Friday, February 05, 2016

Tracing Zika to Rockerfeller's Rhesus 766

Zika Virus Outside Africa

by Edward B. Hayes  - CDC


Emerging Infectious Diseases
Volume 15, Number 9—September 2009
Author affiliation: Barcelona Centre for 
International Health Research, Barcelona, Spain 


[On April 18, 1947, fever developed in a rhesus monkey that had been placed in a cage on a tree platform in the Zika Forest of Uganda (3). The monkey, Rhesus 766, was a sentinel animal in the Rockefeller Foundation’s program for research on jungle yellow fever.

Two days later, Rhesus 766, still febrile, was brought to the Foundation’s laboratory at Entebbe and its serum was inoculated into mice.
Figure 1. Approximate known 
distribution of Zika virus, 1947–2007. 
Red circle represents Yap Island. 
Yellow indicates human serologic 
evidence; red indicates virus isolated 
from humans; green represents mosquito isolates.
 
After 10 days all mice that were inoculated intracerebrally were sick, and a filterable transmissible agent, later named Zika virus, was isolated from the mouse brains. In early 1948, ZIKV was also isolated from Aedes africanus mosquitoes trapped in the same forest (4). Serologic studies indicated that humans could also be infected (5). Transmission of ZIKV by artificially fed Ae. aegypti mosquitoes to mice and a monkey in a laboratory was reported in 1956 (6).]

ZIKV was isolated from humans in Nigeria during studies conducted in 1968 and during 1971–1975; in 1 study, 40% of the persons tested had neutralizing antibody to ZIKV (79). Human isolates were obtained from febrile children 10 months, 2 years (2 cases), and 3 years of age, all without other clinical details described, and from a 10 year-old boy with fever, headache, and body pains (7,8).

Synopsis 


 From 1951 through 1981, serologic evidence of human ZIKV infection was reported from other African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone (10), and Gabon, and in parts of Asia including India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia (1014). In additional investigations, the virus was isolated from Ae. aegypti mosquitoes in Malaysia, a human in Senegal, and mosquitoes in Côte d’Ivoire (1517). In 1981 Olson et al. reported 7 people with serologic evidence of ZIKV illness in Indonesia (11). A subsequent serologic study indicated that 9/71 (13%) human volunteers in Lombok, Indonesia, had neutralizing antibody to ZIKV (18). The outbreak on Yap Island in 2007 shows that ZIKV illness has been detected outside of Africa and Asia (Figure 1).

Suggested citation for this article

Abstract


Zika virus (ZIKV) is a flavivirus related to yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. In 2007 ZIKV caused an outbreak of relatively mild disease characterized by rash, arthralgia, and conjunctivitis on Yap Island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. This was the first time that ZIKV was detected outside of Africa and Asia. The history, transmission dynamics, virology, and clinical manifestations of ZIKV disease are discussed, along with the possibility for diagnostic confusion between ZIKV illness and dengue.The emergence of ZIKV outside of its previously known geographic range should prompt awareness of the potential for ZIKV to spread to other Pacific islands and the Americas.

In April 2007, an outbreak of illness characterized by rash, arthralgia, and conjunctivitis was reported on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia. Serum samples from patients in the acute phase of illness contained RNA of Zika virus (ZIKV), a flavivirus in the same family as yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. These findings show that ZIKV has spread outside its usual geographic range (1,2).

Sixty years earlier, on April 18, 1947, fever developed in a rhesus monkey that had been placed in a cage on a tree platform in the Zika Forest of Uganda (3). The monkey, Rhesus 766, was a sentinel animal in the Rockefeller Foundation’s program for research on jungle yellow fever. Two days later, Rhesus 766, still febrile, was brought to the Foundation’s laboratory at Entebbe and its serum was inoculated into mice. After 10 days all mice that were inoculated intracerebrally were sick, and a filterable transmissible agent, later named Zika virus, was isolated from the mouse brains. In early 1948, ZIKV was also isolated from Aedes africanus mosquitoes trapped in the same forest (4). Serologic studies indicated that humans could also be infected (5). Transmission of ZIKV by artificially fed Ae. aegypti mosquitoes to mice and a monkey in a laboratory was reported in 1956 (6).

Dynamics of Transmission


ZIKV has been isolated from Ae. africanus, Ae. apicoargenteus, Ae. luteocephalus, Ae. aegypti, Ae vitattus, and Ae. furcifer mosquitoes (9,15,17,19). Ae. hensilii was the predominant mosquito species present on Yap during the ZIKV disease outbreak in 2007, but investigators were unable to detect ZIKV in any mosquitoes on the island during the outbreak (2). Dick noted that Ae. africanus mosquitoes, which were abundant and infected with ZIKV in the Zika Forest, were not likely to enter monkey cages such as the one containing Rhesus 766 (5) raising the doubt that the monkey might have acquired ZIKV from some other mosquito species or through some other mechanism. During the studies of yellow fever in the Zika Forest, investigators had to begin tethering monkeys in trees because caged monkeys did not acquire yellow fever virus when the virus was present in mosquitoes (5). Thus, despite finding ZIKV in Ae. Africanus mosquitoes, Dick was not sure whether or not these mosquitoes were actually the vector for enzootic ZIKV transmission to monkeys.

Boorman and Porterfield subsequently demonstrated transmission of ZIKV to mice and monkeys by Ae. aegypti in a laboratory (6). Virus content in the mosquitoes was high on the day of artificial feeding, dropped to undetectable levels through day 10 after feeding, had increased by day 15, and remained high from days 20 through 60 (6). Their study suggests that the extrinsic incubation period for ZIKV in mosquitoes is ≈10 days. The authors cautioned that their results did not conclusively demonstrate that Ae. aegypti mosquitoes could transmit ZIKV at lower levels of viremia than what might occur among host animals in natural settings. Nevertheless, their results, along with the viral isolations from wild mosquitoes and monkeys and the phylogenetic proximity of ZIKV to other mosquito-borne flaviviruses, make it reasonable to conclude that ZIKV is transmitted through mosquito bites.

There is to date no solid evidence of nonprimate reservoirs of ZIKV, but 1 study did find antibody to ZIKV in rodents (20). Further laboratory, field, and epidemiologic studies would be useful to better define vector competence for ZIKV, to determine if there are any other arthropod vectors or reservoir hosts, and to evaluate the possibility of congenital infection or transmission through blood transfusion.


Virology and Pathogenesis

Figure 2. Phylogenetic relationship of Zika virus to other flaviviruses based on nucleic acid sequence of nonstructural viral protein 5, with permission from Dr Robert Lanciotti (1). Enc, encephalitis; ME, meningoencephalitis....

ZIKV is an RNA virus containing 10,794 nucleotides encoding 3,419 amino acids. It is closely related to Spondweni virus; the 2 viruses are the only members of their clade within the mosquito-borne cluster of flaviviruses (Figure 2) (1,21,22). The next nearest relatives include Ilheus, Rocio, and St. Louis encephalitis viruses; yellow fever virus is the prototype of the family, which also includes dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses (1,21). Studies in the Zika Forest suggested that ZIKV infection blunted the viremia caused by yellow fever virus in monkeys but did not block transmission of yellow fever virus (19,23).

