Category Archives: Pharmaceuticals

The World Must End The US’ Illegal Economic War

The United States is relying more heavily on illegal unilateral coercive measures (also known as economic sanctions) in place of war or as part of its build-up to war. In fact, economic sanctions are an act of war that kills tens of thousands of people each year through financial strangulation. An economic blockade places a country under siege.

A recent example is the increase in economic measures being imposed against Iran, which many viewed as more acceptable than a military attack. In response to Iran retaliating for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and seven other people, Iran used ballistic missiles to strike two bases in Iraq that house US troops. President Trump responded by saying he would impose more sanctions on Iran. Then he ended his comments by urging peace negotiations with Iran. The United States needs to understand there will be no negotiations with Iran until the US lifts sanctions that seek to destroy the Iranian economy and turn the people against their government.

The sanctions on Iran have been in place since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which made that country independent of the United States. Iran is not the only country being sanctioned by the United States. Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, speaking to the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 nations on October 26, 2019, denounced the imposition of sanctions by the US, as “economic terrorism which affects a third of humanity with more than 8,000 measures in 39 countries.”

It is time to end US economic warfare and repeal these unilateral coercive measures, which violate international law.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic WarMarch 13 – 15, 2020

 

Sanctions are war (From havaar.org.)

Sanctions Are A Weapon of War

The United States uses sanctions against countries that resist the US’ agenda. US sanctions are designed to kill by destroying an economy through denial of access to finance, causing hyperinflation and shortages and blocking basic necessities such as food and medicine. For example, sanctions are expected to cause the death of tens of thousands of Iranians by creating a severe shortage of critical medicines and medical equipment everywhere in Iran.

Muhammad Sahimi writes that in a “letter published by The Lancet, the prestigious medical journal, three doctors working in Tehran’s MAHAK Pediatric Cancer Treatment and Research Center warned that, ‘Re-establishment of sanctions, scarcity of drugs due to the reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to deal with Iran, and a tremendous increase in oncology drug prices [due to the plummeting value of the Iranian rial by 50–70%], will inevitably lead to a decrease in survival of children with cancer.’”

Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and asthma affect over ten million Iranians who will find essential medicines impossible to get or available only at high prices. The US claims that food and medicines are excluded from sanctions but in practice, they are not because pharmaceutical companies fear sanctions being applied to them over some technical violation and Iran cannot pay for essentials when banks can’t do business with it. European nations failed to persuade the Trump administration to ensure that essential medicine and food were available to Iranians.

In Venezuela, due to the sanctions, 180,000 medical operations have been canceled and 823,000 chronically ill patients are awaiting medicines. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found sanctions have deprived Venezuela of “billions of dollars of foreign exchange needed to pay for essential and life-saving imports,” contributing to 40,000 total deaths in 2017 and 2018. More than 300,000 Venezuelans are at risk due to a lack of access to medicine or treatment. Economists warn US sanctions could cause famine in Venezuela. Sanctions also cause shortages of parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, and transportation as well as preventing participation in the global financial market. Sanctions, which are illegal under the UN, OAS and US law, have caused mass protests in Venezuela against the US.

Sanctions against Iran and Venezuela could be a prelude to military attack; i.e., the US weakening a nation economically before attacking it. This is what happened in Iraq. Under pressure from the United States, on August 2, 1990, the UN Security Council passed sanctions that required countries to stop trading or carrying out financial transactions with Iraq. President George H.W. Bush said the UN sanctions would not be lifted “as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” The US continued to pressure the increasingly skeptical Security Council members into compliance even though hundreds of thousands of children were dying. In 1996, then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked about the death of as many as 500,000 children due to lack of medicine and malnutrition exacerbated by the sanctions, and she brutally replied, “[The] price is worth it.” Sanctions were also used against Libya and Syria before the US attacked them.

This is consistent with the US ‘way of war’ described by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” which describes frontier counterinsurgency premised on annihilation including the destruction of food, housing, and resources as well as ruthless militarism. The US has waged a long-term economic war against Cuba (sanctions in place since 1960), North Korea (first sanctions in the 1950s, tightened in the 1980s), Zimbabwe (2003) and Iran (1979)

Sanctions hurt civilians, especially the most vulnerable – babies, children, the elderly and chronically ill – not governments. Their intent is to shrink the economy and cause chronic shortages and hyperinflation while ensuring a lack of access to finance to pay for essentials. The US then blames the targeted government claiming that corruption or socialism is the problem in an effort to turn the people against their government. This often backfires as people instead rally around the government, quiet their calls for democracy and work to develop a resistance economy.

Stop Sanctions destroying lives from BrightonAndHoveNews.org.

The Movement to End Sanctions

In recent years, a movement has been building to end the use of illegal economic coercive measures. The movement includes governments coming together in forums like the Non-Aligned Movement, made up of countries that represent 55 percent of the global population, as well as UN member-states calling for international law and the UN Charter to be upheld and social movements organizing to educate about the impact of sanctions and demand an end to their use. This June, the Non-Aligned Movement called for the end of sanctions against Venezuela.

Popular Resistance is working with groups around the world on the Global Appeal for Peace, an initiative to create a worldwide network of people and organizations that will work together to oppose the lawless actions of the United States, and any country that acts similarly. A high priority is opposing the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures that violate the charter of the United Nations. The UN and its International Court of Justice have been ineffective in holding the US accountable for its actions. No one country or one movement has the power alone to hold the United States accountable, but together we can make a difference. Join this campaign here.

With 39 countries targeted with sanctions, and other countries impacted because they cannot trade with those countries, nations are challenging the US’ dollar domination. Countries are seeking to conduct trade without the dollar and are no longer treating the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency while also avoiding Wall Street. The de-dollarization of the global economy is a boomerang effect that is hastening due to the abuse of sanctions and will seriously weaken the US economy.

Foreign Minister Zarif, who describes sanctions as “economic terrorism,” warned that “the excessive use of economic power by the United States, and the excessive use of the dollar as a weapon in US economic terrorism against other countries, will backfire.”  As the blowback continues to grow, the negative impact on the US economy may force the US to stop using sanctions. The end of dollar domination will add to the demise of the failing US empire.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic War
March 13 – 15, 2020

End the Deadly Sanctions banner on the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. (From the Embassy Defense Collective.)

Time to End the Use of Illegal Economic Sanctions

The combination of countries acting against US sanctions, and people’s movements pressuring the US government has the potential to end the abuse of sanctions. The EU has moved to blunt the impact of the sanctions against Iran by creating an alternative to the US-controlled SWIFT system for trade. This is spurring the end of the dollar as the reserve currency. Some officials in the EU have called for retaliatory sanctions against the US.

Trump left a small opening for potential diplomacy with Iran that could lead to the end of sanctions against that country. Trump bragged about the US being the number one oil and gas producer, taking credit for an Obama climate crime, and therefore no longer needing to spend hundreds of millions a year to have troops in the Middle East. He concluded with a message to the “people and leaders of Iran” that the US was “ready to have peace with all those who seek it.” He said the US wanted Iran to have a “great and prosperous future with other countries of the world.”

That future is only possible if the US moves to end the sanctions against Iran. Iranians have learned the US cannot be trusted. Iran lived up to the requirements of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but Trump did not when he withdrew from it and re-instated draconian sanctions lifted by Obama. Trump added even move sanctions. This also angered European allies who had negotiated the agreement and were put in the position of being subservient to the US or going against it. To regain Iran’s trust, the US needs to make a good-faith gesture of ending punitive economic measures.

North Korea, which has been sanctioned by the US longer than any other country, had a similar experience after they reached an agreement with the United States in 1994 under the Clinton administration.  The George W. Bush administration wanted to put in place a national missile defense system but the agreement with North Korea blocked that. John Bolton and Dick Cheney falsely accused North Korea of violating the agreement, increased sanctions against it and claimed it was part of the Axis of Evil, along with Iran, and Iraq. North Korea, like Iran, learned they cannot trust the United States. Sanctions are causing thousands of deaths in North Korea. Now, China and Russia are allied with North Korea and are urging relief from the US sanctions. Russia and China have also ignored US sanctions against Venezuela and continue to do business with it.

On December 17, the Senate passed a Sanctions Bill that put in place sanctions against corporations working with Russia to develop gas pipelines to Europe. The action is naked US imperialism seeking to prevent Russia from being the main natural gas exporter to the EU market and to replace it with more expensive US-produced gas, a move to save the financially-underwater US fracking industry. Russia, Germany, and others have defiantly told Washington its weaponizing of economic sanctions will not halt the gas pipeline construction.

The indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions is an act of war. Unless they are authorized by the United Nations, unilateral coercive measures are illegal. A critical objective of the peace and justice movement in the United States, working with allies around the world, must be to end this terrorist economic warfare. The US economy currently depends on financial hegemony and war. The slow, steady collapse of the dollarized economy means the 2020s will be the decade US domination comes to an end. The US must learn to be a cooperative member of the global community or risk this isolation and retaliation.

Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter 

Newly released pesticide usage statistics for 2018 confirm that the British people are being used as lab rats. That’s the message environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has sent to Dave Bench, senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan. In her open letter to Bench, Mason warns that things could get much worse.

In 2016, the UK farming minister said that the nation could develop a more flexible approach to environmental protection free of “spirit-crushing” Brussels directives if it votes to leave the EU. George Eustice, the minister in question, said that the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style ‘risk-based’ system that would allow for faster approvals.

There is little doubt that Eustice had GM crops in mind: the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the most promising crops suitable for introducing to England would be Roundup Ready GA21 glyphosate-tolerant crops as they synergise well with herbicides already widely used in the UK.

Similarly, Boris Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister in July 2019:

Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.

However, the ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. The technology has a questionable record and, anyhow, there is already enough food being produced to feed the global population, yet around 830 million are classed as hungry and two billion experience micronutrient deficiency. If Johnson wants to ‘feed the world’, he would do better by looking of the inbuilt injustices of the global food regime which is driven by the very corporations he seems to be in bed with.

Conservative politicians’ positive spin about GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops, using more glyphosate (or similar agrochemicals) and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards. It is no secret that various Conservative-led administrations have wanted to ditch the EU regulatory framework on GM for some time.

Unregulated chemical cocktail

Mason asks Bench why Defra and the Chemicals Regulation Division refuse to ban glyphosate-based herbicides in Swansea between 2014-2017 when she told them that it was poisoning her nature reserve:

Analysis of local tap water in August 2014 revealed a 10-fold increase since August 2013: from 30 ppt to 300 ppt.  I told them that these were of the order of concentrations found in a laboratory study in 2013 that showed that breast cancer cell proliferation is accelerated by glyphosate in extremely low concentrations. We had several neighbours who have recently developed breast cancer. Now, in 2019, with many scientific papers reporting apocalyptic insect declines around the world, we are facing a global Armageddon; yet the public has no idea, because the press has concealed it from them.

Bench is also asked:

Have you seen the pesticides usage statistics for 2018? They confirm what a European NGO said in 2013, that the British citizens are being used as lab rats!

Mason continues:

Dave Bench, you presented a paper at the Soil Association meeting on 20 November 2017… [it] showed that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops had increased between 6-18 fold between 1974 and 2016, rather than halved as farmers and industry had claimed!! As well as hearing this new evidence of increased pesticide use in the UK, the conference heard new scientific evidence from around the world showing that very low doses of pesticides, well below official ‘safety’ levels, pose a significant risk to public health via our food supply.

Were you shocked? Presumably you weren’t because you described the regulatory system for pesticides as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society. That statement is rubbish. It is for the benefit of the agrochemical industry. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides, including over children and babies, without warning.

Ian Boyd, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra, says pesticides, once they have been authorised, are never reviewed.

Mason adds there is consistent denial by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Defra and the agrochemical industry about the massive amounts of pesticides used on farmland and herbicides used in towns and cities on weeds; and there is silence from the UK corporate media.

She informs Bench that although glyphosate was relicensed in Europe by a “corrupt” group of individuals, it is distributed to every organ of the body and has multiple actions: it is an herbicide, an antibiotic, a fungicide, an antiprotozoal, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.

In her previous reports, as in her letter to Bench, Mason has documented the consequences of this for human health.

Just as concerning is the UN Global Chemicals Outlook II report that indicates large quantities of hazardous chemicals and pollutants continue to leak into the environment, contaminating food chains and accumulating in our bodies, where they do serious damage. Estimates by the European Environment Agency suggest that 62 per cent of the volume of chemicals consumed in Europe are hazardous to health. The World Health Organization estimates the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives. The lives of many more are negatively impacted.

Business as usual: public health crisis

Mason goes on to highlight numerous disturbing aspects of the revolving door between the pesticide industry and public bodies/government in the UK. She also notes that David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta, to Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) board and awarded him a CBE in 2017 for services to cancer research.

Mason explains that the British government’s UK life sciences strategy is dependent on funding from the pharmaceutical sector which has links with the pesticide industry. In 2011, CRUK started donating money (£450 million/year) to the government’s ‘Strategy for UK Life Sciences’ while AstraZeneca (Syngenta’s parent company) was providing 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines in the UK. She argues that Syngenta’s products cause diseases, while its parent company tries to cure them with synthetic chemicals. And CRUK is a willing enabler.

In 2014, the NFU, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) launched ‘Healthy Harvest’ to safeguard the crop protection pesticide toolbox. The NFU and the agrochemical companies have continually defended the use of pesticides for economic reasons and complain about any attempt to restrict the 320-odd at their disposal. CPA, AIC and the NFU commissioned Andersons to write a report: ‘The effect of the loss of plant protection products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture’. Conveniently for the report’s commissioners, Andersons predicted dire economic effects on UK farming if pesticides were to be restricted.

And it is not that these powerful interests do not have the government’s full attention. Between May 2010 and the end of 2013, the Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of industry. According to Mason, it is business as usual and patently clear that the pesticides industry is being protected.

While continuing to ignore and side-line important scientific research findings which highlight inconvenient truths for government and the pesticide industry, prominent public officials and scientists as well as the media attempt to explain away all the diseases now affecting the UK as a result of individual behaviour: bad lifestyle choices.

In her various reports, Mason has discussed the importance of the gut microbiome and the deleterious effects of glyphosate which result in various health issues, such as obesity and depression. By 2018, CRUK was claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers, but Mason argues that contamination by residues from 123 different pesticides on the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools by the Department of Health is the real reason for childhood obesity – not biscuits or poor choices.

