Neuralink shows what happens when you bring “move fast and break things” to animal research

March 21st, 2023


“The Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA, was a bio-medical research lab that at one point held over 600 primates used for toxicology, pre-clinical drug testing, and infectious disease research. The foundation’s ongoing record of poor and negligent care led to numerous charges and violations under the US Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In 2001, the research lab lost its government contracts due to concerns over animal welfare, and it was eventually closed. (Note: This photo is not from a Neuralink experiment.)”
IMAGE/Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Elon Musk’s brain chip implant company is reportedly under federal investigation for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

Among the many grievances people harbor toward Elon Musk, add one more: alleged animal cruelty.

Neuralink, a startup co-founded by Musk in 2016, aims to develop a brain chip implant that it claims could one day help paralyzed people walk and blind people see. But to do that, the company has first been testing its technology on animals, killing some 1,500 since 2018 — and employee whistleblowers recently told Reuters the experiments are going horribly wrong.

Reuters reported this week that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General has opened a probe into potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act at Neuralink. It’s a rare corrective for an agency that is generally hands-off when it comes to animal research.

Congressional Democrats are weighing in too. As reported by Reuters, US House Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Adam Schiff wrote in a draft letter to the USDA that they are “very concerned that this may be another example of high-profile cases of animal cruelty involving USDA-inspected facilities.”

Questions around Neuralink’s treatment of animals date back to 2017, when Neuralink conducted experiments on monkeys at the University of California Davis. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group that campaigns for alternatives to animal testing, obtained public records detailing the experiments. The findings were gruesome: One rhesus macaque monkey’s nausea was “so severe that the animal vomited and had open sores in her esophagus before she was finally killed,” according to Ryan Merkley, PCRM’s director of research advocacy.

Surgeons used an unapproved adhesive to fill open spaces in an animal’s skull, created from implanting the Neuralink device, “which then caused the animal to suffer greatly due to brain hemorrhaging,” Merkley said.

He also pointed to “instances of animals suffering from chronic infections, like staph infections where the implant was in their head. There were animals pulling out their hair and self-mutilating, which are signs of really poor psychological health in laboratory animals and are very common in rhesus macaques” and other primates. (Disclosure: My partner worked at PCRM six years ago and was colleagues with Merkley.)

A few years later, Neuralink moved its experiments in-house. Current and former employees told Reuters that Musk put staff under immense pressure to speed up animal trials in order to begin human trials, telling them that they had to imagine a bomb was strapped to their head as motivation to work harder and faster. That may have contributed to botched experiments: Through documents and interviews with Neuralink staff, Reuters identified four experiments with 86 pigs and two monkeys that went awry due to employee mistakes. As a result, the experiments had to be repeated. “One employee,” Reuters reported, “wrote an angry missive earlier this year to colleagues about the need to overhaul how the company organizes animal surgeries to prevent ‘hack jobs.’”

The breakneck speed at Neuralink likely caused researchers to test and kill more animals than a slower, more conventional approach would call for. Since 2018, the company has tested on and killed at least 1,500 animals — over 280 sheep, pigs, and monkeys, as well as mice and rats.

Vox for more

One against all

March 21st, 2023


VIDEO?Sky News/Youtube

Last Thursday the French president urgently gathered his cabinet ministers to trigger Article 49.3 of the constitution. This is the only means still available to him to impose his pension reform, despite the opposition of parliament, the unions and the people.

A few weeks after Emmanuel Macron became president, one of his supporters, the current chairman of the National Assembly foreign affairs committee, summed up the economic and social orientation to come: ‘Objectively, the problems of this country require solutions favourable to high earners’ (1). Since then, the privileged have shown their gratitude to their benefactor: between the first round of the 2017 presidential election and the first round in 2022, Macron saw his support among the richest go from 34% to 48%. When in power, the left has rarely demonstrated such bravura in satisfying its voters.

