Category Archives: Health/Medical

Putting Patients Last: Corporate Capture of Doctors

Welcome to corporate healthcare, the new normal in doctors’ offices, where profits are king and patients are commodities. With government regulatory agencies essentially adopting a “hands-off” policy, the ever-inventive medical establishment has come up with a basketful of new procedures to delude the patient population into believing that more (traditional drug-and procedure-saturated medicine) is the way to go. This at a time when American health care is growing more expensive and less effective. Life expectancy in the U.S. has been dropping for two straight years, the US. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries and, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund — the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and … is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity.”

The response of the medical community to the state of U.S. healthcare? General agreement that reasonably priced healthcare options are “junk science” (acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care). Even patient choice is no longer a given—

Arthur W. saw a neurologist in a big medical group affiliated with a major hospital. He decided to see another neurologist in the same practice. When he called to make the appointment, he was told that he would not be able to see the neurologist of his choice since he had already seen a neurologist in that practice. Arthur was outraged but decided against pursuing his complaint. He was afraid the medical practice would drop him. He ended up making a repeat visit to a provider he neither liked nor trusted.

What happened to Arthur happens more often these days as medical practices get bigger and scoop up more and more doctors in the same specialty. If you don’t like your doctor, the practice threatens, you can hit the road. For most Americans, particularly those millions forced into second or third jobs to pay their medical expenses or college loans, the effort required to go to another practice is not a realistic option.

The bottom line: U.S. healthcare has taken two critical components of a patient-centric system —access and choice — off the table. Like other corporations, medical practices these days slap an LLC (limited liability company) behind their names and suddenly are endowed with a lower level of liability for their actions (medical malpractice may still apply to individual doctors, but the owners of the practice have no personal legal liability). In Trump’s tax plan, LLC practices also shield their owners from some of the taxes assessed on non-LLC corporations. Another tax dodge for corporate America.

It was a nightmare scenario. Henry G. had been operated on for advanced bladder cancer and now used a catheter. Having come down with a bladder infection, he called to make an appointment with the urologist who had been taking care of him through his surgery and beyond. He was told that his doctor no longer worked at the practice and the practice would not divulge where his doctor had gone. Henry was blindsided ‘What do I do now?’”

Henry was stuck between a rock and a hard place. As it turned out, his doctor had been fired by his practice (not bringing in enough business is the usual cause for termination or violating the strict time caps —7-11 minutes —for each patient visit) and started a new urology practice with colleagues who had been similarly booted. But even if Henry had managed to find his doctor, he probably couldn’t have scheduled a visit. Under the terms of the contract his doctor signed with his former employer, he was bound by a restrictive covenant clause that barred him from treating former patients or even from practicing within thirty-five miles of his former employer.

How prevalent are these restrictive covenants? In a recent survey of two thousand PCPs (primary care physicians) in five states, 45% admitted to being bound by a non-compete clause. Wresting a doctor away from long-time patients, particularly those with chronic conditions, is devastating for patients. It happened to one long-term cancer survivor. She received a letter from her doctor’s medical practice announcing the doctor’s exit but omitting reference to his new practice. Her response— “Somehow they [the practice enforcing the non-compete clause] lost sight of patient care and were more concerned about the bottom line.

That goes for the entire healthcare industry which has steadily relegated patient care to the bottom of the priority list. On top —profits, the bigger, the better. “When doctors want to move from one practice to another, if they’ve got a good therapeutic relationship with their patients, you’d think that public policy would want them to continue to treat those patients that trust them”. (Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project).  Ah, that’s the rub, isn’t it? When “public policy” clashes with profit-driven capitalism, the pillage and plunder metrics of capitalism invariably win.

To defend the indefensible, big wigs at major healthcare practices pretend that non-compete clauses actually benefit patients — “…because they [non-compete clauses] provide stability with a practice and ensure continuity of care.” (director of a major Iowa clinic). Not convinced? Try this excuse on for size— “Patients get frustrated but what they may not understand is that this is a legal thing that we have to abide by.” (Spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin health care system). Without doubt, a major component of the success of non-compete clauses is the lack of moral courage on the part of those who feel bound to enforce them. How about the doctors’ “natural allies,” the AMA (American Medical Association)? As the official lobby for corporate medicine, not individual doctors, their allegiance is to the power brokers — in a carefully nuanced statement, Dr. Patrice Harris, President-elect dithered — “To the extent that these agreements disrupt continuity of care, this is of great concern to the AMA.”

What are the chances a group of doctors bringing a lawsuit challenging both terminations and restrictive covenant clauses in medical contracts will prevail? Very good, according to David Clark, an expert on the legality of healthcare non-compete clauses — “No court is going to deny a patient who wants to go see a doctor of her choice.”

As almost every American who has had the misfortune to be a patient knows, profit-driven healthcare is not the answer to a long, healthy life. Consider the checkered history of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), sold to the public as the one sure way for patients to receive the most effective treatments, reduce medical errors, and provide a fast and efficient way to share their medical histories with doctors and hospitals virtually anywhere in the world. These wildly exaggerated claims convinced Obama to make them part of Obamacare. So far the feds have poured $36 billion into the EHR industry and made a lot of fat cats fatter. What have patients gotten in return — an error-prone, cumbersome system whose requirements vitiate doctor-patient interactions, making them little more than a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Here’s how one administrator at a large medical center described a typical office visit in the era of EHRs —In America, we have 11 minutes to see a patient and [our doctors have] to be empathetic, make eye contact, enter about 100 pieces of data, and never commit malpractice. It’s not possible”. (John Halamka)

But when it comes to outright larceny, “surprise billing” takes the cake. Let’s say you go to a hospital that’s part of your insurance company’s network, only to receive care without your knowledge or permission from a doctor who isn’t part of that network.

Charlotte C. was forced to have an emergency C section. Although the hospital was in her insurer’s network, an in-network anesthesiologist wasn’t available, so she was billed $15,000 for the out-of-network doctor who replaced her.

There’s an even darker side to U.S. healthcare.  “Predictive medicine” (not unlike predictive policing) helps insurers predict how likely you are to develop specific illnesses and more important, from the doctor’s point of view, how likely you are to pay what your insurer doesn’t cover. As high deductibles and co-pays force patients (both those insured by their employers and those buying insurance on the federal marketplaces) into paying a greater share of the larcenous fees doctors and hospitals charge, health providers want to know how likely they are to be paid before they treat you. A couple of companies are getting rich investigating your credit worthiness for doctors and hospitals.

There was a time when healthcare was exactly that. Fifty-eight years ago, this dedication celebrating the commitment of the U.S. medical system to the welfare of patients appeared at the end of the movie The Young Doctors “This film is dedicated to the medical profession for its constant devoted service to mankind.”

Little more than a half century later, it’s hard to imagine that U.S. medicine ever operated that way.

What will it take to unseat the power brokers who control healthcare in America? Lots of us united around one goal — single payer universal healthcare. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world.” (Howard Zinn)

Putting Patients Last: Corporate Capture of Doctors

Welcome to corporate healthcare, the new normal in doctors’ offices, where profits are king and patients are commodities. With government regulatory agencies essentially adopting a “hands-off” policy, the ever-inventive medical establishment has come up with a basketful of new procedures to delude the patient population into believing that more (traditional drug-and procedure-saturated medicine) is the way to go. This at a time when American health care is growing more expensive and less effective. Life expectancy in the U.S. has been dropping for two straight years, the US. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries and, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund — the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and … is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity.”

The response of the medical community to the state of U.S. healthcare? General agreement that reasonably priced healthcare options are “junk science” (acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care). Even patient choice is no longer a given—

Arthur W. saw a neurologist in a big medical group affiliated with a major hospital. He decided to see another neurologist in the same practice. When he called to make the appointment, he was told that he would not be able to see the neurologist of his choice since he had already seen a neurologist in that practice. Arthur was outraged but decided against pursuing his complaint. He was afraid the medical practice would drop him. He ended up making a repeat visit to a provider he neither liked nor trusted.

What happened to Arthur happens more often these days as medical practices get bigger and scoop up more and more doctors in the same specialty. If you don’t like your doctor, the practice threatens, you can hit the road. For most Americans, particularly those millions forced into second or third jobs to pay their medical expenses or college loans, the effort required to go to another practice is not a realistic option.

The bottom line: U.S. healthcare has taken two critical components of a patient-centric system —access and choice — off the table. Like other corporations, medical practices these days slap an LLC (limited liability company) behind their names and suddenly are endowed with a lower level of liability for their actions (medical malpractice may still apply to individual doctors, but the owners of the practice have no personal legal liability). In Trump’s tax plan, LLC practices also shield their owners from some of the taxes assessed on non-LLC corporations. Another tax dodge for corporate America.

It was a nightmare scenario. Henry G. had been operated on for advanced bladder cancer and now used a catheter. Having come down with a bladder infection, he called to make an appointment with the urologist who had been taking care of him through his surgery and beyond. He was told that his doctor no longer worked at the practice and the practice would not divulge where his doctor had gone. Henry was blindsided ‘What do I do now?’”

Henry was stuck between a rock and a hard place. As it turned out, his doctor had been fired by his practice (not bringing in enough business is the usual cause for termination or violating the strict time caps —7-11 minutes —for each patient visit) and started a new urology practice with colleagues who had been similarly booted. But even if Henry had managed to find his doctor, he probably couldn’t have scheduled a visit. Under the terms of the contract his doctor signed with his former employer, he was bound by a restrictive covenant clause that barred him from treating former patients or even from practicing within thirty-five miles of his former employer.