Information regarding pathogenesis of ZIKV is scarce but mosquito-borne flaviviruses are thought to replicate initially in dendritic cells near the site of inoculation then spread to lymph nodes and the bloodstream (24). Although flaviviral replication is thought to occur in cellular cytoplasm, 1 study suggested that ZIKV antigens could be found in infected cell nuclei (25). To date, infectious ZIKV has been detected in human blood as early as the day of illness onset; viral nucleic acid has been detected as late as 11 days after onset (1,26). The virus was isolated from the serum of a monkey 9 days after experimental inoculation (5). ZIKV is killed by potassium permanganate, ether, and temperatures >60°C, but it is not effectively neutralized with 10% ethanol (5).

Clinical Manifestations


The first well-documented report of human ZIKV disease was in 1964 when Simpson described his own occupationally acquired ZIKV illness at age 28 (27). It began with mild headache. The next day, a maculopapular rash covered his face, neck, trunk, and upper arms, and spread to his palms and soles. Transient fever, malaise, and back pain developed. By the evening of the second day of illness he was afebrile, the rash was fading, and he felt better. By day three, he felt well and had only the rash, which disappeared over the next 2 days. ZIKV was isolated from serum collected while he was febrile.

In 1973, Filipe et al. reported laboratory-acquired ZIKV illness in a man with acute onset of fever, headache, and joint pain but no rash (26). ZIKV was isolated from serum collected on the first day of symptoms; the man’s illness resolved in ≈1 week.

Of the 7 ZIKV case-patients in Indonesia described by Olson et al. all had fever, but they were detected by hospital-based surveillance for febrile illness (11). Other manifestations included anorexia, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and dizziness. One patient had conjunctivitis but none had rash. The outbreak on Yap Island was characterized by rash, conjunctivitis, and arthralgia (1,2). Other less frequent manifestations included myalgia, headache, retroorbital pain, edema, and vomiting (2).

Diagnosis


Diagnostic tests for ZIKV infection include PCR tests on acute-phase serum samples, which detect viral RNA, and other tests to detect specific antibody against ZIKV in serum. An ELISA has been developed at the Arboviral Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Ft. Collins, CO, USA) to detect immunoglobulin (Ig) M to ZIKV (1). In the samples from Yap Island, cross-reactive results in sera from convalescent-phase patients occurred more frequently among patients with evidence of previous flavivirus infections than among those with apparent primary ZIKV infections (1,2). Cross-reactivity was more frequently noted with dengue virus than with yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, Murray Valley encephalitis, or West Nile viruses, but there were too few samples tested to derive robust estimates of the sensitivity and specificity of the ELISA. IgM was detectable as early as 3 days after onset of illness in some persons; 1 person with evidence of previous flavivirus infection had not developed IgM at day 5 but did have it by day 8 (1). Neutralizing antibody developed as early as 5 days after illness onset. The plaque reduction neutralization assay generally has improved specificity over immunoassays, but may still yield cross-reactive results in secondary flavivirus infections. PCR tests can be conducted on samples obtained less than 10 days after illness onset; 1 patient from Yap Island still had detectable viral RNA on day 11 (1). In general, diagnostic testing for flavivirus infections should include an acute-phase serum sample collected as early as possible after onset of illness and a second sample collected 2 to 3 weeks after the first.


Public Health Implications



Because the virus has spread outside Africa and Asia, ZIKV should be considered an emerging pathogen. Fortunately, ZIKV illness to date has been mild and self-limited, but before West Nile virus caused large outbreaks of neuroinvasive disease in Romania and in North America, it was also considered to be a relatively innocuous pathogen (28). The discovery of ZIKV on the physically isolated community of Yap Island is testimony to the potential for travel or commerce to spread the virus across large distances. A medical volunteer who was on Yap Island during the ZIKV disease outbreak became ill and was likely viremic with ZIKV after her return to the United States (2). The competence of mosquitoes in the Americas for ZIKV is not known and this question should be addressed. Spread of ZIKV across the Pacific could be difficult to detect because of the cross-reactivity of diagnostic flavivirus antibody assays. ZIKV disease could easily be confused with dengue and might contribute to illness during dengue outbreaks. Recognition of the spread of ZIKV and of the impact of ZIKV on human health will require collaboration between clinicians, public health officials, and high-quality reference laboratories.

Given that the epidemiology of ZIKV transmission on Yap Island appeared to be similar to that of dengue, strategies for prevention and control of ZIKV disease should include promoting the use of insect repellent and interventions to reduce the abundance of potential mosquito vectors. Officials responsible for public health surveillance in the Pacific region and the United States should be alert to the potential spread of ZIKV and keep in mind the possible diagnostic confusion between ZIKV illness and dengue.

Dr Hayes is currently a research professor at the Barcelona Centre for International Health Research. His research interests include epidemiology and prevention of vector-borne infectious diseases, and evaluation of safety and effectiveness of preventive interventions.
Acknowledgment

The author thanks Marc Fischer for helpful comments on the manuscript.

References
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Monlun E, Zeller H, Le Guenno B, Traoré-Lamizana M, Hervy JP, Adam F, Surveillance of the circulation of arbovirus of medical interest in the region of eastern Senegal [in French]. Bull Soc Pathol Exot. 1993;86:21–8.PubMed
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Figures
Figure 1. Approximate known distribution of Zika virus, 1947–2007. Red circle represents Yap Island. Yellow indicates human serologic evidence; red indicates virus isolated from humans; green represents mosquito isolates.
Figure 2. Phylogenetic relationship of Zika virus to other flaviviruses based on nucleic acid sequence of nonstructural viral protein 5, with permission from Dr Robert Lanciotti (1). Enc, encephalitis; ME, meningoencephalitis.......

Suggested citation for this article: Hayes EB. Zika virus outside Africa. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2009 Sep [date cited]. Available from http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/15/9/09-0442

DOI: 10.3201/eid1509.090442

Table of Contents – Volume 15, Number 9—September 2009

The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.

Freeing Assange in the Last

Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter

by John Pilger - CounterPunch


February 5, 2016

One of the epic miscarriages of justice of our time is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention — — the international tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations — has ruled that Julian Assange has been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden.

After five years of fighting to clear his name — having been smeared relentlessly yet charged with no crime — Assange is closer to justice and vindication, and perhaps freedom, than at any time since he was arrested and held in London under a European Extradition Warrant, itself now discredited by Parliament.

The UN Working Group bases its judgements on the European Convention on Human Rights and three other treaties that are binding on all its signatories. Both Britain and Sweden participated in the 16-month long UN investigation and submitted evidence and defended their position before the tribunal. It would fly contemptuously in the face of international law if they did not comply with the judgment and allow Assange to leave the refuge granted him by the Ecuadorean government in its London embassy.