Each year, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers with no treatments making any difference to the numbers. While certain prestigious research centres are lavished with funding, Mason argues their work merely serves to strengthen the pesticide and pharmaceutical industries and implies the entire process is little more than a profitable racket at the expense of public health.

In finishing, let us remind ourselves of what the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, said in 2017:

The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies…

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, added:

While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.

There is a lot more valuable information in Rosemary Mason’s 10,000-word open letter to David Bench, including many references and citations in support of her claims. Readers are urged to access ‘Pesticides usage statistics for 2018 prove that the British people are being used as lab rats’ via the academia.edu website.

The Killing Fields of American Health Care

And all the devils are here.
Hell is empty,

The Tempest (I.ii.)

American health care is being crushed under the iron heel of a cabal of ruthless and merciless robber barons. Indeed, this primitive and backward system continues to be a source of horrendous suffering, as the health insurance companies, hospital executives, and pharmaceutical companies repeatedly place their insatiable lust for profit over the lives of their fellow Americans. And the health care oligarchs should be proud of what they have achieved: For they have created a health care system that is unrivaled in the industrialized world for its degradation and barbarity.

As economic inequality grows in America, so too does inequality of health care. Writing for The Harvard Gazette, David Cecere points out that tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to a lack of health insurance. Unsurprisingly, life expectancy is directly proportional to income in the United States, as evidenced by the fact that Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota has a life expectancy of 47 for men and 52 for women. This inequality continues unabated as pharmaceutical CEOs rake in unprecedented profits.

According to a Johns Hopkins study, more than 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. This is inextricably linked with the fact that hospitals prioritize profit-making over patient care. Consequently, administrators are forcing physicians, and residents in particular, to work extremely exploitative and unsafe hours. Obamacare, which should really be called the Unaffordable Care Act, caused premiums and deductibles to go up, and failed to address the problem of health care either being tied to one’s job or to a fluctuating salary if the patient is an independent contractor.

Two thirds of all bankruptcies filed in the United States are medical bankruptcies, and over half a million American families file for bankruptcy each year as a result of medical bills they cannot pay. Indeed, this vitally important institution is in thrall to the forces of privatization, and this has transformed what was once a healing profession into a machinery of oppression and mass murder.

Pharmaceutical Totalitarianism

While unnecessary drugs and medical procedures are sometimes prescribed so that a doctor can milk a good insurance plan, vitally important drugs and procedures are even more likely to be inaccessible should a patient’s insurance be inadequate. For example, the cost of insulin has become prohibitively expensive for a growing number of Americans, leading many diabetics to resort to rationing which has resulted in premature death. As Ralph Nader writes in “Big Pharma: Gouges, Casualties, and the Congressional Remedy:”

In 2017, the U.S. consumers spent $333.4 billion on prescription drugs.

There are no price controls on drugs in the U.S. as there are in most countries in the world. Senator Bernie Sanders just took a bus tour to a Canadian pharmacy where insulin cost patients one tenth of what it costs them in the U.S.

The price of an EpiPen, made by Mylan, has also skyrocketed, and EpiPens are indispensable in warding off severe allergic reactions that can lead to anaphylactic shock and death. In “Life-Saving Allergy Treatment is Becoming Too Expensive for Families to Afford,” published in 2016, Laurel Raymond points out that “Over the past nine years, since Mylan bought the rights to the EpiPen, the price for the easy-to-use injectors has quintupled — increasing about 450 percent, from around $50 for one injector to $600 for a pack of two.”

The growing unaffordability of the device has resulted in patients carrying around expired EpiPens and resorting to dangerous jerry-rigged alternatives. The prices for anti-epileptic drugs have likewise soared, also putting patients’ lives at risk.

Prior authorizations (PAs), where health insurance companies place significant obstacles in place to get a drug or procedure approved, have led to needless suffering and death. Discussing the results of a survey where 1,000 physicians were asked about their experience with PA, Andis Robeznieks writes in “1 in 4 Doctors Say Prior Authorization Has Led to a Serious Adverse Event:”

More than nine in 10 respondents said PA had a significant or somewhat negative clinical impact, with 28 percent reporting that prior authorization had led to a serious adverse event such as a death, hospitalization, disability or permanent bodily damage, or other life-threatening event for a patient in their care.

Few realize that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not engaged in impartial third party testing of drugs, and that the pharmaceutical companies are simply supplying the FDA with their invariably fudged statistics. Incredibly, the FDA admits this on their own website, stating that the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) “doesn’t actually test drugs itself, although it does conduct limited research in the areas of drug quality, safety, and effectiveness standards.”

There are growing conflicts of interests, where MDs that sit on FDA panels receive monetary payments from the companies that make the very drugs they are charged with evaluating. The payments are doled out after the drugs are approved, allowing the officials to get away with not disclosing conflicts of interest before the drug is placed under review.

Acknowledging the disastrous consequences that have ensued due to the absence of a responsible regulatory body, Donald W. Light writes in Risky Drugs: Why The FDA Cannot be Trusted, published with Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics:

Every week, about 53,000 excess hospitalizations and about 2400 excess deaths occur in the United States among people taking properly prescribed drugs to be healthier. One in every five drugs approved ends up causing serious harm, while one in ten provide substantial benefit compared to existing, established drugs. This is the opposite of what people want or expect from the FDA.

Prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death.

Physicians are increasingly being fed manipulated data, and duped into believing that new drugs always do what their manufacturers claim that they do. This degradation of regulatory constraints imposed on industry is rooted in the fact that the firefighter has become a pyromaniac.

This corruption has had a deleterious impact on the doctor-patient relationship. In “Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs,” published with The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, the authors caution that “industry has commercialized the role of physicians and undermined their position as independent, trusted advisers to patients.” The pharmaceutical companies are also frequently testing new drugs against placebos, which is unethical as it leaves clinicians with no meaningful benchmarks.

There is competition between the different drug companies to be the first to get their drugs to market, and the FDA is expected to dutifully rubber-stamp new drugs of which very little is known. Commenting on the FDA’s new role as a poodle for the pharmaceutical companies, Caroline Chen writes in “FDA Repays Industry by Rushing Risky Drugs to Market:”

The FDA is increasingly green-lighting expensive drugs despite dangerous or little-known side effects and inconclusive evidence that they curb or cure disease. Once widely assailed for moving slowly, today the FDA reviews and approves drugs faster than any other regulatory agency in the world.

Clinicians have also been bribed into prescribing drugs which they might otherwise not have prescribed, as transpired with Nuplazid, manufactured by Acadia Pharmaceuticals. Chen writes, “The top five prescribers of Nuplazid in Medicare, the government’s health program for the elderly, all received payments from Acadia.” Nuplazid, a drug designed to treat Parkinson’s, has been associated with thousands of adverse side effects and over eight hundred deaths.

Vioxx is a particularly chilling example of the horrors that can unfold amidst the growing collusion between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry. Whistleblower David Graham, MD, who is a senior researcher within the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, has confirmed that Merck knew that Vioxx posed a significant risk of heart disease. Testifying before the US Senate Committee on Finance on November 18, 2004, he said:

Prior to approval of Vioxx, a study was performed by Merck named 090. This study found nearly a 7-fold increase in heart attack risk with low dose Vioxx. The labeling at approval said nothing about heart attack risks.

In an article published with The New England Journal of Medicine, Eric Topol, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic posits that 160,000 heart attacks and strokes were caused by Vioxx. Internal Merck memos reveal that the company sought to conceal these dangers from physicians. Vioxx led to the deaths of around 55,000 Americans and netted $11 billion for Merck, which spent over a hundred million a year marketing the drug. Interviewed on PBS, Dr. Graham said that “FDA is an institution that has become a factory for the approval of new drugs and safety is not a consideration.”

The New Opium Wars

Along with suicides, a significant factor contributing to the decline of American life expectancy has been the opioid crisis, and it is likely that the history of opioid addiction was deliberately withheld from medical students and trainees, thereby making them malleable to the machinations of industry. Many have forgotten that there was a terrible opioid epidemic that ravaged the US in the later part of the 19th century, and which began with the Civil War, as doctors had little knowledge of how to treat pain aside from opioids and amputation, and the military technologies of the day far surpassed 19th century medical knowledge. Yet even before the birth of Christ, there were physicians that understood the dangers of opium-based drugs. Diagoras of Cyprus (3rd century BC) and the Greek physician Erasistratus (304 BC-250 BC) both understood that opium use was fraught with danger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”

There is also a connection between the overprescribing of opioids, illicit opioid use, and heroin, as four out of five heroin users used prescription opioids prior to starting heroin. Under the spell of the pharmaceutical companies, American doctors wrote over 240 million opioid prescriptions each year from 2009 to 2014. Even in 2017, after the carnage was obvious to all but the most insouciant, American physicians still wrote over 190 million opioid prescriptions.

Health insurance companies have also contributed to the crisis. As Linda Girgis, MD, points out in “Calling Responsible Parties to Task for their Role in the Opioid Epidemic,” insurance companies often refuse to cover alternative treatments for pain, such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractics and Lidoderm patches.

The breakdown in checks and balances has been total and absolute, and the regulator and the regulated are now intertwined like two knavish devils waltzing in hell. Dr. Curtis Wright, the FDA official that oversaw the testing of OxyContin, a drug manufactured by Purdue Pharma and which played a significant role in the opioid crisis, later went on to work for that very company.

Taking absurdity to new heights, drug companies are even permitted to fund continuing medical education courses that teach doctors how to prescribe opioids. Indeed, this is emblematic of how the American oligarchy has developed a hostility, not only to the humanities, but also towards science.

The complete degradation of credibility within the FDA has its roots in the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), which was passed in 1992, and authorized the FDA to collect fees directly from pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of financing the review process for new drugs. Cognizant of the fact that there is presently no impartial political body that can curb their unscrupulous designs, drug companies have vigorously lobbied Congress to protect their interests. Groups such as the Pain Care Forum receive funding and support from pharmaceutical companies, and spend millions of dollars lobbying congress to keep opioid regulatory measures lax.

So corrupt has the FDA become, that the FDA approved the Sanofi-Aventis drug Ketek, even when the FDA was aware of the fact that the data supplied by Sanofi-Aventis was fraudulent and based on a study that never even happened. The FDA was later forced to remove the drug after four cases of death due to Ketek-induced liver failure. Accutane, Rezulin, Selacryn, Diethylstilbestrol (DES), and Meridia are some of the other “wonder drugs” that the FDA has shamelessly unleashed on an unsuspecting public, and which later had to be recalled after inflicting grievous bodily harm and death.

Psychiatry and the War on Thoughtcrime

Another source of obscene profits for the pharmaceutical industry has been psychotropic drugs, and the complicity of the FDA and mainstream psychiatry with the push to enslave Americans to these dangerous and highly addictive substances is irrefutable. This is yet another example of how science is being degraded by the quackery of the drug companies and their paid “experts.”

The fondness of mainstream psychiatry for pseudoscience is matched only by its hostility towards informed consent, and this has resulted in a forging of alliances with deeply reactionary and anti-democratic forces. Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Council for Mental Hygiene on June 18th, 1940, British military psychiatrist J. R. Rees openly espoused totalitarian tactics, and called for psychiatrists to infiltrate every aspect of society. Undoubtedly, he would be pleased with the reign of terror unleashed by psychotropic drugs on Americans today, and the particularly devastating toll these drugs have taken on children, soldiers and veterans.

In “Psychiatric Drugs are False Prophets with Big Profits: Psychiatry Has Been Hijacked,” by psychiatrist Robert Berezin, the author bemoans the demise of ethics in his profession:

The real source of human suffering is not, nor ever has been, the brain. The issues are in the person, the human being, in the context of damage to the play of consciousness, created by deprivation and abuse in the formation of our character. My life’s work has taught me that the art, the science, the discipline, and the wisdom of psychotherapy attends to this damage. There are no miracles and no shortcuts, as drugs, like the other somatic therapies, always promise. Never mind the harm done. We have repeated the same mistakes over and over again, and we are doing so today. It doesn’t seem to matter that the chemical imbalance theory has been discredited. It doesn’t seem to matter that the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry and its influence peddling in academic psychiatry has been exposed as financially and scientifically corrupted and manipulated. The drug companies have engaged in study suppression, falsification, strategic marketing, and financial incentives.

In “10 Reasons Why Psychiatry Lives On—Obvious, Dark, and Darkest,” psychologist Bruce Levine writes that the demonic power of psychiatry continues to grow despite the fact that “numerous studies have found that so-called ‘antipsychotics’—especially in the long-term—are essentially pro-psychotics; and that so-called ‘antidepressants’—especially in the long-term—are essentially pro-depressants.” Levine also warns that psychiatry has become a tool which can be used to suppress dissent:

Psychiatry maintains the societal status quo by its attributions that emotional suffering is caused by defects in individual biochemistry and genetics rather than by trauma and societal defects created by the ruling elite. Psychiatry covers up the reality that the root of much of what is commonly labeled as “mental illness” is a dehumanizing society—one orchestrated to meet only the needs of the wealthy and powerful and not designed to meet the needs of everybody else for autonomy, meaningfulness, and genuine community.

While the mass media has been unable to conceal the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from the opioid epidemic, they are less enthusiastic about covering psychosis, homicidal ideation, and suicidality triggered by Prozac, Paxil, and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Indeed, dozens of school shootings have been carried out by young people, either on, or suffering withdrawal from, psychiatric drugs.

Ominously, the virus of privatized health care is spreading to Europe, and in 2018 English doctors wrote over 70 million prescriptions for antidepressants. Andreas Lubitz, the German pilot who on March 24, 2015, intentionally crashed his airplane en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf into the Alps killing everyone on board, was taking mirtazapine along with a number of other psychotropic drugs. Geert Michels, the driver of the vehicle in the Sierre bus tragedy, who drove his bus into a wall in a tunnel in Switzerland killing 28 people, 22 of whom were children, had traces of Paxil in his system.

