News Release Archive - Science/Health/Tech

Is Big Pharma’s Intellectual Property More Important than Lives?

The Hindu reports: “U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he had not made a decision on whether the U.S. would support an Indian and South African initiative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to facilitate the production of COVID-19 related vaccines and therapeutics around the world.”

JAMES LOVE,, @jamie_love
Love is director Knowledge Ecology International, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization that “searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources.” KEI is focused on “social justice, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized groups.”

He said today: “Critics of the TRIPS waiver have used a barrage of misleading and inaccurate arguments. The notion that the WTO TRIPS agreement already has sufficient flexibility is true up to a point, but ignores the toxic impacts of Articles 31.f and 31bis on exports, and Article 39 on access to manufacturing know-how and trial data. The claim that weaker patent rights will have no impact on vaccine production does not explain why removing legal barriers to making vaccines isn’t helpful, and why drug companies have hired more than 100 registered lobbyists to protect those patents. It is true that patents are not the only barrier to scaling generic or biosimilar vaccine production. Access to cell lines and manufacturing know-how, as well as vaccine inputs, are a challenge for some vaccine platforms, and the regulatory barriers to approval are important too. IP [intellectual property] is not the only issue, but the argument that IP is not an issue is wrong. Indeed, over time, IP becomes the most important barrier to entry. The benefits of weaker IP rules will depend in part on how long the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and no one really knows the answer to that. Governments need to do more than lift the most toxic WTO TRIPS rules, they should play a more constructive role in opening up access to know-how, and making vaccine technologies global public goods. The transfer of manufacturing know-how can be required, or even purchased. The WHO [World Health Organization] COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and the proposed mRNA technology hubs should be supported, and the proposed WHO pandemic treaty should include provisions to internationalize public rights in publicly funded know-how, inventions and data.” 

See related statements and documents from KEI including: “KEI submission to Canada Standing Committee on International Trade and Investment Policy: Concerning COVID-19,” “COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity,” “Buying Know-How to Scale Vaccine Manufacturing” and “KEI Statement at WTO COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Event.”

Love was recently on the news release: “How Bill Gates Makes Intellectual Property More Important than Public Health.”

How Bill Gates Makes Intellectual Property More Important than Public Health

Love is director Knowledge Ecology International, and has been arguing that the Gates Foundation, with its sprawling financial ties, allowed it to assert influence early in the pandemic.

He is quoted in a just-published piece in The New Republic: “Few have observed Bill Gates’s devotion to monopoly medicine more closely than James Love, founder and director of Knowledge Ecology International, a Washington, D.C.–based group that studies the broad nexus of federal policy, the pharmaceutical industry, and intellectual property. Love entered the world of global public health policy around the same time Gates did, and for two decades has watched him scale its heights while reinforcing the system responsible for the very problems he claims to be trying to solve. The through-line for Gates has been his unwavering commitment to drug companies’ right to exclusive control over medical science and the markets for its products.

“‘Things could have gone either way,’ says Love, ‘but Gates wanted exclusive rights maintained. He acted fast to stop the push for sharing the knowledge needed to make the products — the know-how, the data, the cell lines, the tech transfer, the transparency that is critically important in a dozen ways. The pooling approach represented by C-TAP [WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool] included all of that. Instead of backing those early discussions, he raced ahead and signaled support for business-as-usual on intellectual property by announcing the ACT-Accelerator [Access to COVID-19 Tools] in March.’ …

“Technically housed within the WHO, the ACT-Accelerator is a Gates operation, top to bottom. It is designed, managed, and staffed largely by Gates organization employees. It embodies Gates’s philanthropic approach to widely anticipated problems posed by intellectual property–hoarding companies able to constrain global production by prioritizing rich countries and inhibiting licensing. Companies partnering with COVAX are allowed to set their own tiered prices. They are subject to almost no transparency requirements and to toothless contractual nods to ‘equitable access’ that have never been enforced. Crucially, the companies retain exclusive rights to their intellectual property. If they stray from the Gates Foundation line on exclusive rights, they are quickly brought to heel. When the director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute had funny ideas about placing the rights to its COVAX-supported vaccine candidate in the public domain, Gates intervened. As reported by Kaiser Health News, ‘A few weeks later, Oxford — urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — reversed course [and] signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices.’ …

“Gates can hardly disguise his contempt for the growing interest in intellectual property barriers. In recent months, as the debate has shifted from the WHO to the WTO, reporters have drawn testy responses from Gates that harken back to his prickly performances before congressional antitrust hearings a quarter-century ago. When a Fast Company reporter raised the issue in February, she described Gates ‘raising his voice slightly and laughing in frustration,’ before snapping, ‘It’s irritating that this issue comes up here. This isn’t about IP.’