How prevalent are these restrictive covenants? In a recent survey of two thousand PCPs (primary care physicians) in five states, 45% admitted to being bound by a non-compete clause. Wresting a doctor away from long-time patients, particularly those with chronic conditions, is devastating for patients. It happened to one long-term cancer survivor. She received a letter from her doctor’s medical practice announcing the doctor’s exit but omitting reference to his new practice. Her response— “Somehow they [the practice enforcing the non-compete clause] lost sight of patient care and were more concerned about the bottom line.

That goes for the entire healthcare industry which has steadily relegated patient care to the bottom of the priority list. On top —profits, the bigger, the better. “When doctors want to move from one practice to another, if they’ve got a good therapeutic relationship with their patients, you’d think that public policy would want them to continue to treat those patients that trust them”. (Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project).  Ah, that’s the rub, isn’t it? When “public policy” clashes with profit-driven capitalism, the pillage and plunder metrics of capitalism invariably win.

To defend the indefensible, big wigs at major healthcare practices pretend that non-compete clauses actually benefit patients — “…because they [non-compete clauses] provide stability with a practice and ensure continuity of care.” (director of a major Iowa clinic). Not convinced? Try this excuse on for size— “Patients get frustrated but what they may not understand is that this is a legal thing that we have to abide by.” (Spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin health care system). Without doubt, a major component of the success of non-compete clauses is the lack of moral courage on the part of those who feel bound to enforce them. How about the doctors’ “natural allies,” the AMA (American Medical Association)? As the official lobby for corporate medicine, not individual doctors, their allegiance is to the power brokers — in a carefully nuanced statement, Dr. Patrice Harris, President-elect dithered — “To the extent that these agreements disrupt continuity of care, this is of great concern to the AMA.”

What are the chances a group of doctors bringing a lawsuit challenging both terminations and restrictive covenant clauses in medical contracts will prevail? Very good, according to David Clark, an expert on the legality of healthcare non-compete clauses — “No court is going to deny a patient who wants to go see a doctor of her choice.”

As almost every American who has had the misfortune to be a patient knows, profit-driven healthcare is not the answer to a long, healthy life. Consider the checkered history of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), sold to the public as the one sure way for patients to receive the most effective treatments, reduce medical errors, and provide a fast and efficient way to share their medical histories with doctors and hospitals virtually anywhere in the world. These wildly exaggerated claims convinced Obama to make them part of Obamacare. So far the feds have poured $36 billion into the EHR industry and made a lot of fat cats fatter. What have patients gotten in return — an error-prone, cumbersome system whose requirements vitiate doctor-patient interactions, making them little more than a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Here’s how one administrator at a large medical center described a typical office visit in the era of EHRs —In America, we have 11 minutes to see a patient and [our doctors have] to be empathetic, make eye contact, enter about 100 pieces of data, and never commit malpractice. It’s not possible”. (John Halamka)

But when it comes to outright larceny, “surprise billing” takes the cake. Let’s say you go to a hospital that’s part of your insurance company’s network, only to receive care without your knowledge or permission from a doctor who isn’t part of that network.

Charlotte C. was forced to have an emergency C section. Although the hospital was in her insurer’s network, an in-network anesthesiologist wasn’t available, so she was billed $15,000 for the out-of-network doctor who replaced her.

There’s an even darker side to U.S. healthcare.  “Predictive medicine” (not unlike predictive policing) helps insurers predict how likely you are to develop specific illnesses and more important, from the doctor’s point of view, how likely you are to pay what your insurer doesn’t cover. As high deductibles and co-pays force patients (both those insured by their employers and those buying insurance on the federal marketplaces) into paying a greater share of the larcenous fees doctors and hospitals charge, health providers want to know how likely they are to be paid before they treat you. A couple of companies are getting rich investigating your credit worthiness for doctors and hospitals.

There was a time when healthcare was exactly that. Fifty-eight years ago, this dedication celebrating the commitment of the U.S. medical system to the welfare of patients appeared at the end of the movie The Young Doctors “This film is dedicated to the medical profession for its constant devoted service to mankind.”

Little more than a half century later, it’s hard to imagine that U.S. medicine ever operated that way.

What will it take to unseat the power brokers who control healthcare in America? Lots of us united around one goal — single payer universal healthcare. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world.” (Howard Zinn)

Ebola and the Resources of Eastern Congo

With over a billion dollars pledged so far to rebuild Notre Dame de Paris, another monument to what Western civilization has accomplished enacts a daily tragedy before the forests and villagers trying to stay alive in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Still ignored in the Euro-American press is a current Ebola epidemic, in particularly Kivu province1 the second largest outbreak of Ebola on record and the first where medical care givers are being attacked.


Previously Ebola was difficult to contain without quarantine and research into the ill person’s contacts. Currently the disease is being attacked by large scale vaccination programs relying on U.S. pharmaceuticals. But the vaccination and treatment programs are disrupted in Eastern Congo due to multiple conflicts forcing a hundred thousand people this April alone, into flight, some taking refuge across borders with other countries.

While not declared a global emergency by the UN World Health Organization, the potential is there. A report by the High Commissioner for Refugees notes its work in the RDC is hampered by lack of funding with 47 million USD allocated but only 6.2 million USD received in contributions.2

Recently Dr. Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, head of the Ebola team in Butembo, a Camerounais working for WHO, was attacked and killed at a medical conference; two of his staff were wounded. The killers’ motivation is unknown. Some local groups say that Ebola doesn’t exist and its threat is used as a means of control, or money raising.3

Others say Ebola was brought to the region by white people. Marburg disease which is a kind of hemorrhagic fever much like Ebola and 88% fatal first appeared in 1967 in a laboratory in Marburg Germany, and like Ebola is considered a biological warfare agent (a note). The Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus) first identified in Zaire in 2010 may be a strain of the Marburg virus. The area where Ebola is proliferating has been contested with arms for several decades due to its natural resources sought by Rwandan, Euro-American and Asian markets. Buyers of desired metals are often forced to buy from the militias which control various mines or access to mines even when these are registered with the government. The DRC government army does not control the region. Regional militias represent breakaway units of the government’s army, Rwandan forces, Hutu refugee forces, Tutsi Congolese among other distinct Congolese tribes. The United Nations has peacekeeping troops committed to the region which regularly take casualties.

The recent murder of Dr. Mouzoko is one of 119 attacks so far this year on medical personnel attempting to counter the epidemic, most often under the auspices of the World Health Organization. In researching the causes of the murders press accounts are not helpful. Eleven men were recently arrested in response to the killing of Dr. Mouzoko, but no mention of their motives or allegiances is given. Logic suggests the killers of medical personnel serve the interests of the Ebola epidemic itself, causing panic flight and spread of the disease which could cause widespread death. 33 medical workers have died from contracting the disease.

There is some chance that medical personnel are being killed tactically in a biological war effort to depopulate the region of its inhabitants. But that would be an extreme tactic to accomplish more quickly what continues under corrupt policies the government and corporation boards have furthered for years. While depopulation would deprive mining enterprises of local workers it would favor technologically advanced companies using modern mining equipment. A genocide of the region’s population serves the interests of all international corporations in the area: whether they are mining with license from the government or without, they are taking what belongs to the region’s people without bettering their lives. It is a monstrous ongoing crime dating in the Congo back to the days of King Leopold.

Over a thousand verified Ebola deaths have been counted so far. Massive vaccination by a Merck produced drug are apparently effective. WHO is expecting new pharmaceuticals from Johnson & Johnson which await federal approval.4  There is no suggestion in the press that U.S. corporate vaccine products are supplied at cost.

The UN’s emergency management plan for the epidemic is operational but requires 71.5 million USD.5

Questioning a Euro-American media which has proven so faithful to the state in its propaganda against Venezuela, is not likely to provide answers. Media silence on Eastern Congo supports fears of illegal operations waged to the interests of major western corporations. Aside from pharmaceutical companies, according to Global Witness in 2009, the principle corporate buyers of minerals in the region were: “Bangkok-based THAISARCO (a subsidiary of British metals group AMC), UK-based Afrimex, and Belgium-based Trademet.6, 7

Since informative reports in 2008 and 2009 by Keith Harmon Snow8Global Witness, and Roger Miller9, updated reports of corporate involvement are not easily available.

The current political situation in the Congo doesn’t offer much hope of the government addressing the emergency. While Kabila promised to step down and hold elections which he did after some delay, the power of the country may have remained his. An article by Kambale Musavuli of Friends of the Congo reports that former President Kabila’s party won 342 of the Parliament’s 500 seats in the election, and controls 22 of the 26 provinces, 91 of 108 senate seats with a similar percentage of governors; the Congo’s “elected” president Félix Tshisekedi, is considered installed as a Kabila compliant president while the Catholic Church Observer Mission found that Martin Fayulu won the election.10

In sum the change in Presidency isn’t likely to change the policies of the state as allied with corporate needs, which have allowed the conflicts and mining practices in the East Congo for many years.11  An ongoing genocide warning for the peoples of the Eastern Congo continues. Background.12,13

Night’s Lantern first noted a genocide warning for peoples of the Eastern Congo, among others affected by resource theft in 2004, followed by others.

