Millions of Lives Are at Stake

Pressure is growing on the Biden administration to support a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-related medicines and vaccines at the World Trade Organization. India and South Africa first proposed the waiver in October, but it was blocked by the United States and other wealthy members of the WTO. Big Pharma has also come out against the proposal and has lobbied Washington to preserve its monopoly control. More than 100 countries have supported the waiver, which they say is critical to ramp up production of vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests in the Global South. Ahead of the kickoff of two days of WTO important meetings in Geneva

The big problem is simply not enough vaccines are being produced. And that’s because a handful of vaccine-originating pharmaceutical corporations have monopoly control over the production, and they’re unwilling and have actually rejected requests from qualified manufacturers around the world to pay them to be able to make more doses. The world needs 10 to 15 billion doses to reach herd immunity, and right now all of the global production together is on track to make about 6 billion doses this year.

So, at issue is a proposal that India and South Africa put forward in October at the World Trade Organization. The World Trade Organization has rules, in a thing called the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property — it’s called the TRIPS Agreement, for short — that requires all of the WTO members to guarantee the pharmaceutical companies monopoly control of production. So the proposal is simply to temporarily, for the COVID emergency, waive four parts of that agreement that cover the four specific types of intellectual property now protecting the vaccines from being made in greater volume, as well as treatments and diagnostic tests, and basically to allow countries around the world to have producers make, in each region, enough vaccine so everyone can actually get vaccinated.

It’s not just the morally necessary thing to do, with millions of lives at stake; it is selfishly in the interest of the United States, because we can vaccinate everyone. And the Biden administration is doing a great job, but if there is any outbreak anywhere, it’s where vaccine-resistant, more deadly, more infectious variants of the virus can hatch. And we’ll all end up in a global lockdown if we don’t get everyone immunized in shorter order.

— source | May 05, 2021

Nullius in verba

Facebook’s Oversight Board Is Not Enough. The Government Has to Regulate Big Tech

Mr. Zuckerberg and his so-called Oversight Board are running around the rim of a donut chasing each other’s tails, looking for solutions, when the solution space is in the hole. And the problem is that surveillance capitalism, companies like Facebook that depend upon the secret extraction of behavioral data, which gets turned into targeting and targeted ads, you know, this is a very pernicious, extractive, dangerous, anti-democratic economics that has taken hold in the last 20 years, the last two decades.

And it’s done so because democracy has failed to act. And it’s not only true in America, but the liberal democracies around the world have failed to develop a distinct vision of how do you design and deploy and apply the digital world, digital technology, in a way that advances democracy and allows democracy to flourish. So, we’re not China, but instead we’ve allowed these private companies to create a different kind of surveillance state in our surveillance society in America and in the West that operates under private capital.

So, we are long overdue for the same kind of period of tremendous creativity and invention that we saw in the 20th century. You know, the first part of the 20th century, the employers, the owners of the great industrial enterprises, they had all the power. They had all the decision rights. Everything that happened, happened based on their private property rights. That’s the same situation we’re in today. And in the 20th century, you know, we created these huge behemoths, the monopolies, the cartels, the trusts, and it looked like ordinary citizens, and even democracy itself, had no chance. And we were looking forward to a century of extreme inequality and serfdom. But, ultimately, beginning in the third and especially the fourth decades of the 20th century —

— source | May 06, 2021

Nullius in verba

Novel About Racist Police Violence Was Rejected in 1941

Nearly 80 years ago, Richard Wright became one of the most famous Black writers in the United States with the publication of “Native Son,” a novel whose searing critique of systemic racism made it a best-seller and inspired a generation of Black writers. In 1941, Wright wrote a new novel titled “The Man Who Lived Underground,” but publishers refused to release it, in part because the book was filled with graphic descriptions of police brutality by white officers against a Black man. His manuscript was largely forgotten until his daughter Julia Wright unearthed it at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. “The Man Who Lived Underground” was not published in the 1940s because white publishers did not want to highlight “white supremacist police violence upon a Black man because it was too close to home,” says Julia Wright. “It’s a bit like lifting the stone and not wanting the worms, the racist worms underneath, to be seen.”