“In interview after interview, Gates has dismissed his critics on the issue — who represent the poor majority of the global population — as spoiled children demanding ice cream before dinner. ‘It’s the classic situation in global health, where the advocates all of a sudden want [the vaccine] for zero dollars and right away,’ he told Reuters in late January. Gates has larded the insults with comments that equate state-protected and publicly funded monopolies with the ‘free market.’ ‘North Korea doesn’t have that many vaccines, as far as we can tell,’ he told The New York Times in November. (It is curious that he chose North Korea as an example and not Cuba, a socialist country with an innovative and world-class vaccine development program with multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of testing.)”

The Case Against Fukushima Releasing Over One Million Metric Tons of Radioactive Wastewater

Folkers is radiation and health hazard specialist with Beyond Nuclear. Kamps is the radioactive waste specialist for the group.

Folkers stated: “On Tuesday, the government of Japan announced its decision to intentionally discharge, directly into the Pacific Ocean, 1.25 million metric tons (330 million U.S. gallons) of radioactively contaminated wastewater, enough volume to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The contaminated wastewater has accumulated over the past decade at the triple-reactor meltdown site of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. It is currently contained in more than a thousand giant storage tanks onsite. The dumping will begin in a couple of years, and continue for decades.

“Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) data show that even twice-through filtration leaves the water 13.7 times more concentrated with hazardous tritium — radioactive hydrogen — than Japan’s allowable standard for ocean dumping, and about one million times higher than the concentration of natural tritium in Earth’s surface waters.

“TEPCO wants us to believe that the radioactive contamination in this water will be diluted in the ocean waters. But some of the radioactive isotopes will concentrate up the food chain in ocean life. And some of the contamination may not travel out to sea and can double back on itself. Dilution doesn’t work for radioactive isotopes, particularly tritium, which research shows can travel upstream.

“Tritium has a persistent hazardous life of about 123 to 246 years. Organically-bound tritium, can bio-accumulate in food, including seafood, and reside in our bodies for a decade, causing cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, and reproductive harm. Radioactive carbon-14, also present in the wastewater to be dumped, remains hazardous for 55,000 to 110,000 years. Women, children, and fetuses are significantly more susceptible to the hazards of radioactivity than are men.” See Folkers’ factsheet: “Tritium: a universal health threat released by every nuclear reactor.” See Folkers’ full press statement, as well as a list of relevant Beyond Nuclear and other backgrounders.

Kamps said today: “Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO), the Japanese government, and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are trying to justify the oceanic releases as being of ‘allowable’ or ‘permissible’ radioactive concentrations, that will then further dilute in the Pacific. But ‘allowable’ or ‘permissible’ does not mean ‘safe.’ The U.S. National Academy of Sciences have long held that any exposure to ionizing radioactivity carries a health risk, no matter how small the dose, and that such harm accumulates over a lifetime of exposure. Thus, ‘dilution is not the solution to radioactive pollution,’ as Dr. Rosalie Bertell of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health warned decades ago. Dilution is a delusion, when bio-accumulation, concentration, and magnification in the seafood supply is taken into consideration. Humans are at the top of that food chain, at risk of the most concentrated, hazardous internal exposures to ingested ionizing radiation.

“American spokesmen — such as former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Dale Klein, and former U.S. Department of Energy official Lake Barrett — tapped by TEPCO to advocate for this tritiated wastewater ocean dumping, should be ashamed of themselves. So too should the Biden administration State Department, which has expressed support for this ocean dumping scheme in order to advance its own irresponsible pro-nuclear power agenda, which it shares in common with the Japanese government and the IAEA.

“The claim is made that there is no more room for storing ever accumulating quantities of radioactive wastewater. So arbitrary property lines are taking precedence over what is an ongoing radioactive emergency? The nuclear power plant host towns of Futaba and Okuma are already largely uninhabitable due to extensive radioactive contamination, and in fact are being used to store very large quantities of bagged radioactively contaminated soil, leaves, and other materials gathered from across a broad region. The radioactive wastewater should be stored in robust containers on solid ground for as long as it remains hazardous, even if this means beyond the arbitrary confines of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant property line.” See Kamps’s full press statement, as well as additional factual background information.

