Compounding pharmacies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

October 15th, 2019
VIDEO/Last Week Tonight/You Tube

Compounding pharmacies create medication tailored to the specific needs of individual patients. John Oliver explains why this small corner of the drug market can cause big problems. Connect with Last Week Tonight online… Subscribe to the Last Week Tonight YouTube channel for more almost news as it almost happens:

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Preventing digital feudalism

October 15th, 2019


By exploiting technologies that were originally developed by the public sector, digital platform companies have acquired a market position that allows them to extract massive rents from consumers and workers alike. Reforming the digital economy so that it serves collective ends is thus the defining economic challenge of our time.

The use and abuse of data by Facebook and other tech companies are finally garnering the official attention they deserve. With personal data becoming the world’s most valuable commodity, will users be the platform economy’s masters or its slaves?

Prospects for democratizing the platform economy remain dim. Algorithms are developing in ways that allow companies to profit from our past, present, and future behavior – or what Shoshana Zuboff of Harvard Business School describes as our “behavioral surplus.” In many cases, digital platforms already know our preferences better than we do, and can nudge us to behave in ways that produce still more value. Do we really want to live in a society where our innermost desires and manifestations of personal agency are up for sale?Capitalism has always excelled at creating new desires and cravings. But with big data and algorithms, tech companies have both accelerated and inverted this process. Rather than just creating new goods and services in anticipation of what people might want, they already know what we will want, and are selling our future selves. Worse, the algorithmic processes being used often perpetuate gender and racial biases, and can be manipulated for profit or political gain. While we all benefit immensely from digital services such as Google search, we didn’t sign up to have our behavior cataloged, shaped, and sold.To change this will require focusing directly on the prevailing business model, and specifically on the source of economic rents. Just as landowners in the seventeenth century extracted rents from land-price inflation, and just as robber barons profited from the scarcity of oil, today’s platform firms are extracting value through the monopolization of search and e-commerce services.

Project Syndicate for more

The history of the cross and its many meanings over the centuries

October 14th, 2019


A procession of Christian girls, venerating the Cross, in the village of Qanat Bekish, Lebanon. PHOTO/AP/Hussein Malla

In the fall, Catholics and some other Christian churches celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross. With the feast, Christians commemorate Jesus Christ’s life, especially his salvific death on the cross and his later Resurrection, believing this offers them the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

The feast has its roots in late antiquity, a time when the cross became an important part of Christian art and worship. The cross, once a shameful form of execution for criminals, has became a predominant symbol of Christ and Christianity.

However, the cross at times has also taken on darker meanings as a symbol of persecution, violence and even racism.

The early cross

As a scholar of medieval Christian history and worship, I have studied this complicated history.

Second century pagan graffito depicting a man worshipping a crucified donkey-headed figure.

A famous piece of early-third century Roman wall art, the “Alexamenos graffito,” depicts two human figures, with the head of a donkey, arms stretched out in a T-shaped cross, with the caption “Alexamenos worships his god.”

Christianity was outlawed at the time in the Roman Empire and criticized by some as a religion for fools. The caricature of “Alexamenos,” offering prayers to this crucified figure was a way of depicting Christ with a donkey’s head and ridiculing his god.

But for Christians, the cross had deep meaning. They understood Christ’s death on the cross to be “completed” by God’s raising him from the dead three days later. This Resurrection was a sign of Christ’s “victory” over sin and death.

Believers could share in this victory by being baptized, forgiven of past sin and “reborn” into a new life in the Christian community, the church. Christians, then, frequently referred to the Christ’s cross both as the “wood of life” and as a “victorious Cross.”

The true cross?

In the early fourth century, Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. He authorized excavation of some of the holy sites of Christ’s life in what came to be called the “Holy Land.” At the time, it was part of the Roman province of Syria Palestina, bracketed by the Jordan River to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the west and Syria to the north.

The Conversation for more

Justin Trudeau’s ‘blackface’ is far from the worst of his offenses (Video)

October 14th, 2019


In a scandal that threatens to lose Justin Trudeau the next election, several pictures of Canadian prime minister doing blackface have emerged. Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report explains why the recent scandal highlights the trouble with the idea that Canada is somehow a more benign version of the U.S.

Watch Kimberly discuss Canadian politics in the video above the transcript.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Herald Square in New York City at the People’s Mobilization Against the U.S. War Machine and To Save The Planet.

And I’m here today with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report, who just spoke on stage and addressed the crowd here today. Thank you very much for joining, Margaret.

MARGARET KIMBERLY: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Dimitri.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: My pleasure. So, as you and I were discussing just a moment ago, you were making some interesting comments about Canada’s role in the whole project of U.S. imperialism, which I found quite interesting–not just because I’m Canadian, but also because as a Canadian I’m constantly being told about how we are different from the United States and we have this wonderful political capital on the world stage, and we can be such an effective mediator and peacemaker. What do you make of that narrative? Do you think there’s legitimacy to it? And if not, why not?