In previous, celebrated cases ruled upon by the Working Group — Aung Sang Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian in Iran, both Britain and Sweden have given support to the tribunal. The difference now is that Assange’s persecution and confinement endures in the heart of London.

The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden — where the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape”, and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and “railroading” her, protesting she “did not want to accuse JA of anything” — and a second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.

The Assange case is rooted across the Atlantic in Pentagon-dominated Washington, obsessed with pursuing and prosecuting whistleblowers, especially Assange for having exposed, in WikiLeaks, US capital crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of civilians and a contempt for sovereignty and international law. None of this truth-telling is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”.

Obama, the betrayer, has since prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the US presidents combined. The courageous Chelsea Manning is serving 35 years in prison, having been tortured during her long pre-trial detention.

The prospect of a similar fate has hung over Assange like a Damocles sword. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Vice-President Joe Biden has called him a “cyber terrorist”. In Alexandra, Virginia, a secret grand jury has attempted to concoct a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted in a court. Even though he is not an American, he is currently being fitted up with an espionage law dredged up from a century ago when it was used to silence conscientious objectors during the First World War; the Espionage Act has provisions of both life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Assange’s ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been handicapped by the US declaring his case a state secret. A federal court has blocked the release of all information about what is known as the “national security” investigation of WikiLeaks.

The supporting act in this charade has been played by the second Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny had refused to comply with a routine European procedure that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case that James Catlin, one of Assange’s barristers, called “a laughing stock … it’s as if they make it up as they go along”. Indeed, even before Assange had left Sweden for London in 2010, Marianne Ny made no attempt to question him. In the years since, she has never properly explained, even to her own judicial authorities, why she has not completed the case she so enthusiastically re-ignited — just as the she has never explained why she has refused to give Assange a guarantee that he will not be extradited on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In 2010, the Independent in London revealed that the two governments had discussed Assange’s onward extradition.

Then there is tiny, brave Ecuador. One of the reasons Ecuador granted Julian Assange political asylum was that his own government, in Australia, had offered him none of the help to which he had a legal right and so abandoned him. Australia’s collusion with the United States against its own citizen is evident in leaked documents; no more faithful vassals has America than the obeisant politicians of the Antipodes.

Four years ago, in Sydney, I spent several hours with the Liberal Member of the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. We discussed the threats to Assange and their wider implications for freedom of speech and justice, and why Australia was obliged to stand by him. Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia and, as I write, is attending an international conference on Syria hosted the Cameron government — about 15 minutes’ cab ride from the room that Julian Assange has occupied for three and a half years in the small Ecuadorean embassy just along from Harrod’s. The Syria connection is relevant if unreported; it was WikiLeaks that revealed that the United States had long planned to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. Today, as he meets and greets, Prime Minister Turnbull has an opportunity to contribute a modicum of purpose and truth to the conference by speaking up for his unjustly imprisoned compatriot, for whom he showed such concern when we met. All he need do is quote the judgement of the UN Working Party on Arbitrary Detention. Will he reclaim this shred of Australia’s reputation in the decent world?

What is certain is that the decent world owes much to Julian Assange. He told us how indecent power behaves in secret, how it lies and manipulates and engages in great acts of violence, sustaining wars that kill and maim and turn millions into the refugees now in the news. Telling us this truth alone earns Assange his freedom, whereas justice is his right.


John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com
More articles by:John Pilger

Some Socialist! What Is Bernie Sanders?

Is Bernie Sanders a socialist? 

by William Blum – The Anti-Empire Report #143 

February 5th, 2016 
Self-described socialist” … How many times have we all read that term in regard to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders? But is he really a socialist? Or is he a “social democrat”, which is what he’d be called in Europe?

Or is he a “democratic socialist”, which is the American party he has been a member of (DSA – Democratic Socialists of America)? And does it really matter which one he is? They’re all socialists, are they not?

Why does a person raised in a capitalist society become a socialist? It could be because of a parent or parents who are committed socialists and raise their children that way. But it’s usually because the person has seen capitalism up close for many years, is turned off by it, and is thus receptive to an alternative. All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life: 

  • Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.
  • In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.
  • The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.
  • Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned ages.

What do these examples have in common? It’s their driving force – the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But social democrats and democratic socialists have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” 1

I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production.

The question thus facing “socialists” like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?

The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Sanders has expressed his support for such systems and there is indeed much to be said about them. But the problem I find is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.

Eliminating the profit motive in American society would run into a lot less opposition than one might expect. Consciously or unconsciously it’s already looked down upon to a great extent by numerous individuals and institutions of influence. For example, judges frequently impose lighter sentences upon lawbreakers if they haven’t actually profited monetarily from their acts. And they forbid others from making a profit from their crimes by selling book or film rights, or interviews. The California Senate enshrined this into law in 1994, one which directs that any such income of criminals convicted of serious crimes be placed into a trust fund for the benefit of the victims of their crimes. It must further be kept in mind that the great majority of Americans, like people everywhere, do not labor for profit, but for a salary.

The citizenry may have drifted even further away from the system than all this indicates, for American society seems to have more trust and respect for “non-profit” organizations than for the profit-seeking kind. Would the public be so generous with disaster relief if the Red Cross were a regular profit-making business? Would the Internal Revenue Service allow it to be tax-exempt? Why does the Post Office give cheaper rates to non-profits and lower rates for books and magazines which don’t contain advertising? For an AIDS test, do people feel more confident going to the Public Health Service or to a commercial laboratory? Why does “educational” or “public” television not have regular commercials? What would Americans think of peace-corps volunteers, elementary and high-school teachers, clergy, nurses, and social workers who demanded well in excess of $100 thousand per year? Would the public like to see churches competing with each other, complete with ad campaigns selling a New and Improved God?

Pervading all these attitudes, and frequently voiced, is a strong disapproval of greed and selfishness, in glaring contradiction to the reality that greed and selfishness form the official and ideological basis of our system. It’s almost as if no one remembers how the system is supposed to work any more, or they prefer not to dwell on it.

It would appear that, at least on a gut level, Americans have had it up to here with free enterprise. The great irony of it all is that the mass of the American people are not aware that their sundry attitudes constitute an anti-free-enterprise philosophy, and thus tend to go on believing the conventional wisdom that government is the problem, that big government is the biggest problem, and that their salvation cometh from the private sector, thereby feeding directly into pro-free-enterprise ideology.

Thus it is that those activists for social change who believe that American society is faced with problems so daunting that no corporation or entrepreneur is ever going to solve them at a profit carry the burden of convincing the American people that they don’t really believe what they think they believe; and that the public’s complementary mindset – that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done – is equally fallacious, for the government has built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it’s used for), landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, social security, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

Activists have to remind the American people of what they’ve already learned but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want more government, or less government; they don’t want big government, or small government; they want government on their side. Period.

Sanders has to clarify his views. What exactly does he mean by “socialism”? What exactly is the role the profit motive will play in his future society”?

Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Warsaw: 
“I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.2

We should never forget


The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a virtual failed state … the United States, beginning in 1991, bombed for much of the following 12 years, with one dubious excuse after another; then, in 2003, invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis,” reported the Washington Post in 2007, that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.” 3

The United States has not paid any compensation to Iraq.

The United States has not made any apology to Iraq.

Foreign policy is even more sensitive a subject in the United States than slavery of the black people and genocide of the Native Americans. The US has apologized for these many times, but virtually never for the crimes of American foreign policy.4

In 2014, George W. Bush, the man most responsible for this holocaust, was living a quiet life in Texas, with a focus on his paintings. “I’m trying to leave something behind”, he said.5

Yes, he has certainly done that – mountains of rubble for one thing; rubble that once was cities and towns. His legacy also includes the charming Islamic State. Ah, but Georgie Boy is an artiste.  

We need a trial to judge all those who bear significant responsibility for the past century - the most murderous and ecologically destructive in human history. We could call it the war, air and fiscal crimes tribunal and we could put politicians and CEOs and major media owners in the dock with earphones like Eichmann and make them listen to the evidence of how they killed millions of people and almost murdered the planet and made most of us far more miserable than we needed to be. Of course, we wouldn’t have time to go after them one by one. We’d have to lump Wall Street investment bankers in one trial, the Council on Foreign Relations in another, and any remaining Harvard Business School or Yale Law graduates in a third. We don’t need this for retribution, only for edification. So there would be no capital punishment, but rather banishment to an overseas Nike factory with a vow of perpetual silence. – Sam Smith6

On March 2, 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

Iraq 2003 was in the 21st century. The pretext was completely trumped up. Senator John Kerry voted for it. Nice moral authority you have there, John.

On the same occasion, concerning Ukraine, President Obama spoke of “the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked”.7 Do our leaders have no memory or do they think we’ve all lost ours?

Does Obama avoid prosecuting the Bush-Cheney gang because he wants to have the same rights to commit war crimes? The excuse he gives for his inaction is so lame that if George W. had used it people would not hesitate to laugh. On about five occasions, in reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted the like of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. for mass murder, torture and other war crimes, former law professor Obama has stated: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards.” Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Noam Chomsky has observed: 
“If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States. The US is now a full-blown pathological society. There is no other wonder drug to deal with American-exceptionalism-itis.

Notes
1. Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States, November 19, 2015
2. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994
3. Washington Post, May 5, 2007
4. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 25
5. New York Times, September 16, 2014
6. Sam Smith of Maine, formerly of Washington, DC
7. Reuters, March 3, 2014

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.


← Issue #142

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Who Laid This Egg? Rubio and the Republican Roosters

Who hatched Rubio?

by Greg Palast


February 4, 2016

The big boys are confident that Sen. Marco Rubio has locked up the Republican nomination. But who’s locked up Rubio?

I called my bookie in London. The betting professionals were not surprised at Marco Rubio’s big Iowa showing. The smart money has been on Rubio since October 31--despite the fact that Rubio was polling at just 9%.

Paul Krishnamurty, politics odds analyst at Betfair.com, told me that, among professional betters, over just two days, Rubio soared from zero to odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination.

Why would the guys who bet the rent money place it all on Rubio—and what suddenly changed on October 31?

Because, despite the fact that 9 of 10 Republicans rejected him, on Halloween, Rubio won the only vote that counts: The Vulture’s.

It was page one news in the New York Times: Paul Singer, Influential Billionaire, Throws Support to Marco Rubio for President.

I’ve been hunting Singer, AKA The Vulture, for nine years across four continents. And now the carrion-chewing billionaire has decided who will be your next President.

The Vulture, not the Kochs, has become the Number One funder of the Republican Party. The Vulture’s blessing signals to the other billionaires where to place their bets.

Singer doesn’t “donate” to candidates. He invests in them. And he expects a big, dripping return on his money.

But why Rubio? Because Singer’s little hatchling is doing The Vulture’s bidding already. Singer has launched a murderous financial “vulture” attack on Argentina. Singer is shaking down the gaucho nation for $3 billion.

Here’s the story. Decades ago, Argentina’s military dictatorship issued bonds that sucked the nation dry. When democracy returned, 97% of the banks that had funded the dictatorship agreed to take a low payment for these bonds.

Then down swooped The Vulture. Singer and his partners bought up the “hold-out” 3% for $50 million – and now Singer demands that Argentina pay him $3 billion, a 6,000% return on his “investment”—or he’ll bring Argentina to its knees.

That’s why he’s called The Vulture – because Singer has used this same junk-bond ransom trick to swipe aid funds meant for cholera clinics in the Congo. (When I uncovered that scheme for BBC Television, Britain’s Parliament banned Singer’s vulture fund from British courts. His operations are outlawed throughout most of the civilized world.)

But The Vulture has a problem: Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State, Clinton went to court on Argentina’s side and body-blocked every ugly attempt by The Vulture to savage Argentina.

Singer is screeching. A President Hillary would cost Singer billions. (As would a President Sanders, a stalwart foe of vulture financiers.) To counter Hillary, The Vulture hatched a Senator: one Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio has made several ethically dubious attempts to bully the Treasury and State Departments on Singer’s behalf.

That failed, so Singer has decided to put the anti-gay martinet Rubio into the White House. (Singer’s son is married to a man—but hey, to Singer, a feast of billions means more to him than family.)

Yet Singer knows you can’t put a Rubio in the Oval Office by winning the most votes. No way. Changing demographics doom almost any GOP candidacy.

The only way to take the White House is to block the vote of millions of voters of color.

And that’s why Singer has become donor Numero Uno to Karl Rove’s operation Crossroads.

I’ve been on the trail of racist vote suppression tactics since 2000 when Katherine Harris was Purge’n General. And behind so many of the moves to disenfranchise voters, all too successful, is the Rove operation.

Now I’m on the hunt again. I’m in the middle of ripping the lid off the biggest, most secretive vote suppression operation since Jim Crow was law.

I’m in the thick of making the movie, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, about the coming attempt to swipe the 2016 election through ugly—but unbelievably sophisticated—vote suppression trickery.

For BBC Television, The Guardian and Rolling Stone, I’ve been on the beat of ballot bandits – and the billionaires behind them for 16 years. This film – and a related series of articles, web videos, and a book – which we must release in Spring 2016 – has one aim: to save The House I Live In, the America of Martin Luther King and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This is not about whether Rubio or Clinton or Sanders or any other candidate should win. This is about making sure that the ballots, not the billionaires, determine the election.

I’m asking you to help me complete this documentary.

And we’ll be covering The Vulture and his hatchling.

Singer’s knuckle-draggers muscled me out of his Rubio fundraiser last month—when my disguise fell off. No kidding. So I have to try again.

While The Best Democracy Money Can Buy movie will have heavyweight, real, undercover, no-BS investigative reporting, it will present the eye-popping truth in an eye-popping manner, with all the humor and heart you expect from a Palast team film.

Watch this sneak peek.


