News Release Archive - Science/Health/Tech

* Problems with Nobel Peace Prize * CRISPR: Engineering Future People?

The Nobel Peace Prize is to be announced Friday at 11 a.m. Norway time. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their work on CRISPR, a controversial method of editing DNA.

Heffermehl is with Nobel Peace Prize Watch and wrote the book The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted. He is critical of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which picks the recipients. Heffermehl states that it has not followed Alfred Nobel’s criteria for the Prize. His most recent book is Behind the Medals, a study of the Committee’s internal archives. See: “The Nobel Committee condemned in new book.”

STUART NEWMAN,, @sanewman1
Newman is co-author of the book Biotech Juggernaut: Hope, Hype and Hidden Agendas of Entrepreneurial Bioscience (Routledge, 2019) and recently co-wrote the piece “Engineering Future People Would be a Disaster,” which states: “Modifying genes shows promise in curing medical conditions in sick people. Should it be used to make irreversible changes in people who don’t yet exist? Current research suggests that this would be a big mistake.

“Studies in animals, including one described recently in Wired, show that the gene manipulation technique CRISPR has a habit of inserting bacterial DNA along with the desired sequences into various sites in chromosomes, with unknown consequences. Even more alarming was a news article last month in the scientific journal Nature that bore the title ‘CRISPR Gene Editing in Human Embryos Wreaks Chromosomal Mayhem.’ It reported results described in three preprints — ready-to-be-published studies — by several prominent investigators in the field that attempted to make specific, targeted changes in the embryos’ DNA, the sort of alterations that might be tried to prevent a newborn from inheriting a gene associated with a disabling condition. There was no intention by the scientists to bring these embryos to birth. They were just being used experimentally to see if the technique worked. It didn’t.

“Thus, even if the modification method were perfect, the variability of human biology means that we won’t know what the outcome will be. The new results, however, cast strong doubt on the CRISPR technique itself. In the words of the Nature news story, ‘the process can make large, unwanted changes to the genome at or near the target site.’

“Genetic modification of animals such as humans can be either somatic or embryonic. Somatic modification affects limited tissues or organs in an existing person who is ill. Certain forms of blindness, sickle cell disease, and some other conditions are today targeted by such treatments. We take no issue with somatic modification provided it is carefully monitored as to medical need and conflicting commercial interests.

“With embryo engineering, however, changes made, including mistakes, will be passed on to future generations via the reproductive cells (or germline). In fact, every cell in the body of the new individual is affected, making that person something different from what they would have been without the intervention. This may be done, at least initially, to prevent the transmission of disease-associated genes. But with outcomes so uncertain, what will be the fate of children resulting from these experiments?

“Entrepreneurial scientists eased the way to acceptance of embryonic editing by downplaying technical problems and by issuing vague reassurances that they will not go too far, too fast. Yet they never explained what they meant by this. …

“Any line that once existed between academic research and commerce has worn thin. Researchers at universities and institutes who were once relatively shielded from business interests now sit on the boards of and own shares in biotech companies that are major sources of scientific funding and infrastructure. Scientists who overstep cultural norms or federal restrictions rarely suffer consequences beyond the loss of their federal funding. In the U.S., private corporations or even states will define their own acceptable practices regarding embryo engineering. How these entities define too far, too fast, is completely subjective — a recipe for human disaster.

“The techniques of embryo engineering have now been shown to be flawed. Embryos are just too complex to engineer. We must ban, not simply pause, gene editing of human embryos before biomedical entrepreneurs start offering clients the opportunity to modify their offspring, threatening their health and hijacking their identities before they are even born.”

See interviews with Newman by The Real News (2018), the Organic Association of America (2020) and his talk with the group Genetics and Society (2008).

How the Gates Foundation Is Killing Open License Pandemic Remedies

JAMIE LOVE,, @jamie_love

just published in-depth report by Tim Schwab in The Nation focusing on the Gates Foundation states: “James Love, director of the NGO Knowledge Ecology International, says the foundation’s decades of work on vaccines, along with its sprawling financial ties, allowed it to assert influence early in the pandemic.

“’He had enough money and enough presence in the area for a long enough period of time to be positioned as the first mover and the most influential mover. So people just relied upon his people and his institutions,’ says Love, ‘In a pandemic, when there is a vacuum of leadership, people that move fast and seem to know what they’re doing, they just acquire a lot of power. And he did that in this case.’

“Gates’s leadership in the pandemic has been widely, almost universally, praised, with The New York Times calling him a ‘vocal counterweight to President Trump,’ and Madonna making a million-dollar donation to support the foundation’s work. But because Gates is not an elected representative or public official, the details of his far-reaching influence — and finances — have largely eluded public scrutiny.

“’You have an enormous amount of power that affects everyone around the globe, and there should be some accountability, some transparency,’ says Love. … ‘It’s a charity. … [We’re asking], “Can you explain what you’re doing, for example? Can you show us what these contracts look like?” Particularly since they’re using their money to influence policies that involve our money.’

