However, at an ever-increasing rate, medical researchers have been narrowing their focus to the genetic level, avoiding holistic or whole-system analyses. The implication of doing so, politically, is to mislead the public about the actual causes of disease, let the system off the hook and turn research itself into a factory-like industry, raking in big bucks for high-tech drug companies and university researchers funded by them.

On the other hand, large grassroots movements have emerged over the last two decades challenging the in­dus­trial medical model and those who profit from it. They have begun to develop new frameworks for understanding the non-predictive impact of localized, level-specific ev­ents on more complex as well as on more elemental levels of organization — the beginnings of a truly non-capitalist, dialectical scientific methodology that integrates the eco­lo­gical dimension outside the body with the health of the individual human being and what goes on inside of us.

Underground buyers’ clubs like DAAIR (Direct AIDS Alternative Information Resources) in New York City, run by people with AIDS, and the network of underground medical marijuana clubs; the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP); the National Black Women’s Health Project; women’s self-help clinics; affinity groups that fight against Bovine Growth Hormone; the Safe Foods Campaign; the No Spray Coalition’s and breast cancer co­al­ition’s fight against the mass and indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides, and groups that advocate nutritional supplementation are creating the basis for a people’s health care from the bottom up. And they all are under at­tack by the government (Democrats as well as Re­pub­li­cans), the American Medical Associ­a­tion, the to­bac­co in­dus­try and the giant pharmaceutical companies. With the as­sistance and involvement of con­scious activists like our­selves, their impact on the devel­op­ment of new models for maintaining health and treating illness will be profound.

People have a right to their own forms of health care free from government repression. Greens and other activ­ists must critique the limitations and underlying philoso­phy of capitalist medicine; we must include in our pro­grams health care options being created by people strug­gling against what the system has done to us; and, we must demand that THESE, and not industrial science’s  reduc­tion­­ist models, be publicly funded.

Greens need to begin critiquing not only the unfair and unequal application of technology, healthcare and science, but the science itself; we all must become our own experts, and learn from other traditions than that offered by capitalism’s industrial medical model.

By involving ourselves in this effort from-the-bottom-up as manifest in these excellent local projects, our cri­tique of capitalist science and its underlying reductionist philosophy helps a vibrant, conscious working class em­erge, one that can begin conceiving of itself as the bearer of a healthy and truly free society.

* I felt compelled to add Fukushima here which did not occur until 2011; and added the demand to end Gain-of-Function experimentation in biowarfare labs, pretty much the only changes I made to this essay.

Anti-copyright. Not-for-profit groups may reprint, so long as proper credit is given.

Just Found picture of my Dad (Abe Cohen), whose 98 birthday would be today! Here he is in 1951.

 

Dad (Abe Cohen) was 27 here in 1951, a few years back from serving in the US Marine Corps in the South Pacific. That’s Mitchel Cohen at 2 years old. Picture in Sheepshead Bay. Dad was 55 when he died in 1980. His 98 birthday would be on December 5th. Happy Birthday, Dad!!!!

SUPERSTORM SANDY – 10 YEARS AGO

The following was written by Mitchel Cohen in 2012 and printed in his book, What Is Direct Action? Lessons from (and to) Occupy Wall Street (intro by Prof. Richard Wolff)

Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn, looking northwest towards the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island. October 29, 2012. Todd Maisel, New York Daily News

November, 2012   Ten Years ago

Southern Brooklyn ‘Sandy’ Diary
by Mitchel Cohen

I live on the 7th floor of a 160-household apartment building on the southern edge of Bensonhurst, right next to (but not included in) the mandatory Evacuation Zone. There is a large park between my building and Gravesend Bay. SuperStorm Sandy’s winds whipped the Bay into a frenzy; the waters smashed repeatedly into the pilings, esplanade, boat pier just across the Belt Parkway from my apartment.

The parkway had eerily emptied of traffic hours earlier. Suddenly, along with Coney Island, Brighton and Manhattan Beaches, it’s under water and mostly dark. Emmons Ave. in Sheepshead Bay was reported to have been flooded by a wave 10-feet high, carrying away a number of cars as well as pouring into houses and local restaurants.

The waters came within 5 feet of my building, flooded the parking lot when the sewers on Cropsey Avenue backed up with scathingly polluted water … and then stopped!

One woman in the next building screamed as she observed bodies floating down Cropsey Avenue. Fortunately, the “bodies” turned out to be mannequins freed as the storm washed through Kohl’s department store jutting out on pilings into Gravesend Bay at the end of Bay Parkway.

Dreier-Offerman / Calvert Vaux park across the highway would have absorbed much of the water from the bay had New York City, in its infinite wisdom, left the area wild and not flattened the hills and replaced the natural soil and trees with artificial turf a year ago. The water rolled over the synthetic turf like marbles of mercury on Teflon without being absorbed and came cascading across the Belt Parkway, even though there was hardly any rain with this storm.

As I walked the next day in Brighton Beach, there were long lines at the public pay telephones — if you could find one! My favorite scene: Into the mountain of sand that the storm deposited on the Coney Island Boardwalk, someone carved a heart with the name ‘Sandy’ in the center. ‘I Heart Sandy!’ Made me smile. Brooklynites maintain their sarcasm at all costs.

Four Days Later
Ida Sanoff had been trapped in her apartment in Brighton Beach. Like so many others, she and her husband Jeff have difficulty trudging the 8 flights of pitch black hallways and stairs a few times a day. ‘We have no water and our apartment is freezing. Both of our cars have been totaled, so getting around is next to impossible. Many people in our building have no flashlights & are feeling their way up & down the stairs in the dark. 311 is the biggest joke of all  either the line is busy & you can’t get through, or you finally do get through & you wait & wait & wait & no one ever picks up.

‘On Brighton Beach Ave., the mud line is half way up the facade of the stores. The building around the corner from me started pumping water out of their basement today.

‘On top of everything else, we had to put our almost 22 year old cat down today. Our truck driver took us in his car. We could not get out to her regular vet, the cat specialist in Queens so we went to the emergency vet on Flatbush Ave. & Ave. R. They had no power either and were functioning on an emergency generator. We met people from Gerritsen Beach who had only the clothes on their back, their home had been flooded & they lost everything.’

The Red Cross? FEMA? Nowhere to be found.

I was about to walk the 2′ miles to Brighton with a bag of groceries for Ida when I finally hear from her. She writes:

omg omg omg

Finally got to go up on the Boardwalk today & walk around my block. Looks like half of Breezy is on my beach. Chairs, tables, wooden steps, huge sections of piers, a blue rowboat stenciled RPYC or BPYC. can’t tell. All sorts of metal, a refrigerator. Toys. A rocking chair facing the shoreline.

Warbasse houses will not have power for weeks. Coney Island Creek which is loaded with hideous sediments, including coal tars, flooded it. Loads of seniors 20+ floors up in the cold & dark & with no water.

Two buildings of the Oceana/Millennium luxury condos at Coney Island Ave. have had major damage to their mechanicals and have been evacuated.

Behind my building, there was a lovely older co-op building. Lobby was a lovingly preserved time capsule of high-end design, circa 1960. Several steps up to the lobby so I thought they’d be OK. Went in with my friend who lives there. Everything had already been ripped out because it was soaked, walls, floors, everything. The high water mark was over my head. My friend said that on the first floor, people barely escaped the rising water in their apartments. In the condo building next door which is adjacent to the Boardwalk, the cars on the first floor garage level are buried several feet in sand. The windows on the first floor blew out & the whole place flooded. Sand piles 6 feet high on Ocean Parkway, a BobCat trying to at least clear the sidewalk. Mountains of sand on sidewalks that should be put back onto the beach & no way or no one to do it. Anyone have some dump trucks?

Several trees down in Seaside Park. Both synagogues on Sea Breeze Ave have several feet of sand in their lobbies.

Several stores open on Brighton Beach Ave. but no one is clear on whether or not the food they are selling is fresh, has defrosted or was soaked by flood waters. My friend bought some anyway. Rocco’s pizza being made by the light of a generator. I was so hungry, but again, not sure if the food had been compromised. Rocco’s deli said that they will get fresh cold cuts & cheese tomorrow. Hope they don’t sell out by the time I get there.

People waiting on lines for food.

The handball players shoveled the courts at West 5th and are having a grand time!

No one, but no one, here has a car. Rumor is that insurance companies are not even sending adjusters, they are just assuming that the cars are totaled. Need to see a doctor for the stitches in my finger & no way to get to one. Some folks I know nearby have cars, but don’t have gas. My truck driver got on a gas line in East NY at 4:30 AM & was told that gas was on the way. He gave up around 5 PM & found a station nearby that has gas and he is on the line & praying they don’t run out.

No subway service until Kings Hwy. Buses are packed & don’t stop. No way to get to Waldbaum’s on Ocean Ave & Voorhies which reportedly has reopened.

My block is ‘No Standing Fire Zone’ & everyone is parked here with no one to give tickets. If there is a fire we will fry. Tried calling 311  WHAT A JOKE!!!!!

But a few blocks north of here, everything is perfectly normal. People can’t understand why we are so upset.

Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCCUPY SANDY

Election Day & after
A few days ago I attended a very moving and huge memorial service in Park Slope for Jessie Streich-Kest, the young animal rights and ACORN activist who was killed along with her friend Jacob Vogelman by a falling tree, as they walked outside with her dog Max.

I’m heading down to Coney Island after I vote to see what more I can do to help. So many people whose homes, boats, and lives are in ruins. This is a very great tragedy, just as it has been for decades for poorer people, homeless or near-homeless. Many large houses in the gated community of Sea Gate, on Coney’s tip, are gone. Can they continue to work together, these wealthy and these poor, in this great spirit of cooperation that sweeps over New York and everywhere else in responding to tragedy?

I talk to a man re-charging his cellphone on a generator set up on the edge of the Coney Island projects. He is wondering about all the birds  where do they go? Did they survive the vicious winds? He’s brought some nuts and crumbs for the birds, but  I hadn’t noticed this until he mentioned it — like the Red Cross and FEMA, there are few birds to be seen. He’s extremely concerned. They’ve disappeared!

I ask an electrician working on replacing equipment in the projects why is it that the private apartment building right next door had power restored a week ago? He just looks at me quizically, maybe bemused, more likely ‘is this guy (me) really so clueless?,’ and says: ‘If you have to ask, you already know the answer.’

Howard Brandstein — one of those who certainly knows that answer and is trying to do something about it — reports from the Sixth Street Community Center on the Lower East Side (built, over the decades, in the shell of a century-old abandoned synagogue that still retains some of the beautiful marble tablets inside), that they had hundreds of volunteers over the weekend making sandwiches and distributing them door-to-door in nearby public housing projects. The basement had been flooded, but Citlalic Jeffers, the young Coordinator of the Community Supported Agriculture project that runs out of the Center, is organizing emergency daily food distributions for the neighborhood in conjunction with Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES).

Everywhere, people are trying to help each other. Occupy Wall Street is doing a tremendous amount. They’ve morphed into ‘Occupy Sandy’; the OWS network of committed organizers kicked into high gear immediately, which says a great deal not only about who really gives a shit but about the benefits of lateral organizing. One friend from Occupy lived in Rockaway and her house was burned to the ground. I often see her collecting supplies to distribute. Beauty is everywhere amidst tragedy. Despite the Breezy Point section of Rockaway’s long history of exclusionary and racist housing and access policies, volunteers are nevertheless rallying to its assistance, demonstrating the ability of the human spirit to sweep aside prejudices in times of social crisis, at least temporarily. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of the media have discussed the nature and history of Breezy Point, as Mark Rausher points out:

“As a child, I grew up on the Southern shore of Brooklyn, within sight of the Rockaway Peninsula which juts into the Atlantic Ocean from Jamaica Bay. I frequently took a ferry from Sheepshead Bay to Rockaway, driving my mother crazy with my desire to ride on the water and breathe the sea air. Growing up, I heard about Breezy Point, an early gated community on Rockaway which for decades had discriminated against Jews, Blacks, Italians, Hispanics, Asians and other groups. Unlike the ‘uber-rich gated communities we hear so much about, this was an Irish enclave of small beachfront cottages, private and self-contained with a volunteer fire department and a large private security force, paying limited property taxes and not subject to anti-discrimination laws.

The devastating fires which consumed over 100 of these homes during Hurricane Sandy’s brief visit, in conjunction with a tornado that touched down there earlier this year, seem to me to be classic examples of karmic retribution; it also highlights the hypocrisy which surrounds our new economic reality — despite the fact that Breezy Point residents paid practically no taxes and flouted local laws (and morality), when the fires started, city, state and Federal funds were used to bring first responders to Breezy Point, to fight the fires and try to assist residents who had failed to honor the mandatory evacuation order. These residents, mostly middle-class, took advantage of America’s fierce support for individual/property rights when it suited them, but were more than glad to grab those services (and the public financial support which makes them available) when they needed them.”

Occupy Sandy, as the upcoming stories in this book relate, is spending a great deal of time and effort in the Rockaways, not only at Breezy Point but most especially in the Federal housing projects to the East which are neglected by public services, just as they are elsewhere. Volunteers are going up and down the stairs door-to-door to each and every one of the tens of thousands of apartments there and in Coney Island, just to check on people, provide some relief, water, food, blankets and batteries. In fact, several people have already been discovered dead, apparently for days or even weeks, in their apartments.

Occupy — with so many dedicated participants — has proven in practice that non-hierarchal networking is capable of organizing a very quick volunteer response. But one question especially lingers: Will Occupy be able to mobilize the same desperate people it is now assisting, when it comes to direct action protests, especially as it appears that the City is intentionally denying assistance to poor people in order to drive them out of the projects and confiscate that prime ocean-front real estate for luxury homes, hotels and playgrounds for the rich and famous? That is exactly what occurred in New Orleans, with tens of thousands of people never being able to return to their homes. Can Occupy Sandy switch gears from being a ‘salvation army’ type of activity, crucial though it has been, into a radical or even revolutionary movement with the thousands of people they are helping?

* * *

Since I’ve never ‘upgraded’ my internet connection from my land line ‘dial-up’, I am one of the few in my building whose internet access and phone service remains intact, even though our electricity never went out. So I can get and send email, and watch the News on TV thanks to my ancient indoor rabbit ears antenna, news that I relay to my neighbors when I see them in the elevator, to their astonished exclamations of ‘You’re kidding me!’ I tell them about independent mobilizations providing mutual aid that are occurring all over the place. Check out http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/ for info about how to organize assistance in your area.

In Coney Island, FEMA finally opened a center — a full four days after the storm. They ran out of supplies a few days ago. Today there’s a line of around 65 people outside, and soldiers and police, who are all over the FEMA warehouse, are not letting people in. I ask ‘why not?’ A soldier points to his wrist, and says ‘It’s not time, yet.’

On the Democracy Now! radio show, Mike Burke asks Rockaway organizer Catherine Yeager how her efforts with Occupy are different than FEMA’s. Her testy response is emblematic of the best of direct action organizing:

MIKE BURKE: Now, how are the relief efforts that are taking place here different from what we’re seeing with FEMA and the National Guard down the street?

CATHERINE YEAGER: FEMA down the street, from what I understand, is handing out pieces of paper that tell you to call a phone number to get help. Here, you come, and you get help immediately.

There are many people, mostly from the nearby NYC Housing Authority projects, who still have no electricity more than two weeks after the storm, no running water, no bathroom facilities, no food  and NYCHA (the public housing authority) is still charging them full rent, and was about to proceed with evictions for nonpayment until Occupy and many others raised a stink.

I’m sick of the stagnant, militarized FEMA facility. I decide to walk west on Neptune Avenue to West 29th Street, across from a deserted Kaiser Field, where neighborhood resident Pam Harris has turned her front yard into a relief center with Occupy Sandy. She tells me she didn’t know who the splurge of young people were, but they poured into Coney Island willing and ready to do the work needed to help people dig out from Sandy. Harris said she found the Occupy Relief website by doing a google search once she was able to access the internet. Now she’s filled with nothing but praise for all the young committed folks who’ve poured into Coney Island from all over the City to lend a hand.

In front of her house, a steady stream of people drop off supplies, while others pick up blankets, winter clothing, batteries, flashlights and diapers.

Occupy has set up a generator for people to charge their cellphones and computer batteries. (Several years later, Pam Harris won election to the NY State Assembly representing Coney Island and nearby areas. A few years later, she was indicted for funneling $23,000 raised by a non-profit company she’d set up, pled guilty, resigned from public office, and was sentenced to 6 months in prison.)

And now, every day another team of chefs come from restaurants around the City to serve hot meals for free to whoever wants one, no standing on ceremony, just come and take what you need, eat your fill of great food, and drop off supplies for others. There are no forms to fill out, no one is keeping track … and yet, Pam knows exactly where everything is and how much of this or that is available. ‘We’ll be running out of blankets tomorrow,’ she tells me. ‘If you can get the word out, that would be great.’ We’d just met; already, like a born organizer, she’s giving me an assignment, and I am all too grateful for the chance to help out. Across the street, the church is serving as a depot for clothing and an even bigger daily feeding operation is underway.

Radio station WBAI, which airs an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ show every weeknight at 6:30 pm and which is part of the listener-sponsored noncommercial Pacifica network, is pretty much alone among media in pointing out the racial and class discrepancies in government and Red Cross assistance. But it is on and off the air sporadically during the storm. As Chair of the Local Board for the last four years, I’m involved up to my ears in trying to get the station to remain on the air, not the least reason so that we can use the station to help give voice to the needs of our neighbors and mobilize assistance.

WBAI’s General Manager Berthold Reimers reports that after the NYC transit system was shut down the evening before the storm, a crew of seven WBAI producers and volunteers chose to disregard the mandatory evacuation orders and camped out at the station at its headquarters at 120 Wall Street so that they could provide round-the-clock live coverage of Hurricane Sandy, as Wall Street flooded 10 stories below them.

By Monday evening October 29th — ominously the date of the 1929 stock market crash(!) — the East River decided to race into the building and up the stairs on the ground floor, and then six feet or so higher, filling the lobby of the 34-story building. Generators exploded, and Con Ed — which had been taking shortcuts in protecting its equipment over the last few years and laying off hundreds of workers — had to shut off the power, and along with it WBAI’s ability to broadcast from that location. Announcer Michael G. Haskins was able to continue broadcasting for several hours from a remote location, using Comrex equipment that allows for remote broadcasting.

The WBAI crew, meanwhile, was trapped. While the view from the 10th floor is spectacular, it was not exactly for that reason that they stuck it out until Tuesday morning when the waters receded. Meanwhile, WBAI’s broadcast was interrupted late Monday night and again on Tuesday morning when Verizon lost its connection to the antenna atop the Empire State Building, and WBAI went silent.

WBAI was not able to come back on the air until late Tuesday night, and only with archival recordings. By Wednesday afternoon, the station was again broadcasting live, but sporadically, from the studios of Gary Null‘s internet Progressive Radio Network on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

All day Sunday and Monday, WBAI ran interviews with New Yorkers, and focused on questions that, at the time, were going unasked by the corporate media, Reimers said, proudly. Ken Gale asked: Are the nuclear power plants at Indian Point in jeopardy, and should they be shut down immediately?

Why did New York City shut off electricity, water and elevators more than 24 hours before the storm hit to the tens of thousands of poor and working class people living in public housing?

Was the City trying to drive people out for good?

What effect did global climate change have on this storm, and on future ones?

Nowhere else in the media could you hear that kind of questioning, which continues in a long train of searching out the truth in complicated stories. WBAI airs a biweekly show covering the global ecological crisis and climate change in the tradition of the station’s coverage of the protests against the Vietnam War in the ’60s, the Gulf War in the ’90s, and the endless ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 and since. WBAI covered the events of 9/11 live, and stayed at the mic round-the-clock reporting from downtown Manhattan.

Democracy Now!, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, which broadcasts over WBAI in New York City, carried stirring interviews on Monday November 5th, with Occupy Sandy activists; that same night, Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash provided the first comprehensive coverage of the situation in Coney Island, which was pretty much being ignored in the mainstream media. And Esther Armah, Ken Gale and Tony Ryan were unrelenting in their coverage of global climate change and especially the threat from the combination of the storm and New York’s nuclear power plants, which no one else was talking about.

In fact in the days leading up to the storm, a number of us were apoplectic over the possibility of radiation releases at NYC’s nuclear power plants. The government shut the subways. They shut the schools. They shut the parks, tunnels, bridges and even the electricity as generators exploded right near WBAI. But the nuclear power generators at Indian Point, just 26 miles north of New York City? Those they kept running.

Are they insane? Should the waters of the Hudson flood into the plant, that would be an unprecedented disaster, on the scale of Fukushima or worse. Should any of the spent fuel rods foolishly stored in pools at Indian Point be washed into the Hudson, we can kiss New York City goodbye. (How’s that for an early morning TV show — ‘Goodbye New York’?)

There were 16 nuclear power plants in the path of hurricane Sandy, as it whipped its way back from the Atlantic and up the coast. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission put additional observers at the sites and claimed they could shut down the nukes on just a few hours notice if they had to, so ‘don’t worry.’

Ken Gale, producer of the show ‘EcoLogic,’ presented the frightening scenario on WBAI. Hundreds of listeners called the governor and the NRC, begging them to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant at least for the storm’s duration.

WBAI provided phone numbers to call. And all of that concern had an effect. A spokesperson for the NRC was able to get through to me at home — a first! — and we had a long conversation. She agreed to discuss it live on the radio the next morning, but then WBAI was again knocked off the air.

The Obama-Nukes Connection

The nuclear nightmare is entirely manmade and profit driven. There is nothing ‘natural’ about it. It is the result not just of technology gone ‘inexplicably’ haywire but, predictably, of a certain kind of technology — a centralized, metered and capitalist technology, very expensive and made economically profitable only by a boatload of government subsidies to the nuclear industry.

Note: Just because nuclear power was used by the former Soviet Union and iswidespread in China, etc., does not make it less of a ‘capitalist technology.’ It is true that some leftists argue that nuclear power (like genetic engineering) is only a problem under capitalism and if only workers had control over it in a truly socialist society, it would be safe. Some discussion of that concept can be found in Mitchel Cohen, The Capitalist Infesto: Is Marx’s Critique of Science and Technology Radical Enough?, Red Balloon Pamphlets, 2010; also, by the same author, Big Science,and the Left’s Curious Notion of Progress (2005).

And yet, even amidst the current catastrophe, and even as the government of Venezuela halts its own nuclear program in response to public requests to reconsider the direction for society in light of Fukushima, the U.S. government is dead-set on shoring up the industry and constructing new nuclear power plants.

Note: Venezuela is suspending development of a nuclear power program following the catastrophe at the nuclear complex in Japan, President HugoChavez announced. Reuters, March 16, 2011. Venezuela ‘had hoped that a planned Russian-built nuclear power plant would provide 4,000megawatts (MW) and be ready in about a decade. But Chavez saidevents in Japan showed the risks associated with nuclear power were too great. ‘For now, I have ordered the freezing of the plans we have been developing ‘ for a peaceful nuclear program,’ he said during a televised meeting with Chinese investors.’

Note: $13 billion in cradle-to-grave subsidies and tax breaks, as well as unlimited taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, limited liability in the case of an accident, and other incentives have been approved this year to go to the nuclear industry to build new nuclear reactors. Also, note that the designer of the Fukushima nuclear reactors as well as many herein the U.S., the General Electric Company, paid no taxes at all in 2010 — even though it made billions in profits.

Along with Wall Street brokerage house Goldman Sachs, nuclear reactor operator Exelon Inc. — one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was Senator (a state that gets approximately half of its electricity from nuclear power, more than any other state)  was a top contributor to Barack Obama’s campaigns, officially donating over $269,000.

The company currently operates 10 reactors at six sites. The Quad-cities Nuclear Power Plant, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, is a GE Mark-1 plant, with the identical design and nearly the same age as the Fukushima reactors. Exelon barely averted disaster at its Braidwood nuke in Joliet, IL last year, caused by several problems that the company had refused to correct  including a poor design that led to repeated floods in buildings housing safety equipment. The company allowed vented steam to rip metal siding off containment walls and used undersized electrical fuses for vital safety equipment, according to the NRC. (Union of Concerned Scientists, ‘The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010,’ March 2011)

As candidate for president, Obama knew about the deadly dangers of nuclear power. ‘I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,’ Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa on December 30, 2007. ‘My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe. ‘ I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.’ (Karl Grossman, ‘Behind the Hydrogen Explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant,’ http://www.KarlGrossman.blogspot.com.)