I am asking you, to add your name as a Producer or co-Producer of this film (for a tax-deductible donation of $1,000 or $500 respectively) and you will receive a movie producer credit and an invite to join me at our opening in Hollywood. (You can, of course, choose to remain anonymous.)

For a $100 donation, you’ll be listed in the film credits as a supporter – and receive the signed DVD of the film.

Or support the film for any amount you can, no matter how small or large.

Please make this donation to our foundation right now.

I can’t thank you enough for your support—not just financial, but your vote of confidence in me and my team’s work over the years.

It’s what keeps us going.

* Paul "The Vulture" Singer by Rob Bischoff from the film, 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy' ©Palast Investigative Fund

* * * * *

In 2016 Greg Palast will be releasing his new feature film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy—A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, which includes his award-winning investigation Jim Crow Returns.

Greg Palast is the author of several New York Times bestsellers including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic.

Make a tax-deductible donation and support our ongoing investigation into voter suppression.

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www.GregPalast.com

When Prisoners Won't Eat: The Logic of Hunger Striking Palestinians

The Logic of Hunger Striking Palestinians: When Starvation Is a Weapon

by Ramzy Baroud  - PalestineChronicle.com


By Friday, January 29, Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeq had spent 66-days on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Just before he fell into his third coma, a day earlier, he sent a public message through his lawyers, the gist of which was: freedom or death.

Al-Qeq is 33-years of age, married and a father of two. Photos circulating of him online and on Palestinian streets show the face of a bespectacled, handsome man. The reality though is quite different. “He's in a very bad situation. He fell into his third coma in recent days, and his weight has dropped to 30 kilograms (66 pounds),” Ashraf Abu Sneina, one of al-Qeq's attorneys, told Al Jazeera. Al-Qeq was arrested under yet another notorious Israeli law called the ‘administrative detention’ law.

Ominous predictions of al-Qeq’s imminent death have been looming for days with no end in sight to his elongated ordeal. Unfortunately for a man who believes that the only tool of defense and protest he has against apartheid Israel is his body, the Red Cross and other international groups took many days to so much as acknowledge the case of this news reporter who had refused food and medical treatment since November 24, 2015.

Al-Qeq, works for Saudi Arabia’s Almajd TV network and was arrested at his home in Ramallah on November 21st. In its statement, issued more than 60 days after he entered into his hunger strike, ICRC described the situation as ‘critical’, unequivocally stating the reality of Al-Qeq’s “life being at risk.” On January 27, the European Union also expressed its view of being “especially concerned” about al-Qeq’s deteriorating health.

Under the ‘administrative detention’ law, Israel has affectively held Palestinians and Arab prisoners without offering reasons for their arrests, practically since the state was founded in 1948. In fact, it is argued that this law which is principally founded on ‘secret evidence’ dates back to the British Mandate government’s Emergency Regulations.

After Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967, it clutched at straw in its desperate efforts to find whatever legal justifications it could for holding prisoners without trials. These efforts were eventually articulated in the Israeli Law on Authorities in State of Emergency in 1979.

This law was some sort of compromise between the internal intelligence (Shin Bet), the state and the court system, with the ultimate aim of providing the façade and apparent backing of a legal cover for what is considered in international law and most country laws as illegal. The Shin Bet was thus allowed to use whatever coercive measures – including physical and psychological torture – to exact ‘forced’ confessions from Palestinian prisoners over the course of six months, renewable by a court order without trial or charges.

Khader Adnan, 37, from Jenin, was held under administrative detention law for years. Israeli intelligence had no evidence to indict him of any particular charge, despite accusations that he was a valued member of the Islamic Jihad organization. He was set free on July 12, 2015.This occurred only after he too resorted to undergoing several hunger strikes, and two particularly long ones: early in 2012 a hunger strike lasted for 66 days, and another, in May 2015, lasted for 56 days.

Each time, Adnan reached the point where death, as is the case for al-Qeq, was also becoming a real possibility. When we asked him what compelled him to follow that dangerous path twice, his answer was immediate: “repeated arrests, the savagery of the way I was arrested, the brutality of the interrogation and finally the prolonged administrative detention”- without trial.

Administrative detentions are like legal black holes. They offer no escape routes and no rights for the prisoner whatsoever, but wins the interrogators time to break the spirit of the prisoner, forcing him or her to surrender or even admit, under torture, to things that he or she never committed in the first place. “It is our last and only choice,” says Mohammed Allan, 33, from Nablus, who underwent a hunger strike for so long that it resulted in brain damage, and nearly cost him his life.


“When you feel that all the doors are sealed, and you stand there humiliated and alone, knowing in advance that the court system is a charade, one is left with no other option but a hunger strike,” he says.

“First, I made my intentions clear by refusing three meals in a row, and by sending a written note through the Dover (Hebrew for a prisoner who serves as a spokesperson for a prison ward).” Then, the punishment commences. It is like a psychological warfare between the prison authorities, state and legal system apparatuses against a single individual,” which, according to Allan lasts for 50-60 days.

“Almost instantly, a hunger striker is thrown into solitary confinement, denied access to a mattress and blanket and other basic necessities. Only after six weeks or so, do Israeli prison authorities agree to talk to lawyers representing hunger strikers to discuss various proposals. But within that period of time, the prisoner is left entirely unaided, separated from the other prisoners and subjected to an uninterrupted campaign of intimidation and threats. Mental torture is far worse than hunger,” says Allan.

“You cannot even go to the bathroom anymore; you cannot stand on your own; you are even two weak to wipe the vomit that involuntarily gushes out of your mouth into your beard and chest.”

Allan almost died in prison, and despite a court order that permitted prison authorities to force-feed him (a practice seen internationally as a form of torture), doctors at Soroka hospital refused to act upon the instructions. In mid-August 2015, Allan was placed on life support when he lost consciousness. His severe malnutrition resulted in brain damage.

A third freed hunger striker, Ayman Sharawneh, originally from Dura, Hebron, but who has been deported to Gaza, describes hunger strikes as the “last bullet” in a fight for freedom that could possibly end in death. Sharawneh, like Adnan and others we talked to, was bitter about the lack of adequate support he received while dying in jail.

“All organizations, Palestinian or international, usually fall short,” he says. “They spring into action after the prisoner had gone through many days of torture.”

He says that 2 years and 8 months after he was deported to Gaza, he is experiencing severe pain throughout his body, particularly in his kidneys.

While undergoing the extended hunger strike “I started to lose my hair, suffered from constant nausea, sharp pain in my guts, threw up yellow liquid, then dark liquid, then I could hardly see anything. I had an excruciating headache and then I began to suffer from fissures all over my skin and body.”

He agrees with Adnan that ‘individual hunger strikes’ should not be understood as a self-centered act. “Mohammed Al-Qeq is not striking for himself,” says Adnan. “He is striking on behalf of all political prisoners,” whose number is estimated by prisoners’ rights group Addameer at nearly 7,000.

