Category Archives: Corpocracy

Cold War 2.0: The tensions continue to rise


As the Obama administration draws to a close, global tensions largely dormant since the end of the Cold War near three decades ago are smoldering again, and with renewed intensity.

It.s an ominous turn, given that both apparent presidential candidates are among the most bellicose since the Cold War ended.

We begin today’s account of the latest development with RT:

Russia will take adequate measures to counter NATO’s increasingly “aggressive rhetoric,” President Vladimir Putin told MPs at the closing session of the State Duma. He called to create an international security system open to all countries.

It’s necessary to create a collective security system void of “bloc-like thinking” and open to all countries, Putin said on Wednesday in Russia’s parliament.

“Russia is ready to discuss this extremely important issue,” he said, adding that such proposals have been so far left unanswered by Western countries.

“But again, as it was at the beginning of WWII, we don’t see any positive response,” he continued. “On the contrary, NATO ups its aggressive rhetoric and aggressive actions near our borders.”

“In this environment, we must pay special attention to strengthening our country’s defense capabilities,” he concluded.

Russia plans to public positions of America’s secret spay satellites

From RT again, another provocative move:

Russia’s own data on near-Earth objects – including military satellites not covered by the open catalog of the North-American warning system NORAD – could soon be made publicly available as a comprehensive database, Russian media report.

Russia is planning to set up a free database on thousands of near-Earth objects, including those not publicly listed in open catalogs of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

NORAD doesn’t only track Santa at Christmas – its database also provides details on thousands of satellites launched, destroyed or still functioning. While the catalog does not disclose data on America’s own military or dual-use satellites (or those of allies – Japan, France, Germany and Israel among them), as Izvestia says, it does feature Russia’s defense satellites.

At a Vienna meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in mid-June, Russia proposed to create a similar UN-run database “collecting, systemizing, sharing and analyzing information on objects and events in outer space.” Such an international database would be available to any country that has capabilities in the areas of human spaceflight, launches or satellites.

And the U.S. sends spy planes to the China Seas

Another move certain to up the ante in the hot zone where provocations by the U.S., China, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam could easily tturn into armed conflict.

From the Diplomat:

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the United States Navy dispatched four U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft and about 120 military personnel to Clark Air Base, an air force base located on Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to a U.S. Seventh Fleet press release.

The four aircraft and 120 personnel arrived on June 15 for training with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) FA-50 aircraft pilots and to support U.S. and Philippine naval operations in the South China Sea, as the statement makes clear with a veiled reference to so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the disputed waters.

“In addition to bilateral training missions, Growler aircraft will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law,” the press release reads.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Jack Ohman: New nuke technology


California’s last nuclear power plant in shutting down before the decade’s end, and the editorial cartoonist of the Sacramento Bee ponders some options for the facility.

For non-Californians, Gavin Newsom is the state’s toothsome lieutenant governor, and the San Bruno documents refer to a disastrous suburban San Francisco natural gas pipeline explosion in 2010 that left eight people dead, scores injured, and 38 homes ion ashes or irreparably destroyed. The cause was poor maintenance by Pacific Gas & Electric, the same company that owns Diablo Canyon, and led to countless lawsuits and a $1.6 billion fine by state utility regulators, the largest in California history:

BLOG Ohman

Another Brazilian scandal, plus a dead candidate


The continuing disaster that is Brazilian politics has taken yet another troubling twist.

From teleSUR English:

Brazilian federal police made several arrests Tuesday, dismantling a money laundering network linked to both corruption in the state-run Petrobras and a plane crash in August 2014 that killed presidential candidate Eduardo Campos.

After over six years of investigation, police arrested four accused of laundering a total of US$176.4 million.

The plane transporting Campos was allegedly bought with laundered money based on suspicious transactions. The crash killed six others along with Campos, who at the time was polling third in opinion polls, trailing eventual winner, Dilma Rousseff.

Police seized ships, aircrafts and helicopters that were also believed to have been purchased by the network.

The shell companies that the network used also paid companies under investigation in the Petrobras scandal, thought to be used for bribes to politicians.

UC Berkeley-spawned Amyris shares collapse


The decline and fall of Amyris share prices, via NASDAQ.

The decline and fall of Amyris share prices, via NASDAQ.

Amyris Inc. [previously], the company started by UC Berkeley “bioengineer” Jay Keasling to create affordable fuels from using technology created to genetically engineer yeast to produce the most widely used antimalarial drug, hit an all-time low of forty-one cents per share today, down from the post-IPO high of $33.85.