  1. “Ebola virus disease – Democratic Republic of the Congo: Disease outbreak news. Update,” WHO, May 2, 2019, World Health Organization.
  2. “RDC : Des attaques au Nord-Kivu poussent des dizaines de milliers de personnes à fuir,” UN High commissioner for Refugees, May 3, 2019, reliefweb.
  3. “The Doctor Killed In Friday’s Ebola Attack Was Dedicated — But Also Afraid,” Nurith Aizenman, April 23, 2019, npr: Goats and Soda.
  4. “Congo Ebola deaths surpass 1,000 as attacks on treatment centers go on,” May 3, 2019, Health News.
  5.  “RD Congo – Sud-Kivu et Maniema : Plan Opérationnel d’Urgence (January-June 2019),” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 10, 2019, reliefweb.
  6. “Global Witness uncovers foreign companies’ links to Congo violence,” July 21, 20009.
  7. “Faced with a Gun What Can You Do? War and the Militarisation of Mining in Eastern Congo,” Global Witness 2009; “Global Witness uncovers foreign companies’ links to Congo violence,” Press release, July 21, 2009, Global Witness.
  8. Merchants of Death: Exposing Corporate-financed Holocaust in Africa, Keith Harmon Snow, Dissident Voice, December 8, 2008.
  9. How British Corporations are Fuelling War in the Congo,” Robert Miller, November 10, 2009
  10. “Hijacking the Congolese people’s victory,” Kambale Musavuli, April 30, 2019, New Frame.
  11. Crisis in the Congo: uncovering the truth,” Friends of the Congo, January 19, 2011.
  12. Civil War in The Congo: Template for Neo-Colonialism,” J.B. Gerald, Global Research, December 4,  2012.
  13. “North Kivu: the background to conflict in North Kivu Province of Eastern congo,” Jacob Stearns, U.K.: Rift Valley Institute, 2012.

Nurses Are Leading Strike Efforts: Where Are the Physicians?

Nurses in New York City are pushing back against hospital systems that put profits over patients and threaten their efforts to strike for safer staffing ratios. While nurses are fighting, physicians, so far, have remained on the sidelines of this struggle.

The U.S. healthcare “system” is completely and utterly broken. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. system ranks 37th in the world, all while spending dramatically more on healthcare than other wealthy countries. Tens of millions remain without any health insurance coverage. For many, medical bills can mean economic ruin—some surveys show that up to 66.5% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are a result of medical expenses. On the front lines of this system are nurses and physicians—individuals who, by and large, decided to go into the profession to help patients and communities—are becoming more frustrated by their inability to do just that, sometimes even causing providers to leave the profession. While many inside the U.S. medical industrial complex have had enough, nurses throughout New York City (NYC) are putting their collective foot down and showing us the way to fight for better outcomes for patients and better working conditions for providers.

In March, members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) at New York’s “big four” hospitals (Montefiore, Mount Sinai, New York Presbyterian-Columbia and Mount Sinai West/St. Luke’s) voted by an overwhelming 97% margin to authorize a strike. The nurses’ fight centers around conditions for patient care, including safer staffing ratios inside hospitals so that nurses can adequately care for each patient. Throughout NYC, nurses are forced to work long shifts and are chronically understaffed. The nurses who recently threatened to strike recognize that these working conditions are part of hospital executives’ push to squeeze greater and greater profits out of workers at the expense of patient health—and they have had enough. New York nurses are fighting just as teachers across the country did earlier this year—including the tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers who struck last January for better conditions for in schools. They are discussing the strike option just as more than 8,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England recently authorized a strike against cuts to healthcare benefits and pensions and the CAMBA Legal Services workers voted to walk off the job if their demands are not met. The nurses are also taking up the example of healthcare workers around the world, including the 40,000 Irish nurses who recently struck. Nurses are recognizing they have the power to fight and win better patient care. But while nurses across New York are standing up for themselves and their patients, a big question remains: Where are the doctors and why are they not threatening to strike together with nurses?

Why Are The Physicians on the Sidelines?

Physicians see first hand every day how our dysfunctional healthcare system is simply not built to adequately address patient and community health. For many doctors, these frustrations manifest in burnout and dissatisfaction within a field they once loved. Today there is an epidemic of burnout among physicians, with some studies suggesting burnout affects up to half of all physicians. After training for years with the desire to help others, doctors come to experience medical system that values profit over all else and rarely gives them the tools to make a difference in the communities where they work. This can leave doctors feeling hopeless, and combined with other factors, can lead to depression or even suicide. Today physicians are committing suicide at two times the rate of the population as a whole. Yet, even at this moment of frustration and anger, they continue to keep their heads down, providing validity to this broken system. We see nowhere, among doctors, a resistance like that now being organized by nurses.

In order to analyze why doctors are not throwing down their stethoscopes and finally saying enough is enough, a review of the U.S. medical education process is in order. As longtime public educator John Taylor Gatto highlights in his book, The Underground History of American Education, the education system is built to create “tools for industry.” Gatto points out that this system conditions those who pass through it to take direction well and to not question authority. At the same time, education aim to instill the importance of profit and continually reinforces the legitimacy of the capitalist system. Health care education is not excluded from this. The fact that the medical industrial complex “serves” suffering human beings gives the system the guise of morally superiority, but both patient and community health remains secondary to profit maximization nonetheless.

Psychological Conditioning

Data has shown that physicians typically come from the upper classes in the US. It is not hard to see why. Medical school exams and applications alone can cost thousands of dollars and this doesn’t even account for the cost of exam preparation courses or materials. Overall, the admissions system selects for a particular type of upper middle-class to bourgeois candidate — some reports show the median family income for a matriculating medical student is around $100,000 per year. At a time when close to half the American people do not earn enough afford an unexpected $400 expense, the cost of becoming a physician is prohibitive for the vast majority. Students with families that can bear such costs tend to come from environments that have conditioned them from a young age to respect systems of authority and not question their legitimacy. After all, if the parents have benefited economically from doing so, why would their children act any differently? This rule is then reinforced throughout the experiences of undergraduate school, medical school — as I have written about in the past — and residency education. The young medical student or resident learns that getting close to and appealing to authority figures leads to better outcomes — whether that means higher test scores, letters of recommendation, or better employment opportunities. This makes the physician less and less likely to challenge, much less disrupt, the medical system he will soon be working within.

Within the hospital, doctors typically adopt an individualist mentality in which they consider only how they can personally make an impact on their patients’ health, while ignoring the need for systemic change. The direct work with individual patients can be personally rewarding, but this method of practice does little to impact the larger factors that lead a patient to become sick in the the first place. A physician sees a patient in a clinical setting, and treats him without ever actually discussing or addressing the social conditions which have caused his illness. They then send the patient directly back into the environment that is harming him. This method of practice ultimately helps to uphold the exact structures making patients ill, but no physician could accept this fact, so instead they tell themselves they are doing important work and making a positive impact. Over time, operating within the system of factory line health delivery — the norm in the U.S. — teaches the physician that change occurs on an individual basis.

If a physician ever thinks of organizing collectively to withhold her labor in order to demand better conditions for her patients, employers declare that doctors are “abandoning” those in need of care. The Hippocratic oath taken by physicians to “do no harm” is cited. This argument obviously disregards the fact that it is the employer and ownership class which is directly harming patients every day in pursuit of profit—denying care, pushing individuals into bankruptcy, pursuing unnecessary treatments, neglecting systemic causes of illness, etc. It also ignores the fact that by continuing to focus the treatment on narrow individualistic explanations for disease and illness, the physician helps to redirect the patient’s attention away from the larger issues that are truly causing his or her suffering.

It is clear why few physicians would think about striking after being psychologically conditioned in this way. Many simply believe the work they are doing is adequate and having a meaningful impact on patient and community health. Although many may work under a boss, doctors also often have more autonomy over their work than those in other professions. Their distinct petty bourgeois positions, which allows them the possibility of “being their own employers,” reinforces their individualist, conservative mentality though it is important to note, physician control is ever decreasing as healthcare becomes more corporatized.

The individualist mindset created through medical and residency education is completely antithetical to the consciousness necessary to take action against an employer — whether protesting, organizing work “slow downs,” or using the most powerful weapon, the strike. Those who organize collectively to strike, such as the New York nurses, believe that change comes from masses of individuals standing together against the status quo. This runs counter to the ideology continually drilled into the physician. Subtle psychological methods of coercion keep physicians in line and unknowingly supporting their own oppression and the continual harm of their patients. This is combined with strong material conditions of coercion which we will discussed in the next section.

The Material Conditions of Doctors

Physicians experience the truly sickening state of the U.S. medical system day after day. They see first hand how the profits of health insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers and other health care corporations are placed above patient health. For those who truly wish to help the patients they work with, this can be extremely frustrating and could even push the physician to want to resist these oppressive systems, even after undergoing the multiple levels of psychological conditioning. This is where material conditions of the physician comes into play: to ensure doctors stay in line.

In general, American physicians are more economically well off than the majority of the population. The exorbitantly high pay that physicians find themselves earning after residency serves to support the status quo for the healthcare industry. Physicians become comfortable with their lifestyle and their positions of power in hospitals. They begin to develop a stake in maintaining the system. Though the physician may see various ways the medical industrial complex damages patients, he will be reluctant to put his comfortable position at risk by questioning the current state of affairs. It is much easier for a physician to accept the lifestyle this system provides her than to accept she is being used as a cog inside of the medical industrial machine where the health of patients is only a secondary concern.

Even before graduating from residency training, the material conditioning of the physician begins. Becoming a physician is expensive. Physicians typically undergo a 4-year university education in addition to their four years of medical school. This can easily leave a new physician entering residency— a 3 to 8-year period of training after medical school — with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. This debt, which is part of the over $1.5 trillion of overall student loan debt in the US, puts the physician in a precarious position in the workplace at the beginning of her career. Indebtedness makes the resident physician less likely to do anything to jeopardize her standing during residency — where she is often used as cheap labor for hospitals and clinics — since it could affect job opportunities later in her career.

The enormous debt facing a resident — a term coined from the days when they would literally live or “reside” in the hospital — then forces him to work exorbitant hours for little pay. His workweek can extend to upwards of 80 hours. When a residents’ pay is broken down to an hourly wage he often finds himself making just over $10/hour. It is now a fad for hospitals to pretend to care about physician wellness. One group tasked to structure residency programs, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), has attempted to improve resident wellness by putting work limits in place for residents. These have been set at 80 hours per week, averaged over four consecutive weeks, meaning that a resident could potentially work as many as 100 hours in a given week. In this scenario, overwork and exhaustion make physician organizing and resistance even less likely.

