Afghanistan: ‘White Man’s Burden’ Lifted?

English poet Rudyard Kipling’s spirit may breathe a sigh of relief now that President Joe Biden has decided to end the latest March of Folly into Afghanistan. Kipling immortalized the phrase “White Man’s Burden”, used as an excuse for European-American imperialism. (And Barbara Tuchman’s, “March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam”, published in 1984, is a well worth reading again.)

There can be many a slip between cup and lip but, for the nonce, it does seem as though the Western White (U.S. and NATO troops) will be out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11 — leaving widespread rubble for which the countries who sent them there will be responsible, yet miserly in helping repair.

Artificial ‘Light At the End of the Tunnel’

In Afghanistan, as was the case with the war in Vietnam, U.S. generals and courtier pundits lied through their teeth. They continually lied about the progress they were making, as Craig Whitlock makes clear in excruciating detail in his Dec. 2019 Washington Post report The Afghanistan Papers A secret history of the war: At war with the truth (See: )

You did not have to go through the crucible of Vietnam — or wait for honest reporting from the very few like Whitlock — to discern how Americans, including some presidents, were

— source | Ray McGovern | Apr 17, 2021

Nullius in verba

Global Military Spending Tops $2 Trillion for First Time in History

Global military expenditures surpassed $2 trillion for the first time ever last year, with the United States spending more on its war-making capacity than the next nine nations combined, according to new data published Monday. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported an all-time high of $2.1 trillion in worldwide military spending for 2021, a 0.7% increase from 2020 levels and the seventh straight year of increased expenditures. With $801 billion—or 38% of total global military spending—the United States spent more in 2021 than the next nine nations combined: China ($293 billion), India ($76.6 billion), the United Kingdom ($68.4 billion), Russia ($65.9 billion), France ($56.6 billion), Germany ($56 billion), Saudi Arabia ($55.6 billion), Japan ($54.1 billion), and South Korea ($50.2 billion).

— source | Apr 25, 2022

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How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines

On February 11, 2020, public health and infectious disease experts gathered by the hundreds at the World Health Organization’s Geneva mothership. The official pronouncement of a pandemic was still a month out, but the agency’s international brain trust knew enough to be worried. Burdened by a sense of borrowed time, they spent two days furiously sketching an “R&D Blueprint” in preparation for a world upended by the virus then known as 2019-nCoV.

The resulting document summarized the state of coronavirus research and proposed ways to accelerate the development of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The underlying premise was that the world would unite against the virus. The global research community would maintain broad and open channels of communication, since collaboration and information-sharing minimize duplication and accelerate discovery. The group also drew up plans for global comparative trials overseen by the WHO, to assess the merits of treatments and vaccines.

One issue not mentioned in the paper: intellectual property. If the worst came to pass, the experts and researchers assumed cooperation would define the global response, with the

— source | Alexander Zaitchik | Apr 12, 2021

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Film on the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

The landmark 1979 labor documentary, “The Wobblies,” has been restored and rereleased for May Day, International Workers’ Day. The film details the history of the Industrial Workers of the World — a radical union whose members are also known as Wobblies — and their inclusive fight to organize “unskilled” workers, secure fair wages and enshrine the eight-hour workday in the early 20th century before they were targeted and repressed by the FBI during World War I. It features interviews with former Wobblies still alive in the 1970s. Deborah Shaffer, who co-directed the film with Stewart Bird, says the IWW “was founded in 1905 out of necessity” because no existing unions represented so-called unskilled labor. “The workers had no representation at all, and they were being expected to work seven days a week, 12-hour days, no breaks, no meals, underpaid, overworked,” she says. “Conditions were terrible and intolerable.” The high-definition rerelease of “The Wobblies” comes after the Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry in 2021.

— source | Apr 29, 2022

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We Created the ‘Pandemicene’

For the world’s viruses, this is a time of unprecedented opportunity. An estimated 40,000 viruses lurk in the bodies of mammals, of which a quarter could conceivably infect humans. Most do not, because they have few chances to leap into our bodies. But those chances are growing. Earth’s changing climate is forcing animals to relocate to new habitats, in a bid to track their preferred environmental conditions. Species that have never coexisted will become neighbors, creating thousands of infectious meet-cutes in which viruses can spill over into unfamiliar hosts—and, eventually, into us. Many scientists have argued that climate change will make pandemics more likely, but a groundbreaking new analysis shows that this worrying future is already here, and will be difficult to address. The planetary network of viruses and wildlife “is rewiring itself right now,” Colin Carlson, a global-change biologist at Georgetown University, told me. And “while we thought we understood the rules of the game, again and again, reality sat us down and taught us: That’s not how biology works.”

In 2019, Carlson and his colleague Greg Albery began creating a massive simulation that maps the past, present, and future ranges of 3,100 mammal species, and predicts the likelihood of viral spillovers if those ranges overlap. The simulation strained a lot of computing power; “every time we turn it on, an angel dies,” Carlson told me. And the results, which have finally been published today, are disturbing. Even under the most optimistic climate scenarios, the coming decades will see roughly 300,000 first encounters between species that normally don’t interact, leading to about 15,000 spillovers wherein viruses enter naive hosts.

“It’s a little harrowing,” says Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The study suggests that the alarming pace at which new or reemergent

— source | Ed Yong | Apr 28, 2022

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The United States as a Mass-Killing Machine

By the time you read this piece, it will already be out of date. The reason’s simple enough. No matter what mayhem I describe, with so much all-American weaponry in this world of ours, there’s no way to keep up. Often, despite the headlines that go with mass killings here, there’s almost no way even to know.

On this planet of ours, America is the emperor of weaponry, even if in ways we normally tend not to put together. There’s really no question about it. The all-American powers-that-be and the arms makers that go with them dream up, produce, and sell weaponry, domestically and internationally, in an unmatched fashion. You’ll undoubtedly be shocked, shocked to learn that the top five arms makers on the planet — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics — are all located in the United States.

Put another way, we’re a killer nation, a mass-murder machine, slaughter central. And as we’ve known since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, there could be far worse to come. After all, in the overheated dreams of both those weapons makers and Pentagon planners, slaughter-to-be has long been imagined on a planetary scale, right down to the latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) being created by Northrop Grumman at the cost of at least $100 billion. Each of those future arms of

— source | Tom Engelhardt | Apr 13, 2021

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How America’s Ultrawealthy Won the Pandemic

Deadly viruses don’t much care what’s in your wallet, but socioeconomic privilege and access to wealth do wonders when it comes to not just surviving a plague but cashing in on it. Having spent more than a year pre-COVID working on a new nonfiction book about the absurdity of wealth in America during this second Gilded Age, I figured the pandemic would throw a wrench into my story. Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, over the past year, the superrich have remained safely ensconced on their side of an economic chasm that just keeps widening as investment profits flow to the very top while America’s less fortunate struggle just to get by. I put together these stats to demonstrate the degree to which our most privileged citizens have benefitted, often at the expense of the rest of us.

Who’s on top?

Long before the pandemic hit, America’s economic spoils flowed disproportionately to the top earners, while more than half of the population failed to thrive.

How the rich fared during the pandemic

In the first three months of 2020, the combined wealth of Americans with assets of $30 million or more dipped 26%—but then bounced back almost entirely by the end of August.

The pandemic relief passed in December 2020 included a bipartisan provision that will save America’s wealthiest 1 percent an estimated $120 billion in taxes.

— source | Michael Mechanic | May+June 2021

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