Part of the reason is contained in a 20 June filing lodged by the company with the Security and Exchange Commission:

On June 14, 2016, Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) received a letter from The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (“NASDAQ”) notifying the Company that it is not in compliance with the requirement of NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1) for continued listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market as a result of the closing bid price of the Company’s common stock being below $1.00 for 30 consecutive business days. This notification has no effect on the listing of the Company’s common stock at this time.

In accordance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5810(c)(3)(A), the Company has 180 calendar days, or until December 12, 2016, to regain compliance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). To regain compliance, the closing bid price of the Company’s common stock must be at least $1.00 for a minimum of 10 consecutive business. If the Company does not regain compliance during such period, it may be eligible for an additional compliance period of 180 calendar days, provided that the Company meets NASDAQ’s continued listing requirement for market value of publicly held shares and all other initial listing standards for the NASDAQ Capital Market, other than the minimum bid price requirement, and provides written notice to NASDAQ of its intention to cure the deficiency during the second compliance period. If the Company does not regain compliance during the initial compliance period and is not eligible for an additional compliance period, NASDAQ will provide notice that the Company’s common stock will be subject to delisting from the NASDAQ Capital Market. In that event, the Company may appeal such determination to a hearings panel.

The Company is currently evaluating its available options to resolve the deficiency and regain compliance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1).

In other words, Amyris is now officially what’s called a “penny stock,” and stock valued at under a buck and restricted to trade on minor markets.

And while Amyris has promised and failed to deliver on its cheap fuel promises and shifted its development aims to tweaking its yeast to produce genetically engineered cosmetic chemicals, Bill Gates, an original investor from the company’s earliest days, gave Amyris $5 million in April to help cut costs on production of the drug for which he originally bankrolled Keasling and his students.

The drug is produced in Europe and Amyris realizes no profits from its sale.

But now comes more bad news and a possible reason for the continuing decline of the price of Amyris shares.

From the University of British Columbia:

The rapid decline in effectiveness of a widely used anti-malaria drug treatment on the Thailand-Myanmar border is linked to the increasing prevalence of specific mutations in the malaria parasite itself, according to a paper published in The Clinical infectious Disease Journal.

The mutations in specific regions of the parasite’s kelch gene – which are genetic markers of artemisinin resistance – were the decisive factor, the authors say, in the selection of parasites that are also resistant to mefloquine. This resulted in growing failure of the widely-used anti-malaria drug combination of mefloquine and artesunate, the first artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Led by Dr. Aung Pyae Phyo of SMRU, the study used data from a 10-year study of 1,005 patients with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria at Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) clinics on the Thai-Myanmar border in northwest Thailand.

“This study demonstrates for the first time that artemisinin resistance leads to failure of the artemisinin partner drug, in this case, mefloquine. This means that the first line artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) introduced here in 1994 has finally fallen to resistance,” says François Nosten, Director of SMRU.

Resistance to artemisinin combination therapy drugs (ACTs) – the frontline treatments against malaria infection – poses a serious threat to the global control and eradication of malaria. If drug resistance spreads from Asia to the African sub-continent, or emerges in Africa independently, as has happened several times before, millions of lives, most of them children under the age of 5 in Africa, will be at risk.

The study shows that, contrary to the view sometimes expressed that resistance to artemisinin is not a direct threat, it is in fact responsible for the rapid demise of the partner drug and the failure of the drug combination, resulting in patients not being cured and further transmission of the malaria parasite.

“The evidence is clear: Artemisinin resistance leads to partner drug resistance and thereby the failure of artemisinin combination treatments,” said Oxford Professor Nicholas White, Chairman of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) and chair of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN).

From the paper, a graph describes the rise of artemisinin-resistant genetic variants.

From the paper, a graph describes the rise of artemisinin-resistant genetic variants.

Given the very limited number of effective drugs, it is urgent to eliminate P. falciparum from the areas where it has developed resistance to the artemisinins, said Prof. White: “The spread of artemisinin resistant Plasmodium falciparum is perhaps the greatest threat to our current hopes of eliminating malaria from the world.”

A unit of the Bangkok-based MORU, SMRU is based in the refugee camps and migrant communities along the Thai-Myanmar border. Led by researchers based at SMRU (Thailand), the study was funded with the support of the Wellcome Trust (UK).

Reference:

Pyae Phyo A et al, Declining efficacy of artemisinin combination therapy against P. falciparum malaria on the Thai-Myanmar border (2003-2013): the role of parasite genetic factors [open access], Clinical Infectious Diseases, published online 16 June 2016.

Headline of the day: It comes as no surprise. . .


From the Guardian:

Biggest US coal company funded dozens of groups questioning climate change

Analysis of Peabody Energy court documents show company backed trade groups, lobbyists and thinktanks dubbed ‘heart and soul of climate denial’

Panoptic corporate imperialism, Googled and Liked


From Dutch public television’s VPRO Backlight comes a remarkable documentary posing a fascinating question: Is the absence of digital connectivity becoming the newest luxury good, a costly product for consumption by the world’s elite?