MARGARET KIMBERLY: Well, the problem is that Canada is the U.S.’s partner. Canada is a member of NATO, Canada’s part of the G-7, so Canada is a partner in crime to the United States. Canada makes common cause with Ukraine, where they’ve put neo-Nazis–maybe they’re not neo, maybe we shouldn’t use that–people who are openly fascist in Ukraine’s government. Canada has helped the U.S. in its attack on Venezuela, upheld the sanctions against Venezuela. Canada’s mining interests have a role in Haiti; Canada’s helped occupy Haiti. Canada is pro-Zionist and anti-Palestinian.

Monthly Review Online for more

The rate of exploitation: The case of the iPhone

October 14th, 2019


VIDEO/Tricontinental/You Tube

Our second Notebook analyses the contemporary production process that results in Apple’s iPhone. We move from a look at the iPhone’s production to the inner workings of profit and exploitation. We are interested not only in Apple and the iPhone, but more particularly in the Marxist analysis of the rate of exploitation at play in the production of such sophisticated electronic devices. It is necessary, we believe, to learn how to measure the rate of exploitation so that we know precisely how much workers deliver into the total social wealth produced each year.

Tricontinental for more

Weekend Edition

October 11th, 2019

Trump’s total dependence on white islands

October 11th, 2019


President Donald Trump addressing a political rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 9, 2019 PHOTO/Duck Duck Go

Trump started his presidential campaign his way:

boastful, arrogant, racist, showy, idiotic

the news media had a dangerous clown for free, to increase its ratings

Trump had free use of TV and print media – saved him lots of money

in the beginning it was a novelty show for lots of people

but the show has gone on too long and the novelty has worn off

another problem is that the content hasn’t changed much

the same sort of rallies, same white islands, same sort of nonsense

October 10, 2019, Trump held a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota

topics and targets are mostly the same, except a few

he attacked progressive Muslim/colored Minnesota Congresswoman

one of his regular targets, to vent his racism, to please his audience

Trump can’t beat Ilhan Omar in an intelligent discussion

so he attacks her personal life and her Somali-origin

he also touched on building a wall between the United States and Mexico

his new target Joe Biden got attacked vehemently and rudely:

former VP Biden “understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass!”

through these rallies Trump is campaigning for his second term

but his chances to get re-elected are getting slimmer by the day

his administration is gradually unraveling:

under the weight of scandals, investigations, resignations

impeachment proceedings are gaining momentum – bad news for him

most of his Republican colleagues are politicians like him

the minute they feel Trump is un-electable, they’ll show him their asses

how is Trump going to face and handle this setback?

is he going to incite revolt from his supporters of the white islands

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

The coming collapse

October 11th, 2019


The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.

The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior. Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.

This is a doomed tactic, but one that is understandable. The leadership of the party, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, are creations of corporate America. In an open and democratic political process, one not dominated by party elites and corporate money, these people would not hold political power. They know this. They would rather implode the entire system than give up their positions of privilege. And that, I fear, is what will happen. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a bulwark against despotism defies the last three decades of its political activity. It is the guarantor of despotism.

Trump has tapped into the hatred that huge segments of the American public have for a political and economic system that has betrayed them. He may be inept, degenerate, dishonest and a narcissist, but he adeptly ridicules the system they despise. His cruel and demeaning taunts directed at government agencies, laws and the established elites resonate with people for whom these agencies, laws and elites have become hostile forces. And for many who see no shift in the political landscape to alleviate their suffering, Trump’s cruelty and invective are at least cathartic.

Truth Dig for more

Letters between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah before the controversial Kashmir accord

October 11th, 2019


Sheikh Abdullah addressing a mammoth gathering in Srinagar in 1975. PHOTO/My Taing/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Kashmir accord of 1975 was perceived by many in the state as a betrayal by the National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah.


(Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah) Phone No. 2178 Mujahid Manzil,
Srinagar (Kashmir),

November 25, 1974

My dear Indira Ji,

Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg has written to me that he and Shri G Parthasarthi have reached the conclusions in regard to constitutional matters concerning the relationship between Jammu and Kashmir State and the Union of India. At our instance they had detailed discussions on these matters and I have received copies of documents from Mr Beg containing points on which agreement has been reached between them and those over which no agreement could be reached.

I have several times explained to you my point of view in regard to matters on which the two emissaries have disagreed. I trust you will kindly accommodate our view point to enable me to achieve the main objective.