We Must Organize

Physicians are key actors in the medical industrial complex today. They serve as conduits for profit extraction from sick and injured people. Until physicians begin to put individual endeavors aside and begin to organize collectively, they will continue to see their patients harmed by the “healthcare” system. How can physicians advance their collective organization? They can start by pushing for unionization in all healthcare settings—even if that means going against anti-union contracts that hospitals and clinics often require doctors to sign. Change in this system will not come from hospital administrations, device manufacturers, health insurance companies, or medical academies like as the American Medical Association (AMA). All of these groups benefit from the existing system focused on endless profit maximization. Change will only come through collective action and resistance by healthcare workers.

Physicians around the world have organized and withheld their labor for better conditions around patient care in the past. In a system that continues to directly harm patients, strikes or various other forms of work stoppages or slowdowns, are an ethical imperative. Whether it is teachers in Virginia or nurses in New York, withholding one’s labor and threatening profit production is, by far, the greatest tool any worker has against an employer. These efforts by teachers have improved educational environments for children in schools. In hospitals, strikes have the potential to provide better staffing ratios, and ultimately better care, for patients. The nurses who give their time and efforts to organize — even while risking their own jobs — are showing what it means to truly care for patient and community health. Physicians have much to learn from the nurses’ example.

Mystery Killer Spans the Globe

Public health experts have been warning for decades that overuse of antibiotics reduces the effectiveness of drugs that cure bacterial infections. At least 2,000,000 Americans get antibiotic-resistant infections per year.

Notably, gluttonous overuse of antimicrobial drugs to combat bacteria and fungi via hospitals, clinics, and farms is backfiring and producing superbugs or “Nightmare Bacteria,” which is especially lethal for people with compromised immune systems and autoimmune disorders that use steroids to suppress bodily defenses.

Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recently labeled a fungus called Candida auris or C auris an “Urgent Threat.” This Nightmare Bacteria is a brutal killer that’s unstoppable and flat-out travels fast.

The CDC claims antibiotic resistance is “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.”

According to the World Health Organization: “The world is facing an antibiotic apocalypse.”

The UK’s chief medical officer believes antimicrobial resistance: “May spell the end of modern medicine,” as routine surgeries turn into medical emergencies.

In short, new antibiotic resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading worldwide, quickly. Knowledgeable sources worry that society at large is headed for a “Post-Antibiotic Era,” in which common infections and minor injuries can kill once again.1

According to a recent British governmental study, without new medicines and without curbing unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs, infections followed by ensuing deaths will likely eclipse cancer deaths over succeeding decades. The harsh fact is nearly one-half of patients that contract C auris die within 90 days.2

Nowadays, the dangers of “Nightmare Bacteria” are growing out of control. The latest concern is that C auris will begin spreading to healthier populations, even though healthy people are normally not at risk. Within only five years, C auris has established itself as one of the world’s most intractable health threats. It is drug-resistant, tenacious and nearly impossible to exterminate and travels the globe looking for innocent victims, killing people mostly in hospital settings.

C auris has already established a beachhead in Venezuela, Spain, the UK, India, Pakistan, South Africa, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Nobody knows where else it may be cloaking.

A British hospital aerosolized hydrogen peroxide in a C auris-infected room for one week solid. Subsequently, only one organism grew back in a Petri dish in the room. It was C auris. The hospital serves wealthy patients from Europe and the Middle East, and it has not made a public announcement of the outbreak.

An outbreak of C auris at a Spanish hospital resulted in 41% deaths of infected patients. The hospital has not made a public announcement of the outbreak.

In the U.S., the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital had a case of C auris with an older man hospitalized for abdominal surgery.

According to a New York Times article:

The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it… C auris is so tenacious, in part, because it is impervious to major antifungal medications, making it a new example of one of the world’s most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections.3

Indeed, Mount Sinai’s public exposure is an exception, as hospitals and governmental agencies keep C auris’s whereabouts secret. Public transparency is shunned. Hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks because of concern about tarnishing reputations and spreading of rumors. Even the Center for Disease Control is not allowed, in a pact with states, to publicly announce outbreaks.

There are multiple causes behind antibiotic-resistant infection outbreaks. As for one, using antifungals on crops to prevent rotting, in turn, contributes to drug-resistant fungi infecting people. Also, infamously, antibiotics are widely used (in fact, overused-by-a-country-mile) for disease prevention of farm animals.

Indeed, researchers estimate that up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to healthy food animals to artificially expedite their growth and compensate for the effects of unsanitary farm conditions. This routine use of antibiotics in animals presents a serious and growing threat to human health because it creates new strains of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.4

Furthermore, and of serious deliberate interest, Denmark is testament to what occurs by restricting non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in cattle, broiler chickens, and swine. Following Denmark’s restrictions, the use of antibiotics for swine dropped 50% from 1992-2008. Results: (1) swine production increased by nearly 50% and (2) antibiotic resistance in humans decreased.

By way of contrast, in the United States up to 70% of antibiotics go to farm animals that are not sick.

One pressing issue is no new classes of antibiotics have been invented for decades. In fact, all the antibiotics brought to the market in the past 30 years have been variations on existing drugs discovered by 1984, meaning they are just follow-up compounds, without a novel mechanism of action, meaning no major breakthroughs.

Problematically, only a few large drug companies are involved in antibiotic research and development because the cost of developing the drugs is high and profit margins are slim. In that regard, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: The antibiotic pipeline is near collapse, and the country needs to act now to preserve the infrastructure to support antibiotic research and development.

Pew Charitable Trust/Antibiotic Resistance Project is trying to muster public support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA, H.R. 1587/S. 619), which withdraws from animal production use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health, unless animals are diseased or drug companies can prove that their use does not harm human health.

Other groups in support of legislation include the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatricians, Infectious Diseases Society of America and World Health Organization.

In a letter to congressional leaders February 5, 2019 The Pew Charitable Trusts, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and Trust for America’s Health, together with U.S. antibiotic developers large and small, called on Congress to move swiftly to enact a package of economic incentives to reinvigorate the stagnant pipeline of antibiotics.

A number of sponsors for congressional action are urging concerned citizens to call their representatives and senators and push for action on this life-or-death issue.

  1. WHO Fact Sheet on Antibiotic Resistance, November 2017.
  2. Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.
  3. New York Times, “Deadly Germs, Lost Cures: A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy”, April 7, 2019.
  4. How Much Do Antibiotics Used on the Farm Contribute to the Spread of Resistant Bacteria?” Scientific American magazine.

Corporate and “Progressive” Democrats Threaten Medicare Itself

The Democratic Party won a majority in the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections by making health care one of its top “messages.” Yet events from Bernie Sanders’ bill of 2017 to legislation that “progressive” Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced on February 27, 2019 show that the Party is on its way to destroy Medicare.

For decades activists identified the prize as “single payer health care.” The program would issue a Medicare card to everyone, like the one senior citizens get now. The card would be good at any doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, laboratory, and prescription pharmacy. These largely private businesses would be reimbursed from a public single-payer fund. The fund would receive broadly collected tax revenues; the patient would pay little or nothing at the reception desk, and no monthly premium. This is guaranteed, comprehensive health care.

In other words, single payer is Medicare for all, carried to completion by eliminating Part B premiums and by more comprehensive coverage including prescribed drugs.

Health care activists always agonized over the colorless name “single payer.” A few years ago many of them began to speak of Improved Medicare for All. Actually, it had been in the title of the benchmark bill, H.R. 676, when congressperson John Conyers introduced it in 2003. A few years later he shortened the title to The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. The text remained stable, and although the bill went nowhere in Congressional committees, H.R. 676 became the centerpiece of organizing. It is readable, only thirty pages of double-spaced large type. Hundreds of trade union locals and councils endorsed this model legislation in a steady stream year after year.

The health care industry has enjoyed a long-term phase of expansion, like railroads in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Back then, the new way of moving heavy goods and people was amazing and useful; today, new biological and biochemical understanding makes possible longer life, survival from a heart attack, restored clarity of vision, and so on. In both situations, capital has had strong pricing power and taken fat profits. And just as anger at railroads swelled into a populist revolt against The Octopus (Frank Norris’ novel about the Southern Pacific railroad corporation), people today are angry at insurance corporations, pharmaceutical monopolies, and hospitals, whether or not they call themselves “non-profit.”1

Opinion polls measure growing support for single payer health care for all. Employers continue to raise the employee cost of coverage, or simply not provide a health benefit. Health insurance purchased individually on the so-called exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) turns out to be full of exceptions like a slice of Swiss cheese.

Sanders Promotes Health Care for All Then Undercuts Conyers

Popular support erupted into a political force when Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign at the end of April 2015. Record-breaking crowds filled his rallies around the country. The top three issues in a Sanders speech rotated – sometimes including inequality of wealth and income, sometimes climate change – but he always revved up on health care for all. It had been the cause of a few thousand health care activists. Now Improved Medicare for All became a challenge to the neoliberal establishment. For the first time in forty years, people were on the verge of a mass campaign for a major gain in their quality of life and their security.

It did not happen. Sanders did not win the Democratic presidential  nomination. He returned to the Senate, making an implicit or private deal with the party: he would speak as a independent progressive, but he will act on all serious matters as an unannounced Democrat.

Doing something about health care for people largely fell out of public view. Health care activists carried on. Policy aficionados spun proposals. Sanders had used the issue in his campaign, but sustained mass organizing for it did not happen.