U.S. Military Poisoning Nationally and Globally with Toxic Chemicals

The Guardian recently published the piece “The U.S. military is poisoning communities across the U.S. with toxic chemicals” by David Bond, a professor at Bennington College in Vermont, which states: “From Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Colorado Springs, Colorado, the last decade has witnessed communities near military bases waking up to a nightmare of PFAS contamination in their water, their soil and their blood.” Professor Bond highlighted the military origins of toxic PFAS chemicals that were incinerated in Cohoes, New York. Bond writes there is no evidence that incineration actually destroys these synthetic chemicals.
Elder is the founder of and has written extensively on the issue of the military’s reckless use of PFAS. Elder initially broke the story on the military’s shipment of PFAS materials to be incinerated at Norlite’s facility in Cohoes, New York.
Elder said today: “The military is poisoning people and the environment in the U.S. and worldwide through its careless use of PFAS in firefighting foams and in other military applications. Recent events in Vermont provide insight into the military’s intransigence.

“Vermont’s Senate recently passed a bill that would ban the use of PFAS in firefighting foams and other consumer products. PFAS are per-and-poly fluoroalkyl substances that are linked to a host of cancers, fetal abnormalities, and childhood diseases. The substances leach into surface water and drinking water from military installations — even those that were closed 30 years ago. The legislature reached out to the Vermont Air National Guard regarding the measure and were told the Guard no longer uses firefighting foam containing toxic PFAS. The Senate moved ahead with the measure with the knowledge that the bill would not affect the Guard.

“PFAS foams are used and stored at Guard bases across the country. Historically, the foams have contained PFOS and PFOA, two particularly deadly varieties of PFAS. The DOD has replaced these foams with other toxic variants of PFAS.

“In published reports the Air Force claims the legacy PFAS used at the burn pit on the Burlington Air National Guard base has been ‘removed and properly disposed of’ but the deadly chemicals continue to slowly leach off the Burlington base and into the Winooski River where PFAS levels have been found above 700 parts per trillion. The Air National Guard has not removed the chemicals and there is no known method for properly disposing of these toxins known as ‘forever chemicals.'”

Last year, Elder tested seawater, rockfish, crabs, and oysters at his home in Southern Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay and found the levels to be a threat to human health. See piece on his work in the Baltimore Sun: “Maryland to begin testing drinking water, Chesapeake Bay oysters for harmful ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS.”

Elder’s articles include a three-part series on contamination at the Burlington base, as well as a report on the contamination of rivers and fish near U.S. bases in Germany and an article on contamination in Okinawa, Japan.

He added: “PFAS is used on U.S. military installations worldwide, with widespread contamination reported in Belgium, South Korea, Guam and other locations. Drinking water, rivers and aquatic life have been poisoned.”

Biden Should Halt Trump Privatization of Medicare Moves

DIANE ARCHER, via Linda Benesch,
Archer is president of Just Care USA, an independent digital hub “covering health and financial issues facing boomers and their families and promoting policy solutions.” She is the past board chair of Consumer Reports and serves on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Board. Benesch is communications director of Social Security Works.

Archer just wrote the piece “The Ghost of the Trump Administration Is Haunting Medicare,” which states: “In the last quarter of 2020, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services launched an experiment, euphemistically called, ‘direct contracting,’ that could fully turn Medicare over to private health insurers. The Biden administration needs to halt this experiment before millions of older and disabled Americans lose their right to choose traditional Medicare.

“Traditional Medicare — public insurance administered by the federal government — has been a hallmark of Medicare since the program was first enacted in 1965. Under traditional Medicare, the government sets rates for doctors and hospitals, sets the conditions for coverage, and pays providers directly. Public insurance is cost-effective, reliable, transparent and publicly accountable.

“Most important, traditional Medicare guarantees people access to care from the doctors and hospitals they choose anywhere in the country. It is designed to meet the needs of healthy older adults and people with disabilities as well as those with complex medical conditions. No corporate health insurer profits from denying care or second-guessing treating physicians.

“Nonetheless, the Trump administration has outsourced Medicare to insurance companies and other for-profit middlemen, placing them between Americans and their doctors. The experiment could assign millions of people who elected traditional Medicare to a corporate health plan that works like Medicare Advantage, the Medicare private health insurance choice, with fewer consumer protections. …

“Allowing for-profit insurers to restrict access to care in traditional Medicare is a dangerous social experiment with the health and lives of the most vulnerable older and disabled Americans. It’s bad policy, a government giveaway to Wall Street, and a betrayal of the most basic principles of Medicare. Congress has given every older and disabled American the right to choose traditional Medicare. The Biden administration should immediately kill this toxic legacy of the former president.”

Mars Mission Had 1-in-960 Odds of a Plutonium Release

Grossman just wrote the piece “Applause for Perseverance Ignores Plutonium Bullet We Dodged” for the media watch group FAIR.