— source | May 07, 2021

Nullius in verba

A ‘Superbug’ Resistant To All Our Antibiotics

The issue of antibiotic resistance has been getting worse for quite some time. Today, well over five thousand Americans will acquire serious infections that are resistant to first-line antibiotics — think staph infection or tuberculosis. Second-line drugs will cost these patients between 50 and 200 times more than first-line drugs, not to mention the added cost of a hospital stay at about $2,000 per night. 63 Americans will die today from these infections. By year’s end, drug-resistant bacteria will have killed 23,000 — double the yearly number of firearm homicides.

In perhaps the most comprehensive report on the subject to date, economist Jim O’Neill predicted last month that by 2050, a staggering ten million people around the world will die of such infections every year — one person every three seconds.

— source | 2016

Let commons take over health care. health care is not for profit.

Nullius in verba

Oil Industry Knew of Climate Risks Decades Earlier Than Suspected

Hundreds of documents uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) push back the record of oil industry knowledge on climate change by decades.

The research demonstrates that the oil industry was explicitly warned of climate risks in the 1960s. Significantly, much of this research was carried out as part of a broader industry effort—dating from the 1940s—to use industry-funded research to spur public skepticism of pollution science and environmental regulations.

“We began with three simple, related questions,” says Carroll Muffett, President of CIEL. “What did they know? When did they know it? And what did they do about it? What we found is that they knew a great deal, and they knew it much earlier and with greater certainty than anyone has recognized or that the industry has admitted.”

In 1968, a report commissioned by the oil industry detailed rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and warned of potentially catastrophic climate risks. It

To view the research and document excerpts

— source Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) | Apr 13, 2016

Nullius in verba

Spike in Alaska wildfires is worsening global warming

The devastating rise in Alaska’s wildfires is making global warming even worse than scientists expected, US government researchers said on Wednesday. The sharp spike in Alaska’s wildfires, where more than 5 million acres burned last year, are destroying a main buffer against climate change: the carbon-rich boreal forests, tundra and permafrost that have served as an enormous carbon sink. The state’s boreal forests, peat-rich tundra, and permafrost hold about 53% of US carbon. Alaska accounts for about 18% of US land mass. Alaska currently absorbs about 3.7m tonnes of carbon a year, the USGS assessment found. But that vast storehouse of carbon has been breached by warming temperatures, thawing permafrost – and wildfire.

— source | 2016

Nullius in verba

Families of Death Squad Victims Allowed to Sue Chiquita Executives

In what supporters described as “a victory for accountability for corporate crimes,” a U.S. judge ruled in favor of allowing Colombians to sue former Chiquita Brand International executives for the company’s funding of a paramilitary group that murdered plaintiffs’ family members. “Chiquita poured $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 into the outlawed far-right paramilitary group AUC,” observed TeleSur, “which operated as a death squad in Colombia.” The ruling from Judge Kenneth Marra of the Southern District of Florida stated that “‘profits took priority over basic human welfare’ in the banana company executives’ decision to finance the illegal death squads, despite knowing that this would advance the paramilitaries’ murderous campaign,” as the human rights and conservation group EarthRights International (ERI) wrote on Thursday when it announced the judgment.

— source | 2016

Nullius in verba

The catalogue of Tony Blair’s deceptions are now being revealed by the day

Such a high crime does not, and will not, melt away; the facts cannot be changed. Tony Blair took Britain to war against Iraq illegally. He mounted an unprovoked attack on a country that offered no threat, and he helped cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people. The judges at the Nuremberg Tribunal following world war two, who inspired much of international law, called this “the gravest of all war crimes”.

Blair had not the shred of a mandate from the British people to do what he did. On the contrary, on the eve of the attack, the majority of Britons clearly demanded he stop. His response was contemptuous of such an epic show of true democracy. He chose to listen only to the unelected leader of a foreign power, and to his court and his obsession.

With his courtiers in and out of the media telling him he was “courageous” and even “moral” when he scored his “historic victory” over a defenceless, stricken

— source | john pilger | 3 Jun 2003

Nullius in verba