Some points have been left over for settlement between you and me. I hope that we shall be able to sort out these points satisfactorily when we meet. I feel sure that such a settlement will provide an amicable basis for me and the people of the State to co-operate in cementing Centre-State relationship.
I am awaiting your convenience when we can meet to consider these issues. I hope you are doing well.Advertisement

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Sd/-) SM Abdullah

Shrimati Indira Gandhi,
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi.



Prime Minister’s House,
New Delhi,

December 16, 1974

Dear Sheikh Sahib,

I have your letter of November 25, 1974. Shri G Parthasarthi has also given me the documents which he and Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg have prepared at the conclusion of their talks.

You have referred to matters on which our two representatives have disagreed. As you are aware, these are basic issues on which there have been thorough discussions between them in the course of which Beg Sahib presented your views fully. I doubt whether anything will be gained by our discussing these matters again.

We can discuss the points which have been reserved for our consideration when we meet.

Shri Parthasarthi has told me that you would write to me about the maintenance of those basic features of the State’s Constitution which are necessary not only for uniformity but also to give a measure of confidence to the people regarding the democratic functioning of the Government in the State.Advertisement

I too am anxious to conclude our discussions. I entirely agree with you that political co-operation between us will further strengthen the bond that exists between the State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union. As you know, I am extremely busy in Parliament these days. We can perhaps meet during the last week of this month on a mutually convenient date.

With regards to you and Begum Sahiba.

Yours sincerely,

(Sd/-) Indira Gandhi

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah,
10, Maulana Azad Road,

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Uncle Sam was born lethal

October 10th, 2019


Burial of the dead after the massacre of Wounded Knee, 1891. PHOTO/Northwestern Photo Co./Truth Out

For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

– Frederick Douglass, July 4, 1852

One of the occupational and intellectual hazards of being a historian is that current events often seem far less new to oneself than they do to others. Recently a leftish liberal friend told me that the United States under the Donald Trump had “become a lethal society.” My friend cited the neofascist Trump’s: horrible family separations and concentration camps on the border; openly white-nationalist assaults on four progressive nonwhite and female Congresswomen; real and threatened roundups of undocumented immigrants; fascist-style and hate-filled “Make America Great Again” rallies; encouragement of white supremacist terrorism; alliance with right-wing evangelical Christian fascists.

Another friend received news of the recent mass-shooting of mostly Latinx Wal-Mart shoppers by racist and nativist white male Trump fan in El Paso, Texas by denouncing Trump’s “fascism” and linking to an essay he’d published about the white-nationalist president’s racist and authoritarian behavior.

I agree with my friends about the lethality of the contemporary United States. I largely share their description of Trump and much of his base as fascist or at least fascistic. “Durable fascist tendencies,” the prolific left political scientist Carl Boggs warns in his important book Fascism Old New: American Politics at the Crossroads, “run deep throughout present-day American society…In the absence of powerful counterforces and a thriving democracy, …those tendencies could morph over into something more expansive and menacing – and Donald Trump could serve, wittingly or unwittingly, as a great historical accelerator.”

It’s nothing to sneeze at. The institutional forms and technologies of militarized surveillance and policing and thought control that are available to fascism-prone elites in the United States are daunting indeed. The United States enjoys historically unprecedented global power on a scale the fascist Third Reich’s leaders dreamed of achieving but never remotely approached.

Still, I sometimes worry about reaching beyond American history to label horrors of its own making. Longstanding foundational aristo-republican U.S. white-settler nationalism and its state-military-capitalist, imperialist, and corporatist evolution has long been disastrous and dystopian enough without “charismatic” dictators, Baretta-toting squadristis, single party states, the suspension of elections, the end of bourgeois law, jackbooted brown-shirts, death squads, state propaganda, political executions, shuttered media, and the rest of the full-on fascist nightmare.

Savagely and Mercilessly Exterminating “the Common Enemy of the Country”

How new is racist lethality and white nationalism to the U.S.-American experience, after all? The white European “settlers” of North America wiped out millions of the continent’s original inhabitants. They populated their southern colonies and states with Black slaves they mercilessly tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered in forced labor camps that provided the critical raw material for the rise of American capitalism long before Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler rose to power.

Trump’s favorite president prior to himself, Andrew Jackson, first rose to prominence in the early 19th century as the head of the Tennessee militia who exterminated the Creek Nation by, in the words of the Yale historian Greg Grandin, “burning houses, killing warriors, mutilating their bodies (he ordered his men to cut off the noses of the Indian corpses, so as to more easily tally the dead), and enslaving their women and children…[thereby] previewing the misery he would later, as president, nationalize” (with the 1830 Indian Removal Act). Jackson later ordered the “Trail of Tears,” a giant and sadistic death march that finalized the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee Nation from the nation’s Southeastern seaboard.

CounterPunch for more