As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire on November 25, 2007: ‘I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up ‘ and irradiate us ‘ and kill us. That’s the problem.’ But as president, Obama hired a nuclear power proponent out of the national nuclear laboratory system, Steven Chu, as his energy secretary. Chu, who had been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, minimizes the impacts of radioactivity, as do many of the atomic physicists in the national laboratory system. Obama’s two top White House aides, meanwhile, had been deeply involved with Exelon  the utility operating more nuclear power plants than any other in the U.S. Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff and now Mayor of Chicago, was an investment banker central to the $8.2 billion corporate merger in 1999 that produced Exelon. David Axelrod, senior advisor and Obama’s chief political strategist, was an Exelon PR consultant. Frank M. Clark, who runs ComEd, helped advise Obama before he ran for President and is one of Obama’s largest fundraisers. Candidate Obama received sizable contributions from Exelon president and CEO John Rowe, who in 2007 also became chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry’s main trade group. As Forbes magazine wrote, ‘Ties are tight between Exelon and the Obama administration,’ noting Exelon’s political contributions and Emanuel’s and Axelrod’s Exelon links. Upon becoming President, Obama appointed Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Energy Future.

NOTE: Jonathan Fahey, ‘The President’s Utility,’ Forbes, January 18, 2010.Rahm Emanuel ‘was hired by Rowe to help broker the $8.2 billion dealbetween Unicom and Peco when Emanuel was at the investment bankWasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort). In his two-year careerthere Emanuel earned $16.2 million, according to congressional disclosures. His biggest deal was the Exelon merger.’

The revolving door between government and industry rotates just as fast in Japan as it does in the U.S. In fact, the former director general of METI left the agency and joined TEPCO as a senior adviser. Another METI board member became executive vice president at TEPCO. (John Bussey, ‘Japan Will Rebuild From Quake But Faces Other Daunting Tests,’ The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011.)

Not surprisingly, given who funded his campaigns, as president Obama betrayed his campaign statements and began promoting ‘safe, clean nuclear power.’ He pushed for multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants, and made them a central part of his energy policy. He now proposes allocating $36 billion in federal loan guarantees to jump-start the construction of new nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, he has maneuvered some who have argued fervently for the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce or reverse global warming, such as NASA scientist James Hansen, into supporting his pro-nuclear policies by falsely posing coal mining and sequestration, mountaintop removal, deep sea oil drilling, and hydro-fracking for natural gas as the options to nuclear power  all of which the Obama administration is aggressively promoting.

Opponents of nuclear power, in contrast, vigorously oppose every one of those Obama proposals and argue instead for funding for development of decentralized sustainable energy alternatives like solar and wind power. Contrary to the claims of nuclear supporters, anti-nuke activists also strongly oppose expansion of oil and coal-burning power plants and support phasing them out, as they are rightly seen as prime contributors to air pollution, asthma and greenhouse gases involved in global climate change. Nuclear power is not the answer.

John Rowe’s Nuclear Energy Institute praises legislation that would facilitate the development of smaller, scalable nuclear reactors. The legislation, sponsored by Democrats as well as Republicans,

“was introduced March 8 2011 in the U.S. Senate. The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S. 512) was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), along with Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The legislation directs the Secretary of Energy to implement programs to develop and demonstrate two reactor designs, one fewer than 300 megawatts of electric generating capacity and the other fewer than 50 megawatts. This public-private, cost-shared program would facilitate the design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of two small reactor designs by the end of 2017 and the licensing of the reactors by the end of 2020.” (‘NEI Welcomes Senators’ Legislation to Advance Development of SmallReactors,’ Nuclear Energy Institute, March 09, 2011. http://www.nei.org )

Even as the nuclear nightmare plays out in Japan and the odds in favor of the nightmare scenario happening in New York and at other nukes as global climate change generates stronger and much larger storms that threaten the plants, the President, the nuclear industry and its proponents in Congress bull ahead, disregarding the potential for causing global catastrophic events. Just as one of former President Bush’s first acts in office was to increase allowable arsenic in drinking water when that water was found to already have higher arsenic levels than expected (waters used, now, in the growing of rice which is now said to be replete with high levels of arsenic), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Obama is preparing to dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in water, food and soil, in preparation for what they are calling ‘radiological incidents.’ (193Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), ‘RadiationExposure Debate Rages Inside EPA,’ April 5, 2011, http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1325)

This is taking place entirely behind closed doors, warns the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Because this plan is considered ‘guidance’ it does not require public notice as a normal regulation would. The radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) ‘are protocols for responding to radiological events ranging from nuclear power-plant accidents to ‘dirty’ bombs.’ Under the new guides, nuclear energy plants would be allowed to vent much higher levels of radioactive isotopes into the water supply and expose many more people to higher doses of radiation, including

‘A nearly 1000-fold increase in strontium-90;

‘A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for iodine-131; and

‘An almost 25,000 rise for nickel-63.

The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup standards thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted, permitting doses to the public that EPA itself estimates would cause cancer in as many as every fourth person exposed. (ibid. Also, Brian Moench, MD, ‘Radiation: Nothing to See Here?’ Truthout, March 25, 2011  a popular compilation of the dangers of radiation.) These relaxations of radiation protection requirements are favored by the nuclear industry and allies in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Department.

Fortunately, there are some in the regulatory agencies resisting the proposed increase in allowable radiation guides. The idea that there could be any ‘acceptable level’ of radiation  let alone these drastically ‘enhanced’ levels  is being vigorously opposed by public health professionals inside EPA where a critical debate is now taking place, according to documents PEER obtained by suing the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act. Even Exelon CEO John Rowe said lawmakers shouldn’t expand U.S. guarantees for loans for new reactors, and that he is reassessing a $3.65-billion plan to boost output by upgrading Exelon’s existing reactors —  not for any newfound moral, environmental or health-related concern but as a smokescreen for reducing corporate expenditures. (John McCormick, ‘Nuclear Illinois Helped Shape Obama View on Energyin Dealings With Exelon,’ Bloomberg News, March 23, 2011. )

Meanwhile, as the chaos and destruction generated by Hurricane Sandy make all too clear, we dodged a bullet this time with regard to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. We might not be so ‘lucky’ next year, or the year after that, when the storms of increasing magnitude are likely to strike again.

Reprinted from Mitchel Cohen, “Occupy Sandy” in What Is Direct Action? Lessons from (and to) Occupy Wall Street.

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GUEST POST: CAITLIN JOHNSTONE: Worthless House Progressives Retract Mild Peace Advocacy Under Pressure From Warmongers

FROM JACK SHALOM

It’s meaningless nonsense. None of them are threatening to use any leverage to do anything and they all continue to vote for funding. None of them reached out to Republicans who are against the war to form a coalition to actually use their power. As is usually the case with these “progressives” they are trying to protect their brand.

The one thing that is good about this is that it ind icates that public opinion has now shifted enough in their districts that they feel they have to squeak up a bit to maintain their cred.    -Jack Shalom

If you actually read the original letter signed by House progressives including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna PressleyRashida TlaibJamaal Bowman and Ro Khanna, you will quickly see that it’s as innocuous and anodyne as any statement could possibly be while still containing words. It opens with effusive praise for Biden’s interventionism in Ukraine and condemns the Russian government unequivocally throughout, offering only the humble suggestion that he “pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.” Its authors make it abundantly clear that they support making sure such diplomacy is agreeable to Ukraine at every step of the way.

This impotent nothing salad was bizarrely spun by The Washington Post as a call on Biden to “dramatically shift his strategy on the Ukraine war,” despite nothing that could be remotely construed as “dramatic” existing anywhere in the body of the text. The letter received backlash from warmongers in both parties, including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was personally slammed by Bernie Sanders, the pope of American progressivism. Trolls and warmongers swarmed the social media notifications of every account which posted the letter in an official capacity, mindlessly bleating the words “appeasement” and “Chamberlain” in unison.

In a statement on the retraction of the letter, CPC chair Pramila Jayapal says she accepts responsibility for the publication of the offending act of peacemongering while in the same breath blaming its publication on her staff.

“The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting. As Chair of the Caucus, I accept responsibility for this,” Jayapal said.

“Every war ends with diplomacy, and this one will too after Ukrainian victory,” the statement reads, ignoring mainstream reports that US officials quietly believe Ukraine stands no chance at outright victory in this war. “The letter sent yesterday, although restating that basic principle, has been conflated with GOP opposition to support for the Ukrainians’ just defense of their national sovereignty. As such, it is a distraction at this time and we withdraw the letter.”

Empire critics were quick to highlight the obsequious nature of this retraction.

“For progressives, I didn’t think it could get more pathetic than voting for a disastrous proxy war that the US provoked and prolonged, handing billions to arms makers in the process. In retracting their tepid call for diplomacy and blaming staffers for it, they somehow surpassed it,” tweeted Aaron Maté.

“Certainly speaks to the insanely hawkish atmosphere in Washington that pressured the progressive caucus to withdrawal a totally reasonable, responsible and necessary call for diplomacy in a conflict that risks escalating to nuclear armageddon,” tweeted Rania Khalek.

“Imagine being elected to Congress based on promises of challenging ‘the establishment’ or whatever, then being so petrified of anger from bipartisan DC establishment mavens that you can’t even wait 24 hours before meekly retracting the only mild dissent you’ve expressed,” tweeted Glenn Greenwald.handing billions to arms makers in the process. In retracting their tepid call for diplomacy & blaming staffers for it, they somehow surpassed it:

I don’t know what pressures were the ultimate deciding factor in the CPC’s decision to retract its feeble advocacy for a bit more diplomacy, or how much of that pressure was brought to bear behind the scenes by bigger political monsters in the Beltway swamp, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. The important take-home from this lesson, once again, is that progressive Democrats are worse than worthless at opposing the mechanisms of oligarchy and empire.

In fact if you look at their actions it’s not even really accurate to describe them as “progressive Democrats” as though they are a faction that has meaningful differences with the rest of that party. Aside from the occasional empty soundbyte about healthcare or debt forgiveness, they’re not doing anything to advance progressive agendas which make American lives better, and they’re certainly doing nothing to impede the expansion of the US war machine.

The progressive Democrat is a myth, like the good billionaire or the righteous American war. “The Squad” is nothing more than the social media-savvy branch of the Democratic establishment. The United States has two warmongering oligarchic parties, and a tremendous amount of narrative management goes into manipulating, cajoling and coercing Americans into staying psychologically plugged in to that fraudulent political paradigm.

This comes at the same time the defense minister of Romania was forced to resign for saying peace talks were necessary to achieve peace in Ukraine. It just reveals so much about where we’re at and where we’re headed that the most incendiary and outrageous thing you can say in our society is that we should probably attempt to diplomatically de-escalate hostilities between nuclear superpowers. The fact that the Overton window of acceptable political discourse has already been dragged that far in the direction of warmongering insanity prevents peace from ever having any space to get a word in edgewise.

*******************************************************

 

CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND: ANOTHER RIDE IS POSSIBLE

All photos by Mitchel Cohen, October 7, 2022.
Lyrics by Phil Ochs

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind
Visions of shadows that shine
‘Til one day I returned
And found they were the victims of the vines
Of changes

Brooklyn’s Eifel Tower. The Parachute jump. Oct. 7, 2022

 

Men’s bathroom, Coney Island, Oct 7, 2022

 

 

Filmset for “Imaginary Friends” ….

 

 

Moon over tattered red flag on Coney Island Beach, looking south over the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

Still there after all these years! The original Nathan’s. If I still ate hot dogs (gave up eating pigs and cows — let alone horses! — a few decades ago) I’d surely return to my roots here! In the late 1960’s, some creep dropped a LSD into the mustard vats, injuring lots of unsuspecting people. YES to psychedelics when taken voluntarily, NO to imposing them (or ANY drug, mRNA vaxxines included) on people!

 

 

Part of set for “Imaginary Friends”, filming here. I remember eating my first 10 cent cotton candy here with my Grandmother in 1955, fascinated by the spinning of sugar into “cotton” and the tricky hand motion of sweeping the cardboard cone around the wheel.

 

 

 

 

View from the F Train.

 

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KATIE HALPER FIRED BY “THE HILL” FOR CHALLENGING ISRAEL’S APARTHEID AGAINST PALESTINIANS

Right on to Katie Halper and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) for challenging the Democrats in Congress over their financing of Israeli apartheid. Germane to Katie’s post below is a poem/song I wrote in 1988:

 

from Mondoweiss

Katie Halper loses job at ‘The Hill’ after calling on progressives to dismantle Israeli apartheid

The firing of Katie Halper by The Hill TV reflects growing support for Palestinian rights, and is reminiscent of the firing of Marc Lamont Hill by CNN 4 years ago.

Two weeks ago Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) got into hot water for asserting that you can’t be progressive and support Israel’s apartheid government. The Democratic leadership went haywire. Jake Tapper ran a segment on CNN quoting her “Jewish colleagues”, who had smeared her as antisemite. Tapper didn’t engage with Tlaib’s point about apartheid or explain to viewers why the only Palestinian member of the House might feel compelled to voice such frustration.

Now independent journalist Katie Halper says she was first censored by The Hill TV and then fired from its morning broadcast, “Rising,” after she submitted a commentary in which she stood up for Rashida Tlaib on the apartheid charge and uttered the words, “Free Palestine!”

Ryan Grim covers the case at the Intercept and says that monologues of the sort Halper submitted usually air without question. “[A]s a former co-host of the show, I’ve recorded more than 150 of them. There is no approval process.” (Grim could get no comment from Halper’s corporate former bosses at Nexstar media, which bought The Hill last year).

Halper has now published the (excellent) commentary that got her fired at BreakThrough News. Speaking “to my fellow Jews, to my friends in the Democratic Party who want to support Israel and think of themselves as progressive,” Halper methodically backs up Tlaib’s accusation and urges progressives to dismantle Israeli apartheid as they dismantled South African apartheid.

The case is similar to Marc Lamont Hill’s firing by CNN four years ago after he gave a speech at the U.N. in which he called for Palestine to be free from the river to the sea.

Katie Halper’s biggest offense may have been taking on Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL and his mouthpiece Jake Tapper of CNN. Halper said:

It’s outrageous that Rashida Tlaib is getting attacked. Tlaib is merely stating that Israel is an apartheid state, and that people who claim to have progressive values should not support an apartheid state. No matter how loose a definition of progressive we use, it certainly excludes supporting a racist apartheid position. What’s outrageous is attacking Tlaib for pointing out that Progressive Except for Palestine is an intensively contradictory position. What’s also outrageous is that the Anti Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt would claim that Israel is not an apartheid government. What’s outrageous is that Jake Tapper would accept Greenblatt’s statement as the truth and not propaganda that needed to be pushed back against. I understand that Greenblatt and perhaps Tapper feel like Israel is not an apartheid state, but unfortunately for them, apartheid is not about their feelings, but the facts.”

(Eli Valley speculates about Greenblatt’s possible “interference,” given his prominence in the capital and his spearheading the effort to smear Rashida Tlaib.)

Halper’s monologue is racking up views (20,000 so far today) and hundreds of supportive comments. She reports today that she is getting a ton of approval for her stance.

Let’s consider that support for a second. Clearly Tlaib and Halper are speaking to a receptive audience. Young American progressives support Palestinian freedom. “More than half of U.S students exposed to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s calls to boycott Israel – support the group, a Foreign Ministry survey conducted on campuses, released on Wednesday showed,” according to Israeli source Ynet.

That’s the Israeli foreign ministry polling! “The findings alarmed Israeli officials and indicated that the BDS movement has considerable influence on campuses.” Yes, even student leaders of the liberal Zionist lobby J Street support BDS — and then get crushed by the top of the organization for voicing that support.

These findings line up with other recent polling. We consistently see that sympathy for the Palestinian cause is increasing, especially among Democratic voters. A 2020 University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll found that 49% of Democrats had heard of BDS, and 48% of those who had heard of it said that they “strongly or somewhat” support the movement. A 2019 Center for American Progress poll found that 71% of Democrats support conditioning aid to Israel.

We’ve seen a staggering shift on this issue among Democrats over the last couple decades. When Gallup polled voters on the Middle East back in 2001 just 16% of Democrats said they sympathized with Palestinians. According to a 2021 Gallup poll a majority of Democrats now say that the United States should apply “more pressure on Israel” to make compromises, as opposed to “more pressure on Palestinians.”

Last week Zoha Qamar wrote about that growing division within the party at FiveThirtyEight. “A confluence of factors over the past decade seems to be driving this shift,” he wrote. “Social media has changed how war is witnessed across the globe — especially among young people — and a growing awareness of social inequities in the U.S. may be reshaping how some Americans perceive conflict internationally, too. But most of all, the Palestinian-Israeli question has become a topic that embodies an intra-party identity issue for Democrats, one that has increasingly pushed liberals to reconsider what constitutes progressive politics.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Photo: tlaib.house.gov)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Photo: tlaib.house.gov) 

The position of voters might be changing, but it certainly hasn’t translated into a widespread shift among lawmakers. Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) historic bill aiming to end Israel’s detention of Palestinian children has just 32 cosponsors out of 435 voting representatives. Just eight Democrats voted against an extra $1 billion in Iron Dome funding last fall: The No votes belonged to Reps Andre Carson (D-IN), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) , Marie Newman (D-IL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Tlaib.

As we reported yesterday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a tool for the pro-Israel lobby, told the Jerusalem Post conference two weeks ago that he doesn’t like to call out Tlaib and other progressive House members publicly over Israel because he doesn’t want to make them “superstars.” But he’s scared by their millions of followers on social media.

One of the things I’m most concerned about is there are millions of people on twitter including some young people, including some young Jews, who follow some of my far left colleagues. When they spread false information, especially using the tools of intersectionality, using words like apartheid, we have to be very clear and stand up to that. I worry about people on social media, especially young people, being influenced by that.

The young are being influenced, of course, and Gottheimer said he sometimes works behind the scenes so he doesn’t give Tlaib any “unnecessary attention.”

You are talking about a few people who are these splinter folks who are loud voices but not representative of the party . . .

Maybe not such a splinter after all!

Halper also assured viewers that she’s not going away.

It’s an important thing to show the world that, sadly, Israel is an apartheid state and we have to push back and when we encounter censorship we can’t run away with our tails between our legs.

Props to Halper for not running away and making Rashida Tlaib’s testimony even stronger. Publicly the congresswoman has ignored the recent attacks, but continues to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians. Yesterday she tweeted about Rian Suleiman, a 7-year-old boy who died of a heart attack while Israeli soldiers chased him after invading his home. “Don’t look away. $3.8 billion+ of our money is funding this,” wrote Tlaib. “Enough. It must stop.”

The United States has called for an “immediate and thorough” investigation, but the IDF has already declared there’s “no connection” between his death and the actions of his soldiers. At some places it’s still controversial to call this “apartheid.”

 

ZEN-MARXISM 101: PHILOSOPHICAL ORIGINS

The question of freedom and determinism — or, in Rosa Luxemburg‘s prescient query: “Reform and Revolution” — is what got me started writing my zen-marxism series of pamphlets, of which the philosophical chapters in “The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides” are the most current outgrowths.

If conditions freely determine, can we be determined to be free?

If we’re robots, how do we know we’re robots, unless programmed to seek out that knowledge.

I wrote my very first zen-marxism essay on this question back in 1974 off-campus at SUNY Binghamton, where I was living on a mattress on the floor in the back room of an office on Clinton Street with three others — no shower or kitchen. That office served as a base for teams of students I’d recruited to organize farmworkers in the Finger Lakes region into the Eastern Farmworkers Association. Fresh out of a 4-month sentence in prison the previous summer for participating in antiwar demonstrations at SUNY Stony Brook, that philosophical question plagued me, tortured me. I tried talking about it to those around me and they were oblivious to what I considered to be a major philosophical problem.

That meditation started with:

Between Descartes, Hegel, Marx, Percy Shelley, Rosa Luxemburg, and Einstein there is an abyss, a chasm that each came to and was not able to cross — the question of Freedom, and the separation of subject from object. That Cartesian dualism plagued the Left for many years, even as we took actions against the policies of U.S. imperialism. How do I know that I’m not being “programmed” to do whatever it is that I’m doing?

By the end of the 20th rewrite of the essay and many mescaline trips (and political arrests) several years later, I’d figured out how to use dialectical philosophy to indeed bridge that chasm and answer that question: By making the subject under discussion — in this case the relationship of freedom and determinism — itself into the object of scrutiny — that is, making it a “meta-object”, freely studying the relationship of freedom and determinism (subject and object) and how to build radical organization based on that understanding.

That’s what Kurt Gödel analyzed in his own way — fascinating stuff! Bertrand Russell actually BANNED Gödel’s recursive thoughts from his work on mathematics, which Gödel threw into chaos. Douglas Hofstadter‘s encyclopediac work, “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,” explored these questions in depth and occupied me for more than a year, plaguing my housemates as I alternated between quoting from Hofstadter and also Abbie Hoffman‘s book “Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture,” and antiwar and anti-apartheid protests,

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

It was gravity that pulled us down
Destiny that tore us apart
– Bob Dylan

When I went to college, the torrent of new experiences replaced the torment of these inquiries. I got an “F” in Philosophy 101 my first semester when I was 16 and wanted to kill Sternweiss, the odious professor. I hate therefore I am. (I actually went back to Sternweiss’s class many years later when I felt much more sure of myself and “got even” …. )

Three years into my “career” at Stony Brook, I and the rest of the Independent Caucus of SDS (and later the Red Balloon Collective) began reading Karl Marx. Marx and Engels, we read, made the important distinction between utopian and scientific socialism. They did not say, “This is how the world should work.” (utopian) Instead, they examined the motion of capitalism from within its own premises and processes (scientific). They showed where the motion of capitalism was taking it and where human beings might intervene to influence its direction. (The idea is that Leftist human interventions serves as acupuncture needles re-orienting the energy flows of history!)

KARL MARX LAUNCHES HIS CRITIQUE

of capitalism NOT

by positing an ideal world and wishing for it

nor by establishing a Communistic plot

(he’s buried in one!)

but by unraveling

the way

the system unfolds

inevitably, globally,

propelled by its own

internal contradictions.

 

What

does all that mean,

every word coiled in

its history

ready to spring!

Where

will it first collapse?

Will

there be

a future worth living in?

a planet to live on?

Who

is in position

to take action?

How

must we organize ourselves

to achieve

the revolutionary new society we seek?

When

will loneliness evaporate

and love take root?

It was as though Marx and Engels were talking directly to me, about my whole childhood! My coming to Marx and Engels was not solely about politics, per se. It was extremely personal, and to some degree remains so. They gave me tools for understanding and explaining this huge philosophical conundrum that I had been unable to make sense of and had trapped myself in!

I had been unknowingly utilizing what Engels called a Utopian” framework; that’s why I couldn’t figure out how to validate my method for validating decisions I’d come to. What a relief, to have a label to affix to my “illness”! So, someone else had thought about all this before. I am not alone, maybe there’s a cure! I was just beginning to be able to put this dialectical thought into words: There can be no fine distinction between how we view the world and how the world has shaped each of us to view it — and that includes the desire to view “how the world has shaped us to view it.”

This was my starting point in addressing the same dilemma that has plagued Western philosophy since Descartes (and me, ever since I was a kid, and later in that first semester Philosophy 101): If my ideas and desires are conditioned by the world, how is it possible to even ask myself whether my ideas and desires are conditioned by the world, unless some outside force wants me to do so? Or, as I put it at the time, Am I not a robot? And if I’m not, how can I prove it?

For Descartes, the idea of reflexive thought — that is, the ability of an individual to think about how she is thinking — is so convoluted and so huge that he concluded in his Meditations that he could not have thought this up on his own. Consequently, it could only have been planted in his mind by an evil demon or some opposite and even more powerful force that stood outside his thought process and which he called “God”.

Descartes could not explain where the idea came from to “think about thinking” (and to actually do it) — the idea of the Idea. In much the same way that I had invented a procedure for answering questions over which I had no control (racing a closing door before it slammed shut), so too did Descartes invent a mechanism that could not be validated by his own first premises concerning rational thought. The name of that mechanism, for Descartes, was “God,” and it stood outside the quagmire of rationality that had entrapped him.