Then in September 2017, senator Sanders introduced his “Medicare for All Act.” S. 1804 is three times as long as H.R. 676, and the reader must unravel cross-references within the text. Sanders made no mention of Conyers’ H.R. 676 at his press conference. Since then, no one has asked him the obvious question: Why didn’t Sanders simply introduce the text of H.R. 676 in the Senate?

The “Buy-In” Trap

Sanders’ bill would actually undermine Medicare. It would set up a “Transitional Medicare Buy-in Option and Transitional Public Option.” Sanders portrayed it as a four-year period (longer if necessary) to bring people of age 55 or over into Medicare, then down to age 45, then down to age 35, then everyone. This scheme is the very opposite of guaranteed single-payer health care for all.

How is Medicare financed today? Most of the money comes from payroll and income tax revenues, not enrollees’ Part B premiums, by a ratio of 3½ to one.2 We all pay into Medicare. At the moment when someone needs care, she gets it, period – without financial worry. That is the single-payer principle, and Medicare implements it, although not entirely, since enrollees must keep up-to-date on their Part B monthly premiums, and there are some co-payments for services.

Expanded and Improved Medicare for All would eliminate premiums and co-pays. That is what H.R. 676 declared, but in Sanders’ S. 1804 people younger than 65 could “join” Medicare by paying fat monthly premiums (a “buy-in”). People who want to sign up this way would use the notorious Obamacare exchanges.

Trade union campaigners for genuine Medicare for all, H.R. 676, wrote in a December 11, 2018 letter:

Unlike HR 676, S 1804 inserts supposedly incremental steps of public options and Medicare buy-ins for four years prior to arriving at a real single payer plan. Because S 1804 expands care while maintaining the private insurance companies, costs will skyrocket before the savings of single payer kick in. The incremental steps will become a roadblock rather than a path to single payer. Perhaps the worst part of this inclusion of the public option and the Medicare buy-in is the reinforcement of the false notion that there should or must be transitional steps to single payer. Neither the public option nor the Medicare by-in are based on sound policy. To place them in the bill for even a short period of time endangers the single payer goal.

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care, HR 676, Kay Tillow, coordinator

It is a neat trick: under the guise of expanding Medicare, you make it more dependent on premiums. You change it from a public good, like the neighborhood fire station, into a commodity insurance product that individuals buy. You make health care dependent on the patient’s finances.

This perversion of Medicare is not only a fraud upon people of age 55, 45, or 35. It is a threat to Medicare itself. Whenever Medicare seems headed for a financial crunch, real or conjured, the pressure in Congress will be to shift more and more toward a premium- and co-pay-financed program rather than one supported by general and progressive tax revenues – and to take chunks of medicine out of Medicare.

An independent in name but a Democrat, in fact, senator Sanders at his press conference happily introduced several corporate Democrat co-sponsors of his bill. Behind closed doors he had let them write sections of S. 1804! The public option section was written by senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “One part of the bill that I worked with my colleagues to put in was the ability for every American to buy into a nonprofit public option as part of a four-year transition…,” she said during the news conference introducing the bill.

A public option is a competition with insurance corporations rigged in their favor. They know how to repel potential enrollees who are likely to need expensive care. A government health plan cannot and, of course, should not play that game. It can either raise premiums, or it can turn the program into something like its poor cousin Medicaid. Either way, it cannot become improved Medicare for all.

Democratic Party: “Death to H.R. 676!”

Two important bills stood in contradiction to each other: one for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All (H.R. 676), the other a threat to Medicare itself (S. 1804). Conyers’ bill has been the acknowledged model legislation since 2003; Sanders introduced his in 2017.

But words do not move on their own. The corporate Democratic Party soon put H.R. 676 on the chopping block. Representative John Conyers was pushed out of Congress in a #MeToo incident, resigning from a hospital bed, denying the charges but not up to the rigor of a fair hearing if he could get one.

Somehow, sponsorship of H.R. 676 went to new congressperson Pramila Jayapal. 3 She immediately announced that she was in consultations to rewrite it. In the meantime, she surrendered the number 676 that had been reserved for Conyers’ bill since 2003. It was issued to military legislation on January 17, 2019.

After the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections, it became more urgent for them to gut single payer health care for all. Otherwise, they might have to deliver. Representative Nancy Pelosi, during a post-election whirlwind of bargaining to make sure she became Speaker of the House, agreed to help advance the same scheme that senators Sanders and Gillibrand had put into S. 1804: a buy-in to a premium-based option for people age 50 to 64. Jayapal, who also praised Pelosi during her run for Speaker, spoke out of both sides of her mouth. “I would prefer to have a reduction of the age of Medicare so that more people could qualify but not a buy-in, because that continues the problems that we have right now.” She said lowering the eligibility age “would be an appropriate way to go where we’re taking a step forward towards a system that will ultimately cover everybody.”

The Buy-in Trick Again

Representative Jayapal introduced H.R. 1384, her replacement for the Conyers’ model, on February 27, 2019. The 119-page bill is a masterful card trick. On one hand, it maintains the ban on premiums and co-payments, and it specifies a broad list of covered medical services, including some never proposed before in such legislation.

On the other hand, Jayapal copied Sanders’ big step backward – an optional “buy-in” transition period with premiums, only shortened from his four years to two. (After the first year, minors up to age 18 and people 55 and older would move automatically into the new system.) H.R. 1384 states:

The Administrator shall determine the premium amount for enrolling in the Medicare Transition buy-in, which may vary according to family or individual coverage, age, and tobacco status,… (H.R. 1384, Title X, Subtitle A, Sec. 1002 (e)(A))

Since Conyers introduced H.R. 676 in 2003, his bill never had a premium-based buy-in. Why does Rep. Jayapal think a buy-in period is necessary?

With a buy-in transition, the first experience people would have with the new system would be yet another commodity insurance plan with monthly premiums. This is a recipe for political failure. During those two years the tentative new system would soon be under attack as financially unworkable and just not popular enough.

People could buy in if they wished as individuals through the notorious Affordable Care Act exchanges (“Obamacare”). Because of the extensive benefits, the plan would be one of the most costly choices. Unaffordable for most as an individual premium plan, trying to compete in an unreformed health care system with its bloated costs, the buy-in would attract few enrollees. Enemies of genuine universal health care will pounce on the result, demanding that genuine Medicare for All be postponed and turned into a supplement of one kind or another to corporate health insurance.

Only H.R. 676 delivers guaranteed healthcare for all, the equal care for all of which our advanced society is capable. Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, just like openly corporate yet arguably less devious Democrats, cower before insurance capital, pharmaceutical capital, hospital capital, etc. These parasites demand that healthcare be a set of commodities that some can afford and others cannot. The people or the dollar – that is the inescapable choice.

  1. A nominally “non-profit” hospital today is not the church-run charity that it might have been a hundred years ago. Non-profit simply means that the corporation is tax-exempt. It does not pay dividends to stockholders, but it still makes a profit. Banks share in the loot, and layers of executives are paid millions of dollars. Affiliated for-profit clinics and labs may suck profits out under cover. Examine the Sutter Health and Kaiser hospital chains in California, for example.
  2. Medicare trust fund trustees’ report, 2018, pp. 45 and 78.
  3. Jayapal went to elite Georgetown University, got an MBA after that, worked on Wall Street on leveraged buyouts, switched to executive positions in several nonprofits, sat a mere two years in the Washington state senate, and won election to the House in 2016.

Cuba: “The Equilibrium of the World” and Economy of Resistance

The Forth International Conference for “The Equilibrium of the World” took place in Havana., Cuba from 28 to 31 January 2019. The Conference, organized by the José Marti Project of International Solidarity, was sponsored by UNESCO and a number of local and international organisms and NGOs. It coincided with the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and as such was also a celebration of that successful demonstration to the world that socialism, solidarity and love for life can actually survive against all odds and, yes, Cuba, has faced more hardship than any other country in recent history, through boycotts, embargoes and all sorts of economic sanctions, heinous military infiltrations and assassination attempts, initiated by the United States and followed, largely under threats from Washington, by most of the western world.

Viva Cuba!  A celebration well deserved and in the name of José Marti, who was born 166 years ago, but whose thoughts and spiritual thinking for a new world are as valid today as they were then. They may perhaps best be summarized as love, solidarity, justice, living well for all and in peace. These principles were taken over by Fidel and Raul Castro, Che and Hugo Chávez. They transcend current generations and reach far beyond Latin America.

The conference had many highlights; brilliant speakers; a torch march was organized at the University of Havana in honor of José Marti; and the organizers offered the participants an extraordinary music and modern ballet performance at the National Theater.

From my point of view some of the important messages came from the representative of China, who talked about the New Silk Road, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of building bridges and connecting countries and people, whereas the west was building walls. A Russian speaker sadly admitted that it took his government a long time and relentless trying to build alliances with the west, until they realized, relatively recently, that the west could not be trusted. Professor Adan Chavez Frias Chavez, Hugo’s brother, described an invasive history over the past 100 years by the United States of Latin America and called upon the brother nations of the Americas and the world to bond together in solidarity to resist the empire’s infringement and steady attempts to subjugate sovereign nations with a vision towards a multipolar world of equals, of sovereign nations living together in peaceful relations.

*****

My own presentation focused on Economy of Resistance. And what a better place than Cuba to talk about economy of resistance! Impossible. Cuba has a 60-year history of successful resistance against a massive embargo, ordered by Washington and followed by almost the entire western world, thus demonstrating that the west has been reduced to a US colony. This was true already during the Cold War, but became even clearer when the Soviet Union “fell”. Here too, the west, led by Washington, was instrumental in the collapse of the USSR – but that’s another story – and the US grabbed the opportunity to become the emperor of a unipolar world. Cuban troops also resisted and conquered the attempted US Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) invasion launched by President Kennedy in 1961, and not least, Fidel Castro survived more than 600 CIA initiated assassination attempts.