As Macron has also increased his popularity among the over-65s during his presidency, it’s easy to gauge the extent of the ‘courage’ he boasts about as he attempts to convince the country to accept a pension ‘reform’ whose main victims will be the working classes, who overwhelmingly voted against him. While his challenge to welfare benefits will spare the wealthy, and pensioners (even the best-off), it will force workers, whose healthy life expectancy is ten years less than that of senior executives, to work for an additional two years (2). The finishing line for those who are so often left worn out, exhausted and broken by work is once again being pushed further away. Compulsory labour will eat up the time for rest, personal projects, or simply deciding what to commit to.

Why do this when there is no financial necessity? Because instead of improving crumbling hospitals and schools, the government has chosen to ‘reduce the burden of pension expenses’ on the national economy at a time when military spending is set to soar (the armed forces minister predicts the defence budget will double between 2017 and 2030). A civilisation with such priorities is so debased that, unlike what we saw in November-December 1995 – when there was a huge social movement that somewhat resembles the current one – even some of the media best disposed towards the government have had to (temporarily) suspend their criticism of the ongoing demonstrations.

Le Monde Diplomatique for more

Two great losses

March 21st, 2023


Tom Nairn in 2012. In the 1970s he asked: ‘Is it really impossible that Scotland … should produce a liberated and revolutionary nationalism worthy of the name and the times?’ PHOTO/Mike Goldwater/The Guardian

Since the composition of the last issue of the journal, nlr has lost the two most gifted political writers to have ignited its pages over the years, Tom Nairn and Mike Davis. Both were magnitudes whose life and work extended far beyond this journal, requiring consideration by others on another scale. Only that portion of what they achieved which is connected with nlr, not to be exaggerated, and some of the differences between them, are in place here. Death claimed them close together. Did they touch in any other respect? Each was a mind so entirely original that, virtually by definition, it would seem they had little in common. Generation, class, nationality, formation, temperament—all set them quite radically apart. Tom was fourteen years older, born in a small Scottish village, his father headmaster of a nearby school. A natural polymath, he won a privileged education, first in an art college, then studying philosophy at two universities in Britain—Edinburgh and Oxford—thereafter spending time at the apex of higher education in Italy, the Scuola Normale in Pisa, where he acquired fluent Italian.

Returning to England in the early sixties, he earned post-graduate awards and lectured in an art college in London. There he supported the student revolt of 1968, and was dismissed for doing so. For a quarter of a century he never had a teaching job again, and for the rest of his life was always in difficult straits, often in poverty, scraping a nomadic living in places as remote from each other as Amsterdam, Washington, Prague, and finally Melbourne—where, in his seventies, he found employment for a decade in a university ten thousand miles away from where he lived in West Lothian. A Scot to whom conventional English forms of conviviality were foreign in ways that could be mistaken for shyness, he was generally quiet and reserved, and avoided publicity. He could be fierce in print, his mockery scalding; yet he was warm and gentle as a person. Italian released the high spirits in him.

In background, character and career, Mike was his antithesis. Bryan Palmer’s splendid portrait of him points up the contrast. A working-class boy who grew up in two industrial towns of Southern California, surrounded by a teenage culture of ‘drag-racing, beer-guzzling, car-stealing alienation’, radicalized by black protests and swiftly expelled from the liberal arts college in Oregon that accepted him, he became a political activist in the civil-rights movement of the sixties. Subsequently a full-time organizer for sds, he briefly joined the Communist Party, keeping himself alive driving trucks and buses. A voracious reader, steeping himself in left publications and local history, by the early seventies he was at ucla, where he graduated in 1977. After some years working with nlr in London, he published his first book, Prisoners of the American Dream, in 1986, when he was forty. Fame came with his second in 1990, City of Quartz, and with it funds; but it was another decade before he got a university job, at suny Stony Brook in Long Island in 2000. By then, however, he was in such demand that he could soon return to Southern California, with posts at uc Irvine and then Riverside. It was a cursus the reverse of Tom’s, from lower depths of redneck aliteracy to heights of canonical acclaim in his homeland. So too, in many ways his temperament was the opposite. Under stress he could be volcanic. But mostly he was genial, someone who loved talking, and who mellowed with age and security. Without animus on the left, even for those with whom he most categorically disagreed, he lacked any sectarian strain. As a person he was generous to a fault. A famously good friend, he enjoyed company and was open-handed with interviews.