He writes: “With all the media hoopla last week about the Perseverance rover, frequently unreported was that its energy source is plutonium — considered the most lethal of all radioactive substances — and nowhere in media was the NASA projection that there were 1-in-960 odds of an accidental release of the plutonium on the mission.

“’A “1-in-960 chance” of a deadly plutonium release is a real concern,’ says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
“Further, NASA’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the $3.7 billion mission acknowledges that solar energy could have been an ‘alternative’ power source for Perseverance. Photovoltaic panels have been the power source for a succession of Mars rovers.

“One in 100 rockets undergo major malfunctions on launch, mostly by blowing up.”

See NASA document: “Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars 2020 Mission” [PDF] which gives the 1 in 960 probability.

Earlier this month, Grossman wrote the piece “Nuclear Rockets to Mars?” for Counterpunch.

Grossman is professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, “The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space.” [PDF]

Actual Causes of the Texas Disaster

Jones is policy director of Food & Water Watch, which just released a statement: “The climate change-supercharged deep freeze covering Texas has left millions without power and water. The failure of the energy system is the direct result of corporate deregulation and an overreliance on fracked gas. While right-wing media outlets and politicians make wildly false claims about the failure of wind power, the whole disaster is yet another clear sign that we need bold government action to transform our energy system.

“The Texas energy system relies primarily on fracked gas — a source that greatly contributes to climate change, in addition to the litany of public health and environmental impacts linked to the fracking process. The failure of Texas’ gas-powered system due to freezing temperatures shows fracked gas to be an unreliable energy source.

“The other culprit is the structure of the Texas power system itself. The grid, primarily operated by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), is mostly cut off from the rest of the country. In the late 1990s, companies like Enron were pushing energy deregulation across the country, most notably in states like California and Texas. The ‘free market’ disaster in California led to wild price swings, market manipulation and widespread blackouts in 2000 and 2001. In Texas, critics of deregulation point out that the promised cost savings have never arrived, and there is little incentive for companies to invest in the kind of weatherization and maintenance that would have prevented some of the problems that have left millions without power. And in a deregulated market faced with a supply shortage, prices have skyrocketed.”

Jones added: “The power and water crisis in Texas is the result of climate change, fracking, deregulation, and poorly maintained water and power infrastructure. It’s exhibit A on why we need a Green New Deal that invests in building renewable energy with battery storage, modernizes our power systems, rebuilds our water infrastructure, and regulates these systems in the public interest. This should be a massive wakeup call that oil and gas barons shouldn’t be driving decisions around our energy needs. We need publicly-owned utilities that are operated for the benefit of the people and the planet, not corporate profits.”

Bill Gates, Super Emitter

Available for a limited number of interviews, Schwab is an independent journalist who just wrote the piece “Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter” for The Nation. His prior pieces on Gates include “Are Bill Gates’s Billions Distorting Public Health Data?” and “While the Poor Get Sick, Bill Gates Just Gets Richer” and “Journalism’s Gates Keepers” for Columbia Journalism Review.

Schwab writes: “During the pandemic, Bill Gates’s personal fortune has increased by an impressive $20 billion, but even these gains pale in comparison to his soaring political influence — as the news media has widely trumpeted his leadership on Covid-19, praising his charitable donations or extolling him as a ‘visionary’ who predicted the outbreak.

“It’s a highly questionable narrative, one that ignores widespread controversy over the way Gates made his fortune and how he chooses to spend it. …

“’I expect to spend much of my time in 2021 talking with leaders around the world about both climate change and Covid-19,’ Gates notes in his new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster, which seems destined to be a best seller.

“Even before the release of his book this week, Gates’s move into climate change has made waves — an interview on ’60 Minutes,’ op-eds in Time magazine and The Guardian, and a podcast with actor Rashida Jones. Given Gates’s track record of success inserting himself into other policy debates — everything from U.S. education to global health — it seems likely he will continue to take up oxygen in the climate discourse going forward.

“If so, he proceeds from a precarious position, not just because of his thin credentials, untested solutions, and stunning financial conflicts of interest, but because his undemocratic assertion of power — no one appointed or elected him as the world’s new climate czar — comes at precisely the time when democratic institutions have become essential to solving climate change.

“Gates’s main credential related to climate change is as an investor. In 2015, he started a multibillion-dollar venture capital fund called Breakthrough Energy — recruiting a who’s who of the global super rich to join the fund: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and others.

“This billionaire club boasts that its investments in new technologies can ‘lead the world to zero emissions,’ but the fund’s portfolio includes companies whose impact on fighting climate change is largely hypothetical and in some cases highly dubious — like lab-cultured breast milk substitute and a hydrogen-powered airplane.