The principles of Economy of Resistance cover a vast domain of topics with many ramifications. This presentation focused on four key areas:

  • Food, medical and education sovereignty
  • Economic and financial sovereignty
  • The Fifth Column; and,
  • Water Resources: A human right and a vital resource for survival.

On food, health and education sovereignty – Cuba is 100% autonomous, as far health and education go.

However, Cuba imports more than 70% of the food her citizens consume and that, at present, mostly from the European Union. Cuba has the capacity and agricultural potential to become not only fully self-sufficient, but to develop and process agricultural produce into an agricultural industry and become a net exporter of agricultural goods.

This process might be addressed as a priority policy issue. However, it will take some time to fully implement. Meanwhile, it may be wise to diversify imports from other parts of the world than the EU – i.e. Russia, China, Central Asia, friendly ALBA countries – because Europe is not trustworthy. They tell you today, they will always honor your purchasing contracts, but if the empire strikes down with sanctions, as they did recently for anyone doing business with Iran, Cuba may be “cooked”.

Spineless Europe will bend to the orders of Washington. They have demonstrated this time and again, not least with Iran, despite the fact that they signed the so-called Nuclear Deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, on 14 July 2015 (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, UK, Russia, France, and China—plus Germany and the EU – and Iran), after which Obama lifted all sanctions with Iran only to have Trump break the agreement and reimpose the most draconian sanctions on Iran and on enterprises doing business with Iran. The US government, and by association Europe, does not adhere to any agreement, or any international law, for that matter, when it doesn’t suit them. There are plenty of indications – Venezuela today, to be followed by Nicaragua and Cuba. These should be valid signals for Cuba to diversify her food imports until full self-sufficiency is achieved.

Already in 2014, Mr. Putin said the ‘sanctions’ were the best thing that could have happened to Russia. It forced her to revamp her agriculture and rebuild her industrial parks with the latest technology – to become fully independent from imports. Today, sanctions are a mere propaganda tool of the west, but they have hardly an impact on Russia. Russia has become the largest wheat exporter in the world. – Cuba could do likewise. She has the agricultural potential to become fully food-autonomous.

On Economic and financial sovereignty four facets are being addressed. The first one, foreign investments, Cuba may want to focus on (i) technology; (ii) assuring that a majority of the investment shares remain Cuban; (iii) using to the extent possible Cuba’s own capital (reserves) for investments. Foreign capital is bound to certain conditionalities imposed by foreign investors, thus, it bears exchange rate and other risks, to the point where potential profits from foreign assets are usually discounted by between 10% and 20%; and (iv) last but not least, Cuba ought to decide on the sectors for foreign investors – NOT the foreign investor.

Following scenario, as propagated by opposition lawyer and economist, Pablo de Cuba, in Miami, should be avoided:

Cuba cedes a piece of her conditions of sovereignty and negotiates with foreign investors; puts a certain amount of discounted debt at the creditors’ disposal, so as to attract more investments in sectors that they, the investors choose, for the internal development of Cuba.

As the hegemony of the US dollar is used to strangle any country that refuses to bend to the empire, a progressive dedollarization is of the order, meaning, in addition to the US dollar itself, move progressively away from all currencies that are intimately linked to the US dollar; i.e., Canadian and Australian dollars, Euro, Yen, Pound Sterling and more. This is a strategy to be pursued in the short- and medium term, for the protection against more sanctions dished out by the US and its spineless allies.

Simultaneously, a rapprochement towards other monetary systems, for example, in the east, especially based on the Chinese gold-convertible Petro-Yuan, may be seriously considered. Russia and China, and, in fact, the entire SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), have already designed a monetary transfer system circumventing the western SWIFT system, which has every transaction channeled through and controlled by a US bank. This is the key motive for economic and financial sanctions. There is no reason why Cuba could not (gradually but pointedly) join such an alternative system, to move out of the western claws of embargo. The SCO members today encompass about half of the world population and control one third of the globe’s GDP.

Drawbacks would be that the import markets would have to be revisited and diversified, unless western suppliers would accept to be paid in CUC, or Yuan through a system different from SWIFT. Moving away from the western monetary transfer system may also impact remittances from Cubans living in the US and elsewhere in the west (about US$ 3.4 billion – 2017 – less than 4% of GDP). It would mean departing from monetary transactions in the Euro and European monetary zones.

Be aware – the future is in the East. The West is committing slowly but steadily suicide.

Another crucial advice is – stay away from IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Trade Organization (WTO) – and the like. They are so-called international financial and trade organizations, all controlled by the US and her western “allies” and tend to enslave their clients with debt.

Case in Point, Mexico: President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), a leftist, has little margin to maneuver Mexico’s economy, inherited from his neoliberal predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico’s finances are shackled by the international banking system, led by the IMF, FED, WB and by association, the globalized Wall Street system. For example, AMLO intended to revive PEMEX, the petroleum state enterprise. The IMF told him that he first had to “financially sanitize” PEMEX, meaning putting PEMEX through a severe austerity program. The banking community agreed. In case AMLO wouldn’t follow their “advice”, they might strangle his country.

CUC versus the Peso, a dual monetary system (CUC 1 = CuP 25.75), has also been used by China up to the mid-80s and by Germany after WWI, to develop export / import markets. However, there comes a time when the system could divide the population between those who have access to foreign currencies (CUC-convertible), and those who have no such access.

Also, the convertibility of the CUC with the Euro, Swiss franc, Pound Sterling and Yen, make the CUC, de facto, convertible with the dollar – hence, the CUC is dollarized. This is what Washington likes, to keep Cuba’s economy, despite the embargo, in the orbit of the dollar hegemony which will be used in an attempt to gradually integrate Cuba into the western, capitalist economy.  However, Washington will not succeed. Cuba is alert and has been resisting for the last 60 years.

The Fifth Column refers to clandestine and / or overt infiltration of opposing and enemy elements into the government. They come in the form of NGOs, US-CIA trained local or foreigners to destabilize a country – and especially a country’s economy – from inside.

There are ever more countries that do not bend to the dictate of the empire and are targets for Fifth Columns – Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Pakistan and more – and Cuba.

The term, “Fifth Column” is attributed to General Emilio Mola, who during the Spanish civil war in 1936, informed his homologue, General Francisco Franco, that he has four columns of troops marching towards Madrid, and that they would be backed by a “fifth column”, hidden inside the city. With the support of this fifth column he expected to finish with (the legitimate) Republican government.

The process of “infiltration” is becoming ever more sophisticated, bolder and acting with total impunity. Perhaps the most (in)famous organization to foment Fifth Columns around the world, among many others, is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the extended arm of the CIA. It goes as a so-called NGO, or ‘foreign policy thinktank’ which receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department to subvert non-obedient countries’ governments, bringing about regime change through infiltration of foreign trained, funded and armed disruptive forces, sowing social unrest and even “civil wars”. Cases in point are Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Libya – and more – and now they attempt to topple Venezuela’s legitimate, democratically elected Government of Nicolás Maduro.

They work through national and international NGOs and even universities in the countries to be ‘regime changed’. Part of this ‘Infiltration” is a massive propaganda campaign and intimidation on so-called allies, or client states. The process to reach regime change may take years and billions of dollars. In the case of Ukraine, it took at least 5 years and 5 billion dollars. In Venezuela, the process towards regime change started some 20 years ago, as soon as Hugo Chavez was elected President in 1998. It brought about a failed coup in 2002 and was followed by ever increasing economic sanctions and physical military threats. Earlier this year, Washington was able to intimidate almost all of Europe and a large proportion of Latin America into accepting a US-trained implant, a Trump puppet, Juan Guaidó, as the interim president, attempting to push the true legitimate Maduro Government aside.

To put impunity to its crest, the Trump Government blocked 12 billion dollars of Venezuela’s foreign reserves in NY bank accounts and transferred the authority of access to the money to the illegitimate self-appointed interim president, Juan Guaidó. Along the same lines, the UK refused to return 1.2 billion dollars-worth of Venezuelan gold to Caracas. All these criminal acts would not be possible without the inside help, i.e. the “Fifth Column”, the members of which are often not readily identifiable.

It is not known, how often the empire attempted ‘regime change’ in Cuba. However, none of these attempts were successful. The Cuban Revolution will not be broken.

Water resources is a Human Right and a vital component of an economy of resistance.

Water resources will be more precious in the future than petrol. The twin satellites GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) discovered the systematic depletion of groundwater resources throughout the world, due to over-exploitation and massive contamination from agriculture and industrial waste. Examples, among many, are the northern Punjab region in India with massive, inefficient irrigation; and in Peru the Pacific coastal region, due to inefficient irrigation, unretained runoff rain- and river water into the Pacific Ocean, and destruction of entire watersheds through mining.

Privatization of water resources, not only of drinking water and water for irrigation, but of entire aquifers, is becoming an increasing calamity for the peoples of our planet. Again, with impunity, giant water corporations, led by France, the UK and the US are gradually and quietly encroaching on the diminishing fresh water resources, by privatizing them, so as to make water a commodity to be sold at “market prices”, manipulated by the water giants, hence, depriving ready access to drinking water to an ever-growing mass of increasingly impoverished populations, victims of globalized neoliberal economies. For example, Nestlé and Coca Cola have negotiated with former Brazilian President Temer, and now with Bolsonaro, a 100-year concession over the Guaraní aquiver, the largest known, renewable freshwater underground resource, 74% of which is under Brazil. Bolsonaro has already said he would open up the Amazon area for private investors. That could mean privatization of the world’s largest pool of fresh water – the Amazon basin.

Economic Resistance means water is a human right and is part of a country’s sovereignty; water should NEVER be privatized.