Tom joined the new editorial committee of nlr at its inception, in the spring of 1962, and was from the outset the source of the ideas about Britain with which it came to be identified. He had recently arrived from Italy, where he had studied the full range of Gramsci’s political and cultural thought, as edited by the pci and produced in six volumes by Einaudi after the war. In London he started to apply it to the specificities of English society and history, and in the autumn of 1963 published an essay in Italian, ‘La nemesi borghese’, that was to form the cornerstone of nlr’s subsequent theses about Britain. When the journal was relaunched in a new format in 1964, he published successive articles on the British political elite, the English working class, Hugh Gaitskell, the nature of Labourism, and its imperialism, which remain as mordant and relevant today as they were then: a lasting contribution to an understanding of the country. This star-burst of wonderful essays continued exploding across the next decade, in further studies of the imperial cast of the Great British state and its ongoing crisis, and in new directions: the fevers of English nationalism in the imaginary of Enoch Powell, the warping of Scottish nationalism in phantasms of Calvinism, Romanticism, decolonization, and the delusions of pan-Britannic resistance to entry into Europe. Two path-breaking books emerged out of this second set of detonations: The Left against Europe? in 1972, and The Break-up of Britain in 1977—crucially expanded in 1981. In the course of this sequence, he rallied to the national cause in Scotland, and opened out his range beyond Ukania, as he would later call it, to a worldwide theory of nationalism conceived in the image of a ‘Modern Janus’—an effigy looking both backwards and forwards, to the past and to the future—which it had been Marxism’s great failure never to understand. The turning-point of the twentieth century had been 1914, rather than 1917: not class but nationality was the motor of modern history.

New Left Review for more

‘Bulldozer politics’: Modi’s demolition drive fuels Muslims’ fears in Kashmir

March 20th, 2023


Members of the People’s Democratic party (PDP) protest against land eviction drive in Kashmir, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India, on 7 February 2023. PHOTO/Mubashir Hassan/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

Violence and censorship rife among citizens and the media, as push to reclaim state land belies Indian government’s claims of peace in disputed region

Suhail Ahmad Shah stood despairingly before the wreckage that for two decades had been his livelihood. Just hours before, he had been busy at the workshop when he heard an ominous crunch above him and the tin roof began to cave in. He barely made his escape before a bulldozer flattened the entire place.

“No notice was served to us,” said Shah, 38. “The officials came suddenly and demolished our workshop. No one is listening to us. We’ve been paying rent. Isn’t this an atrocity? They have snatched our livelihood.”

His workshop selling secondhand car parts in Srinagar, the summer capital of the beleaguered Indian state of Kashmir, was just one of dozens of structures across the region caught up in a widespread demolition drive in February. Many of these took place with little notice, even for those who had occupied the land for decades. The purpose, according to the government, was to “retrieve” state land that had been illegally encroached on. More than 50,000 acres of land were seized before the drive was paused.

But in Kashmir, the drive has been condemned as having a more sinister purpose. Many have decried it as part of a wider agenda by the Hindu nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime minister Narendra Modi, to displace and dispossess Kashmiris from their own land and shift the demographics of India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Since the Modi government came to power in 2014, bulldozers have been a popular tool for BJP leaders to target the Muslim minority in their pursuit of a religious nationalist agenda to establish India as a Hindu, rather than secular, country. In states such as Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, bulldozers have been used to crush the homes of swathes of Muslim activists accused of involvement in protests and of communities alleged to be illegal immigrants.

Panic spread in Kashmir that the BJP’s so-called “bulldozer politics” were being deployed against its Muslims. Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Kashmir, termed the demolition drive “a ruse to further push people to economic margins by demolishing their homes and livelihood”.

Fayaz Ahmad, 52, whose scrapyard of 30 years was demolished without notice or warning, agreed. “This all is being done to suppress Kashmiris,” he said.