“The Gates Foundation declined requests for interviews and did not respond to detailed questions sent by e-mail, including about its investments in pharmaceutical companies working on Covid.

“Love and other critics say a key role Gates has played in the pandemic has been elevating the pharmaceutical industry — for example, pushing the University of Oxford to deliver its leading Covid-19 vaccine platform into the hands of Big Pharma. The resulting partnership with AstraZeneca had another effect, as Bloomberg and Kaiser Health News recently reported, changing the university’s distribution model from an open-license platform, designed to make its vaccine freely available for any manufacturer, to an exclusive license controlled by AstraZeneca.”

See Love’s blog — recent posts include: “DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] letter to KEI confirming investigation of Moderna for failure to report government funding in patent applications.” In another post, Love writes: “Trump’s Executive Order on international reference pricing is a lot less than promised.” Another posting is about “Senator Durbin’s letters to vaccine manufacturers.”

Schwab, who wrote the recent Nation piece, in August wrote the piece “Journalism’s Gates Keepers” for Columbia Journalism Review about Gates’ influence over a host of media organizations. Earlier this year, Schwab wrote the piece “Bill Gates’s Charity Paradox” for The Nation which documents how the Gates Foundation has given hundreds of millions of dollars to companies it is invested in, including Merck, Unilever and Novartis. It also documents how the Gates family and Foundation’s assets continue to grow, “raising questions about the long-term influence of billionaire philanthropy” in politics.

California Fires Threaten Melted Plastic Pipes and Water Contamination

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported: “CZU [Santa Cruz County] fires’ aftermath points to emerging threat for California: water contamination.”

Michael Dorsey is a leading environmentalist who has been warning of this problem for years.

Dorsey, sits on the board of the Center for Environmental Health, headquartered in Oakland, California. For Fall 2020 he is the global affiliate of the Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont.

He recently wrote the piece “We Can Still Win the War on Plastic,” which states: “Across the United States, melted PVC piping destroyed by intense fires has long threatened communities by exposing groundwater supplies to a litany of carcinogens and poisons, from benzene to toluene and much more. Analysis by municipal authorities following the catastrophic 2017 Tubbs fire that destroyed over 3,000 residential and commercial buildings across California found that ‘Benzene was detected at levels above the allowable regulatory limit (Maximum Contaminant Level, MCL)’ in local drinking water. …

“The heat from the August 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains melted a 7.5-mile-long plastic water pipe. The pipe was part of a water system, and an official for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District said that ‘They found that there was a lot of water quality contamination from that melting plastic. The polyethylene put out volatile organic chemicals, benzene. So those are concerns that we are monitoring and we will be sampling for.’

“It could take months to determine the full scope of the damage, but one thing is certain: People returning home after evacuating may very well find themselves without certified clean, fresh water to drink. The 2018 Camp fire, which similarly melted plastic pipes in Paradise, California, forced residents there to rebuild their entire water distribution system due to widespread contamination by toxic chemicals like benzene.

“We’ve been fighting the war on plastic for decades, and at times, it can feel like we’re losing. Big Plastic is a global behemoth — consistently misleading consumers and communities with industry-backed ‘studies’ and corporate-funded ‘research.’ Its latest ploy, led by major oil companies, is to ‘flood Africa with plastic’ since it can no longer send plastic waste to China.”

In 2018, Dorsey wrote the report: “Our Health, PVC, and Critical Infrastructure.” He also recently wrote the piece “Renewables’ potential depends on transparent and fair policies, not special interest giveaways.”

WikiLeaks’ Assange Being “Railroaded” for Exposing War Crimes

The U.S. government is seeking to extradite WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange from Britain. This relates to his release of U.S. government material like the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq, which provided evidence of war crimes. (See from FAIR: “Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished.”)

Assange’s hearing in London began on Monday and is expected to go on for three weeks. If extradited to the U.S., Assange faces 175 years in prison and is being charged with the Espionage Act, a World War era statue.

As his administration seeks to prosecute Assange for exposing war crimes, President Donald Trump has been claiming that soldiers love him while “the top people in the Pentagon probably” don’t “because they want to do nothing but fight wars.” Meanwhile, Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, while Vice President, was an outlier in the Obama administration in calling for Assange’s prosecution, claiming the publisher of WikiLeaks was more like a “high-tech terrorist” than a journalist.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reports: “At Least 37 Million People Have Been Displaced by America’s War on Terror.”

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, [currently in London], @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola is in London covering the trial. His two most recent pieces are: “Judge Railroads Assange As Legal Team Objects To Fresh Extradition Request” and “What To Expect During Three-Week Hearing In Julian Assange’s Extradition Case.”