For Cuba rainwater – on average about 1,300 mm / year – is the only resource of fresh water. Cuba, like most islands, is vulnerable to rainwater runoff, estimated at up to 80%. There are already water shortages during certain times of the year, resulting in droughts in specific regions. Small retention walls may help infiltrate rainwater into the ground, and at the same time regulate irrigation, provide drinking water and possibly generate electricity for local use through small hydroelectric plants.

The National Water Resources Institute (INRH – Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidráulicos), is aware of this issue and is formulating a forward-looking water strategy and planning the construction of infrastructure works to secure a countrywide water balance.

Other challenges include the hygienic reuse and evacuation of waste water, as well as in the medium to long run an island-wide Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

In Conclusion, Economic Resistance might be summarized as follows:

  • Self-sufficiency in food, health services and education. Cuba has achieved the latter two and is now aiming at achieving 100% agricultural autonomy – and in the meantime is advised diversifying food import markets.
  • Economic and financial sovereignty, including progressive dedollarization, deglobalizing monetary economy and creating internal monetary harmony.
  • The “Fifth Column” – always be aware of its existence and with perseverance keep going on the path of past successes, preventing the Fifth Column’s destabilizing actions.
  • Water resources autonomy – achieving countrywide Integrated Water Resources Management, with focus on protection, conservation and efficient water use.

Medical Ethics Can Only Be Restored With a Single-Payer System

It is the year 2019, and American health care is in a state of profound crisis. While oligarchic parasites from the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies make enormous profits, bankruptcy and the fear of being denied care hang over the American people like a sword of Damocles. This diabolical order, predicated on greed and placing profit-making over human life, has stripped doctors of their autonomy and given birth to an inhuman and deeply unjust multi-tier system.

Unless we are able to disenthrall ourselves from the tyranny of privatized health care, Americans will continue to die as a result of avaricious insurance companies denying coverage for needed drugs and procedures, and from treatment which is delayed due to requests for “prior authorizations.” Moreover, medical students and residents are being taught that good health care is a privilege and not a right, and that the oath to do no harm applies, but only to a privileged few. In a world turned upside down, doctors in training are being inculcated with the pernicious notion that the job of a doctor is not to listen to the patient, perform a comprehensive physical, respect the patient’s privacy, get an accurate history, diagnose, treat, and follow up; but rather to help their employer maximize the greatest possible profit. Indeed, the number of patients doctors are expected to see each day has become increasingly unwieldy, and this has gravely undermined their ability to practice good medicine.

Are we to continue to buy and sell health care as if it were a consumer good? The wealthiest can buy a Ferrari, the upper middle class a Lexus, the working class a Toyota, and the poor a used car. The very destitute cannot afford a car at all and have to take the bus. Clearly, it is barbaric to run a health care system in such a manner, and yet this is precisely what we are doing.

From their very first day of residency, doctors in training are being indoctrinated with the following code of dishonor: “This patient has a right to privacy, while this patient doesn’t. This patient has a right to informed consent, while this patient doesn’t. This patient has a right to linger following their surgery, while this patient has to leave immediately following their procedure. This patient has a right to their own room with a view, while this patient will be crammed into a room with a stranger.” The idea that medical ethics can coexist with such an ideology is inane and deeply delusional.

Many institutions have established multi-tier systems which are so egregious that it has resulted in the implementation of a Jim Crow health care system. Indeed, these institutions often place the “humans” and the “subhumans” in physically separate facilities. In this internationalization of the third world model, patients with inferior insurance are regularly arm-twisted into being clinical guinea pigs and used as laboratory animals with which to teach impressionable residents and fellows. This railroading of the “losers” into resident clinics magnifies the innate power imbalance inherent in the doctor-patient relationship a hundredfold, and constitutes a violation of patient privacy, informed consent, confidentiality, and patient dignity all of which fall under the umbrella of the physician’s oath to do no harm.

In an article in Annals of Emergency Medicine titled “Observers in The Medical Setting”, by Joel M. Geiderman, MD, the author posits that:

Privacy is treasured by citizens in free societies around the world, and any infringement on it is considered by many to be an affront to personhood. In the United States, the right to privacy runs deep in the American soul.

Residents that have no qualms about observing office visits without the patient’s consent are likely to go on to violate the privacy of their patients as attendings, and may very well spend their careers mindlessly violating and debasing their fellow human beings, only to periodically vent their frustrations on the Internet over all the “self-entitled” patients that don’t appreciate their diligence and divine wisdom. And while there are undoubtedly some residents that may have misgivings over participating in a clinic which coerces patients with unglamorous insurance plans into being medical models, as we have largely become a nation of careerists, the apelike majority will blindly follow orders.

Geiderman writes:

In addition to informational privacy, or protection of their personal health information, patients are also entitled to physical privacy, that is, a zone of personal space where access is under the patient’s autonomous control. Closely linked is the right to one’s modesty, a human value that is expressed in the Bible in Genesis, as Adam and Eve wished to shield their nakedness even from their Creator.

Should a physician order countless tests and prescriptions which are subsequently vetoed by the insurance companies, assuming they are not vehemently opposed to single-payer, they are unequivocally not to blame for this. However, once a doctor has knowingly participated in a clinic which is predicated on coercing patients with inferior insurance into being clinical guinea pigs for residents and fellows to practice on, they have stepped into a void beyond which lies a wasteland devoid of honor, dignity, integrity and morality. Any participation in such an egregious multi-tier system on the part of a physician threatens the survival of the doctor-patient relationship and constitutes unbridled and unmitigated heresy.

This descent into barbarism is glaringly on display in many dermatology departments, which are able to choose from the crème de la crème of our nation’s medical graduates, dermatology being one of the most competitive and sought-after specialties. These departments often assign patients with inferior insurance to a resident, who in turn has to be supervised. And so through artifice and trickery, the patient is duped and arm-twisted into being a medical model without their consent. The attending arrives and spews platitudes such as “The more eyes the better,” “There’s nothing we’ve never seen before,” and “We’re all professionals here” as if this can mitigate the fact that they are teaching their residents that the have-nots deserve neither privacy nor respectful care. That neither the attending nor the resident would even think of seeking care in such a clinic underscores the fact that in the innermost recesses of their addled brains they are cognizant of the fact that what they do is unethical. To gain admission into MS-13 one would likely have to commit murder. When doing a dermatology residency at an elite Manhattan medical institution, violating the privacy of hundreds of patients is the price of admission into this rather alarming society.

In conjunction with this uncivilized behavior, doctors in training are duly inculcated with the idea that informed consent is a privilege and not a right. Many of these creatures will go on to do practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients, or even perform forced cavity searches at the request of law enforcement. Indeed, doctors that have no respect for informed consent are a danger to themselves, and a danger to those who place their trust in their care.

Reactionary physicians at elite institutions take for granted having the finest insurance, and delude themselves into thinking that patients go to resident clinics of their own volition, and not because their insurance dictates that they go there. Few realize that if a Medicaid patient sees a doctor out of network they can actually lose their insurance. Restoring physician choice to the American patient is absolutely vital if we are to restore any semblance of democracy to our health care system. For as long as a vast swath of American society is forced to work with doctors that they do not wish to work with, all talk of “patient-centered care” is farcical and absurd.

If a woman with good insurance needs a prescription for birth control, she can leave a doctor who insists on doing a pelvic exam prior to ordering the prescription, whereas a patient with inferior insurance can be bullied into submitting to the unnecessary exam due to the lack of gynecologists that take their insurance. While the pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals grow fat with the lucre sucked from the blood of their patients, not a day goes by when the underinsured do not experience such indignities. And while the government continues to abrogate its social responsibility to implement a single-payer system, many patients that do have good insurance are a cancer diagnosis or car accident away from losing their job and their superior insurance along with it.

In non-union jobs employers often change insurance plans every year, perpetually searching for the plan which is most affordable. This in turn forces patients to constantly change doctors, and if a patient has a complex medical condition, the consequences of perpetually denying such an individual continuity of care can have disastrous consequences. Indeed, even if a patient is healthy, this can result in reduced health care outcomes over the long-term. And just as the multi-tier education system has come to be accepted without question by millions of our countrymen, the multi-tier health care system has likewise left its mark on the consciousness of millions of Americans, and is increasingly accepted as “normal” by the insouciant and the knavish alike.

Patients that freelance can also see their insurance change while their income fluctuates, and this can likewise force a patient to change doctors. Like a marriage, the doctor-patient relationship is predicated on a sacred trust, and being forced to constantly change doctors disrupts, destabilizes, and destroys these relationships.

The takeover of the medical decision-making process by insurance companies – essentially criminal gangs – has stripped doctors of their autonomy and is a driving force behind physician burnout. For after every treatment plan agreed upon between a doctor and a patient, doctors’ orders are increasingly countermanded by the patient’s insurance company. Not a day goes by without a doctor prescribing a drug which a patient’s insurance refuses to cover. The doctor then calls in a second drug – a variation on the first – and the insurance company may refuse coverage for this as well. Then a third drug is called in – perhaps not even of the same class – and this too may be rejected. Meanwhile, the patient has been examined by their doctor, not by an MD working for the insurance company. Should a physician order a PET or CT scan to determine whether a patient has metastatic cancer following a needle biopsy that has revealed a mass to be malignant, it is not uncommon for the patient’s insurance to declare this request as requiring “prior authorization.” This pervasive undermining of a doctor’s authority is without precedent in American health care, and these delays have caused people to die.

In addition to living paycheck to paycheck, millions of Americans are under the illusion that their health insurance plan is much better than it is, incognizant of the fact that they are a health problem away from financial ruin. The insouciant among us who ask where the money is going to come from should consider why they failed to ask this question prior to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The money will come from demilitarizing our society and transferring to a peacetime economy. Are the underinsured not victims of terrorism?