Pharmaceutical chemist and whistleblower Shane Ellison, who has worked for Eli Lilly, has acknowledged that psychiatrists are inventing diseases so as to expand the clientele of the drug companies. In a 1993 letter to the editor of the New York Times, distinguished psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote, “Since most antidepressants are highly toxic and frequently used in successful suicide attempts, their widespread availability probably increases the overall suicide rate, much as the availability of guns increases the murder rate.” According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), there are over seven million American children (from toddler to the age of 17) on psychiatric drugs.

There used to be a time when we gave American youth literature, history, math, science, music, art and a sense of community. Now we tell our sons and daughters that they have “learning disabilities” and get them addicted to drugs that can cause brain damage. Every child’s mind is sacred. It is our duty to protect the liberty, sanctity, and inviolability of their souls.

There is a distinct possibility that the most intelligent and creative children are frequently the ones being medicated. As the brightest students are often the ones who shout out the answer before raising their hand, there is a real danger that these students will be diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or any number of imaginary diseases and placed on mind-altering drugs. Many of these vulnerable patients, betrayed by their doctors in the cruelest possible manner, go on to take their own lives.

Even dermatologists, who delight in arm-twisting patients with inferior insurance into being medical models without their consent, are still engaged in the legitimate science of studying and treating skin cancers. What would possess a physician to abandon, not only science, but all traces of human morality and ethics? As Voltaire once wrote in Questions sur les miracles: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Once a child has been labeled as “mentally ill” it is difficult to escape the crosshairs of the inquisitors. Indeed, it is not unusual for such a youth to be seized by Child Protective Services should their parents resist having their son or daughter placed on psychotropic drugs. This underscores the authoritarianism that is inseparable from the cult of psychiatry. Moreover, the technology now exists through the use of a digital pill for psychiatrists to easily coerce patients to take their “medication.”

Allied with a gang of zealots who are more than happy to peddle their poisons, the pharmaceutical companies have long since abandoned all considerations except that of profit-making. Harriet Fraad writes in The Guardian that “Every major company selling anti-psychotics – Bristol Meyers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca – has either settled investigations for healthcare fraud or is currently being investigated for it.” Should a patient attempt to stop their psychoactive drugs and suffer terrible withdrawal symptoms, Iago, now armed with a white coat and a stethoscope, will simply whisper in their victim’s ear that this is because their disease has returned.

In addition to fomenting totalitarianization, the psychiatrization of the culture is inextricably linked with the hysteria of liberal fundamentalists who believe that their ideological adversaries are not only “racist,” “homophobic,” and “sexist” – but also mentally ill. Hence, a dubious love triangle has formed between avaricious drug companies, whose lust for profit is insatiable; psychiatrists, who have autocratic tendencies and are hostile to both due process and habeas corpus; and liberals, who believe that we are living in a utopia, and who take offense with those that do not share this worldview.

In a passage that could have been taken from a government edict issued by the totalitarian regime in Orwell’s 1984, the Australian mental health organization, WayAhead, states on their website that “It is not uncommon for a person with a mental illness to deny they are ill or that they need help.” We are also informed that someone may have a serious mental illness if they “have thoughts which are not in tune with reality.” And whose reality would that be?

As the late Thomas Szasz, who authored over thirty books on psychiatry, wrote in the introduction to Psychiatry: The Science of Lies:

Because there are no objective methods for detecting the presence or establishing the absence of mental diseases, and because psychiatric diagnoses are stigmatizing labels with the potential for causing far-reaching personal injury to the stigmatized person, the “mental patient’s” inability to prove his “psychiatric innocence” makes psychiatry one of the greatest dangers to liberty and responsibility in the modern world.

Prescribing medicines that aren’t real medicines, to treat diseases which aren’t real diseases, the thought police thrive precisely in this environment of lawlessness and unaccountable government that has emerged following the attacks of September 11th. Indeed, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the revival of the Espionage Act, and the RESPONSE Act all serve to empower the cult of psychiatry.

Gog and Magog: Barbarism Abroad and Barbarism at Home

As a child I used to think of drug dealers as vampires that would strike suddenly, waylaying innocent passersby in the dead of night. It is no small irony that the most diabolical drug dealers would turn out to be psychiatrists that prescribe psychotropic drugs and physicians that overprescribe opioids. This scourge of amorality is tied to the dismantling of the humanities, without which medical ethics cannot survive.

Overspecialization, a military-style hierarchy, and subjecting residents to such exploitative working conditions that they frequently suffer from sleep deprivation over prolonged periods of time, also contribute to inculcating these impressionable young minds with blind obedience. In this way are sentient human beings transformed into mindless unthinking automatons.

Like its cousin, the military industrial complex, the medical industrial complex has repeatedly demonstrated a total disregard for human life, and makes tens of billions of dollars off of death, misery and suffering. This slow motion coup d’état which has been unfolding inexorably since the 1980s, and which has resulted in the health care oligarchs being able to acquire a stranglehold over our health care system, has transformed a once respectable profession into a cruel and brutal machine that repeatedly harms instead of heals. As American health care has degenerated into a depraved and wicked business, it would seem that primum non nocere has been usurped by caveat emptor.

Now Is The Time To Win National Improved Medicare For All

National improved Medicare for all is making tremendous progress during the 2020 election cycle. Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who advocate for it, are achieving record numbers of contributions and performing strongly in the polls. Candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, who opposes Medicare for all, and Senator Kamala Harris, who came out with a phony plan she called Medicare for all, are losing ground.

This is happening because of the decades of work by the single-payer movement to educate people, organize and build consensus for National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA). The opposition is gearing up too but the Medicare for All movement is responding to their false claims, which are repeated in the corporate media and by insurance-funded candidates. If the movement continues to build support and keeps Medicare for all a central issue in the 2020 election, we can win National Improved Medicare for All in the early 2020s.

To learn more about NIMA, sign up for the HOPE campaign and join the national calls. The next call will be on Monday night, November 4 at 9:00 pm Eastern/6:00 pm Pacific. Wendell Potter will speak about the opposition’s tactics and how to counter them. Register here.

People want health care, not health insurance

A whistleblower for the insurance industry tells the truth:

The business model of for-profit health insurance depends on denying care to people who need it. These corporations can’t be reasoned with, only defeated.

One of the false talking points of opponents of NIMA is that people want to keep their private insurance. In reality, the employer-based healthcare system is not working for employers or employees. The current system is resulting in very high costs to individuals, now surpassing $20,000 annually for the average family. The cost of insurance is rising faster than incomes, making insurance impossible to afford. This is one reason why the number of uninsured, now 27.5 million, is growing.  The soaring cost of healthcare is one reason why 58 percent of small business owners support Medicare for all.

A recent poll found that pollsters can manipulate the outcome by using anti-Medicare talking points, but when voters are told the truth they prefer Medicare for all. For example, this survey found that when people hear that under Medicare for All you can keep your preferred doctors and hospitals, support climbs to a clear majority of 55 percent. Support among Democrats gets to 78 percent. For independents, 56 percent support Medicare for all. People also said they trust the federal government over private insurers to control healthcare costs, by 20 points. Kaiser, which has been tracking public opinion of the issue, finds a majority of the public supports Medicare for all.

Polls actually find that what people hate is instability in their health insurance. Instability is inherent in private health plans as employers will change insurance, shrink coverage or increase prices. They will even cut-off insurance due to the cost or when there is a labor conflict. Medicare for all is the most stable option — from birth to death people would be fully covered by NIMA. This allows people to change jobs or stop working to take care of children or elderly parents and still keep their health coverage.

NIMA means real choices for people as they can go to any doctor, hospital, clinic or other providers they prefer while with private insurance, patients are limited to narrow insurance networks of providers and limited choices of care. People believe in universal access and only Medicare for all can accomplish that. And, people understand that healthcare should be treated as a right, not as a commodity. Healthcare is a human right, not something employees should have to bargain for.

The truth is that people don’t love their insurance, they love having access to health care and put up with insurance companies because that is how the current healthcare system is financed. Health insurers use their media connections and the politicians they fund to put forward the false message that private insurance is essential. We do not need private insurance as it is an expensive middleman that adds nothing to health care except tremendous administrative costs and bureaucracy accounting for one-third of total healthcare spending.

Bogus Argument: We can’t afford it

One of the most senseless arguments against NIMA is that we can’t afford it. In reality, the current system is the most wasteful, inefficient and costly in the world. The spectre of high costs is a bogeyman promulgated by industry astroturf groups. Medicare for all will save money by cutting the bureaucracy and negotiating for fair prices for goods and services. We can’t afford NOT to move to a Medicare for All single-payer healthcare system.

Currently, nearly one third the cost of healthcare is due to the complex for-profit health insurance industry. About half of that is insurance company costs; e.g., advertising, executive salaries, dividends, real estate. The other half is the administrative cost they create for providers. Many hospitals have more staff working on billing to deal with the insurance industry than they have nurses. Healthcare is approaching 20 percent of GDP. Under NIMA, it will gradually go down to about 12 percent, similar to other wealthy countries with single-payer or national health service systems.

There is a lot of fearmongering about Medicare for all but the reality is people will pay less, have better care and more choice. Groups that oppose single-payer, like the Urban Institute, use false assumptions to heighten the cost of Medicare for all. Unfortunately, the false information on cost is likely to continue as the Congressional Budget Office has packed its 19-member panel that advises them on health policy with insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital interests.

One way to confuse people on cost is by claiming federal spending on healthcare will go up.  Of course, it would because Medicare for all is a federally-funded program. While total spending will decrease and costs for people and businesses will go down, federal spending will go up.

When the media reports on the cost of NIMA, it often seems like they have lost the ability to do the math. They do not report that over a decade the cost would be $2.1 trillion less than projections of spending under the current US healthcare system. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting finds that the Washington Post does not want voters to know that Medicare will save money. This is part of an effort by the media to make it seem like Medicare for all is impossible to afford.

Sanders has not put forward a specific plan for paying for improved Medicare for all because there are many ways to pay for improved Medicare for all. This week, Elizbeth Warren released her plan to pay for Medicare for all. She described it as the biggest tax cut in history because she does so without adding taxes on working people.

A major cost problem is the high price charged by hospitals. The current system allows them to charge just about whatever they like, prices vary wildly, and they fleece the poor. Some hospitals even sue people over their medical bills, though some have stopped collecting medical bills because of exposure and public pressure.  Other hospitals are closing, leaving towns without access to healthcare and creating a crisis in many rural and poor urban areas.  Medicare for all would control hospital pricing and ameliorate the problem of hospitals closing.

Pushing False Alternatives to Medicare

As Medicare for all becomes more popular, opponents put forward false solutions. The medical industry gives tens of millions of dollars to House candidates who oppose Medicare for all. The movement has exposed these false approaches. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the lead sponsor of the health bill in the House, has criticized Democrats for using the Medicare label for policies that are not Medicare for all.

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the biggest recipient of health care dollars, is pushing a false approach, Medicare for Some, which is merely a public option and cannot solve the health crisis. Biden, who urges fixing the Affordable Care Act, puts out false information about Medicare for all. The ACA is fundamentally flawed as it is based on the inefficient private health insurance industry. Harris has waffled on her support for Medicare for all. Her bad policy was also bad politics as it coincided with her drop in the polls.

The Republicans don’t have a realistic solution to the healthcare crisis. When they sought to shrink health insurance coverage in the 2018 elections, there were massive protests. Trump’s actions to further privatize Medicare are also counterproductive. The insurance industry’s Medicare Advantage, which the industry is pushing because they profit from it, is more expensive and provides less coverage than traditional Medicare.

Real Solutions to the Healthcare Crisis

The US is in a healthcare crisis. This is a snapshot of the gravity of that crisis.

  • 28,300,000 – People uninsured in the United States in the first quarter of 2018.
  • 530,000 – Estimated number of families who file bankruptcy each year due to medical issues and bills.
  • 44% – People who didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured because of the cost.
  • 34% – Cancer patients who borrowed money from friends or family to pay for care in 2016.
  • 79% – Increased death rate for cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy in 2016.
  • $75,375 – Cost of a heart bypass operation in 2016 in the U.S.
  • $15,742 – Cost of a heart bypass operation in 2016 in the Netherlands.
  • $1,443 – US per capita spending on pharmaceutical costs in 2016, the highest in the world.
  • 840% – Increase in spending for insulin from 2007 to 2017 on Medicare Part D (Medicare’s prescription drug plan).
  • $5,110,000,000,000 – Estimated 10-year cost savings of a single-payer healthcare system

Medicare for all would be transformative in many ways.  It would not only solve the healthcare crisis but would also cut poverty by more than 20 percent and would be a big tax cut for workers.

The first step to solve the US health crisis is National Improved Medicare for All. A majority of House Democrats have signed on to the Medicare for all bill, HR 1384. They need to be pushed to be more active in their advocacy for it. Presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins, has a plan that goes beyond NIMA to a fully public, community-controlled healthcare system. Hawkins’ system would prevent the healthcare profiteers from being able to game the system.

We have come a long way in the past ten years from single-payer healthcare being “off the table” to it being a major topic in the 2020 presidential election. We have the opportunity to win this if we keep educating, organizing and pushing candidates and elected officials. Visit our HOPE campaign for the tools and information you need to be an effective advocate for National Improved Medicare for All.

Drug Dealers, Polluters and Sex Traffickers: Welcome to Oligarch Cloud Cuckoo Land

Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
We write in water.
Henry VIII (IV.ii.)

The notion that American oligarchs amass great wealth due to their extraordinary intelligence has become a deeply engrained tenet of liberal fundamentalist dogma. For in order for neoliberalism to maintain popular support it is necessary that the media relentlessly extol the virtues of the new robber barons. This myth of the meritocracy is sustained with fawning from the presstitutes, but also from the dubious practice of philanthrocapitalism. And yet cracks have appeared in the meritocratic facade which even the mass media has not been able to conceal.

From Andrew Carnegie to Henry Clay Frick, from John D. Rockefeller to Cornelius Vanderbilt, American capitalists have long embraced philanthropy as a means with which to not only deify themselves, but to also glorify and perpetuate a system anchored in authoritarianism, cruelty, and the impoverishment of millions.

Jeffrey Epstein hails from this blood-soaked lineage, as his rise was inextricably linked with a culture in thrall to the lie that those who are the most virtuous acquire the most wealth. A sex trafficker, who for decades managed to maintain a carefully cultivated image of an urbane and munificent New Yorker, Epstein had become a magnet for careerists, opportunists, and fellow con artists alike.