V.I. Lenin argued for a similar mechanism in What Is To Be Done? Since socialist consciousness does not arise out of working class relations on their own under capitalism, he wrote, it must come from outside the working class movements. Consequently, some mechanism, Lenin said, must be created to bring socialist direction into movements that on their own (he claimed) could never go beyond the narrow economic self-interest of trade unions.

For Descartes, that mechanism was God, coming from outside the process of thought applied to itself. For Lenin, it was the “vanguard party,” which was to come from outside the motion of the working class in itself. The function of the Communist Party would be to lead the working class to escape its economistic role under capitalism as an object and become conscious of and fulfill its historically determined potential as the free revolutionary subject of history.

Whether through Descartes’ God, Lenin’s party, or my racing of a slamming door, each of our approaches came up against the limits of rationality; they each required a mechanism that came from outside the process of reflexive thought. By standing outside and apart from the separated, fenced-off realms of objective and subjective, parts and wholes, each of these mechanisms (or rational approaches) strove to serve as bridges across the same philosophical abyss, and were therefore utopian constructs. (For me “utopian” meant you couldn’t get there by adding on rational steps. It required a Leap)

The separation of subject from object, “self” from “other” (what’s “in our heads” from what’s “out there”) is at the root of all dualisms. It confounds linear logic The moment we think to apply rational thought to itself, to its own premises, we’ve trapped ourselves.1 That “separation” (alienation) plays out through many “secondary” (but crucial and complex) dualities involving seemingly unbridgeable abysses: freedom and determinism, cause and effect, the whole and the parts, quality and quantity, universal and particular, abstract and concrete, absolute and relative, form and content, mechanisms of conditioning and independent consciousness, fact and value, reason and emotion, sadism and masochism, revolution and reform, mind and body, thinking and being, production and consumption, education and direct action, vanguard and mass, opportunism and adventurism, and, spontaneity and organization. These are all false dualities rooted in Descartes’ approach, reflecting, from different angles, the same severed Unity. Ultimately, all revolutionary strategy in the U.S. and Europe is and has always been about creating the means to bridge that chasm.

Every major philosophical question is propelled by our attempts to understand how our lives and thoughts came to be dominated by the separation of subject and object, and our efforts to re-unite them.2 The “idea” to investigate the Idea’s own existence — the taking of a subjective process and making it the object of scrutiny — is the first step in transcending that chasm in a dialectical manner.

For the New Left, every single facet of everyday life — our ways of seeing, thinking, acting, relating, eating, having sex, producing and loving– offers a window onto the totality of capitalist and, I would add, patriarchal relations. We see that totality refracted through the particularities of our lives, a mosaic of seemingly disparate parts and events. The ways in which we relate to each other and to nature, and the questions that go along with them — Do we compete over scarce resources? Do we see ourselves through the lens of isms, particularly religions, and the ideology of nationalism and the nation-state? — generally go unnoted, taken for granted. Who among us rejects the religion of their parents and adopts a different one? Very few. Who among us rejects identifying with the country they grew up in, at least in terms of how we view ourselves? (“We’re at war!” And exactly WHO falls within the embrace of that identity moniker “we“?) How can we create the kind of society in which people treat each other as full human beings and not as commodities or things?3

Once again, the “isms” through which we see and experience our own lives and the world around us generally go unnoted, taken for granted.

While Abbie Hoffman, the New Left’s most visible advocate, declared that we needed to make every ism a wasm, Karl Marx explained why that was exceedingly difficult to do:

The materialist doctrine that people are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed people are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is people who change circumstances and that the educator must him or herself be educated.4

And so, the question persists: How can anyone change the circumstances that have shaped their thought and actions, ways of being that maintain, enhance and protect the very circumstances they need to change? The vicious circle continues.

NOTES
1That is why Bertrand Russell argued so strenuously against what I’m calling “reflexive” processes in his Principia Mathematica and in fact banned them outright! That’s also why Kurt Gödel’s conclusions, which were drawn from his mathematic logic, were so powerful in undermining Russell and indeed the Cartesian basis of Western philosophy.

2Subjective & objective, parts & wholes, are, as I argue throughout Zen-Marxism, false dualities which western society has created by severing “subjective” from “objective”, and the “parts” from the particular whole they’re part of.

3See, for instance, Mitchel Cohen, What Is Direct Action? New Left Lessons in Reframing Revolutionary Strategy, (Zen-Marxism #4), Red Balloon publications, 2013.

4Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, Number 3.

 

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HUMANITY IS LOOKING EXTINCTION IN THE EYE

GUEST POST

As we pass global temperature tipping points, we face widespread ecosystem collapse and the development of self-sustaining destructive feedback loops, write ROX MIDDLETON, LIAM SHAW and JOEL HELLEWELL

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/era-defining-death

LAST week a team of scientists published their review of the evidence that has accumulated in the past few years about the properties and dangers of climate tipping points.

They compared this evidence with the 1.5-2°C rise in global temperature that will occur under the Paris Agreement. They found that we may still reach several climate tipping points or maybe have already crossed them.

A ”tipping point” is when a variable in a system, such as the global temperature in our climate, crosses a threshold which causes feedback.

From that point, significant self-perpetuating changes start to occur that are irreversible and often abrupt and dramatic.

The self-sustaining feedback loop means that even if we could magically reduce the temperature after crossing a tipping point, the changes would continue to happen and we cannot return to the previous state.

One of the tipping points identified in the review was the dieback of the Amazon rainforest.

The presence of the rainforest recycles rainfall in the Amazon basin, allowing it to persist through the dry season.

As some of the forest is lost due to both deforestation and high temperatures causing drying out (and eventually fires), this reduces its ability to promote and retain rainfall and leads to further drying.

After the tipping point of forest death, the forest can no longer sustain itself and the entire forest is condemned.

The Amazon rainforest is a huge sink for human carbon emissions. Upon its death these emissions will no longer be absorbed and will therefore contribute towards more climate change.

Another large store of carbon is permanently frozen soil in the northern boreal forests that lie in a ring around the north of the planet through Canada, Finland and Russia.

It is not fully known how these permafrosts will react to rising temperatures. The best-case scenario is that they thaw gradually, slowly releasing their carbon into the atmosphere over many years.

However, there is some evidence that a partial thaw would lead to an increase in microbial activity in the previously frozen carbon-rich organic matter.

This bacterial activity would generate its own heat and melt the permafrost further, creating a feedback loop leading to permafrost collapse and the release of all the stored carbon very quickly.

Four of the tipping points identified are the collapse of ice sheets around Greenland, West and East Antarctica, and the Arctic Sea.

It’s easy to grasp that less sea ice will form in a warmer sea as temperatures rise, but sea ice melting may unfortunately also face a tipping point at which a feedback loop begins so that sea ice loss accelerates further sea ice loss.

Open seas with less ice at the beginning of winter seem to lead to less sea ice growth. Ice is very reflective, so if less ice is formed then less heat is reflected and is instead absorbed by the sea in spring and summer.

The warmer sea melts more ice, so even less ice is present for the beginning of next winter. When the sea ice is gone there will be no heat reflected and global temperatures will rise.

While each of these tipping points would represent the terminal decline of a major earth ecosystem, what makes them particularly important is their capacity for interaction. Each tipping point has a roughly estimated temperature range at which it is predicted to occur.

Reaching one tipping point may push temperatures up enough to reach another tipping point, leading to a cascade of devastating, irreversible changes.

The self-sustaining nature of these tipping points means that once we are on the conveyor belt, we cannot get back off.

The uncertain ranges of temperature at which these tipping points may occur is also concerning. We have already reached just over one degree Celsius of warming since pre-industrial times.

This may not seem like much, but it already puts us in the lower ranges for several tipping points where they are considered “possible.”

One of these tipping points that we may have already passed is coral bleaching. At a high enough sea temperature coral ejects the symbiotic algae that live inside their tissue.

The coral turns white and brittle and the incredibly rich ecosystems of other marine life that live inside and around the coral also dies.

Reef health often depends on specialised fish that live in the coral; declines in the population of these fish due to mass coral bleaching would cause further reef deterioration.

More broadly bleaching can cause population crashes of fish that feed on animals in the reef, impacting humans that rely on fishing as a food source and ultimately the ocean carbon cycle.

Coral bleaching has already happened in many coral reefs, including large portions of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

As sea temperatures have risen, mass bleaching events have become more common. It’s impossible to tell right now whether we have already crossed the threshold of reef decline but many believe it is very likely.

Single warming events have catastrophic effects which mean the time-scale for coral loss is years, not decades. It has been predicted that 99 per cent of coral reefs will have died within 10 years.

Current warming has brought us into the plausible range for several tipping points. Within these ranges, the likelihood of passing tipping points becomes ever more likely the higher the temperature rises.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the temperature increase to “well below 2, preferably to 1.5°C.”

Even this seemingly small amount of extra warming pushes us into the “possible” ranges of several more tipping points, and changes the status of lower tipping points to “likely.”

The uncertainty in how soon we will reach these tipping points, how bad they will be for further warming, and how they will interact with each other demands that we take the strongest measures to prevent as much future warming as possible.

In the words of the scientists conducting the review: “The Earth may have left a safe climate state beyond 1°C global warming.”

***********************

This terrifying article, clearly explains dynamic systems and how tipping points work — exemplifying, I’ll add, a dialectical understanding of processes, both natural and man-made. Of course the shortfall here is what, if anything, human beings can do about our own extinction at this late date. My fear is that rather than being an argument for eliminating capitalism, it becomes one for the development of whole new geo-technological industrial “solutions” which, no doubt, will make matters even worse and facilitate the extinction of complex life on this planet.

Mitchel Cohen

COVID, PESTICIDES, AND THE PRION-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

From the start of the pandemic in 2020, thoughtful vaxxine challengers asked, “What would happen if the experimental mRNA vaxxines ended up increasing the chances of one’s body manufacturing misfolded spike proteins of the Covid virus? And what then?”

Unlike now-old fashioned vaccines, the mRNA vaxxines are designed to cause cells throughout the body to “manufacture” proteins where no spike protein had gone before. The novel idea would be to induce the body to create antibodies to the proteins the body itself would be “induced to produce”. One would expect regulatory health agencies would examine evidence of vaxxine-induced “malfunction”, which in this case would mean the incidence of Covid spike proteins misfolding into what are called “prions.” These could result in cascading chain reactions in the brain, as has been documented previously in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and Mad Cow disease.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with evaluating such reports, does not appear to have required the Pfizer and Moderna manufacturers of the Covid vaxxine to submit research reporting incidence of misfolded proteins prompted by the mRNA vaxxines. (Note that this is a separate concern from adjuvants, metals, graphene oxides, and impurities in the composition of the vaxxine itself.) And yet, the FDA approved “emergency” allocation of the vaxxines despite the companies’ failure to test for prion formation — data which is essential in assessing risk prior to approval of such new vaxxine technology.

The No Spray Coalition against pesticides — which in 2007 had after many years won a federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act against New York City’s spraying of massive amounts of organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides to kill mosquitoes said to be carrying and transmitting West Nile virus — has had some encounters with the frightening prion brain diseases. Farmers in Europe had been directed to drench their cattle with Malathion and Phosmet, which caused a rash of Mad Cow disease, Downer Cow syndrome and Scrapies (diseases with parallels in humans known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)).

PHOSMET
S-[(1,3-Dioxo-1,3-dihydro-2H-isoindol-2-yl)methyl] O,O-dimethyl phosphorothioate

 

In the U.S., also implicated in those diseases was the feeding of protein supplements from “rendered” diseased animals to livestock, from animals already drenched in organophosphate pesticides, causing proteins to fold into prions and resulting in the animal diseases mentioned here. Organophosphate pesticides are, we learned, cholinesterase inhibitors (more on this later) and endocrine disruptors. The misfolding of proteins into nucleic acid-free prions seems to also be related to Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and more.

When vaxxine critic Steve Kirsch similarly hypothesized that the mRNA vaxxines for Covid may be facilitating the creation of prions leading to some of the same prion diseases we saw with the mass-applications of organophosphate pesticides, Twitter banned him “for life” from communicating such thoughts to others.

In my 2003 booklet, “Got Pus? Bovine Growth Hormone and the New World Order,” I quoted Barry Commoner as saying:

“In the 1980s, Stanley Prusiner confirmed that the infectious agents that cause scrapie, mad cow disease, and similar very rare but invariably fatal human diseases are indeed nucleic-acid-free proteins (he named them prions), which replicate in an entirely unprecedented way. Invading the brain, the prion encounters a normal brain protein which it then refolds to match the prion’s distinctive three-dimensional shape. The newly refolded protein itself becomes infectious and, acting on another molecule of the normal protein, sets up a chain reaction that propagates the disease to its fatal end.” (“Unraveling the DNA Myth The Spurious Foundation of Genetic Engineering,” Harpers, Feb. 2002.)

BARRY COMMONER, Cell Biologist, Ecologist, who ran for President in 1980 with the independent Citizen’s Party he’d founded.

Prions cause infected cattle to literally develop holes in their brains, suffer seizures, fall down and die. Studies now indicate that mad cow disease is linked to the devastating Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, although this was at first stren­u­ously denied by the pharmaceutical industry and the researchers they control who twisted every which way to protect the products of their corporate employers. We are seeing outbreaks of CJD in some people following mRNA vaxxinations today, and so need to again raise the same questions

STANLEY PRUSINER, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, 1997, for discovery of “Prions” —  a new biological principle of infection.

Prions are able to withstand severe heat such as pasteurization and even irradiation because they contain no DNA or other nucleic acids. There is no known way to defuse them. They may incubate for 30 years, and are passed to humans who eat meat from sick cows, regardless of how well one cooks the meat.

Unlike the eating of rendered meat from cows that died of Mad Cow disease or of drinking milk from cows injected with Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, the relationship of CJD to consuming milk products from sick cows has not yet been established but should be seriously considered.

The U.S. government maintains that no BSE-infected cattle have been discovered in the U.S. But, as Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn point out, the disease may have appeared in the U.S. before the 1995 outbreak in England. (St. Clair & Cockburn, “Dead Meat: Why Mad Cows Are the Least of It,” City Pages Online, April 2, 1995.)

Richard Marsh, a veterinary scientist at the University of Wisconsin, was raising the alarm about BSE in American cattle a decade earlier. In 1985. Marsh discovered an outbreak of spongiform encephalopathy at a mink farm in Wisconsin. The mink had been fed a protein supplement made from rendered cows that had reportedly died from ‘downer cow syndrome.’ Marsh believed the cows had actually succumbed to a previously undetected form of BSE.

Around 100,000 cows a year die from downer cow syndrome in the U.S. Most of these dead cows were at the time rendered into protein supplements to feed other cattle, who under normal circumstances ate grass and not meat. As Cockburn and St. Clair saw it, “if this is true, the U.S. cattle population may already be infected with BSE and American meat consumers may have already contracted CJD.”

HEAVY METALS AND PRION DISEASES

Prions bond with copper; those molecules are carried to the brain, destroying free radi­cals along he way. So far so good. But in bodies deficient in copper, prions will bind instead with manganese, which is what causes the proteins to fold improperly and create deadly chaos.

What causes deficiencies in copper? Among other things, overdosing with zinc — a mineral so important in fighting Covid — can actually make our bodies deficient in copper and thus more susceptible to Covid and other viruses. So it is essential to take zinc as part of one’s anti-Covid regimen but not to overdose on it over extended periods. Keep zinc and small amounts of copper in balance.

Now, here’s a very interesting ribbon tying together the activities of the No Spray Coalition against pesticides with understanding how to deal with Covid. Certain environmental toxins, particularly organophosphate insect­i­cides such as the widely used Malathion and Phosmet, which were derived from nerve gas developed by the Nazis in World War 2, introduce high levels of manganese (along with other toxins) into the environment. Organo­phosphate pesticides (OPs) are, in the opinion of those challenging official claims, critical co-factors in causing Mad Cow disease and CJD. OPs are also  Cholinesterase inhibitors, and play havoc with nerve and brain functioning.

Is there a relevant synergy among the zinc, copper and manganese in the blood, and in specific organs? One area of research would be to follow up on the role of manganese in the advent of Covid-19, and deficiencies of copper and zinc, in Parkinson’s / Alzheimer’s / dementia diseases.

Also in need of further examination would be the massive applications of Monsanto’s widely used herbicide Roundup, and its main active ingredient, Glyposate, on the management of metals in the body in establishing conditions in which the SARS COV2 virus thrives. The trace minerals, so-called +2 cations such as iron, zinc, copper, cobalt, selenium, manganese and molybdenum — writes Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D and senior research scientist at MIT in a chapter of my book “The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides” (newly reissued, 2022) — “are exploited by the body to catalyze various enzymatic reactions essential for metabolism and protection from oxidative stress. These metals are, however, dangerous if they are present as free ions in the blood, because of their high reactivity. In consideration of this, the body has developed sophisticated mechanisms to hide many of these metals in transport proteins in the blood and also produces specific proteins to carry them across the cell wall for passage across the gut barrier and then later for uptake by a cell.” How this relates to Covid-19 seems a crucial area for research and assessment.

                                                                                                 by Robert Lederman

Seneff continues a prescient essay, written a few months before the pandemic but with obvious implications to the biochemistry involved: “Ironically, with chronic glyphosate poisoning can come a situation of iron-based anemia simultaneous with iron-overload toxicity, in part because glyphosate tightly binds iron, preventing its uptake into the transport protein transferrin. Glyphosate then lets go of the metal it is carrying when it reaches a terminal watershed area of the blood, such as the kidneys or the brain stem, where the pH drops, causing glyphosate to lose binding capacity. The freed-up iron then becomes toxic to the tissues.” If you’re suddenly noting: “Holy Cow! Some of that is exactly what we’re seeing with Covid,” you’d be in good company — but don’t expect the FDA to have asked those questions of the corporate manufacturers prior to granting emergency authorization for its vaxxine distribution!

MANGANESE MADNESS IS KILLING MY COUNTRY

Let’s return briefly to Manganese madness, whose symptoms mirror those of Mad Cow and CJD. Manganese madness is an irreversible fatal neuro-psychiatric degen­erative syndrome that plagued manganese miners in the first half of the 19th century. But thus far official researchers have ignored the probability that these are parallel diseases with the same causation, aggravated by the intense use of organophosphate pesticides reacting with prions in the meat of sick cows.

Just prior to the mad cow disease epidemic in Britain, the governments of that country and of Switzerland mandated Malathion and Phosmet skin treatments for all cattle. Phosmet was initially marketed as an agricultural pesticide by ICI, and later by their renamed subdivision, Zeneca, and is used on more than 1.1 million acres of fruit orchards in the U.S. as well as in dog collars; it has been found in the dust in homes of pesticide applicators living close to orchard farms.

As mad cow disease terrorized Britain and Switzerland (1982), organic farmer Mark Purdey performed soil analyses on the areas near clusters of CJD and found high levels of mang­anese from crop spraying. Neurobiologist David Brown at Cambridge University, concluded that Purdey’s findings in the toxic en­vironment were supported by research that he had done in the laboratory and confirmed the synergistic links.

And yet the FDA, corporate scientists and pharmaceutical com­pan­ies have thus far failed to examine the obvious relationships between genetically engin­eered hormones, prions, pesticides, novel anti-mRNA vaxxines, and Mad Cow and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. How is an animal’s uptake of metals such as manganese and environmental conditions consistently exposing them to organophosphates and/or glyphosate (Monsanto’s pervasive “Roundup”) making them more or less susceptible to SARS‐CoV‐2, the causative pathogen of COVID‐19? No lab­oratory studies on these synergies have been reported. Neither Monsanto nor Novartis — which manufactured Malathion, along with DDT, Clioquinol, and Ritalin, and which remains one of the world’s largest genetic engineering pharmaceutical companies — is par­tic­ularly keen on revealing research that might establish such connections. (The Bayer-Monsanto consolidation—one of the rotting legs of what physicist and world ecology advocate Vandana Shiva calls “The Poison Cartel”—came on the heels of the merger of the agricultural divisions of Dow and Dupont (now called Corteva Agriscience), and Syngenta’s merger with ChemChina. (Syngenta itself was the  outcome of the consolidation of part of Novartis with AstraZeneca.)

All of this has severe environmental, economic, and health consequences. Groundwater becomes even more polluted as mutated, drug-resistant viruses, fungus, and bacteria enter the water supply and soil, blossoming in response to the increased use of antibiotics, metals, and genetically engineered chemicals in waste run-off.

What is the relation of pollutants to the malformation of Covid spike proteins and prions eventuated by the mRNA vaccines? Where are the holistic and synergistic analyses we so desperately need before such products are authorized? And, what ever happened to the “Precautionary Principle” before approving, even in a limited emergency capacity, new and experimental vaxxines based on technological platforms never fully tested nor previously utilized?

Mitchel Cohen, Coordinator
No Spray Coalition against pesticides

Another NoSprayer added this: I have been very concerned about shedding from the vaccines. Shedding is generally thought to only occur if a vaccine contains live virus, but shedding doesn’t have to be limited to a virus. We excrete all sorts of stuff through our skin. I’ve met former pesticide applicators who were still offgassing chemicals through their skin that they hadn’t been around in months.

It is also generally believed that prion diseases are not easily transmitted, but that has been put in question. It is certainly not true among animals that are confined as ‘live stock’ by humans, and millions of cows have been slaughtered because of outbreaks and fear of spread. These are just a few articles that describe prion shedding by various routes that can affect vulnerable individuals, mostly discussed among other animal species, but not excluding the potential effect on humans:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19971-prion-disease-can-spread-through-air/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268960/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4784231/

 

STEPHANIE SENEFF ADDS:

A Possible Link to Prion Diseases and Neurodegeneration

Prion diseases are a collection of neurodegenerative diseases that are induced through the misfolding of important bodily proteins, which form toxic oligomers that eventually precipitate out as fibrils causing widespread damage to neurons. Stanley Prusiner first coined the name `prion’ to describe these misfolded proteins (Prusiner, 1982).

The best-known prion disease is MADCOW disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), which became an epidemic in European cattle beginning in the 1980s. The CDC web site on prion diseases states that “prion diseases are usually rapidly progressive and always fatal.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). It is now believed that many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may be prion diseases, and researchers have identified specific proteinaceous infectious particles linked to these diseases (Weickenmeier et al., 2019).

Furthermore, researchers have identified a signature motif linked to susceptibility to misfolding into toxic oligomers, called the glycine zipper motif. It is characterized by a pattern of two glycine residues spaced by three intervening amino acids, represented as GxxxG. The bovine prion linked to MADCOW has a spectacular sequence of ten GxxxGs in a row (see uniprot.org/uniprot/P10279).

More generally, the GxxxG motif is a common feature of transmembrane proteins, and the glycines play an essential role in cross-linking α-helices in the protein (Mueller et al., 2014). Prion proteins become toxic when the α-helices misfold as β-sheets, and the protein is then impaired in its ability to enter the membrane (Prusiner, 1982). Glycines within the glycine zipper transmembrane motifs in the amyloid-β precursor protein (APP) play a central role in the misfolding of amyloid-β linked to Alzheimer’s disease (Decock et al., 2016). APP contains a total of four GxxxG motifs.
When considering that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is a transmembrane protein, and that it contains five GxxxG motifs in its sequence (see uniprot.org/uniprot/P0DTC2), it becomes extremely plausible that it could behave as a prion. One of the GxxxG sequences is present within its membrane fusion domain. Recall that the mRNA vaccines are designed with an altered sequence that replaces two adjacent amino acids in the fusion domain with a pair of prolines. This is done intentionally in order to force the protein to remain in its open state and make it harder for it to fuse with the membrane. This seems to us like a dangerous step towards misfolding potentially leading to prion disease.

A paper published by J. Bart Classen (2021) proposed that the spike protein in the mRNA vaccines could cause prion-like diseases, in part through its ability to bind to many known proteins and induce their misfolding into potential prions. Idrees and Kumar (2021) have proposed that the spike protein’s S1 component is prone to act as a functional amyloid and form toxic aggregates. These authors wrote that S1 has the ability “to form amyloid and toxic aggregates that can act as seeds to aggregate many of the misfolded brain proteins and can ultimately lead to neurodegeneration.”