“In some ways, Gates’s book could be read as a long-winded advertisement for his investments, because he devotes many pages to promoting the need for new technologies to fight climate change. At one point, Gates even calls on the U.S. government to become a co-investor in advanced nuclear energy companies, like the one he founded, TerraPower (which has yet to put any energy into the power grid). …

“In many respects, that’s the entire modus operandi — or sleight of hand — of the Gates Foundation. Incorporated as a charity, the foundation is probably better understood as a political organization, one that uses its outsize resources to push public policy in line with Bill and Melinda Gates’s view of how the world should work (which is also sometimes in line with the Gates Foundation’s financial investments). …

“According to a 2019 academic study looking at extreme carbon emissions from the jet-setting elite, Bill Gates’s extensive travel by private jet likely makes him one of the world’s top carbon contributors — a veritable super emitter. In the list of 10 celebrities investigated — including Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and Oprah Winfrey — Gates was the source of the most emissions.

“The study only looked at Gates’s jet travel, but might have also considered Gates’s emissions from his farmland, which includes large tracts of corn and soybeans, which typically goes to feed animals (often on factory farms) — a particularly carbon-intensive model of agriculture.”

WikiLeaks: While Upholding U.S. Government’s Core Arguments, British Judge Rejects Assange Extradition

Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola reports: “Citing harsh federal prison conditions in the United States, a British district court judge rejected the United States government’s extradition request against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Judge Vanessa Baraitser found Assange suffers from a ‘recurrent depressive disorder.’ Although he functions at a high level, he suffers from autism as well.”

In a detailed Twitter thread, Gosztola wrote this morning: “Judge Baraitser accepted virtually all of [the] allegations against Assange that made this a dangerous case for press freedom. Despite the fact that the request was rejected, there is plenty in this ruling to cause alarm.” See Gosztola’s extensive reporting on Assange’s trial, which he covered in London.

Goodale is a former vice chairman and general counsel of the New York Times and is the author of Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles. His piece on the verdict is expected to be published in The Hill shortly. His prior articles include: “Pentagon Papers lawyer: The indictment of Assange is a snare and a delusion.”

Desmond Tutu: Biden Should Stop Israeli Nuclear Cover-up

The Guardian just published a piece by Archbishop Desmond Tutu titled “Joe Biden Should End the U.S. Pretence over Israel’s ‘Secret’ Nuclear Weapons: The cover-up has to stop — and with it, the huge sums in aid for a country with oppressive policies towards Palestinians.”

Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate, is a former archbishop of Cape Town and, from 1996 to 2003, was chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The piece states: “Every recent U.S. administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into office. All have agreed to undermine U.S. law by signing secret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Part of the reason for this is to stop people focusing on Israel’s capacity to turn dozens of cities to dust. This failure to face up to the threat posed by Israel’s horrific arsenal gives its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a sense of power and impunity, allowing Israel to dictate terms to others.

“But one other effect of the U.S. administration’s ostrich approach is that it avoids invoking the U.S.’s own laws, which call for an end to taxpayer largesse for nuclear weapons proliferators. …

“Israel in fact is a multiple nuclear weapons proliferator. There is overwhelming evidence that it offered to sell the apartheid regime in South Africa nuclear weapons in the 1970s and even conducted a joint nuclear test. The U.S. government tried to cover up these facts. Additionally, [Israel] has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. …

“Amendments by former Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn to the Foreign Assistance Act ban U.S. economic and military assistance to nuclear proliferators and countries that acquire nuclear weapons. While president, Jimmy Carter invoked such provisions against India and Pakistan.

“But no president has done so with regard to Israel. Quite the contrary. There has been an oral agreement since President Richard Nixon to accept Israel’s ‘nuclear ambiguity’ — effectively to allow Israel the power that comes with nuclear weapons without the responsibility. And since President Bill Clinton, according to the New Yorker magazine, there have been these secret letters. …

“The incoming Biden administration should forthrightly acknowledge Israel as a leading state sponsor of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and properly implement U.S. law. …

“Israel’s per capita gross domestic product is comparable with that of Britain. Nevertheless, U.S. taxpayer funds to Israel exceed that to any other country. Adjusted for inflation, the publicly known amount over the years is now approaching $300bn. …

“South Africa learned that it could only have real peace and justice by having truth that would lead to reconciliation. But none of those will come unless truth is faced squarely — and there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.”

Available for interviews:

Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. He was featured on an news release last month, “How Biden Could Advance Peace and Save Hundreds of Billions in Funds: Will Biden Finally Acknowledge Israel’s Nukes?