Helaine Olen writes in The Washington Post:

The major lie of the age of wealth inequality is that the moneyed are somehow better than the rest of us day-to-day working schlubs. The aristocracy of prewar Europe had their bloodlines. Our latter-day meritocratic aristocrats, we are told, possess the modern equivalent, which is extraordinary intelligence. The slothful working class are slaves to short-term pleasure. The rich, on the other hand, are disciplined. They wake up early, and they refuse to live beyond their means.

This is a lie. The Epstein scandal proves it.

Epstein preyed not only on destitute American girls from broken homes, but also on foreign girls, some of whom did not speak English, making them even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Writing in The Miami Herald, Julie K. Brown writes that “after the FBI case was closed in 2008, witnesses and alleged victims testified in civil court that there were hundreds of girls who were brought to Epstein’s homes, including girls from Europe, Latin America and former Soviet Republic countries.”

The suspicious deal worked out a little over a decade ago by Epstein’s high powered legal team allowed their client to get off with incredibly lenient sentencing terms, and served to protect other creatures of dubious repute who may have been involved in a vast criminal network. Brown continues: “The deal, called a federal non-prosecution agreement, was sealed so that no one — not even his victims — could know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved.”

Epstein’s “black book” contained personal phone numbers belonging to such “masters of the universe” as Donald Trump, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Senator Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, David Koch, Ehud Barak, John Kerry, David Rockefeller, Michael Bloomfield, Leslie Wexner, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth, Saudi King Salman and Edward de Rothschild. Irregardless of whether these plutocrats were involved in the abuse of minors, the fact that Epstein was permitted to inhabit this peculiar parallel legal system for so many years signifies the degradation of checks and balances which has opened up the floodgates of the West to barbarism.

Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly procured underage girls for Epstein, founded the TerraMar Project in 2012, a nonprofit ostensibly devoted to protecting the world’s oceans. Ghislaine’s father, Robert Maxwell, was a Mossad agent, and some have speculated that she may have introduced her boyfriend to the Israeli intelligence services.

There is a high degree of probability that Epstein was running a blackmail operation in conjunction with an intelligence agency (or agencies), as he had hidden cameras scattered throughout the rooms of his many residences, and appeared to be filming his guests as they were “getting a massage.” Epstein also had an Austrian passport, coveted by spies, due to Austria’s neutrality.

Chicago criminal defense attorney Leonard C. Goodman writes in the Chicago Reader:

A public criminal trial would have made it very hard to cover up Epstein’s relationship to intelligence agencies. These are the agencies that tell our presidents which countries to bomb, what leaders to depose, and which terrorists to assassinate by drone.

Frequently referred to by the presstitutes as a “disgraced financier,” despite the fact that no one has seen a website for the firm which he allegedly operated; and often referred to as “pedophile Jeffrey Epstein,” as if he were a lone villain acting all by himself, Epstein’s life personifies the depravity of contemporary American society. Moreover, this “financial genius” was somehow able to acquire one of the most luxurious residences in Manhattan (21,000-square-feet, and steps from Central Park), a 10,000 acre ranch in New Mexico, an apartment in Paris, a luxury villa in Palm Beach; and two islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Little Saint James and Great Saint James.

Epstein’s charitable donations were clearly a smokescreen designed to disguise extremely nefarious activities. The mega-rich in other countries may be crooks (consider Pablo Escobar, described by Wikipedia as a “narcoterrorist”), but not wealthy Americans, who are simply smarter than everyone else. That Epstein came from a working class family, and that his father, Seymour Epstein, worked for the New York Parks Department as a groundskeeper, only deepens the mystery of where this money really came from.

Ever the debonair cool guy of Manhattan’s in-crowd, Epstein donated to the Independent Filmmaker Project, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Ballet Palm Beach, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Cancer Research Wellness Institute and the Melanoma Research Alliance. In May of 2012, PR Newswire ran an article titled “The Largest Private Funder of Melanoma Research Receives Vital Support From Activist Jeffrey Epstein.”

One of Epstein’s favorite places to donate was Harvard, as this allowed him to hobnob with a variety of influential academics and scientists. As John Patrick writes in The Washington Examiner:

The disgraced finance mogul donated millions to Harvard endeavors from the late 1990s throughout the 2000s, including a $6.5 million donation to Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and a $2 million pledged donation for Harvard’s Jewish organization Hillel. Plus, Epstein contributed more than $100,000 to a Harvard performing arts organization, and gave a gift of more than $100,000 to a non-profit run by Elsa New, wife of former Harvard president and Clinton administration member Larry Summers.

Epstein also donated $2.5 million to Ohio State University and $800,000 to MIT. Taking hypocrisy to new heights, he even donated to the Women Global Cancer Initiative, the Mount Sinai Breast Health Resource Program; and to The Hewitt School, a prep school for girls on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Underscoring the netherworld of imaginary morality that our plutocrats inhabit, Epstein told the New York Post that “I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an ‘offender.’ It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”

Bernie Madoff, another exhilarating New York success story, was managing – at least according to his computer printouts – the astronomical sum of $50 billion, and was equally fond of donating to charitable causes. Yeshiva University, The Ramaz School, Maimonides School, and the Hadassah Women’s Organization were some of the institutions that suffered serious losses when Madoff’s firm revealed itself to be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

Cousins of human traffickers, polluters also need to unwind from time to time, and what better way to bask in the grandeurs of perdition than donate to the arts? The New York State Theater, an important performing arts space within Lincoln Center and home to the New York City Ballet, was renamed the David H. Koch Theater in 2008; while the Metropolitan Museum of Art now offers the David H. Koch Plaza, whose namesake paid $65 million to have the new plaza built in his name. The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT is another child born of Koch philanthropy.

The Charles Koch Foundation has donated enormous sums of money to hundreds of universities with the aim of inculcating impressionable young minds with their reactionary ethos, which is anchored in the idea that all attempts at corporate regulation and maintaining a public sector should be jettisoned. The Koch brothers donated over $95 million to George Mason University, which is a public university, and this led to the Charles Koch Foundation being granted a significant amount of leverage with regard to the hiring and firing of faculty.

Steven Pearlstein writes in The Washington Post:

When someone gives $10 million to an engineering school rather than the college of humanities, it changes the university’s priorities. When someone endows a center to study the causes and consequences of climate change, it affects who is hired and what is taught and researched. When someone gives enough to name a school after a public figure, it shapes a school’s ideological profile. It would be great if all donations were unrestricted, but they aren’t. Many donors have agendas. The Kochs are just an extreme example.

The Koch brothers have left behind a toxic legacy from Corpus Christi, Texas; to Chicago and Detroit; to Crossett, Arkansas; to New Delhi, India, and beyond. Greenpeace posits that “Koch Industries is a major polluter, with ongoing incidents and violations of environmental laws.” Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone that “Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined.” He goes on to point out that “Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.” Together, Charles and David Koch accumulated around $100 billion.

The Sackler Family, which owns Purdue Pharma and made billions off of the opioid crisis, deceived doctors about the highly addictive nature of OxyContin. This particularly dangerous opioid was promoted in part through dishonest advertising, but also though manipulating physicians into believing the drug was safe. Patrick Radden Keefe writes in The New Yorker that “The marketing of OxyContin relied on an empirical circularity: the company convinced doctors of the drug’s safety with literature that had been produced by doctors who were paid, or funded, by the company.” The Sackler family is now attempting to sell the drug abroad through Mundipharma, a Purdue subsidiary, and is marketing OxyContin in Asia, South America and the Middle East.

It is noteworthy that Arthur Sackler aggressively marketed Librium and Valium in the 1960s, which earned tremendous profits for Hoffmann-La Roche, and also led many Americans down a path towards abuse and addiction. Judith Warner writes in Time:

Valium has long served extremely well as a vehicle for proving the perfidy of psychiatrists and the drug companies behind them. It was indeed dispensed in outrageous-seeming numbers in the 1960s and early 1970s. It did indeed lead to tragic levels of abuse and addiction.

The Sacklers are now one of our richest families. Like Epstein, the Sackler family sought to cultivate a worldly image anchored in their patronage of education and the arts, and some of the most prestigious museums in the Western world have galleries and wings named after them.

At the Guggenheim, there is the Sackler Center for Arts Education; at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is the Sackler Wing; and at the American Museum of Natural History, there is the Sackler Educational Laboratory. At Harvard, there is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum; in Washington DC, the Sackler Gallery; and at the Brooklyn Museum, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Moreover, there are Sackler wings and educational institutions at renowned British museums such as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, the British Museum, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and at the Tate Modern. The Sacklers have also donated to the Royal Ballet School, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the Royal Opera. Perhaps the Whitney Museum of American Art, which has a board run largely by war profiteers, could receive the funds accumulated from the many lawsuits arrayed against Purdue and be renamed the Sackler.

Not content with defiling artistic institutions with their blood money, the Sacklers have donated to educational institutions. At Columbia, there is the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology; and at Oxford, the Sackler Library; at Yale, there is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences.

Particularly egregious conflicts of interest are the Sackler Brain and Spine Institute at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical and Physical Sciences at Weill Cornell, and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts. No less disturbing, in the winter of 2010 Thomas J. Lynch Jr., MD, was named Richard Sackler and Jonathan Sackler Professor of Medicine and Director of the Yale Cancer Center. The Sacklers have also donated millions to Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard’s oldest teaching hospital. Andrew Joseph writes in “Purdue Cemented Ties with Universities and Hospitals to Expand Opioid Sales, Documents Contend,” that “At Mass. General, the agreement with Purdue allowed the company to suggest curriculum for pain education.” No less outrageous, in Israel there is the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. Emblazoned in its lobby are the words “Dedicated to Mankind for the Health of All People.”

Some arts institutions have disassociated themselves from the Sacklers, such as the Louvre, which took down the Sackler name from its Wing of Oriental Antiquities. A number of prominent museums, such as the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Tate galleries have refused to accept further donations from the Sacklers, although the name continues to sully their august halls.

Teva Pharmaceuticals has likewise played a role in the opioid crisis, and partners with Mount Sinai, a blatant conflict of interest. Ostensibly, they will treat “multiple chronic conditions” together. Teva has donated to a wide variety of health care organizations and gave $2.5 million to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In an article in The Times of Israel titled “Federal Data Reveals Extent of Teva’s Role in Fueling US Opioid Crisis,” the authors write that between 2006 and 2012 “Teva Pharmaceuticals USA produced 690 million opioid pills.”

When not getting Americans addicted to opioids and psychotropic drugs, Johnson and Johnson delights in donating to Johnson & Johnson Vision and the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP), both of which make endearing videos replete with cute kids and teary-eyed grandparents.

Indeed, this was how some of the most diabolical drug dealers in America, were, at least for a time, able to convey an image of benevolence, munificence and altruism. Keefe writes that “Over time, the origins of a clan’s largesse are largely forgotten, and we recall only the philanthropic legacy, prompted by the name on the building.”

Where are our heroes, America? Our novelists, labor leaders, artists and intellectuals? What would Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, or Mark Twain say about these soulless creatures who sought to use their lucre to envelop themselves in a halo of veneration and hagiography? A society that prostrates itself at the altar of depravity is a society of death.

Let us disenthrall ourselves from the shackles of materialism and careerism. Let us cast the false idol of avarice from the tallest cliffs, and from its ashes embrace a phoenix reborn, a harbinger of compassion, altruism and justice.

Genocide Warnings for Three African States

These genocide warnings concern current threats to the peoples of Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. Beyond the primary concern for all the people in national groups, a pattern is emerging globally which should remind North Americans of past genocides against native American peoples: the masses of people forced from their homelands, the refugee camps which are meant to both save and contain the displaced, the senseless killing of civilians, the slaughter by hunger, arms and disease which lower the population numbers, and the relentless attack on native cultures to incapacitate the will to resist. The inability to recognize genocide at home limits the ability to understand other contemporary genocides in progress.

After a massive loss of life in Rwanda, Libya, and Ivory Coast where the old leadership was removed by war and these were wars won by forces with Euro-American support, there’s an increased sensitivity to the early warnings of war such as destabilization. These population losses in Africa have followed the extreme example presented by the destruction of Iraq and its infrastructure by bombs and missiles. The process of replacing uncooperative government leaders with tractable puppets was and is a disaster for each person of the millions displaced, forced into exile, in mourning for all those lost whether to armed violence, or sickness and hunger.

In areas of Africa with increasingly high numbers of displaced persons we’re likely to find the covert hand of colonialism reasserting its need for corporate profits. The current news from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi, lends insight into how and why genocides do occur or could occur., while the challenge of understanding is to stop them.

1. Cameroon

Concerned with the increasing violence and repression in Cameroon1 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet visited the country last May to meet with government ministers, opposition leaders, and Cameroon’s President Biya who assured full cooperation with the UN on issues of Human Rights.

To summarize the situation: 20% of the French speaking country is Anglophone, and the sparse public services are particularly diminished for the English-speaking areas. A portion of Anglophone leaders support secession of an English speaking region, of an Anglophone state, Ambazonia, abutting Nigeria. Not far from the inland portion of Ambazonia, in Nigeria, begins Boko Haram territory. Since about 2009 Boko Haram, a Sunni Muslim fundamentalist group, worked northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Chad.

A Boko Haram military tactic was, and is, reprisal, answering occasional military defeats with wiping out rural Christian villages in Cameroon. In Cameroon the government responded with an ongoing low intensity conflict to protect the area’s Muslim and Christian population. Cameroon’s forces became veterans of war against a military known for atrocities and kidnapping young women and entire schools.

In 2015 Boko Haram pledged allegiance to a larger Sunni Muslim fundamentalist group, ISIS, known for its atrocities in Syria and Iraq.

In 2016 Cameroon’s Anglophone lawyers whose rights were not well-respected, chose to go on strike. The nonviolent strike was joined by Anglophone teachers and students. Responding with military force and arrests the government imprisoned a number of lawyers to try for treason, which led to more violence. When forced to extremes the struggle for Anglophone rights made people choose sides. The result suggests it’s better not to force language struggles to extremes.

In 2017 Ambazonia declared itself a separate Anglophone country which initiated its own defense forces, militias etc. The region’s educational system was / is periodically shut down with threats effected against those who try to teach or attend school. The Cameroon government’s police stations are burned, government police dismembered, government forces engaged. Human rights violations by government forces were / are brutal and recurring. The separatist Ambazonian leader, Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, was recently sentenced to life in prison which occasioned more violence and military reprisal. About half a million people have left their homes in Cameroon.