According to Tetz and Tetz (2020), the form of the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2 has prion regions that are not present in the spike proteins for other coronaviruses. While this was reported in a nonpeer-reviewed article, the authors had published a previous paper in 2018 identifying prion-like regions in multiple eukaryotic viruses, so they have considerable expertise in this area (Tetz and Tetz, 2018).

A final point here relates to information about the Pfizer vaccine in particular. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) Public Assessment Report is a document submitted to gain approval to market the vaccine in Europe. It describes in detail a review of the manufacturing process as well as a wide range of associated testing data. One concerning revelation is the presence of “fragmented species” of RNA in the injection solution. These are RNA fragments resulting from early termination of the process of transcription from the DNA template. These fragments, if translated by the cell following injection, would generate incomplete spike proteins, again resulting in altered and unpredictable three-dimensional structure and a physiological impact that is at best neutral and at worst detrimental to cellular functioning. There were considerably more of these fragmented forms of RNA found in the commercially manufactured products than in the products used in clinical trials.

The latter were produced via a much more tightly controlled manufacturing process.

Pfizer claims the RNA fragments “likely… will not result in expressed proteins” due to their assumed rapid degradation within the cell. No data was presented to rule out protein expression,
though, leaving the reviewers to comment, “These [fragmented RNA] forms are poorly characterised, and the limited data provided for protein expression do not fully address the uncertainties relating to the risk of translating proteins/peptides other than the intended spike protein” (EMA 2020). To our knowledge no data has been forthcoming since that time.

While we are not asserting that non-spike proteins generated from fragmented RNA would be misfolded or otherwise pathological, we believe they would at least contribute to the cellular stress that promotes prion-associated conformational changes in the spike protein that is present.

1. Lessons from Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease associated with Lewy body deposits in the brain, and the main protein found in these Lewy bodies is α-synuclein. That protein, α-Synuclein, is certainly prion-like insofar as under certain conditions it aggregates into toxic soluble oligomers and fibrils (Lema Tomé et al., 2013).

Research has shown that misfolded α-synuclein can form first in the gut and then travel from there to the brain along the vagus nerve, probably in the form of exosomes released from dying cells where the misfolded protein originated (Kakarla et al., 2020; Steiner et al., 2011).

The cellular conditions that promote misfolding include both an acidic pH and high expression of inflammatory cytokines. It is clear that the vagus nerve is critical for transmission of misfolded proteins to the brain, because severance of the vagus nerve protects from Parkinson’s. Vagus nerve atrophy in association with Parkinson’s disease provides further evidence of the involvement of the vagus nerve in transport of misfolded α-synuclein oligomers from the gut to the brain (Walter et al., 2018).

Another pathway is through the olfactory nerve, and a loss of a sense of smell is an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. Ominously, diminution or loss of the sense of smell is also a common symptom of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

There are many parallels between α-synuclein and the spike protein, suggesting the possibility of prion-like disease following vaccination. We have already shown that the mRNA in the vaccine ends up in high concentrations in the liver and spleen, two organs that are well connected to the vagus nerve. The cationic lipids in the vaccine create an acidic pH conducive to misfolding, and they also induce a strong inflammatory response, another predisposing condition.

Germinal centers are structures within the spleen and other secondary lymphoid organs where follicular dendritic cells present antigens to B cells, which in turn perfect their antibody response. Researchers have shown that mRNA vaccines, in contrast with recombinant protein vaccines, elicit a robust development of neutralizing antibodies at these germinal centers in the spleen (Lederer et al., 2020). However, this also means that mRNA vaccines induce an ideal situation for prion formation from the spike protein, and its transport via exosomes along the vagus nerve to the brain.

Studies have shown that prion spread from one animal to another first appears in the lymphoid tissues, particularly the spleen. Differentiated follicular dendritic cells are central to the process, as they accumulate misfolded prion proteins (Al-Dybiat et al., 2019).

An inflammatory response upregulates synthesis of α-synuclein in these dendritic cells, increasing the risk of prion formation. Prions that accumulate in the cytoplasm are packaged up into lipid bodies that are released as exosomes (Liu et al., 2017). These exosomes eventually travel to the brain, causing disease.

2. Vaccine Shedding
There has been considerable chatter on the Internet about the possibility of vaccinated people causing disease in unvaccinated people in close proximity. While this may seem hard to believe, there is a plausible process by which it could occur through the release of exosomes from dendritic cells in the spleen containing misfolded spike proteins, in complex with other prion reconformed proteins. These exosomes can travel to distant places. It is not impossible to imagine that they are being released from the lungs and inhaled by a nearby person. Extracellular vesicles, including exosomes, have been detected in sputum, mucus, epithelial lining fluid, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid in association with respiratory diseases (Lucchetti et al., 2021).

A Phase 1/2/3 study undertaken by BioNTech on the Pfizer mRNA vaccine implied in their study protocol that they anticipated the possibility of secondary exposure to the vaccine (BioNTech,
2020). The protocol included the requirement that “exposure during pregnancy” should be reported by the study participants.

They then gave examples of “environmental exposure during pregnancy” which included exposure “to the study intervention by inhalation or skin contact.” They even suggested two levels of indirect exposure: “A male family member or healthcare provider who has been exposed to the study intervention by inhalation or skin contact then exposes his female partner prior to or around the time of conception.”

——————————

from Worse Than the Disease? Reviewing Some Possible Unintended Consequences of the mRNA Vaccines Against COVID-19
by Stephanie Seneff and Greg Nigh

International Journal of Vaccine Theory, Practice, and Research 2(1), May 10, 2021

Stephanie Seneff is a Computer Scientist in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge MA, 02139, USA, E-mail:
seneff@csail.mit.edu
Greg Nigh is a Naturopathic Oncologist, Immersion Health, Portland, OR 97214, USA

 

WAR WITHIN THE WAR: THE FIGHT OVER LAND AND GENETICALLY ENGINEERED AGRICULTURE

Soon we shall be covered by wheat.

Did you say, wheat?

Wheat, wheat.

– from Woody Allen’s “Love and Death”[1]

Ten months before Russian troops poured into Ukraine, that country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bill into law authorizing the private sale of farmland, reversing a moratorium that had been in place since 2001.

An earlier administration in Ukraine had instituted the moratorium in order to halt further privatization of The Commons and small farms, which were being bought up by oligarchs and concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. As documented in a series of critical reports over ten years by the Oakland Institute based in California, the moratorium on land sales in Ukraine aimed to prevent the acquisition and consolidation of farmland in the hands of the domestic oligarch class and foreign corporations.

The marketization of farmland is part of a series of policy “reforms” that the International Monetary Fund stipulated as a precondition enabling Ukraine to receive $8 billion in loans from the IMF.[2]



Ukrainians protest privatization of land in December 2020.
[Source: oaklandinstitute.org]

Even amid the pandemic there has been “wide-ranging opposition from the Ukrainian public to reversing that ban, with over 64 percent of the people opposed to the creation of a land market, according to an April 2021 poll.”[3]

Additionally, the IMF loan conditions required that Ukraine must also reverse its ban on genetically engineered crops, and enable private corporations like Monsanto to plant their GMO seeds and spray the fields with Monsanto’s Roundup. In that way, Monsanto hopes to break the boycott by a number of countries in Europe of its genetically engineered corn and soy.


[Source: interecophil.wordpress.com]

It is the thesis of this essay that agricultural competition over land use systems between the U.S. and Russia—two gigantic capitalist countries with the most powerful nuclear arsenals in the world—is a neglected but important force driving the war in Ukraine.


The U.S. government has for the last decade wrestled with Russia over who controls the energy pipelines through Ukraine into Europe, and in what currency costs for that so-called “natural” gas and oil are to be paid. At the same time, the war’s disruption of Ukraine’s wheat harvest and the historic droughts hitting the U.S.’s “wheat belt” have driven the cost of bread around the world through the roof. United Nations officials are making dire predictions concerning the world’s supply of grain.


Sign specifying that this field near the city of Nizhyn has
been contaminated by land mines. [Source: NYTimes.com]

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, world food commodity prices made a significant leap in March 2022 to reach their highest levels ever, rising 12.6% in that month alone as war in the Black Sea region shocked the markets dependent on staple grains and vegetable oils.[4] Global wheat prices rose by 19.7%, vegetable oil by 23.2%, and grains 20.4%. In Tunisia and in other countries, cooking oil, semolina, and rice have all but disappeared from grocery stores, and flour shortages have led to a run on bakeries.[5]

In the Middle East, millions who already spend more than a third of their income on food, are being hit hardest by the war’s impact on the global food supply. Yet UN agencies have begun to divert sacks of grain that had been earmarked for other war zones to the Ukraine, leaving the people of Yemen and refugees from many areas in desperation.[6]

In peaceful times Ukraine harvests 80 million metric tons (MMT) of grain—a category that includes wheat, corn, barley, rice and millet. Between them Russia and Ukraine supply more than 25% of the world’s wheat. Russia recently overtook the U.S. and Canada to become the leading wheat-exporting country in the world; Ukraine is the world’s 6th largest exporter of wheat.


[Source: foodbusinessnews.net]

But this year, Ukraine’s harvest will likely reach less than half the norm. “A single MMT of wheat…is enough to feed every person in Europe for about two days, or the entire population of Africa for about a day and a half.…A country like the UK could only make it up by having everyone stop eating for three years. That’s the thing about tonnes of grain: a million here and a million there and pretty soon you’ve got a real issue on your plate.”[7]

People in France or Italy were never expecting to have any Ukrainian wheat shipped to them at all; but they are now competing against Egyptians and Moroccans, who are now suddenly looking for new sources of bread.[8]

The grains are not only used for bread and flour, but also for alcohol, fuel, and for feeding animals.[9] With more than half the tonnage grown in Ukraine last year never intended to be used for direct human consumption, shortages will impact other parts of the economy too.[10]

The Communist Party of Greece points out that “the military conflict in Ukraine is the result of the sharpening of competition between the two warring camps, primarily focused on spheres of influence, market shares, raw materials, energy plans and transport routes; competition which can no longer be resolved by diplomatic-political means and fragile compromises.”[11]

How much of the predicted food system collapse is a result of the war’s disruption of grain harvests, and—a question few in the U.S. mainstream media are asking—how much are skyrocketing food prices caused by plain old capitalist rivalry between two of the main grain-exporting countries of the world?

Competing systems for growing crops

U.S. agriculture relies on two main inputs: migrant farm labor and the monocropping of genetically engineered corn, soy, and other crops designed to tolerate—and thus be saturated with—Monsanto’s cancer-causing herbicide Roundup. The government’s regulatory process is broken, if it ever worked properly at all: Corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, Novartis, BASF and the other pesticide and pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to mask the truth about the dangers of their products.

They are facilitated in this by the complicity of federal (and global) regulatory agencies, allowing them to intentionally thwart the Precautionary Principle. Where the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown, that product or process should be rejected. We need to support the development of international movements opposing the subservience of government agencies to the giant corporations.[12]


[Source: transcend.org]

Six years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to seize economic opportunities around the growing of food by opposing genetically engineered agriculture and Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide; he initiated a program to eliminate pesticides and genetically engineered crops from Russia’s fields. The goal was to out-compete the U.S. and Canada as the world’s number one and two grain exporters by going organic, which mattered especially in Europe with its stricter laws regarding the import and planting of GMOs.

Monsanto had planned to open its first plant in Russia,[13] but in June 2016 Russia’s State Duma adopted a government bill banning the cultivation and breeding of genetically modified plants and animals, except as used for scientific research purposes.[14] A few weeks later, Putin signed federal law No. 358 prohibiting cultivation of genetically engineered crops. The law also made it illegal to breed genetically engineered animals on the territory of the Russian Federation.[15]


[Source: bbl.is]

Putin had said he envisioned a future in which Russia would become “the world’s largest supplier of ecologically clean and high-quality organic food.”[16] He called on the country to become completely self-sufficient in food production: “We are not only able to feed ourselves taking into account our lands, water resources; Russia is able to become the largest world supplier of healthful, ecologically clean and high-quality food which the Western producers have long lost, especially given the fact that demand for such products in the world market is steadily growing.”[17]

The 2016 laws were designed to implement Putin’s earlier proposals “to protect the Russian market and consumers from GMO products, as their use could have unforeseen consequences.”[18]

As reported in Farmers Weekly in June 2015, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich announced that Russia would not use GM technology to increase productivity in agriculture. “Russia has chosen a different path. We will not use these technologies,” Dvorkovich said.

As a result of this decision, Russian products will be “some of the cleanest in the world in terms of technology use,” Dvorkovich continued. A bill for a full ban on the cultivation of GM crops is currently making its way through the Duma.[19]


Arkady Dvorkovich [Source: wikipedia.org]

Farmers Weekly continues: “Russian agriculture minister Nikolai Fyodorov also believes Russia must remain a GM-free country. At a meeting of deputies representing rural areas organized by United Russia, he said the government will not ‘poison their citizens.’”[20] United Russia is Russia’s largest political party, holding 2/3 of the seats in the state Dumas.

This was a far different response than provided by the government of Ukraine. Despite large protests against GMOs and the foreign corporate land grab, and despite the fact that Ukrainian law had prohibited private sector farmland ownership, Ukraine’s government negotiated a multi-billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund that stipulated a removal of the blocks to GMO production that was “transforming millions of pristine acres into [a] poisoned wasteland. Eco-genocide for profit. Monsanto’s dirty hands are hugely involved.”[21]


[Source: open4business.com]

Ukraine’s agricultural success is crucial for its economy and ability to reduce its dependence on Russia, the New York TImes explained in May 2014. The Times continued:

““Western interests are pressing for change… As part of (an IMF loan agreement), the country’s government must push through business reforms that” let agribusiness and other corporate sectors operate freely.

In a recent article for The Real Agenda News, Luis R. Miranda takes it a step further: “Big multinationals want to exploit Ukraine’s potential. Especially Europe’s richest farmland.”

In retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis back in August 2015, Russia extended its list of countries that it would subject to a food import ban.[23] Far from the sanctions hurting Russia’s economy, as Monsanto and other pesticide-producing corporations expected (and hoped), over the decade Russia succeeded in its plan to become the world’s number one exporter of wheat and other grains. Putin claimed that Russia’s success in that regard was due in part to the preference of much of the world for non-GMO food.[24]


Russia emerged as a top grain exporter because of the 
world’s preference for non-GMO food. [Source: youtube.com]

The United States, on the other hand, uses genetically engineered crops (and now trees), and the pesticides and fertilizer they require, as weapons, breaking up the indigenous communities in Mexico, for example, disrupting the economies of other countries and forcing them into dependency.[25] Even U.S. food aid to the victims of the tsunamis in the South Pacific and to earthquake victims in Pakistan and Haiti was genetically engineered and saturated with pesticides. One result of the U.S. “police action” in Somalia in 1992 was the imposition of thousands of acres of genetically modified cassava, uprooting local communities.[26]

In the last 30 years, the takeover of domestic agriculture by GMO crops has been part of U.S. war efforts. Following the U.S. “shock-and-awe” bombing of Iraq in 2003, L. Paul Bremer—the U.S.-appointed administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq—issued Order 81. Officially titled “Amendments to Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law,” the edict prohibited farmers from saving seeds from genetically engineered crops, and made it illegal for them to replant those seeds, thereby serving as enforcer of Monsanto’s patents.


L. Paul Bremer [Source: religion.fandom.com]

Bremer’s edict was part and parcel of the IMF’s “structural adjustment program” (SAP)—the subject of major protests in Ukraine 11 years later in 2014. The IMF’s SAPs mandated the purchase and planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds as part of its requirement before allowing for the ending of military hostilities, opening up Iraqi agriculture to the cultivation of GMO crops.[27]

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the author of much of U.S. foreign policy, portrayed American aid this way: “To give food aid to a country just because they are starving is a pretty weak reason.”[28] For Kissinger, the withholding of food as well as its selective distribution is to be used as a weapon in the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives.


Henry Kissinger [Source: newyorker.com]

And so, the United States systematically dumps cheap genetically engineered products saturated with pesticides on foreign markets, undermining local producers and forcing them to purchase the patented seeds from the company manufacturing them, along with the pesticides needed to kill off the plants’ weedy competitors.[29] Uprooted from their lands, local producers become dependent on the United States and its corporations, and many try to flee across the border to the United States.

In his 2001 book, A Cook’s Tour, chef Anthony Bourdain presented a very unexpected take on Kissinger, one worth savoring:

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia—the fruits of his genius for statesmanship—and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”[30]

One note on Milošević and Kissinger: As brilliant a quote as this is by Anthony Bourdain, to compare Milošević with mass-murderer Henry Kissinger is an error. Milošević was posthumously cleared of all crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which after his death ruled in 2016—contrary to years of U.S. and particularly Germany’s denunciations—that there was no evidence that Milošević had “participated in the realization of the common criminal objective” and that he “and other Serbian leaders openly criticized Bosnian Serb leaders of committing crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing and the war for their own purposes” during the Bosnian War.[31]

With the advent and proliferation of genetically modified crops in the 1980s—a technology intimately tied to the widespread application of pesticides and in particular Monsanto’s Roundup—the tentacles of globalization expanded outward into control of the world’s food supply. Those private commercial patents were (and continue to be) enforced by U.S. military power.

Leticia Gonçalves [Source: rethinkevents.com]

And so, Leticia Gonçalves, for ten years the head of Monsanto’s operations in Europe and the Middle East, was not worrying over the new Russian anti-GMO and pesticides laws. “We still believe that Ukraine and Russia both are long-term opportunities for our business and we want to make sure we are in a position to accelerate our business growth despite the short-term geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges,” she said.[32]


Such longer term strategic views are not usually part of U.S. thinking; they might more readily be associated with China’s command-economy strategists, who plan ahead for 20, 50, and even 100 years. And yet, here we see a shift within capitalist planning. Today, Gonçalves oversees leading GMO exporter Archer Daniels Midland’s ancient grains, seeds and edible beans, and is a member of ADM’s Executive Council.

Monsanto Is the Devil and the Devil Must Be Slain. But It’s Not the Only One

In the U.S., powerful figures such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama, and current President Joe Biden have rejected the demands of the anti-GMO coalitions.

A picture containing text, person, outdoor, building Description automatically generated
Reverend Billy Talen, Savitri B. and the Church of Stop Shopping Choir.

Fed up with the pharmaceutical/agribusiness company lies, movements like “Millions Against Monsanto,” networks like the “Organic Consumers Association,” dynamic “artivists” such as Rev. Billy and his “Church of Stop Shopping Choir” (whose performances of “Monsanto Is the Devil” galvanized New York audiences for weeks on end), and the movement for community-supported agriculture coalesced family farmers and anti-corporate activists.

They exposed the government agencies’ revolving door—an arrangement whereby the giant agriculture and pharmaceutical corporations place their hirelings onto U.S. regulatory boards such as the Food and Drug Administration. Monsanto’s lackeys in government write their own laws and block even tepid demands for labeling of GMO products, at Monsanto’s behest.[33]


March against Monsanto in Vancouver in 2013. [Source: wikipedia.org]

Billionaire Bill Gates—a major investor in Monsanto and proponent of genetic engineering (as well as experimental vaccines in the so-called “Third World”)—seized the opportunities he envisioned (and created) regarding a future of massive food shortages in global grain production, that we are seeing today; Gates began buying up acre after acre of farmland on which to grow GM crops.


[Source: facebook.com]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used taxpayer money to stomp all over the world promoting Monsanto’s controversial GM seeds; she mouthed the industry’s talking points as though they were gospel.[34] The Clinton State Department intervened at Monsanto’s request “to undermine legislation that might restrict sales of genetically engineered seeds.”[35]


[Source: snopes.com]

Clinton was so gung-ho in promoting GMOs that Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott called her department “the de facto global-marketing arm of the ag-biotech industry.” Meanwhile, Gates has become the largest private individual owner of farmland in the U.S. and Clinton, while losing her campaign for the U.S. presidency to Donald Trump in 2016, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from GMO manufacturers for speeches she delivered.[36]

Key pieces of information regarding the U.S. government’s worldwide pressure tactics (including the use of its military) on behalf of Monsanto’s patented seeds exploded onto the internet via thousands of cables “liberated” by current political prisoner Julian Assange. The cables Assange published—some of which I have described in more detail in “‘The World’s Most Evil Company’ May Lose a Few Court Fights—But Will Keep On Poisoning and Killing Millions of People with Its Carcinogenic Pesticide Roundup,’”[37]—revealed massive U.S. government attempts on behalf of Monsanto and the other biotech corporations, twisting arms of government regulatory bodies throughout the world, along with planting its agents in movements to squelch opposition to GMOs.

The cables showed U.S. diplomats bringing financial, diplomatic, and even military pressure on behalf of Monsanto and other biotech corporations.


[Source: Courtesy of John Jonik]

Where Is Nestor Makhno Now That We Really Need Him?

Back in Europe, Monsanto’s Leticia Gonçalves was counting on Russia being forced to yield its opposition to Monsanto and support for organic agriculture; inter-capitalist rivalries and the U.S. military (and its control of NATO) would put the squeeze on Putin’s anti-Monsanto bluster, and make the world—or at least Russia—safe for Monsanto’s Democracy. And it appears she was right. By the end of February 2017, less than two years after Russia banned the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and animals, the first Monsanto factory was nevertheless allowed to open in the Kirov region near the village of October (Zuyevsky District).

“We have been waiting for Monsanto on the Kirov lands for a long time and have been working systematically for several years,” said marketing expert Igor Vasilyev, who now serves as the Governor of the region. Its former governor, Nikita Belykh, is a “liberal” in the Russian context—a long-time critic of Vladimir Putin and at least in theory a supporter of more human rights in Russia.

But Belykh allowed himself to be appointed by Putin to government office in the Kirov area 500 miles away from his home in Moscow where, according to Russian scientist Boris Ikhlov, writing from the State University of Perm, Belykh brokered the deal allowing Monsanto to set up shop in Russia.[38] Belykh was arrested in 2016 and has been serving an eight-year prison sentence for accepting a large cash bribe.

Nikita Belykh [Source: opendemocracy.net]

A number of Russian intellectuals understandably merge their opposition to Putin’s rule with involvement in “human rights” groups, but they do not stop there. They also bring into the ideological mix ardent support for neoliberal “progress,” as exemplified by their applause for Monsanto and the genetic engineering of agriculture.

According to Ikhlov, the liberal intelligentsia “sought to re-assure the Russian people that GMOs are safe and challenged the government’s anti-GMO policies.…Russian supporters of GMOs cite a list of hundreds of works in which the harmlessness of GMOs is allegedly proved. The list is on the Internet, but there is no text of any of these works. I wrote a letter to the Italian authors of this list, asking them to give me a link where I could find out more about each scientific article from the list. The Italians gave me a link, and it turned out that in this list there is not a single work dedicated to proving the harmlessness of GMOs.”[39]

Ikhlov illustrates the case of a member of the board of a main “human rights” organization funded by U.S. “donations,” who was a proponent of expanded civil liberties in Russia and who at the same time tied his critique of Putin’s human rights policies to supporting Monsanto’s biotechnologically engineered seeds and privatization of agriculture. (I have removed his name and affiliation, as well as other examples that Ikhlov provided, awaiting independent confirmation.) Many liberal Russian intellectuals, Ikhlov says, ended up supporting the Zelensky government in Kyiv, which today has strong ties to Monsanto despite public protests for many years against it.

Convoluted? Yes. Especially as the politics of neoliberalism express themselves through what at first may seem to be “human and scientific progress” in biotechnology and opposition to centralized political rule. So how can we disentangle these threads? Looking at the reality of the institutions of global capitalist domination—imperialism—should help.

“The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) is [sic] helping biotech run the latest war in Ukraine,” writes Christina Sarich in Natural Society. “Make no mistake that what is happening in the Ukraine now is deeply tied to the interests of Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, and other big players in the poison food game.”[40]

Exposed by the California-based Oakland Institute in 2014, the World Bank and IMF provided a loan of $17 billion to Ukraine.[41]

Hidden from mainstream media exposure in the U.S., the World Bank and IMF loan “has opened up Ukraine to major corporate inroads,” writes Joyce Nelson in The Ecologist. “Loan conditions are forcing the deeply indebted country to open up to GMO crops, and lift the ban on private sector land ownership. U.S. corporations are jubilant at the ‘goldmine’ that awaits them.”[42]

It is worth reading more from this 2014 report in The Ecologist—years before Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022. The information provided is shocking—and unreported here in the U.S. While some in the U.S. understand that the 2014 political battles in Ukraine were over the expansion of NATO and control over energy pipelines to Europe,[43] there was, and still is, an equally large but hidden global battle over GM grains, land ownership and usage, and “food pipelines.”