Consider the case of Silicon Valley, where elites send their children to low-tech Montessori and Waldorf schools where they are disconnected from the web and the incessant call to the iPhone is precluded.

Consider even the case of Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire thanks to the incessant pull of the digital that has fueled the rice of his Facebook empire.

From BBC News:

A photograph of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shows tape has been used to cover his MacBook Pro’s webcam and mic.

Facebook has not responded to requests for comment about the picture, shared to celebrate Instagram reaching its 500 million monthly user milestone.

FBI director James Comey has previously said he also covers his laptop’s webcam to prevent hackers spying on him.

And digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it regularly sold its webcam “stickers”.

Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden allege US and UK spy agencies intercepted webcam images from millions of Yahoo users around the world between 2008 and 2010.

And a section of the image in question with the tape clearly visible as a square covering the round camera aperture:

BLOG Zuck

And it’s not just digital cognoscenti like Zuckerberg who display obvious concerns about the intrusion of the digital into daily life.

One of those interviewed by VPRO is Birgitta Jónsdóttir [previously], the founder of Iceland’s Pirate Party, now leading in the polls, and the improbable yet distinctly possible pick as the country’s prime minister.

An early adapter, Jónsdóttir played a role in one of Wikileak’s most explosive releases, video of the American helicopter machine-gunning of two Reuters journalists in Iraq in 2010. The video, likely leaked by Chelsea Manning, embarrassed the U.S. government and made Jónsdóttir the target of efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies and federal prosecutors.

Our digital connectivity, she notes, is all about turning us into commodities by exploiting our deepest secrets and relationships as tools for our own exploitation.

And like Zuckberg, Jónsdóttir keeps her laptop lens covered. And she warns that a’ those “smart” connected devices in your home, especially those responding to voice commands, make every aspect of private lived vulnerable to incessant snooping, catching every cry of ecstasy and despair, and with no legislation anywhere restricting corporate use of your innermost desires to seduce your wealth away.

Evgeny Morozov, a scholar and prolific writer who focuses in the social and political implications of the digital world, notes that the drive for global digital connectivity is driven by a fusion of the imperial interests of American corporations and the Washington establishment, with the implicit demand that those corporations are free from legal liability for their actions.

Especially chilling is a brief excerpt from a speech in India by Mark Zuckerberg in furtherance of his ambition to unite that nation in a digital Webb entirely controlled by his company, and effort he never accomplished until popular opposition forced a pullback.

Especially fascinating is way folks of our own ancestry are adapting to the wireless world. Our last name is Pennsylvania Dutch, folks of the Amish and Mennonite persuasion. The documentary reveals that even the Old Order Amish, the folks who still live in gaslit houses and travel by horse and buggy, now have cell phones and computers [though the phones have no internet capability and online computer access is tightly restricted, and the built-to-order hardware comes with no video capability.

There’s much more. . .

From VPRO Backlight:

Offline is the new luxury [VPRO backlight]

Program notes:

To be online all the time and everywhere. It sounds great, but it has its drawbacks. As digital networks are closing in, there are fewer places to be really on your own. Being offline is becoming a luxury. Where can you be offline?

We are connected to the internet even in our bedrooms. It’s the ambition of companies like Google and Facebook to connect the entire world, so that we can be online all the time and everywhere. This month, Google will send balloons up into the skies over Sri Lanka to provide the island state with free Wi-Fi. On the ground, more and more devices communicate through the so-called Internet-of-Things. We are going to be ‘glass citizens’ in a transparent house, connected for life to a wireless intravenous drip and traced anywhere via our smartphones. What does it mean, this shift to 100 percent connectibility of the entire planet?

TEPCO president apologizes, just a wee bit late


Five years too late, to be precise.

But he did it with one of those public displays of humility, complete with a deep bow. We have to admit that we’d love to see similar displays from the banksters who robbed us blind and drove our country — and the rest of the world — deep into a recession from which we have yet to recover.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. President Naomi Hirose apologized Tuesday for the company’s failure to quickly announce the triple meltdown at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“It’s natural for the public to regard the delay in the disclosure as an attempt to cover up the meltdowns, and I deeply apologize for that,” he told a press conference.

In a report released Thursday, a TEPCO third-party panel said that then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu instructed a senior company official at the time not to use the term “meltdowns” during the company’s initial responses to the crisis at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The instruction was made through a public relations official during a press conference on the night of March 14, 2011, three days after the plant was damaged by the disaster, according to the report.

Hirose said he considers Shimizu’s instruction as an attempt to hide the conditions at the plant at the time.