According to Adnan, the issue of hunger strikes should not be seen as a battle within Israeli jails, but as part and parcel of the Palestinian people’s fight against military occupation.

While the three prisoners affirmed their solidarity with Al-Qeq, they called for a much greater support for the hunger-striking journalist and thousands like him, many of whom are held indefinitely under administrative detentions.

The list of well-known Palestinian hunger strikers exceeds Al-Qeq, Adnan, Allan and Sharawneh and includes many others, not forgetting Samir Issawi, Hana Shalabi, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Thiab. But what all of these former hunger strikers seem to have in common is their insistence that their battles were never concerned with the freedom of individuals only, but of an entire group of desperate, oppressed and outraged people.

(With reporting by Yousef Aljamal)

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.

America's Hidden Heart: Rendering the Undocumented Invisible

All the News That’s Fit to Print: How the Media Hide Undocumented Workers

by Aviva Chomsky - TomDispatch 


February 4, 2016

In our post-modern (or post-post-modern?) age, we are supposedly transcending the material certainties of the past. The virtual world of the Internet is replacing the “real,” material world, as theory asks us to question the very notion of reality. Yet that virtual world turns out to rely heavily on some distinctly old systems and realities, including the physical labor of those who produce, care for, and provide the goods and services for the post-industrial information economy.

As it happens, this increasingly invisible, underground economy of muscles and sweat, blood and effort intersects in the most intimate ways with those who enjoy the benefits of the virtual world. Of course, our connection to that virtual world comes through physical devices, and each of them follows a commodity chain that begins with the mining of rare earth elements and ends at a toxic disposal or recycling site, usually somewhere in the Third World.

Closer to home, too, the incontrovertible realities of our physical lives depend on labor -- often that of undocumented immigrants -- invisible but far from virtual, that makes apparently endless mundane daily routines possible.

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, A Newspaper's Crisis Reveals Unreported Worlds

Is there a category of human beings who, in election 2016, have been the focus of more negative attention, fear-mongering, or worse press than immigrants, especially undocumented ones coming from or through Mexico (those infamous “rapists”)? I doubt it. Thought of in another way, such immigrants seem to be the only “lobbying group” capable of convincing Republican politicians that our crumbling infrastructure needs to be shored up -- hence those monster walls to come along the Mexican border. Immigrants, it’s now well known, are a shiftless bunch of criminals, or as Donald Trump put it, “If you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!” And don’t forget the terrorist types supposedly worming their way in among refugees -- another category of immigrants -- fleeing the chaos the U.S. had such a hand in creating in Syria and Iraq. Those lost souls looking for asylum here have been a particular target of Republican candidates and office holders eager to ban them from coming anywhere near this country or at least their states. Put it all together and you have a witch’s brew when it comes to the land of the free and home of the... well, whatever.

So imagine the national shock (had anyone been paying attention) that “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States,” a study by researchers Walter A. Ewing, Daniel E. Martínez, and Rubén G. Rumbaut released last July through the American Immigration Council, should have caused here. The three scholars offered truly shocking news. They crunched the latest numbers and confirmed decades of other studies showing that immigration does anything but increase U.S. crime rates. Immigrants, legal and otherwise, are charged with far fewer “serious crimes” and are jailed far less often than the native born. To be specific, their study found that “1.6% of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3% of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses. In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.” The same, by the way, holds true for incarceration rates “among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population.”

How in the world do such definitive hard numbers fit with the overwrought sense of fear and alarm, the myth-making about immigrants alive in the country today? In her second TomDispatch post, Aviva Chomsky offers an interesting answer: it’s not that hard to create a nightmare vision of immigrants when they are almost never seen by the Americans you are scaring the hell out of. Their invisibility in our world ensures that just about any picture can be painted of them without fear of contradiction because there’s nothing in most of our lives to which to compare it. So consider today just one recent case in which, however briefly, that cloak of invisibility began to be lifted from the remarkably lawful, remarkably hardworking immigrants who are the target of so much calumny this election season. Tom 


All the News That’s Fit to Print: 
How the Media Hide Undocumented Workers

by Aviva Chomsky

Even the most ethereal of post-modern cosmopolitans, for instance, eat food. In twenty-first-century America, as anthropologist Steve Striffler has pointed out, “to find a meal that has not at some point passed through the hands of Mexican immigrants is a difficult task.” Medical anthropologist Seth Holmes adds, “It is likely that the last hands to hold the blueberries, strawberries, peaches, asparagus, or lettuce before you pick them up in your local grocery store belong to Latin American migrant laborers.”

The same is true of the newspaper. The invisible links between two mutually incomprehensible worlds were revealed to many in the Boston area at the end of December when the Boston Globe, the city’s major newspaper, made what its executives apparently believed would be a minor change. They contracted out its subscriber delivery service to a new company.

Isn’t newspaper delivery part of the old economy and so consigned to the dustbin of history by online news access? It turns out that a couple of hundred thousand people in the Boston area -- and 56% of newspaper readers nationwide -- still prefer to read their news in what some dismissively call the “dead tree format.” In addition, despite major ad shrinkage, much of the revenue that allows newspapers to offer online content still comes overwhelmingly from in-print ads.

The Globe presented the change as a clean, technical move, nothing more than a new contractor providing newspaper delivery for a lower cost. But like so many other invisible services that grease the wheels of daily life, that deceptively simple task is in fact provided thanks to grueling, exploited labor performed by some of society’s most marginalized workers, many of them immigrants and undocumented.

In this respect, newspaper delivery shares characteristics with other forms of labor that link the privileged with the exploited. This is especially true in Boston, recently named the most unequal city in the country. Some of the most dangerous, insecure, and unpleasant jobs with the lowest pay and a general lack of benefits provide key goods and services for citizens who undoubtedly believe that they never interact with immigrants or receive any benefits from them.

In fact, immigrant workers harvest, process, and prepare food; they provide home health care; they manicure hands and lawns. In other words, the system connects some of the most intimate aspects of our daily lives with workers whose very existence is then erased or demonized in the public sphere. And all of this happens because these workers are regularly rendered silent and invisible.

Reporters Heroically Deliver the Paper 


To get that “dead tree” item from the printer to your doorstep requires hundreds of human workers willing to leave home in the middle of the night, 365 days a year, regardless of the weather and the driving conditions (a serious issue in New England). They must drive to a distribution center to receive, fold, and package the papers, load them in their own car, and spend several hours racing through dark streets to finish their route before dawn. Although they pay for their own gas, insurance, and car maintenance, the low piece rate that these “independent contractors” receive per-paper-delivered barely allows them to reach the minimum wage. Many of them are immigrants.

The Globe’s workers remained invisible to much of the public until December 28th when the paper replaced its long-time delivery contractor with Long Beach-based ACI Media Group. Droves of workers were laid off from the previous company when it lost its Globe contract, and ACI promised to cut costs for delivery by paying its newly hired workers less and making them work more under significantly worse conditions. As a result, ACI had trouble attracting workers and those they did hire began to quit en masse when confronted with the degrading new working conditions. Thousands of papers went undelivered, day after day. When subscriber complaints flooded in, the media began to take notice. But most of the journalists covering the developing story preferred to look everywhere except at the workers themselves in trying to explain what happened.