In late 2013, the then president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, rejected a European Union association agreement tied to the $17 billion IMF loan, whose terms are only now being revealed.

Writing in The Ecologist in September 2014, Joyce Nelson examines the IMF-Ukraine loan packages in great detail. The next few paragraphs below are taken directly from that report:

Instead, Yanukovych chose a Russian aid package worth $15 billion plus a discount on Russian natural gas. His decision was a major factor in the ensuing deadly protests that led to his ouster from office in February 2014 and the ongoing crisis.

According to the Oakland Institute, “Whereas Ukraine does not allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, Article 404 of the EU agreement, which relates to agriculture, includes a clause that has generally gone unnoticed: it indicates, among other things, that both parties will cooperate to extend the use of biotechnologies.

“There is no doubt that this provision meets the expectations of the agribusiness industry. As observed by Michael Cox, research director at the investment bank Piper Jaffray, ‘Ukraine and, to a wider extent, Eastern Europe, are among the most promising growth markets for farm-equipment giant Deere, as well as seed producers Monsanto and DuPont.’”

Ukrainian law bars farmers from growing GM crops. Long considered “the bread basket of Europe,” Ukraine’s rich black soil is ideal for growing grains, and in 2012 Ukrainian farmers harvested more than 20 million tons of corn.”

Monsanto’s “non-GMO” $140m investment

The excerpt here from Joyce Nelson’s Ecologist article, concludes with: In May 2013, Monsanto announced plans to invest $140 million in a non-GMO corn seed plant in Ukraine, with Monsanto Ukraine spokesman Vitaliy Feschuk confirming that “We will be working with conventional seeds only” because “in Ukraine only conventional seeds are allowed for production and importation.”

But by November 2013, six large Ukrainian agriculture associations had prepared draft amendments to the law, pushing for “creating, testing, transportation and use of GMOs regarding the legalization of GM seeds.”[44]

The Oakland Institute report and Nelson’s story in The Ecologist are devastating, and reveal what (to us) are the intense intra-capitalist rivalries that have exploded into open warfare in Ukraine.

Nor does it end there. The U.S. non-profit Food & Water Watch combed through five years of cables from 2005 to 2009 released by WikiLeaks revealing U.S. State Department pressuring governments worldwide on behalf of Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations like DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow. On May 14, 2013, it released its report, “Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda.”[45]:

“The U.S. State Department has lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operated a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology, and challenged commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules – even including opposing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) foods.”

According to consortiumnews.com (March 16, 2014), Morgan Williams is at “the nexus of Big Ag’s alliance with U.S. foreign policy.”[46]

Besides being president and CEO of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, Williams is Director of Government Affairs at private equity firm SigmaBleyzer, which touts Williams’ work with “various agencies of the U.S. government, members of Congress, congressional committees, the Embassy of Ukraine to the U.S., international financial institutions, think tanks and other organizations on U.S.-Ukraine business, trade, investment and economic development issues.”

Morgan Williams, president and CEO of U.S.-Ukraine Business Council. [Source: youtube.com]

The U.S.-Ukraine Business Council’s 16-member Executive Committee is packed with U.S. agribusiness companies, including representatives from Monsanto, John Deere, DuPont Pioneer, Eli Lilly, and Cargill.

The Council’s 20 “senior Advisers include James Greene (former head of NATO Liaison Office Ukraine); Ariel Cohen (Senior Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation); Leonid Kozachenko (President of the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation); six former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine, and the former ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S., Oleh Shamshur.

Shamshur is now a senior adviser to PBN Hill + Knowlton Strategies—a unit of PR giant Hill + Knowlton Strategies (H+K). H + K is a subsidiary of the gargantuan London-based WPP Group, which owns some dozen big PR firms, including Burson-Marsteller (a long-time Monsanto adviser).[47]

Oleh Shamshur [Source: ukraine-analytica.org]

Hill + Knowlton, one might recall, orchestrated the phony “incubator” testimony to Congress in 1990, which became the pretext for sending thousands of U.S. soldiers into battle and bombing the hell out of Iraq. The PR firm invented the infamous yellow ribbon campaign, to whip up support for “our” troops. In pure advertising terms, the war campaign was a public relations masterpiece. First 15-year-old Nayirah’s unchallenged testimony about having witnessed babies pulled from incubators and left on the floor, then the yellow ribbon campaign, and then the claim that satellite photos revealed that Iraq had troops poised to strike Saudi Arabia—all fabricated by the PR firm, with the support of the U.S. government.[48]

[Source: apac.prca.global]

As I wrote at that time in HOW PROPAGANDA WORKS, 101: Yellow-Ribboning the Lies: How George Bush Sold the 1991 Bombing of Iraq to America,[49] Hill + Knowlton was paid between $12 million (as reported two years later on 60 Minutes) and $20 million (as reported on 20/20) for “services rendered” for its Iraq fictions. The group fronting the money? Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a phony “human rights agency” set up and funded entirely by Kuwait’s emirocracy to promote the war to a gullible U.S. population.

Yet, even though these facts are now well known, the myths persist, and are reinforced in order to continue the perpetual drumbeat of war against Iraq, and now against Russia and Ukraine. (“Oh, but this time it’s different,” we’re told.) A 2003 HBO “behind-the-scenes true story” of the Gulf War never makes clear that the incubator story was fraudulent, and in fact had been managed by an American PR firm, not Iraq.

Poster promoting “Free Kuwait” movement. [Source: psywarrior.com]

“Curiously, however, the truth seems to have been clear to Robert Wiener, the former CNN producer who co-wrote Live from Baghdad. As he explained to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (11/21/02), ‘That story turned out to be false because those accusations were made by the daughter of the Kuwaiti minister of information and were never proven.’ Unfortunately, HBO viewers won’t know that when they see the film.”[50]

“[W]hen Hill + Knowlton masterminded the Kuwaiti campaign to sell the Gulf War to the American public, the owners of this highly effective propaganda machine were residing in another country,” the United Kingdom, writes Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden in PR Watch. “Should this give some pause for thought? Does it demonstrate a certain potential for the future exercise of global political power…. the power to manipulate democratic political processes through managing public opinion”?[51]

Hill + Knowlton demonstrated 31 years ago that, when it comes to facts, the truth can be bought and sold to the highest bidder regardless of the consequences for U.S. soldiers, Iraqi civilians and indeed the idea of whether real democracy could exist under such manipulative circumstances.[52]

[Source: Photo courtesy of Mitchel Cohen]

Hill + Knowlton Strategies

Joyce Nelson continues in The Ecologist, noting that on April 15, 2014, Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper published an op-ed piece by H+K assistant consultant Olga Radchenko. The piece railed against Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Mr. Putin’s PR machine” and stated that

“Last month [March 2014—a month after the coup], a group of Kiev-based PR professionals formed the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, a voluntary operation aimed at helping to communicate Ukraine’s image and manage its messaging on the global stage.”

The PBN Hill + Knowlton Strategies website states that company CEO Myron Wasylyk is “a Board member of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council,” and the company’s Managing Director/Ukraine, Oksana Monastyrska, “leads the firm’s work for Monsanto.” Monastyrska also formerly worked for the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

According to the Oakland Institute, the terms of the World Bank/IMF loan to Ukraine have already led to “an increase in foreign investment, which is likely to result in further expansion of large-scale acquisitions of agricultural land by foreign companies and further corporatization of agriculture in the country.”

Nelson concludes her absolutely crucial 2014 investigative report in The Ecologist with the following prescient warning:

“Now the company is involved in fomenting a Cold War 2 or worse, and on behalf of Monsanto—recently voted the ‘most evil’ corporation on the planet. That’s something to recall in the midst of the extensive mainstream media demonizing of Putin.[53]

War

Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine has both obscured and heightened the competition between the GMO/non-GMO modalities for the export of grains and the use of vast acreage of land for GMO cultivation, just as it is a direct outgrowth of the more obvious fight between the U.S. and Russia over who controls the energy pipelines to Europe.[54]

One important consequence of the U.S.’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—the administration of sanctions on Russia accepted by many countries in Europe, but not in Asia or South America—is the driving up of the costs of fuel, fertilizer, pasta and bread throughout the world, as well as increasing farmers’ economic insecurities which threaten consistent and dependable food production. Add to that, perhaps, the recent explosions, fires, and plane crashes at nearly two dozen food processing facilities across Canada and the U.S.[55]

[Source: bnnbloomberg.ca]

Also driving up prices in the U.S. are large, sudden and unexpected mandates reducing available railroad transport of nitrogen fertilizers, diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and other farm-related materiel, just in time for spring planting season.[56]

Russia, which manufactures much of the world’s fertilizer (estimated at 25%), derives it—along with the energy pipelined to Europe—from fracked “natural” gas. Fracking—banned now in New York State, but not in Pennsylvania or in other states—is as environmentally destructive in Russia as it is everywhere else.[57]

There was a moment a few years ago when things might have gone differently when, along with the marketing of organic foods, came opposition to the use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides (part of the definition of what in Europe is meant by what it means to be “organic”). But with Russia now as fully invested in “mainstream” corporate agricultural technology as the U.S., that hope is greatly diminished.

Sanctions’ Unexpected Consequences

On March 27, 2020, Russia’s Minister of Agriculture signed Order #160 that establishes a process for registering genetically engineered (GE) events for feed use “making it possible for those events to be imported after registration.”

However, the existing mechanism for registration of GE products for food use is still in effect. As of October, 2020 Russia continues to ban cultivating and breeding GE plants and animals.[58]

Still, in Russia, just as it is in the U.S., the ideology of industrial modernization is disguised as “progress.” Individuals and social movements are portrayed as “anti-progress,” which trivializes opposition to the imposition of the IMF’s neoliberal structural adjustment programs. Today in Russia food regulation is virtually non-existent. Sausages, fish, mineral water, wines, chocolate and even bread are adulterated.[59] Diabetes is rampant. And the liberal intelligentsia use the cover of “scientific progress” to dispense support for Monsanto and its genetically modified agriculture—a hallmark of the IMF’s structural adjustment programs.

United Nations World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, who oversees international aid to refugees, warns that his agency is out of money. “We need a billion dollars for the next six months and we have just a little over 10 percent of that,” he warns.[60]

That is an amount that the wealthier countries of the world could make up in a heartbeat … if they really cared about the suffering of people in Ukraine, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. It is chicken feed compared to the amounts President Biden has asked Congress to provide. They could end this war (and most wars, such as the bombing of Yemen) on the spin of a dime, instead of perpetuating it.

But they would rather keep the fight going over who controls the energy pipelines to Europe, as well as whether to allow genetically engineered crops in Ukraine—among other decisions and actions that Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and the U.S. have been dancing to.

In June 2020, “the IMF approved an 18-month, $5 billion loan program with Ukraine,” writes the Bretton Woods Project. The Ukraine government lift[ed] the 19-year moratorium on the sale of state-owned agricultural lands, after sustained pressure from international finance institutions (see Observer Winter 2019). Olena Borodina with the Ukrainian Rural Development Network commented that, “the agribusiness interests and oligarchs will be the primary beneficiaries of such reform…[This] will only further marginalize smallholder farmers and risks severing them from their most valuable resource.”[61]

Ukraine saw several large protests against the privatization of its land and agriculture.

A bill lifting the moratorium was passed in an emergency Parliamentary session in March. According to a May press release by U.S.-based think-tank the Oakland Institute, this coincided with mandatory Covid-19 stay-at-home orders in place across the country, “effectively quelling potential protests or demonstrations.”

U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia reflect the return of U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s geo-political Cold War strategems—what he termed the “Grand Chessboard.”[62] While Ukraine’s Zelensky government welcomed the IMF and World Bank’s stipulations insisting on the growing of Monsanto’s GM crops, it is not clear at the time of this writing how tightly Putin and the Russian Duma are willing to chain Russia to existing relations with Monsanto/Bayer and the technologies of the genetic engineering of agriculture.

On the one hand, the war has driven Russia further away from its prior anti-GMO policies, even though one could surmise that its new relationship with Monsanto would be negated by the sanctions and push Russia back into the “organic food” direction. But the Russian government seems now willing to forego its potential market for organic crops and energy in Europe, blocked by the sanctions, and pivot to China.

China has been driven closer to Russia as a result of the war in Ukraine—especially as the potentially huge market opens for Russia’s products there and in other Asian countries which do not claim the same strictures on how food is grown.

As I had written earlier, it is complicated, with several different forces at play. We never hear about the Oakland Institute’s May 2020 analysis[63] in U.S. mainstream corporate media, nor even on some erstwhile “Left” media like Democracy Now. Who would know, in the U.S., that “on April 28, 2020, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bill into law authorizing the sale of farmland in Ukraine, lifting a moratorium that has been in place since 2001. This bill is part of a series of policy reforms upon which the IMF conditioned its $8 billion loan package.

“Amidst an ongoing economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented street protests against the lifting of the moratorium by Ukrainians who are overwhelmingly opposed to the law.”[64]

The Oakland Institute concludes that “opening the sale of land will benefit Western agribusiness interests and oligarchs who will now further consolidate ownership of land and intensify large-scale, industrial agriculture in ‘Europe’s Breadbasket,’ at the expense of Ukrainian farmers. While conditionalities accompanying Western foreign assistance are common practice, the way Ukraine has been forced to put its land for sale has no precedent in modern history.”[65]

Meanwhile, the World Food Program’s David Beasley’s appeal to push the politics aside to help the world’s children is especially gut-wrenching…and ignored, unless it serves some immediate ideological purpose: “Don’t make us make decisions between taking food from the children in Ukraine to the children in Yemen,” Beasley pleads.[66] But that is exactly what the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine sectors of the world’s capitalist class are doing.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Mitchel Cohen]

  1. Diane Keaton, in Woody Allen’s Love and Death, https://youtu.be/Tt2JVOrAZGU
  2. Oakland Institute,Walking on the West Side: the World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict,” July 28, 2014; and also, Oakland Institute, Ben Reicher and Frederic Mousseau, “Who Really Benefits from the Creation of a Land Market in Ukraine?” August 6, 2021.
  3. Ben Reicher and Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute, ibid.
  4. FAO report, April 8, 2022. https://www.fao.org/newsroom/detail/fao-food-price-index-posts-significant-leap-in-march/en .
  5. Taylor Luck, Ahmed Ellali, and Hamada Elrasam, “Ukraine war food crisis hits Arab world markets, right at Ramadan,” Christian Science Monitor, April 13, 2022.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Hana Trollman, “Ukraine produced a lot of grain – can farmers elsewhere replace the crops lost to war?” The Conversation, April 12, 2022
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Communist Party of Greece, as published in “The Ukraine war: A view from South Africa,” CPUSA https://www.cpusa.org/article/the-ukraine-war-a-view-from-south-africa/
  12. Mitchel Cohen, The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides (New York: Skyhorse, 2019, reissued 2022).
  13. “As Crisis Hits, Seed Giant Monsanto Sees Business in Russia and Ukraine,” The Moscow Times, January 23, 2015.
  14. Sustainable Pulse, January 25, 2016.
  15. U.S. Department of Agriculture GAIN Report, Agricultural Biotechnology Annual | RS2020-0069, April 26, 2021. For more information, see FAS/Moscow GAIN Report, “GMO Registration for Cultivation Postponed,” June 27, 2014; “Producers Consider It Reasonable to Ban GMO Products [Russian language report],” May 7, 2016, http://ria.ru/economy/20160705/1459098131.html.
  16. Philip Case, “Putin wants Russia to become world leader in organic food,” Farmers Weekly, December 7, 2015, citing Putin’s December 3, 2015, address to the Russian Parliament. https://www.fwi.co.uk/international-agriculture/putin-wants-russia-become-world-leader-organic-food .
  17. Eduard Korniyenko, “Putin Wants Russia to Become World’s Biggest Exporter of Non-GMO Food,” Reuters, December 3, 2015.
  18. “Russia to Ban Genetically Modified Organisms in Food Production,” The Moscow Times, September 20, 2015.
  19. Farmers Weekly, op cit. Much of these two paragraphs is directly quoted from Farmers Weekly.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Luis R. Miranda, “Monsanto’s Land Grab in Ukraine,” The Real Agenda News, March 5, 2022. https://luisrmiranda.substack.com/p/monsantos-land-grab-in-ukraine?s=r
  22. Ibid.
  23. Farmers Weekly, op cit.
  24. The International Reporter, April 24, 2016, “Russian Organic Wheat Takes World by Storm, US GMO Glyphosate Losing Out!” www.theinternationalreporter.org/2016/04/24/russian-organic-wheat-takes-world-by-storm-us-gmo-glyphosate-losing-out. To my knowledge no GMO wheat has been marketed, yet, although Argentina, Brazil, and Australia are on the verge of doing so.
  25. Mitchel Cohen, op cit. In his Monsanto book mentioned earlier, Cohen goes into some detail about how this use of genetically engineered corn, for one, disrupts the indigenous communities in Mexico.
  26. Mitchel Cohen, Somalia and the New World Order: You Provide the Collateral, We’ll Provide the Damage (New York: Red Balloon Publications, 1994). See also GM Watch,”GM Cassava ‘Our Only Hope,’” www.gmwatch.org/en/gm-cassava-our-only-hope.
  27. “Why Iraqi Farmers Might Prefer Death to Paul Bremer’s Order 81,” GM Watch, September 19, 2008.
  28. Cited in Mel Reeves, “The African Union is Right: The U.S. is a Hypocrite,” The Spokesman, February 8, 2017, https://spokesman-recorder.com/2017/02/08/african-union-right-u-s-hypocrite/
  29. Mitchel Cohen, The Politics of World Hunger; also, Somalia and the Cynical Manipulation of Hunger; Silvia Federici, Africa, the IMF and the New Enclosures, Red Balloon Collective; and Midnight Notes, One No, Many Yeses, Box 204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, December 1997.
  30. Joshua Keating, “Anthony Bourdain Really, Really Hated Henry Kissinger,” Slate, June 8, 2018, quoting from Bourdain’s book, A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines (New York: HarperCollins, 2002).
  31. Public Redacted Version of Judgement Issued on 24 March 2016 in Prosecutor vs. Radovan Karadžić, p. 1303″ (PDF).
  32. The Moscow Times, January 23, 2015, op cit. “Ukraine is the world’s sixth largest grain grower this season, and Goncalves said the region remained a priority for Monsanto.”
  33. See Brian Tokar, “Monsanto: Origins of an Agribusiness Behemoth,” in Mitchel Cohen, The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides, for an enumeration of who is who in that revolving door of corporate lackeys on U.S. government regulatory bodies.
  34. Tom Philpott, “Taxpayer Dollars Are Helping Monsanto Sell Seeds Abroad,” Mother Jones, May 18, 2013.
  35. Dave Murphy, Food Democracy Now, http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/campaign/hillarys-monsanto-how-clinton-state-department-became-global -marketing-arm-monsanto.
  36. https://sustainablepulse.com/2016/02/06/hillary-clintons-support-for-gmos-confirmed-by-gates-foundation/
  37. Mitchel Cohen, “‘The World’s Most Evil Company’ May Lose a Few Court Fights—But Will Keep On Poisoning and Killing Millions of People with Its Carcinogenic Pesticide ‘Roundup,’” CovertAction Magazine, January 19, 2022.
  38. “Ecology and War,” Boris Ikhlov, Perm State University (Russia), Chair of the now lapsed Perm Public Environmental Committee, and Secretary of the executive committee of the Russian political association “Worker,” March 16, 2022.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Christina Sarich, “What They’re Not Telling You About Monsanto’s Role in Ukraine,” Natural Society, January 11, 2015, and updated October 10, 2021.
  41. See also, Oakland Institute, “Walking on the West Side: the World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict.”
  42. Joyce Nelson, “Ukraine opens up for Monsanto, land grabs and GMOs, The Ecologist, September 11, 2014. https://theecologist.org/2014/sep/11/ukraine-opens-monsanto-land-grabs-and-gmos .
  43. Marilyn Vogt-Downey, “Wither Ukraine? An imperialist invasion without an imperialist army,” in The Ukraine & the U.S. Left, a Red Balloon Collective pamphlet, 2014.
  44. Nelson, op cit.
  45. Food & Water Watch, “Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda,” May 14, 2013, https://foodandwaterwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Biotech-Ambassadors-Report-May-2013.pdf
  46. JP Sottile, “Corporate Interests Behind Ukraine Putsch,” Consortium News, May 11, 2022.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Despite the heart-rending testimonies TV viewers in the U.S. were subjected to night after night, in actuality fewer than 200 Kuwaitis were killed in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Compare that to such “peaceful” ventures as the U.S. invasion of Panama the year before, which killed an estimated 7,500 Panamanians; or, a year after the first Gulf war, the 10,000 Somalis killed by U.S./U.N. troops in what was portrayed as a “peace mission” to bring food aid to the allegedly starving region. (In actuality, people in only certain areas of Somalia were starving—those that had been subjected to IMF structural adjustment programs. See Mitchel Cohen, “Somalia & the Cynical Manipulation of Hunger,” Red Balloon Collective, 1994.)
  49. See Mitchel Cohen, “HOW PROPAGANDA WORKS, 101: Yellow-Ribboning the Lies: How George Bush Sold the 1991 Bombing of Iraq to America,” https://www.mitchelcohen.com/how-propaganda-works-101-yellow-ribboning-the-lies-how-george-bush-sold-the-1991-bombing-of-iraq-to-america
  50. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “HBO Recycling Gulf War Hoax?” December 4, 2002.
  51. Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden, PR Watch, Volume 8, No. 2, 2nd Quarter 2001. The PR firm has since been working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry to ban over-the-counter vitamin and nutritional supplement sales in Europe.
  52. See Mitchel Cohen, “HOW PROPAGANDA WORKS, 101,” op cit.
  53. https://theecologist.org/2014/sep/11/ukraine-opens-monsanto-land-grabs-and-gmos
  54. Marilyn Vogt-Downey, “Wither Ukraine? An imperialist invasion without an imperialist army,” in The Ukraine & the U.S. Left, a Red Balloon Collective pamphlet, 2014.
  55. Melanie Risdon, “EXCLUSIVE: Food shortages magnified by string of destroyed food processing facilities,” Western Standard, April 23, 2022 – updated May 3, 2022. https://www.westernstandard.news/news/exclusive-food-shortages-magnified-by-string-of-destroyed-food-processing-facilities/article_c5e4d4c3-325f-56b4-9089-8b8a69fe7d1f.html
  56. Dennis Rudat, “Union Pacific restricts fertilizer shipments, will not accept new orders,” Michigan Farm News, April 19, 2022.
  57. See Gasland, a 2010 film about fracking by Josh Fox. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mp4ELXKv-w
  58. Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN), USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, https://apps.fas.usda.gov/newgainapi/api/Report/DownloadReportByFileName?fileName=Agricultural%20Biotechnology%20Annual_Moscow_Russian%20Federation_10-20-2020 .
  59. Boris Ikhlov, “Ecology and War,” a letter to the executive committee of the Russian political association Worker, March 16, 2022.
  60. “UN Aid Drive to Avert Yemen Catastrophe Falls Far Short,” Agence France Presse, March 17, 2022. In The Defense Post, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2022/03/17/un-aid-yemen-short/
  61. “IMF and World Bank help push through contentious Ukraine land reform amid Covid-19 pandemic.” Bretton Woods Project: Critical Voices on the World Bank and IMF, July 2020. https://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2020/07/imf-and-world-bank-help-push-through-contentious-ukraine-land-reform-amid-covid-19-pandemic/
  62. See Zbigniew Brzezinski’s elaboration of U.S. policy under the Carter administration, when he served as U.S. National Security Adviser, in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997).
  63. “International Monetary Fund Leverages COVID-19 Economic Fallout to Create a Land Market in Ukraine Despite Widespread Opposition.” Oakland Institute, May 21, 2020. https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/international-monetary-fund-leverages-covid-19-economic-fallout-ukraine
  64. Bretton Woods Project, op cit.
  65. Oakland Institute, op cit.
  66. Agence France Presse, op cit.

SHIREEN ABU AKLEH, assassinated by Iraeli snipers

Dave Rovics’ haunting song about the City of Jenin.