On August 26th 2019, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada2 with the support of two human rights NGOs, presented a statement3 to the United Nations Human Rights Council noting crimes by Cameroon’s government against the country’s Anglophone minority, as well as responsive “violent acts” against the government. The statement requests international concern and encourages international action to prevent “further mass atrocities.” It asks the Government of Cameroon to end its violence and investigate the human rights abuses. The statement relies on and furthers the evidence and guide supplied by the report, “Cameroon’s Unfolding Catastrophe: Evidence of Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity,”4 authored by the two NGOs supporting the statement.

What can be said for Paul Biya’s dictatorial democracy and rule for 36 years is that in 2018 he was supported by 70% of the voters (Anglophone parties refused to vote). UN News reports “Cameroon is also hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria,”5 And Paul Biya has allowed Cameroon to survive without the epidemics, starvation, aggressions, war, massacres or genocide, which have tormented many African countries since their Independences from colonial rule in the 1960s.

Until 2016 found the government’s military forces suddenly engaged on two fronts – against ISIS in the far North and Anglophone militias in the West. Few journalists or reports mention both fronts in the same article and, for example, LRWC’s multi NGO statement to the Human Rights Council addresses only the Anglophone problem. This is also true of the NGO jointly authored “Report.” Neither mentions that the country is engaged in a war.

There is no mention at all in the LRWC statement or the “Report,” of Northern Cameroon’s Christian communities. When these are targeted by Boko Haram / ISIS they’re wiped out. Fulani tribesmen are also blamed for the attacks. With last July’s attacks on villages 1100 additional families were displaced.6 A Bible translator was killed, his wife’s left hand cut off. The rainy season until October makes it hard for government troops to deploy to villages. Christian sources note that across the border in Nigeria “Tens of thousands have died over the last 20 years.”7 Last November in Bamenda 80 students were kidnapped from the Presbyterian school, not by ISIS but Ambazonian separatists.8 Generally the region’s Muslims and Christians get along. In mid-August Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo in the northwest made a plea to end the conflict and within hours two priests were kidnapped.9

The U.S. which provided military aid to Cameroon’s fight against ISIS has reacted to reports of the military’s human rights violations by withdrawing aid. The rights violations against Anglophones receive international coverage. Cameroon is only twenty percent Anglophone so Anglophone and Ambazonian leaders have encouraged intervention by outside forces.

Is Anglophone strategy to initiate conflict that would require outside intervention? This pattern of gaining outside support and cutting in foreign interests was followed in Cote d’Ivoire and led to the current head of state Alassane Ouattara’s victory. The Christian group revolutionary leader was replaced with a Muslim group’s former World Bank employee and friend of France’s Nicholas Sarkozy more friendly to French business interests.

Since LRWC, CHRDA and RWCHR are lobbying the UN Human Rights Council to encourage intervention in Cameroon, shouldn’t we know more about them?

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada affirms the rights of lawyers globally and addresses points of international law. Logically it would have to address Anglophone lawyers’ evidence of their government’s persecution.

LRWC is joined by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA)10 with offices in Cameroon and the U.S. CHRDA was founded in 2017 by the Cameroon Anglophone attorney, Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongo, who has studied at universities in Cameroon, Nigeria, the U.S. (Notre Dame), Brussells and Leipzig. He has worked in human rights for the U.N. When imprisoned for treason during the 2016 lawyers’ strike in Cameroon, the Ontario Bar and the U.S. RFK Human Rights NGO and his former professor at Notre Dame among others, protested until he was released. An eloquent lobbyist for the Anglophone cause in Cameroon his NGO encourages “democracy” for all African peoples. He’s among the original lawyers who misjudged the regime’s response which resulted in Cameroon’s 2016 destabilization.

The third NGO presenting the UN with encouragement to intervene is the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) founded by former Canadian Minister of Parliament / Minister of Justice, expert on international law, Professor Irwin Cotler. Both Cotler and Nkongo introduce the “Report” on Cameroon.

With its roots in WWII’s Holocaust of European Jewry RWCHR is a heavy hitter for human rights. And like many Canadian human rights NGOs it is…sanctified. But it takes political rather than moral stands. For example, this NGO has declared the BDS movement anti-Semitic and it generally supports Israel politically. According to Wikipedia RWCHR recently advised Canada’s government that Venezuela’s President Maduro is responsible for war crimes. RWCHR attempted to persuade European Parliament to take the Venezuelan government to International Criminal Court. RWCHR is providing legal representation for Venezuela’s opposition leader, Leopoldo Eduardo López Mendoza. And the NGO was very supportive in the referral of Venezuela to the International Criminal Court made by members of the Organization of American States. In any case, RWCHR’s position aligns with U.S. and Canadian government policy in the attempt to take over a sovereign nation, Venezuela. The NGO is apparently not against aggressive Euro-American takeover of a sovereign state.

To consider Cameroon then, the media haven’t noticed that the Boko Haram / ISIS attacks on Cameroon complement the interests of the Ambazonia secessionists, and vice versa. Both destabilize the State and so encourage outside intervention. A supplier of Ambazonian arms is found to be an Anglophone leader (Marshall Foncha, chair of the Ambazonia Military Council) living in the United States.11 Other Ambazonian arms are sourced from English speaking Nigeria. Boko Haram / ISIS is said to steal its sometimes advanced weaponry from Nigerian military and security forces. But there’s also verified evidence that ISIS is supported in Yemen by both the U.S. and Israel.12 Is Boko Haram /ISIS at the service of foreign interests in the destabilization of Nigeria and Cameroon?

Why did the leaders of the Anglophone movement initiate strikes and secession at a time when the country’s resources were strained by refugees, and when villagers of Cameroon were beng massacred by foreign forces? The more uncompromising Anglophone leadership is, the more inevitable the armed conflict in a country where 41% of the population has malaria13 and Médecins Sans Frontières has warned of a cholera epidemic in the north.14

On September 10th President Biya ordered his government to start a “national dialogue” to resolve the language conflict and he asked foreign nations to stop Cameroon’s diaspora from furthering the violence which is increasing in his country.15

2. The Democratic Republic of Congo

Neo-colonial inroads in the Democratic Republic of Congo16 are seen in the overt resource exploitation of the country’s East and terrible cost in human lives and displaced people, refugees and exiles. Death toll from the First and Second Congo Wars (1996-2003) could be as high as 6.2 million people. UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency in 2017 estimated 4.5 million displaced people within the country and in 2019, 856,043 hosted in other African countries.

Currently17 the DRC is suffering an Ebola epidemic which continues the depopulation of a resource rich region. The epidemic demands cooperation with countries which are otherwise stripping the country’s resources and with the United Nations World Health Organization. WHO has become entirely necessary globally to counter epidemics, plagues and biological warfare. It also provides and distributes pharmaceuticals.

As the number of Ebola cases passes 3000 (2000 deaths) two new pharmaceutical treatments for Ebola are being applied in the Congo without massive pre-testing: REGN-EB3 and mAb114. These are proving at least 90% effective on application.18 Fears of the lack of containment of Ebola in the city of Goma were eased by the announcement of success in the trials of new drugs. The new drugs use monoclonal antibodies to directly attack the Ebola virus. Testing of two less successful drugs was dropped. The difference in fatalities among various drug testing programs may have added to the anxiety of those withholding their trust in the doctors administering products of different pharmaceutical companies. Uganda is testing another drug (Jansen pharmaceuticals) on 685 Ugandans and expects the results to show them how long the drug’s effectiveness will last. A follow-up study for those receiving anti-Ebola medication during the West African epidemic in 2013-2016 found an abnormally high rate of subsequent kidney disease, re-hospitalization and death.19

As of September the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has 30 responders working in the DRC. The CDC is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which is providing the pharmaceutical producer Merck 23 million dollars (in addition to the 176 million already invested in the inoculative drug), toward doses of an Ebola vaccine it hopes will obtain licensing.20

Unlike the Ebola epidemic the efforts to combat measles have received only 2.5 million dollars of the 8.9 million required.21 In the world’s largest outbreak of measles currently, from January through August 2019, the disease killed 2700 children in the DRC, among the 145,000 infected. Médecins Sans Frontières has been able to vaccinate 474,863 children.

Faced with terrifying biological challenges endangered countries could become entirely reliant on the Euro-American pharmaceutical companies which can provide the cures, or lose portions of their populations.

The purpose of the Euro-American corporations is profit. Curative drugs and vaccines can be extremely expensive or withheld. Historically, disease (smallpox and tuberculosis) was used in North America in the genocide of North Americans. Slow to admit the practice of genocide at home, North Americans are reluctant to question the possibilities of contemporary application.

Corporate and government agency transparency is necessary. Information about contemporary U.S. biological warfare and disease experiments rarely reaches the public. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention monitored the Tuskegee syphilis experiment from 1957 until 1972 when a whistleblower exposed it to the newspapers. The experiment studied impoverished African American sharecroppers with syphilis who weren’t told they had the disease and were denied treatment. During the Vietnam war the U.S. Army experimented with release of bacteria in the New York City subways as one of 239 biological warfare experiments nationally in its covert testing from 1949 to 1969.

Ebola was first recognized in 1976, in South Sudan and in the same year, in the Congo Belge / Zaire / DRC. It is a hemorrhagic fever virus extremely similar to the Marburg virus and the CDC considers both Category A Bioterrorism Agents. The Marburg virus first appeared in a Marburg German laboratory in 1967.22

3. Burundi

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi23 has issued a report24 which states conditions exist in Burundi which lead to genocide. Conditions weren’t good last year and are worse now. As many as 400,000 have fled into exile. The UN has suspected the possibility of genocide occurring in Burundi for several years now. The Government of Burundi doesn’t agree.

In a health emergency not noted by the world’s press the Voice of America reported in 2017 that according to the WHO in 2016, 73 percent of Burundians were affected by malaria.25 Others say at least half the 11 million population of Burundi has malaria which is the leading cause of death. The disease is usually countered with pharmaceuticals but Burundi is the 2nd poorest country in the world.

The Voice of America blames Burundi’s violence and unrest on President Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to run for a third term which may have countered the country’s constitutional law. A similar instance of President Kagame’s third term in Rwanda didn’t bother the U.S. Burundi’s government tends to blame the unrest on Kagame and Tutsi-controlled Rwanda. Hutu controlled Burundi shows a Hutu / Tutsi ratio of 85% /15%. Rwanda thinks Burundi is hiding Hutu participants in Rwanda’s genocide.

Burundi’s government isn’t convinced by the UN’s good intentions and has denied UN investigators access. Burundi does have a history of events which could be defined as tribal warfare, civil wars, or genocides. If the incipient divisions are forced to extremes as they were in Rwanda it would likely be caused by exterior destabilization.

It could be argued that outside pressures forced the destabilization of Rwanda to the point of genocide in 1994. These should be noted by any monitoring of Burundi. Both Rwanda and Burundi of similar culture and language have dealt with the simplicities of tribal difference for over 500 years. One could argue that the responsibility for any contemporary genocide could only rest with “First World” interference, supplying armaments and taking sides to its own advantage. Burundi’s national language is African, Kirundi.

US / UN support for the Kagame Tutsi government’s official narrative of the Rwandan Genocide has both ignored and denied the genocide of Hutu during the recognized genocide of Tutsi at Kagame’s takeover of Rwanda, to the point of imprisoning those who have attempted to memorialize Hutu victims.

The UN report on Burundi includes, without specifically identifying covert programs, the threat of foreign attempts to intervene in the country’s politics and elections. With elections approaching next year the foreign media has stepped up its attacks on the present government. The BBC and Voice of America are no longer licensed to operate in Burundi. Since 2015 the European Union and US have applied selective sanctions to the country so Burundi has closed down all foreign NGOs. The Anglican Church of Burundi at work in the region since the 1930s is still able to provide its health, educational, environmental, community and religious services and programs.

International pressure for intervention in Burundi began as early as November 2016.26 By January 11, 2017 Night’s Lantern notes:27

The government cabinet Minister of the Environment has been assassinated. This continues a lethal back and forth between the government and its opposition, which threatens the region with a lapse into violence. Euro-American policies suggest military intervention to preclude the possibility of a genocide (see previous), an intervention likely to lead to corporatization of the country’s assets. This is a strong factor encouraging a genocide. Calls for intervention have coincided with major mining contracts gained by Russian and Chinese companies. Destabilization is encouraged by the privatization of Burundi’s coffee industry at the insistence of the World Bank; private interests have delayed delivery of pesticides and fertilizers; the crop and industry have been damaged. The Parliament of Burundi has had to place controls on international NGO’s in Burundi who are considered to support rebels against Burundi’s President Nikurunziza. Burundi has also withdrawn from the International Criminal Court so the Euro-American human rights industry is not well disposed toward President Nikurunziza and any non-African reporting on Burundi should require multiple verification. The attempt to wrest political power from African leaders who are uncooperative with US/NATO corporate takeovers is familiar.

Night’s Lantern has noted Burundi’s people as a national group under genocide warning since 2015. The UN report’s conclusion places an additional genocide warning for the people. To avoid interference by corporate interests Burundi’s government will have to be angelic in resisting attempts to subvert it. If the society continues to break down and a genocide is initiated will it be Burundians who are responsible?