Since independence in 1947, the Kashmir region has been the touchstone issue between India and Pakistan. They have gone to war multiple times for control over the disputed territory, which is split between the two countries. On the Indian side was the state of Jammu and Kashmir where, from the early 1990s, a violent separatist insurgency with an allegiance to, and funded by, Pakistan emerged.

Successive governments struggled to bring the violence under control. But in August 2019 the Modi government, fulfilling a long-held promise to its rightwing base, took unilateral action against the state, stripping it of its long-held autonomy and severing it into two territories under central government control. Thousands of troops were moved into the state, the state government was dissolved, local politicians were imprisoned and the world’s longest internet shutdown, lasting 18 months, was imposed.

Since then the BJP has thrown open the doors of the state, allowing outsiders to buy property and register to vote in Kashmir for the first time. More than 2 million new voters have been registered, a source of great concern to the many who believe that the government is trying to change the demographics of the state away from its current Muslim majority.

The Guardian for more

Africa’s forgotten war in Mozambique

March 20th, 2023


VIDEO/African Stream/Youtube

Editor’s Note: This African Stream video report contains disturbing content.

Twenty-four countries have sent troops to Mozambique as a civil war rages over the resource-rich north. Now, the local population faces a humanitarian disaster. African Stream takes a look at Africa’s forgotten war.

Toward Freedom

The IMF trap

March 20th, 2023


An anti-government demonstration in Colombo, Sri Lanka in July 2022.
Debt, austerity, and inequality in Sri Lanka’s historic crisis

Massive demonstrations that swept Sri Lanka last year exposed the serious challenges at the heart of the global economy. In July 2022, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country, only a few months after announcing a hasty default of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt obligations. He faced a wall of opposition as the nation suffered infamous kilometers-long fuel queues, power outages, and food and medicinal shortages, crippling everyday life. 

In the months since, the current government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe—allied with the party of the disgraced Rajapaksa family—has appeared savvier than its predecessor, implementing a quota system to manage fuel distribution and end the queues. However, the government has also tripled fuel prices, which has severely dampened demand. Fuel consumption is half of what it was a year ago, bringing economic activity to a grinding halt. Inflation has skyrocketed, with food inflation peaking at 94 percent in September 2022. A quarter of Sri Lankans are facing severe food insecurity; household incomes across the board have decreased. The Central Bank dramatically doubled interest rates, making access to credit for economic activity extraordinarily difficult. Rural livelihoods have been disrupted. Many small businesses are collapsing.

The country’s default and its remaining pathways forward reveal the fault lines of a messy and intractable process. While the most visible aspects of the crisis that captured the attention of news media last year may have disappeared, the ongoing breakdown points to fundamental flaws in the global economy. These include the lack of a credible mechanism for resolving debt crises in peripheral countries like Sri Lanka, along with the possibility of a lost decade, if not longer, for development in many parts of the world.

Sri Lanka is already experiencing the unsustainable consequences of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) policy package, though it is yet to receive even the first infusion of IMF funds under a promised agreement of USD 2.9 billion, reached in September 2022. The IMF has demanded that Sri Lanka first obtain assurances from bilateral and private creditors, in addition to developing concrete plans to achieve a primary surplus by 2025 to conform with the IMF’s Debt Sustainability Analysis. 

The problems associated with the IMF’s policy package have been caught in geopolitical rhetoric. The US alleges that Sri Lanka is the victim of a Chinese debt trap. In fact, Sri Lanka is in an IMF trap. The structural consequences of over four decades of neoliberal policies have exploded into view with the receding welfare state, a ballooning import bill, and investment in infrastructure without returns, all of which relied on inflows of speculative capital. Framing Sri Lanka’s crisis within a narrative of geopolitical competition obscures the core dilemmas of the global economy. Will the evident breakdown force a reckoning with the present order, or will it be used as an excuse to inflict more suffering?