SHIREEN ABU AKLEH Heroic Palestinian-American journalist with Al Jezeera, assassinated by Israeli snipers as she was conducting interviews in the city of Jenin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protest in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn NY, May 15, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shireen talks about how she became a journalist (click)

Israel officials make excuses. They lie. They intentionally targeted Shireen. (click)

What the hell are the heads of American non-profits in Jerusalem doing evicting Palestinians from their homes? (click)

Dear Jewish people especially, and all caring people: The Israeli government is committing these atrocities claiming that they are doing so because they are enabled by Jewish acquiescence everywhere, especially in the United States. So let me state as clearly as possible: As Jews — as people — we say a resounding NO, NOT IN MY NAME, and also demand the cut-off all funding by the U.S. government to the state of Israel. ALL OF IT. Not a penny to the state of Israel.

Let me appropriate the words I grew up with: NEVER AGAIN.

Mitchel Cohen, Jewish (and disgusted)
Brooklyn, New York

“The World’s Most Evil Company” May Lose a Few Court Fights—But Will Keep On Poisoning and Killing Millions of People with Its Carcinogenic Pesticide ‘Roundup’

Monsanto (now part of Bayer AB) had to pay $78 million in 2018 and $10 billion more in 2020 to settle 100,000 cancer lawsuits. But that won’t stop a company whose 2021 revenues will top $49.991 billion…which is why Roundup is still being profitably sprayed in 160 countries around the world.

[The following is excerpted from the new edition of my book “The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides,” written and edited by Mitchel Cohen with a forward by Vandana Shiva.—Editors]

A battle royale is ripping through every country against the Monsanto Company’s carcinogenic chemical glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in its most profitable pesticide, “Roundup.” (Monsanto is now owned by the drug and agrochemical multinational corporation, Bayer.)

Advocates of pesticides claim that they increase crop yields, protect the public from insect-borne diseases, and save labor costs by chemically killing “weeds.” Opponents counter that synthetic pesticides harm human beings, animals, beneficial insects, wildlife, and plants;[1] they pollute drinking water and food chains, increase health-related costs, and represent a contemptuous and colonizer’s approach to life and nature. The production and application of pesticides for corporate profit ignores and, in fact, assaults human health and the ecological balance of the natural environment.

For every environmental movement success in pressuring governments to ban an egregious pesticide, the industry spits out a new one and the cycle begins again. Victories over individual pesticides are undermined by a methodology that examines each chemical in isolation from the others; each corporate polluter is seen as an exception to the rule, a “bad apple” in an otherwise benevolent system. Thus, arsenic begat DDT, DDT begat organophosphates, the first wave of organophosphates begat pyrethroids and glyphosate, and now glyphosate begets dicamba.

Jonathan Latham, co-founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and the Editor of Independent Science News, points out[2] that, although stopping the applications of glyphosate will be a significant victory, it will not be enough; the chemical corporations’ policies will remain unchanged and they will simply substitute another poison.

]

Movements concerned with stopping the mass applications of pesticides need to go deeper, beyond the usual concerns about a particular chemical or corporation. If each pesticide, banned after years of struggle, is thought of as the exception to the rule, then the system itself is assumed to be fundamentally stable and beneficial, save for those few rotten apples.

The system, though, is fundamentally unstable, unsustainable, and harmful. It reflects—and regurgitates—an approach to nature and to human life in which life is denigrated, and maximization of corporate profits is par for the course (golf courses being one of the prime abusers of pesticides in urban areas).

We will never succeed in saving ourselves, our children and the environment by opposing one pesticide (or pipeline, or corporation) at a time, as corporate capitalism engages in its relentless drive to expand, consolidate smaller companies, centralize production, and exert monopolistic control. Consideration of more radical frameworks and actions is therefore essential if ecological activists are to build upon limited victories and save the interconnected web of life on this planet.

In 2015, rocker Neil Young wrote and belted out the lead song for an album titled, The Monsanto Years:

You never know what the future holds in the shallow soil of Monsanto, Monsanto

The moon is full and the seeds are sown while the farmer toils for Monsanto, Monsanto

When these seeds rise they’re ready for the pesticide
And Roundup comes and brings the poison tide of Monsanto, Monsanto

The farmer knows he’s got to grow what he can sell, Monsanto, Monsanto
So he signs a deal for GMOs that makes life hell with Monsanto, Monsanto
Every year he buys the patented seeds
Poison-ready they’re what the corporation needs, Monsanto

– Lyrics and song by Neil Young,[3] “The Monsanto Years,” (2015)

[Source: spillmagazine.com]

Monsanto officials attempted to discredit Neil Young. They investigated him, monitored his communications, and posted internal memos about his social media activity and music. The company did the same with Reuters senior correspondent Carey Gillam, who published devastating investigations of the company’s weedkiller and its links to cancer.[4]

Neil Young and actress Daryl Hannah with attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. attending Monsanto trial in which plantiffs alleged Roundup caused cancer. [Source: neilyoungnews.thrasherswheat.org]

 

And then Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a forty-six-year-old groundskeeper and pest-control manager at Benicia Public School District in Solano County, California, sued Monsanto. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after he had repeatedly sprayed Roundup, as directed, on school grounds (and thereby unwittingly jeopardized the lives of 5,000 young students in that district as well as his own). After a four-week trial ending on August 10, 2018, a unanimous jury awarded Johnson $289 million.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson in court. [Source: sfchronicle.com]

While San Francisco Superior Court judge Suzanne Bolanos upheld the jury’s verdict finding that Roundup indeed caused Johnson’s cancer, she cut its unprecedented punitive damage award by seventy-five percent.[5]

Some jurors were so upset by the prospect of having their verdict thrown out that they wrote to Bolanos:

“I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the six weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial,” juror Gary Kitahata wrote. Juror Robert Howard said that the jury paid “studious attention” to the evidence and that any decision to overturn its verdict would shake his confidence in the judicial system.[6]

“The cause is way bigger than me,” Johnson said. “Hopefully this thing will start to get the attention that it needs to get right.”[7] Indeed, Johnson’s was the first of what has mushroomed into 125,000 lawsuits against Monsanto over cancers, injuries and deaths caused by Roundup.[8]

In another legal victory against Monsanto, the Court of Appeal for the State of California affirmed the lower court’s decision, ruling that “Monsanto acted with willful disregard for the safety of others.…Monsanto’s conduct evidenced reckless disregard of the health and safety of the multitude of unsuspecting consumers it kept in the dark [and was] motivated by the desire for sales and profit.”[9]

Dewayne Johnson’s victory against Monsanto—a David vs. Goliath battle—snapped attention to the issue of toxic pesticides, the corruption of regulatory agencies, and notably, the pesticide horrors that thousands of workers are subjected to on a daily basis. It also opened a window onto the sordid history of the Bayer corporation, its involvement with the Nazis in Germany in World War II, and its medical “experiments” done first on Mexican workers at the border before carrying that “research” over the Atlantic, to use on the Jewish population in Nazi Germany.[10]

[Source: plugincaroo.wordpress.com]

“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us”

Along the U.S. southern border, agribusiness conglomerates recruit farmworkers from Mexico and Central America to pick crops for low pay, under wretched conditions. Like the crops, the workers are soaked with pesticides. American folksinger Woody Guthrie’s song, “Pastures of Plenty,” depicts those conditions:

It’s a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed

My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road

Out of your Dust Bowl and westward we rolled

And your deserts were hot and your mountain was cold

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes

Slept on the ground in the light of your moon

On the edge of the city you’ll see us and then

We come with the dust and we go with the wind.[11]

[Source: discogs.com]

Every year, there are ten to twenty thousand cases of farmworker poisonings reported, with different chemicals impacting different areas of the body. For example, workers in the citrus industry have higher incidence of gastric cancer, which is caused by phenoxyacetic acid herbicide 2,4-D; the organochlorine insecticide chlordane; and the herbicide triflurin.[12]

[Source: nrdc.org]

That spraying is intended to kill insects and rodents, but all too often the health of the workers is of secondary concern, when it is considered at all. We can trace the U.S. government’s mass spraying of migrant workers at least as far back as 1917 when, under the guise of protecting the country from the threat of typhus, U.S. Customs agents began delousing Mexicans who were legally crossing the border at the El Paso-Juarez international bridge and into areas of the U.S. that were formerly part of Mexico.

In 1917 alone, 127,000 workers crossing the border were forced to strip naked and given pesticide showers. By the 1920s, the chemical used at the border switched to the notorious cyanide-based Zyklon B, manufactured by the German chemical conglomerate IG Farben. Border agents tested the gas on Mexican workers, with the results sent to the German affiliate where it was used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews in the gas chambers. Like the Mexican workers, the Jews in Germany were similarly considered “vermin.”

A group of people in a room Description automatically generated with low confidence
Contract Mexican laborers being fumigated with the pesticide DDT in Hidalgo, Texas, in 1956. [Source: zinnedproject.org]

“All immigrants from the interior of Mexico, and those whom U.S. Customs officials deemed “second-class” residents of Juarez, were required to strip completely, turn in their clothes to be sterilized in a steam dryer and fumigated with hydrocyanic acid, then stand naked before a Customs inspector who would check his or her ‘hairy parts’ — scalp, armpits, chest, genital area — for lice. Those found to have lice would be required to shave their heads and body hair with clippers and bathe with kerosene and vinegar.”[13]

Historian/musician David Dorado Romo remembers how his great Aunt, Adela Dorado, “would tell our family about the humiliation of having to go through the delousing every eight days just to clean American homes in El Paso. She recalled how on one occasion the U.S. Customs officials put her clothes and shoes through the steam dryer and her shoes melted.”[14]

In a moment now forgotten from history, one day in 1917 a 17-year-old female migrant, Carmelita Torres, working as a maid in Juarez, crossed the border as she did every day to clean houses and refused to undress and be showered in pesticides. By noon, she was joined by several thousand “refusers” at the border bridge. Carmelita Torres became the Rosa Parks of what would be dubbed “the Bath Riots.”

The Orchestration of Disease—Manufacturing Fear of Immigrants

At the time of the Bath Riots, the mainstream (corporate) press did everything it could to sensationalize the typhus “threat” from Mexican migrants. That disease devastated the Russian working class at the time of the 1917 revolution, along with tens of thousands of Austrian prisoners of war (World War I) in Serbia.[15]

But in the U.S. that year, there was the small total of only 31 typhus cases overall, and only three typhus-related fatalities in El Paso. While public health was certainly a concern, officials used fear of typhus as a vehicle for fomenting repressive migrant and anti-working-class policies. Today, typhus – caused by a bacterium transmitted by some body lice—is readily treated with oral Ivermectin and clean clothing.

As one of the founding corporations in the IG Farben consortium, Bayer had no compunction about testing drugs on unwilling human subjects, such as prisoners, soldiers, and migrants. The U.S. Holocaust Museum describes Bayer’s involvement in Nazi “medical experiments” on Jews and other prisoners who were deliberately infected against their will with tuberculosis, diphtheria, and other diseases at the Dachau, Auschwitz, and Gusen concentration camps. Nazi physician Helmuth Vetter, appointed as the German Reich’s chief doctor by Heinrich Himmler, coordinated the experiments.

Dr. Helmuth Vetter [Source: artsandculture.google.com]

The Holocaust Museum notes that in Buchenwald, “physicians infected prisoners with typhus in order to test the efficacy of anti-typhus drugs, resulting in high mortality among test prisoners.”[16] Bayer was central to those “experiments”. The company was particularly active in Auschwitz. “A senior Bayer official oversaw the chemical factory in Auschwitz III (Monowitz). Most of the experiments were conducted in Birkenau in Block 20, the women’s camp hospital. There, Vetter and Auschwitz physicians Eduard Wirths and Friedrich Entress tested Bayer pharmaceuticals on prisoners who suffered from and often had been deliberately infected with tuberculosis, diphtheria, and other diseases.”[17] Following World War II, Vetter was convicted by an American military tribunal at the Mauthausen Trial, and was executed at Landsberg Prison in February 1949.

Friedrich Entress [Source: wikipedia.org]

After the war, some employees of Bayer appeared in the IG Farben trial, one of the Nuremberg Subsequent Tribunals under U.S. jurisdiction. Among them was Fritz ter Meer, who helped to plan the Monowitz camp (Auschwitz III) and IG Farben’s Buna Werke factory at Auschwitz, where medical experimentation had been conducted and where 25,000 forced laborers were deployed. Ter Meer was sentenced to seven years, but was released in 1950 for good behavior. One positive outcome of these subsequent Nuremberg trials was the establishment of the Nuremberg Code, a product of the Nuremberg Doctors’ trial which codified prohibitions against the kinds of involuntary experimentation conducted by Bayer in the concentration camp system.[18]

Fritz ter Meer [Source: digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu]

In the immediate postwar, the victorious allies divided the IG Farben conglomerate into individual companies, but still allowed them to function. Bayer, along with BASF and Hoechst—all part of the IG Farben conglomerate and supporters of the Nazis in World War II—re-emerged as one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

 

Bayer, however, “did little to come to terms with its Nazi past,” the Holocaust Museum notes, and adds this tidbit: “Fritz ter Meer, convicted of war crimes for his actions at Auschwitz, was elected to Bayer AG’s supervisory board in 1956, a position he retained until 1964.”[19]

At the U.S. border with Mexico, the U.S. government policy of spraying Mexican workers with toxic pesticides continued apace thru the late 1950s and into the 1960s. The organochloride insecticide DDT became the pesticide of choice, until the movement inspired by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, forced out DDT after a decade of mounting protests.

 

An Aspirin the Size of the Sun

In June 2018, the U.S. Justice Department approved the $66 billion purchase of Monsanto by the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, making Bayer-Monsanto the most powerful agribusiness entity on the planet. It now owns and controls more than 25 percent of the world’s seeds, and more than one third of global herbicide sales.

[Source: marketwatch.com]

The Bayer-Monsanto consolidation—one of the rotting legs of what physicist and world ecology advocate Vandana Shiva calls “The Poison Cartel”—came on the heels of the merger of the agricultural divisions of Dow and Dupont (now called Corteva Agriscience), and Syngenta’s merger with ChemChina. (Syngenta itself was the outcome of the consolidation of part of Novartis with AstraZeneca.)

As a result of its acquisition of Monsanto, Bayer—no stranger to protecting itself from condemnations of its dreadful record when it comes to human rights and environmental justice—now has to decide how to proceed with the torrent of lawsuits, which have resulted in penalties and fines soaring into many billions of dollars.[20] Bayer could not alleviate this headache even by gulping down the adult-size dose of its other famous drug, packaged in its familiar yellow and brown box. To do so would take, in poet Roque Dalton’s verse, “an aspirin the size of the sun.”

By July 2021, the financial pressures on Bayer forced the company to begin pulling Roundup from the shelves of such companies as The Home Depot and Lowe’s; as of 2023, Roundup will no longer be sold to individual gardeners in the U.S.,[21] a historic victory for enviro-activists and the environment.[22]

[Source: modernfarmer.com]

But the Biden administration—like those before it (Republican and Democratic alike)—presses on in defense of Monsanto and its attempt to control the agriculture throughout the globe via genetically engineering the world’s food supply, for which its herbicide, Roundup, has been so destructively designed.

Biden has gone so far as to appoint “Mr. Monsanto”—Tom Vilsack—again, as Agriculture Secretary. (Vilsack served in that same capacity for eight years in the Obama administration, despite much protest from environmental activists.[23])

[Source: thecommunityword.com]

 

This same Poison Cartel has accumulated trillions of dollars by manufacturing pharmaceutical drugs to “save us” from the cancers and neurological diseases their pesticides are causing. The “revolving door” spins freely between corporate interests and regulatory agency apparatchiks no matter which party is in power.[24] The agencies not only “look the other way” but have now been exposed for having ghost-written Monsanto’s applications for Roundup and other chemicals to those very same agencies.[25]

The entire planet is awash in chemical pollutants that poison our drinking water, food and soil, human breast milk,[26] animals, and ecosystems. Our “leaders” have long and storied histories of groveling before and collaborating with the titans of industry, whose propaganda machines promote self-interested assurances that their products are “safe” and environmentally friendly. They know that truthful information, under the right circumstances, can move people to rebel.

So they contaminate the truth, just as they pollute the natural environment, to foster public acceptance of pesticides and genetic engineering of the world’s food supply. Will activists in the United States and other industrial countries be able to force their governments to reverse course? Will they succeed in challenging the corporate quest for ever-increasing profits and control? To do so requires those reading this essay to be reborn as ecology activists who strive to win society to a different way of looking at human interactions with nature—no easy task, in current circumstances —and to take action based on that transformed consciousness.

Key pieces of information regarding the U.S. government’s worldwide advocacy (including the threatened use of its military) on behalf of Monsanto’s patented seeds exploded onto the internet via thousands of cables “liberated” by current political prisoner Julian Assange. The cables Assange published revealed massive U.S. government attempts on behalf of Monsanto, and its patents, to arm-twist countries throughout the world, along with its attempts to squelch opposition to GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The cables showed U.S. diplomats applying financial, diplomatic, and even military pressure on behalf of Monsanto and other biotech corporations.

[Source: tppbadforus.info/Monsanto-with-tpp]

In a 2007 cable marked “confidential,” Craig Stapleton, then U.S. Ambassador to France, advised the U.S. to prepare for economic war with countries unwilling to introduce Monsanto’s GM corn seeds. He called for retaliation, to “make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France…[has] told us retaliation is the only way to begin to turn this issue in France.”[27] The U.S. diplomatic team recommended that “we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.”[28]

Craig Stapleton [Source: wikipedia.org]

In another cable, this one from Macau and Hong Kong, a U.S. Department of Agriculture director requested $92,000 in U.S. public funds for “media education kits” to combat growing public resistance to genetically engineered foods. It portrays attempts to mandate the labeling of GMOs as a “threat” to U.S. interests, and seeks to “make it much more difficult for mandatory labeling advocates to prevail.”

The cables released by Wikileaks revealed that officials in the Obama administration, particularly in
Hillary Clinton’s State Department, intervened at Monsanto’s request “to undermine legislation that might restrict sales of genetically engineered seeds.” Under Hillary Clinton, the U.S. State Department was so gung-ho to promote GMOs that Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott called it “the de facto global-marketing arm of the ag-biotech industry, complete with figures as high-ranking as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mouthing industry talking points as if they were gospel.”

The New York Daily News reported that State Department officials under Hillary Clinton were actively using taxpayer money to promote Monsanto’s controversial GMO seeds around the world.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promoting Monsanto’s interests in Kenya in 2009. [Source: motherjones.com] 

The fight against GMOs and Roundup is partly a propaganda war; U.S. officials recommended pro-biotech and bio-agriculture DVDs be sent to every high school in Hong Kong.[29]

The cables reveal the joint strategic planning of Monsanto and the U.S. government. In one series, Monsanto concluded that northern Thailand would be an ideal location to cultivate genetically engineered corn for export to other countries, due to the area’s very low labor and infrastructure costs.

In this cable, one country, Peru, is mentioned as recipient, and the U.S. official suggests that even with transportation expenses across two oceans included, it would nevertheless be more profitable to grow and ship GMO corn from northern Thailand than from neighboring Argentina or Brazil, since U.S. “diplomatic efforts” would be used to drive down the cost of production in northern Thailand. The U.S. would press Thailand to drop its opposition to GM cultivation, and the country would be rewarded. The cables provide a fascinating (and terrfying) glimpse into the seemingly mundane mechanisms of global imperialism on a very localized level.

WikiLeaks “acquired” and published a searchable database and unabridged text of the secret 2015 TransPacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and Trade in Services Agreement.[30] The rogue publisher exposed the U.S. government’s pressure on other countries to purchase and plant Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered seeds, which required the concomitant purchase of Monsanto’s patented pesticides in order for the crops to grow.

[Source: tppbadforus.info/Monsanto-with-tpp]

The treaties limited the ability of one country to legally challenge environmental depradation in trade with another, making it abundantly clear that environmental issues could not be successfully addressed in piecemeal fashion, but must be seen as integrated political, technological, economic, and scientifically packaged warfare. To succeed, movements would be compelled to not only examine the dangers of each pesticide du jour, but the underlying mechanisms by which corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, Novartis, BASF and other pesticide and pharmaceutical manufacturers come to determine government policies overall, as well as those of global regulatory agencies, which in turn allow them to get away with masking the truth about their products.

Left activists have always exposed the collaboration between government and corporate expansion, but the details revealed by WikiLeaks’ documents are nothing short of astounding. They reveal the need for ecological movements to develop far more radical strategies for dealing with the immense destruction by capitalism in practice, and not just in theory. For this largely unknown contribution by Julian Assange, ecological activists, along with antiwar radicals motivated by Julian’s “collateral damage” video (obtained from Chelsea Manning), owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid.

Today, Julian Assange—locked away in a British prison despite judicial findings in his favor—is fighting for his life. The U.S. government seeks to bring this Australian citizen back to the United States for a show trial and then lock him up forever, if they don’t assassinate him en route.[31] The sacrifices Julian Assange has made are profound, and his contribution to ecological as well as antiwar movements is enormous. It is incumbent on all to demand an end to his incarceration and torment by the U.S. and British governments.[32]

[Source: shadowproof.com]

And yet, despite worldwide exposure of glyphosate’s dangers and its designation as a “probable carcinogen,” only a handful of governments throughout the world joined with environmental activists and health professionals in banning it. We—people who want to breathe clean air, drink pure water, preserve what’s left of the old-growth forests, protect the many species that share this earth with us, and escape from the epidemics of cancer and neurological disorders—need to grasp why government officials ever allowed it at all?

A strategic question: How significant is the fight to ban individual pesticides, since the industry releases new and equally dangerous ones into the environment, to replace the ones being banned or withdrawn?[33]

The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides encourages readers to think about the weaknesses and contradictions of the process used to approve pesticides. The purported experts have been proven wrong on so many occasions that we’d be fools to take their acceptance of Roundup at face value, especially since many researchers conceal their financial arrangements with corporate funders, thereby biasing the outcome and reporting of their research.[34]

The 2016 occupation and blockade of an underground oil pipeline under construction at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota offered a wider vision for how to construct effective social movements. The Dakota Access pipeline was to carry oil 1,172 miles from [Canada’s] Bakken oil fields for distribution in the U.S. midwest. More than 10,000 participants took part in an occupation lasting months, and, unlike the politicians in D.C., heroically refused to be divided by the false assurances of those in power.

[Source: abcnews.go.com]

But even in the face of unprecedented united opposition to the pipeline among Native American tribes and environmental activists, many politicians nonetheless acceded to the assurances of corporate power regarding the safety of their pipelines, just as they had done with regard to pesticides and genetically engineered products.[35]

Those policies, and the politicians who comply with and promulgate them, betray the public good; corporate donations to their campaigns serve to bribe key legislators and government executives to boost Roundup, despite the dangers. And budget-conscious officials—many of them in thrall to the pesticides industry—have decided that it’s more cost-effective for now to lay off workers and replace their labor-intensive but much safer weeding-by-hand with chemical herbicides like glyphosate. In the short run, this reduces public expenditure, until the outsized health and environmental costs are factored in.

The fight for clean water, soil, and air remains just as necessary today, unfortunately, as it was in 1962, when Rachel Carson issued her call to arms not only against chemical pesticides such as DDT but, lest we forget, a plethora of pollutants including (especially) radiation from atomic bomb tests. Today, sixty years after its publication, Silent Spring’s clarion call to fight the corporate and government polluters and defend the environment is more necessary than ever. And to succeed, mass movements need to draw on the insights, efforts, victories, and sacrifices of prior generations.

The spirits of those who came before lead us to becoming aware of the connections between Roundup and the genetic engineering of agriculture. They also help us to connect the issues of hydrofracking, climate chaos, huge dams, mountaintop removal, nuclear power and weapons, oil and gas pipelines, pollution, factory farming, EMF pollution, and wetlands destruction and flooding.

Industrial capitalism is anti-ecological at its core. Rachel Carson bequeathed us a legacy of courage, which impels us to devise new forms of action not only against individual pesticides, but against the systemic wars initiated by the same corporations and governments for labor, land, resources, and geopolitical control. It’s high time that the Left (and I’m talking about the real Left here, not the media-anointed Left) exposes the integrated nature of these technologies and provides the kind of anti-capitalist leadership needed, one that challenges arch-rightwing forces that are misleading well-meaning people into a void filled with reactionary formulations and strategies.