  1. The author’s previous considerations of Cameroon are linked from Night’s LanternGenocide warnings.”
  2. To maintain transparency: although not involved with its response to this issue the author is a non-lawyer member of LRWC and supports many of LRWC’s statements and position papers for the Human Rights Council.
  3. “Human rights Catastrophe in Cameroon.” “Written statement* submitted by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status,” A/HRC/42/Ngo/1, August 21, 2019. Human Rights Council 42nd Session 9-27 September 2019.
  4. “Cameroon’s Unfolding Catastrophe” Evidence of Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity,” June 3, 2019, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa & Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
  5. “Cameroon: Clear ‘window of opportunity’ to solve crises rooted in violence – Bachelet,” May 6, 2019, UN News.
  6. “Boko Haram displaces Thousands in Northern Cameroon,” July 23, 2019, Persecution.
  7. “Nigeria is the biggest killing ground of Christians today,” current / September 14, 2019, Persecution.
  8. “The political conflict in Cameroon threatens the freedom of Christians,” Jonatán Soriano, December 5, 2018, Evangelical Focus.
  9. “Cameroon bishop: ‘I am not safe; after speaking out against conflict,” Crux staff, August 20, 2019, Crux.
  10. This should not be confused with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (CHRDCA) – headquartered in Cameroon’s capital, which is the regional office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  11. “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International,” Gareth Browne, May 13, 2019, Foreign Policy.
  12. “The Smoking Gun in the Islamic State Conspiracy: Documents Prove US Arming Islamic State,” Gearóid Ó Colmáin, September 5, 2019, American Herald Tribune.
  13. “Chinese Mosquito Coils Breaking Grounds in Malaria Control in Cameroon,” September 15, 2019, Journal du Cameroun.com.
  14. “Project Update,” August 21, 2019, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
  15. “Cameroon: Biya Orders Immediate Dialogue to Solve Cameroon’s Problems,” Moki Edwin Kindzeka, September 11, 2019, Voice of America.
  16. The author’s previous considerations of the Democratic Republic of Congo are linked from Night’s LanternGenocide Warnings.
  17. Suppressed News: Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2019, Night’s Lantern.
  18. “New Ebola Drugs Show Exciting Promise With Up to 90 Percent Cure Rate,” Global Information Network, August 14, 2019, Black Agenda Report
  19. “Ebola survivors may face increased risk of death after hospitalization,” Chris Galford, September 6, 2019, Home Preparedness News.
  20. “DRC Ebola outbreak reaches deadly milestone,” Chris Galford, September 3, 2019, Homeland Preparedness News.
  21. “Democratic Republic of Congo,” Eric Oteng (AFP), September 15, 2019, africa news.
  22. “Zaire ebolavirus,” current, Wikipedia; Marburg Virus, current, Wikipedia.
  23. The author’s previous considerations of Burundi are linked from Night’s LanternGenocide Warnings.
  24. “Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi,” A/HRC/42/49. August 6, 2019. Human Rights Council Forty-second session 9-27 September 2019.
  25. “Burundi Says Malaria Reaches Epic Proportions,” Edward Rwema, March 14, 2017, VOA.
  26. 2016 Suppressed News,” November 18, 2016, Burundi, Night’s Lantern.
  27. 2017 Suppressed News,” January 11, 2017, Burundi, Night’s Lantern.

Big Pharma: Gouges, Casualties, and the Congressional Remedy!

The Congress can overturn the abuses of Big Pharma and its “pay or die,” subsidized business model for its drugs.

Big Pharma’s trail of greed, power, and cruelty gets worse every year. Its products and practices take hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. from over-prescriptions, lethal combinations of prescriptions, ineffective or contaminated drugs, and dangerous side-effects.

The biggest drug dealers in the U.S. operate legally. Their names are emblazoned in ads and promotions everywhere. Who hasn’t heard of Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, and Novartis? Big Pharma revenues and profits have skyrocketed. In 2017, the U.S. consumers spent $333.4 billion on prescription drugs.

There are no price controls on drugs in the U.S. as there are in most countries in the world. Senator Bernie Sanders just took a bus tour to a Canadian pharmacy where insulin cost patients one tenth of what it costs them in the U.S. Yet, remarkably, drug companies, charted and operating in the U.S., charge Americans the highest prices in the world. This is despite the freebies our business-indentured government lavishes on Big Pharma. The FDA weakly regulates drugs, which are supposed to be both safe and effective, before they can be sold. Who funds this FDA effort? The drug industry itself— required by a law it has learned to love.

The Big Pharma lobby doesn’t always get what it craves. In the nineteen seventies, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, produced two paperbacks for a wide television audience (e.g. he appeared on the Phil Donahue Show). They were titled, Pills That Don’t Work and Over-the-Counter Pills that Don’t Work. Because of Dr. Wolfe’s tireless efforts, hundreds of different pills were removed from the market, saving consumers billions of dollars and sparing them the side-effects.

Big Pharma’s greatest strength is its hold over Congress. That is where it gets its huge bundle of subsidies and monopolistic privileges. During the first term of George W. Bush, the drug companies got the Republicans and some spineless Democrats to forbid Medicare from negotiating volume discounts with the drug companies, as the Pentagon and VA have done for years. Big Pharma had over 1,200 lobbyists swarming over Capitol Hill to get these handcuffs on Uncle Sam. Lobbyists combined with campaign cash donated by Pharma industry players sealed the deal.

Your Congressional representatives gave the drug giants much in return: Lucrative tax credits to pay Big Pharma to do what they should do anyway—engage in research and development. Drug companies are profitable recipients of taxpayer-funded government research on developing new drugs – and then given monopolies that enable them to impose sky-high prices, even when the purchaser is the very government that funded the invention of the new drugs in the first place.

The drug industry has also made sure there are no price controls on their drugs—whether gifted to them by NIH or developed by drug companies internally. The absence of price controls accounts for new “blockbuster drugs” going for $100,000, or higher, per patient per year. Many drug prices generally increase faster than inflation.

Greed is infinite for Big Pharma. In addition to tax credits, free drug R&D (compliments of the federal government), and no price restraints, the drug companies have moved much production to China and India. No antibiotics are manufactured in the U.S.—a clear national security risk to which the Pentagon and Trump should pay heed. Two new books, China Rx and Bottle of Poison, document the safety risks of poorly inspected labs in those countries exuding pills into your bodies without your minds being told of “country of origin” on the label.

The great hands-on humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, operating in 70 countries often under dangerous armed conflicts, lists “Six Things Big Pharma Doesn’t Want You to Know,” in its recent alert letter.

They are:

  1. Costs of developing new medicines are exaggerated tenfold or more.
  2. You’re paying twice for your medicines—first as taxpayers and second as consumers or through your government programs.
  3. Drug companies are not that good at innovation. About two thirds of new drugs (called “me-too drugs”) are no better, and may be riskier, than the ones already in pharmacies. But they are advertised as special.
  4. Monopoly patents are extended by clever lawyers to block more affordable generic versions. This maneuver is called “ever greening.”
  5. Pharma bullies low and middle income countries like South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, and Malaysia that try to curb its rapaciousness. These drug companies use trade rules and the U.S. government towards their brutal goals.
    In the nineteen nineties, a small group of consumer advocates led by Jamie Love, Bill Haddad, and Robert Weissman persuaded Cipla, an Indian drug firm, and Ministries of Public Health to lower the price of AIDS medicines from $10,000 per patient per year price down to $300 (now under $100). The U.S. drug companies were quite willing to let millions die because they couldn’t pay.
  6. Big Pharma always says they have to have large profits to pay for R&D and innovation. Really? Why then do they spend far more on stock buybacks (one of the metrics for executive compensation), on marketing and advertising than on R&D? Dr. Wolfe exposed this malarkey years ago.

Yet exposure has not stopped the worsening behavior of Big Pharma. Good books by Katharine Greider (The Big Fix) and Dr. Marcia Angell (The Truth About the Drug Companies) are devastating critiques of Big Pharma’s practices. Despite this, the books reach small audiences and are brushed off by the drug giants. Big Pharma is able to ignore these books because it controls most of Congress—candidates rely heavily on the industry for campaign budgets.

But the American people outnumber the drug companies and only the people can actually vote come election time.  Focused voters mean more to politicians than campaign money. The August recess for Congress means your lawmakers are back home having personal meetings. Visit them and make known your demands against the “pay or die” industry. Tell them your own stories.

Or better yet, make them come to your town meetings. Remember: “It’s your Congress, people!”

One galvanizing move by an enlightened billionaire could establish a 20 person advocacy group on drug pricing, focusing on Congress and mobilizing citizens back home. Its effect would be decisive for taming the drug industry’s gouging. Any takers: if so contact Public Citizen at gro.neziticnull@sseccasdem.

  • Image at top from tarbell.org.
  • The Doctor-Patient Relationship Can be Found in the Graveyard of Informed Consent

    My master that was thrall to Love
    Is become thrall to Death.

    — “A Ballad of Death,” by Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads, First Series, 1866

    The 21st century is only in its infancy, and the United States has revealed itself to be a truly remarkable country. We have imaginary jobs, an imaginary middle class, imaginary checks and balances, and an imaginary society. We even have imaginary bioethics. At the root of this new and exciting phenomenon is the dismantling of informed consent and the disintegration of the doctor-patient relationship that has followed in its wake.

    The privatization of health care has contributed to the weakening of the physician-patient bond, as health care has largely been taken over by the gangster capitalists of the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance companies, device manufacturers, and hospital administrators. In a KevinMD article titled “The Self-Inflicted Death of the Physician,” an anonymous doctor writes, “For certainly we, as a profession, have handed over our authority to others, not all at once, but slowly, inexorably, over decades. We are just a shadow of our former selves.” Mirroring these sentiments, Linda Girgis, MD, writes in Physician’s Weekly, “The doctor is no longer center stage, unless you are watching a puppet show.”

    In what will inevitably foment more unscrupulous behavior, MD/MBA programs are teaching doctors to think like businessmen, an irreconcilable contradiction. Hospital administrators are pressuring doctors to see increasing numbers of patients each day, while the health insurance companies continue to play a major role in stripping doctors of their autonomy by regularly countermanding doctor’s orders. This corporate coup d’état, rooted in avarice, callousness, and sociopathy has caused many clinicians to become unmoored from their traditional moral compass.

    Physicians are now compelled to use electronic medical records (EMRs), which force them to waste countless hours doing mind-numbing data entry. If an attending physician decides to employ a medical scribe, nurse, or medical student to assume responsibility for this onerous task, it means that a third party will be in the examination room during patients’ office visits, which if done without the patient’s permission, constitutes an egregious violation of informed consent. It is also common for businesses to change the health insurance plans of their employees each year, which invariably results in many patients having to leave doctors that they have established long-standing relationships with, and who may be critically important to their physical and emotional well-being.

    In addition to seeking assistance with EMRs, many physicians opt to bring interlopers into patients’ office visits, either because they prioritize teaching trainees to establishing a sound physician-patient rapport, or because they have figured out that it is much harder to be sued if there is a chaperone present in the examination room. Unsurprisingly, the medical institutions that spend the most money on glossy advertisements boasting of their boundless magnanimity and benevolence are frequently the institutions that are the most eager to bully patients into accepting a culture anchored in authoritarianism and absolute contempt for the rights of the patient.

    In a KevinMD article titled “Electronic Health Records Cannot Replace a Doctor Who Knows You,” the authors write: “Ensuring the best medical care is not primarily a technical challenge. It is a human challenge, which requires patients and doctors to be able to form deep and long-standing relationships.” And yet American teaching hospitals are churning out delusional and hubristic creatures who have not been inculcated with a respect for patient privacy and informed consent, and who are incognizant of the fact that once these principles have been jettisoned the majority of their patients will neither trust, nor respect, nor confide in them. The deterioration of this vitally important relationship has resulted in a situation where it is increasingly common for patients to fail to disclose pertinent medical information. The deplorable state of the humanities and the rise of subspecialization have undoubtedly  contributed to this scourge of blindness in American health care.

    Commenting on the dangers posed by medical scribes, Ami Schattner, MD, of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, said in an interview with The Medical Bag:

    I have serious concerns about the impact of scribes on the tender dynamic and intimacy of the physician-patient encounter. Perhaps the word ‘sanctity’ is not too strong when talking about the physician-patient relationship.

    In an article titled “Shining a Light on Shadowing,” by Elizabeth A. Kitsis, MD, the author warns of the ethical ramifications of imposing pre-med students on patients during their doctor visits:

    Physician shadowing by college students…may involve subtle coercion of the patient. To maintain his or her rapport with the physician, a patient may feel compelled to allow students into the examination room if his or her physician makes the request. However, the patient may resent the intrusion, and feel uncomfortable during the interaction.

    Indeed, Kitsis’ words are also applicable with regard to nurses, medical students, residents, and fellows observing office visits. In an article in Medscape titled “What is Medical Ethics, and Why is it Important?” the authors write: “Ethical decisions cannot be avoided. Whenever doctors make a clinical decision, they are almost always making an ethical decision, consciously or not.” It is not even unusual for attending physicians to inform patients of ominous test results with their entourage in tow. While this may be very exciting for medical students it can be perceived as callous, degrading, and inhuman from the standpoint of the patient.

    In “Stop the Anti-Doctor Media Bias,” by Rebekah Bernard, MD, the author writes that “Most physicians are dedicated individuals who hold patient care as sacrosanct.” I saw more doctors from 2016 to 2018 than a person would typically work with if they lived to a hundred, and have yet to see a single doctor’s office present me with a choice regarding the presence of observers during my office visits. In what could form the basis of a Kafka story, I had to voice my objections to the same institution and the same departments over and over again ad infinitum. Is this indicative of holding patient care as sacrosanct?

    Jeremy Brown, MD, has proposed that doctors be equipped with body cameras, and Myles Riner, MD, supports the recording of physician-patient encounters, arguing in “Should Physicians Record and Share Conversations with Patients?” that “One thing is certain, this approach is certainly indicative of patient-centered care, and I think many patients would greatly appreciate the effort.” Not to be outdone, The New York Times has waxed glowingly on the subject of group doctor visits. Virtual office visits and doctor visits at work also pose a serious threat to confidentiality. So little value is placed on patient privacy that hospitals have even allowed television crews into emergency rooms, resulting in one New York widow turning on the television one evening, only to watch her husband die before her very eyes. Even if medical students attend a few decent lectures on bioethics, this is frequently negated by what they see their attending doing on a daily basis.

    When the time comes for doctors to be patients, they often take for granted having the finest insurance plans which permit them to see any doctor without restrictions. This is in contrast with the majority of patients, who are increasingly restricted to narrow networks.

    In a KevinMD article titled “Please, be kind to your doctor. We need it.,” Sara R Ahronheim, MD, writes: “But when I go home, I am alone; no one knows your stories, no one sees the tears you cried when I told you the awful things I had to tell you.” No one, that is, except the nurse, medical student, and resident who also happened to be hanging out in the room at the time.