Foreshadowing the crisis

The current predicament seems to anticipate a wave of sovereign defaults with consequences as profound as the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s. That moment signaled the beginning of “structural adjustment” as part of bailout agreements for countries in the periphery. The Bretton Woods institutions—the IMF and World Bank—originated in the aftermath of World War II as part of an attempt to coordinate global efforts to avoid another systemic breakdown. Intensifying debt crises in the 1980s forced a response from the US, which steered the creation of the Brady Plan to help Latin American countries undertake debt swaps. Bailouts from the IMF, however, came with strict fiscal conditionalities, complementing neoliberal policies in the core countries.

Phenomenal World for more

Weekend Edition

March 17th, 2023

Why imprison the skin at all?

March 17th, 2023


British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones at the Oscars After Party 2023 IMAGE/AFP/NDTV

from apes we came / to insects we return

in a naked state we arrive / in an unclad state we depart

but in the in-between time, we can’t live uncovered

the custodians of society will not permit that, at all

nor the apparel makers/fashion designers are going to let you go natural

celebrities always keep on pushing the limit — but, mind you, within a limit

total naked they’ll never go because the titiliating factor will not be there

the reporters won’t be able to pause the million dollar question:

“what are you wearing?”

because the question will elicit the same answer from all: “nothing”

instead of the present answers we currently get:


“Elie Saab”


“Jason Wu”

“Louis Vuitton”

“Tamara Ralph”

“Vera Wang”


“Zuhair Murad”

whatever little the actresses wore, only a few were pleasing

i.e., esthetically delightful to the spectators’ eyes and senses

Ciara’s front & back of the “naked dress” lacked the esthetic element

same is true of Janelle Monae‘s, the top portion

Alessandra Ambrosia‘s dress was not impressive either

Ashley Graham‘s both dresses were missing the beauty factor

Emily Ratajkowski was OK

Shay Mitchell, Halle Bailey, Jodie Smith, and Daisy Edgar-Jones were elegant

Jodie Smith at the Oscars After Party 2023 IMAGE/AFP/NDTV

B. R. Gowani can be rached at

So I went on Bill Maher and this happened…

March 17th, 2023
VIDEO/Russell Brand/Youtube

BBC will not broadcast Attenborough episode over fear of ‘rightwing backlash’

March 17th, 2023


Sir David Attenborough during filming for Wild Isles. Insiders fear the BBC has bowed to lobbying groups with ‘dinosaurian ways’. PHOTO/Alex Board/BBC/Silverback Films

Exclusive: Decision to make episode about natural destruction available only on iPlayer angers programme-makers

The BBC has decided not to broadcast an episode of Sir David Attenborough’s flagship new series on British wildlife because of fears its themes of the destruction of nature would risk a backlash from Tory politicians and the rightwing press, the Guardian has been told.

The decision has angered the programme-makers and some insiders at the BBC, who fear the corporation has bowed to pressure from lobbying groups with “dinosaurian ways”.

The BBC strongly denied this was the case and insisted the episode in question was never intended for broadcast.

Attenborough’s highly anticipated new series, Wild Isles, looks at the beauty of nature in the British Isles.

Narrated by David Attenborough, it is expected to be a hit, with five episodes scheduled to go out in primetime slots on BBC One.

A sixth episode has also been filmed, which is understood to be a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the declines. It is also understood to include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some rightwing circles.

The documentary series was part-funded by nature charities the WWF and RSPB, but the final episode will not be broadcast along with the others and will instead be available only on the BBC’s iPlayer service. All six episodes were narrated by Attenborough, and made by the production company Silverback Films, responsible for previous series including Our Planet, in collaboration with the BBC Natural History Unit.

Senior sources at the BBC told the Guardian that the decision not to show the sixth episode was made to fend off potential critique from the political right. This week the Telegraph newspaper attacked the BBC for creating the series and for taking funding from “two charities previously criticised for their political lobbying” – the WWF and RSPB.

One source at the broadcaster, who asked not to be named, said “lobbying groups that are desperately hanging on to their dinosaurian ways” such as the farming and game industry would “kick off” if the show had too political a message.

BBC for more