[This article has been excerpted from the Preface to Mitchel Cohen’s book, The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides. To learn more about the book and its numerous contributors, please click on https://www.ThePoliticsofPesticides.com.]


  1. Some ecologists believe that all organisms, whether “beneficial” to human purposes or not, have an intrinsic right to exist. Thus, the use of the judgment “beneficial” is considered by deep ecologists, for example, to be anathema to ecological vision.
  2. “Unsafe at any Dose? Glyphosate in the Context of Multiple Chemical Safety Failures,” a chapter in this book.
  3. A Monsanto representative had this to say about Neil Young’s song: “Many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young. Unfortunately, for some of us, his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable. We recognize there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do—and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics.”
  4. Sam Levin, “Revealed: how Monsanto’s ‘intelligence center’ targeted journalists and activists,” The Guardian, Aug. 8, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/aug/07/monsanto-fusion-center-journalists-roundup-neil-young. Carey Gillam’s exposés can be found on the website “U.S. Right to Know,” https://usrtk.org. Her books include Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2017) and The Monsanto Papers – Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption, and One Man’s Search for Justice (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2021).
  5. Paul Elias, Associated Press, October 23, 2018.
  6. Elias, ibid.
  7. Stephanie K. Baer, “A Jury Has Awarded Nearly $290 Million To A Man Who Says A Popular Weed Killer Caused His Cancer.” BuzzFeed News, Aug. 10, 2018, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/skbaer/weed-killer-cancer-jury-verdict
  8. In October 2021, Monsanto – which had been losing case after case – scored a partial win in court against a parent whose child developed cancer as a result of repeated exposures to Roundup. The child’s attorney said the jury doubted that a few exposures to Roundup could have been enough to cause cancer. However, he said the jury did not address the larger question of the alleged carcinogenicity of Roundup overall, and the appeal is currently underway.
  9. https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Pilliod-Opinion.pdf
  10. So-called “medical experiments,” often amounting to torture, have been done systematically on women in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, prisoners in the U.S., American Indians, soldiers, Black Americans (Tuskegee being just one example of many, as discussed in later chapters in this book.
  11. © Copyright 1960 (renewed) and 1963 (renewed) by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI). For the full lyrics, see https://www.woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Pastures_Of_Plenty.htm.
  12. Ariel Wittenberg, “EPA pesticide ban overlooks some farmworkers,” The GreenWire, Sept. 14, 2021.
  13. David Dorado Romo, “Jan. 28, 1917: The Bath Riots,” Zinn Education Project, https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/bath-riots. The other quotes following in this section are taken from that same article.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Microbiology Society, “Typhus in World War I”, https://microbiologysociety.org/publication/past-issues/world-war-i/article/typhus-in-world-war-i.html.
  16. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, DC 20024-2126.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore, California, were awarded $2 billion. (Andrew Blankstein and Adiel Kaplan, “California jury hits Monsanto with $2 billion judgment in cancer lawsuit,” NBC News, May 13, 2019.) Another jury in 2019 awarded cancer victim Edwin Hardeman $5.3 million in compensation for his illness and $75 million in punitive damages, which are intended to punish a defendant and deter future misconduct. The jury found that punitive damages were required because Monsanto had failed to warn users about its product. A judge later reduced the punitive award to $20 million. (Maura Dolan, “Appeals court upholds $25-million verdict against maker of Roundup,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2021).
  21. “Bayer Confirms End of Sale of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides for U.S. Lawn & Garden Market,” Sustainable Pulse, July 29, 2021.
  22. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS).
  23. Madeline Knight, “Biden Chooses Tom “Mr. Monsanto” Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary,” Left Voice, December 23, 2020.
  24. Mitchel Cohen, “Genetic Engineering, Pesticides, and Resistance to the New Colonialism,” Chapter 15, for many more details about the “revolving door”. See also Jordan Schachtel, “The Revolving Door: All 3 FDA-authorized COVID shot companies now employ former FDA commissioners,” in Dossier.substack.com.
  25. Danny Hakim, “Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Documents,” The New York Times, March 14, 2017. The documents themselves are available at www.poisonpapers.org. Also, “The Poison Papers Expose Decades of Collusion between Industry and Regulators over Hazardous Pesticides and Other Chemicals,” Bioscience Resource Project, July 26, 2017.
  26. A study by Moms Across America in 2014 found glyphosate in breast milk, which was especially alarming (https://www.momsacrossamerica.com /glyphosate_testing_results). It’s also accumulating in soybeans. (See T. Bøhn, et al., “Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate Accumulates in Roundup Ready GM Soybeans,” Food Chemistry 153 (June 2014): 207– 15.)
  27. https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07PARIS4723_a.html
  28. Ibid.
  29. Anita Katial, Senior Director Europe Operations at USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), is named as the responsible officer for the pro-biotech propaganda effort on behalf of the U.S. government. https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09HONGKONG128_a.html
  30. https://wikileaks.org/tpp-final/
  31. Julian Borger, “CIA officials under Trump discussed assassinating Julian Assange – report: Mike Pompeo and officials requested ‘options’ for killing Assange following WikiLeaks’ publication of CIA hacking tools, report says.” The Guardian, Sept. 27, 2021.
  32. Many thanks to Patricia Dahl, an organizer with Stand with Assange NY, for outlining some of the secret involvements of the U.S. government with Monsanto and other corporate polluters that were first brought to light by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. See Michael Ratner, Moving the Bar: My Life as a Radical Lawyer (New York: OR Books: 2021), for an extensive first-hand review of the Assange legal case by his chief attorney.
  33. A similar question resonates in this one: How significant is the fight, say, for workers in one shop to fight for and achieve higher wages since capitalism keeps offering new low-waged jobs that desperate people around the world are willing to take, under the coercion of the frequently unbearable costs of daily life? (Karl Marx was one of the first to address this question in a small pamphlet, “Value, Price and Profit.”)
  34. Sheldon Krimsky, Science in the Private Interest: Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted Biomedical Research, With a foreword by Ralph Nader (2003: Rowman & Littlefield Pubs); also, Krimsky, “Conflicts of Interest In Science: How Corporate-Funded Academic Research Can Threaten Public Health,” (Hot Books, 2019).
  35. The Standing Rock Sioux and environmental advocates won a temporary victory in July 2020 when a judge ordered that the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down by August 5, 2020 pending a court-ordered environmental review. Microsoft News called this “a major defeat for the Trump administration and the oil companies that have been on the wrong side of history for years.” https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/victory-for-standing-rock-the-dakota-access-pipeline-must-shut-down-by-august-5/ar-BB16oYiF. However by May of 2021 the environmental review process had still not been completed, and a judge ruled that oil could flow through the pipeline while such review is pending. Meanwhile, in June of 2021 eco-activists in Hubbard County, Minnesota, chained themselves to a semi truck carrying drilling equipment Monday in an attempt to stop construction of Line 3, a $9.3 billion pipeline meant to transport some of the most climate-destructive oil in the world into the states. (Samir Ferdowsi, “Protesters Chained Themselves to a Semi Truck to Stop the Next Big U.S. Oil Pipeline. At least 500 water protectors were arrested protesting the Line 3 pipeline, which will carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.,” Vice News, June 17, 2021). Earlier that month (June 2021), the Biden administration revoked the permit for yet another pipeline subject to mass protests, the Keystone Xl pipeline.

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About the Author

Mitchel Cohen coordinates the No Spray Coalition in New York City, which successfully sued the City government over its indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides.

In 1997, he organized the campaign to rid NYC public schools of milk from cows injected with genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, and in 2001, he ran for Mayor of NYC as one of five Green Party candidates.

He was editor of the national newspaper Green Politix, and of the NY State Green Party newspaper.

Mitchel edited Red Balloon, the journal of the Red Balloon Collective that he co-founded at SUNY Stony Brook. He also chaired WBAI radio’s Local Board.

His writings include: The Social Construction of Neurosis, and numerous other pamphlets under the rubric of Zen-Marxism; What is Direct Action?, a book that draws on personal experiences as well as lessons from Occupy Wall Street; An American in Revolutionary Nicaragua; Listen Bookchin! and two books of poetry, One-Eyed Cat Takes Flight and The Permanent Carnival.

Mitchel can be reached at: mitchelcohen@mindspring.com.

HOW PROPAGANDA WORKS, 101: Yellow-Ribboning the Lies: How George Bush Sold the 1991 Bombing of Iraq to America

“The U.S. has a new credibility. What we say goes.”

– President George H.W. Bush

NBC Nightly News, Feb. 2, 1991

On October 10, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, identified only as Nayirah, appeared in Washington before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. She was presented as a Kuwaiti war refugee, and testified that she had been a volunteer worker in the al-Adan hospital in Kuwait City and had seen Iraqi soldiers, who had invaded Kuwait on August 2nd, tear fifteen babies from hospital incubators and “leave them on the cold floor to die.”

Television flashed her testimony around the world. It electrified opposition to Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, who was now portrayed by U.S. president George Bush not only as “the Butcher of Baghdad” but — so much for old friends — “a tyrant worse than Hitler.”

Bush quoted Nayirah at every opportunity. Six times in one month he referred to “312 premature babies at Kuwait City’s maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor,”(1) and of “babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor.” Bush used Nayirah’s testimony to lambaste Senate Democrats still supporting “only” sanctions against Iraq — the blockade of trade which alone would cause hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to die of hunger and disease — but who waffled on endorsing the policy Bush wanted to implement: outright bombardment. Republicans and pro-war Democrats used Nayirah’s tale to hammer their fellow politicians into line behind Bush’s war in the Persian Gulf. (2) Continue reading »

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF NEUROSIS

by Mitchel Cohen

When 20-year-old Marja announced that she was joining the Red Balloon Col­lec­tive at SUNY Stony Brook in the mid-1970s, her Long Island sub­urban mother went bal­lis­tic: “This is the freest country in the world. If they don’t like it here, why don’t they go back to Russia?”

Marja’s mom forbade her to get involved with the Red Balloon Collective. She phoned the FBI in Smithtown, Long Island, who told her, “They think they’re Communists, but they’re relatively harmless.”

Harmless? Harumph!

Marja made it clear she was “one of the com­mun­ards.” Her mother squawked: “What’s the point? You can’t fight City Hall. And don’t sign any lists! The FBI might get hold of it and then you’ll never get a job.”

Continue reading »

LETTER FROM JAILED ATTORNEY STEVEN DONZIGER, IMPRISONED FOR FIGHTING AGAINST CHEVRON’S POISONING OF THE ECUADORAN AMAZON

[]

Mitchel Cohen interviews Steven Donziger, then under house arrest, in July 2021 at rally on his behalf outside his Manhattan apartment.


Dear friends and comrades,

This new message from Steven Donziger contains much information.  Also go to freedonziger.com for additional information.  If we’re going to overcome the climate catastrophe, we have to be able to hold the petroleum industry accountable and responsible.  Please support Steven Donziger and his crucial struggle which is part of our climate justice struggle world-wide.

In solidarity,

Betsy Bowman
President and Research Associate
Center for Global Justice


 

freedonziger.com

From the belly of the beast: read Steven’s first letter from prison on eve of his appellate argument Nov. 30 to overturn Judge Preska’s “conviction” in a trial found to violate international law.

Donate today to help Steven and the Amazon communities continue their fight for freedom and to hold Chevron accountable for its “Chernobyl” ecological disaster.

I am finally able to write directly from inside the belly of the beast: the federal prison in Danbury, CT. I am now on day 23 of my incarceration, and the experience has been nothing short of mind-blowing. I am living with another person in a 54 sq ft cell; next door is a 37-year-old man, one of the kindest people I have ever met. He was sentenced to a 35-year term for gang violence when he was 19. Three people in my unit of 80 or so men are lifers and have over 30 years in the system.

The length of the sentences for various crimes is astounding. We are unique as a country for the extraordinarily punitive nature of our criminal justice system. And it sickens me to see it from the inside. All of us here are simply raw material for a business built largely on money and politics that has virtually nothing to do with rehabilitation (although there are staff here working miracles against all odds to help inmates adjust to the outside).

This is considered a “low” security prison, but the conditions are extremely limiting. No Internet, almost no newspapers, limited phone calls and email, and almost no contact with the outside world. The food is scarce; no fresh vegetables, little fruit, extremely small portions which forces the mostly impoverished inmates to supplement their diets by buying junk food at the commissary where prices can be 50% higher than the corner store in New York City. It can take weeks for a visitor to get approved; one man has not seen his kids (now aged 5 and 7) in two years because of COVID restrictions. There is a total shortage of staff, programming, and no way to get a college degree. I will only be able to write very infrequently, if at all.

Having said that, please consider this: Chevron and Judges Preska and Kaplan thought they could snuff out my advocacy by dumping me into this place. They could not be more wrong. Not only is the prison bubbling with humanity and kindness, the likes of which one rarely sees on the outside, but the support for me and the affected communities of Ecuador both in my unit and around the world has literally exploded as a result of this obvious act of corporate persecution. I am becoming stronger, more resilient, and more understanding as a person. And I have almost boundless energy to continue the fight as a result of sharing this largely miserable experience with so many people from all walks of life.

I am getting dozens of letters a day from around the world. My friends in the unit love it when the letters come. Some read them and slap their knees with incredulity. How can one prisoner get so much mail? Others remove the stamps to use as “currency,” an off-the-books economic system that allows inmates the autonomy to trade goods and services among themselves.

In the meantime, here is a concrete update on case developments:

 

  • My appellate argument to overturn Judge Preska’s “conviction” of me in the Chevron-financed non-jury contempt trial will take place on Nov. 30. This is an extremely accelerated schedule which shows the concern of the court that a great injustice might be taking place. That said, I believe judges in New York generally are closing rank behind Kaplan and Preska because our campaign has been so effective that it has challenged the institutional credibility of the federal judiciary as a whole. While I am always optimistic, I fully expect to lose this appeal and spend the balance of my six-months sentence in prison. That said, my legal team already has decided it is likely we will take the issue off the nation’s first corporate prosecution to the US Supreme Court if necessary.
  • Our support in Congress is growing by leaps and bounds. A new letter organized by Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Chuy Garcia demanding my immediate release is gathering signatures as we speak. The letter urges The Biden administration to “send a clear signal that it stands with communities harmed by pollution and environmental destruction and the lawyers courageous enough to represent them and not the corporations that benefit from polluting the water, air, and land of local people.”
  • Law students nationwide are preparing to organize a work boycott of the two corporate law firms (Seward and Gibson Dunn) that Chevron has used to try to demonize and prosecute me. The Seward law firm should really be ashamed; that firm has been held by the United Nations to be in violation of multiple provisions of international law by prosecuting me.
  • Several human rights organizations are launching a campaign on Nov. 29 to demand President Biden pardon me — both because it is the right thing to do to correct the injustice, and also to bring the US government into conformity with international law consistent with the ruling from the United Nations.

Now, the money question. We need more funds to carry forward with these and other important activities. We need to pay people to support themselves to do this vital work. While I am locked up, the campaign must not just continue but also get stronger and more effective. Because of the incredible efforts of so many people, including my wife Laura and legal assistant Matt Burton, we are succeeding. In fact, the day I reported to prison, we gained 20,000 new followers on Twitter and many more on Instagram.

I know many already donated on the financial end. If you are not in a position to help now, please don’t worry; your support is being expressed in so many other ways and is deeply appreciated. But if you can dig deep and match your previous donation, please do. If you have not given, please consider making a donation. We are building this big with the ultimate goal of not only getting me out of this institution as soon as possible but also to put our human rights legal team in a position to finally hold Chevron fully accountable and force it to pay the full amount of the pollution judgment to the Indigenous peoples and farmers in Ecuador’s Amazon. Please contribute $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50, $15, or whatever you can today.

DONATE $25 NOW
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Thanks again to everybody for jumping into this extraordinary campaign and building this collective action that is literally changing the paradigm of the fossil fuel industry and helping to wake up the world to the promise of what citizen action can accomplish. I wake up each day in prison with a hop in my step because of you and the possibilities we have created together.

In solidarity,
Steven Donziger

 

 

AN AMERICAN IN CUBA

Sometimes it indeed feels like we are all Don Quixote, tilting at windmills that never seem to change. And yet, the Cuban revolution has, since 1959, offered a beacon into the darkness …. a hope (hoping against hope) that there can be a place where something of our ideals will not only survive but flourish.

Eight years ago, Monthly Review Press published Nancy Stout’s terrific biography of Cuban Revolutionary hero Celia Sánchez. (One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution, Monthly Review Press, 2013, introduction by Alice Walker). Reading about Celia Sánchez gave me the opportunity to revisit an essay I wrote 30 years ago about the Cuban revolution. With all the misrepresentations and lies by the U.S. government regarding Cuba, I thought it would be worth taking a look at what it feels like on the ground in Cuba, with the 1959 Cuban Revolution struggling to fend off the restoration of capitalism.

IN THE SUMMER OF 1992, I visited Cuba as part of a delegation to the Fourth Conference of Cuban and North Am­er­i­can Philosophers, organized by the U.S.-based Radical Phi­lo­sophy Association. The trip occurred during what Cu­bans call the “Special Period” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s most important trade partner and benefactor.  Continue reading »

ISRAEL’S BIG LIE: THIS ISN’T SELF-DEFENSE — IT’S A WAR CRIME AIDED AND ABETTED BY THE U.S.

Mitchel Cohen’s report from the “Palestine Lives!” march in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on May 15, 2021, for WBAI radio.

Almost everything said in the U.S. about Israel’s assault on the Palestinians is a lie — because we are implicated

Guest post by Chris Hedges
Published May 15, 2021 in ScheerPost.

main article image Smoke billows after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City targeted the Ansar compound, linked to the Hamas movement, in the Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021. – Israel pounded Gaza and deployed extra troops to the border as Palestinians fired barrages of rockets back, with the death toll in the enclave on the fourth day of conflict climbing to over 100. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images)

Nearly all the words and phrases used by the Democrats, Republicans and the talking heads on the media to describe the unrest inside Israel and the heaviest Israeli assault against the Palestinians since the 2014 attacks on Gaza, which lasted 51 days and killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, are a lie. Israel, by employing its military machine against an occupied population that does not have mechanized units, an air force, navy, missiles, heavy artillery and command-and-control, not to mention a U.S. commitment to provide a $38 billion defense aid package for Israel over the next decade, is not exercising “the right to defend itself.” It is carrying out mass murder. It is a war crime. 

Israel has made clear it is ready to destroy and kill as wantonly now as it was in 2014. Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz, who was the chief of staff during the murderous assault on Gaza in 2014, has vowed that if Hamas “does not stop the violence, the strike of 2021 will be harder and more painful than that of 2014.” The current attacks have already targeted several residential high-rises including buildings that housed more than a dozen local and international press agencies, government buildings, roads, public facilities, agricultural lands, two schools and a mosque.

I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, four of them as The New York Times Middle East bureau chief. I am an Arabic speaker. I lived for weeks at a time in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, where more than 2 million Palestinians exist on the edge of starvation, struggle to find clean water and endure constant Israeli terror. I have been in Gaza when it was pounded with Israeli artillery and air strikes. I have watched mothers and fathers, wailing in grief, cradling the bloodied bodies of their sons and daughters. I know the crimes of the occupation — the food shortages caused by the Israeli blockade, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the near-constant electrical outages due to the Israeli targeting of power plants, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. I have witnessed the carnage. 

I also have listened from Gaza to the lies emanating from Jerusalem and Washington. Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill thousands of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war: It is state-sponsored terror. And while I oppose the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinians into Israel, as I oppose suicide bombings, seeing them also as war crimes, I am acutely aware of a huge disparity between the industrial violence carried out by Israel against innocent Palestinians and the minimal acts of violence capable of being waged by groups such as Hamas.

The false equivalency between Israeli and Palestinian violence was echoed during the war I covered in Bosnia. Those of us in the besieged city of Sarajevo were pounded daily with hundreds of heavy shells and rockets from the surrounding Serbs. We were targeted by sniper fire. The city suffered a few dozen dead and wounded each day. The government forces inside the city fired back with light mortars and small arms fire. Supporters of the Serbs seized on any casualties caused by Bosnian government forces to play the same dirty game, although well over 90 percent of the killings in Bosnia were the fault of the Serbs, as is also true regarding Israel. [Note by Mitchel Cohen: I do not agree with Chris Hedges’ perspective on what transpired in Yugoslavia nor his equating of Serbia with the Israeli state. See Mitchel’s NOT ON THE NEWS: AGAINST NATO’S WAR ON YUGOSLAVIA and also BOMBING THE BRIDGE TO THE 21ST CENTURY: Behind NATO’s Bombardment of Yugoslavia.]

The second and perhaps most important parallel is that the Serbs, like the Israelis, were the principal violators of international law. Israel is in breach of more than 30 UN Security Council resolutions. It is in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that defines collective punishment of a civilian population as a war crime. It is in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for settling over half a million Jewish Israelis on occupied Palestinian land and for the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded and another 300,000 after Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied following the 1967 war. Its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights violates international law, as does its building of a security barrier in the West Bank that annexes Palestinian land into Israel. It is in violation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which states that Palestinian “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” 

This is the truth. Any other starting point for the discussion of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians is a lie.

Israel’s once-vibrant peace movement and political left, which condemned and protested against the Israeli occupation when I lived in Jerusalem, is moribund. The right-wing Netanyahu government, despite its rhetoric about fighting terrorism, has built an alliance with the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, which also views Iran as an enemy. Saudi Arabia, a country that  produced 15 of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks, is reputed to be the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism, allegedly supporting Salafist jihadism, the basis of al-Qaida, and groups such as the Afghanistan TalibanLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front.  Advertisement:

Saudi Arabia and Israel worked closely together to back the 2013 military coup in Egypt, led by General Abdul Fattah el Sisi. Sisi overthrew a democratically elected government. He has imprisoned tens of thousands of government critics, including journalists and human rights defenders, on politically motivated charges. The Sisi regime collaborates with Israel by keeping its common border with Gaza closed to Palestinians, trapping them in the Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated places on earth. Israel’s cynicism and hypocrisy, especially when it wraps itself in the mantle of protecting democracy and fighting terrorism, is of epic proportions. 

Those who are not Jewish in Israel are either second-class citizens or live under brutal military occupation. Israel is not, and never has been, the exclusive homeland of the Jewish people. From the 7th century until 1948, when Jewish colonial settlers used violence and ethnic cleansing to create the state of Israel, Palestine was overwhelmingly Muslim. It was never empty land. The Jews in Palestine were traditionally a tiny minority. The United States is not an honest broker for peace but has funded, enabled and defended Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Israel is not defending the rule of law. Israel is not a democracy. It is an apartheid state.

That the lie of Israel continues to be embraced by the ruling elites — there is no daylight between statements in defense of Israeli war crimes by Nancy Pelosi and Ted Cruz — and used as a foundation for any discussion of Israel is a testament to the corrupting power of money, in this case that of the Israel lobby, and the bankruptcy of a political system of legalized bribery that has surrendered its autonomy and its principles to its major donors. It is also a stunning example of how colonial settler projects — and this is also true in the United States — always carry out cultural genocide so they can exist in a suspended state of myth and historical amnesia to legitimize themselves. 

The Israel lobby has shamelessly used its immense political clout to demand that Americans take de facto loyalty oaths to Israel. The passage by 35 state legislatures of Israel lobby-backed legislation requiring their workers and contractors, under threat of dismissal, to sign a pro-Israel oath and promise not to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a mockery of our constitutional right of free speech. Israel has lobbied the U.S. State Department to redefine antisemitism under a three-point test known as the Three Ds: the making of statements that “demonize” Israel; statements that apply “double standards” for Israel; statements that “delegitimize” the state of Israel. This definition of antisemitism is being pushed by the Israel lobby in state legislatures and on college campuses.