See his Twitter thread for Tuesday’s proceedings. He noted: “Witnesses likely to testify on Day 2 are Patrick Cockburn, Nicolas Hager, and Daniel Ellsberg.”

Gosztola writes: “The proceedings will focus on the political nature of the prosecution, the misrepresentation of facts, Assange’s political opinions, the risk of denial of justice at a U.S. trial, the risk of cruel and inhuman treatment in U.S. jails and prisons, Assange’s health, and the passage of time since materials were published.

“Assange’s legal team contends President Donald Trump’s administration pursued charges against Assange for ‘ulterior political motives,’ and they were not brought in ‘good faith.’ They indicted Assange under the Espionage Act, which makes the extradition a case involving classic ‘political offenses’ that should not be covered by the treaty between the U.S. and U.K.”

See from Gosztola from earlier this year: “Interview With James Goodale: Stunning How Few in U.S. Care About Threat Posed by Assange’s Case” with the noted First Amendment lawyer who represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case. Goodale told Gosztola that the “United States is going to end up with an Official Secrets Act, by which leaking not only is criminalized but receiving leaks in the capacity of a leakee is also going to be criminalized. And that is really bad because you’re just inviting governments, particularly authoritarian governments, to control their information.”

Gosztola is author of Truth and Consequences, a book about the U.S. government prosecution of Chelsea Manning, who was the alleged source for WikiLeaks, who was subjected to prolonged solitary confinement in the U.S. that the UN said amounted to torture. Many expect Assange will be subjected to similar methods if extradited to the U.S.

See video of “The Media Trial of the Century” from Consortium News.

Do the Climate Solutions Offered Meet the Moment?

STEVE HORN, steve at, @steveahorn
Horn is an investigative climate reporter regularly filing reports for The Real News’ Climate Crisis News Roundup. He writes that with the presidential election three months away, “President Donald Trump is down in the polls, but was up for a speech at a fracking rig in a COVID-19 hotspot, one with no masks in sight. As he spoke, a company with operations nearby and ambitions to boost an obscure drilling technique joined a legion of other companies who have declared bankruptcy.”

Horn’s latest pieces include: “Climate official pushing controversial sun-blocking plan resigns,” which states: “Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), a controversial program aimed at reversing the climate crisis that we covered here several weeks ago suffered a recent blow after its chairwoman stepped down.

“The program is based at Harvard University and until July 22 had an advisory council chaired by the director of the California Strategic Growth Council, Louise Bedsworth. But after coming under scrutiny both from global climate justice groups and in a June 19 story by The Real News Network, Bedsworth has stepped down from the post.

“The scrutiny was aimed at the technology for which the research group is pushing to develop a governance mechanism, called solar geoengineering or solar radiation management, for reflecting sunlight away from the Earth to halt the greenhouse effect of climate change. That technofix — which involves spraying aerosols into the atmosphere for an indefinite period of time to shield the Earth — is seen by many as both potentially dangerous to deploy and also a way to continue business as usual in emitting greenhouse gases.”

He also recently wrote “California greenlights ‘Orwellian’ solar-powered fracking scheme” and “New DNC Platform Could Make The Bleak Climate Forecast Even Worse,” which states: “The 2016 platform had much more grassroots pressure behind it, and didn’t need to navigate the pressure of an ongoing pandemic. It called for a phaseout of fossil fuel extraction on public lands backed by the ‘Keep It in the Ground’ movement, an end to industry exemptions like the Halliburton Loophole (Biden voted against the 2005 energy bill containing this provision). It said that fracking ‘should not take place where states and local communities oppose it.’ It called for phasing out coal production and ensuring a just transition for industry workers, winding down fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks, and legal accountability for the fossil fuel industry for misleading the public about the impact of the climate crisis by funding denial campaigns.

“None of that stuff made it into the 2020 draft platform.

“Instead, the 2020 version continues Biden’s call for a ‘double down’ on the expansion of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technology, and for ‘breakthrough opportunities’ for ‘direct air capture and net-negative emissions technologies.’ As explained in last week’s edition, CCUS means capturing carbon at the point of emissions at the industrial smokestack, storing it in underground pipelines and then utilizing the CO2 for future industrial processes like cement and plastics production (which are climate change-causing petrochemicals). In the U.S., most of the time the stored carbon is used to extract more oil in a process called enhanced oil recovery.

“In reality, this all will mean more fracking for oil and gas and more growth of the sector overall.

“Some of the people running climate policy for the Biden campaign may explain why this policy platform has arisen. Campaign advisor Heather Zichal, formerly a top climate aide for President Barack Obama, was until recently on the board of directors of gas exporting company Cheniere. Zichal’s fellow campaign advisor, Ernest Moniz, is partial owner of a proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal called G2 Net Zero LNG. He is also currently on the board of directors of the predominantly gas-powered electricity sector giant Southern Company, a major proponent of CCUS and direct air capture.”