Subscribers may be aware of their paper carriers because they catch a glimpse of them or hear them in the early morning, or they may take seriously those envelopes that the carriers regularly leave, hoping for tips to bolster their meager income. Apparently, however, the Globe’s own reporters never thought to consider how the newspaper arrived at subscribers’ homes until the system went into crisis.

A week into the quagmire, the Globe mobilized its reporters and other staff to help deliver the Sunday paper. If anyone outside the Boston area heard about the issue, it was undoubtedly because of this unprecedented action. Under the headline “Boston Globe Employees Help Deliver Papers on Sunday,” for instance, the New York Times noted that 200 of them “stayed up all night,” having brought their own “flashlight and a GPS,” and that they “assembled and bagged thousands of newspapers and stacked them in their cars.” On NPR, Renee Montagne chimed in, reporting that “before dawn on Sunday morning, dozens of the Globe's reporters and editors fanned out and delivered the papers themselves. They carried flashlights and GPS.”

As one of those reporters told the Times, “You’re following instructions about whether people want it directly on their porch or hidden somewhere, so you have to walk up to the house and drop it where they wanted it.” CNN Money explained that “first, the volunteers had to bag the papers,” and provided a photograph to prove that such a remarkable act had indeed happened. All of this coverage tacitly offered up the same message: reporters had heroically crossed the lines of race, status, and class! How amazing!

Clearly, this foray into the world of immigrant labor proved startling for those reporters. Columnist Marcela García called it “an unbelievably eye-opening experience.” Columnist Shirley Leung wrote, “We have an old saying in newsrooms: Putting out the paper is a daily miracle. I used to think that was just about filing your story on deadline, but I’ve come to appreciate how it’s the whole package from keyboard to doorstep.”

Columnist Joan Vennochi, after spending the night delivering papers, lamented the suffering of the “victims” of the Globe’s decision -- by which, of course, she meant the subscribers. After a humorous description of his own amateur attempt to follow a morning delivery route, reporter Kevin Cullen concluded casually that “whatever they pay the delivery people, it’s not enough, and it’s more than a little depressing to think this debacle has been brought about by a desire to pay them even less.”

“Whatever they pay the delivery people...” Curiously, in the first two weeks of reporting on the crisis, no news source seemed able to find out how much the new company was actually paying. The Columbia Journalism Review reported widespread speculation “that the labor shortage stems from ACI offering lower pay rates than other carriers. But ACI and Globe management have both denied that claim.” Apparently it never occurred to CJR reporter David Uberti to ask a worker!

Press coverage made it clear that newspapers live in, and speak to, a world of privilege. It was assumed, for instance, that readers shared the utter ignorance of reporters when it came to the work (and the workers) involved in physically transporting newspapers to their doorsteps. They were, in other words, to enjoy unlimited access to “information” about the world that “matters” -- and complete ignorance when it came to the mundane details that lay behind that access.

Only one of the journalists who participated in that Sunday delivery extravaganza, columnist Marcela García, who frequently covers immigrant and Latino issues, even thought to focus her attention on the workers who actually did the same job every day. “Reporters delivering their own work -- that’s a story,” she wrote. “But off camera, and working side by side with us as we assembled the Sunday paper, were the people who are there every night, making not much more than minimum wage... Part of the subtext of the crisis the Globe has faced for the past week is that our new delivery vendor can’t seem to find enough people willing and able to do the grueling work.”

At her blog, García recorded one of her colleagues saying, “Wow, I can’t believe something like this had to happen for us to learn about these workers and their conditions.” She was evidently one of the few reporters willing to talk with some of the actual workers that Sunday morning when the Globe staff mobilized to help with the delivery. Or perhaps she was one of the few able to. While 35% of Boston’s inhabitants speak a language other than English and the city is now “majority minority,” the paper’s journalists, unlike its delivery workers, remain overwhelmingly white and English speaking.

The Vanishing Workers


That Tuesday, January 5th, publisher John Henry offered a public apology -- to subscribers, of course, not to the workers with the old carrier who, because of his actions, had lost their jobs, or the ones with the new carrier who had seen their working conditions and pay undermined. Henry did emphasize that a major reason for switching carriers was ACI’s promise of substantially cheaper service. Clearly, he felt it unnecessary to mention that these savings would be realized on the backs of the delivery workers. “Until Globe staffers embarked on an effort to save more than 20,000 subscribers from missing their Sunday paper,” Henry wrote, “we had underestimated what it would take to make this change.” He then offered a post-modern, post-material explanation for the problem: the new company’s routing software had proven insufficient for the job!

On January 9th, almost two weeks after the delivery crisis began, an exposé by reporter Michael Levenson finally brought the issue of “long hours, little pay, no vacation for delivery drivers” out of the shadows. He described the “grueling nocturnal marathon for low-income workers who toil almost invisibly on the edge of the economy.” The next day, when 15 workers delivered a letter of protest to the new carrier and walked off the job, reporter Dan Adams explained their demands and actually quoted Lynn Worker Center organizer Julio Ruiz.

On January 13th, the Globe published a lead editorial challenging management and bringing labor issues to the fore in a significant way. It recognized that “drivers get no vacation, and lack worker protections. That’s despite the fact that packaging papers into plastic bags, in the middle of the night, can be grueling work.” The editorial called on the state attorney general and federal authorities to investigate the delivery business, including implicitly the accusation leveled by workers that their employers misclassify them as “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying the wages or offering the labor protections they deserve.

In other words, the organizing and protesting of the workers -- and the experiences of the reporters as one-day delivery people -- helped briefly open a window between the world of those who write and read the news and the world of the exploited labor that transports it from the former to the latter.

Yet the window didn’t last long. A Globe postmortem by Mark Arsenault on January 16th returned to a purely technological explanation of the problem in summing up the three-week debacle. “The root of the delivery mayhem,” he wrote, “lies in something so simple that nobody gave it much thought until it was too late: sensible paper routes.” Once again, software and routing lay at the heart of the matter, while workers and working conditions conveniently vanished.

If newspaper writers and readers are effectively isolated from the world of the workers who deliver the paper, that divide goes both ways. One immigrant worker who spoke to García -- in Spanish -- was a Guatemalan who had taken on a second paper route during the crisis. He worked from one at night to eight in the morning and requested to be identified by a pseudonym. “I asked him if he ever reads the Globe,” García reported. “He looked up and stared back at me as if I was saying something crazy. And he just laughed.”

Our infatuation with virtual modernity should not blind us to the exploitative systems of labor that undergird our world from our front doorsteps to distant parts of the planet. As the Globe’s delivery crisis made clear, the present system relies on ignorance and on the invisibility of the labor of mostly immigrant, often undocumented workers. The Globe’s delivery breakdown offered a brief look at just one way in which the worlds of business, journalism, and readers rely on such workers. And the local and national coverage revealed just how unusual it is for those who own, manage, write, and read newspapers to see this underside of our information economy.