The Israel lobby spies in the United States, often at the direction of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, on those who speak up for the rights of Palestinians. It wages public smear campaigns and blacklists defenders of Palestinian rights — including the Jewish historian Norman Finkelstein; UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories Richard Falk, also Jewish; and university students, many of them Jewish, in organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

The Israel lobby has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to manipulate U.S. elections, far beyond anything alleged to have been carried out by Russia, China or any other country. The heavy-handed interference by Israel in the American political system, which includes operatives and donors bundling together hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in every U.S. congressional district to bankroll compliant candidates, is documented in the Al-Jazeera four-part series “The Lobby.” Israel managed to block “The Lobby” from being broadcast. In the film, a pirated copy of which is available on the website Electronic Intifada, the leaders of the Israel lobby are repeatedly captured on a reporter’s hidden camera explaining how they, backed by the intelligence services within Israel, attack and silence American critics and use massive cash donations to buy politicians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured an unconstitutional invitation from then-House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress in 2015 to denounce President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear agreement. Netanyahu’s open defiance of Obama and alliance with the Republican Party, however, did not stop Obama in 2014 from authorizing a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package to Israel, a sad commentary on how captive American politics is to Israeli interests.

The investment by Israel and is backers is worth it, especially when you consider that the U.S. has also spent more than $6 trillion during the last 20 years fighting futile wars that Israel and its lobby pushed for in the Middle East. These wars are the greatest strategic debacle in American history, accelerating the decline of the American empire, bankrupting the nation at a time of economic stagnation and mounting poverty, and turning huge parts of the globe against us. They serve Israel’s interests, not ours.

The longer the mendacious Israeli narrative is embraced, the more empowered become the racists, bigots, conspiracy theorists and far-right hate groups inside and outside Israel. This steady shift to the far right in Israel has fostered an alliance between Israel and the Christian right, many of whom are antisemites. The more Israel and the Israel lobby level the charge of antisemitism against those who speak up for Palestinian rights, as they did against former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the more they embolden the real antisemites. 

Racism, including antisemitism, is dangerous. It is not only bad for the Jews. It is bad for everyone. It empowers the dark forces of ethnic and religious hatred on the extremes. Netanyahu’s racist government has built alliances with far-right leaders in Hungary, India and Brazil, and was closely allied with Donald Trump. Racists and ethnic chauvinists, as I saw in the wars in the former Yugoslavia, feed off each other. They divide societies into polarized, antagonistic camps that only speak in the language of violence. The radical jihadists need Israel to justify their violence, just as Israel needs the radical jihadists to justify its violence. These extremists are ideological twins.  

This polarization fosters a fearful, militarized society. It permits the ruling elites in Israel, as in the United States, to dismantle civil liberties in the name of national security. Israel runs training programs for militarized police, including from the United States. It is a global player in the multibillion-dollar drone industry, competing against China and the United States.

It oversees hundreds of cyber-surveillance startups whose espionage innovations, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have been utilized abroad “to locate and detain human rights activists, persecute members of the LGBT community, silence citizens critical of their governments, and even fabricate cases of blasphemy against Islam in Muslim countries that don’t maintain formal relations with Israel.”

Israel, like the United States, has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. One million Israelis, many of them among the most enlightened and educated, have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists — Israeli and Palestinian — endure constant government surveillance, arbitrary arrests and vicious government-run smear campaigns. Mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, physically assault dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African immigrants in the slums of Tel Aviv. These Jewish extremists have targeted Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, demanding their expulsion. They are supported by an array of anti-Arab groups including the Otzma Yehudit Party, the ideological descendant of the outlawed Kach party, the Lehava movement, which calls for all Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories to be expelled to surrounding Arab states, and La Familia, far-right soccer hooligans. Lehava in Hebrew means “flame” and is the acronym for “Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land.” Mobs of these Jewish fanatics parade through Palestinian neighborhoods, including in occupied East Jerusalem, protected by Israeli police, shouting to the Palestinians who live there “Death to the Arabs,” which is also a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches.

Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that echo the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.'” Israel’s educational system, starting in primary school, uses the Holocaust to portray Jews as eternal victims. This victimhood is an indoctrination machine used to justify racism, Islamophobia, religious chauvinism and the deification of the Israeli military. 

There are many parallels between the deformities that grip Israel and the deformities that grip the United States. The two countries are moving at warp speed towards a 21st-century fascism, cloaked in religious language, which will revoke what remains of our civil liberties and snuff out our anemic democracies. The failure of the United States to stand up for the rule of law, to demand that the Palestinians, powerless and friendless, even in the Arab world, be granted basic human rights mirrors the abandonment of the vulnerable within our own society. We are headed, I fear, down the road Israel is heading down. It will be devastating for the Palestinians. It will be devastating for us. And all resistance, as the Palestinians courageously show us, will only come from the street.    

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges is the former Middle East bureau chief of the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a columnist at Scheerpost. He is the author of several books, including “America: The Farewell Tour,” “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.”

Could an accident have caused COVID-19? Why the Wuhan lab-leak theory shouldn’t be dismissed

Alison Young provides a nerve-wracking account of failures and releases of dangerous pathogens from biolabs around the world. Still, I am surprised that she doesn’t mention the shutting down of the USAMRID biowar facility at Fort Detrick, MD, in 2019, shortly before the first cases of Covid-19 were observed, along with Fort Detrick’s close association with the lab in Wuhan, experimenting on the same viruses.

https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/2021/03/22/why-covid-lab-leak-theory-wuhan-shouldnt-dismissed-column/4765985001/

I have reported on safety lapses at elite U.S. labs. There is no reason to believe they aren’t happening at labs in other countries as well.

Alison Young, Opinion Contributor

Published 4:00 AM EDT Mar. 22, 2021 Updated 9:05 AM EDT Mar. 22, 2021

Clink. Clink. Clink.

On a warm summer evening in July 2014, a laboratory worker on the National Institutes of Health’s sprawling campus just north of Washington, D.C., exited Building 29A toting a cardboard box. Its contents rattled inside – an assortment of fragile glass vials labeled with faded typewriter script: Q fever, rickettsia, and worst of all, four strains of variola – the dreaded virus that causes smallpox.

Highly contagious, variola is one of the deadliest viruses the world has ever known. It could rip through most of the U.S. population and cause a global health disaster if released. It killed as many as three out of every 10 people infected before it was declared eradicated from the planet in 1980.

Clink. Clink.

Nobody has been routinely vaccinated against smallpox in decades, leaving most people in the U.S. and around the world vulnerable to infection. Yet after forgotten specimen vials dating to the 1940s and 1950s were discovered at the NIH in an unlocked cold storage room, nothing was done to ensure their safe transportation. They were allowed to bump around in a cardboard box with dozens of other old biological specimens as a lone laboratory worker walked them to another building about two blocks away, federal records show.

One vial had already shattered.

The world got lucky that day, as it often has when safety breaches occur at biological laboratories in the United States and around the world.

A deadly epidemic wasn’t unleashed. It was only a tissue specimen that broke and nobody got sick.

Had any of the six glass vials containing the Variola virus been breached, there would have been nothing to contain the agent and prevent its release to the surrounding environment,” according to a joint investigation report by the FBI and federal lab regulators.

I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.Christopher Black, World Health Organization via AFP

As members of a World Health Organization expert team have made international headlines recently dismissing as “extremely unlikely” the possibility that a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China could have sparked the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t stop thinking of the hundreds of lab accidents that are secretly occurring just in the United States.

As an investigative reporter, I have spent more than a decade revealing shocking safety breaches that officials at laboratories in our own country don’t want the public to know about.

I have uncovered exotic and deadly bacteria that have hitched rides out of high-security labs on workers’ dirty clothing, silently spreading contagion for weeks. I have revealed how spacesuit-like protective gear and tubes carrying safe oxygen to scientists have torn or broken – repeatedly – and high-tech safety systems have failed dramatically. Vials of viruses and bacteria have gone missing. Researchers bitten by infected lab animals have been allowed to move about in public – rather than being quarantined – while waiting for signs of infection to appear.

These and similar safety lapses are happening with disturbing regularity at elite U.S. labs operated by government agencies, the military, universities and private firms. There is no reason to believe they aren’t happening at labs in other countries as well.

The notion that more than 2.7 million deaths worldwide – so far – could be the result of a lab accident has been met with skepticism and derision by many journalists and scientists who often portray it as a crackpot conspiracy theory fueled by former President Donald Trump’s China-bashing rhetoric. Without question, the lab-leak theory has been politically and racially weaponized in ugly ways. But that rhetoric needs to be separated from legitimate questions about lab safety that are deserving of investigation.

Science, like journalism, is supposed to be about facts and about getting to the truth. But those who dare seek answers to reasonable questions about any lab accidents in Wuhan are accused of peddling conspiracies.

Let me be clear: Labs in Wuhan may not have played any role in the origin of the pandemic. But a year later, no source has been found, and the world deserves a thorough, unbiased investigation of all plausible theories that is conducted without fear or favor.

These and similar safety lapses are happening with disturbing regularity at elite U.S. labs operated by government agencies, the military, universities and private firms.

No matter what, this is a moment for the U.S. and the world to take a hard look at the safety of biological research labs and the risks they can pose – because problems at these facilities are real. 

The WHO scientific team, which is looking for the pandemic’s origin, is expected to release its final report this week detailing findings from their January trip to Wuhan, the city where the first cases of COVID-19 were identified.

Before leaving China last month, Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO scientist leading the team, said the group’s findings suggest it is “extremely unlikely” the pandemic was caused by a laboratory accident at one of Wuhan’s high-containment biological research facilities. Those facilities include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which specializes in coronavirus research, collecting specimens from wild bats in search of new viruses and conducting experiments.

It was very unlikely that anything could escape from such a place,” Ben Embarek said during the Feb. 9 WHO press conference, citing the team’s discussions with Wuhan lab officials about their safety protocols and audits. “If you look at the history of lab accidents, these are extremely rare events.”

Yet lab accidents aren’t rare.

What’s rare are accidents causing documented outbreaks. But those have happened, including in 2004 when two researchers at a lab in Beijing unknowingly became infected with another type of SARS coronavirus, sparking a small outbreak that killed one person.

The risk that a laboratory released virus – carried into the community by a worker who didn’t know they were infected or through the leak of infectious waste – could cause a deadly outbreak has been a growing concern for many years.

In the U.S., scientists and members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office have expressed concerns for years. In reports and hearings, they’ve worried that the proliferation of laboratories working with high-risk pathogens is increasing the aggregate threat of a deliberate or accidental lab release causing a catastrophic outbreak.

“The public is concerned about these laboratories because exposing workers and the public to dangerous pathogens, whether deliberate or accidental, can have disastrous consequences,” the GAO’s Nancy Kingsbury told Congress at a hearing in 2014.

If the COVID-19 pandemic were found to have been caused by a lab accident, it would have far-reaching implications for the fragmented and secretive oversight of biological research in the U.S. and worldwide that currently relies heavily on the scientific community to police itself.

The prevailing theory among the WHO expert team and scientists worldwide is that the virus probably evolved in bats – because they are common hosts for many types of coronaviruses – then it spread to another type of animal before jumping to humans. This kind of “spillover” from animals to humans is a common source of new diseases. So far, however, no evidence has been found that directly ties the pandemic virus to an animal source.

Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus arrive by car at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on Feb. 3, 2021.HECTOR RETAMAL, AFP via Getty Images

The WHO team also announced that it supported continued investigation of another possibly related theory, one promoted by China, that the virus might have arrived in Wuhan through imported frozen food. The only theory the team said was so unlikely it didn’t merit further investigation was the so-called lab-leak theory.

Within days and with far less fanfare and news coverage, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appeared to walk back the team’s dismissal of the lab accident theory, saying: “I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study.” 

Duct tape, equipment failures and sloppy lab work

Like most people, I hadn’t ever given much thought to the safety of biological research facilities. I just assumed they were impenetrable sterile fortresses, heavily regulated and guarded, equipped with layers of cutting-edge technology and staffed by workers who zealously adhered to safety protocols. 

Then in 2007, I started getting the first of many tips about problems inside the labs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has an international reputation for operating the world’s premier public health laboratories on its secure headquarters campus in Atlanta. At the time, I was the CDC beat reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

With the help of a tipster, I revealed that the CDC’s then-new $214 million infectious disease lab building – a crown jewel in the nation’s race to defend against the threat of bioterrorism – suffered an hour-long power outage from a lightning strike and the failure of its emergency backup generators. The outage shut down key safety systems in the 368,000-square-foot concrete and glass research tower, known at the agency as Building 18, including specialized air pressure systems that help ensure lethal viruses remain inside individual labs.

CDC’s Building 18 houses numerous labs, including a suite of biosafety level 4 labs. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a dramatic… Kimberly Smith, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What’s worse, I later obtained internal documents and emails showing the CDC dismissed warnings from the agency’s own engineering staff, years before the lab opened, that the backup power system’s design “gives us no protection whatsoever from many types of failures.”

Following up on another tip, I revealed that scientists in this same troubled building were conducting experiments on a type of dangerous bacteria in a biosafety level 3 lab – the second-highest security level – where the containment door was sealed with duct tape.

The tape was applied around the edges of the door a year earlier, after it was discovered that a malfunctioning ventilation system was pulling potentially contaminated air out of the lab into a “clean” hallway, where others in the building walk around in street clothes and lack any gear to protect against infection. Nine workers who had been in the fallout zone were tested for potential exposure to the highly infectious bacterium that causes Q fever, which is classified as a potential bioterror agent and can cause mild to severe symptoms, including potentially fatal heart problems. No one was infected.

As I stood in front of the duct-taped door on a summer day in 2008, escorted by five CDC officials, the head of the agency’s occupational safety program downplayed the significance of the duct tape. The public was never at any risk, he said, the lab was perfectly safe, and the ventilation system had worked properly in the time since the incident happened a year earlier.

Then why is the door still sealed with duct tape?” I asked.

It’s an enhancement,” replied Patrick Stockton, who at the time was the CDC’s safety and occupational health manager. “We could take it off.”

Then why weren’t they removing it?

Think about that: This was a new $214 million federal building that the CDC had touted back then as the world’s most advanced laboratory. And yet the CDC was relying on duct tape to help safeguard against the release of dangerous bioterror bacteria.

In many ways it was emblematic of what my reporting has found over the years about how labs and regulators approach safety.

In the decade that followed, as a member of USA TODAY’s national investigative team, I reported on more incidents at the CDC and scores of other U.S. labs operated by the federal government, universities and private organizations across the country.

  • At the Tulane National Primate Research Center near New Orleans, a type of deadly bacteria not found in the United States, called Burkholderia pseudomallei, escaped one of the facility’s high-security biosafety level 3 labs in 2014, infecting monkeys that lived in outdoor cages and had not been used in experiments. Federal regulators concluded the bacteria likely was carried out of the lab on workers’ contaminated clothing. The bacteria, which can cause serious illness in people and animals, can colonize soil and water in climates like Louisiana, though testing did not find evidence it had spread into the environment.
  • At the University of Iowa, records showed that officials in 2014 discovered that a scientist had been conducting experiments with a genetically engineered strain of the MERS virus – which causes a deadly and contagious respiratory disease in humans – without getting approval from the university’s biosafety committee.
  • Louisiana State University’s AgCenter in Baton Rouge was secretly cited by federal regulators in 2008 for serious biosafety lapses while researching Brucella bacteria, which poses a health and economic threat to livestock. Safety failures resulted in a cow in a nearby pasture – that was not involved in the experiments – becoming infected, federal records showed. LSU also was cited for sending infected cattle to a slaughterhouse where the meat was sold for people to eat.

A particularly alarming string of incidents in 2014 included the CDC potentially exposing dozens of its workers to live anthrax and also having dangerous mix-ups with specimens of Ebola virus and a deadly strain of avian influenza.

Meanwhile, in 2015 it was discovered that biological labs operated at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City had been mistakenly shipping live anthrax spores to labs around the world for a decade, the result of faulty assumptions that the research specimens they were sharing had been effectively killed – when they could actually still grow and kill.

A truck approaches the main gate at the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in the middle of Rush Valley in Utah December 17, 2001.GEORGE FREY, AFP/Getty Images

In an award-winning 2015 USA TODAY investigation called “Biolabs in Your Backyard,” our team revealed that more than 100 U.S. labs working with potential bioterror pathogens had faced secret federal sanctions for safety violations, and that regulators had allowed them to keep conducting experiments while failing inspections, sometimes for years. Among the labs with some of the worst regulatory records, we found, were labs operated by some of the same federal agencies that are charged with regulating laboratory safety.

Laboratory accidents continue to happen across the United States. But the public rarely hears about them because pervasive secrecy obscures failings by labs and also by regulators.

There is no universal, mandatory requirement for reporting lab accidents or lab-associated infections with dangerous pathogens, our USA TODAY investigation found. And even when labs lose their permits to work with dangerous pathogens because of serious safety violations, the government keeps the labs’ names secret, citing security concerns and a federal bioterrorism law.

According to documents I obtained recently using the federal Freedom of Information Act, U.S. laboratories reported more than 450 accidents during 2015 through 2019 while experimenting with some of the world’s most dangerous pathogens – those subject to federal regulation because they “pose a severe threat” to health and also have the potential to be turned into bioweapons. These pathogens, which the U.S. government calls “select agents,” include anthrax, Ebola, plague, deadly strains of avian influenza and types of SARS coronaviruses.

The safety breaches reported to the U.S. Federal Select Agent Program – which is a jointly run by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – ranged from animal bites and needle sticks to failures of safety equipment and mistakes that resulted in infectious particles becoming airborne inside labs.

In nearly all reported cases, regulators deemed the breaches serious enough to put workers at risk of becoming infected, the program’s annual reports to Congress show. As a result, more than 660 U.S. scientists and other lab workers involved in the incidents underwent medical assessment or treatment with preventative medications.

The good news is that almost none of these lab workers got sick, according to the reports, which provide only statistics and no personalized details. But a few – without realizing it – became infected, going about their lives at home and in public for months. Their exposures were identified only because their lab happened to conduct annual blood tests, checking for antibodies to research pathogens, something that federal regulators don’t require. Fortunately, the organisms they were working with were types of bacteria that, while dangerous, don’t spread easily from person to person. 

But what if a lab worker were unknowingly exposed to something far more contagious, a virus that can infect others before any symptoms appear?

How viruses can escape

There are several ways a pathogen can “escape” a laboratory and cause a public outbreak.

A lab worker can become infected because of a failure in safety equipment or procedures. Sometimes these infections, such as those involving pathogens that spread through contaminated air or through invisible aerosolized droplets, occur without the worker even realizing a safety breach has occurred.

Viruses and bacteria also have the potential to be carried out of labs on contaminated clothing and equipment, or through a mishap in the sterilization of the lab’s solid or liquid waste.

While rare, lab accidents causing documented outbreaks that spread to people or animals have happened.

An influenza epidemic in 1977 that spread throughout the world was found to have been caused by a strain of the virus that appeared to be nearly identical to one that hadn’t circulated since the 1950s. Many scientists believe it was not a naturally occurring outbreak, and that it likely was the result of a stored virus specimen that was released through a laboratory accident or possibly a vaccine development project.

In 2007, herds of cattle in Surrey, U.K., began developing painful blisters on their tongues, lips and feet – and were quickly diagnosed with highly infectious Foot-and-Mouth Disease, one of the most dreaded and economically devastating diseases for livestock owners because it weakens animals’ ability to be used for milk and meat production.

The cattle were sickened by a strain of FMD Virus from a 1967 epidemic – a strain that was being used at a laboratory and vaccine manufacturing complex in Pirbright, not far from where the cattle fell ill. British safety regulators concluded that the outbreak was likely caused by leaking wastewater from the Pirbright facility’s drain pipes, which contaminated nearby soil with live virus and then was picked up on vehicle tires and carried to the herds.

Coronaviruses similar to the one causing the current COVID-19 pandemic have repeatedly escaped labs.

In 2003 and 2004 – in the months after intense international efforts managed to contain the spread of what was then the first type of deadly SARS coronavirus to infect people around the globe – a series of laboratory accidents threatened to reignite the epidemic that had sickened about 8,000 people in 29 countries, killing nearly 800 of them. This coronavirus virus, which emerged in 2002, causes a disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, that killed at a higher rate than the similarly named SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

First, a 27-year-old researcher in Singapore working with specimens of West Nile Virus became infected with the SARS virus in a shared laboratory that used “inappropriate” lab safety practices. Investigators concluded the infection was caused by accidental contamination of the researcher’s West Nile Virus specimens with the SARS virus. Both viruses were discovered in a research specimen the scientist had used before becoming ill. Nobody else was sickened.  

Then, three months later at a laboratory in Taiwan, a 44-year-old researcher became infected with SARS, likely by cleaning up spilled liquid waste in December 2003. He flew to attend a meeting in Singapore and didn’t show signs of illness until he returned home, developed a fever and was hospitalized. More than 70 people who had contact with him were quarantined.

In the post-epidemic period the greatest risk from SARS may be through exposure in laboratories where the virus is used or stored,” the WHO said in an update about the Taiwan lab incident in December 2003.

Despite the WHO’s warnings, in April 2004 an outbreak in China began after two researchers working at a virology lab in Beijing became infected by the SARS virus. Before the outbreak was contained, nine people were infected. The mother of one of the researchers died.

It was unclear how the two researchers were exposed. “Neither of the researchers is known to have directly conducted experiments using live SARS coronavirus. However, investigators have serious concerns about biosafety procedures at the Institute – including how and where procedures using SARS coronavirus were carried out, and how and where SARS coronavirus samples were stored,” the WHO said in a May 2004 update after the outbreak had been contained.

No specific accident was identified at the laboratory, the WHO said, “and it is conceivable that an exact answer may never be determined.”

Wuhan lab scientist worried about leak

Against this backdrop, it’s surprising that questions about any lab accidents in Wuhan continue to be dismissed as promoting a conspiracy theory.  

When the pandemic first emerged in Wuhan, a lab accident seemed a very real and horrifying possibility to China’s leading coronavirus researcher.

Shi Zhengli, a renowned scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has spent years collecting virus samples from bats and experimenting with SARS-like viruses to determine which might pose the greatest risk to humans.

In an interview with Scientific American, Shi described a frantic review of her lab’s records during the early days of the outbreak to see if there had been any incidents, especially related to the disposal of materials used in experiments. Shi said she was relieved when her lab learned the genetic sequence of the virus sickening people in Wuhan didn’t match any of the viruses her team had collected.

That really took a load off my mind,” she told the magazine for an article published last year. “I had not slept a wink for days.”

Shi has expressed outrage at public speculation since last spring by then-President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that a lab in Wuhan may be responsible for the pandemic.

Diplomatic cables, first reported by The Washington Post, showed that the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2018 raised concerns about safety practices inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where China’s first biosafety level 4 laboratory had recently become operational, enabling the facility to do far more dangerous experiments.

During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” said one of the cables from January 2018.

In the final days of the Trump administration, Pompeo’s State Department posted on its website a fact sheet titled “Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” The document makes clear that the U.S. government doesn’t know where, when or how the COVID-19 virus was initially transmitted to humans.

But it called for greater scrutiny of information it said the U.S. government has learned about the facility, including that the virology institute has been doing classified research with China’s military since 2017 and that several researchers at the institute became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak. But no details were provided in the fact sheet.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan

We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology was among the locations visited recently by the joint China-WHO scientific team looking for the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the WHO team said they were assured, during conversations with staff at the institute and at other biological labs in Wuhan, that a laboratory accident was extremely unlikely to be the pandemic’s source.

In the weeks since leaving Wuhan, the WHO’s team has been questioned about its independence and depth, including by the Biden administration, amid media reports that China denied the team access to raw data on possible COVID-19 cases that were identified during the earliest part of the outbreak.

We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement last month. “It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government.”

An international group of scientists and researchers has issued an open letter calling for an independent investigation, separate from the WHO effort, which they say has lacked the independence, expertise and access needed to adequately investigate source of the pandemic, including the potential for a lab accident. “Efforts to date do not constitute a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation,” the letter, published by The Wall Street Journal, said.

We may never know whether the COVID-19 pandemic started in one of Wuhan’s laboratories.

But what is known is that as the number of these kinds of high-security labs grows worldwide and more researchers are storing and experimenting with dangerous pathogens, so too does the risk of laboratory accidents causing outbreaks.

That’s why all of us have a stake in knowing what is happening in these labs here in the United States and around the world.

Alison Young is an investigative reporter in Washington, D.C. During 2009-2019, she was a reporter and member of USA TODAY’s national investigative team. Follow her on Twitter: @alisonannyoung

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

Published 4:00 AM EDT Mar. 22, 2021 Updated 9:05 AM EDT Mar. 22, 2021