    What will become of the younger generation, being mentored as they so often are, in an environment where degradation is professionalism, indifference is empathy, and the most sordid behavior is hailed as “patient-centered care.” Indeed, this practice embodies everything base, ignoble, and treacherous in contemporary American health care. So relentlessly are patients besieged by these indignities, that there are times when I cannot help but wonder if these are really accidents and misunderstandings or the result of knavery and villainy. Teaching hospitals have a sacred duty to inculcate their trainees with a comprehensive understanding of, and respect for, medical ethics. All too often they are derelict in this duty. That so many attendings and their charges are indifferent to the physical, psychological, and emotional vulnerability of their patients underscores the fact that doctors and patients often speak in completely different languages.

    This imposition of interlopers during physician office visits — a depraved reality show euphemistically called “team-based care” — constitutes a violation of every foundational tenet of medical ethics: informed consent, confidentiality, patient privacy, patient dignity, patient trust, and the oath to do no harm. Moreover, once trainees have learned to disregard informed consent with regard to nonconsensual physician shadowing, it is highly probable that they will do so again when the opportunity presents itself.

    For instance, it is common for medical students and residents to be instructed to do practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients, and the practice is legal in 45 states. A 2007 study done in Canada — a country with a comprehensive single-payer system — revealed that over 70 percent of medical students had done practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients, and women have reported pain and bruising from these unauthorized exams.

    Teaching hospitals frequently regard their patients, especially those who lack the best commercial plans, as their property. In an online forum on The Student Doctor Network where the ethics of having trainees perform practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients is debated, AmoryBlaine writes:

    It’s surprising how worked up some people get over the issue. You will be naked on a brightly lit table for all to see. A medical student will put a tube into your bladder. We’re about to flay your belly open and remove your uterus and ovaries. But to do a pelvic exam! What a violation! If you get into this habit of being deathly afraid of the patient’s feelings about an internal exam you will never learn how.

    Glorytaker writes:

    When I was doing OB/GYN as a med student, the attending would have me do a pelvic right after the patient was under and before we started surgery. Of course, we were doing GYN-related surgery and he wanted me to note the difference before and after a cystocele or rectocele repair. We didn’t exactly get permission but it was for teaching purposes.

    Any rational layperson would be able to tell you that this is unethical, and yet many medical students and residents would disagree. What does that say about our education system? Perhaps it is this sort of degenerate thinking that led The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to nonchalantly point out that “The turn of the 21st century has seen doubts surfacing about informed consent.” The fighter pilot that bombs wedding parties in Afghanistan and the impressionable trainee who is taught that it is acceptable to do practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients have much in common. For they have both been inculcated with a profound sense of blind obedience.

    It is common for doctors to do nonconsensual episiotomies and pelvic exams on women in labor, and women are frequently coerced into having pelvic exams in exchange for birth control prescriptions. This is an example of how, with a medical degree and some mental gymnastics, blackmail and rape can be transformed into cod liver oil and brussel sprouts. Writing about the lack of informed consent with regard to Pap smears and testing for cervical cancer, Joel Sherman, MD, has pointed out that cervical cancer is very rare in the United States. In Finland women are given the option of being tested for cervical cancer once every five years. And in an article that appeared in The Milbank Quarterly titled “Cervical Cancer Screening in the United States and the Netherlands: A Tale of Two Countries,” the authors write, “Even though three to four times more Pap smears per woman were conducted in the United States than in the Netherlands over a period of three decades, the two countries’ mortality trends were quite similar.” Perhaps this egregious lack of ethics in obstetrics and gynecology should come as no surprise, considering the fact that James Marion Sims, who invented the speculum and who is widely regarded as the founder of modern gynecology, performed experiments on black slave girls.

    Will a 25-year-old woman continue to trust her oncologist should she go into permanent early menopause following chemotherapy, and her oncologist failed to disclose this as a common side effect associated with her chemotherapy regimen? What is the likelihood that a cancer patient will continue to trust their doctors should they experience long-term chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction, they are unable to continue with their career, and this too was not disclosed? Indeed, failure to disclose common long-term chemotherapy side effects is standard practice in many American cancer centers. It is also common for school districts to force high school students to undergo genital exams as a requirement to play sports, despite the fact that the scientific rationale behind the practice remains murky at best. And there are medical institutions, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, that do not allow patients to change from one doctor to another within any given department, which can leave a patient torn between seeking care at an inferior facility or being the slave of an overbearing scoundrel.

    Informed consent is absent in routine mammography screening, as no evidence exists that mammograms provide any benefit, whereas evidence exists that they have caused considerable harm. Obstetrics and gynecology aside, in no other specialty is there greater contempt for informed consent than in psychiatry, where dangerous side effects from psychiatric drugs are regularly withheld from patients and these drugs are even being prescribed for children. Psychiatrist Lawrence Kelmenson writes in “The Three Types of Psychiatric Drugs – A Doctor’s Guide for Consumers:”

    Psychiatrists are seen as hard-working, caring, understanding healers, but they’re really snake-oil salesmen, drug-dealers, and master-sedaters. What they do should be illegal. Someday everyone will realize that not only do psychiatrists not heal anything, they’re a major contributor to the recent rise in suicides and overdoses.

    Dr. Peter Breggin has echoed these sentiments, and actually specializes in getting people off these drugs.

    It is common for patients who are perceived as “anti-authoritarians” to be diagnosed as “mentally ill,” and a number of school shooters were found to be taking powerful psychiatric drugs at the time they unleashed a fusillade of bullets on their classmates and teachers. Informed consent is frequently absent in the treatment of prostate cancer, and tens of thousands of American men have their prostates removed unnecessarily each year, only to fully understand the dire consequences after the damage is irreversible. (Consider the words of Atul Gawande, MD, in “Overkill:” “The forces that have led to a global epidemic of overtesting, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment are easy to grasp. Doctors get paid for doing more, not less.”) These are all examples of how informed consent is routinely disregarded in an unconscionable manner. The Tuskegee Alabama syphilis experiments, as well as medical experiments conducted on the downtrodden of IndiaAmerican prisoners, and on prisoners in Guantanamo are emblematic of the barbarities that can be unleashed when the celestial temple of informed consent lies in ruins.

    After undergoing a surgical procedure in the summer of 2016, I was given a prescription for oxycodone, a semisynthetic opioid. Never was the highly addictive nature of this drug disclosed to me. Thankfully, Dr. Google informed me that oxycodone posed a “high risk for addiction and dependence.” Perhaps this might explain why, according to the CDC, “On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.” Many medical blogs delight in reminding us of the fact that the doctor-patient relationship is foundational to sound health care, and yet narcissism, moral bankruptcy, and careerism are endemic to our health care system. The erosion of trust that has followed this satanic cult of medical coercion has led to a situation where it has become harder for physicians to get patients to follow through with their treatment protocols.

    The hazing and bullying commonly experienced by many trainees can cause medical students and residents to become jaded, and to lose their sense of empathy. Residents are often so exploited that many suffer from depression and are chronically sleep-deprived, and the brutal military-style training they are forced to endure can lead to many trainees forgetting that “gall bladder in Room 213” is a human being with a name. It is incontrovertible that corporations have undermined the doctor-patient relationship and inflicted catastrophic damage to our health care system. And while doctors must support the fight for single-payer, they must also acknowledge the fact that the cavalier attitude towards informed consent on the part of many American physicians has played a critical role in the dissolution of the public’s trust. Inexperienced patients naively assume that every doctor will have their best interests at heart. All too often, this is sadly not the case. Moreover, once this trust has been violated, it can result in grievous and long-lasting emotional harm. A clinician that is indifferent to the doctor-patient relationship, and who is only interested in scans, pathology reports, and blood tests has been infected with the virus of technocracy and fallen into a morass of charlatanism.

    In the Charmides Plato wrote that “The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.” Medical students and residents may learn how to diagnose and treat different diseases, yet are seldom inculcated with an understanding of medical ethics and why it is so indispensable. In “Bringing Hospitality Back to the Hospital: Lessons From a Bartender,” by Cory Michael, MD, the author writes: “People remember how you make them feel. They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Medical terrorism and corporatization are the Goneril and Regan of medical sacrilege. Perpetually locked in a deadly embrace, they fuel one another’s nefarious designs. The tragedy is that so many medical students and residents are being seduced, not by the voice of truth, but by the voice of damnation. Let us recall the chilling words of Iago: “When devils will the blackest sins put on / They do suggest at first with heavenly shows / As I do now.” (Othello II.iii.)

    Informed consent is a river that separates the consecrated light of morality from the profane and blasphemous abyss of amorality. Once this Rubicon has been crossed, there is no turning back. Those who have strayed from their sacred oath will find absolution not in the ways of the wicked, but in a return to the path of compassion, integrity, and righteousness. Indeed, dignity for the patient and dignity for the physician are mutually interdependent.

    The doctor-patient relationship now lies buried in the unhallowed primeval ground; a cemetery where broken tombstones litter the earth with thorns and broken bottles, the land is barren and no flowers grow, and a once-proud beating heart beats no more. Only with a return to this inviolable bedrock of medical ethics can we embrace its resurrection.

    The Doctor-Patient Relationship Can be Found in the Graveyard of Informed Consent

    My master that was thrall to Love
    Is become thrall to Death.

    — “A Ballad of Death,” by Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads, First Series, 1866

    The 21st century is only in its infancy, and the United States has revealed itself to be a truly remarkable country. We have imaginary jobs, an imaginary middle class, imaginary checks and balances, and an imaginary society. We even have imaginary bioethics. At the root of this new and exciting phenomenon is the dismantling of informed consent and the disintegration of the doctor-patient relationship that has followed in its wake.

    The privatization of health care has contributed to the weakening of the physician-patient bond, as health care has largely been taken over by the gangster capitalists of the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance companies, device manufacturers, and hospital administrators. In a KevinMD article titled “The Self-Inflicted Death of the Physician,” an anonymous doctor writes, “For certainly we, as a profession, have handed over our authority to others, not all at once, but slowly, inexorably, over decades. We are just a shadow of our former selves.” Mirroring these sentiments, Linda Girgis, MD, writes in Physician’s Weekly, “The doctor is no longer center stage, unless you are watching a puppet show.”

    In what will inevitably foment more unscrupulous behavior, MD/MBA programs are teaching doctors to think like businessmen, an irreconcilable contradiction. Hospital administrators are pressuring doctors to see increasing numbers of patients each day, while the health insurance companies continue to play a major role in stripping doctors of their autonomy by regularly countermanding doctor’s orders. This corporate coup d’état, rooted in avarice, callousness, and sociopathy has caused many clinicians to become unmoored from their traditional moral compass.

    Physicians are now compelled to use electronic medical records (EMRs), which force them to waste countless hours doing mind-numbing data entry. If an attending physician decides to employ a medical scribe, nurse, or medical student to assume responsibility for this onerous task, it means that a third party will be in the examination room during patients’ office visits, which if done without the patient’s permission, constitutes an egregious violation of informed consent. It is also common for businesses to change the health insurance plans of their employees each year, which invariably results in many patients having to leave doctors that they have established long-standing relationships with, and who may be critically important to their physical and emotional well-being.

    In addition to seeking assistance with EMRs, many physicians opt to bring interlopers into patients’ office visits, either because they prioritize teaching trainees to establishing a sound physician-patient rapport, or because they have figured out that it is much harder to be sued if there is a chaperone present in the examination room. Unsurprisingly, the medical institutions that spend the most money on glossy advertisements boasting of their boundless magnanimity and benevolence are frequently the institutions that are the most eager to bully patients into accepting a culture anchored in authoritarianism and absolute contempt for the rights of the patient.

    In a KevinMD article titled “Electronic Health Records Cannot Replace a Doctor Who Knows You,” the authors write: “Ensuring the best medical care is not primarily a technical challenge. It is a human challenge, which requires patients and doctors to be able to form deep and long-standing relationships.” And yet American teaching hospitals are churning out delusional and hubristic creatures who have not been inculcated with a respect for patient privacy and informed consent, and who are incognizant of the fact that once these principles have been jettisoned the majority of their patients will neither trust, nor respect, nor confide in them. The deterioration of this vitally important relationship has resulted in a situation where it is increasingly common for patients to fail to disclose pertinent medical information. The deplorable state of the humanities and the rise of subspecialization have undoubtedly  contributed to this scourge of blindness in American health care.

    Commenting on the dangers posed by medical scribes, Ami Schattner, MD, of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, said in an interview with The Medical Bag:

    I have serious concerns about the impact of scribes on the tender dynamic and intimacy of the physician-patient encounter. Perhaps the word ‘sanctity’ is not too strong when talking about the physician-patient relationship.

    In an article titled “Shining a Light on Shadowing,” by Elizabeth A. Kitsis, MD, the author warns of the ethical ramifications of imposing pre-med students on patients during their doctor visits:

    Physician shadowing by college students…may involve subtle coercion of the patient. To maintain his or her rapport with the physician, a patient may feel compelled to allow students into the examination room if his or her physician makes the request. However, the patient may resent the intrusion, and feel uncomfortable during the interaction.

    Indeed, Kitsis’ words are also applicable with regard to nurses, medical students, residents, and fellows observing office visits. In an article in Medscape titled “What is Medical Ethics, and Why is it Important?” the authors write: “Ethical decisions cannot be avoided. Whenever doctors make a clinical decision, they are almost always making an ethical decision, consciously or not.” It is not even unusual for attending physicians to inform patients of ominous test results with their entourage in tow. While this may be very exciting for medical students it can be perceived as callous, degrading, and inhuman from the standpoint of the patient.

    In “Stop the Anti-Doctor Media Bias,” by Rebekah Bernard, MD, the author writes that “Most physicians are dedicated individuals who hold patient care as sacrosanct.” I saw more doctors from 2016 to 2018 than a person would typically work with if they lived to a hundred, and have yet to see a single doctor’s office present me with a choice regarding the presence of observers during my office visits. In what could form the basis of a Kafka story, I had to voice my objections to the same institution and the same departments over and over again ad infinitum. Is this indicative of holding patient care as sacrosanct?