As their entire raison d’être is anchored in maximizing the greatest possible profit, hospitals ruthlessly exploit their residents, many of whom work eighty hours a week or more. In an article on KevinMD titled “The secret horrors of sleep-deprived doctors,” by Pamela Wible, MD, a doctor speaks of their training:

I did my internship in internal medicine and residency in neurology before laws existed to regulate resident hours. My first two years were extremely brutal, working 110 to 120 hours/week, and up to 40 hours straight. I got to witness colleagues collapse unconscious in the hallway during rounds, and I recall once falling asleep in the bed of an elderly comatose woman while trying to start an IV on her in the wee hours of the morning.

It is not uncommon for young doctors to accidentally kill patients as a result of being so exploited and sleep deprived, and this has undoubtedly played a role in making hospital errors the third leading cause of death in this country. Wible quotes another physician:

I have made numerous medication errors from being over tired [sic]. I also more recently misread an EKG because I was so tired I literally couldn’t see straight. She actually had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and by misreading the EKG, I spent too much time on her heart and didn’t whisk her back to CT when she came in code blue. She died.

This is the inevitable result of exploiting residents as if they were fast food workers. Moreover, as has transpired with education, health care is simply becoming unaffordable. In an article for KevinMD titled “The demonization of socialized medicine,” by Matthew Hahn, MD, the author writes, “It’s almost become a ritual now where a patient (who usually has health insurance) is diagnosed with cancer, and then we attend their community fundraiser to help them with the costs of their care.”

Many doctors are compelled to spend countless hours each month filling out electronic medical records which have been foisted on them by the insurance companies. To assist with this onerous task, doctors increasingly employ a nurse or medical scribe to type the required information into the computer during a patient’s office visit. This destroys any semblance of confidentiality and undermines the physician-patient bond. It can also result in the doctor failing to obtain a comprehensive history.

Some physicians feel that the way to regain autonomy is to not take insurance at all, but by doing this they are denying care to patients with low income; i.e., the majority of the country. In theory, doctors take an oath to do no harm. In reality, they are in thrall to rapacious corporate power and are more likely to spend a lot of time violating patients’ privacy, doing mind-numbing data entry, and failing to disclose the risks of extremely dangerous drugs such as opioids and psychiatric medications.

Liberal saints Obama and Hillary had an opportunity to make a push for single-payer, but instead chose to spend trillions of dollars murdering large numbers of people in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Honduras and Syria while maintaining nearly a thousand bases all around the world. How many more patients will be forced into bankruptcy? How many more souls will be debased and defiled? How many more human lives will be lost?

The Stomach-Churning Violence of the Agrochemical Oligopoly

As humans, we have evolved with the natural environment over millennia. We have learned what to eat and what not to eat, what to grow and how to grow it and our diets have developed accordingly. We have hunted, gathered, planted and harvested. Our overall survival as a species has been based on gradual, emerging relationships with the seasons, insects, soil, animals, trees and seeds. And out of these relationships, we have seen the development of communities whose rituals and bonds have a deep connection with food production and the natural environment.

However, over the last couple generations, agriculture and food production has changed more than it had done over previous millennia. These changes have involved massive social upheaval as communities and traditions have been uprooted and have entailed modifying what we eat, how we grow our food and what we apply to it. All of this has been driven by geopolitical concerns and powerful commercial interests with their proprietary chemicals and patented seeds. The process of neoliberal globalisation is accelerating the process as farmers are encouraged to produce for global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness.

Certain crops are now genetically engineered, the range of crops we grow has become less diverse, synthetic biocides have been poured on crops and soil and our bodies have been subjected to a chemical bombardment. We have arrived at a point where we have lost touch with our deep-rooted microbiological and social connection with nature and have developed an arrogance that has placed ‘man’ above the environment and all other species. One of the consequences is that we have paid an enormous price in terms of the consequent social, environmental and health-related devastation.

Despite the promise and potential of science, it has too often in modern society become a tool of vested interests, an ideology wrapped in the vestiges of authority and the ‘superstition’ that its corporate-appointed priesthood should not be challenged nor questioned. Instead of liberating humankind, it has now too often become a tool of deception in the hands of agribusiness conglomerates which make up the oligopoly that controls what is an increasingly globalised system of modern food and agriculture.

These corporations have successfully instituted the notion that the mass application of biocides, monocropping and industrial agriculture are necessary and desirable. They are not. However, these companies have used their science and propaganda to project certainty in order to hide the fact that they have no real idea what their products and practices are doing to human health or the environment (and in cases when they do know, they do their best to cover it up or hide behind the notion of ‘commercial confidentiality‘).

Based on their limited, tainted studies and co-opted version of science, they say with certainty that, for example, genetically engineered food and glyphosate are ‘safe’. And when inconvenient truths do emerge, they will mobilise their massive lobbying resources to evade regulations, they will seek to hide the dangers of their products or they will set out to destroy scientists whose findings challenge their commercial bottom line.

Soil microbiologists are still trying to fully comprehend soil microbes and how they function as anintegrated network in relation to plants. The agrochemical sector has little idea of how their biocides have affected soils. It merely churns out public relations spin that their inputs are harmless for soil, plants and human health. Such claims are not based on proper, in-depth, long-term studies. They are based on a don’t look, don’t find approach or a manipulation of standards and procedures that ensure their products make it on to the commercial market and stay there.

And what are these biocides doing to us as humans? Numerous studies have linked the increase in pesticide use with spiralling rates of ill health. Kat Carrol of the National Health Federation is concerned about the impacts on human gut bacteria that play a big role in how organs function and our neurological health. The gut microbiome can contain up to six pounds of bacteria and is what Carroll calls ‘human soil’. She says that with their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the sanctity of the human body.

And her concerns seem valid. Many important neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking. Feed gut bacteria a cocktail of biocides and is it any surprise that many diseases are increasing?

For instance, findings published in the journal ‘Translational Psychiatry’ provide strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has written extensively on the impacts of agrochemicals (especially glyphosate) on humans, not least during child and adolescent development. In her numerous documents and papers, she cites a plethora of data and studies that link the use of agrochemicals with various diseases and ailments. She has also noted the impact of these chemicals on the human gut microbiome.

The science writer Mo Costandi discusses the importance of gut bacteria and their balance. In adolescence the brain undergoes a protracted period of heightened neural plasticity, during which large numbers of synapses are eliminated in the prefrontal cortex and a wave of ‘myelination’ sweeps across this part of the brain. These processes refine the circuitry in the prefrontal cortex and increase its connectivity to other brain regions. Myelination is also critical for normal, everyday functioning of the brain. Myelin increases a nerve fiber’s conduction velocity by up to a hundred times, and so when it breaks down, the consequences can be devastating.

Other recent work shows that gut microbes control the maturation and function of microglia, the immune cells that eliminate unwanted synapses in the brain; age-related changes to gut microbe composition might regulate myelination and synaptic pruning in adolescence and could, therefore, contribute to cognitive development. Upset those changes, and, As Mason argues, there are going to be serious implications for children and adolescents. Mason places glyphosate at the core of the ailments and disorders currently affecting young people in Wales and the UK in general.

Yet we are still being subjected to an unregulated cocktail of agrochemicals which end up interacting with each other in the gut. Regulatory agencies and governments appear to work hand in glove with the agrochemical sector.

Carol Van Strum has released documents indicating collusion between the manufacturers of dangerous chemicals and regulatory bodies. Evaggelos Vallianatos has highlighted the massive fraud surrounding the regulation of biocides and the wide scale corruption at laboratories that were supposed to test these chemicals for safety. Many of these substances were not subjected to what was deemed proper testing in the first place yet they remain on the market. The late Shiv Chopra also highlighted how various dangerous products were allowed on the commercial market and into the food chain due to collusion between these companies and public officials.

Powerful transnational corporations are using humanity as their collective guinea pig. But those who question them, or their corporate science, are automatically labelled anti-science and accused of committing crimes against humanity because they are preventing their products from being commercialised ‘to help the poor or hungry’. Such attacks on critics by company mouthpieces who masquerade as public officials, independent scientists or independent journalists are mere spin. They are, moreover, based on the sheer hypocrisy that these companies (owned and controlled by elite interests) have humanity’s and the environment’s best interests at heart.

Many of these companies have historically profited from violence. Unfortunately, that character of persists. They directly profit on the back of militarism, whether as a result of the US-backed ‘regime change’ in Ukraine or the US invasion of Iraq. They also believe they can cajole (poison) nature by means of chemicals and bully governments and attack critics, while rolling out propaganda campaigns for public consumption.

Whether it involves neocolonialism and the destruction of indigenous practices and cultures under the guise of ‘development’, the impoverishment of farmers in India, the twisting and writing of national and international laws, the destruction of rural communities, the globalisation of bad food and illness, the deleterious impacts on health and soil, the hollowing out of public institutions and the range of human rights abuses we saw documented during The Monsanto Tribunal, what we are witnessing is structural violence in many forms.

Pesticides are in fact “a global human rights concern” and are in no way vital to ensuring food security. Ultimately, what we see is ignorance, arrogance and corruption masquerading as certainty and science.

… when we wound the planet grievously by excavating its treasures – the gold, mineral and oil, destroy its ability to breathe by converting forests into urban wastelands, poison its waters with toxic wastes and exterminate other living organisms – we are in fact doing all this to our own bodies… all other species are to be enslaved or driven to extinction if need be in the interests of human ‘progress’… we are part of the same web of life –where every difference we construct artificially between ‘them’ and ‘us’ adds only one more brick to the tombstone of humankind itself.

— ‘Micobes of the World Unite!’, Satya Sager