So when you next pick up your paper and read the latest blast by Donald Trump against undocumented immigrants, remember: the odds are you can only do so because an undocumented worker brought it to your doorstep.

Aviva Chomsky’s most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. She is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Aviva Chomsky

Getting Bomb Trains Off Tracks

Stopping West Coast Tar Sands Oil Bomb Trains in Their Tracks

by Jack Eidt - CounterPunch


February 4, 2016

On February 4th and 5th, San Luis Obispo County will be deciding on a Phillips 66 plan to bring mile-long oil tanker trains into their Nipomo Mesa plant five days a week, each carrying 2.4 million gallons of toxic and volatile petroleum across California. So, why should the rest of us care? Well, the Delta 5 gave us one reason, protestors in Washington state who tied themselves to a 25-foot tripod to block a train carrying crude oil.
A runaway train carrying North Dakota crude oil 
derailed and exploded in the center of Lac-Megantic, 
Quebec, killing 47 people in July 2013, highlighting a 
dangerous trend in North America. Californians are 
speaking out against oil train expansion plans in San 
Luis Obispo, the East Bay, Sacramento, Bakersfield, 
and Los Angeles. Photo: Public Herald

Stopping these shipments of some of the dirtiest crude oil on earth from fouling our climate even further. But for the average person who isn’t blocking fossil fuel infrastructure, there is an even greater imperative: bomb trains.

Five times around North America in 2015 oil trains crashed causing massive explosions, spills of caustic crude into rivers, fires that burn out of control, and significant property damage. The list is daunting: May 2015 in Heimdal, North Dakota, six cars of a 109-car train exploded into flames with 60,000 gallons of oil spilled. In March, an oil train derailed near Gogoma, Ontario, with a fire that destroyed a bridge.

This only 23 miles from a February oil train accident where the fire burned for days. Evacuations and extreme explosions have become a game of Russian roulette, and first responders can only wonder where is next?

“The February 2014 crash in North Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, [attributed to a failure in newly-laid rails] fits into an alarming pattern across North America that helps explain the significant rise of derailments involving oil-hauling trains over the last three years, even as railroads are investing billions of dollars in improving the safety of their networks. A review of 31 crashes that have occurred on oil trains since 2013 puts track failure at the heart of the growing safety problem.” — Los Angeles Times

In March of 2015, near Galena, Illinois, 21 cars of a 105-car oil train derailed and burst into flames. And in February, a 109-car CSX oil train derailed and caught fire near Mount Carbon, West Virginia, leaking oil into the Kanawha River tributary, with a fire that burned for most of a week. In all of these accidents the tankers were retrofitted with protective shields to meet a higher safety standard than federal law requires, meaning the biggest problem in a world of problems was the flammable fracked oil shale or tar sands crude involved. Four more accidents happened in Tennessee, Montana and Wisconsin in 2015 where significant oil, fuel or corrosive chemicals were spilled, but without a major explosion.

The worst oil train accident by far happened July 5, 2013, with an unattended runaway train carrying fracked North Dakota Bakken shale oil, derailing and catching fire in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Forty-seven people were killed and thirty buildings burned. About 1.6 million gallons of oil was spilled.

Several things are clear here: the rail tanker cars, emergency response plans, braking equipment requirements, and railroad track maintenance are inadequate. And we must find cleaner, safer alternatives to these ecosystem-fouling, climate-disrupting extreme fossil fuels like tar sands and fracked oil shale.

Blast Zone Running Through Our Cities and Towns


The proposal includes 80-car trains, up to 1 ½ miles long, that leak their contents into the air, toxic sulfur dioxide and cancer-causing chemicals that increase health risks of heart and respiratory disease. The proposed rail route would bring oil trains through the environmentally-sensitive state water resource San Francisco Bay Delta and along California’s Central Coast.

Volatile and toxic crude would also begin moving through Los Angeles between the Inland Empire and Downtown Los Angeles, along a stretch of the L.A. River, a source of water and recreation undergoing a $1.3 billion makeover, passing homes, hospitals, and parks, through downtown where hipster apartments and sparkling office-and-shopping megaplexes are sprouting up. The trains would further pass through the Chatsworth/Northridge area already facing the largest fossil fuel gas leak blowout since the BP Deepwater Horizon.

Responding to pressure from activists, the Los Angeles City Council passed a unanimous resolution last September to oppose this project. They were not alone: six counties and 21 cities passed similar motions asking SLO to reject the project.

The entire route would put at risk more than 5 million people statewide within a one-mile evacuation area, called the Blast Zone.

A recent analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity found that 500,000 students in California attend schools within a half-mile of rail tracks used by oil trains, and more than another 500,000 are within a mile of the Blast Zone. In addition to the threat posed to California’s students, the report Crude Injustice on the Rails released last year by ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment, pointed out that in California the communities within the half-mile blast zones were also more likely to be low-income minority neighborhoods.

The cost of our oil addiction already disproportionately impacts these communities with toxic air quality, asthma and other maladies, noise, and the threat of accidents. Time for an intervention to heal this debilitating addiction now.

We Have Alternatives


We must reject regular bomb train accidents as a cost of business as usual in our fast-paced, technology-addled world. We can continue to retrofit our cities and towns to provide alternatives to gridlocked freeways, with accessible public transit, car-sharing and autonomous (self-driving) technologies, free-flowing bicycle throughways, and walkable neighborhoods. We can invest in the development of more efficient automobiles made of fiber composites, powered by solar and wind power or advanced biofuels.

Rather than sacrifice our railroads built for passengers and light cargo, not 100-car bomb trains bent on destabilizing our climate in the name of getting to work on time, we can look to the work of the visionaries, Mark Z. Jacobsen’s Solutions Project, Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute, and Arjun Makhijani’s Carbon Free, Nuclear Free.

We can and will transition to an economy focused on efficiency, conservation, and renewable and clean sources of energy, but it has to happen now. And we must overcome the excesses of capitalism, where politicians like Mr. Obama and Mr. Brown, who spout concepts of energy sustainability can be bought with the power of dark money to push for more pipelines, oil trains, hydraulic fracking wells, holding fast to the addiction.

Presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein have the ability to separate themselves from the oil lobby billions: the rest of them, not so much. Sacrifice zones like Porter Ranch and Wilmington, along with extreme droughts and Superstorms, as well as cancer-clusters and death by explosions, don’t have to be the cost of “doing business.”

Instead of bringing tar sands crude from the strip-mined boreal forests of Alberta, the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery should transition their workers into providing sustainable energy for the 21st Century. Our communities and our planet demand a world with clean air and water, safe from exploding bomb trains.

Jack Eidt is publisher of WilderUtopia, and serves on the Steering Committee of SoCal 350 Climate Action, a Los Angeles affiliate of the international climate change organization 350.org.
More articles by:Jack Eidt