    Jeremy Brown, MD, has proposed that doctors be equipped with body cameras, and Myles Riner, MD, supports the recording of physician-patient encounters, arguing in “Should Physicians Record and Share Conversations with Patients?” that “One thing is certain, this approach is certainly indicative of patient-centered care, and I think many patients would greatly appreciate the effort.” Not to be outdone, The New York Times has waxed glowingly on the subject of group doctor visits. Virtual office visits and doctor visits at work also pose a serious threat to confidentiality. So little value is placed on patient privacy that hospitals have even allowed television crews into emergency rooms, resulting in one New York widow turning on the television one evening, only to watch her husband die before her very eyes. Even if medical students attend a few decent lectures on bioethics, this is frequently negated by what they see their attending doing on a daily basis.

    When the time comes for doctors to be patients, they often take for granted having the finest insurance plans which permit them to see any doctor without restrictions. This is in contrast with the majority of patients, who are increasingly restricted to narrow networks.

    In a KevinMD article titled “Please, be kind to your doctor. We need it.,” Sara R Ahronheim, MD, writes: “But when I go home, I am alone; no one knows your stories, no one sees the tears you cried when I told you the awful things I had to tell you.” No one, that is, except the nurse, medical student, and resident who also happened to be hanging out in the room at the time.

    What will become of the younger generation, being mentored as they so often are, in an environment where degradation is professionalism, indifference is empathy, and the most sordid behavior is hailed as “patient-centered care.” Indeed, this practice embodies everything base, ignoble, and treacherous in contemporary American health care. So relentlessly are patients besieged by these indignities, that there are times when I cannot help but wonder if these are really accidents and misunderstandings or the result of knavery and villainy. Teaching hospitals have a sacred duty to inculcate their trainees with a comprehensive understanding of, and respect for, medical ethics. All too often they are derelict in this duty. That so many attendings and their charges are indifferent to the physical, psychological, and emotional vulnerability of their patients underscores the fact that doctors and patients often speak in completely different languages.

    This imposition of interlopers during physician office visits — a depraved reality show euphemistically called “team-based care” — constitutes a violation of every foundational tenet of medical ethics: informed consent, confidentiality, patient privacy, patient dignity, patient trust, and the oath to do no harm. Moreover, once trainees have learned to disregard informed consent with regard to nonconsensual physician shadowing, it is highly probable that they will do so again when the opportunity presents itself.

    For instance, it is common for medical students and residents to be instructed to do practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients, and the practice is legal in 45 states. A 2007 study done in Canada — a country with a comprehensive single-payer system — revealed that over 70 percent of medical students had done practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients, and women have reported pain and bruising from these unauthorized exams.

    Teaching hospitals frequently regard their patients, especially those who lack the best commercial plans, as their property. In an online forum on The Student Doctor Network where the ethics of having trainees perform practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients is debated, AmoryBlaine writes:

    It’s surprising how worked up some people get over the issue. You will be naked on a brightly lit table for all to see. A medical student will put a tube into your bladder. We’re about to flay your belly open and remove your uterus and ovaries. But to do a pelvic exam! What a violation! If you get into this habit of being deathly afraid of the patient’s feelings about an internal exam you will never learn how.

    Glorytaker writes:

    When I was doing OB/GYN as a med student, the attending would have me do a pelvic right after the patient was under and before we started surgery. Of course, we were doing GYN-related surgery and he wanted me to note the difference before and after a cystocele or rectocele repair. We didn’t exactly get permission but it was for teaching purposes.

    Any rational layperson would be able to tell you that this is unethical, and yet many medical students and residents would disagree. What does that say about our education system? Perhaps it is this sort of degenerate thinking that led The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to nonchalantly point out that “The turn of the 21st century has seen doubts surfacing about informed consent.” The fighter pilot that bombs wedding parties in Afghanistan and the impressionable trainee who is taught that it is acceptable to do practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients have much in common. For they have both been inculcated with a profound sense of blind obedience.

    It is common for doctors to do nonconsensual episiotomies and pelvic exams on women in labor, and women are frequently coerced into having pelvic exams in exchange for birth control prescriptions. This is an example of how, with a medical degree and some mental gymnastics, blackmail and rape can be transformed into cod liver oil and brussel sprouts. Writing about the lack of informed consent with regard to Pap smears and testing for cervical cancer, Joel Sherman, MD, has pointed out that cervical cancer is very rare in the United States. In Finland women are given the option of being tested for cervical cancer once every five years. And in an article that appeared in The Milbank Quarterly titled “Cervical Cancer Screening in the United States and the Netherlands: A Tale of Two Countries,” the authors write, “Even though three to four times more Pap smears per woman were conducted in the United States than in the Netherlands over a period of three decades, the two countries’ mortality trends were quite similar.” Perhaps this egregious lack of ethics in obstetrics and gynecology should come as no surprise, considering the fact that James Marion Sims, who invented the speculum and who is widely regarded as the founder of modern gynecology, performed experiments on black slave girls.

    Will a 25-year-old woman continue to trust her oncologist should she go into permanent early menopause following chemotherapy, and her oncologist failed to disclose this as a common side effect associated with her chemotherapy regimen? What is the likelihood that a cancer patient will continue to trust their doctors should they experience long-term chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction, they are unable to continue with their career, and this too was not disclosed? Indeed, failure to disclose common long-term chemotherapy side effects is standard practice in many American cancer centers. It is also common for school districts to force high school students to undergo genital exams as a requirement to play sports, despite the fact that the scientific rationale behind the practice remains murky at best. And there are medical institutions, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, that do not allow patients to change from one doctor to another within any given department, which can leave a patient torn between seeking care at an inferior facility or being the slave of an overbearing scoundrel.

    Informed consent is absent in routine mammography screening, as no evidence exists that mammograms provide any benefit, whereas evidence exists that they have caused considerable harm. Obstetrics and gynecology aside, in no other specialty is there greater contempt for informed consent than in psychiatry, where dangerous side effects from psychiatric drugs are regularly withheld from patients and these drugs are even being prescribed for children. Psychiatrist Lawrence Kelmenson writes in “The Three Types of Psychiatric Drugs – A Doctor’s Guide for Consumers:”

    Psychiatrists are seen as hard-working, caring, understanding healers, but they’re really snake-oil salesmen, drug-dealers, and master-sedaters. What they do should be illegal. Someday everyone will realize that not only do psychiatrists not heal anything, they’re a major contributor to the recent rise in suicides and overdoses.

    Dr. Peter Breggin has echoed these sentiments, and actually specializes in getting people off these drugs.

    It is common for patients who are perceived as “anti-authoritarians” to be diagnosed as “mentally ill,” and a number of school shooters were found to be taking powerful psychiatric drugs at the time they unleashed a fusillade of bullets on their classmates and teachers. Informed consent is frequently absent in the treatment of prostate cancer, and tens of thousands of American men have their prostates removed unnecessarily each year, only to fully understand the dire consequences after the damage is irreversible. (Consider the words of Atul Gawande, MD, in “Overkill:” “The forces that have led to a global epidemic of overtesting, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment are easy to grasp. Doctors get paid for doing more, not less.”) These are all examples of how informed consent is routinely disregarded in an unconscionable manner. The Tuskegee Alabama syphilis experiments, as well as medical experiments conducted on the downtrodden of IndiaAmerican prisoners, and on prisoners in Guantanamo are emblematic of the barbarities that can be unleashed when the celestial temple of informed consent lies in ruins.

    After undergoing a surgical procedure in the summer of 2016, I was given a prescription for oxycodone, a semisynthetic opioid. Never was the highly addictive nature of this drug disclosed to me. Thankfully, Dr. Google informed me that oxycodone posed a “high risk for addiction and dependence.” Perhaps this might explain why, according to the CDC, “On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.” Many medical blogs delight in reminding us of the fact that the doctor-patient relationship is foundational to sound health care, and yet narcissism, moral bankruptcy, and careerism are endemic to our health care system. The erosion of trust that has followed this satanic cult of medical coercion has led to a situation where it has become harder for physicians to get patients to follow through with their treatment protocols.

    The hazing and bullying commonly experienced by many trainees can cause medical students and residents to become jaded, and to lose their sense of empathy. Residents are often so exploited that many suffer from depression and are chronically sleep-deprived, and the brutal military-style training they are forced to endure can lead to many trainees forgetting that “gall bladder in Room 213” is a human being with a name. It is incontrovertible that corporations have undermined the doctor-patient relationship and inflicted catastrophic damage to our health care system. And while doctors must support the fight for single-payer, they must also acknowledge the fact that the cavalier attitude towards informed consent on the part of many American physicians has played a critical role in the dissolution of the public’s trust. Inexperienced patients naively assume that every doctor will have their best interests at heart. All too often, this is sadly not the case. Moreover, once this trust has been violated, it can result in grievous and long-lasting emotional harm. A clinician that is indifferent to the doctor-patient relationship, and who is only interested in scans, pathology reports, and blood tests has been infected with the virus of technocracy and fallen into a morass of charlatanism.

    In the Charmides Plato wrote that “The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.” Medical students and residents may learn how to diagnose and treat different diseases, yet are seldom inculcated with an understanding of medical ethics and why it is so indispensable. In “Bringing Hospitality Back to the Hospital: Lessons From a Bartender,” by Cory Michael, MD, the author writes: “People remember how you make them feel. They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Medical terrorism and corporatization are the Goneril and Regan of medical sacrilege. Perpetually locked in a deadly embrace, they fuel one another’s nefarious designs. The tragedy is that so many medical students and residents are being seduced, not by the voice of truth, but by the voice of damnation. Let us recall the chilling words of Iago: “When devils will the blackest sins put on / They do suggest at first with heavenly shows / As I do now.” (Othello II.iii.)

    Informed consent is a river that separates the consecrated light of morality from the profane and blasphemous abyss of amorality. Once this Rubicon has been crossed, there is no turning back. Those who have strayed from their sacred oath will find absolution not in the ways of the wicked, but in a return to the path of compassion, integrity, and righteousness. Indeed, dignity for the patient and dignity for the physician are mutually interdependent.

    The doctor-patient relationship now lies buried in the unhallowed primeval ground; a cemetery where broken tombstones litter the earth with thorns and broken bottles, the land is barren and no flowers grow, and a once-proud beating heart beats no more. Only with a return to this inviolable bedrock of medical ethics can we embrace its resurrection.

    The Contented Classes: When Will They Rebel?

    For all the rhetoric and all the charities regarding America’s children, the U.S. stands at the very bottom of western nations and some other countries as well, in terms of youth well-being. The U.S.’s exceptionalism is clearest in its cruelty to children. The U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate of comparable OECD countries. Not only that, but 2.5 million American children are homeless and 16.2 million children “lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.”

    The shamelessness continues as the youngsters increase in age. The Trump regime is cutting the SNAP food program for poor kids. In 2018, fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP than in 2017. To see just how bad Trump’s war on poor American children is getting, go to the web sites of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Children’s Advocacy Center.

    Trump brags about a robust economy—still, however, rooted in exploitation of the poor and reckless Wall Street speculation with people’s savings.

    Trump’s pompous promises during his presidential campaign have proved to be a cowardly distraction. He claimed he would take on the drug companies and their price gouging. The hyper-profiteering pharmaceutical goliaths are quietly laughing at him. Worse, Trump continues their tax credits  and allows them to use new drugs developed with taxpayer money through the National Institute of Health free of charge—no royalties. Even though he talks tough, Trump lets these companies sell imported medicines manufactured in China and India with inadequate FDA inspections of foreign plants.

    Torrents of Trump tweets somehow overlooked H.P. Acthar Gel, a drug produced by Mallinckrodt to treat a rare infant seizure disorder, which increased in price from $40 per vial to $39,000 per vial! Other drug prices are booming cruelly upward, while Trump blusters, but fails to deliver on his campaign promises.

    For years our country’s political and corporate rulers have saddled college students with breathtaking debt and interest rates. Student debt is now at $1.5 trillion. Both corporations and the federal government are profiting off of America’s young. In no other western country is this allowed, with most nations offering tuition-free higher education.

    On May 2, 2019, The New York Times featured an article titled, “Tuition or Dinner? Nearly Half of College Students Surveyed in a New Report Are Going Hungry.”

    When you read the stories of impoverished students, squeezed in all directions, you’d think they came out of third-world favelas. At the City University of New York (CUNY), forty eight percent of students had been food insecure in the past 30 days.

    Kassandra Montes, a senior at Lehman College, lives in a Harlem homeless shelter. Montes  “works two part-time jobs and budgets only $15 per week for food… [She] usually skips breakfast in order to make sure that her 4-year-old son is eating regularly.” Montes said: “I feel like I’m slowly sinking as I’m trying to grow.”

    When you don’t have a living wage, have to pay high tuition, are mired in debt, and live in rent-gouging cities, where do you go? Increasingly, you go to the community college or college food pantry. In a nation whose president and Congress in one year give tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon more than the generals asked for, it is unconscionable that students must rely on leftover food from dining halls and catered events, SNAP benefits, and whatever food pantries can assemble.

    The CUNY pantries are such a fixture in these desperate times that they are now a stop on freshman orientation tours.

    As long as we’re speaking of shame, what about those millions of middle and upper middle class informed, concerned bystanders. They’re all over America trading “tsk tsks” over coffee or other social encounters. They express dismay, disgust, and denunciations at each outrage from giant corporations’ abuses, to the White House and the Congress’ failings. They are particularly numerous in University towns. They know but they do not do. They are unorganized, know it, keep grumbling, and still fail to start the mobilization in Congressional Districts of likeminded citizens to hold their Senators and Representatives accountable.

    For Congress, the smallest yet most powerful branch of government, whose members names we know, can turn poverty and other injustices around and help provide a better life for so many Americans. These informed, concerned people easily number over 1 percent of the population. They can galvanize a supporting majority of voters on key, long-overdue redirections for justice. Redirections that were mostly established in Western Europe decades ago (For more details, see my paperback, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier than We Think).

    These informed, concerned people—who don’t have to worry about a living wage, not having health insurance, being gouged by payday loans, and having no savings—were called “the contented classes” in The Culture of Contentment, a book by the late progressive Harvard economist John Kenneth Gailbraith. His main point—until the contented classes wake up and organize for change, history has shown, our country will continue to slide in the wrong direction. He said all this before climate disruption, massive money-corrupting politics, and the corporate crime wave had reached anywhere near their present destructive levels.

    The question to be asked: Who among the contented classes will unfurl the flag of rebellion against the plutocrats and the autocrats? It can be launched almost anywhere they please. A revolution can start the moment they decide to prioritize the most marginalized people in this country over their comfort.